If you joined CSA this summer, you’re probably about three deliveries into what promises to be an amazing growing season. At some point over the past month I’m sure that you have opened your refrigerator door and, seeing it bursting with the leafy greens of arugula, spinach, celery, leeks, spring garlic, and scallions you have asked yourself “What the Eff and I supposed to do with all of this produce?” Even if you have every intention of using one type of greens every day of the week, more often then not you get home way too late, and by the time in the week when you actually can use your greens all you are pulling out of the refrigerator is a slimy unappetizing mess that used to be romaine lettuce. Since this is my third summer as a member of the Kitchen Table/Project Harmony CSA in East and West Harlem, I’ve learned a few tricks that I wanted to share which will help simplify making dinner on busy week nights out of all of this locally grown and hopefully organic produce that you’ve got crowding up the crisper.
#1. Get yourself a Salad Spinner. Being a girl who grew up with multiple sinks in her life (both indoor and outdoor), New York City Sinks and the Kitchens that they live in were a major shock for me (seriously—how do people cook in these boxes?!?) At my Grandparents house we used to wash the greens we had just picked from the garden in the outdoor sink, and then lay them on the hedges to dry. Basta. Done. No need for added appliances. But in New York, there are no private garden sinks and private garden hedges, so you need to get yourself a salad spinner. I know, I know, salad spinners are quite possibly the most unsexy kitchen item ever. You have a tiny kitchen with 4 shelves (total) and this salad spinner is going to take up at least 25% of your already completely in use kitchen storage space. I don’t care. Buy yourself one before you find yourself cursing your sink, your CSA, and all of that damn dirt that comes on vegetables that were picked from the ground that morning. Yes, your veggies will be dirty—and a salad spinner is the single easiest way to be sure that you eat more of your lettuce, spinach, arugula, and Swiss chard than you throw out, and without all of that dirt.
#2. Get yourself some Green Bags (or Green Boxes, or any storage device that promises the absorption ethylene gas). Ever the skeptic of anything advertised on television, I really wasn’t expecting much from Green Bags. But Wow! I was extremely impressed. Once I introduced these funny looking (and literally) green bags to my produce, all of my too-busy-to-cook-so-vegetables-are-rotting-in-my-kitchen guilt and anxiety totally disappeared. Though I can’t testify to them working for a full 30 days (as they are advertised) I can tell you that the spinach that I ate this very morning with our brunch never would have made it to this weekend without a Green Bag. Also, though I know they say you can only use the green bags up to ten times, I have been washing and reusing my stack of 10 for more than a year, and they are still just as good as the day I got them.
#3. Get yourself a Huge Cutting Board and Keep your Knives sharp. One of the worst kitchen time wasters ever is trying to clean, cut up, and store vegetables with a dull knife on a workspace that is too small. You are going to need a lot of space to clean and package all of those leafy greens (wait until mid-July when the Swiss chard leaves are as long as your arms).
#4. Learn about what to do with lesser known vegetable parts BEFORE you try to cook them for this first time. There will be times when the radish, turnip, and beet greens will be more substantial than the actual root at the end of said greens. Don’t chop them off and throw them out before you put them in the fridge. Most summer root vegetables have greens that are packed full of nutrients, have great flavor, and make an awesome addition to a stir fry, a salad, or your morning smoothie/juicing regiment.
#5. Wash and Dry your Vegetables before storage. Make every effort to do this, but if it’s not possible, then warp your greens in a paper towel and then put them in the green bags, and make sure that your bags have most of the air smushed out of them and are properly sealed. Otherwise, what would have been crisp and lively greens will turned into a sad wilted cousin of those super fresh vegetables that you had only a day before.