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About the auther: Veronica Thaanum is originally from Carmel, a small town on the coast of California. She is a graduate of the University of Arizona, where she completed her degree in Journalism and Spanish; and of Middle Tennessee State University, where she completed her didactic work in dietetics. Veronica is currently completing her Dietetic Internship at the Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

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H ealthy Table*

You’ve Joined a CSA… Now What?

By Veronica Thaanum
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T he weather is getting warmer and fresh produce is being pulled from trees, bushes, plants and from the ground. Around this time many of us join CSAs. If you’re anything like me, this can be an exciting yet scary time. You’re making a choice to get healthier, to support the community, or maybe to give yourself a culinary challenge. For those who might not know, CSA stands for “Community Supported Agriculture.” It is basically an agreement with a farmer where you purchase a “share” in a farm, and in return, as a “shareholder,” you receive a basket or box of whatever produce is harvested from the farm for an agreed-upon number of weeks. The money you pay for your share goes to help with the expenses of the farm, including labor and the purchase of seeds and supplies.

*You’re making a choice to get healthier, to support the community, or maybe to give yourself a culinary challenge.

You may be wondering if subscribing to a CSA is worth the price. Most CSA prices are comparable to those at the grocery store. However, you are getting the higher quality of freshly grown produce and often you can get items you may not be able to get in a regular grocery store. Many CSAs allow shares to be split between friends or separate households, or offer half-shares to people who are trying it out, or who don’t think they can go through all the produce on their own. Half-shares provide half the amount of food per box or delivery every other week.

Depending on the CSA you choose to join, you can receive a box full of anything from fresh produce, to eggs, cheeses, fresh flowers and herbs, and even meat. Prices vary depending on which CSA you choose and what you receive in your box will differ depending on season and availability. So what might you find in your box?

Early season baskets (May–July) often include asparagus, rhubarb, strawberries, spring onions, spinach, greens, lettuces, kohlrabi, radishes, scallions, kale, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, sugar snap peas, bunched beets, salad greens, garlic, berries and more.

Mid season baskets (July–September) often include blueberries, melons, zucchini, garlic, yellow squash, cucumbers, carrots, sweet onions, beans, shelling peas, corn, eggplant, tomatoes, okra, potatoes, pears, herbs, flowers and more.

Late season baskets (September–November or December) often include apples, salad greens, lettuce, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, winter squash, beets, leeks, peppers, hot peppers, eggplant, broccoli, kale, spinach, pumpkins, turnips, rutabagas and more.

As a CSA subscriber, sooner or later you’re bound to end up with some new, strange or inexplicable vegetables in your share that you have no idea what to do with. If this happens, don’t panic! When you get your basket, first identify what each item is. Many CSAs include descriptions of the items you have in your box, you can ask more experienced friends, or if all else fails you can always call your CSA and ask them. Then find recipes. Once you know what you have in your box you can use the Internet or reach out to friends or other CSA members for recipe favorites. Recipes that include multiple ingredients are always best. Decide what you are going to make and which ingredients are going to be used first. Package and/or freeze the other items so they will save better until you are ready to use them.

To help you get started, here are some easy and delicious recipe ideas for cooking and eating some of the most problematic CSA suspects:

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Kohlrabi Slaw (for those early season boxes)

Ingredients: (makes 8 servings)

2 cups chopped cabbage
2 stalks celery, sliced thin
2 carrots, sliced thin
1/3 cup white sugar
1/8 teaspoon celery seed

Directions:

1) Toss the cabbage, kohlrabi, celery, carrot and onion together in a large bowl.
2) Whisk the sugar, salt, pepper, celery seed, mayonnaise and vinegar together in a separate bowl until smooth; pour over the cabbage mixture and stir to coat evenly.
3) Chill in refrigerator one hour before serving.

Nutritional Information: (per serving)
Calories: 173 kcal; Carbohydrates: 18.3 g; Cholesterol: 5 mg; Fat: 11.1 g; Fiber: 4.7 g;
Sodium: 267 mg

Beet Salad with Goat Cheese (for those midseason boxes)

Ingredients: (makes 4 servings)

1/3 cup chopped walnuts
3 tablespoons maple syrup
1/2 cup frozen orange juice concentrate
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
2 ounces goat cheese

Directions:

1) Place beets in saucepan, and fill with enough water to cover. Bring to a boil. Cook 20 to 30 minutes, until tender. Drain, cool and dice into cubes.
2) Place walnuts in skillet over medium-low heat. Heat until warm and toasty; stir in maple syrup. Cook and stir until evenly coated. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool.
3) In a small bowl, whisk together the orange juice concentrate, balsamic vinegar and olive oil to make the dressing.
4) Place a large helping of greens onto each of four salad plates. Divide candied walnuts equally and sprinkle over the greens. Place equal amounts of beets over the greens, and top with dabs of goat cheese. Drizzle each plate with dressing.

Nutritional Information: (per serving)
Calories: 347 kcal; Carbohydrates: 25 g; Cholesterol: 7 mg; Fat: 26.1 g; Fiber: 3.2 g; Sodium: 107 mg
Recipe found at: http://allrecipes.com/Recipe/Beet-Salad-with-Goat-Cheese/Detail.aspx?evt19=1&referringHubId=15105

Roasted Root Veggies

Ingredients: (makes 10 servings)

1 butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 1-inch dice
3 carrots, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 large sweet potato, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 rutabaga, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
3 parsnips, peeled and cubed
3 turnips, peeled and cut into 1-inch dice
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and pepper to taste

Directions

1) Preheat an oven to 450 degrees F (230 degrees C).
2) Place the butternut squash, carrots, sweet potato, rutabaga, parsnips and turnips into a large mixing bowl. Drizzle with olive oil and toss to coat. Season to taste with kosher salt and pepper, and place the vegetables into a deep roasting pan.
3) Roast in the preheated oven until the vegetables have lightly browned around the edges and are tender, about 45 minutes. Stir once as the vegetables roast to ensure even cooking.
Nutritional Information: (per serving)
Calories: 210 kcal; Carbohydrates: 38.9 g; Cholesterol: 0 mg; Fat: 6 g; Fiber: 8.1 g;
Sodium: 121 mg
Recipe found at: http://allrecipes.com/recipe/seans-mommys-roasted-root-vegetables/

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