I made a ratatouille tonight. It’s my first time making this intricate, labor-intensive dish, and it’s all thanks to the CSA I joined this year. I’d love to tell you how joining a CSA really has made my year more colorful and healthy, so let’s talk about what this alphabet soup acronym means.
If you aren’t familiar with it, CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture. I’ll just lay it down in layman’s terms because it sounds more complicated than it is. When a large farmer or group of farmers in an area wants to sell their produce directly to consumers, they will sometimes form what’s called a CSA. A CSA is a way to sell produce directly to consumers who “support” the local farmer(s) by purchasing memberships for a season. These memberships entitle people to receive boxes of fresh produce on a regular (usually weekly) basis.
I’ve been interested in joining a CSA for a while and did some research on local CSAs in and around the Knoxville area. There are quite a few options, and you can really find a membership that works for you and your family if you go looking for it. I discovered our CSA on Facebook and did some checking of reviews before deciding to pull the trigger. I joined as a member in April and chose the half share membership option with my CSA because I wasn’t sure we would use all the produce we received each week. (Spoiler alert: we don’t use all the produce we get, even when I try my hardest!)
I just want to share a few ways joining a CSA has really made my 2020 more colorful, and honestly, who doesn’t need a bright spot or two this year?
Every week I get a surprise in a box. Part of the fun of this Community Supported Agriculture is that you never know what you’ll get. Everything in my box is grown locally and picked within season, but each week has had some surprises. I have really enjoyed getting back home and opening up a box to see what’s in store for me.
It gives me somewhere to go regularly during COVID. Okay, this may seem silly to some of you, but for this SAHM who’s been cooped up in the house a lot this year, it’s so nice to know I’ll be out every Tuesday afternoon to go pick up my box of veggies. And as a bonus, I simply show up at the pickup location, wait for the little white van, and then don my mask to grab a box of delicious vegetables.
I’ve tried more vegetables than ever before. Normally my grocery trips would be very much the same, and I tend to stick to the same vegetables I’m comfortable with cooking. But now, I’m having to learn to branch out in my cooking and try new things. I’ll be the first to admit as a Southern-raised woman, I’ve never in my life cooked any kind of greens before and certainly never purchased them. (To be honest, I never liked them before!) However, I’ve now learned to make a mean pot of collard greens because they keep popping up in my CSA box, and I actually like them now.
There’s never too much of a good thing. The boxes are pretty carefully put together, and I find that each box may last one to two weeks, and I can usually get through most of the items in my boxes without too much waste. Yes, I’ve had to toss a few things, but unfortunately, that’s nothing new in my household. (I’m working on it, though!)
We’ve learned more about what we like and what we don’t like. I know how to make delicious greens and just tried this fantastic recipe for ratatouille today. I now love turnips and delicata squash, two things I’ve never bought before. And despite my best efforts, I still haven’t found a way to turn leeks into something my family likes.
If you’re at all interested in joining a CSA, I would totally recommend checking one out. For me and my family, joining a CSA has been an awesome way to try new vegetables, enjoy a surprise each week, and add more healthy sides to our meals. The cost has been roughly equal to what we might normally spend on produce while giving me the challenge of learning new ways of cooking, and I’m looking forward to what other things I’ll get as the season winds down this fall.