This month my wife decided to welcome summer into our home by subscribing to a CSA weekly service. The CSA stands for Community-Supported Agriculture, and the CSA box is as close a relationship as the community can generally get to the farm from which your food comes.

The premise is as simple as it is compelling – a local farmer picks the best of his organic crop, filling each crate with a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables ready for a single family to enjoy. We travel across town once a week to the pick-up point where a new and colorful crate of all-natural goodness waits to be turned into nutritious and delicious meals.

The magic of communing with the farm is preserved as the box enters the home, instantly brightening the drab chaos of modern living, in stark contrast to the ready-to-eat meals and take out boxes we’re all used to seeing. Its very presence in the home is like being instantly transported back in time to a simpler place, where a day could be spent out in the sun in the fields, picking fresh fruits and vegetables, not hunched over a computer screen guzzling coffee.

The first day we picked up the CSA box our whole family gathered round to admire the beautiful arrangements of carrots, broccoli, kale and chard bursting from the top of the crate. My four year old was delighted…it was like a scene from a children’s book.

Yet after a few minutes, a sense of normalcy returned, and with it a sense of impending confusion and near panic – now we needed to figure out how to prepare all this!

The magic and surprising nature of a CSA box – you never know what you are going to get – poses a unique problem. Here you have an entire crate of rapidly perishable food in front of you, with no advance warning what you’ll get. Did you start thinking of a great recipe for swiss chard? Sorry, there’s none this week. Too bad…now hurry up and figure out what you’ll do with the beets, because there’s a lot of them.

The magic fades pretty quickly when you realize you’ve just drastically complicated the usual mealtime preparation. And as you start to ponder this question, you realize that the clock is ticking – in just a few days these vibrant plants will start to look as depressed and wilted as the fare at Vons, and a few days after that you’ll get the call that the next box is on the way. The race is on!

These lessons were learned the hard way…our first CSA box ended up meeting a less-than-poetic end after we dithered too long finding recipes. After sadly tossing out half of our first box we swore it would never happen again. These boxes are too rich with vitamins, minerals, potassium, fiber and antioxidants to squander the opportunity to turn it into something as delicious as it is nutritious.

Yet I work around the clock, and my wife has a delightful 4 year old to raise, so who has time to scramble each week turning the CSA box into dinner?

Farmer’s Coconut Soup

Leave it to my intrepid wife to come up with an easy solution.

To the rescue came our Crockpot, a stalwart fixture in our kitchen that offers a convenient set-it-and-forget-it solution to nearly any culinary challenge. Here’s what we did:

Ingredients

  • Three pounds of assorted CSA vegetables
  • 2 quarts low-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 cups white beans (dried)
  • 2 cloves fresh garlic cloves
  • 1 can coconut milk
  • Spices to taste

Directions

  • Put the CSA vegetables into the Crockpot.
  • Add in the chicken broth, white beans, garlic cloves and spices and cook on high for about 4 hours.
  • Keep an eye and add extra broth if it starts to run dry.
  • Add the coconut milk for a creamy, stick to the ribs texture.
  • When the vegetables are soft, puree the soup with an immersion blender and add any additional coconut milk or water to your own desired outcome.

We’ve done this trick three weeks in a row and it works great. The result is a super-green (at least in this case) soup that packs all the nutrients into one delicious bowl that satisfies the belly and the taste buds.

The soup is gone by the time the next box arrives, and I’ve become something of a connoisseur, trying to ascertain the ingredient vegetables by taste alone (this is more act than anything else…but I guess right enough times that my family is still impressed by my acumen).

I think we won’t make it past a month with the CSA or the soups – neither of us has the time to come up with recipes on the fly, and my taste for soups will soon turn to another direction (maybe summer tomatoes). But for now, the soups are turning our little CSA adventure into a tasty way to enjoy being at one with the farmers in our community.

The San Diego Farm Bureau has a great list of local CSA-participating farms.