Having a share in a CSA is wonderful. In theory.
CSA = community-supported agriculture. If you’re not familiar, it’s a system where a group of customers prepays a seasonal subscription fee directly to a farmer (or multiple farmers) and, in exchange, they each receive a lovely array of fresh fruits/vegetables on a regular basis throughout the growing season.
There’s just one problem.
As a CSA subscriber, sooner or later you’re bound to end up with strange, inexplicable vegetables you have no idea what to do with in your share. And you panic, and you freeze up, and they sit in your fridge, and then they rot, and you waste your money, and then everyone’s sad.
So! Herein are some doable, delicious ideas for how to cook and eat a few of the most often problematic or over-abundant CSA suspects: kohlrabi, garlic scapes, turnips, chard, beets, and sugar snap peas. Because they deserve to be eaten, and you deserve to eat them. Carry on.
So what should I do if I got 17 tons of KOHLRABI?
TELL ME WHAT IT IS! A vegetable in the brassica genus (cousins include cabbage, broccoli, kale, etc) that grows as a big, tough bulb just above ground level and has leaves sticking out of it like weird little alien arms.
TELL ME WHAT IT TASTES LIKE! Kohlrabi isn’t actually a root, but it acts a lot like one. The crunchy, starchy texture is similar to jicama or turnips, but it has a mild, slightly sweet cabbagey flavor. You can eat it raw or cooked. The leaves are fair game too; you can approach them the way you would a tough bunch of kale or collards.
TELL ME WHAT TO DO WITH IT! First of all, make sure you PEEL the HECK out of kohlrabi. It has a thick outer green layer that you want to completely slice away so you get to the non-fibrous white interior. After than, you can…
1. Make kohlrabi slaw.
The first rule of Weird Root-Thing Club is: When in doubt, make slaw. Slice it into skinny little matchsticks and toss with a nice acidic dressing; it’ll soften up a little but stay crunchy.
Recipe: Kohlrabi Salad
2. Bake it to make healthy kohlrabi home fries.
Slice it into wedges or strips, sprinkle with spices and a little flour to make a crispy crust, bake it up, and you’ll never even suspect you’re eating something extremely healthy.
Recipe: Kohlrabi Home Fries
3. Shred kohlrabi to make spring roll filling.
Once you’ve broken this weirdo alien glob down into innocent little shreds with a box grater, it’s totally unthreatening. Like a gentle, pale carrot.
4. Slice kohlrabi thinly with other fruits and veggies to make a salad.
A mandoline is a great tool for this, but a sharp knife works too. Just watch out for your cute little fingers — kohlrabi can be pretty tough.
What if I’m scared of these creepy GARLIC SCAPES?
TELL ME WHAT THEY ARE! The above-ground central stalk of a garlic plant. Scapes turn up at markets and in your CSA box in early summer, before the garlic bulbs are mature.
TELL ME WHAT THEY TASTE LIKE! Uh… garlic. But very gentle, fresh, slightly spicy garlic. Which is great! Because most of us don’t go around chomping on raw cloves, but garlic scapes are mild enough that you can eat them straight up without experiencing mouth pain or hours of stinky breath. Texturally, they’re like firm, crunchy scallions.
TELL ME WHAT TO DO WITH THEM! Well, you can…
5. Chop garlic scapes up and add them to vegetable and grain salads.
This is the easiest way to use them; they’re a great way to add a little bit of garlicky zip (and nice crunch) to something without overwhelming it.
6. Cut and blanch garlic scapes like green beans.
Then you can toss them with dressing to make a summery salad, or just add salt, pepper, and olive oil and eat them straight up.
Recipe: Garlic Scape Salad
7. Make garlic scape pesto.
If all-scape pesto is a little too intense for you, you can swap half out for basil, arugula, or your favorite green thing.
Recipe: Pasta with Garlic Scape Pesto
8. Throw garlic scapes into stir-fries.
They act similarly to asparagus or green beans in most cooking contexts, except with a sassier flavor.
Recipe: Pork and Garlic Scape Stir-Fry
9. Make grilling skewers out of garlic scapes.
Tastes better than wood, that’s for damn sure. Cut the straight, less flexible part off each scape and cut the end into a sharp point.
Recipe: Garlic Scape Beef Satay.
What if I’m drowning in TURNIPS?
TELL ME WHAT THEY ARE! It’s a root, and a brassica cousin to kohlrabi. The turnips you’re most likely to see in a summer CSA share are harvested while they’re still small and delicate. Some varieties, like hakurei turnips, are white all over; others have purple or red tops.
TELL ME WHAT THEY TASTE LIKE! Crunchy, a little bit sweet, a tiny bit bitter. Similar to a radish, but with a denser, less watery texture. The greens on top are slightly bitter in taste and are very good for you.
TELL ME WHAT TO DO WITH THEM! Well, you can…
10. Blend turnips into creamy soup.
Turnips and taters team up very nicely; you can serve the soup hot or cold.
Recipe: Onion and Turnip Soup
11. Serve roasted turnips and sautéed greens together.
Roasting obviously isn’t ideal if it’s too hot to turn on the oven, but a good technique to bust out in the fall.
13. Cook turnips with honey and lemon to glaze them.
Recipe: Honey-Glazed Turnips
14. Bake a cheesy turnip gratin.
Very few things taste bad when you cover them with a blanket of cheese. You’ll be glad to know that turnips are no exception!
Recipe: Turnip Gratin
What if I have CHARD coming out my ears?
TELL ME WHAT IT IS! It’s a sturdy, leafy green that’s called either Swiss chard (all green) or rainbow chard (lots of pretty colors).
TELL ME WHAT IT TASTES LIKE! Sort of earthy (the polite way of saying “tastes like dirt”) and a little bit sweet. You can eat it raw in salad if you slice it into thin strips, but it’s usually best if you steam or sauté it first. The stalks are edible too, but they take much longer to cook so it’s a good idea to separate them first.
TELL ME WHAT TO DO WITH IT! Well, you can…
15. Sauté chopped chard and toss it with pasta.
Because pasta makes everything wonderful.
16. Make creamy chard soup.
Herbs, lemon juice, and feta do a lot to brighten up this soup.
Recipe: Herb, Chard, and Feta Soup
17. Turn chard stems into spicy pickles.
Listen, stems want your love and affection just as much as leaves. Fridge pickles area great, easy way to use them up; no need to boil brine or sterilize jars.
Recipe: Sriracha Fridge Pickles
18. Bake chard into a quiche.
Dark, leafy greens are besties with eggs. You can add some cooked chard to the crust of a quiche as well as the filling for bonus health points.
Recipe: Chard Quiche
What if I’m being buried alive in BEETS?
TELL ME WHAT THEY ARE! I mean, you know what a beet is, right? It’s a big ol’ root.
TELL ME WHAT THEY TASTE LIKE! Very very earthy, and thus divisive. People tend to fall into one of two beet camps (can’t get enough vs. would rather chew on a handful of sand). The edible green tops are similar to chard, except a little more sturdy and taste like — yep, you guessed it — beets.
TELL ME WHAT TO DO WITH THEM! Well…
19. Roasting is hands-down the easiest, least messy way to cook beets. Here’s how:
1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.
2. Trim the tops off the beets. Keep the greens for cooking if they’re in good shape.
2. Scrub the beets to get any dirt off; you don’t need to peel them.
3. Wrap the beets in a large piece of tin foil and close it up to make a cozy little pouch.
4. Put the pouch in the oven, either right on the rack or on a baking sheet.
5. Walk away for about one hour. Smaller beets will cook faster (so check them a little sooner).
6. Unwrap the foil and stab a beet with a fork. If it goes in easily and the beet feels tender, they’re done.
7. Wrap the foil back up and let the beets sit until they’re cool. This helps the skins loosen and you should be able to just peel them off with your fingers or a paring knife once the beets cool.
20. Once they’re roasted, you can slice the beets and put them in sandwiches…
They’ve got a nice substantial texture and strong flavor that gives them just as much star power as any cold cut.
21. …cut them up and add to salads, pasta, or grains…
22. …or shred them to make a pretty pink beet cake.
23. You can eat beets raw if you slice them thinly with a mandoline.
Beets aren’t only red; they come in pink, orange, and yellow too. Chioggia or “candy-stripe” beets have a cute circular pattern inside.
Recipe: Beet Crudo with Chimichurri
24. You can also bake the slices to make crispy beet chips…
Recipe: Crispy Baked Beet Chips
25. …or cut the slices into matchsticks to make slaw.
An all-beet slaw would be pretty intense, so try mixing in other veggies like carrots.
26. What if I ended up with an avalanche of SUGAR SNAP PEAS?
TELL ME WHAT THEY ARE! A cross between English shelling peas and snow peas (the flat ones). They have identifiable little peas inside, but the shells are tender and meant to be eaten.
TELL ME WHAT THEY TASTE LIKE! As the “sugar” part of the name suggests, they’re sweet (and the fresher off the vine they are, the sweeter they’ll be). They’re nicely crunchy, and you can eat them raw or cooked.
TELL ME WHAT TO DO WITH THEM! Hot tip: Watch out for strings. Before you eat or cook snap peas, snap off the little stem that grows at the top and pull down along the inside/straight edge of the pea pod so that it takes the tough string there with it. After that, you can…
27. Serve snap peas as crudités with dip.
If you don’t love them raw, quickly blanch the peas first — just dunk in boiling water for a minute or two and then shock in ice water. Watch out not to overcook them so they don’t get limpy wimpy.
Recipe: Coconut Curry Peanut Dip
28. Chop snap peas finely and mix them into salad or slaw.
Whole peas can be a little bit of a jaw workout; a sharp knife helps them integrate in a friendly way with other veggies.
Recipe: Snap Pea and Cabbage Slaw
29. Cut snap peas into long strips to make elegant salads.
Slicing them in long, thin diagonals (a chiffonade) looks nice and shows off the little pealettes inside the pods.
Recipe: Sugar Snap Pea and Fennel Salad
30. Throw snap peas into a simple stir fry.
Cooking quickly at a high temperature means they still stay crunchy.
31. When in doubt with any veggie: quick-pickle that business.
Quick-pickling is a great way to add flavor to stuff you don’t love passionately for its inherent virtues (looking at you, kohlrabi) and tenderize stuff that’s no fun to eat raw when you don’t feel like actually applying heat to it.
Slice the veggies very thin if you want them ready soon, or thicker if you want them to last longer. Mix with the pickling liquid, refrigerate, and they’ll stay good for about a week. You can snack on them straight up, mix with noodles or pretty much anything else.
You can use this technique with any veggie that’s pickle-eligible (firm enough that it won’t dissolve into mush, so stay clear of greens) — which includes kohlrabi, cabbage*, broccoli stems, chard stems, fennel, radishes or daikon, turnips, carrots, cucumbers, beets*, onions*, and garlic scapes.
*NB that red cabbage, beets, and red onions will turn all other veggies they share their brine with a pretty pink color.
My current favorite pickle approach is the Asian-inspired brine from this noodle salad.
It uses lime, ginger, garlic, and fish sauce. It tastes great and you don’t have to boil it (which, if you’ve never boiled vinegar, it’s not a pleasant experience). But if you like something a little more traditional, give this recipe a shot.