Caveat Emptor, The CSA Share

by Thomas Dresser

Caveat Emptor, The CSA Share

Whippoorwill Farm, our local CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) outpost, located near the four-way, does it all. They lure you in with a few tasty veggies early in the season, and before you know it, you’re inundated with a flood of carrots and onions, turnips and beans, potatoes and squash. Then a wayward radish lands in your lap. You don’t know what you’re getting into with Whippoorwill.

Let me explain.

When the Farm season opens in June, you are eager to sample the savory peas, fresh greens, and ripe strawberries. But don’t let this initial sampling of produce lull you into complacency.

As July segues into August, it is possible to prepare all the weekly vegetables in an orderly manner.

Yet as Labor Day approaches, be on guard for an onslaught, a deluge of delight that overwhelms right on through to Thanksgiving–and this past year, even to midwinter.

The CSA is great, don’t get me wrong. But from mid-October into November, my wife and I struggle to close the refrigerator door as cauliflower and cabbage block access, peppers and tomatoes back up, and the fresh veggie drawer is jammed.

By Thanksgiving, the onslaught has finally slowed almost to a halt. Finally I can look inside our refrigerator and grab that blueberry jam or chocolate syrup I could never put my hands on.

A couple of years ago, we had a novel idea. We bought a second refrigerator, designated primarily for CSA surplus. The problem is that a fridge doesn’t wash, cut, sort, bag, or store the veggies, never mind cook them. Instead, it has become my beer sanctuary. And veggies continue to accumulate, week after week, clogging circulation in the fridge and staring out accusingly when we glance inside. The produce has become a challenge to consume.

We used to split a share with another couple, but still had more than we could use. Too soon, my wife says, “Oh, it’s Tuesday. Would you make room in the fridge for the lettuce and beans?”

A filled fridge overwhelms us. We tend to dine on the most recent fruits from Whippoorwill, those that roll toward us when we open the door. But the back shelf of leeks and bok choy remains hidden until the season ends.

We find we are not alone. CSA talk enters public gatherings, dinner parties. “What do you do with your kale?” “How do you handle turnips?” “Why so many carrots?” “What’s with the celeriac root?” Recipes circulate, but the chief concern is how to keep up. We drown in a sea of plenty. When the onslaught of potatoes and broccoli overwhelms us, we empathize with the residents of Pompeii.

As we dwell amid a cornucopia of delicious delights, we have yet to find the time to prepare and package the bounty. It requires serious dedication to the cause. Surely there must be a way to utilize this treasure. We resolved to do better this year, and after serious deliberation over long winter months, came up with alternative strategies and attacks for the Whippoorwill harvest:

1) Revise our diet to consist of eight or nine meals a day, commencing with carrots, continuing with cauliflower, until all our vegetables are consumed.

2) Quit our day jobs (at least in season) and stand by when the wife returns from The Farm, with cleaver in hand to process the veggies in a productive manner.

3) Design a Rube Goldberg machine to wash, chop, bag, freeze, then defrost and cook the veggies at a moment’s notice.

4) Pray for a Biblical famine or flood so we can feed our friends with our bounty.

5) Actually, seriously, sincerely, and religiously pick up our weekly produce, return home and calmly process the veggies.

I’m sure one way or another, we can harvest our field of plenty.