The Winter Larder
It's a funny time of year to try to connect to place through food. Our recent record-setting cold spell has cast such a deep, icy dormancy on the outside world it seems neither nettle nor nematode could ever emerge again. Produce from warmer climes freezes in the time it takes to go from store to car, car to house. How to align our sustenance with this season?
Indoor set-ups with grow lights and potting medium may be one way to eke some winter salads out of your basement. But, to me, this verges on dismissal of place rather than belonging to it. And is salad really what we crave to get us through these frigid months?
We've been getting our greens fix by reaching into the freezer for the chard, kale, and pesto I froze this summer, then making a warming meal of them. Apart from being nutritious and hyper-local, what I love about this is how each little frozen puck channels the season it came from — the garden season. There's a sense of pride; gratitude; and, crucially as winter stretches long before us, assurance that days of warm earth will return. It's like my veggies are giving me a solid pat on the back. The same goes for potatoes, beets, squash, applesauce, berries, herbs and whatever else we may have stowed away from the yard. And as nice as that pat on the back is, I have to admit the less romantic benefit of our winter larder: it's saving us serious money as the cost of food escalates.
If this isn't your experience; if the supermarket is your one and only food source, not to worry. One thing winter is meant for is taking stock. Would you like to have a garden come spring so that this time next year you're enjoying the fruits of your labour? Do you want to adjust your emphasis so you grow sufficient potatoes, cabbages, dry beans...whatever suits your fancy for cold-weather consumption? Could you benefit from a little DIY cold storage, a canner, or dehydrator?
Or maybe you'd rather let the "professionals" do the growing while you're off camping and sipping cool drinks in the shade, in which case you can take this time to find local CSAs, U-picks, pastured meat sources, or other food producers you can draw on when spring rolls around. In any case, the idea is to decide if your needs are being met with your food status quo and make any necessary changes for the coming year.
Oh and while you're at it, get a nice low-tech jar of sprouts going on the counter and some spruce/pine needles simmering for tea with a dollop of local honey made by the bees last July. Who says our stomachs can't connect us to place even as the north wind howls?