CSA Box Log

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CSA haul: Grapefruit, oranges, lemon, eggs, radishes, pea shoots, boy choy, garlic, and salad greens.

Recently, I started getting a CSA box. A CSA box is when you pay a subscription and get a box of random fruits + veggies periodically delivered. My local farm is $30/box, and I set it up for once every two weeks, delivered to my workplace. I figured it’d be a good way to break out of the rut of veggies I default to. I usually just get non-organic veggies from our local grocery store, but it’s always good to eat more greens, right? Support local businesses and all? To evaluate the success of the CSA, I decided to log everything I made using the ingredients from the box, including the cost per meal.

Meal 1: Chicken + Radish Salad

I’m not a big salad fan, but the CSA box included three baggies of pre-washed salad green, so I had to find a way to use them up. What’s the simplest way use up salad veggies? Make salad! I cooked the radishes and added the salad greens. I also added 1/3 jar of sun-dried tomatoes, 4 chicken tenderloins, and some leftover green beans. My default dressing is balsamic vinegar and olive oil, because I haven’t learned to make anything else.

Taste: 3/5. It tasted all right… for a salad 😛 Hey, at least it looked pretty with the pink radishes.
Cost of extra ingredients: 
Sun-dried tomatoes ($2) + chicken ($2). 4 meals.

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Meal 2: Shrimp + Pea Shoots Pasta

The CSA box included a mysterious stem + leaves green thingy. I originally thought it was arugula and painstakingly pulled off all the leaves, which took forever, until I realized that they were actually pea shoots, and the stem is edible :/ So I chopped them up and cooked them in a pan with a little bit of oil and some garlic from the box. By the way, the garlic definitely feels different than the one I used to buy at the grocery store. “Crisp” is the closest adjective that I can find to describe it. Costco garlic is similar, which I guess means that Costco garlic is good quality (I can just hear you saying: stop is with the Costco already! sorry, what can I say, I’m addicted! ). I also added pasta, shrimp cooked in butter (yum), and parmigiano-reggiano cheese. Can’t go wrong with more cheese.

Taste: 3/5. Good, except the the pea shoots were a bit tough. I should’ve chopped off the ends and cooked the more tender parts.
Cost of extra ingredients: Pasta ($1) + 1/4 lb of shrimp ($2.50). 3 meals.

Meal 3: Asian style

For this one, I decided to use the boy choy. Boy choy implies Asian food to me, so I stir-fried the boy choy in my big ol’ wok and added some soy sauce. I also pan-grilled a bag of Trader Joe’s pre-marinated Korean short ribs in a cast-iron pan. Btw, cast iron pans are amazing for cooking anything (steak, fish) that normally requires a grill. We’re not allowed to have a grill because we live in a condo, and there’s a huge fire hazard around here. Also, rice, but that’s basically a given in our household.

Taste: 4/5. Most of the flavor was provided by the ribs. Maybe I should learn to make the marinade on my own, it looks simple enough.
Cost of extra ingredients:
 Korean ribs ($10). 3 meals.

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Meal 4: Arugula Pesto

That pesky arugula! It’s so bitter, and I couldn’t figure out what to do with it. I decided to try making pesto out of it, which I’d never down before. Drowning it in olive oil sounded like a good way to get rid of the bitterness. I think this one worked out OK, but I wouldn’t make it again. Actually, this has been a continuing problem because they keep giving me arugula, and it’s so bitter (to me at least) that I don’t know what to do with it.

Taste: 2/5. The good thing is that I learned how to make pesto, and it’s super easy (just blend herbs and olive oil together). 
Cost of extra ingredients:
Pasta ($1) + 1 cup of olive oil ($2). 3 meals.

Snacks

The box also contained oranges, grapefruits, and lemons. Did you know that California is the US’ second biggest citrus producer, after Florida? The oranges and grapefruits were great for post-dinner dessert, since I’m usually too lazy to buy my own fruits (they always go bad before I have a chance to eat them!) The grapefruits were these oro blanco pommelo-grapefruit hybrids, which have super thick rinds and are really sweet and delicious.

Oh, I also started made green smoothies to use up all that extra spinach. It’s amazing how much spinach can go into one smoothie without it affecting the taste! In the pic below, I  put about 2 cups of spinach in and it tasted fine, without any noticeable spinach taste.IMG_20180724_085835.jpg

Summary

After that first week, I decided to continue with the CSA box. It’s fun to get a box delivered and open it up to see what goodies are inside (kinda like getting a package of clothes delivered… hm…). It definitely forces me to get more creative instead of just cooking the same things over and over again. It’s also improved my vegetable identification skills (“oh, they’re not just all called lettuce?”). S calls them “cow vegetables”, but they’re green and leafy, so they must be good for us, right?

On the other hand, I feel some stress to finish all the box and not let anything go to waste. Especially when S was away, it was a challenge as one person to finish the box, and I definitely threw away some old veggies, which I felt bad about.

It’s also been confusing  with some mysterious vegetables, but that’s mostly my fault because I have no idea what they are. Someone really needs to invent a machine learning algorithm that can tell me how to cook this thing! Although when in doubt, saute-ing with a bit of oil and salt always seems to do the trick.

Total cost: $30 (CSA box) + $20.5 (extra ingredients) = $50 / 13 meals = $3.88 / meal.
Pretty good, I would say! I didn’t compare to buying the ingredients from the grocery store, but ~$4/meal with meat and seafood sounds reasonable to me.

Have you ever subscribed to a CSA? Did it expand your cooking repertoire? Any tips for using up extra lemons and arugula, which are the two things I constantly struggle to use up?

6 thoughts on “CSA Box Log

  1. I get something similar to a CSA but not quite the same since they source from multiple farms, many local but some less so.

    Thing I’ve learned for lots of greens, especially the bitter ones: blanch, drain, then fry. So good. For extra lemons, I’d probably make a marmalade or concentrated lemon juice to break out for periodic homemade lemonade. Or grill on top of meat.

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    • Thanks for the suggestion! I’ll try blanching, maybe that’ll help. I have no idea how people deal with so much arugula. Although after I posted this, I found a recipe to exactly use up my lemons and arugula (in Chrissy Teigen’s cookbook), which turned out pretty well and killed two birds with one stone. Ooo I’ll have to try lemonade too. Or lemonade iced tea. I’m inspired now!

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  2. I did a CSA box for a while and split with a friend. It was fun, and I got to try a few new things, though we got a lot less variety in produce than it seems like you are getting. (I’m totally jealous! It’s natural that what they can grown in this area is going to have less variety than in California though, I feel like.) We had some weird “mystery vegetables” sometimes too, like the kohlrabi, though they wrote out what we were getting, so I could identify it by process of elimination using the list.

    Those grapefruits look huge compared to the oranges and lemons – makes sense that they’re pomelo hybrids.

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    • Ooo splitting with a friend is a great idea. I’m always jealous of the bigger CSA box that my farm offers, as they seem to have the best goodies. I actually stumbled across kohlrabi on some “Top 10 Greens” list when I was trying to identify my own vegetables, so it seems that people do know it, but I’d never heard of it before you mentioned it.

      I got some weird looking “flat peaches” this week, which I thought were malformed peaches from being grown locally (like how pick-your-own strawberries are super tiny compared to the ones in the grocery store), but they turned out to be “doughnut peaches” which are super delicious and sweet. Apparently they’re from ancient China, and appeared in the Journey to the West story. Who knew a CSA box could lead to improved knowledge of ancient legends?

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  3. I’m kinda jealous that you get a ton of arugula!!! I LOVE it! I have arugula salad every day for lunch (with sunflower seeds, almonds, and pepitas, and olive oil as dressing). I also love arugula as a topping on pizza (uncooked), and one of my favorite salads is a chickpea potato salad with arugula. Yum! I’ve always wanted to do a CSA but my boyfriend and I got into Green Chef, which is one of those meal delivery services. We just started getting TWO boxes which gives us dinner 6 days out of the week! It’s already getting tricky with random weekend plans coming up, haha.

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    • Haha I wish I could offload some of my arugula to you! wouldn’t ship well, I suppose 😉 hm, I’ll have to try some of those salads – do you have a recipe link for the chickpea one? My recent way of using up arugula has been mixing it uncooked into pasta, where it shrinks and sorta disappears… yay. Good luck with using the meal delivery! It sounds hard to keep non-veggies in the fridge. I leave some of my CSA veggies for 2 weeks, and that’s pushing it (not the arugula though! Just tough ones like beets)

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