Tip for The First-Time CSA Member: You Cannot Wash Your Veggies Enough

by amanda

As a first-time CSA member, receiving my first haul last Wednesday taught me one important lesson: everything the grocery store teaches you about what food looks like is a lie. Food that is sold at the grocery store is so clean and perfectly packaged. Bright and shiny produce all lined up in neat rows, seducing you with a their multi-colored allure of nutritious perfection.

Real food is dirty.

Which makes sense, right? I mean, it comes out of the ground, where it has been living for a while. It is organically grown, so its relationship with the earth is undisturbed by pesticides and chemicals. It’s food. Its primary purpose is not to be beautiful, it’s to feed you.

We are so far removed from the actual work it takes to prepare food – harvesting, gathering, cleaning – that it’s easy to assume that we can treat all food like we would the pre-washed, pre-packaged stuff we get at the grocery store. Which is what I did, this weekend, when I quickly washed off some lettuce and herbs I had received from my CSA to scramble them with eggs into a late lunch, only to receive a nice, big, gritty mouthful of dirt with my first bite. It was disgusting. I threw most of it out, and I have this terrible habit of replaying awful things in my mind, so I’ve been reliving it ever since and now the thought of eating any greens (or eggs) at all is a bit sick-making.


So. If you are a first-time CSA member, like me, or if you’ve just begun purchasing most of your produce from the farmer’s market, it’s time to introduce yourself to a whole other level of food preparation:

Lettuces and Herbs: These want a nice, big, long dunk in a sink full of water. Move them around, make sure to shake them off and to remove as much dirt and debris as possible. Once you feel like they’ve been thoroughly cleaned, towel them off to remove residual dirt and water and place them either in tupperware containers or back in their original bags with some paper towels at the bottom to help soak up excess moisture. If you’re using them right away, unless you’re sauteing them, you’ll want to make sure they’ve been dried off as much as possible because this will retain their freshness and also make it easier to prepare them.

All other vegetables/fruits: I really recommend using a vegetable brush. After the egg and greens debacle, I was super diligent when preparing some CSA veggies the next morning. I carefully removed all stems and scrubbed them down with the brush (if you have a juicer, the brush you use to clean out the fine mesh strainer works well, I’ve found), and enjoyed a nice, dirt-free breakfast.


Blue and yukon potatoes – freshly scrubbed with a vegetable brush, and ready for roasting.

It’s a little bit of extra time, especially considering what most of us are used to, but it’s worth it. And part of the experience of shopping the farmer’s market, or getting your food through a CSA is becoming closer to the production of your food. And while it could be argued that inhaling a mouthful of dirt brings you quite close, actually, to your food’s source, I think I’ll just settle for spending that extra quality time on cleaning it.