This week's topic is 10 ways to deal with an overabundance of produce. Now this is my first year doing a CSA, so I might not know as much as people who have had successful gardens or spots in CSAs for the last few years. Still, I have been doing a reasonably good job of using up the veggies before they go bad (with less waste than I have during the winter months). It probably helps that I've been a vegetarian since 1992.
The hardest thing about using a ton of vegetables is that even if you are eating your recommended amount of vegetables each day you cannot necessarily eat the amount you get. My husband and I are splitting a single share with a family of four and still we both have tons of vegetables (and the times they are on vacation are even more vegetables than ever for us).
1. Prioritize. Some vegetables are hardier than others. Eat the ones more likely to go bad first. It's a simple triage, but it does make a difference.
2. List your produce. This is probably more rightly part of the triage idea. Each week when we get our CSA, we put the list of vegetables on the white board on the fridge with the date. We use the oldest vegetables first and erase them from the list as they are used up. You need to know what you have before you can even attempt to use it all.
3. Bread. Zucchini bread is not the only bread you can make, but it does nicely deal with fact that zucchini often grow like weeds! I have zucchini and summer squash that I will turn into bread this weekend just in time to get another basket full of the same things. I've made this cake which uses apples, carrots and potatoes, but I bet it would work well with zucchini or other easy to grate vegetables.
4. Frittata. We have an egg share as part of our CSA, so this for us is 2 birds with one stone. Frittatas are a great way to use up random vegetables. I have a mandoline, which makes cutting the vegetables in similarly sized pieces both quick and easy.
5. Stir Fry. I'm admittedly not much of a stir fry kind of gal, but it is a great way to use up vegetables.
6. Veggie burgers. I make this recipe and cook the burgers for a lower amount of time (15 minutes on the first side, 10 on the second) before storing them in the freezer. I've used salsa, pesto and artichoke hearts among other things to make many different burger flavors.
7. Pickles. I obviously like pickles, and the latest issue of Bon Appetit has an article about canning. One of the commenters complained that the article is pretentious, but the article isn't aimed at people who already do canning. It is there to show the possibilities to people like me who think canning is hard. This weekend I made the pickled beets (they are in the basement), pickled radishes, and kosher dill-style pickles. With a CSA we don't really have such an abundance of any one vegetable to make the full on summer canning kitchen really necessary, so I've also been eyeing this article.
8. Freezing things. I love corn, but my husband isn't a huge fan of corn on the cob. We are getting about 6 ears a week, which is a fairly large amount once you stop finishing the corn up each week. This past week I took most of the corn from the past couple of weeks and froze it. This is one of the guides (and this is the other) I used as I made both frozen cut corn last week and frozen cream style corn this week.
9. Jam and preserves. I made red currant jam last week, and I have cherries to make cherry preserves this week. It is easy and many fruits have enough pectin naturally that you do not need to add pectin to the cooking fruit. When properly preserved, these items can also just live in your pantry (which for me is the basement). I didn't do the full on water bath with the jam, so it is all in the freezer. I will be doing it with the cherries though!
10. Salad. I know people think of salads as boring, but it is a great way to use up tons of produce. It is also an easy way to make sure you are eating vegetables each day. So, add a salad to part of each dinner and you will at least use up the lettuce portion of the CSA without fail. Salads can also include slaws, which are a great vegetable user.
If none of this works and vegetables are going bad before you can use them up, you can always share your produce, give the greens to a family of deserving bunnies or compost the bad stuff. Just because your produce has gone bad doesn't mean that it cannot help you and your yard out!