CSA brings the farm to the mountains

Community supported agriculture, or CSA, and has become a popular way for people to buy local and seasonal food directly from a farmer. Typically, the share consists of a box of vegetables, fruits or flowers. People can sign up for membership or a subscription and in return receive a box of seasonal produce each week. In Tahoe, there is a winter box and a summer box, providing the best of the season from local farmers.

Opening a box each week is like veggie Christmas. Last week my box contained bright fresh Lacinato kale, Mokum carrots, sugar snap peas, Easter egg radishes, a variety of lettuces, broccoli and spinach. Often there are unique vegetables in the box. The first week some of more unusual vegetables included were pointy-headed cabbage — think Devo. The cabbage was out of this world in a stir fry. Garlic scapes are not something generally found in the supermarket, but the thin green stalks of the garlic offer subtle hints of cloves without the intensity. They can be used like scallions, prepared in a pesto or added to salad or dips.

The people who get a CSA box receive ultra-fresh food with all the flavor and vitamin benefits. And, they have an opportunity to be exposed to new vegetables and new ways of cooking.

Another vegetable included in the box was the unappreciated and often misunderstood fennel. The white bulb and feathery green leaves are licorice flavored and when pulled apart the bulb of the vegetable is akin to celery. As with cilantro, people either love or strongly hate fennel — mostly because they don’t know what to do with it. Fennel is delicious grilled or in a salad. The hint of licorice offers a unique flavor to any dish. It’s also great with dips and hummus and enhances any crudité plate.

Recently, I received unusual Hakurei turnips. These Japanese turnips are delicious when prepared with their greens.

READ MORE: Try Priya’s recipes for pesto

The beautiful brightly stripped red and white Chioggia beets make a beautiful beet salad. Many CSA organizations provide recipes to help people prepare some of the unfamiliar vegetables included in the box.

Signing up for a CSA box is a win-win for both the farmer and the consumer. The farmers get to spend time marketing the food early in the year, before their long days in the field begin. They receive payment early in the season, which helps with the farm’s cash flow. The people who get a box receive ultra-fresh food with all the flavor and vitamin benefits. And, they have an opportunity to be exposed to new vegetables and new ways of cooking. Members can visit the farm at least once a season.

CSA boxes aren’t confined to produce. Some farmers include the option for shareholders to buy eggs, meats, cheese, fruit, flowers or other farm products along with their veggies.

Many farmers and CSA organizations have introduced variations on the weekly box.

Through the Tahoe Food Hub, friends can sign up and self organize by picking out fruits and vegetables they like from larger bulk orders. There is also the mix and match or market-style CSA. Here, rather than a standard box of vegetables for every member each week, the members load their own boxes with some degree of personal choice. The farmer offers a bounty of the week’s vegetables, which enables people to pick and choose what vegetables they want.

READ MORE: Explore the weekly farmers’ markets

Lake Tahoe Markets serves Incline Village, Nev., and South Shore. Mountain Bounty Farm serves North Lake, South Lake, Reno and beyond and has an option for delivery service. It also offers bonus add-on items such as Bently Ranch grass-fed beef, Freshway seafood, non-GMO cage-free eggs, local honey, seasonal citrus and berries.

From North Lake to South Lake Tahoe and points in between and around, there are a number of ways to become a CSA member. | laketahoemarkets.com, mountainbountyfarm.com or tahoefoodhub.org

Priya Hutner
Priya Hutner is a writer, personal chef and meditation teacher. She writes feature articles about music, art, food and recreation. Priya loves to immerse in story. Whether jumping from a plane, eating obscure foods or hitting the Tahoe-Reno music scene, she is always up for adventure and experience. Having moved to the mountains from Sebastian, Fla., she embraces the Tahoe lifestyle and loves to ski, hike, paddle and swim. Priya is the owner of the Seasoned Sage, a business that prepares organic meals and facilitates workshops that promote a health-conscious lifestyle. She is currently writing a memoir about her experience living on an ashram and working on a series of cookbooks. | priya@tahoethisweek.com