Selecting A CSA

Apr 14, 2013

Is a CSA right for you?  How much food will you get?  Will you have time to cook it?  Will you know what to do with it?  Candace Page, who writes for the Burlington Free Press, is a two-time CSA divorcee.  VPRs Ric Cengeri is an enthusiastic CSA devotee.  Between them you'll hear sound advice for selecting a CSA that works for you.

For information about CSAs in your area:

Vermont Department of Agriculture

Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont

The VPR Cafe is produced in collaboration with The Burlington Free Press.  Candy Page writes for the Savorevore Section where she shared these recipes for celeriac.  Also, see below for Candy's list of questions to ask yourself in deciding if a CSA is for you and how to select one.

Celery Root and Potato Purée
(This is a version is by a Kansas City, Missouri chef who blogs at www.acookinglifeblog.blogspot.com)
Ingredients:
3 tablespoons butter
1 medium celery root-about 3/4 to 1 lb., peeled, halved and thinly sliced
Salt
Whole milk (about 1/2 to 2/3 cup), gently warmed until steaming hot
1 pound potatoes (Yukon Gold, Yellow Finn or Idaho Russets), peeled and cut into large chunks
2 tablespoons butter, room temperature
Directions:
In a wide, heavy-bottomed saucepan, melt three tablespoons of butter over medium-low heat. Add the celery root along with a pinch of salt and toss to coat the celery root in the butter.

Cover tightly and cook until quite soft, about 12 to 15 minutes, stirring now and then. Lower the heat if the celery root starts to brown. (Note: You may need to add a small amount of water to keep the root from sticking. In that case, once the celery root is soft, cooked uncovered briefly until the water evaporates).

Purée in the blender or food processor. The blender will give a more silky purée, but you will need to add milk as you blend.

While the celery root cooks, place the potatoes in a saucepan and cover with salted water. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and cook at a gentle simmer until just tender. Drain. Pass through a ricer or food mill and return to the pot. Fold in 2 T. of butter and the reserved celery root purée.

Adjust the consistency of the purée with warm milk. Season to taste with salt & pepper. Serves 4.
(Tasting note: Alternatively, skip the potatoes and serve unadorned celery root puree. )


Localvore celeriac-potato gratin

(The big difference among recipes for this dish is whether or not to partially cook the vegetables on the stovetop before baking the gratin in the oven. The stovetop method is messier and creates more dishes, but does cut the oven cooking time substantially. If you choose to do the oven-only version, reduce the cream to 2-3 cups).

Ingredients:
2 celeriac roots, ¾ to 1 pound each
5 medium potatoes
4 cups liquid. Cream is best, but cut it a little or a lot with whole milk or chicken stock, depending on your tolerance for calories
1 cup shredded mild cheddar (Swiss is the traditional choice, but this is Vermont)
½ teaspoon dried thyme
3/4 cup thinly sliced shallots or leeks (optional)
Minced garlic to taste (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste
Butter
Directions
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Peel and thinly slice the potatoes and celeriac. Put the cream and milk in a big pot, preferably non-stick for easier cleaning and add the potatoes and celeriac. Bring to a slow boil, then reduce to a simmer. Cook until the vegetables can be pierced by a fort but are not completely tender. Off the heat, stir in the shallots, garlic, thyme, salt and and garlic.

Pour the vegetables into a buttered gratin dish and top with the cheese. Bake 30 to 45 minutes.

What to ask before you choose a CSA:

Local Harvest, a national website that helps connect consumers and farmers, offers some advice to those seeking a farm share. Here are some of the questions they suggest asking and a few of my own as well:
Know thyself. Ask yourself these questions:
• Do I like to cook and does my schedule allow me to make homemade meals most evenings?
• Will it be fun to cook vegetables that are new to me?
• How will I handle excess produce? (Do you have a neighbor who would like to get some if you get “behind”?) Feeling bad about wasting food is one of the top reasons former CSA members cite for not renewing.
• I’ll be paying for my food in advance. Am I willing to accept the unknowns involved in “shared risk”?
Talk to the farmer. Among the questions you might ask are these:
• How long have you been farming? Doing a CSA?
• How much choice is available in the weekly share?
• Do you deliver to my town or neighborhood, or do I pick up the food on the farm?
• Is there a choice of pickup times?
• What happens to my share if I cannot pick it up one week?
• Are there items in your box grown by other farms, and if so, which farms?
• How did last season go?
• How many members do you have?
• What percentage of the food you deliver annually is grown on your farm? If the answer is less than 100%, ask where the rest of the food comes from, whether it’s certified organic (if that is important to you), and whether members are told which items come from off-farm.
• I’d like to talk with a couple of your members before I commit. Could you give me contact info for a couple of “references?”

Support for The VPR Café comes from The Vermont Community Foundation's food and farm initiative, supporting farmers and helping all families access nutritious local food.