The secret to eating through an early-summer CSA share

lettuce
CC BY 2.0 Amanda Slater

When the quantity of greens seems too big to handle, you need to plan ahead.

If you participate in a CSA (community supported agriculture) program, then you’ve probably got a hefty box of fresh vegetables coming into your kitchen every week by now. At this time of year, CSA shares are mostly greens. These are the first cold-resistant crops that are sown in early spring and harvested as the summer begins. They have to eaten quickly because (a) they don’t keep as long as other crops later in the season, and (b) there will be another big load to contend with in a few days’ time.

This week, for example, in my large CSA share I got two gigantic heads of leaf lettuce, nearly a pound of salad mix, a half-pound each of arugula and mustard greens, six kohlrabi, a dozen turnips with leafy greens attached, two bunches of green onions, two heads of broccoli, two basil plants, and large bags of cilantro and dill. Last week it was mostly the same, except we had rainbow chard and baby bok choy in place of turnips.

Add to that the two rows of flourishing lettuce in my home garden and my family feels utterly inundated with edible leaves!

Over the years I’ve realized that the most important thing is to ‘process’ the greens as soon as they come into the house. Before stuffing them away in the fridge, where some are likely to lost or forgotten, I take time to wash and dry all the lettuce. It gets packed into a large Tupperware, along with the arugula, so that making salads is easy.

This is key: Salad must always be as easy to make as possible, because otherwise it won’t happen. It might not seem like a lot of work to pull out a salad spinner and start washing, but it does seem daunting when hungry kids are waiting at the table and the kitchen counters are covered with stuff. It also makes me inclined to prep quick single-portion salads for lunch.

Each week I prepare a large jar of salad dressing and keep it in the fridge. Right now, I’m hooked on a garlic scape-olive oil blend, with rice vinegar, mayonnaise, grainy Dijon, salt and pepper. (See other favorite salad dressing recipes here.) It's helpful to have other salad garnishes on hand, such as cucumbers, avocado, chickpeas, feta, sunflower or pumpkin seeds.

Next, I wash, dry, and chop any greens that are good for sautéing. With these prepped in advance, they are very easy to toss in a pan with olive oil to accompany a breakfast of fried eggs, or whatever you’re making for dinner. This morning, I ate a delicious heap of turnip greens seasoned with a dash of tamari atop reheated Indian flattened rice (poha) with potatoes, left over from last night – and believe me, if I hadn’t washed and cut those turnip greens the day before, that breakfast never would have happened.

I wash and spin-dry the herbs, then (if they have roots attached) put them in a Mason jar with water in the fridge. The basil goes into another water-filled jar on the counter. Again, this makes them easy to access; I’m more likely to grab a handful of cilantro and chop it as a garnish than if I had to dig through a packed crisper drawer to find it.

It’s worth noting which vegetables will last longer than others. For example, the broccoli and kohlrabi keep longer, so they’re not as important to use this week as the salad greens are.

Much of this may seem like common sense, but for a busy young family like mine – that has a voracious appetite and never an extra moment at dinnertime – taking time to prepare at the beginning of the week makes a tremendous difference.

Tags: Agriculture | Cooking | Farmers Markets | Food Miles | Fruits & Vegetables | Summer

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