The Winter Harvest Handbook
There is something magic about September. For a brief two weeks, all of summer’s bounty meets the first of fall’s crops in one big harvest celebration at my farmer’s market. These are the market days when my poor little basket is overflowing and I struggle to manage it, and the two heavy winter squashes tucked in my arms.
The next thing I know, it’s November. The market is closed. A couple luscious weeks of fall CSA gathering, then, gone. Pumpkins and sweet potatoes are all that is left. While I love orange foods, I am hopelessly spoiled by the variety once easily available.
What’s a locavore to do in the bleak winter? Besides raid the freezer for the last of the pesto and soups and frozen berries?
Turns out, there are a few ways to beat the barren winter and eat well.
Whether it is a few pots of herbs or lettuces on a southern exposure window sill or a full-fledged hydroponic “window farm,” you can see green in January. The Window Farms site also offers a community so you can network with other “window farmers” as you learn to grow your own. You can also build your own window farm hydroponic system from recycled plastic bottles!
If you are lucky to live in a Mid-western or more southern climate, hoop houses or high tunnels can extend the growing season easily by a month on either side. Many farms now offer fall or even winter CSAs and early spring plant sales and produce! Look for these farms at Local Harvest, using “winter” in the keywords, or ask the farmers you know in your area if anyone is using a high tunnel.
Start a Movement
Consumer demand is a great way to create access to goods and services. Try talking to the farmers you know in your area to see if they have interest in high tunnels, or even year-round production. You could even wrap up a copy of Eliot Coleman’s Winter Harvest Handbook for your favorite farmer’s Christmas stocking. Coleman’s advice covers all the important facets of year-round production — without a heated greenhouse using minimal energy inputs. He lives in Maine, so I am guessing he’s familiar with long winters and bitter cold. The guide is also available as a DVD, but your farmer might prefer you wrap the gift in a good pair of long underwear if you are expecting fresh greens in a cold February.
In the meantime, as you are waiting to start your window garden, well, there’s always pumpkin. Pumpkin bread, pumpkin pancakes, pumpkin soup, roast pumpkin …
Beth Bader is co-author of the new book, The Cleaner Plate Club: Recipes and Advice for Getting Real Kids to Love Real Food. You can find her hanging out, barefoot, wine in hand, in her kitchen.
Image Credit: Creative Commons photo by chiotsrun