Late Winter Vegetables

To my delight, winter markets in the U.S. are renting larger halls, bringing more diverse offerings, and appearing in more cities. Meanwhile, farmers are diversifying from traditional winter crops like carrots, alliums, and apples to leafy frost-sweetened greens like spinach, chard, and lettuces. In the north, we just came through a particularly cold and snowy winter, and even major growers of frost-sweetened spinach and low-tunnel kales and chards had less this year. But every winter gives farmers an opportunity to perfect the art of winter growing, most of it produced using only the sun and vibrant organic soil. When leafy winter greens are scarce I do my best to augment them with winter stalwarts like root vegetables.

To avoid losing precious volume when sautéing winter spinach, I slightly wilt it a salad with seared apples and hot bacon cider vinaigrette. The hot apples are enough to take the raw edge off.

In her excellent book, The Four Season Farm Gardeners Cookbook,co-written with Eliot Coleman, Barbara Damrosch writes how to sprout carrot greens and other roots in your kitchen window for tender and spicy garnishing leaves. Emboldened by her suggestions, I snipped fresh scallion shoots that had bolted from a storage onion onto hot mashed celeriac-potato. With butter and coarse sea salt this is heaven!

A julienne of precious rainbow chard is nicely rendered in a salad of roast beets. I’ve always cooked my beet in their jackets, figuring there is less nutrient loss. The beet method made me realize I don’t need to peel carrots or parsnips either. When boiling, I start them like potatoes, scrubbed but un-cut, in salted cold water so they cook evenly. When al dente, the peels slip off effortlessly.

For other winter cooking tips and extending the season, see my booklet, The Market Kitchen. —March 2014

“What does it mean to eat well?”

Odessa Piper joined a panel of farmers and University of Wisconsin-Madison faculty on February 12, 2014, for a discussion of what it means to eat well. Sponsored by the UW-Madison Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems, the seminar incorporated perspectives on farming, gastronomy, health, equity, and social justice. Other panelists included farmers Jim Munsch of Coon Valley, WI, and Tony Schultz of Athens, WI, and faculty members Jonathan Patz, Director of the Global Health Institute, and Monica White, Department of Community and Environmental Sociology.

Growing, Marketing, and Cooking from the Winter Pantry

Odessa presented a workshop at the NOFA Winter Conference, January 11, 2014. Topics: turn farm products from every season into value-added sales; delicious economical applications for winter crops and foods put-by; storage techniques; purchasing strategies; and culinary uses for berries, field-greens, pastured meats, root cellar crops, apples, and everything in between.

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This poster is a beautiful snapshot of my winter pantry, which is filled by produce from local farmers markets.

  Art by Eric Lewandowski