I was the main meal cook yesterday. I usually have a plan, some idea of what I’ll be cooking, but yesterday was all last-minute. That’s uncomfortable for me. I have to have a mental picture for just about everything that will occur in my future. (Hey, did someone out there just whisper “control freak”?)
Winter cooking is much different than summer cooking when you’re trying to eat locally and from your own garden as much as possible. Our gardens, and everyone else’s within a several hundred mile radius, are covered in a lot of really heavy, wet snow. That limits the possibilities. The automatic greenhouse window was broken, so the tasty salad greens in there froze. They are coming back, but there weren’t enough to feed us yesterday. Hmmm.
There are still some possibilities: the root cellar has potatoes (sweet and otherwise), some squash and turnips. There are canned tomatoes and pickles and chutney. The freezers have tomatoes, zucchini and some basic tomato sauces. We had a great tomato year. The garden itself hides more than you would guess: believe it or not, some of the greens, like kale and collards, just hang on all winter, looking all droopy and frozen, but they are as delicious as ever. Someone read that celery plants can be brought inside at the end of the season, so we tried it — now we have some growing happily in the library. And our dried bean crop was grand, with lots of variety.
Off to the Genesis Farm cookbook (a definite winner). Brazilian Black Bean Soup. Gee, that sounded great, and we had nearly everything: sweet potatoes, tomatoes (for sure), celery, onions, garlic, dried midnight turtle beans and … carrots. Oops. I dug around in the storage sand in the root cellar, but no luck. Hoping I’d just missed some, I asked Sr. HM. “Oh, sure” she said. “There are some in the garden. I’ll get them for you.”
I don’t know how they accomplish everything, but our farmer sisters managed to add the building of several cold frames to their work last summer. There, under a box covered with six inches of icy snow, a second crop of carrots was growing. Wow.
But here’s the really amazing thing. Our first crop was slow in growing (not the best weather for them last season) and the results were a little puny, which is why our root cellar supply was gone by January. But I had asked for four carrots, and sister brought in four of the most gorgeous carrots I’ve ever seen. Perfectly formed, chunky, beautiful bright orange carrots! Big luscious green tops, too.
With just a wee bit of protection (it is a cold frame, after all — mostly it just keeps the snow and ice off the plants and capitalizes on what weak winter sun is available), you can grow fabulous food in the “dead” of winter. Yes, it’s really, really cold. Yes, the sunlight is marginal at best. Yes, we’ve had nearly two feet of snow already this winter. But hungry bugs and voles are sleeping, so the plants are free to thrive uninterrupted. The result is truly beautiful.
So here’s my Earth lesson for today. Just because I think something is impossible or impractical, I’d be wise to remember that the Earth is all about possibility. A little ingenuity and cooperation might transform “no way” into a fabulous lunch. That’s worth knowing, isn’t it?