Vegetable prep and storage tips

potato prep

It happens all the time–I walk into the kitchen with every intention of making potato leek soup (or something delicious), but then I see the potatoes are dirty and unpeeled and  the leeks are still bunched up in the fridge with their roots on. I look at the clock and realize that I don’t have enough time to go on a veggie prepping spree and ultimately leave the kitchen with a snack and put the cooking off till later.

My recurrent planning mistake is that I somehow don’t factor in all the prep time that comes with cooking with fresh vegetables. Half the work in potato leek soup, for instance,  is scrubbing the potatoes, peeling them, chopping them, prepping the leeks and dicing them, etc. It’s not like on the cooking shows where the host effortlessly  reaches for a bowl of diced tomatoes and onions and, voila! the salsa is ready.

As a CSA member, you’ve been dealing with the same seasonal abundances that we have as farmers. Here are some tips that we’ve found helpful in making sure the produce we work so hard to grow (or that we’ve paid for) doesn’t go to waste!

1. Make sure you’re using a sharp knife 

I can’t even express how much a sharp, decent quality knife improves the prep experience. It’s faster, less frustrating, and believe it or not, you’re actually more likely to hurt yourself with a dull knife than a sharp one. A dull knife often slips and leaves you using more elbow grease to saw into food. A sharp knife blade slices and dices with more precision and doesn’t slip. A good way to test your knife’s sharpness is how it cuts a ripe tomato. Does it mash the tomato before it breaks the skin? A properly sharpened knife will slice into a ripe tomato with very little effort on your part without bruising the insides of the fruit.

  • Sharpen your knife as soon as you notice it’s not cutting clean and crisply like it should (I sharpen mine about twice a month).
  • It’s easy to sharpen your kitchen knives. Files are inexpensive and can be found at hardware stores, kitchen departments, outdoors stores, etc. There are all types of files. If you’re unsure about the best way to sharpen your knife, there are some pretty good how-ho resources out there on YouTube, and Google  is good at fishing up these DIY info.

 

2. Use the right tools (utensils, appliances)

There are a few things in my kitchen that I can’t imagine going through a growing season without. Aside from sharp prep knives, I use:

  • A sharp veggie peeler
  • A vegetable brush — Yes, they make those but sometimes I use a clean scrubbing brush from the hardware store. Use these with a bit of water to clean up root crops.
  • A large cutting board (preferably wooden as to not dull the knife blade) — Some smaller boards  don’t hold all the diced produce and it awkwardly spills off the edge.
  • A four-sided hand grater — Because sometimes you’ll want to grate something other than cheese. I grate kohlrabi and cabbage  for  quick slaws. =)
  • A food processor with multiple blades–a regular blade for purees, hummus, and pestos, but also a slicing blade and a grating blade. I only use a food processor for slicing or grating when I am cooking a huge meal or when I am preserving large quantities. If I just needed to grate one carrot for a sauce, I would use a hand grater. You have to factor in the time it takes to clean the machine and decide if it’s worth it. I use the food processor all the time and make all sorts of pestos. I even made swiss chard pesto and it was delicious. This machine allows for all types of adventures in food.
  • A blender — Food processors are great until you try to blend or puree liquids. Talk about a mess! Blenders are best for soups and smoothies. When I first started cooking I thought it was superfluous to have both, but after enough stubborn hummus episodes with me poking down the thick paste to get it back to the blade, or spilled/spattered  liquid soups in the food processor, I learned this lesson: solids are for food processors. Liquids are for blenders. I learn the hard way, but you don’t have to.
  • Anything else? Of course, other musts are good pots and pans and other basic utensils, but the above are the shining stars in my kitchen. What about you? Share your ideas and tips.

 

3. Prep ahead of time

I keep using potatoes as an example because they are my least favorite to prep. Here are a few tips for planning ahead.

  • We don’t wash potatoes too much in advance because leaving some soil on the skin aids in the storage of  root crops. It keeping them from getting that spongey, tired feel. But if you know you are going to be using the potatoes within 3 or so days, scrub them off with a vegetable scrubber and water ahead of time and store them in a humid place until you are ready to peel them or prep them how you wish.

 

  • You can prep vegetables that don’t get brown with exposure to air a day or two in advance. For instance, a diced onion or diced squash can sit just fine in a tupperware in the fridge for  a few days until you’re ready to get cooking. I diced up three leeks and two peppers and garlic after I did the dishes tonight and put them in a tupperware because I know tomorrow I’ll only have a half hour of cooking time and I’d rather just get to cooking than be daunted by prep work and end up eating toast and jam instead.

 

  • With cherry  tomatoes, I take off the stems when I have time and so when I am rushing up a salsa, the stems aren’t the bottle neck. You could even do this with kale or other greens: chop it up and then store it is a humid part of your fridge so when you get hungry you’ll be able to put dressing on it or wilt it quickly and less tempted to skip it altogether.

Hope these tips were helpful. What do you do to manage prep time? Please share. It’s harvest season and we’re all in the same boat, that is, we’re all trying to find creative, time efficient ways to eat the farm’s abundance!

 

 

 

 

2014 Week15

Happy Fall 2014! Instead of listing all the things we like (or don’t like) about fall, I’ll just list what’s in the box this week. =)

 

Sweet potatoes from Food Field

sweetpotato

 

Baby mustard greens from Buffalo Street (good for salads or wilting in soups or pasta dishes)

mustards

 

Cherry tomatoes from Buffalo Street/ Food Field

CAM01161

 

Kohlrabi from Buffalo Street

Kohlrabi in hand

 

Green beans from Singing Tree Garden (STG) Tuesday only Kale from Buffalo Street and Fields of Plenty (Saturday only)

IMG_4970kale!

 

Herbs from STG and Fields of Plenty (Sage or chives or mint or parsley or oregano)

mixedherbs

 

Winter squash from Food Field

Winter sqbox

Chard from STG and Fields of Plenty

Chard

 

 

 

 

Pick Up Day FAQs:

City Commons Pick Up Day FAQs:

I’m running late/can’t get my share during pick-up time window.  What do I do?

If you are running late, let us know via phone or e-mail as soon as you know you will be late to pick up. That way we can keep the cooler open or leave your share out for you. Even if you will be very late—a few hours—we can keep it for you as long as you communicate this with us ahead of time. Just be advised that if it’s hot out and the box is at a site without a powered cooler, the leafy produce may be more wilted.

 

 

I’m going to be out of town on my pick up day:

If you are going to be out of town for multiple days, we suggest you have someone else get your produce. Just make sure they know the instructions (how many boxes or flowers to take, where to pick it up, what time, etc.) We’ve had well-meaning helpers pick up but take too many boxes or not take their friend’s flowers—want to make sure there are no snags. Unfortunately, we can’t switch people’s pick up days (we have enough trouble coordinating our regular box numbers between 5 different farmers)  or hold on to your box for too long (produce is perishable and we don’t keep the cooler running for extra days for one or two boxes), among other reasons. If you would like a longer in-detail explanation of this, e-mail us.

 

I had an emergency and can’t get my share today:

In case of an unforeseen emergency that doesn’t allow for arranging with another person to pick up, we can save your box overnight for you to get the next morning. Again, this requires communication with the CSA farmers via phone or e-mail as soon as you can so we can so we know to hang onto your box. Even in these cases, we don’t hold boxes for more than one day (24 hours).

 

I didn’t pick up my share today. Can I get a refund for it?

As stated many times in our member handbook, CSAs don’t offer refunds for missed boxes. When you join a CSA, you are entering a partnership with your farmers. You share the risk and bounty of the farms. However, if the missed box is an error on our end, that is, if we packed too few boxes by mistake, etc, we will arrange a time for you to replace the box you missed.

 

Contact us: CityCommonsCSA@gmail.com or (313) 312-5295

City Commons CSA Member Handbook

A number of people have been e-mailing and calling to ask questions that are answered in our member handbook. We always welcome questions, but we did spend a lot of time creating this document, so we want to make sure people are reading it. Just in case you didn’t get it in our e-mail this spring, here’s a chance to revisit our instructions and policies! =)

 

 

City Commons CSA

2014 Summer CSA Member Guide

Welcome to City Commons CSA! We hope you find the following information useful in picking up and using your share.

 

I. CSA Membership and Risk

II. Member Responsibilities

III. Full vs. Half Shares

IV. Pick-Up Dates and Times

V. Pick-Up Instructions

VI. Options If I Can’t Pick Up My Box

VII. Recipes

VIII. Member Events

IX. Specific Site Hours and Directions

X. Refunds

XI.  Handling and Storing Your Produce

 

I. CSA Membership and Risk

This season, you will take a journey with our families as we work to produce healthy, delicious food from the soil. Being a CSA member means that you share in all the risk that is inherent in farming. Inevitably, it will be a banner year for certain crops and a terrible year for others. The delicate dance between all the unknowns, all the uncontrollables, and the vegetables themselves will be reflected in your box throughout the season. Through crop diversity and good planning, it is our aim that your box will be full of beautiful vegetables each week, despite what nature may throw our way.

 

II. Member Responsibilities

As the farmers, it is our responsibility to grow, pack, and deliver food to you with open communication. Members have responsibilities too. To make sure everyone gets their share each week, we ask that you follow the simple, yet critical directions we offer.

 

All CSA Members are expected to:

 

1. Read the member handbook in its entirety.

 

2. Know where and when to pick-up your CSA share.

Make sure anyone picking up your box on your behalf knows what to do as well. The farm will not issue credit or refunds for unclaimed or forgotten boxes.

 

3. Take home your produce in your own bag or box, if possible or if not, return our boxes in a timely manner.

 

4. Read all email communications from the farm.

 

5. Please understand that we can’t control the weather.

The quantity and quality of the produce you receive may be more or less than expected depending on many environmental variables.

 

III. Full vs. Half Shares

All full share members pick-up a box every week at their chosen pick-up site.

 

Half share members pick-up a box every other week at their chosen pick-up site. We split half shares into 2 groups; Odd week members pick up on odd numbered weeks (1,3,5, etc.) and even week members who pick up on even weeks.

 

Both full and half shares come in the same boxes.

 

IV. Pick-Up Dates and Times

Pick-up days are either Tuesdays from 4-7pm OR Saturdays from 10am-1pm.

 

Full shares pick-up starting June 17th (Tues) OR June 21st (Sat) and stop October 28th (Tues) OR November 1st (Sat).

 

Odd weeks pick-up on all odd-numbered weeks, beginning week #1 (June 17th OR June 21st ) and ending week #19 (October 21st OR October 25th).

 

Even weeks pick-up on all even-numbered weeks, beginning week #2 (June 24th OR June 28th) and ending week #20 (October 28th OR November 1st).

 

V. Pick-Up Instructions

1. Check-Sheets: Each week, please check-off your name on the check sheet to signify that you’ve received your box. This is extremely important in helping us help you! If you are splitting a share, please remember that you may be listed under the other household’s name.

 

2. Unpack Your Share into Your Own Bag: In an effort to re-use and recycle, we ask that you bring your own bag or box to take your produce home in. Once you unpack your CSA share into your own bags, please break down the box, and stack them in a neat pile next to the stack CSA boxes that haven’t yet been picked up. If you forget, please return the box the following week.

 

*Remember the TABS when assembling or breaking down the boxes. The tabs get tucked into the slots. If you grab the flaps of the box and pull, the tabs tear. Then the boxes can no longer be reused for later use. Please pile the boxes neatly in the designated spot.

 

3. Unclaimed Boxes: Boxes unclaimed by specified pick-up times will be donated. No credits or refunds will be issued for forgotten boxes.

 

VI. Options If I Can’t Pick Up My Box

If you can’t pick up your share (or get someone else to pick it up on your behalf), there are additional options available to you. Please let us know if you won’t be able to get your share so that we can make sure your food is not wasted. We are unable to hold shares or arrange a separate pick-up due to limited cooler space. Please note, we do not issue credits or refunds for boxes you are unable to pick-up. All special arrangements need to be set up PRIOR to the pick-up day, by Mondays at 5 p.m. or Fridays at 12pm. We are unable to accommodate requests on the day of pick-up. Members who miss 3 pick-ups in a row and have not contacted us forfeit their share for the remainder of the season.  To let us know if you are not picking up your share email us at citycommonscsa@gmail.com.

 

Options:

1. See if a family member, friend or neighbor would be willing to pick up for you. This helps you, helps us, and

gives someone new the opportunity to see what CSAs are all about and maybe try some of your veggies!

2. You can ask the farm not to make a box for you.

3. You can ask the farm to donate your box, either to a hard-working farm volunteer or to a local food pantry.

 

VII. Recipes

In addition to your vegetables, we provide you with weekly recipes and box contents on our website, http://www.citycommonscsa.com. You will also find farms’ highlights, information on how to store and prepare a featured vegetable, and cooking inspiration straight from our kitchens and around the web on our blog. We hope that in addition to receiving fresh, seasonal vegetables, you will learn a bit about the farms, the process of farming organically, and develop your skills in the kitchen a bit, too. You can also find regular updates and pictures from all the City Commons farms on our Facebook page.

 

Like us at www.facebook.com/CityCommonsCSA

 

VIII. Member Events

As a CSA member, you can get to know your farmers personally. Know your farmer, know your food.

In 2014 we have 2 different member events planned:

• June 19: Spring Kick-off Potluck at Food Field 1pm – 3:30 pm

• September 13: Harvest Potluck at Fields of Plenty

• In addition a number of our farms have weekly volunteer hours if you’re interested in getting your hands dirty.

For more information contact us at citycommonscsa@gmail.com.

We’ll send out more details about our member events closer to the day of the event. We hope to meet you!

 

IX. Specific Site Hours and Directions

CSA members must pick up their shares at the site that they have selected on the their sign-up form. We are not able to make switches from one site to another even for one week due to the number of families involved. This guideline is necessary to avoid any miscalculations and to maintain planning and harvesting efficiencies.:

 

Bloomfield Hills

Site Address:

6640 Valley Spring Dr., Bloomfield Hills, 48301

 

Site Hours:

Saturdays between 10am-1pm

 

On-Site Directions: The CSA boxes will be located in a white cooler box in the garage. The house has a horseshoe driveway. The boxes are in an insulated box, and fairly shaded. However, the closer to 4pm you can pick up, the better, as summer temperatures are not friendly to fresh produce. The quality and flavor of your veggies will be much better the sooner that you get them home and into a cool refrigerator to keep them fresh.

 

 

Food Field

Site Address:

1600 Lawrence St. (between Woodrow Wilson St. and Rosa Parks Blvd.), Detroit, 48206

 

Site Hours:

Saturdays between 10am-1pm

 

On-Site Directions: Please follow the driveway or park on Lawrence St when you get to the farm.  Share boxes will be outside on the picnic table or in the cooler and someone will be available to assist you if needed.  We may also have extra items for sale such as eggs, honey or pickles for those interested.  Let us know if you have any concerns about dogs since our friendly and mellow farm dog Henry will greet you on arrival!

 

Singing Tree Gardens

Site Address:

50 E Longwood Ave, Detroit, 48203 (some web searches list it as in Highland Park)

 

Site Hours:

Tuesdays between 4-7pm

OR

Saturdays between 10am-1pm

 

On-Site Directions: 30 E. Longwood is a gray house on the right side of street. Once at address, walk straight back to the left of the house. There will be a black/brown cooler shed where the shares will be held. The entrance to the shed is facing the farm. DO NOT close the latch on the shed, this locks the the shed so other members can’t get in! 

 

Vinewood Knoll

Site Address:

1130 Vinewood St, Detroit, 48216

 

Site Hours:

Tuesdays between 4-7pm

 

On-Site Directions: The CSA boxes are will be located in a white cooler box to the right of the house. When you walk up the front sidewalk veer right, rather than going up the front porch stairs. The boxes are in an insulated box, and fairly shaded. However, the closer to 4pm you can pick up, the better, as summer temperatures are not friendly to fresh produce. The quality and flavor of your veggies will be much better the sooner that you get them home and into a cool refrigerator to keep them fresh.

X. Refunds
We regret that we cannot offer refunds for shares once the season has begun unless there is someone on the waiting list who can take over your membership. All refunds are subject to a non-refundable $25 processing fee. If you find that you will not be able to use your share as planned, we suggest that you arrange for a friend or family member to take over your share for you.

 

XI. Handling and Storing Your Produce

 

  • Storage
    Produce is susceptible to damage if left in a hot car. Most produce should be stored in the refrigerator in clean plastic or canvas bags. Greens are delicate and should be placed gently in bags in the refrigerator as soon as you get home. When greens are exposed to air, even for a short time, they may begin to wilt, but they are still good to eat. To refresh the greens, soak them in a sink full of cold water until they are rehydrated. Potatoes, onions, garlic and winter squash should be stored in a cool, dry place. Some crops prefer temperatures warmer than found in your refrigerator. For example, tomatoes, winter squash and sweet potatoes like to be kept around 60 degrees F.

 

  • Washing
    Winter root crops (potatoes, carrots, celeriac, turnips, etc.) will store better with the soil on them, so at times we will leave the washing to you. Scrub thoroughly with a brush before using. Greens are usually washed in large batches at the farm. You can give them a more thorough washing at home in a sink full of cold water. In general, produce stores better the less it has been handled, so wash just prior to using.

 

  • Freezing
    Many types of produce can be frozen for eating at a later date. With the exceptions of peppers, tomatoes, cooked pumpkin or squash, onions and herbs, most vegetables need to be blanched before freezing. Blanch vegetables by submerging them in boiling water. Blanching times vary depending on the size and shape of the vegetables. Blanched vegetables need to be cooled in a large quantity of cold or ice water. Cool vegetables for the same amount of time that was used for cooking. Drain and store in airtight containers.

 

Recipes, recipes, recipes

Just like you, we, the farmers, have been eating a lot of seasonal vegetables. In the winter, I feel like I’ll never get tired of stuff like kale, arugula, or tomatoes. But after two weeks of trying to incorporate the seasonal vegetables into meals, I find myself getting repetitive with certain recipes, and ultimately bored.

That’s why when Singing Tree gardener Meg told me about the wealth of recipes on Martha Stewart’s (I know) website I was excited to check it out. And although some of the recipes are a bit extravagant (fresh figs?), many of them look great and are not too demanding for everyday cooking. Here is the link if you want to check it out. Just search a vegetable in the search bar and recipes come up. Some of the more obscure stuff isn’t on there (She doesn’t have anything for sweet potato greens, I looked) but there are some good ideas and inspiration on here.  http://www.marthastewart.com/cook

2014 Week 14

The most unusual vegetable in the box this week (for us Americans)  is the sweet potato greens.  It is a cooking green used in a lot of world cuisine across many continents from Africa to South America to Asia.  Comparable to spinach or Swiss chard but with a milder flavor.

Here is the full list of this week’s box contents:

Sweet potato greens from Food Field

Sweepotatogreens

 

Kale from Buffalo Street and Fields of Plenty (curly or lacinato *dino* kale)

Kale bunches

Tomatoes from Food Field and Singing Tree

CAM01130

 

 

Hot and sweet peppers from Singing Tree and Food Field

Jimmy Nardello Peppers

 

Arugula or baby mustard greens from Buffalo Street (Tues) Salad mix or baby mustard greens from Singing Tree and Buffalo (Sat)

aroogulaaa

 

Potatoes from Food Field and Signing Tree

CAM01098

 

 

Green Beans (Tues only) Eggplant or Squash (Sat. only) from Singing Tree

greanbeanseggpandsquah2

 

Herbs from Fields of Plenty and Singing Tree

mixedherbs

 

Garlic from Food Field

P7222658

 

 

Potluck at Fields of Plenty this Weekend

Our summer/fall CSA member potluck is this weekend at Fields of Plenty!

IMG_20140825_165721872_HDR

When: Saturday 530 PM

Where: Fields of Plenty is located on Clairmount between 3rd and the Lodge.  If you are trying to find it on Google Maps you can use 860 Clairmount or simply the intersection of Clairmount and 3rd.   There is a Clairmount exit off the Lodge if you are headed north. There is parking on Taylor, 3rd, and Atkinson.  If you have limited mobility we can have a few folks park in the alley behind the garden, enter off of 3rd.

*rain plan* If there is rain the party will move to Alice’s house at 870 Gladstone

What: A potluck!  Bring a dish to pass, we’ll be grilling some veggie so feel free to bring something to throw on the grill.

If you have trouble finding the place or have other questions about the farm or potluck  you can contact Alice at 509-540-2769

2014 Week 13

week13

 

This week the tomatoes continue despite all the rain (tomatoes don’t really like wet weather) and the rain loving crops like kohlrabi and arugula are flourishing!

As “harvest season” approaches bringing a change in weather, we are celebrating a successful growing season with a potluck this weekend!

 

We would  love to see you at our summer/fall CSA member potluck this Saturday,  September 13, at Fields of Plenty (on Clairmount between Third and the Lodge) starting at 5:30 pm. Bring a dish to share and remember to wear weather appropriate clothing and shoes. Also, come prepared for a few mosquitoes as the sun goes down.

So, what’s in the box? Here goes:

Arugula from Buffalo Street and Signing Tree

aroogulaaa

Cherry Tomatoes from Buffalo Street and  Food Field

CAM01161

 

Slicing tomatoes from Food Field

CAM01130

Beets from Singing Tree and Food Field (Tues only) Leeks OR Eggplant (Sat. only)

IMG_1205leeksIMG_4982

Kohlrabi from Buffalo Street (Tuesday only) Carrots from Singing Tree (Sat only)

kohlrabiCAM01215

Swiss Chard from Fields of Plenty

Chard

Kale from Food Field and Fields of Plenty

Peppers from Singing Tree and Food Field

pepperswk8

Basil from Buffalo Street OR Sage Or Oregano from Fields of Plenty or other herbs from singing tree

mixedherbs