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    8 Lessons I’ve learned from my CSA

    veggie CSA lasagna
    Veggie CSA lasagna

    With 2 shares to go, I’ve endured 20 weeks of overflowing, fresh, local veggies in my fridge. Sharing a Red Earth Farm CSA share with two of my BFF’s was one of the best decisions I made!

    Unsure about the locavore experience or new to CSAs? Here are 8 things I learned from my experience:

    1. Veggies you never heard of aren’t as scary as they sound. I never knew what to do with Kale, Okra, dandelion greens or kohlrabi before. Sure, I’ve heard of these foreign plants and seen them on menus before. But luckily we live in the age where the internet is at our fingertips, and I’ve been able to create some delicious treats simply from typing in “X” and “recipe” into my friend Google. You’ll be amazed at the creative recipes & tips in  blogs, forums & more.
    2. I’ve gotten way more creative with my recipes. This is coming from a girl who tried making meals of hummus & pita 3 x’s per week to eating 5 variations of Mexican each month. Now, I’m psyched to try different dishes and prepare different CSA recipes.
    3. You spend a lot less money eating out. When you’re given an abundance of healthy, fresh, local CSA produce on a weekly basis, you absolutely hate throwing any of it away.  I’ve ducked out of unhealthy bar foods after softball or an HH in lieu of going home and eating my own organic feast.
    4. You save money! My CSA share came to $9/week for veggies. Although I’d occasionally buy supplements (grains, spices, etc) to make meals, no $25 Whole Foods (or Farmers Market) bill for the week!
    5. kale & cabbage CSA recipe
      Kale & Cabbage CSA Side

      Even Kale needs some loving. Or at least a good massage. When I wanted to make a kale salad, I wasn’t sure how to take the “roughness’ out of kale to do so. The Googleverse recommended to give the kale a ‘massage’ with dressings to take out the roughness & bring out the natural oils. Although my coworker debates that kale likes a good deep tissue, I prefer giving a Swedish touch.

    6. You may want to skip the CSA fruit share. I spent an extra $100 for  fresh fruits and have been slightly disappointed with the lack of variety. If you prefer a variety of fresh fruits during the summer, I’d recommend farmers markets instead.
    7. Planning (and flexibility) is essential. It’s better to find a recipe that uses a few of the items in one (like a stir fry, ratatouille or pasta/veggie combo) instead of trying to knock out one item at a time. Plus, it’s helpful to make a few substitutes and use a lot more from your fridge.
    8. Bugs happen. Whether your roommate bites into a worm or you have to wash a bug or two from your kale, produce may be ‘flawed’. Deal with it – you’re not getting unhealthy chemicals and pesticides.

    CSA newbies or experts, what have you learned from participating in a CSA? Any Buddha-like knowledge?

    Julie Hancher

    About Julie Hancher

    Julie Hancher is Editor-in-Chief of Green Philly, sharing her expertise of all things sustainable in the city of brotherly love. She enjoys long walks in the park with local beer and greening her travels, cooking & cat, Sir Floofus Drake.

    Your thoughts . . .

    • Kelly

      We have been doing a CSA for 6 years- not only do we eat much healthier, but we eat different things all of the time. But most of what we have learned (and what keeps us coming back) is that fresh is better.
      My husband learned that it wasn’t healthy food that he didn’t like- it was the sprayed/ imported/ shipped from a million miles away stuff he had always eaten. I learned that I can get farm fresh in the city.
      We both learned that the whole notion of local & organic produce being twice as expensive is a myth perpetuated by places like Whole Foods, who use it for profit.
      We were converted and will not look back:)

    • Great point Kelly! If you go straight to the source (CSA/Farmers), you can save money and feed your family way healthier. The past few months is the healthiest I’ve felt in a while. 🙂 Thanks for sharing!

    • Jenna

      I’ve found almost all of your points to be true. Although, CSAs can be pricey if you are buying it for yourself or splitting it with just one other person. I definitely pay more per week for veggies with the CSA than I would at the supermarket, but I justify it with the lack of eating at restaurants (and that whole organic part). I no longer am afraid of kohlrabi (there is a bangin apple/kohlrabi slaw out there on the internets). This year was my second year and I found it to be much easier because I knew what to expect as far as variety and quantity.

    • Nic G

      Thanks for this honest post, I have been considering doing a CSA as there is one set up through my work (how convenient is that?) but I was not sure of the true pros and cons. I think I will have to try this next year!

    • Hey Julie,
      The Farmer and I just sat down this winter evening and checked out your blog – the 6th listing that came up when we googled “philadelphia csa.” We already have our nursery full of green babies, and are much encouraged by enthusiastic members like you!

    • Hi Charis! Thanks so much for your note. I’m working out the details with two of my friends to share the CSA again! I can’t wait – is it June already? 😉

    • Karcryo

      Love this blog post!!!