The Thing About CSAs

That weekly produce box is awesome…until it's not.

Every time I join a new CSA in a new place, I await its bounty with a sense of anticipation and awe. Opening our box every week is almost like Christmas. What kinds of veggies grow around here? How much will I get, and what can I cook with it?

But by the end of the growing season, I also, unfortunately, always find myself feeling discontented with the process.

Not every CSA has been a good “fit” for our family of four, which now includes a 6-year-old and a 1-year-old who is still learning about solids. Even among our small group, we have diverse tastes, and the surprises in the box don’t always mesh with our preferences.

One farm was big on springtime greens. As a vegetarian, I probably love salad more than the average person, but even I have my limit. Three heads of lettuce every week, plus an extra bag or two of mixed salad greens, was overkill.

Another CSA proudly sent a profusion of okra for weeks on end in the late summer. Okra, for the record, is basically my kryptonite. I can’t even tell you how much time, effort and money I wasted trying to render edible those unremarkable little green pods. We tried them in soups, stews and gumbos. I baked them, fried them, even barbecued them. But the slime got me every time. I just couldn’t stomach it. Suffice it to say that there were a lot of nights when we ordered emergency pizza for dinner. Eventually I gave up and handed the okra over to a co-worker who actually appreciated it. Good riddance.

Even with produce we like, more isn’t always better. One CSA sent gigantic hard squash every week in the fall and early winter. Another gave unlimited tomatoes in the summer. (And if you think that sounds great, well, you’ve never come home with two overeagerly packed, huge bags and then wondered what on earth you’re going to do with them before they go bad.)

There’s a certain point every year when I simply get tired of being in a CSA. By the end of the growing season, I’m over it. I’m irritated that I have to wait to see what’s in my box before I can plan the week’s meals. I get bored of eating tomato dishes or roasted root veggies for weeks at a time. My husband gets sick of me hiding turnips in unexpected places. My son wants some plain old carrots, for goodness’ sake.

And sometimes, quite frankly, I just want to cook what I want to cook, with no regard for what’s in season or whatever is currently overflowing from my crisper drawer. Sometimes I want zucchini in December, or garlicky mashed potatoes in March, or pesto in October. I want to shop at a grocery store. I want to be normal.

It’s a vicious cycle, to be sure, and yet one that I willingly buy into. I’ve realized that being in a CSA feeds my soul in a way that supermarket produce never will.

So no matter how disenchanted I grow by the end of the season, I’ll no doubt be back for more next year.

In the meantime, does anyone want to watch my kids while I can some pickles? Or, if someone has a better idea for what to do with the 20 pounds of cucumbers my farm just sent, I’m all ears.


Holly Scudero, a freelance writer and mom of two, recently moved from Falls Church to Fairfax. Follow her at


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Categories: Food & Drink