Thinking Outside the CSA Box

It’s October now, a month I love. And not just because it harbors within it the anniversary of my birth. I’m not really all that keen on celebrating my birthday for some reason. It’s not that I mind getting older, I don’t. But for some reason it carries no extra weight for me than any other day of the year. But what October does mean for us is an end to the summer share of our CSA box. And owing to a falling out we had with our CSA provider about the way in which she ran the program this year, we have been left with no official CSA for the fall. In the past we had just continued with the same company into the fall share. But with our plans changing so late in the summer, the CSAs around us were all purchased by the time we got around to making our fall plans. This is both a sad problem, and a freeing one at the same time.

Partially, it makes things easier for us. Kate can make the things that she hasn’t in a while because of the supply of produce from the CSA that must be used before it goes bad. And without a set list of ingredients, she is more free to choose whatever the mood strikes her to make. But at the same time, this means that we’ll be back to purchasing our veggies from the grocery store. And while there are numerous places around us to find good produce, none of what we buy at the store has the same flavor or local provenance. The up side is, we have talked with some neighborhood acquaintances, and discovered a new CSA provider that sounds wonderful, and are now signed up for the summer share beginning next year. Now we just have to find a way to make it through the fall and winter. I envy my friends in California who have growing seasons that last the entire year, and can get quite jealous when I hear what they are getting at the same time we are wallowing in cold and snow.

In an effort to soften the blow of the end of the CSA season for us, Kate decided it would be fun to issue me a challenge. And I have to say, I am quite looking forward to it. There is a farmer’s market in our neighborhood that goes through the end of October, and I actually have to go right by it on my way home. So this week, my challenge is to buy Kate 8 ingredients from what I find at the market. I have no shopping list, and no rules. Except I was told not to buy anything too weird or gross- not that I would anyway since I have to eat whatever I select. But I am really looking forward to seeing how this will work. Since I’m not much of a cook, I’ll be selecting items for what ingredients I know I like, rather than what recipes I can think of that they will work in. After all, I make surprisingly little food on my own, and even when I do, I can hardly remember the ingredients without consulting the cookbook. But I’m am looking forward to finding the heirloom vegetables that we didn’t get much of over the summer this year. So if I see some cool looking beans I don’t recognize, I know I’ll be drawn to them. I have only been tasked with asking the vendor what the produce I’m buying is called if it’s not obvious. I told Kate that I had my eye on a blood red colored squash of some kind when I passed the market last week. And that might be first on my list of what to buy if I see one like it again. That is, if it’s actually meant for eating.

Though I find my part of this adventure fun- picking vegetables for what looks good or interesting, I can’t imagine having the same excitement over being handed a bag of unknown vegetables and being told to make a week’s menu from it. But of course, that is the sort of challenge that Kate actually likes about the farm box. She’s a planner, and drawing up a plan of action to use up everything we will have without wasting, and figuring out novel ways to use the ingredients is something she finds pleasure in. I’ll plan on making a list of what I’ve gotten, and documenting where everything goes. I’m quite excited to see what happens with everything I buy, and whether or not I can guess at all where things I’m buying might end up. I have a feeling I’m in for some delicious surprises.

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6 Responses to Thinking Outside the CSA Box

  1. Jordana says:

    Does Iron Creek Farm have a drop-off in your area? I know for a fact that they still have shares available for the fall. (They’re my CSA). Also- kind of curious what your falling out was about. I know which CSA you guys do and it has always gotten great ratings…

    • Chuck says:

      I’m pretty sure Kate emailed Iron Creek and just hasn’t heard back yet. We’ll see what happens. On the falling out with our current one, it was entirely a disagreement with the woman who runs it over how she structures her program, and also how disorganized she was this year. Mostly, she was charging less if you did her self-select option than she was for people who paid for the regular full share box, meaning we were subsidizing the self-select. She’d also clearly oversold and we didn’t get any tomatoes until what must have been late August. That and she routinely messed up the cheese share- we didn’t get a cheese for almost three weeks at one point because she’d ordered wrong, and then the next week they just forgot ours. We probably got one apologetic email a week for the entire season about something she’d messed up for the week. That, and the delivery is on Tuesday, which doesn’t really work for cooking things over the weekend like Kate likes to do. The produce and cheese we got from them was always great, minus the random things that just didn’t survive the trip from Wisconsin. It’s just we didn’t like the way the whole thing was being run. Not a big deal, we’ll move on. I’m excited about ours next year. There are farm parties, and cheese making classes, and the pickup is on Saturday just a few blocks from our house. Should be good from the recommendations we got.

  2. Dave says:

    Great idea to select things at random like that. You could probably glom onto our share if there’s something you want. Could get complicated, though. Maybe. Dunno.

  3. MT says:

    This sounds like an amazing challenge! But Dave, we don’t have a share anymore. We just have some leftover dollars to use up, then we’re cut loose like spaghetti off a blade.

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