The Tyranny of the CSA

My Lovely Wife, who is much smarter than I am, signed us up for a CSA half- share. No, we’re not trying to resurrect the Confederacy. “CSA” stands for Community Supported Agriculture.


Basically, we paid $X to the farm (in this case, to the fine folks at Swallowtail Farm) over the summer, and so did a bunch of other people. The farm uses that money as working capital to, well, farm, and when the crops begin to come in (here in North Florida, that’s October-ish) they pull ’em out of the ground and drive ’em to Farmer’s Markets around the area.

As a pre-paid CSA member, every other Wednesday afternoon I walk over to the Union Street Farmer’s Market in downtown Gainesville, check our name off the list and fill up a big burlap sack with that week’s produce.

Everything sounds good so far, right? The good people at Swallowtail pre-sell their product at a fair rate and my family gets healthy, organic, abundant local produce. What could be wrong with that?

I’m glad you asked.

I have never seen so many sweet potatoes in my life. Do you have any idea what “Tat Soi” is? What does one do with a rutabaga? And who names these things?


In short, the very first week our refrigerator filled up with leafy greens, tubers and other root-like substances neither my wife nor I had any idea how (or when) to cook.

Oh, don’t get me wrong. They’re beautiful. And I’m certain they’re bursting with the promise of health for us and the Sprightly Daughters.

There are peppers. I know what those are. But they’re mostly hot, which means one out of the five of us <waves hand> enjoys eating them.

But eat them we must. After all, we’ve already paid for them, and I feel so very superior every other Wednesday evening as I drive past the oh-so bourgeois supermarkets and convenience stores with my sack of robust, colorful healthiness beside me on the front seat.

After we put the kids to bed I spread the veggies out on the kitchen counter and admire the bounty and beauty of our local harvest. And then I call out to Gillian, “Do you remember what I said this one with the big veiny leaves is called?” Because, you see, if you don’t know what it is how are you going to look up how to store it, much less cook it?


Yeah, now and then, like the peppers and sweet taters, there’s a bunch of parsley or cilantro that I know how to handle. But at least half of it is a guessing game.

The tat-soi we ended up stir-frying with some peppers and something that was very much like (but not exactly) broccoli, and it was tasty. Most of the root vegetables we chopped up and roasted with olive oil and salt and pepper, because we figured if it works for sweet taters, how far wrong can we go? One of the varieties of what we thought were skinny sweet potatoes ended up being purple potatoes. That was all pretty good.

Some of the more exotic lettuce we just kind of admired until we decided it was ok not to eat it. And then the guilt set in.

Perhaps the bigger problem than our embarrassing lack of familiarity with real food is that we don’t cook all that much. Even with food sitting right there in the fridge. Because, and I am not ashamed to say this, we are busy people. We have three kids who all do stuff and both of us are working professionals with interests outside our work lives. And we’re borderline nazi-esque in the bedtime routines we’ve built for our children.

So do we leave work early to cook dinner? Do we break the rules and let them get to bed an hour or two later than they should? Or do we go out to dinner?

We go out to dinner. Three, four times a week. And sometimes we don’t feel like arguing with the Sprightly Daughters about how they should at least try the green stuff on their plates, so we just let them have cereal for dinner.

I’ve come to terms with that, and have decided that, no, it does not make us bad parents.

I have not come to terms with all that green stuff in the refrigerator yet.

** I am mostly being snarky above, and recognize the first-world-ness of my struggle. Just wanted to be clear about that before the scold-mail starts.

Thank you for reading, as always. If you enjoyed this, don’t be shy about forwarding, Facebooking, Tweeting or otherwise spreading the word.


One response to this post.

  1. Posted by Nancy Tuckerman on December 3, 2014 at 7:54 am

    It won’t let me comment because I can’t prove I have an account. But when I tried to set up a new account, it said I already have one. But I’m with you. If you don’t know what it is, it might be dangerous to eat it.


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