Celebrating Summer with a CSA

Cook, In Season, Learn, Summer

This post comes to us courtesy of Melissa Graham, founding Executive Director of Purple Asparagus.


Let’s admit it. A farmers’ market can be an overwhelming place.


Don’t get me wrong — I love them. However, at the height of the season when the tents are populated by dozens of varieties of fruits and vegetables, it’s a little dizzying. Who hasn’t overbought at one time or another during summer’s zenith?


In contrast, my CSA is so comforting. CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture. Farms sell shares at the beginning of the growing season and in exchange, the consumer receives a box full of pre-selected produce once a week. I love my CSA because I know that I’m cooking exactly what I should when I should.


Before joining a CSA, I carefully crafted a weekly plan that changed the instant I stepped into the circle of market tents. Now, my menus are circumscribed by the contents of my produce box. In spring, we eat lots of greens, such as kale, chard, and spinach. In summer, I cull my cookbooks for recipes to use up the seemingly endless supply of cucumbers and squash. As the growing season slows, my family enjoys slow roasted roots and more cool weather greens.


I may forgo the endless selection at the market, but my CSA better connects my family to the season and to the vicissitudes of Mother Nature by tying the fortune of our dinner table with those of our farmer’s.


These days, we’re enjoying garlic scapes, the curly cue tops of the garlic plant, an early summer delight. I use them like chives, finely chopping them and using them in marinades, dressings, and as garnish.


Buttermilk-Scape Marinated Pork Chops


3 garlic scapes

1/2 cup loosely packed mint leaves

1 cup buttermilk

1 tsp. coarse salt

4 bone-in pork chops


Cut the scapes into large pieces and add them to the bowl of a food processor with the mint leaves. Pour the buttermilk through the feed tube and process until finely chopped. Mix in salt. Pour the marinade over the pork chops in a large shallow dish and turn to coat. Marinate for at least 2 hours or overnight. Grill on a charcoal or gas grill until the interior temperature reaches 150° F. Serve warm. Serves 4.


About the author: Melissa Graham, a former attorney, is the founding Executive Director of Purple Asparagus, a 501(c)(3) non-profit dedicated to educating families about all things associated with good eating, eating that’s good for the body and the planet. Though its Delicious Nutritious Adventures program, Purple Asparagus has taught thousands of parents and children about healthful, sustainable eating in schools, community centers, and farmers’ markets throughout Chicago and the suburbs. Melissa speaks and writes regularly on child nutrition and sustainability both in the Chicago community and online, blogging at Little Locavores, as The Sustainable Cook on The Local Beet, and as a regular contributor to Kiwi Magazine’s KiwiLog. In recognition of her contributions to the Chicago community, the Chicago Tribune recently awarded her a 2011 Good Eating Award, an honor previously bestowed to Rick Bayless, Alinea chef Grant Achatz, and First Lady Michelle Obama. Melissa resides in Chicago with her husband and 7-year old son in a rowhouse built in 1896.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *