How to Get the Most Out of Your Spring CSA Shares
Spring is Time to Prepare for CSA!
When some people think spring they think of cherry blossoms and daffodils, but we think about spring CSA shares! Now is the time of year when our hard work really begins to become apparent in our local food system. While we have tons of excitement over kicking off each new season with our customers and the Moon Valley Farm-ily, for some new clients there are naturally questions that arise. How do you store all the produce? What should be eaten first? Which items are best cooked or eaten raw? In response we put together this set of tips for common items you’ll find in upcoming spring shares! If you’re not a CSA member yet, the descriptions below might just change your mind. Each CSA item below is listed in order of how quickly you should use it (from use first to items with a naturally longer shelf life).
Eat Your Greens (and Flowers)
Microgreens Much like sprouts, microgreens are the most delicate and tiny of green leafy vegetables. Unlike sprouts though, microgreens are usually grown in soil and with full light meaning they have a deeper green and are more leafy than sprouts (and come without the tender root attached). Microgreens should be used first, and quickly since they may not last longer than several days. We recommend storing microgreens in the refrigerator and checking them daily to make sure they’re not wilting or getting soggy. Use microgreens on top of salads, sandwiches or in wraps. You can also blend a handful into your favorite smoothies, or use them as lovely garnish over cooked proteins or loaded baked potatoes! Lettuce
Lettuce is one of the most familiar vegetables and farm-fresh lettuce is best used right away. Head lettuce can often last longer (up to a week) than cut lettuce (around 4 days or more). Storing lettuce in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator is best. The obvious places to use lettuce are salads and sandwiches but there’s many other options! We love lettuce leaves with shredded vegetables inside rice paper rolls (dipping sauce on the side). Another treat is to lightly grill whole heads of romaine (split in half lengthwise) and top them with vinaigrette or a creamy dressing. Grilled romaine is a lovely side dish that combines a lightly charred and wilted outside with a fresh, crunchy romaine heart inside! Lettuce is also great for juicing when used in small amounts (too much can make the juice bitter). Fresh Herbs and Herb Flowers
Fresh herbs, and their flowers, bring amazing color and flavor to foods. Leafy herbs like parsley and cilantro are best used and stored like microgreens or lettuce (refrigeration is best as is using them quickly). Woody herbs like thyme and rosemary will have a longer shelf life in the refrigerator (up to a week or two) and can even be dried at home for extended storage. If you’re lucky enough to get herb flowers, use them right away! While most cuisines and recipes offer many common ways to use herbs, some of our favorites are chimichurri, green chutney, tabbouleh and savory thyme biscuits. Spinach and Arugula Spinach and arugula are unique. Eat them raw or cooked. In terms of their leaf thickness, texture and flavor, they’re somewhere between lettuce and collard greens or kale. Refrigeration is best for these emerald-hued greens and they should be eaten within a week or less. Some recipe tips beyond salad: Use them in quiche or omelettes. Blanch spinach and freeze it for later. Replace basil with arugula for a spin on pesto. Saute them down with garlic and oil and serve as a side or with pasta. Mustard Greens, Kale and Collards As cold hardy crops these large leafy greens are a welcome early spring vegetable. The leaves are best cooked until soft and stored in the refrigerator until ready for use. Try mustards, kale or collards in soups, stews, braises, sautés or even raw in marinated salads.
Welcome Spring Root Veggies
Radishes Crisp, crunchy and mildly piquant — radishes are one of the hallmarks of spring farming. They’re among the first plants sown in the new season that can be harvested in spring. We recommend putting your radishes in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator and separating the tops. Radish tops can be cooked just like spinach, and have a spicy flavor that goes great with vinegar. Just to be sure to wash radish leaves in several changes of water to remove any dirt. The radish bulb is the ultimate raw vegetable and can be used in salads, crudite, fresh pickles or just simply munched with a sprinkle of salt!
Beets Unlike snap peas, the sweetness of beets is slow to fade. Some liken their flavor to sweet corn with hints of spinach and an added depth that matches their red color. Although, not every beet is red and some are striped with white or completely yellow. No matter the beet, it’s best to separate the tops and roots for storage in the refrigerator. Beet tops typically last only a week while beets can keep for many weeks when stored well. Did you know you can cook and eat beet tops like you would chard? Yup! The taste is very similar with a slight beetroot flavor as well. The roots themselves are perfect roasted whole or boiled and pair wonderfully with goat cheese, tree nuts and tzatziki (yogurt dill sauce)! You can also juice beets just like you would carrots for a nutrient-packed drink. Carrots The first spring carrots offer tender flesh and a thinner skin than carrots harvested later in the year. This makes them perfect for raw snacking (dip optional), and dishes like glazed carrots. While carrots are great any time, there’s just something special about the first harvest of a new season! Just like beets and radishes it’s best to separate the tops and roots before storing them in the refrigerator. Some prefer to compost their carrot tops, others enjoy them as a bonus food item! Carrot tops can be added in small quantities to any juice or smoothie recipe for a boost of greens. The flavor of carrot tops is similar to a mild parsley and adventurous eaters may even make tabbouleh with them!
What Else Is In Season
Spring Onions The season is even in the name! Spring onions, also known as scallions, are slightly milder than their larger cousin (the onion) and have edible green tops. Refrigerator storage is best and in the right conditions (not too wet or dry) they can keep well for up to a couple weeks. Try using spring onions as a replacement for onions in any recipe. You can also use the tops as you would chives for a lovely garnish to hot and cold dishes. Grilling or pan frying spring onions whole is an amazing, simple preparation that can be used as a side with almost any cuisine. Snap Peas These beauties are also known as sugar snap peas because of their alluringly sweet flavor. The natural sugars in snap peas fade rapidly so it’s best to eat them right away. Storing them in the refrigerator is recommended, although sometimes a crisper drawer is too cold. Some of the top ways to enjoy snap peas are stir frying, lightly blanching or simply eating raw! Just be sure to wash them and remove the stem and stringy vein first.