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Embracing the Unexpected: Unique CSA Finds and How to Showcase Them

June 26, 2024

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Embracing the Unexpected: Unique CSA Finds and How to Showcase Them

Finding Delight in the Unfamiliar

As a devoted member of the Thornapple CSA, I’ve found myself continuously delighted by the unexpected bounty that arrives in my weekly share. Rather than the familiar apples, carrots, and leafy greens, our farmers often surprise us with lesser-known or unusual produce that prompts a double-take and a flurry of excitement. A vibrant, bulbous kohlrabi; a bundle of slender, vivid-colored scallions; a hefty, knobby celery root – these are the kinds of discoveries that make my trips to the pickup site feel like unwrapping a present each time.

While the predictability of a standard CSA share can be comforting, I’ve come to cherish the excitement of the unknown. There’s a sense of adventure in unraveling the mysteries of these unique finds, learning about their origins, and experimenting with novel preparation methods. It’s a thrill to dive into culinary territory I’ve never explored before, guided only by the farmers’ suggestions and my own curiosity.

Thornapple CSA has truly broadened my horizons when it comes to produce, and I’ve found that embracing the unexpected has unlocked a whole new world of flavors, textures, and nutritional benefits. In this article, I’ll share some of my favorite unique CSA discoveries and tips for making the most of them in your own kitchen.

Kohlrabi: The Alien-Like Vegetable You’ll Grow to Love

When I first encountered kohlrabi, I’ll admit I was a bit perplexed. This bulbous, greenish-purple vegetable with protruding stalks looked unlike anything I’d seen before, and I couldn’t help but feel a little intimidated. But after doing some research and giving it a try, kohlrabi quickly became one of my go-to CSA staples.

Kohlrabi is part of the Brassica family, closely related to cabbage, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts. Despite its alien-like appearance, the flavor is actually quite mild and sweet, with a texture that’s crisp and refreshing, like a cross between a turnip and a water chestnut. The entire plant is edible, from the bulb to the greens, so you can get creative with how you use it.

My dad was always the adventurous eater in our household, so when I brought home that first kohlrabi, he was the first to volunteer to help me figure it out. We ended up slicing the bulb into thin matchsticks and tossing it with a bright lemon-dill dressing for a refreshing slaw. The greens, meanwhile, got a quick sauté with garlic and a splash of soy sauce. It was a delightful discovery that opened up a whole new world of possibilities.

Since then, I’ve experimented with roasting kohlrabi wedges, pureeing it into a creamy soup, and even incorporating it into my favorite stir-fries. The versatility of this unique veggie is truly impressive, and I love how it adds a delightful crunch and subtle sweetness to so many dishes.

Scallions: The Humble Allium with Endless Potential

When I think back to my pre-CSA days, I realize I used to take scallions for granted. They were just a standard garnish, an afterthought in my culinary repertoire. But once I started receiving these slender, vibrant alliums in my Thornapple CSA share, my perspective shifted entirely.

Scallions, also known as green onions, are so much more than a simple topping. They possess a delicate, sweet-and-savory flavor that can elevate a wide range of dishes, from stir-fries and omelets to salads and dips. And the best part? You can utilize the entire plant, from the crisp white bulbs to the tender, aromatic green tops.

I remember the first time I brought home a bundle of scallions from the Thornapple CSA pickup. I was instantly struck by their vibrant hues and the way they seemed to practically glow with freshness. As I chopped them up to add to my stir-fried veggies, the pungent, oniony aroma filled my kitchen, instantly making my mouth water.

Since then, I’ve found countless ways to showcase scallions in my cooking. They’re a fantastic garnish for soups and stews, adding a pop of color and a delightful crunch. I love to thinly slice them and toss them into salads for an extra layer of flavor. And when roasted or grilled, the scallions take on a delightful sweetness that pairs beautifully with proteins like chicken or fish.

The beauty of scallions is that they’re so versatile and accessible. Whether you’re whipping up a quick weeknight meal or hosting a dinner party, these humble alliums can elevate your dishes in unexpected ways. I encourage you to experiment and let your creativity shine – the possibilities are truly endless.

Celery Root: The Ugly Duckling with a Delicious Secret

When I first laid eyes on a celery root, or celeriac, in my Thornapple CSA share, I’ll admit I was a bit taken aback. This knobby, misshapen root vegetable didn’t exactly scream “culinary delight.” But as the old saying goes, don’t judge a book by its cover – because once I got to know celery root, I discovered a hidden gem with a wealth of delicious potential.

Celery root is often overlooked in favor of its more glamorous cousin, the familiar green celery stalk. But this unassuming root vegetable is a powerhouse of flavor and nutrition. Underneath its rough, gnarled exterior lies a creamy white flesh that boasts a subtle, celery-like taste with notes of nuttiness and sweetness.

My dad was always the one to encourage me to step outside my comfort zone and try new things. When I brought home that first celery root, he was eager to experiment with me. We ended up roasting thick wedges of it, tossing them with olive oil, garlic, and herbs until they were golden and tender. The result was a delightful side dish that had a wonderfully creamy, almost potato-like texture.

Since then, I’ve discovered countless other ways to utilize celery root. It makes a fantastic addition to soups and stews, lending a subtle depth of flavor. Grated or julienned, it’s a wonderful base for salads and slaws. And when puréed, it transforms into a silky, luxurious mash that can stand in for potatoes.

The true beauty of celery root lies in its versatility. Whether you’re looking to add a unique twist to a familiar dish or create something entirely new, this unassuming root vegetable is sure to surprise and delight. Don’t let its homely appearance fool you – celery root is a hidden gem worth exploring.

Showcasing the Unexpected: Tips and Tricks

Now that you’ve discovered the joys of unique CSA finds like kohlrabi, scallions, and celery root, the next step is learning how to showcase them in your cooking. Here are some tips and tricks to help you make the most of these unexpected treasures:

Embrace the Learning Curve

Unfamiliar produce can seem daunting at first, but approach it with an open mind and a spirit of adventure. Don’t be afraid to experiment and make mistakes – that’s how you’ll discover new favorite recipes and preparation methods. Refer to the information provided by your CSA and do some research online to learn about the best ways to handle and cook your unique finds.

Get Creative with Presentation

When you’re working with eye-catching or unusual produce, don’t be afraid to let it shine. Arrange your kohlrabi, scallions, or celery root in a visually appealing way on your plate, whether that means thinly slicing, arranging in a pattern, or using them as a decorative garnish. This not only makes your dishes more visually appealing, but it also helps to highlight the unique qualities of these ingredients.

Experiment with Flavor Pairings

One of the joys of cooking with unexpected produce is finding creative ways to complement their flavors. Don’t be afraid to venture beyond the obvious pairings. For example, try pairing the sweetness of kohlrabi with bright, acidic flavors like lemon or vinegar. Or enhance the earthy notes of celery root with aromatic herbs and spices.

Share Your Discoveries

Part of the fun of exploring unique CSA finds is sharing your experiences with others. Snap photos of your creations and share them on social media, tagging your CSA provider. You might even inspire others to step outside their comfort zones and give these unusual ingredients a try. You could also start a conversation with your fellow CSA members, swapping recipes and tips for making the most of your weekly bounty.

Embrace the Unexpected

At the end of the day, the true beauty of a CSA is the element of surprise. Approach each pickup with a sense of excitement and curiosity, ready to dive into the unknown. You never know what hidden gems might be waiting for you, just begging to be discovered and showcased in your kitchen. So keep an open mind, a spirit of adventure, and a willingness to learn – and let the unexpected delight you at every turn.

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Thornapple CSA: A community-driven initiative championing sustainable agriculture. We connect members with fresh, organic produce, celebrating the bond between land and community.

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