One of the best things about getting a community-supported agriculture share is getting a box of fresh vegetables every week. One of the worst things is figuring out what to do with all the bounty.
Ann Bell Stone, who has offered CSA shares from her Elmwood Stock Farm in Georgetown for 12 years, has made a point from the beginning to include recipes and preparation tips with each weekly batch, she said. And her CSA members have returned the favor, giving her their favorite recipes to share with other members.
Elmwood’s CSA starts in May, so the first week will have asparagus, spring lettuces, “and, if the weather cooperates, strawberries, green garlic, spinach, and some other surprises,” Stone said. The CSA shares are one way to introduce new vegetables and let customers know that there is more at the farmers market than tomatoes and sweet corn.
But it can be daunting staring a box of greens and unfamiliar vegetables. Is that kohlrabi? Fennel?? Or alien larval pods?
“Oh, kohlrabi is incredible,” said Jonathan Humphrey, produce buyer at Good Food Co-ops. But even he can see that kohlrabi is more universal.
“It can be unnerving to look at,” he admitted. “But it’s really awesome, rich, flavorful, earthy. … It’s akin to broccoli stalk, so you can coax a nuttiness from it.”
So, what do you do with kohlrabi?
“My favorite preparation is to take it and mix with fennel and celery root, do a coarse chop, with onions and tomatoes,” he said. Then he roasts it in coconut oil, which handles high heat better than olive oil, so the vegetables caramelize.
“Then sprinkle on some Parmesan,” he said.
Chef Bob Perry, who teaches at the University of Kentucky, has another treatment for kohlrabi: “Shred it and make cole slaw with it.” He likes to mix it with shredded radishes and green onion and make a honey mustard or mayonnaise-based slaw dressing.
“It tastes like a very sweet turnip,” Perry said. “It doesn’t have a lot of flavor but it’s nice and crunchy and fresh.”
And what about beets? Most people are used to pickled beets but what do you do with a fresh one?
“Best thing to do is roast it,” Perry said. Boiling leeches too much of the flavor and nutrients out, he said.
He suggested lining a pan with foil, taking the tops off the beets, then coating the beets in olive oil and a little salt. Seal up the foil and bake at 375 to 400 degrees for an hour, until tender enough to peel the skin off with your fingers.
“The classic is a roasted beet and goat cheese salad,” he said.
Put sliced or chopped roasted beets with a spicy green like arugula, dressed with a little vinaigrette (try balsamic vinegar and honey.) Top with candied walnuts if you have some.
If you’re lucky enough to get your beets with the greens still attached, those can be sauteed for a lovely sweet flavor, Perry said.
Here are some techniques you can use for any unfamiliar vegetable:
▪ If it’s a green —from kale to spinach, beet to Swiss chard — it can be sauteed by itself or tossed into a stir fry with a little garlic, fresh ginger and soy sauce. If it has a thick stem, you might want to remove those and chop them up. The stems will take longer to cook than the tender leaves. Consider the texture of the leaf, too: if it’s more leathery, like collard greens, you probably want to chop or tear it. But tender young spinach can be cooked whole.
▪ If it’s a root vegetable, you can cut it into wedges, coat with olive oil, salt and pepper and roast in the oven at about 400 degrees until tender. You can season with sprigs of thyme or other herbs. Or include some chopped tomatoes, onion and squash and serve over rice.
The biggest challenge with a CSA share is eating all those fresh vegetables in one week, Perry said. He recommends spending a couple of hours prepping everything as soon as you bring it home, then blanching by plunging in boiling water briefly then placing in iced or cold water to stop the cooking process.
“Clean, trim, blanch and dry, then put in fridge, so later in the week you can throw together a quick sauté, with a little butter and herbs. Or just cut everything up and roast it, then you can put it in a soup, serve over rice, use as a side dish, anything,” Perry said.
Stone, who has shared similar tips, said that the way her customers use vegetables has changed.
“People prepare kale differently than they did when we started 12 years ago — now there’s juicing, salad ... kale chips,” she said.
Kristin Ingwell-Goode, who works at God’s Pantry Food Bank and has been a CSA customer, said that smoothies are one of the top ways she gets spinach into her kids.
“I’ve got so many pictures of my kids with green mustaches,” she said. “You throw it into the blender and it just disappears. ... My kids will drink it, it uses up the spinach, and everybody’s happy.”
From Kristin Ingwell-Goode
2 cups of frozen fruit such as blackberries, raspberries, blueberries or strawberries
1 cup water
1 cup orange juice
2 handfuls of spinach
Optional: 1 cup vanilla or plain soymilk
Blend well in a blender and serve chilled.
Makes enough for two large smoothies.
Healthy Kohlrabi Slaw
From Chef Bob Perry, University of Kentucky
3-4 medium kohlrabi, peeled, grated and allowed to drain in a colander or squeezed in a kitchen towel
to remove excess moisture
1 bunch radishes, grated
3-4 spring onions, sliced on a sharp bias; or 1 small sweet bulb onion, grated
(Optional - Other grated veggies as desired such as carrots, celery, broccoli stems)
Toss all vegetables together then add enough Local Honey Mustard Vinaigrette to moisten and kosher
salt and pepper to taste.
Local Honey Mustard Vinaigrette
From Chef Bob Perry, University of Kentucky
1/4 cup Dijon mustard
1/2 cup local honey
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1 Tbs kosher salt
1 tsp black pepper
1 Cup Olive Oil (regular, not extra virgin)
Put all ingredients into blender except olive oil and pulse a few times. With blender running add olive oil
in a thin stream.