As I type, my husband is peeling and chopping beets for dinner. We will serve these beets, along with other winter root vegetables, as a side dish to our three 7-year-olds. Before you think I’m lying or that perhaps my kids were deposited here from another planet, let me assure you that such culinary exploration was not always the case in our household.
A couple years ago we were stuck in a vegetable rut. Sure, our kids ate vegetables (at our insistence… well, maybe it was more like pleading… okay, okay, we threatened them), but we stuck to the holy trinity of veggies we knew our kids would tolerate: broccoli, carrots, and peas. Moving outside of these veggies made us–and especially our kids–nervous.
Enter a CSA.
CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture. It basically means that a nice local farmer will deliver a box of (usually organic) fresh veggies to your doorstep once a week for a set time frame. The advantages to the farmer? He has a known market for his wares, giving him a sense of economic security. The advantage for us? We get the joy of serving up such delicacies as kohlrabi and white radishes to our kids on a regular basis. Um, yeah… about that…
It was not exactly smooth sailing at the start. Our kids were a bit shocked to find sauteed kale and beet greens sidling up next to their mac-and-cheese. We had some hits (kohlrabi is actually quite mild and resembles it’s broccoli cousin in flavor) and misses (I swear to God, there is no way to make a turnip taste decent…).
But overall, our veggie consumption skyrocketed and our veggie palates – along with those of our kids – improved.
Yet there were some weeks I felt overwhelmed by the offerings in our CSA box. Opening that box sometimes felt like being a contestant on Food Network’s Chopped. I had a basket of mystery ingredients, but unlike the experienced chefs on the show, I had no idea how they worked together. Sometimes I had to Google just to figure out what the veggies were. By August of our first CSA summer, I entered a mental state I coined “veg-tigue” (vegetable fatigue). I could no longer find creative ways to serve up salad turnips or greens. My fingers itched to put down the chef’s knife and dial up Papa John’s.
But I persevered.
Why? Because we ate better. I served my kids dinners of tofu and vegetables with rice. I learned that adding balsamic vinegar to sauteed greens works some sort of culinary magic. I made spaghetti sauce from real tomatoes. And after awhile, my kids’ shock at the veggie increase wore off and they started just eating it. It was kind of awesome.
We just finished our second summer as CSA members and took a big leap of faith: we signed on for the fall CSA, too.
So bring on the turnips and the beet greens, farmers. This mama is ready.