So, I’m totally psyched about the first CSA distribution of the season. I’m also totally exhausted! One of the main issues with caring for your CSA is prepping all that food for the week (or two-weeks, for partial share CSA holders) ahead. I am by no means a preservation expert. It’s a learning process, with a lot of trial and error. I’m sure there are many great tips online, but some of the fun of having a CSA share is figuring out what works best for you (and your kitchen/storage space). Some people think about canning/brining from the get-go. Others may want to consume as many fresh veggies as possible. Regardless, you really must be prepared to devote a solid two hours to tending to your CSA share. If you simply chuck everything into your refrigerator, you won’t be doing anything other than transferring your share to your compost bucket in a few days’ time.
There are two enemies to fresh produce: dirt and moisture. If you are lucky enough to have a fairly clean share (i.e. maybe it’s been very rainy, so much of the produce is dirt-free), then you may only find yourself deep cleaning your greens. That said, the first month of your share will probably be mostly (perhaps exclusively) greens. I set out my produce to photograph, but it’s not a bad idea to survey your gains after you’ve – maybe haphazardly – stashed them in your bags at the distribution site.
This week I’m looking at arugula, red leaf lettuce, spinach, spring garlic, garlic scapes, radishes, broccoli, bok choi and chard. I find a way to get through the prep is to cook something right away! If you work at cleaning and storing your share and you have something totally yummy at the end of it, life is so much sweeter (plus you may still have a bit of room in your “Vermont refrigerator” as a friend once referred to mine). I opted to rid myself (in the best sense) of my spinach and part of an overly generous portion of scapes.
A note on scapes: This is the top part of a garlic plant that will flower if left uncut. By trimming back the garlic, farmers discovered that the garlic would grow better, and the less pungent tips were truly yummy. Lots of people use scapes in pesto. I dice them for my homemade salsa. A nearby restaurant in Bushwick (okay, it’s Roberta’s) has a scape pizza. You can basically substitute scapes for any garlic recipe. They’re fairly hardy, and will last in the crisper for several weeks. Plus, they require no prep (pretty much the same for broccoli). Radishes? Just trim the greens to compost, clean and dip in kosher salt (by week three, radish recipes will be required but for now enjoy their spicy goodness raw).
Anyhow, I decided to make spinach artichoke dip for dinner (recipe below). It was super easy (kinda the point when you’re prepping your share to store), although it did require a quick trip to the store for artichoke hearts and dairy. When it comes to washing greens, I know people who swear by their salad spinner. I don’t own one, so I use cotton towels. Spinach is quite hardy and will store for a week of more. Simply clean, dry and store in a ziplock bag with a couple of paper towels thrown in (I use those sectional paper towels to conserve). Lettuce is the most fragile. Even clean, I’ve yet to find lettuce that lasts more than a few days (give or take). And since you cannot freeze lettuce, the best option is to clean, store dry (again, I use paper towels, but you can experiment with tericloth), and eat it! Make a side salad for breakfast (substitute for home fries… it’s not potato season!) and generously garnish grass-fed hamburgers (or real veggie burgers). If it’s clean and crisp, you can even grab a leaf when you’re feeling a munchy craving coming on.
Some people like to inventory their share; regardless of whether or not you do this, as you’re cleaning everything, start planning your menus for the week. I trimmed the ends off the spring garlic, but rather than composting the “woody” section of the plant, I tossed it into a stock pot and boiled them. This serves two purposes: my compost pile will embrace the softened garlic leaves and I now have some nice base stock that I can freeze for soup at some point (you can’t go wrong with garlic water, whether you add more veggies at some point or chicken bones). A basic stock like this will last for months in the freezer (you can even put it into an ice cube tray to flavor pasta/rice dishes).
This left the chard and arugula, the latter of which I’m going to experiment on. I’ve decided to freeze a small portion to see how it holds up. Arugula can be cooked or fresh (I’m guessing chard would freeze well, too), so I’ll see how it works and let everyone know.
- 1T olive oil
- 1# fresh spinach
- 2 garlic scapes
- 1 can artichoke hearts (drained)
- 1-2 cups grated Parmesan cheese
- 1/2 cup sour cream
- 1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt (I used Fage 0%)
- 1/4 cup cream cheese
- salt to taste
Preheat oven to 375. In a large skillet, heat olive oil on low (as you should; olive oil burns) and add chopped scapes. After about two minutes, add spinach. It will probably loom over the pan, so you may want to use a lid to press down; otherwise, stir occasionally until spinach is reduced. Dice the artichoke hearts and turn into spinach mix.
Add in dairy and salt and blend until creamy.
Put in a non-stick pan (I used a bread loaf pan) and cook at 375 for 25 minutes. Use your favorite cracker or bread to dip liberally (I picked up Wasa crackers from the organic market). Enjoy!