Summerland, Farm Fresh Produce Delivered Right to Your Door

With the desire to join a CSA and the variety of food delivery services out there, one can lost in trying to decide which one to go with. My boyfriend came up with the brilliant idea to interview different companies, try them out for a week at a time, and then at the very end compare and contrast their services. So over the next several weeks I will be writing about some of the CSA delivery services in the LA area. I want to get to know the company, see what they are about, try their food, analyze their prices and then write a shorthand guide so that others can also make an educated choice.

I came across Summerland at first because of their instagram. Their images of food were absolutely stunning. The question was did the food taste as good as it looked? I know the magic of food styling had not been used but the colors were so bright. This food looked fresh and alive. This is the first CSA I will start with in this series and luckily I already had a friend working there. An incredibly talented woman, who went to the same high school as me, by the name of Keri, was a previous food writer. She moved down to LA to get involved in the food renaissance that it growing here in our home town. We met up at their new space in downtown to make a delicious salad out of seasonal persimmon, pear, dill, shallots, olive oil, almonds, cheese and lettuce that made my mouth water. What I like about Summerland is that they send you recipes with your box so you know what to do with the food. The food tastes gourmet but you don't need to go to cooking school to be able to prepare it. Anyone at any level can learn these basic skills and come up with a salivating meal. This fall salad is so easy and so simple. You wash your produce, chop the produce and then top with olive oil and salt.  I am very excited to receive my first box in a few days, which you will get the full review on later. For now, let's get to know the people behind the box. Happy Thursday everyone!

Q+A with Alejandro de Castro, the man behind Summerland 

Q: What is Summerland and how did it come to be?

A: We are a local food marketplace that delivers organic produce and the best small batch pantry items 7 days a week. Delivery is free, 7 days a week. Summerland originated in a downtown LA loft, where we were having dinners with friends and ordering bountiful produce. People started to notice, so we began selling them and the business started to naturally grow throughout the neighborhood. Through social media and outreach, we were able to organically expand and grow this business.

Q: What does local food mean to you?

A: Supporting local food systems is core to our business. Purchasing and eating locally means supporting your community. We work to cultivate strong relationships with our farmers that share our passion for what’s good, local and in season.

Q: Could you describe the different types of boxes you offer on your site?

A: We have a couple of core boxes that we focus on -- 

75/25 box which is 3/4 vegetables and 1/4 fruit

All vegetable box

All fruit box

Each box comes in either a standard or jumbo size, and all of the boxes are carefully curated so that our customers get a great balance of seasonal ingredients, with plenty of cooking options throughout the week. We concept our boxes based around weekly recipes.

Additionally, we have what we call “specialty boxes”. We collaborate with local chefs and tastemakers to build boxes like our Thanksgiving Box with Heirloom LA, featuring four Heirloom LA recipes and Summerland ingredients to prepare for the holiday. We also have seasonal soup and salad boxes, a brunch box, and a juicing box, to name a few.

Q: What is your food philosophy and what are the health advantages to eating your produce?

A:  Summerland helps people choose farms over factories and people over packaging — it’s a choice you can make for your health (no dangerous chemicals or pesticides), for your community (supports local farms and businesses) and the environment (smaller carbon footprint).

Q: What are some of your favorite cookbooks/blogs/ websites/instagrams?

A: Our cooking philosophy is to keep things simple, focusing on the quality of the beautiful produce we source. One of our favorite cookbooks is Canal House...

We are huge fans of Food 52, Valleybrink Road, Free & Native, Julie’s kitchen..

Q: Where do you get your recipe ideas from?

A: Much of our inspiration comes from our trips to the farmers market. We’re constantly discovering new things and chatting up our farmers about their favorite ways to prepare certain ingredients. We want our recipes to be simple so that with the produce in your box, some olive oil and seasoning, you can put together a delicious meal. Our whole team is incredibly passionate about cooking, so we’re always sharing recipes with one another, digging through cookbooks, and trying new restaurants.

Q: What has been the biggest learning lesson so far?

A: It’s the little things that are the most important. As much as we grow, one of the most valuable things is maintaining a personal connection with our customers. Whether it’s a personalized note, or sharing something special we found at the market with a loyal customer, we want people to feel taken care of, and to feel our passion for what we do.

Q: Can you taste the difference between organic vs. non-organic?

A: Yes, absolutely. The purity of flavor and nutrients in organic food is definitely palatable. We work closely with our farmers to make sure customers get the best of what is good, local, and in season; nothing tastes better than produce when it is fresh, picked at its peak for flavor and travels the shortest distance to get to your table.

Q: What are some of your pantry staples?

A: Our marketplace has a variety of pantry staples, sourced from our favorite west coast producers. We believe in finding the best, so we taste test all of the products that we add to our marketplace. We offer everything from eggs, bread, pasta, jam, nut butters, olive oil, and salt. 

Q: Are there any foods that you never eat?

A: Everything in moderation. We’re all pretty heavy on the fruit and veggie diet, but believe that balance is key. 

Q: What is your go-to meal (right now)? 

A: For months we’ve been going crazy for Milliken Farms’ Japanese Sweet Potatoes. They are one of our favorite ingredients to cook with. They are slightly sweet and creamy and need nothing more than a little olive oil and seasoning. We boil and mash them with some olive oil, or roast them with a little rosemary. They cook up very quickly, about 10 minutes, and are the perfect balance between your standard potato and a sweet potato.

Q:  Who would you love to use your box or to cook with?

A: We are definitely geared towards families, but really anyone who has an appreciation for seasonal produce and good food. Our recipes are meant to be delicious and simple - elevating your home cooking experience.

Q: What motto do you live by?

A: Good, local and in season.

Q: What’s one piece of nutrition advice?

A: Having constant access to amazing produce is one of the biggest perks of the job. Learning how to cook recipes with little to no meat, dairy and gluten is one of the easiest things we can do for our health. If you start with produce that is organically and sustainably produced, retaining the most flavor and the most nutrients, there is little you need to add to make a healthy, yet satisfying meal.

Q: What is your grand vision for Summerland?

A: We have plans to enter additional markets but very much believe in scaling it here in Los Angeles first, getting it right, and making it the best service possible before doing so. We have so many friends and followers all over the country, and look forward to being able to share our California bounty on a wider scale at some point in the future.