The Pros and Cons of a CSA Share


Hi friends!  Hope your day is starting out well.  This morning I went to a TERRIBLE spinning class, but we won’t talk about that.  Instead, let’s talk about vegetables.

I’ve had my CSA share for about a month now.

Overall I’d say it’s been great.  Here in Ithaca, having a CSA share is pretty common, but I know in other places it’s not.  So why not do some pros and cons. Feel free to chime in with some comments!

Cons:

1. My salad spinner is my new best friend.

With a CSA you don’t have the luxury of packaged/pre-washed vegetables.  Preparing things takes a bit longer as everything has to be washed, trimmed, chopped, etc.

2.  No more green monsters everyday.

I haven’t gotten any spinach in my share so I’ve been going through green monster withdrawal.  I actually went to the grocery store at one point this month ONLY to buy spinach so I could make a green monster.  I tried it with JUST kale, it was NOT good.

So sometimes you miss certain vegetables.  I also haven’t had a carrot since May even though I used to have one every day.  But I have plenty of other vegetable options.

3.  Eat cautiously.

Because the veggies are so fresh and haven’t traveled far, I’ve found my fair share of worms in my lettuce.  Some would see this as horrible, but I don’t think it’s that big a deal.  If anything, it’s a marker of freshness.

Added bonus: helps me slow down (as I tend to eat very quickly) when I have to inspect each bite :)

4.  Somewhat pricey?  I’m torn on this one.  My share ends up costing $19 per week.  For that amount, I have unlimited local organic vegetables.  For one person, that might be a lot but I think if I bought the same stuff (entirely local and organic) at the grocery store it would probably cost more.

Pros:

1.  Supporting local agriculture.  You can feel good about yourself… or something.

2.  Plenty of organic vegetables!

Having a CSA share has definitely made me increase my vegetable intake.  Since I don’t have the heart to throw anything away, I eat a huge bag of vegetables each week usually something to the effect of: 2-3 bunches of kale, 1 head of lettuce, a kohlrabi, some broccoli and a cucumber.  Kind of a lot.

3.  Forces you to get creative.  A lot of times, you’ve never heard of a vegetable that’s in your share (check out my first experience with kohlrabi).  But a lot of times you don’t want to eat the same vegetable prepared the exact same way for weeks on end.

So you try to get creative, like this:

Vegetable Polenta Bake for One (or Two)

1/2 tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, diced
1/2 tsp minced garlic
1 small zucchini, thinly sliced
1 small yellow squash, thinly sliced
1-2 cups greens (I used kale and chard)
1 cup pasta sauce (jarred or homemade)
1-2 tbsp fresh chopped parsley
1 oz mozzarella (I used 1 string cheese)
1-2 tbsp grated paremesan/pecorino romano/asiago cheese
1/4 cup cornmeal
1 cup water
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp salt

Heat oil in a pan, add onion and cook for a few minutes (until translucent), add garlic, zucchini and yellow squash and cook for a few minutes (it shouldn’t be cooked all the way).  Next add greens and stir around until they start to wilt.  Add pasta sauce and stir until greens have cooked down.  Turn off the heat and stir in the parsley.

In a small pot or sauce pan, combine cornmeal, water, garlic powder, onion powder and salt.  Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally.  Once cornmeal starts to thicken (aka polenta), keep stirring until the polenta starts to come off the sides.

Take a small baking dish,  spread half of the sauce/vegetable mixture in the baking dish, then on top of that spread half of the polenta.  Next top with half the string cheese/mozzarella and half of the parmesan.  Repeat.

Bake in the toaster oven for 20 minutes.

Allow to cool.  Either eat it straight from the dish for another single lady (or gent) meal or serve on a plate with a simple green salad.

Ingredients from CSA in this dish: zucchini, yellow squash, kale and chard, parsley. + side salad with lettuce and cucumbers from CSA as well.

4.  Less trips to the grocery store!   Since I pick up at the Farmer’s Market once or twice, I make less frequent trips to the grocery store.  As a result, I spend less on things I don’t really need.  Because let’s face it, who actually sticks to their shopping list when they go to the store?

5.  It’s fun!  If you’re like me, vegetables are probably one of the most exciting things ever!  You get fun new ones every week!

Do you have a CSA share?  Consider getting one?
Any Pros or Cons I missed?

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19 responses to “The Pros and Cons of a CSA Share”

  1. Anna says :

    I’ve thought a lot about getting one…thanks for weighing out the pros and cons! I definitely see all of the pros, but I can also be a little picky about what I’m “craving” in terms of veggies each week, so the unpredictability might bug (ha!) me after a while.

    • Karla says :

      This definitely the biggest downside for me. Last night I REALLY wanted arugula and I pretty much always want a green monster. The unpredictability also makes meal planning a little difficult but not impossible.

  2. echoingmetaphor says :

    I’ve also thought about getting one for the last couple of years but I always decide not to. The places that offer them around me are kind of far-ish away so I would have a bit of a drive every week to pick mine up which seems a tad ricidulous to me when the local Farmer’s Market is only a couple of miles from my house. So during the summer I try to just get most of my produce from there instead.

    Now that I think of it though, I should talk to one of the vendor’s at the market and see if any of them participate in CSA’s, cause them maybe i could arrange to just pick up my share at the market. That would kind of be a cool idea actually, maybe they already do it.

    • Karla says :

      You should definitely ask about different pick up locations. I know one person who has it delivered to her house and another who has her house as a neighborhood pick up location (she gets a discount because of it too). Here in Ithaca the farmer’s market it probably the largest pick up location. Driving to the farm would be a little too far for me too. I like walking to the farmer’s market much better :)

  3. Evan Thomas says :

    I’m getting a share in the Fall, so I find this pretty interesting and am curious how my experience will compare

  4. Lauren says :

    Cons:
    1. Too much food for even 2 people each week. We try to arrange for pickup everyother week, instead of weekly. I don’t think I would get a box if it was just me, because it is too much food for one person per week.
    2. All my lettuce goes to waste because it is wilted or bruised by the time I get it. I still buy salad stuff at the grocery store if I want it. I still buy bananas at the store too. I don’t think there would ever be a banana in my box, but what would overnight oats be like without bananas?!?

    Pros:
    1. It is $20 a week and provides more food than $20 would get you in the farmer’s market. Keep in mind this is for two people.
    2. all the pros that you listed.

    • Karla says :

      Those are good points. I think an actual share with a set amount might be too much. Luckily, my farm has a “shopping” method where I go and pick up as much as I need. That keeps the waste to a minimum but at times I feel like I need to take extra just to “get my money’s worth.” Agreed! I still buy fruit! My CSA pretty much only has vegetables (with the exception of one week where we had strawberries). I still buy bananas, berries, nectarines, etc.

      P.S. I finally had overnight oats for the first time this morning (w/ banana of course)! Tasty but I think I need to try different mixes to see what tastes best.

  5. anutritionisteats says :

    I have always wanted to join a CSA but was always afraid it would be too much, maybe next summer! I do like that it forces you to get creative and try new things!

  6. sweetandsweat says :

    Seems like a CSA share is great! I know some people who do it but I think it’s neat to not know exactly what you’ll be receiving. And it’s great to support local farmers and make delicious polenta bakes!

  7. balancejoyanddelicias says :

    sounds like a lot of fun! oh… I miss green monsters!!! need to get some spinach too! :D

  8. Nicole says :

    The polenta looks wonderful! I think the pros outweigh the cons, but not having much control over what comes would be the main con for me. I have a garden so I didn’t do a CSA, but my lettuce has a TON of worms, too!

  9. Efi says :

    You are right about supporting local market. I m also not afraid of worms since they are a sign of a chemical-free.

    Your dish looks so good.

  10. Christine (The Raw Project) says :

    No carrots since May?! Poor thing, I love thickening up my green monsters with them.

    Ah yes, veggie pests or “organic experiences” as I like to call them. I cracked into a few worm-inhabited walnuts and brought in a spider or two from my garden with veggies.

    The vegetable bake looks wonderful!

    Currently I don’t have a CSA share, but I make regular trips to our local farmer’s market and have been eating from our active garden.

  11. Crepes of Wrath says :

    Now that I have a job, I should really do something like this!

  12. simplyshaka says :

    I love your meal in the toaster oven, so cute :)

    I don’t belong to one but absolutely love the idea of supporting the local market and being creative with all the different meals you can make with veggies that are exotic to you.

  13. Karin says :

    Hehe I’ve just had a worm in my broccoli too and I thought about taking a picture of it but then I reckoned that some people probably wouldn’t be too thrilled. ;)

    WE have a similar program over here and I’ve been thinking about getting my veggies from there too. Thanks for the post!

    ps. that polenta dish looks to die for!

  14. HazMo says :

    I’d never even heard of a CSA share before this.

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