At almost a year old, my kids are in the blissful stage of life where they'll eat nearly anything that I put in front of them (at least as long as it doesn't require much in the way of molar action). Now that we're done with goopy baby food purees, and haven't quite gotten to the stage where they refuse to eat anything that isn't beige and buried under an inch of cheese, we're having a lot of fun making the most of the CSA shares Madison has to offer.
For the uninitiated (which can't be many -- this is Madison, after all -- community-supported agriculture is a cooperative model where consumers pay farmers ahead of the growing season, in exchange for regular packages of produce during the summer and fall. I find that one of the best things about having a CSA share, beyond the benefits of supporting local farmers and eating healthy, fresh food, is the joy of not having to decide what to make for dinner.
There's squash in the box? We're having squash! There are green beans and zucchini in the box? We're having a summer salad! So far, the kids have been willing to go along with nearly everything we've received, which puts them slightly ahead of their father, who is severely uninterested in any dish featuring tomatoes, onions, or peppers of any variety.
For a few years now, we've had a Crossroads Community Farm vegetable share during the summer, and this year we added one of their winter shares, as well as a winter fruit share from Harmony Valley Farm. (The fruit is organically grown somewhere in the U.S., not just in Wisconsin. I love the local agriculture scene for many reasons, but the winter fruit variety is not one of them.) Butternut squash, sweet potatoes, turnips -- so far the kids will eat it all, which is wonderful, except that it means I have two more people to share my favorite vegetables with.
Almost every box has meant forging new ground for the babies. When you're a year old, even a humble carrot is new and exciting. But it's been fun for my husband and me too, having the opportunity to try new things that I probably wouldn't have bought if left to my own devices. What do you do with a rutabaga? How are you supposed to eat a persimmon? What on earth is this monstrosity?! (The answers, respectively: Toss it in with a pot roast; slice it up like a tomato; and celeriac.) I figure that if babies are willing to try kohlrabi, I can certainly be daring enough to try it too.
Even the less popular CSA veggies aren't too difficult to sneak into the family's diet with a little work. Kale isn't generally well-received when dumped onto a plate on its own, but chopped fine and sautéed, it disappears nicely into a sweet potato and black bean quesadilla. Cabbage for the sake of cabbage isn't exactly a big hit, but with some bacon pieces and smoky chipotle peppers, it makes a tasty soup. I'm sure even these tricky strategies won't work once we hit peak Picky Toddler age, but for now, we're cooking along nicely. I might have to share my favorite veggies (Brussels sprouts!) for now, but that's more than all right with me.