10 Tips for Using Your CSA Box Like a Nutritionist
We asked 10 registered dietitians for their advice on how to make the most of your CSA box this year.
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How to Make the Most of Your CSA Box
Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) programs allow for consumers to buy a share of a local farm’s harvest. In exchange for a fee or workshare (or a little of both), farms can provide a weekly variety pack of their harvest. Find out how nutritionists make the most of this seasonal produce.
Share the Delivery Cost
Many farms offer at-home delivery for an additional fee. Team up with neighbors for drop off at one house and split the delivery cost.
Bri Bell, dietitian and owner at Frugal Minimalist Kitchen takes a page from the Food Network playbook. "My favorite way to use up veggies from my CSA box is to do a Chopped Challenge! You get a box of mystery ingredients and aim to make a creative dish incorporating all the ingredients in the box! It's a perfect way to use up mystery veggies and involve your family in trying new foods."
Give Herbs and Greens Some TLC
"Rinse delicate herbs (like parsley and cilantro), and wrap in a thin towel" says dietitian Leanne Ray. "Then store in a zip-top bag or reusable produce bag in the refrigerator. Less prep work later and it will stay crisp and fresh for several days."
Be Good To Your Greens
Much like herbs, leafy greens need special care. "Once home I prioritize and prep greens by rinsing under cool, running water, then pat mostly dry with a tea towel," says Erin Hendrickson, RDN, Nashville-based food waste expert. "Gently roll damp, leafy greens up in an absorbent and breathable cotton tea towel, and place in a container or sealable bag in the fridge for up to a week."
Plan Your Pick Up
Hendrickson also makes sure to properly schedule her CSA pick up. "I make CSA pick up the final errand on my to-do list before heading home. Freshly picked leafy greens can wilt quickly if not properly stored as soon as possible."
Get a Group Text Going
One of the biggest challenges of a CSA is identifying unique varieties of produce and then deciding what to make it with them. Set up a group text with fellow CSA members to share images, ideas and recipe links.
Even dietitians can be challenged by lesser-known produce. "When I get a CSA box in my community ... often the challenge is using up a large amount of produce you might not be accustomed to," remarks Sharon Palmer, MSFS, RDN. "Though you might not pick this out on your own, it can be fun and a new challenge to try new produce items in your cooking and diet. It keeps more diversity in the farms, as well as our diets, so it’s a very good thing to support more unusual produce!"
Eat It Different Ways
"Try a vegetable or fruit in a variety of ways," suggests Wendy Jo Peterson, MS, RDN."It's a great time to challenge your senses by smelling, tasting and feeling it raw and then try it sautéed, grilled or roasted and see the difference. Even vegetables like Swiss chard taste great raw in a salad or roasted and tossed into pasta or sautéed with onions and olive oil. Local produce, that is fresh picked tastes quite different than frozen, canned or even store-bought. Something you may have disliked before, you may find yourself liking now."
Wash Produce Right Away
"The first thing I do when my box full of fruits and veggies arrive is wash them," says Jill Castle, MS, RD. "I fill my kitchen sink with water, put all the produce in there, and scrub each piece with a scrub brush. I set everything out on the counter to dry, then I place them in a basket on the counter, in the fridge or cut and package them for snacking later. I find that having everything clean and ready to go makes mealtime prep faster."
"When everything is already cleaned, stored and ready to eat, it is a breeze to use my CSA bounty during the busy week," reports Jenna Braddock, RDB, CSSD, CPT, owner of MakeHealthyEasy.com. "I have a collection of reusable bags just for my CSA produce. It keeps them fresh, stores so nicely in the fridge, and it's easy to see what's inside."