Johanna Voss is a certified health coach, Greatist ambassador, half marathoner, and bookstore dweller. She’ll help you be your healthiest, happiest, sexiest self. The views expressed herein are hers. Visit her at www.johannavoss.com.

CSA vegetable tipsShare on Pinterest

Photo: Suzie’s Farm

There are a lot of things to look forward to each summer: sunshine, beach days, and lots of fresh vegetables! If you decided this summer to support your local farm through a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program, I’ll imagine you are really excited about the bounty of fresh vegetables coming your way each week.

By joining a CSA program, you’ve signed up to receive between 15-25 weeks of vegetables that can provide for 1-4 people, depending on the size of your investment. Oh, the veggies that are coming your way! While it’s really fun to get a new selection of vegetables each week, it can also be a bit stressful. Are you nervous about that week when your CSA share bag has 18 beets in it and lots of unidentifiable beans?

Make the Most of Your CSA Veggies

Learn how to stay on top of your weekly CSA share and impress your friends with how you get creative with veggies.

Read, read, read!: Read your respective CSA’s newsletter so that you know exactly what you are getting in your share each week. This way there are no surprises when you pick up your share, or your allotment of weekly vegetables. By reading ahead of time, you can start to think about what to do with your bounty.

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Photo: MTSOfan

  • Fry Lettuce: Yup. I said fry your lettuce. Switch up how you think of each vegetable. For example, move past thinking of lettuce just in salads. It can be sauteed, tossed into soups, fried etc. Have you ever added carrots to a stir-fry or into a blender? What about beets on your pizza? Get creative! On the other hand…
  • Eat it raw: Figure out what you can eat raw and go for it. If you are unsure about which foods to eat raw, start with dark leafy greens such as spinach and kale or try carrots, celery, and cucumbers. Technically you can eat almost any vegetable raw, in its naked, natural state (careful around rhubarb!). It’s just a matter of taste and how well your body digests it. Just make sure to chew your food well to aid your body in digestion!Digestion of raw and roasted almonds in simulated gastric environment. Kong, F., Singh, R.P. Food Biophysics, 2009, Dec;4(4): 365-377
  • Garnish, baby! When you receive a small quantity of something, think of how it can garnish your meal. For example, only receive a couple small beets this week? Grate ‘em and toss them on top of your dish.
  • Be delicate: Cook and eat your delicate, leafy greens such as parsley, cilantro, spinach, and kale earlier in the week, and leave the items that can last a bit longer, such as carrots, onions and beets for a couple days later.
  • Read, read, read!: Read your respective CSA’s newsletter so that you know exactly what you are getting in your share each week. This way there are no surprises when you pick up your share, or your allotment of weekly vegetables. By reading ahead of time, you can start to think about what to do with your bounty.

    CSA Raspberries
    Photo: Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources

    Now What? Get Creative!

    Once you’ve gotten a good handle on how to prepare, serve and store each vegetable, as you start to get the same vegetables in consecutive weeks while their growing season lasts, here’s a bonus tip on how to continue to make the most of your CSA share. When planning out your meal to include your weekly veggie bounty, why not give each weekday night a theme?

    • Monday becomes Meatless Mondays, and your meals are centered around a particular vegetable or two. Don’t like that idea? Monday could be Macaroni Mondays, and all your dishes are pasta based with whatever veggies you have on hand that week.
    • Tuesdays are Taco Tuesdays. Look for recipes that are taco-ish. Lots of opportunity to toss in vegetables to this dish.
    • On Wacky Wednesdays you eat breakfast for dinner. Eggs + greens + sauteed CSA veggies? Yes please.
    • Thrifty Thursdays roll around and it’s all about the crockpot. Or soup. CSA veggies are fab-u-lous in a soup.
    • Fun Fridays which are all about DIY pizza. Turnips on a pizza? Sure why not! Not into DIY pizza? What about Fishy Friday?

    By assigning a theme to each day of the week, it will take some of the stress away of deciding what on earth to cook. It’s a great way to manage the abundance of recipes coupled with a specific weekly assortment of veggies. Your comfort level in using each vegetable creatively translates to less time spent researching recipes.

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    Photo: Kim Unertl

    Building Meal Ideas

    Now, let’s get continue to get veggie creative! In anticipation of the abundance of veggies that are going to come your way this summer, here’s just a couple, different ideas of how to serve ‘em:

    • Smoothies: What better way to eat your greens than to drink them! When blended with fruit, ice, and even some milk or yogurt, even the most rugged greens become smooth and tasty. Regular blenders can do a good job with greens such as spinach, parsley, cilantro, or watercress.
    • Omelets: Spinach is an especially good option for adding to omelets. Other tasty options include arugula, beet greens, and parsley. The key is to choose greens that soften quickly, but ones that do not release too much liquid.
    • Pasta sauces: Heartier greens, such as collards and kale, can cook down and soften during the simmering period, providing an additional texture to sauce. Make sure to chop the greens into bite-size pieces for the best results! Remember, you can make a pesto chock full of greens, such as basil and parsley — just go a bit easy on the olive oil, pine nuts, and cheese for a lower calorie version.
    • Baked: Baked kale chips are amazingly fast, easy, and healthy! Simply wash the kale, tear into bite size pieces, and add a pinch of salt and/or some spices and a dash of olive oil. Toss the kale to coat and then spread across a baking sheet. Bake at 350° F for 10-15 minutes until the kale is crispy and enjoy!
    • Soups & Stews: Many classic soups and stews include dark, leafy greens, such as kale, mustard greens, and turnip greens. Similar to pasta sauces, soups and stews are cooked for a long time, so the greens can soften and provide a texture and taste to contrast the other ingredients. Greens go especially well in tomato-based stews or soups with beans.
    • Sauteed: Whether cooked with bacon or lentils, collard greens create the foundation of some classic side dishes. Try cooking kale or Swiss chard with some olive oil, fresh garlic, lemon zest, and a dash of Romano or Parmesan cheese for an Italian-style satisfying side!
    • Shredded: When shredded finely, even tougher greens become easy to handle. You can shred greens for a healthy garnish on mashed potatoes or mix them into your favorite coleslaw recipe. Use a combination of shredded greens with some quinoa, mint, lemon juice, and olive oil to make a simple tasty “tabbouleh.”
    • Wraps: Crunchy greens that contain a good amount of water, such as Swiss chard, bok choy, escarole, or romaine lettuce, make fantastic “wraps” for a variety of fillings, ranging from roasted eggplant, tomatoes, onion, and garlic to teriyaki chicken with mandarin oranges.

    How do you get creative with your extra veggies? Let us know in the comments below!