Sunday, January 12, 2014

The Joy of the Veggie Box: We Joined a CSA

Our second box of CSA veggies
Our home garden production has been less than stellar. In an effort to get some fresh, local food on our family table I placed an order for four weeks of veggie box delivery from Johnson's Backyard Garden. JBG is a very diverse, local organic farm here in Austin. Theirs is an interesting story: they really did start out in their backyard. Amazingly, they ran a 30-member CSA from the produce they grew in their urban backyard (and side and front yards). From those urban beginnings they expanded to 20 acres five miles east of downtown Austin and another 50 acres in nearby Cedar Creek. They now have 1,000 CSA members and also sell their produce at area farmer's markets.

If you have never heard of a CSA before, here's a quick explanation. CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture. When you purchase a CSA membership (or "share") you pay the farmer up front for a portion of the upcoming harvest. The farmer benefits by receiving income up front when it is needed most (think of all of the up-front expenses of farming: seed, irrigation, labor, etc) and you, the consumer, benefit from fresh local produce harvested right before delivery. Your share of the harvest is boxed and available for delivery or for pick-up at a selected site (usually a member's home or a local business or farmer's market).

Check out the size of that turnip!
JBG offers the most flexible CSA program I've ever seen. Most CSA programs require the customer to pay up front for a whole season's worth of vegetables, which can be a steep one-time cost for most folks. JBG does offer and encourage this kind of traditional CSA membership but they also offer shorter-term memberships. I signed up for four weekly boxes to be delivered to our home. I pay a few dollars more for home delivery but I knew that I would loathe having to make a special errand to pick up my box every week. The home delivery has been worth it.

JBG offers four different box sizes and I chose the largest one, intended for 4-7 people. I cook a lot and we eat a lot, even though three of us are children. Brother, who is six years old, is in the middle of a huge growth spurt and is currently eating more than some grown men I know.

Little Sister peeling a giant turnip from our veggie box
We ate all of the veggies in our first box within the week except for two giant sweet potatoes and a few sprigs of parsley. I had recently bought several sweet potatoes at the grocery store so I had a bit of a glut of camotes, which is fine because Mr. Chanclas and I love them. (Note: we ate the remaining sweet potatoes and parsley the following week.)

Our second CSA box was delivered at about 5 pm as I was sitting at the kitchen table with a cup of coffee wondering what to make for dinner. I brought the box inside and immediately set the oven for 425 degrees for roasting. With the addition of some chicken, dinner was solved!

Roasted cauliflower, turnip, daikon radish, sweet potato, carrot, and beet
We love roasted root vegetables and Mr. Chanclas and I love braised greens so we are in vegetable heaven right now. I decided to ferment the red cabbages and the daikon radishes. I can't tell if the daikon pickles are going to be that good but the purple sauerkraut is already delicious.

The sauerkraut is already delicious after just a few days of fermentation

Daikon radish pickles

Another nice thing about the Johnson's Backyard Garden share is that you can add a few other grocery items to your delivery. I ordered some free-range eggs and made a frittata with the eggs and some leftover vegetables.

Veggie frittata made with leftover broccoli and goat cheese
I haven't found cooking all the vegetables to be challenging at all. There was a root vegetable that I didn't recognize in the first box but that didn't bother me. I never met a root veggie I couldn't roast so I roasted it, too, and it was delicious. It turned out to be a watermelon radish, which looks a lot like a turnip but is bright purple-pink inside.

I love the veggie box. It's like getting a big, vibrant Christmas present every Wednesday afternoon.


  1. I am so happy to hear that I can get a short term membership when I'm there in the summer!! WOOT! I am scared of sauerkraut, will you mentor me?

  2. I miss my CSA. Your veggies look beautiful to me!

  3. yum this post is making me hungry! i miss my csa - it starts up again in june. such a long time to wait! love the picture of your little one helping with dinner. so cute.

  4. Were I not such a nut about gardening, I would definitely be a CSA member. All those fresh vegetables and all the pre-cooking labor done for you. What's not to love?

    1. I wish it came from my garden, honestly. I'm having some serious growing pains with Texas vegetable gardening. Not to diminish how awesome the CSA is, though. It's way more quantity and variety than I can see coming out of my garden!


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