This Spring, Mike and I participated in our first ever CSA and loved every bite of it!  

“CSA” stands for Community Supported Agriculture, and essentially means paying for a “share” of a farm’s crop.  The idea is that it helps local farmers to make ends meet through nature’s ups & downs, as the purchasers take on some of the risk and might get smaller or larger boxes of produce depending on the weather & growing conditions.  For me personally, it was a way to get local & in-season produce at peak freshness and at a cheaper price than if I bought this all a la carte at the Farmers’ Market.

We chose to do our CSA through Genesis Growers because their pick-up locations & times in Oak Park were super convenient for us, they are certified Organic, and I’d also read heard very good things about them from Lisa & Maria.

For the Spring CSA we received a total of 4 boxes of produce (we chose their “Medium” size) throughout the months of April & May, one box every two weeks.  

Initially, I was nervous to try out a CSA because I’ve become so used to my Meal-Planning Routine and I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to figure out ways to use up all of the produce and still be able to prep my meals in advance.  It turns out that I had nothing to fear.  In fact, Genesis Growers made it easy to stick to my routine by sending out an email a couple days before each delivery with  a sneak-peek of what would be in our box, including recipe ideas!

I thought it would be fun to share what I got each week and how we incorporated the produce into some of our meals:

Week 1: April 11th

Right off the bat, we got a heavy box loaded with Cabbage, Beets, Turnips & Celery Root.  I like how they also incorporated some lesser known vegetables into our boxes like a bunch of “Tatsoi” – a spinach-like Asian Green (pictured smooshed between the cabbage, beets & turnips – look carefully), which I made a salad out of.  And I really loved receiving special items like the certified gluten-free Cornmeal from Three Sisters Garden plus some super-spicy Dried Cayenne peppers.

My parents happened to be in town the week of our first box, so we had plenty of help eating our produce. I made a huge pot of the Borscht from Vegan Eats Worldincorporating all of the Turnips and some of the Beets & Celery Root.

There was plenty of Celery Root so I also made some Mashed Celery Root which we all were huge fans of.  With the Cabbage, I made a huge batch of Sesame Cabbage & Pasta from Quick Fix Vegan for my lunches for the week.  And best of all, I threw the leftover beets along with some apples into my food processor and created what is now one of my favorite salads – Beet & Apple Salad.  I promise I’ll be sharing the recipe soon!

Week 2: April 25th

Mixed Berry Jam, Black Beans, Turnips, Celery Root, Beets, Green Garlic, Bok Choy, Mint, Panisse Lettuce & Bekana (an Asian salad green)

 We received a huge haul our second week with even more Beets, Celery Root, and Turnips, plus several other surprises like a huge bag of fresh mint, Bok Choy, new-to-me Salad Greens like Panisse Lettuce and Bekana, Green Garlic, plus Black Beans from Three Sisters Garden and a Mixed Berry Jam made by Dobra at Delightful Pastries.

Among other things, I whipped up a beautiful Spring salad featuring the greens and the mint – and yes, my Apple & Beet Salad made an encore performance so that I could perfect my recipe.

As delicious as all the produce was, the Mixed Berry Jam was the super star of this shipment (and in fact, our favorite of the entire Season). I even thought this jam was better than Maple Syrup on pancakes!


 Week 3: May 9th

Lettuce, Asparagus, Hakurei Turnips, Napa Cabbage & Popcorn

Week 3 was our smallest shipment of the season, and a perfect example of why CSAs are so important to farmers as three of their crops were not quite ready to pick.  This box was a little bit on the skimpy side, but they surely made it up to us in our next box.

Even with this smaller assortment, we were still able to make a lot of great food from our box! We made several side salads out of the lettuce and made frequent brown bag popcorn, plus we made quite a few recipes:

I used the Cabbage in these Mu-Shu Vegetable Wraps and I diced the Turnip Bulbs and tossed them into the Garden Rotini & Chickpea Salad I made for our weekly lunches – both recipes were from Vegan on the Cheap, our May Veg Cookbook Club selection.  Mike used the Turnip Greens and Asparagus in his own concoction of Pasta with Garlic, Lemon, Balsamic & White Beans which I topped with Vegan Parm – YUM!


 Week 4: May 23rd

Rhubarb, Turnips, Spring Greens, Green Garlic, Asparagus, Kohlrabi & Beets

Our last and final box of the season did not disappoint and I was so sad that this was our last box – I really loving having so much seasonal produce at home and felt like I was really getting the hang of incorporating it into our meal plans.

In this box, I was most excited about the Rhubarb, which we got a HUGE pile of.  I made this delicious Rhubarb-Berry Baked Oatmeal for our breakfasts for the week, and still barely put a dent in our rhubarb supply.  I washed and sliced it all and put the remainder in the freezer so I can continue to enjoy it.  I have my eye on making a Strawberry Rhubarb smoothie at some point this summer.

I incorporated most of the remaining ingredients into our Memorial Day feast with Mike’s parents.  I roasted the Asparagus with a spritz of Olive Oil and a sprinkle of Salt & Pepper.  I used the Spring Greens, Turnips, and Kohlrabi in our Garden Salad, and also made yet another batch of my Beet & Apple Salad since it was such an easy (no-cook!) way to use up the beets.  (Side Note: Our Memorial Day menu also included Happy Herbivore’s Quick Black Bean Burgers with Chipotle Tofu Mayo, microwaved Corn on the Cob, Alexa Chipotle Sweet Potato Fries, and Happy Herbivore’s Decadent Black-Bean Brownies – it was a fabulous meal!)

I’m so sad that our Spring CSA has come to an end, and even more sad that due to our travel schedule, we won’t be able to participate in the Summer CSA this year.  I will miss that Kid-in-a-Candy-Store feeling I got with every box, and the opportunity to be extra creative in the kitchen.  I will be making frequent visits to the Farmers Market this summer and hope I’ll be able to join back into the CSA this fall.

I’d love to hear from you!

Have you ever belonged to a CSA?

Were there any items in my boxes that you’ve never cooked with before?