I just picked up my first CSA share of produce from Stearns Farm in Framingham, MA, and I’m trying not to panic. Four heads of lettuce, spinach, cabbage, bok choy, scallions, garlic scapes: This is exactly what I got last week at the market. I had bought a similar basketful from the Natick Farmers Market, and when Casey at Natick Community Organic Farm gave me a bag of produce last week during my visit to the farm, it too was filled with the same leafy greens. Since this is the season for leafy greens, everyone who shops at farmers markets or participates in a CSA is facing the same problem: what do you do with week after week of the same ingredients?
This is my first time participating in a CSA, which stands for community-supported agriculture. People pay money in exchange for a share of locally grown, farm fresh produce, and their share can include fruits, vegetables, flowers, meat, or other animal products. The first CSA was established in Massachusetts in 1986 by Jan Vander Tuin, a man who founded a similar farm in his native Zurich. CSA’s are community-driven and focus on organic farming, and over the past thirty years they’ve grown in popularity as more people have gotten on board with environmental movements like farm-to-table and Meatless Mondays.
Back when I was still subscribing to a meal delivery service and dreaming of a better way to get healthy food, I contemplated joining a CSA. I liked that both services gave me a pre-determined set of produce and said, “here’s what you’re getting.” That’s easier for me than the traditional method of figuring out what to buy at the grocery store where the possibilities are endless. In the end, the CSA appealed to me on so many more levels, including supporting local business and decreasing my carbon footprint by eating locally sourced food.
Of course, the difference with a CSA is that you aren’t given a recipe to go along with your share, and on a day like today, where the temperature is slowly approaching 90℉, I am too hot to figure something out. Luckily, Stearns Farm offers weekly classes on different farm and cooking lessons, and this week it was Farm Fresh Snacks, hosted by two women from Chop Chop magazine, which focuses on getting kids and young adults to have fun while eating healthy. We made veggie skewers with homemade vinaigrette, a watermelon citrus salad and watermelon agua fresca (chunks of watermelon blended with water until completely liquid). Inspired by the class, I decided to make mini Caprese salad skewers (eating salad on a skewer is way more fun) and a big Caesar salad with homemade croutons. Next week, Stearns is offering a class on foraging that I’m definitely looking forward to attending.
This meal still leaves me with three more heads of lettuce, not to mention all of the other leafy greens that I collected in my share. When the heat breaks in a couple days I’ll come up with a more creative menu (I’m thinking chicken lettuce wraps), but for now, this will do just fine.
Caprese Salad Skewers and Caesar Salad
In my basket:
1 head Red Leaf Lettuce (from Stearns Farm, Framingham MA)
1 bunch Basil (from Natick Community Organic Farm, Natick MA)
1 pint Cherry Tomatoes (from Freitas Farms, Middlesborough MA)
8 oz Ciliegine mozzarella balls (from Narragansett Creamery, Providence RI)
1 loaf Rosemary Ciabatta (from Birchtree Bread Co, Worcester MA)
From the pantry:
1/2 cup Olive Oil
Salt and pepper
To Make Homemade Croutons
- Preheat oven to 400°.
- Cut bread into 1 in pieces, toss with olive oil, salt and pepper until well combined.
- Place bread pieces on cookie sheet, bake for 15-17 minutes or until golden brown and hard to the touch.
Alice Kathryn Richardson is a new media photojournalist and creator of The Clean Food Club. She previously spent two years working on Deserts in the District, a series of short-form documentaries exploring food access and hunger in Washington, DC. She is committed to supporting local and sustainable food businesses by telling their stories with photo and video. Follow her on Twitter @AKR_Pictures.