Just over a month ago I joined Tucson Community Supported Agriculture (CSA). One of the steps I wanted to try this year towards healthier eating was going to a farmer’s market on a regular basis. It wasn’t happening. We have some very nice farmer’s markets in the area but for various reasons going felt like a very time consuming chore. The drive, the parking, the heat, trying to figure out what I could actually use and trying (unsuccessfully) not to buy unhealthy items from bakeries. I admitted to myself it wasn’t working and gave up trying to go.
I had heard of CSAs and last year in the Phoenix newspaper a woman wrote a series of articles about her CSA experience. I wondered if it would work for me. The Tucson CSA has an excellent website and I loved the fact that I could see what people had gotten, and when, for the last ten years. One gets not just vegetables but also fruits, nuts and herbs. They provide recipes and are more than happy to answer questions about the different items.
I decided it wouldn’t hurt to try it for six weeks and I signed up. Five weeks in and I am loving it. Each week I pick up seven to eight different items. I was a little worried about getting items we don’t really want but they have a trade table and a donate table. The trade table starts out with one portion of each item and you can swap what you don’t want for something you do. And if there isn’t anything you want then you can just leave it on the donate table. You can also take anything from the donate table, they just ask that you don’t be greedy. Any leftover items go to the local food bank.
Here is a summary of the first five weeks:
cilantro (I know I don’t like cilantro and wanted to trade it but my son wanted it. We ended up throwing it away.)
carrots (Late in the season for carrots and they warned us these wouldn’t be good raw but needed to be cooked. I put a few in my smoothies but after a few days they became quite limp and I ended up tossing the few that were left.)
2 peaches (A bit over ripe but excellent in smoothies.)
2 red onion (Chopped and frozen for future stews and chilis)
garlic (Still have some)
jewel melon (A new food for us and eaten up!)
2 ears of corn (Eaten)
You can see in the picture what we got for week two. We managed to eat that whole, huge watermelon, mostly by my son. We traded cilantro for more grapefruit which was a great deal. I ate all the grapefruit, they were super sweet and yummy. The peaches this time were under ripe, we took them camping, forgot about them so I used them in smoothies when we got back.
Tomatillos were new to us and I used them, along with the sweet potatoes, onions and garlic (from the previous week) in a very tasty black bean stew recipe provided by the CSA. My husband even liked the stew and between the two of us we finished it off.
We were camping over week 3. You can skip a pick up, and not be charged for it, if you let the CSA know by the Friday before. If you don’t let them know then your share gets donated to the food bank and your account debited like normal. You sign up for 6 or 12 weeks at a time, paying up front. Each week you get an e-mail letting you know how much is left on your account.
For week four I swapped 5 smallish white onions for 3 more yams. The peaches were again a little under ripe and I set them on the windowsill. A few days later we ate them on the drive to Phoenix but there were still a little tart. I was very excited to get pecans which I am storing in the freezer. We used the yams for “Christmas in July” mashing them with a little brown sugar, cinnamon and allspice. I also roasted the squash for our “Christmas in July” dinner sprinkling on a little feta cheese at the end, my new favorite way to eat squash.
No swapping this week, everything looks really good. I used the potatoes to make potato salad on Sunday. We ate the green beans Wednesday night, simply steamed with grilled pork chops. I cut up the cantaloup and my son ate that for breakfast several mornings in a row. The cucumbers we slice up and eat with dinner. As for the roasted green chilis I froze them. I make a tasty green chili stew but it is too hot and humid these days for something so warm. The peaches are still on the tart side, despite several days on the windowsill but I cut them up and froze them and they are perfect for smoothies.
I am loving my CSA experience. I love eating fresh, healthy, local, in season foods. The only negative is the drive. Produce pick up is 4:00p to 7:00p downtown in the university area, a 30 minute drive for me each way. Once school starts I may see if my husband can do the pick up on his way home from work, at least some weeks. It isn’t much out of his way but I prefer to go myself as I know what would be better swapped and he is not going to be comfortable picking out items. They have a long table set up with each item in baskets and a label on the front of the basket telling you what it is and how many to take. And some weeks you have to choose between two items, last week it was tomatillos or green beans. My husband is not good with making decisions, even easy ones. But he can give it a try and we’ll see how it goes.
Either way I really want to continue with the CSA. I need to continue to work on using the fresh stuff sooner rather than later but I am already adjusting to that. One way has been to make more vegetable centered meals which I rather enjoy this hot time of year. I am also learning how many meals I am likely to get out of the items and adjust my other grocery shopping accordingly. I also have to admit I like the surprise each week of finding out what you are getting, it really has been “Christmas in July!” 🙂