Farm Table in Winter

images-1Seems like a cosmic lesson: I’ve just fallen in love with eating food right out of the ground — that broccoli! those beets! — and now there isn’t anymore?

Seasonalism is a great adventure in nourishment and discovery, moving from the May rows of the garden through the November rows like a progressive dinner party where you want the recipe for everything they serve: Oh, the asparagus of it! Fundamental cauliflower! Blissful conjunction of sun and soil and purest water!

And then it all just stops. January comes and I’m supposed to eat, like, Swanson imagesfrozen dinners? My large intestine isn’t down with that. Not to mention my idealism. Talk about a slap in the self-image!

But wait: you live in Virginia. Even normal winters here aren’t very cold, and this year? My daffodils are coming up already.

Turns out that eating in the neighborhood doesn’t have to mean a winter of potatoes. Here are three ways to keep your love alive in winter:

images-3Cover your garden. Spinach, kale, chard, turnips, beets, carrots, and parsnips will all defy the power of frost without your help, and with a cold frame or a floating row cover, they’ll grow right through January nights with temperatures in single digits. In fact, freezes actually sweeten kale and spinach so you hardly even have to dress them in a salad — just add walnuts and a little feta.

Farm in your living room. Germination unleashes enzyme activity that no other stage of images-5development can match, and it doesn’t last very long, so new-born plants are like the veal of veganism. Sprouts, shoots, and microgreens grow easily in jars and trays that don’t require annexes or dedicated thermostats. A few square feet of floorspace near a window or a corner of your kitchen counter will keep you in tender delicacies all winter.

Support intrepid farmers. Some small growers in Northern Virginia work their beds all year. With high tunnels, green houses, and carefully-scheduled planting, they can fill the truck and go to market even in January and February.  The Leesburg Farmers Market operates straight through the winter, and stalwarts such as Quarterbranch Farm, Shenandoah Seasonal, and Honey Brook Farms are there every Saturday, keeping the love alive with fresh neighborhood food.

So take courage, give thanks, and keep eating. There’s still food out there.

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