By signing up to participate in a CSA, you are signing up for a share of what a farmer or group of farmers produce(s) during the growing season. Usually, this means that you will receive a box or basket of produce each week for a prescribed period. All the food in the box will be fresh (picked that day or within a few days before) and local (and usually organic or chemical free as well).
The contents of the box vary by the CSA and the season. For example, here in Pittsburgh with the Penn’s Corner Farm Alliance, I received boxes filled mostly with lettuces, eggs, cheese, and stores from root cellars and greenhouses early in the season. This week, lettuces are still abundant but are mixed in with goodies like blueberries and peppers. When my next box comes, I’m hoping for sweet corn.
Often, you’ll also have the opportunity to visit the farm and see where products are grown. One of my greatest childhood memories is wandering the farm of “our farmer” from the CSA my mom signed us up for each summer. He had painted his mailbox in a tie-dye pattern, had a daughter about my age, and was always eager to show off his rows of lettuces, blueberry patch, and greenhouses.
And, as you’ve seen based on my previous posts and recipes, a CSA will challenge your eating habits. Salads are a constant, but in addition I experiment with soup, stir-fry, bread, and any number of other dishes based on being given so many vegetables – including at least one each week that I’ve never heard or at least never cooked with. It’s probably too late in the season to sign up for a CSA this year, but keep them in mind for next year and share your recipes and new experiences.