Enjoy your greens even in the dead of winter
Creators News Service
Imagine homegrown veggies gracing your table year round. Your family can enjoy the flavor and nutrition of fresh produce and your pocketbook can certainly enjoy the savings.
The winter months are generally a time when people tend to stay indoors and since the days are shorter, no one seems to get enough exposure to sunlight and fresh air. Winter vegetables keep your body healthy by replenishing many of the nutrients and vitamins needed to stave off disease and replenish our systems.
For the best results through the fall and winter months, plan now before the weatherman predicts the first frost. Choose hardy green vegetables such as lettuce, broccoli, bok choy and spinach. Some root vegetables, like carrots and parsnips, can stay in the ground through December and will often produce a sweeter flavor. Many winter vegetables will do fine when sewn into raised beds and covered with a light mulch or snow.
Plan your planting according to the length of germination and when you would like to harvest the vegetables. If you are growing from seeds and planting them directly into your garden, it must be done during the late summer or early fall since seeds need some warmth in order to germinate. For later crops, start seedlings indoors or in greenhouses. Consider planting at different intervals so you will always have a fresh harvest ready.
Roger Marshall, author of "How to Build Your Own Greenhouse" ($25, Storey Publications), grows vegetables all year long at his home in Jamestown, R.I. "Strategy is important. Cabbages, parsley, onions and leeks, for example, need to be fully grown to survive the winter," he said.
Marshall uses an unheated greenhouse, which he enforces with bubble wrap during the winter, so that his plants are not only sheltered from winter winds but also so that he can harvest his vegetables at any time without worrying about frozen ground. "Herbs such as thyme, oregano, sage and chives can be picked anytime all winter, even when frozen, from the greenhouse," he added.
"I have a small 2-by-5 foot raised planter area in my front/side yard that I have consistently planted with winter crops [lettuce, snow peas, broccoli] and most have done fairly well," said Angela Watson, whose Lakeland, Calif., garden doesn't fare well during the summer heat. "I guess my biggest tip is soil prep before planting. The natural soil here is tends to clay/alkaline, so I put a combo mix of peat, perlite and fertilizer and mash it all up together with the existing soil."
What you choose to grow in your fall and winter gardens depends not only on your individual tastes, but also on the climate zone in which you live. In the northernmost climates, you may want to extend your growing season with greenhouses, raised beds, compost and mulch. Whatever the weather, it should be a given that you and your family deserve fresh and beneficial vegetables on your table all year long.
New York state's Blue Hill Farm at Stone Barns makes a low-fat and dairy-free carrot soup with hearty winter vegetables. Use the fruits of your labor to produce something tasty.
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 leeks, white part only, sliced
5 shallots, peeled and sliced
1 clove garlic
1 1/2 lbs. carrots
1 small apple, diced
1 tablespoon sugar
2 cups carrot juice
5 cups vegetable stock
2 tablespoons grated ginger, wrapped in cheesecloth
Salt and pepper to taste
Yields 7 cups
In a medium pot, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add leeks, shallots and garlic. Sweat for 5 minutes. Add carrots, apple and sugar. Cover, reduce heat to low and slowly cook for 10 minutes, or until carrots are soft. Add juice and stock and simmer for 10 minutes. Squeeze ginger juice into the soup and remove from heat. Season with salt and pepper.
Transfer soup to a blender and puree until smooth. Pass through a fine mesh sieve into bowl. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper and squeeze of lemon juice, if needed.
-- Recipe courtesy of Executive Chef Dan Barber