Getting the Most from Your CSA

 

Participating in a CSA is a great adventure. You get the chance to eat fresh produce that’s sourced locally and supports your local economy! You also get to take home some of the more uncommon vegetables like celeriac that you may have never tried before. At Tangletown, they like to push the limits of what they offer. There’s plenty of the staple crops making up the basis of their shares (carrots, corn, potatoes, greens), but they also like to provide a couple items you may not normally try. Exposing yourself to foods you may not have otherwise eaten is a part of the fun! Unlike grocery stores where you have access to the same produce year-round, the food in your CSA share is season-dependent, meaning you probably won’t get tomatoes in June or asparagus in August. You’ll begin to learn when foods are in season and receive a variety of produce that changes weekly!

Photo courtesy of Tangletown
Photo courtesy of Tangletown

CSAs aren’t only about the food. Being a part of the CSA directly connects you to those providing your food. The unique relationships CSAs offer can be a terrific resource for getting the most out of your experience. Get to know your grower! Share your feedback on what you liked and didn’t like in your share, ask them about their favorite recipes, or schedule a farm visit to see how your food is grown. Ask other members picking up their shares for cooking recommendations or their go-to CSA-sourced meals. Many find their interactions with growers and other members to be just as rewarding as the food they take home.

Photo courtesy of Tangletown
Photo courtesy of Tangletown

Picking Your Share

CSAs are as diverse as the shares they offer. Each CSA offers different produce, drop-off locations, and growing practices. Many also offer different sizes. The most common are full shares that typically feed a family of four and half shares that feed two. Some CSAs also offer a micro share that can be perfect for one person or those new to CSAs. If you’re unsure of which size is right for you, Dean suggests starting small and working your way up. This prevents you from getting too overwhelmed and gives you a good introduction to CSAs with minimal commitment. Ask your grower if they offer share upgrades. You may be able to upgrade to a larger share if you find yourself wanting more produce in the middle of the season.

Decide what you want from your CSA and take the time to get to know ones you’re interested in before purchasing a share. You can get insight into their growing practices, learn what to look forward to getting in your share, and find out if they have a convenient drop site. Knowing what to expect from your CSA will prevent you from getting overwhelmed or disappointed with your share.

Extending the CSA Season

CSA produce isn’t just for the summer season. With proper storage, you can continue eating food from your CSA through the winter! It’s easier than you thought, too. Keep your greens fresh by sealing them in a plastic bag and freezing. Better yet, if you have lots of produce you won’t eat right away, chop them up and freeze them together as ready-made soup mixes. Premade bags of vegetables like carrots, beets, potatoes, and greens can easily be combined with broth and spices for a great soup in the winter.

 

Dean likes to challenge his CSA members to extend their CSA season by learning new canning and preserving skills. Don’t worry, you won’t need to be stuck in your kitchen all weekend. There are quick, convenient recipes that allow you to make great products effortlessly in just one evening. Take a look at www.foodinjars.com/recipe-index for a massive list of recipes that will give you tons of options for preserving your fruits and vegetables. Try making quick pickles, sauces, sauerkraut, or other kitchen-processed foods so you can enjoy local produce all year long!

Photo courtesy of Tangletown
Photo courtesy of Tangletown

Dean's Words of Wisdom

“CSAs are not for everybody, but I think for the vast majority of people that go into it with the right mindset and the desire to actually make something great out of it, it can be wonderful.” If you aren’t interested in preparing your own food or eating lots of different produce, your CSA membership could end up feeling like a chore. Dean often stresses the importance of viewing your CSA share as a challenge to try new things. Try making a cold summer soup recipe, canning homemade salsa, or eating that vegetable you hated as a kid. Taking these small steps will build your confidence and show you that it’s easier to do than you may have thought. Soon, you’ll find yourself with a whole new set of cooking skills and an appreciation for foods you may have never imagined enjoying!

When Scott Endres and Dean Engelmann started Tangletown Gardens in 2003, it was a garden center offering annuals, perennials, trees, and shrubs grown on their farm. After couple of years, they became interested in offering fresh produce grown on their farm and began supplying ingredients for Wise Acre Eatery and selling CSA memberships. Today, their CSA is wildly popular, expanding to an average of 650-750 shares sold annually.

Tangletown Gardens

Maintaining a sustainable, resilient farm is at the forefront of Tangletown Gardens’ production system. To do this, Scott and Dean created a farm model that focuses on the symbiotic relationships between their crops and livestock. According to Dean, “in order to be a biological farm in the way that we are, we need plant and animals interacting in a symbiotic relationship. The plant life ultimately feeds the animals and the animals ultimately provide nutrients to the next set of plant life. It’s a really beautiful system.”

Scott
staff in field

Meet the Farmers

Scott Endres and Dean Engelmann

 from

Tangletown Gardens

 Minneapolis, MN

Maintaining a sustainable, resilient farm is at the forefront of Tangletown Gardens’ production system. To do this, Scott and Dean created a farm model that focuses on the symbiotic relationships between their crops and livestock.

“In order to be a biological farm in the way that we are, we need plant and animals interacting in a symbiotic relationship. The plant life ultimately feeds the animals and the animals ultimately provide nutrients to the next set of plant life. It’s a really beautiful system.”