In addition to a well stocked pantry full of your favorite spices, grains, and condiments, the best way to be ready for the CSA season ahead is to make sure your kitchen has the tools you’ll need to process, cook, and store your produce as the bounty begins to arrive.
Your CSA share is filled with seasonal and diverse vegetables and there are a handful of kitchen tools for preparing them that will come in handytime and time again.
Jeff’s favorite kitchen tool is a stout peeler. It’s handy in prepping many vegetables like celeriac, kohlrabi, parsnips, and butternut squash, to name a few. We picked up a sturdy peeler on a visit to a local butcher shop and suggest choosing a quality tool in this case. There are many wimpy peelers available, and we suggest you avoid them if at all possible.
We’ve heard amazing things about these magical reusable produce storage bags that help to eliminate ethylene gas from speeding up the spoiling process for vegetables. If used correctly, they can add days to the life of your tender greens in the refrigerator. You can find them online by searching for ‘vegetable green bags’. In lieu of these special bags, keeping most vegetables in plastic bags in your fridge can help to slow water loss and lengthen the life of your veggies too.
It’s not unlikely that you’re going to want to toss some veggies in the freezer sooner or later. Being prepared with freezer bags on hand will make processing your basil into pesto or freezing that extra cooked winter squash a snap. Peppers, onions, and garlic can all be frozen without any extra processing. If you’d rather avoid the plastic some mason jars are freezer safe.
Many members say that the first thing they do upon getting their vegetables home is to process any fresh salad greens including lettuce using a salad spinner. This tool helps to wash and dry their greens efficiently. We’re generally surprised at how long salad mix stores in a plastic produce bag in the crisper of our fridge but I imagine a salad spinner lengthens that time even longer.
Ice Cube Trays
Preserving your pestos, vegetable broth, and blanched greens can be as easy as popping them into an ice cube tray until frozen and then transferring them to freezer bags once frozen. The silicone trays now available make this even easier. I’ve also had success oiling the inside of the ice cube try for quick release.
Food Processor, Food Chopper, Immersion Blender
Some folks swear by their food processor for quickly slicing and dicing vegetables. We love the smaller version of a food chopper that came with our immersion blender. Either way, it’s a nice tool for quickly mincing garlic or ricing cauliflower. Any tool that makes the chopping a little faster is a winner in my book.
Storing prepped vegetables and leftovers for maximum visibility in your fridge is going to make using them up much easier. That’s where glass storage bowls and mason jars come in. A quick scan of the fridge lets you know what is ready to go come mealtime. Plus you’re looking to freeze or can vegetables some of these glass containers and jars can do double duty in the freezer.
If you were to ask Jeff and me which knife is best for prepping vegetables, you’d get different answers. He likes large serrated knives, I prefer a non-serrated version with a blunter tip called a santoku knife. I think it has something to do with keeping my fingers out of the way of the knife. Anyhow, you should find a high quality knife that feels good in your hand. This investment is going to make prepping vegetables a lot faster and more enjoyable too.
The 1/4 size sheet pan I got for Christmas several years ago has seen more than its fair share of work in our kitchen over these years. From roasting vegetables, to making granola, to baking fish that sheet pan is the go-to when something is headed into the oven. Sheet pans are thicker than the ever-present cookie sheets I’ve always used in the past and thus make for less burning and more even cooking. They also have taller edges, resulting in less spillage when stirring over the hot oven door. The 1/4 size fit well in our old tiny RV-sized oven and I look forward to stocking up on 1/2 size sheet pans soon now that we once again have a full-sized oven to cook with.
Large Stock Pot
Soups, stews, and broth are all going to need a good sized stock pot.
Sometimes it’s nice to have multiple cutting boards available to build meals or if more than one person is chopping. We’ve enjoyed the flexible plastic types for easily transferring vegetables into pots and pans but also appreciate the quality of a good solid wood chopping board.
This is another place where Jeff and I diverge. He has his beloved stash of cast iron pans including several sizes of skillets. I prefer a stainless steel skillet, though the pan we have is probably much thinner than is ideal. Either way, you’re going to want a good skillet hopefully with a lid for stir fries, sauteing etc. An oven-safe version is all the better.
The slow cooker is a classic kitchen tool that lets you add ingredients in the morning then arrive home in the evening with a warm meal ready to go. What’s not to love? They don’t have to be expensive, we’ve picked them up at second hand stores even.
Many members have given up the slow cooker/crockpot and embraced the Instant Pot pressure cooker as a quicker alternative. I’d say look into both options and choose the one that best fits your needs.
Don’t see your favorite go-to kitchen tool listed? Shoot us an email at email@example.com to let us know what tool or gadget helps you make it through your CSA share.