Friday, February 12, 2016

What to expect in the box if you order a share in a CSA

Fearing an onslaught of zucchini and the lack of creativity necessary to use it all, many would-be shareholders have refrained from joining a CSA. It’s typical for shares to periodically contain a bounty of one item and a deficit of others, so what’s a well-meaning veggie lover to do when there’s only so many plates of squash noodles a person can consume? For one, it helps to have an idea of what produce to expect when, allowing you to anticipate the colorful vegetable procession that will grace your kitchen counter in the coming months, and to prepare your cookbooks accordingly.

A garden’s harvest time scale inevitably differs from year to year, but there are basic patterns shareholders can expect. Uncommon but possible, some shares start promptly in late May. Be ready for a whole lot of salads if you decide to subscribe, since these boxes are dominated by lettuce, arugula, and other greens, as well as herbs like oregano and lemon balm. Generally, most shares begin in mid to late June, when variety such as scallions, garlic scapes, and beet greens are added. Moving into early July brings young beets and herbs such as dill, and maybe some fresh green garlic. Mixed greens are still common in these boxes.

Mid July offers summer squash and cucumbers, along with collards and cauliflower. The kale leaves get hardier and the beets get larger as the weather heats up. Snap and sweet peas become ready for harvest. Late July brings the true variety, with the addition of chard, small carrots, eggplant, and string beans. Potatoes and onions make their appearance in early August, along with kohlrabi (here’s where the creative recipes come in handy!). Mid to late August brings the tomatoes, and early September brings sweet peppers.

For farms that offer them, September typically marks the start of fall shares, which begin with a continuation of the produce that thrives in late summer’s heat—tomatoes, beans, eggplant, peppers, and the like. A continuous supply of favorites like onions, carrots, and potatoes are also offered. Since cabbage is readily available by this time of year, slaws take precedence over leafy salads, although the kale and collards still come in strong. Winter squash begins to take center stage in late September, holding this place throughout the fall. Brussels are offered by the stalk in October.

Some farms offer CSA shares in the winter, but because the growing season wilts away for most fruits and vegetables with the coming frosts, the produce provided must store well. Thus, winter squash like butternut, which can store for several months at room temperature, is a cold-season staple. Parsnips and carrots, which actually become sweeter the longer they stay in the ground, are also common in these shares, along with cabbage, which can be stored in a cool place or made into sauerkraut for enjoyment throughout the winter. Some farmers even make fermented veggies to give out in their shares, or offer canned produce prepared during the summer or fall in anticipation of the cold months.

If all else fails during the brunt of zucchini season, you can turn to this zucchini bread recipe from the Moosewood Restaurant to hold you over until the next veggie comes to fruition and overflows every nook of your fridge.

Zucchini Nut Bread
Prep time: 20 mins, Cook time: 1 hour, Total time: 1 hour 20 mins
Serves: 16

       1 cup vegetable oil
       1 cup brown sugar
       3 eggs
       1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
       2 cups grated zucchini
       1 ½ cups whole wheat pastry flour
       1 ½ cups unbleached white flour
       1 teaspoon cinnamon
       1 teaspoon salt
       1 teaspoon baking powder
       ½ teaspoon baking soda
       1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
       1 cup raisins
1.      Preheat the oven to 325°
2.      Oil two 5 X 9-inch loaf pans.
3.      In a large mixing bowl, combine the oil and brown sugar.
4.      Add the eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition.
5.      Stir in the vanilla and zucchini.
6.      In a smaller bowl, sift together the flours, cinnamon, salt, baking powder, and soda.
7.      Stir the dry ingredients into the oil and egg mixture until just moistened.
8.      Fold in the raisins and walnuts.
9.      Spoon the batter into the prepared loaf pans.
10.  Bake for about 1 hour, until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean.

For this recipe and more Moosewood favorites, visit: