As spring gets enticingly closer, it’s tempting to dream of the fruits and vegetables to come. In just a few months, farmers market tables will be heavy with tomatoes. Roadside stands will have squashes galore and u-pick farms will be blanketed with strawberries.
A CSA, or Community Supported Agriculture, ensures that your kitchen is stocked with farm-fresh, seasonal foods even if you can’t make it to a farmers market or u-pick farm every week.
Some CSA farms invite members to sign up at the beginning of the season for a farmer curated, weekly box of produce, meats, or flowers. Other farms have customers sign up throughout the season or give customers the option to choose what they receive each week. No matter how it’s organized, joining a CSA lets you taste a wide variety of the flavors Western North Carolina has to offer.
Sometimes members are challenged by out-of-the-ordinary vegetables. Kohlrabi, with its bulbous purple root and long leafy stalks, may leave customers wondering what to do with a vegetable that tastes like a mild cabbage combined with the crunch of a tart apple.
Luckily, local farmers are here to help. Many CSA farmers send out weekly newsletters with recipes or meal inspirations that correspond with the produce in that week’s CSA box.
“Every recipe idea revolves around what’s growing at this time of year. These are very loose recipes that are meant to inspire people to use their produce in ways that they’re not used to or in easy ways,” says Vannah Roddy from Encompass Farm.
She farms on a network of seven former suburban yards in Black Mountain, North Carolina. In exchange for the use of their land, homeowners receive a weekly veggie box full of seasonal produce that was harvested that day. The veggie box subscriptions are also available to community members who can pick them up in Asheville and Black Mountain.
In addition to growing vegetables, Vannah is on a mission to help people connect with local food in the kitchen. Her meal-inspiring emails are meant for busy people who want to eat seasonally, whether they are members of her CSA or not. These quick farm-to-table dishes are nutritious and easy to make, like Radish Carrot Cilantro Salad or Wilted Arugula with Roasted Potatoes.
“A big part of the focus is to make home cooking more accessible to a lot of folks. Each of these recipes you can pull together in under 15 minutes, which is really valuable to allow folks to be cooking at home more if we cut the time,” she says.
The newsletters make meal planning a breeze, which is important when there’s an influx of perishable food coming each week. Having a weekly meal plan lets you look forward to cooking and reduces food waste.
“Folks are excited about getting local food, but then don’t know what to do with it or how to use it fast enough. I want to help folks make sure that they’re getting what they’re paying for by eating the food and enjoying it,” she says.
Another way to perk up vegetable-based meals is through spices and seasonings. There are a few local farm businesses that make seasoning blends, including Encompass Farm. They offer a Green Onion and Garlic blend, and a Smokey Pepper blend, made with farm-grown paprika and poblanos.
“I initially created them to help folks create full meals with their veggie box. So you can add a seasoning blend onto your produce and you’re one step closer to a complete meal,” she says.
Signing up for a CSA gives you a head start on three seasons of nutritious meals, and can ignite a life-long love of cooking.
“If I can help people engage with that joy and engage with their food, engage with their community and the environment, it all comes together with cooking and eating local food,” she says.
Aired: March 8, 2021