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    • Randy Graham

    • March 9, 2014 in Columnists

    CIA or CSA?

    Photo: Randy Graham, Valley Vegetarian

    Inside the CSA box.

    What is the difference between the CIA and a CSA? One sows seeds overseas and the other sows seeds near the sea. OK, clumsy analogy but now that I’ve got your attention please read on…

    CSA is an acronym for Community Supported Agriculture, which is a relatively new movement in the United States. It started in the 1980s offering subscribers a box of seasonal, fresh produce at a reasonable cost.

    The really neat thing about CSAs is that they offer participants a direct connection to the food put on their table. You’ve heard the phrase “from farm to table?” Oxnard’s Deardorff Family Farms does just that. They bring organic farm fresh produce direct from their farms to your table. Well, they don’t deliver straight from the farms. They have nine locations in Ventura County where you pick up the CSA box every other week, but you get what I mean.

    Christine Smith gave me a CSA box at their headquarters and challenged me to use all ten items in one elaborate meal. As soon as I got the box home I opened it to find layers of colorful, farm fresh goodies. When I say fresh, I don’t mean warm, limp greens. I mean crisp veggies and firm fruit. In the box were collard greens, celery, romaine lettuce, red leaf lettuce, cilantro, turnips, kale, fennel, avocados and blood oranges. The blood oranges were the best I’ve ever tasted.

    Photo: Randy Graham, Valley Vegetarian

    Here’s the prix fixe menu I developed using the ingredients in the box:


    Crostini with Fresh Kale (kale)

    Salads (choose one):

    Sweet Blood Orange Salad (blood orange, avocado, fennel, chopped romaine lettuce)

    Mushroom–Orange Salad (red leaf lettuce)


    Spicy Collard Greens with Basmati Rice (collard greens)

    Entrees (choose one):

    Savory Tarte (fennel, turnips)

    Savory Ojai Pasties (celery) with Dipping Sauce (cilantro)

    “Why” you ask, “does the menu not include dessert?” The answer is simple. I’m holding out for another CSA box and then I’ll add dessert to the menu. Wish me luck!

    NOTE: Send an email to me and I will send you the recipes created with these ingredients.

      • Maya North

      • March 9, 2014 at 11:50 pm
      • Reply

      My daughter has that available in her community. Not so sure about mine, but since I haven’t had a real kitchen in nearly 30 years, it’s something I can only support in spirit — but enthusiastically!!! 🙂

    • Great article, Randy! Thank you so much for creating this wonderful menu with our Fresh Picks boxes! Can’t wait to try out some of these recipes.

    • Maya – CSA boxes are fun and nutritious but can be expensive on an ongoing basis. I was fortunate to get a complimentary box. The folks at Deardorff really know what they are doing.

      • Heather Alani

      • March 11, 2014 at 7:20 am
      • Reply

      I love blood oranges! I wish we had CSA boxes in Rhode Island!

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