Are you participating in a CSA this year? I've joined a CSA for the last seven years (first in Brooklyn, and now in Boston) and love how it stretches me every season. Since most CSAs kick off in June (and hello, we're there), here are five things I try to do before the first pickup to get ready for the season.
1. Clear out the fridge.
I know, you just love it when I start a list with cleaning, but it really pays to start the season with a clean, available fridge. You might not get a lot of produce at your first pickup (the season usually starts slow), but you'll want as much fridge space as possible to adequately store and see what you do get. So clear out those crisper drawers and wipe off the shelves!
And while you're at it, you might as well tackle the freezer, too. You're definitely going to use it to preserve some of the summer produce coming your way.
2. Refresh your memory on the best ways to store fruits and vegetables.
Anyone who's ever been part of a CSA knows that the hardest part is keeping on top of it. With a new haul arriving every week, it's easy to forget about what you got last week, and if you're not vigilant and diligent about prepping, all that lovely produce will go bad before you've gotten a chance to eat it.
The solution? Learn the proper storage methods for all the various fruits and vegetables you get so they stay fresh for as long as possible. They won't last forever, obviously, so you do need to eat them eventually, but proper storage will certainly buy you a few extra days, or even weeks.
3. Make sure you have enough produce bags and storage helpers.
While some CSAs deliver your weekly goods pre-packaged in a box, many are just pick-and-weigh as you go. In this case, make sure you have enough produce bags and market totes to carry your haul. Small bags are essential to protect delicate foods, like herb bunches or berries, on the walk home.
Produce Bags and Market Totes
Likewise, take a look at your storage containers and consider if you have everything you need for effective, proper produce storage. I like to make sure I have a few zip-top bags, plastic grocery bags, paper towels, glass containers, and rubber bands around, and I'm considering buying the large size of this produce container for salad greens!
Produce Storage Helpers
4. Consider what you're going to do with your food scraps.
Do you compost? With so much produce about to hit your kitchen, this summer may be a good time to start! If you don't have the means to set up a system in your backyard, or just aren't interested in composting yourself, you might check out your city's composting options.
For example, for a monthly fee, Boston's Bootstrap Compost will pick up your food scraps every week, compost them, and then give you a five-pound bag of premium soil amendment every four months — an awesome perk if you're a gardener or have a lot of plants.
Learn More About Composting
5. Arm yourself with seasonal-friendly cookbooks.
There comes a time in every CSA member's life when you get a vegetable the likes of which you've never seen before. (Or you have completely run out of ideas for what to do with the 20 — and counting! — cucumbers in your fridge.) Be prepared for those moments with a few stellar, vegetable-friendly cookbooks you can turn to when you need cooking advice, tips, and inspiration.
Great Cookbooks to Have Around for the CSA Season
- 5 Cookbooks to Help You Use up Your CSA Box
- 5 Cookbooks That Make Vegetables the Sexiest Food on the Plate
- 5 Cookbooks That Have Helped Me Feed My (Mostly) Vegetarian Family
- The New Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone by Deborah Madison
- Vegetable Literacy by Deborah Madison
- Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi
- Plenty More by Yotam Ottolenghi
Bonus tip: Get a salad spinner!
If you don't have one already, now is the time to get a salad spinner, because you will definitely reach for it every day if you're part of a CSA this summer. Here are five to consider.
What are you doing to prepare for your CSA? Any cookbooks you love, or other tips to share?