It’s an enriching experience to watch how the time and energy invested in seeds results in delicious, home-grown vegetables. Whether you use them as side dishes, snacks, or the main components of a plant-based diet, fresh veggies from a CSA (community supported agriculture) garden are delightful. They have a richer taste than many grocery store selections and inspire recipes that take full advantage of their nutrients and flavor.
The Benefits of Farm-to-Table Vegetables
It’s more than taste that makes farm-to-table vegetables more appealing than supermarket ones. You know everything about how the ground where it’s grown is treated, and how the plants have been cared for. The vegetables sprout naturally because they’re not grown too quickly or at inopportune times, or harvested before full maturation, to accommodate sales demands. Ever notice certain spring and summertime fruits and vegetables still available in the winter? Grocery stores import produce from out of the country, which also means higher costs and more potential for exposure to toxins while in transit. It also upsets seasonal cycles, part of the reason why we crave comfort foods in the colder months, and lighter meals when it’s warm.
There’s also a stronger personal tie between farmers and consumers when vegetables are grown through a CSA. You’re supporting local commerce, can receive direct advice about cooking ingredients, and eliminate packaging costs. You may find unusual or imperfect shapes because there’s been no interference to create flawless produce, or discover interesting varieties that you never knew of beforehand. Additionally, you’re encouraged to try your own backyard gardening, which has influenced how homeowners design the ultimate outdoor living space, and deepens neighbor connections.
Appreciate Seasonal Produce
Successful harvests and availability may vary according to the region, temperatures, precipitation, maintenance, and wildlife getting at the vegetables. However, asparagus, morels, spinach, and rhubarb should be cropping up now (mid-spring) in Ohio. May and June should see the following:
- Mustard greens
- Sweet peppers
Cooking Tips that Maximize the Flavor of Fresh Veggies
The nutrients in fresh vegetables are sensitive and start to decrease once the food is cut, peeled, or even washed. So prepare and eat them as soon as possible afterward. Fat and citrus boost nutritional absorption. So sautée fresh veggies in healthy oils (coconut, avocado, sesame, and olive), or in butter, or add juice and/or zest to dishes. Keep cuts to similar sizes for even cooking. You might try steaming or roasting them for maximum flavor. In addition to making salads and snack trays, there are endless ways to incorporate fresh veggies, including:
- Soups, curries, and stews
- Salsas, sauces, pesto, and chimichurri
- Dips and hummus
- Burrito, taco, and enchilada fillings
- Juices and smoothies
- Omelettes and quiches
- Stuffings, or stuffed into another vegetable
- Rice, quinoa, couscous, and other grains
- Desserts such as carrot cake and zucchini bread
Nothing needs to go waste when preparing farm-to-table veggies. Turn peels into seasoned crisps, and add carrot and radish tops to stir-fries, sauces, or pesto. Shred stalks into slaws, blend into dips, or freeze for later use in making stock. Add cooking water to soups and mashed potatoes, or use for natural food dyes.
Ideas for Surplus Vegetables
Many freshly picked vegetables will last about 1-2 weeks, depending upon storage methods, indoor temperatures, and exposure to sunlight. If properly tended to, carrots and radishes may last a few months. If you cannot store excess vegetables in the basement or other ideal environment, consider:
- Donating vegetables to fire departments, homeless shelters, and food banks (check rules first)
- Giving them to family, friends, or co-workers
- Offering them for free to the public
- Canning and pickling
- Adding pet-friendly veggies to meals and treats
- Using decaying vegetables for composting (then use the compost to grow more!)
Fresh Veggies Year-Round through Home and Community Gardening
Backyard gardens and CSAs give you the means to enjoy fresh veggies that are natural to the region, and grow during the seasons they are best adapted for. It’s rewarding, and yields scrumptious vegetables all year long!