“I wouldn’t know what to do with it.”
That’s the most common response when someone hears about our weekly CSA subscription, a selection of veggies chosen by our farmers based on what’s ready for harvest, not on member preferences.
Seven years ago, when we first dipped our little toe into the CSA world, that’s how I felt, too.
Like most folks, I had a comfortable set of menu items in my repertoire, and if I wanted marinara with fresh tomatoes in January, the grocery store would oblige.
Now that the CSA has taught me what grows when, those winter tomatoes at the supermarket give me the heebie jeebies.
It’s true that I can no longer slip into auto-pilot and make the same things for dinner, month after month; but in many ways, my life is easier for it.
Every Saturday morning, I head to the farmer’s market to pick up our stash and enjoy a cup of coffee with friends, an experience I look forward to all week. When has anyone ever said that about a trip to the Jumbo-Mart?
There’s no planning and list-making beforehand because I’ll cook whatever shows up in the bag. And several weekly trips to the grocery are a thing of the past. Unless we run out of a) pasta b) rice c) toilet paper or d) chocolate, we’re good.
We eat out less — saving money and calories — because ignoring food in the fridge is a lot harder to do when it was grown by someone you know.
Sure, I had to figure out what the hell to do with kohlrabi. But after a couple of seasons, something surprising happened. Not only did I finally learn how to tell collards from kale, but I began to understand their similarities and differences on the stovetop. I learned that summer arugula is a lot spicier than the spring picking. I learned how to throw together a primavera with pretty much anything left in the crisper bin. I learned that I freaking love beets and can use them in entrées, desserts and condiments.
In short, I stopped being a recipe-follower and started being a cook. And that made my time in the kitchen a lot easier and a lot more fun.
Can’t pick that up at Winn-Dixie.
Alas, the month-long hiatus between our summer and fall CSAs has begun, so I’m reluctantly returning to the Land of What’s for Dinner. If you see me wandering aimlessly around the farmer’s market this weekend, staring at mountains of food, be gentle and point me to the tomatoes. I might need to make a marinara.