TILLAMOOK COUNTY WELLNESS: What is that veggie in my CSA box? (and what will I do with all that zucchini?!)

by Leigh Ann Hoffhines, Communications Manager at Rinehart Clinic (soon to be Nehalem Bay Health Center)

After a long, snail-paced spring, we are finally in the season of bountiful garden harvests. For those of you who sign up for Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) shares from a local farm, or if you shop at a local roadside farm stand, you may be relishing all the summer produce. OR, you may be encountering vegetables that are unfamiliar to you and/or wondering how in the world you can possibly use that much zucchini.

A typical August CSA share will likely include carrots, cabbage, tomatoes, basil, zucchini (lots of zucchini!), and maybe an alien-looking orb known as kohlrabi. It can be a challenge to figure out what to do with too many zucchinis or with unusual vegetables that are not a part of your usual diet.

As part of our Community Wellness programs at Rinehart Clinic, we are fortunate to be a CSA member at Nehalem’s Moon River Farm each year. Throughout the growing season, we use the farm-fresh produce in our wellness classes and activities to help connect our patients, and other community members, to healthy foods.

Each week we develop recipe ideas for our class participants based on the vegetables we receive in that week’s CSA box. Some weeks it’s easy: a variety of greens, so we share variations on a vinaigrette for salads and recipes for braised kale. Some weeks we receive less-familiar items, like fennel bulbs, so we offer ideas for crunchy fennel slaw or caramelized fennel and onions (delicious, by the way). Some weeks it’s salad turnips and a variety of other root vegetables and we share tips on how to cold brine nearly any vegetable you can imagine.

As a home gardener and long-time “eat your vegetables” enthusiast, I count myself lucky to be a part of Rinehart Clinic’s veg-forward wellness programs. And I may be the odd person out, but my personal favorite summer crop? The ever-versatile zucchini! There’s not much you can’t do with summer squash: slice them into long-thin strips (or use a spiralizer) and use them in place of pasta (zoodles!); cube and sauté them with onion and garlic and use them as a taco filling; grill them; use a vegetable peeler to slice them wafer-thin and use them raw in a carpaccio-style salad; or throw together a ratatouille (a perfect late-summer dish featuring zucchini, eggplants, tomatoes, red peppers, and lots of garlic). The possibilities are nearly endless.

If you are stuck on what to do with your vegetables, the Food Hero website (foodhero.org) is a great resource. It offers lots of easy recipes and you can even sort by ingredient. If you happen upon a vegetable that’s new to you in your CSA box or at the farm stand, do a little research! The internet will offer lots of ideas on what to do with it, but you might also ask the farmer(s) who grew it, or a Tillamook County Master Gardener. A kohlrabi landed in my farmers’ market bag last week and I had no idea what I would do with it – I just liked the way it looked. Turns out kohlrabi is a member of the cabbage family and tastes a bit like a turnip. I decided to experiment: I diced it, baked it, spooned it onto a warm tortilla, sprinkled it with my favorite red chile powder, gave it a squirt of lime juice, and topped it with pumpkin seeds. Unusual? Very, but also quite tasty!

The abundance of late summer harvests also means it’s a good time to think about preserving food. The OSU Extension Service offers great resources; whether you want to make blackberry jam, pickle vegetables, or can tomatoes or salsa, there are publications that will help you preserve and store food safely. Visit https://beav.es/i6P to find booklets you can download for free. The OSU Extension Service also offers a Food Safety and Preservation Hotline: 800-354-7319. The toll-free hotline is open through October 7, 2022 (Monday – Friday from 9 am – 4 pm) if you have questions about preserving and food safety.

If you are interested in learning more about Community Supported Agriculture, or the farmers in this area, visit Food Roots (foodrootsnw.org), a Tillamook nonprofit working to connect people to local food and local farmers.

Enjoy this year’s harvest season! Sample something new, get creative with your vegetables, and try your hand at preserving the bounty.
Try this recipe for ratatouille https://www.tillamookcountypioneer.net/tillamook-county-wellness-ratatouille-recipe-for-all-those-veggies/
Other wellness questions? Email us at info@tillamookcountywellness.org. For more local health and wellness information, visit www.tillamookcountywellness.org or follow Tillamook County Wellness on Facebook and Instagram.