A lot of the complaints I hear about having a CSA involve not know what the vegetables are and/or what to do with them. Here is a list of the vegetable I have gotten in my weekly CSA box and a brief description of how to use them.
We can start with the green and leafys
My general rule of thumb is ‘when in doubt, treat it like you would treat spinach.’ Obviously, as you get to know the taste and texture of the different vegetables, you figure out what is best eaten raw, steamed, baked, destemmed, chopped tiny, left whole, etc.
Baby Bak Choy (or full-sized)
Bak choy is part of the cabbage family. It is great steamed whole or chopped and tossed with garlic. The leaves can be used like a thick lettuce (spinach) and the stalks can be eaten like celery raw.
Boston Bibb is a supple, soft lettuce that is great in salads. It is sometimes known as butter lettuce (probably because it is so soft and delicious!) It is on the delicate side so take care when storing it that there is nothing squishing it. I wrap it in a cool damp paper towel when it arrives and it keeps for 5ish days in the crisper.
You may get several versions of Kale in your CSA. The kale above is called ‘Siberian Kale’ and has flat green leaves with a thick stem. The thick stem usually gives away the type of green. The bigger the stem, the tougher the green. For example, arugula comes bunched like this but the stem is thin and fragile making it a much ‘weaker’ green…ie it won’t last as long and you won’t need to do as much to it to make it taste good. I store this as is in the fridge. It is great for soups, baked, braised, chopped finely and bruised in salads, etc.
This is Chicory, or curly endive. If you have ever tasted endive, you will be familiar with the bitterness of chicory. It is usually marinated, or boiled and then sauteed (boiling takes away some of the bitterness much like kale.) Store as is in fridge.
This is another version of Kale. You may also see purple kale, or curly Kale…all given away by their thick stems and cruciferous smell (like broccoli.) This is good in stews, baked (particularly in kale chips with this type of flat kale), boiled and then sauteed.
You can see the pointy arugula leaves sticking out of that bowl. Arugula or ‘rocket’ lettuce is a member of the brassica family and is delicate and peppery. It is great raw in salads or wilted in pastas, pestos, etc. You can identify it by smelling it (it smells peppery) and also by the shape of the leaves (pointy and a bit like rockets.) I wrap this in a damp paper towel and store in the crisper. This is my favorite lettuce to use in a BLT or a BLT salad- https://sweetpskitchen.wordpress.com/2013/10/06/my-first-recipe/
Swiss Chard/Rainbow Chard
Chard is one of the healthiest vegetables around. It is a cousin of the beet, but unlike the beet (who is grown for it’s root) the Chard is grown for it’s leaves at the expense of it’s root. The leaves, therefore are extremely nutritionally dense and tasty. You can ID this by their stalks which look a lot like celery/rhubarb. The rainbow chard (pictured) is particularly easy to ID because of the beautiful colors. They are vein-y and almost waxy looking. These are stored as is and taste great destemmed, steamed/sauteed, in soups, as chips, in a box with a fox.
You will likely get MANY different types of lettuce in your CSA; red lettuce, green lettuce, bibb lettuce, salinova lettuce, purple lettuce, romaine, etc. You will know that it’s lettuce because it will come in a head and feel and smell like regular lettuce. It will be more supple than a cabbage but otherwise they look really similar. Lettuces are more fragile so should be stored wrapped in a damp towel in the crisper. Eat as if you would any other lettuce-salads, lettuce wraps, on sandwiches, etc. (another head of lettuce is picture below, sitting on top of my potatoes and another head of purple lettuce far left)
Round Head Cabbage is pictured above…the thing that looks like a cabbage. A member of the brassica family (along with brussel sprouts, broccoli, etc. ) Cabbage is great for slaws, salads, sandwich toppers, in soups, etc. This cabbage in particular is great for stuffing because the leaves are so sturdy. I throw this into the fridge as is and it lasts a WHILE.
(picture borrowed by https://www.canecreekcsa.com)
Tatsoi is an asian green that is identified by it’s dark green waxy looking leaves. The leaves are rounded and are great raw in salads or steamed and tossed into a stir fry. I wrap this in a damp paper towel and keep in the crisper.
You will probably get a bunch of root vegetables with their greens attached. These were always my favorites because you get two in one! Examples include but are not limited to radishes, turnips, and beets. If you want to use the leaves of these root vegetables, cut them off as soon as you get them, otherwise they will wilt fast. I wrap them in damp paper towels and put them in the crisper. These greens tend to be DIRTY when still attached to their root so be sure to take extra care when washing them. I use them sauteed and tossed into quiches, pastas, salads, stir fries, etc. They are more bitter than a lettuce but they are very tasty and earthy…great for you too!
(pic borrowed from wikipedia)
Broccoli Rabe, also known as Rapini, is a member of the Brassicas and is sort of a green, sort of not. I am including it because it looks very ‘green and leafy’ so could be confused for Kale or turnip greens. You can ID it from the smell (like broccoli) and depending on how old it was when it was harvested, it may have little broccoli looking buds on it. It is bitter but tastes great tossed in garlic and olive oil and sauteed…sprinkled with cheese! I store this as is in the fridge…it is pretty hearty.
(picture borrowed from wikipedia)
Spinach is always my reference point. I say ‘if you can’t figure it out…do what you would do with spinach!’ It is a great general rule because many of the green and leafies DO behave like spinach in recipes and most people have seen spinach in their lifetime. Spinach has a great, rich flavor and is packed with iron and fiber. It tastes great raw in salads or tossed with oil and sauteed. You can even bake spinach and make spinach chips! In my CSA, spinach comes in a big bag. It doesn’t look like baby spinach you get from a grocery store but it tastes very similar. It is delicious and freezes well once blanched. I use spinach to beef up my pesto all the time. I leave it in the bag and the spinach is usually gone within 3-4 days. We use it in soups, pestos, on sandwiches, in salads raw, in stir fries, to add iron to pasta sauces, etc. Get creative and remember…
when in doubt, treat it like spinach 🙂
With Love, SW, Popeye, and Sweet P