Behold, the long road of winter. Christmas is gone. Spring feels like an eternity away. And all that’s left are months of cold mornings, scraping ice off your car, cursing the still-dark 7:30 a.m. sky. And we’re supposed to carpe´ the season?
Granted the winter has been merciful thus far. Typically in northern climates this time of year, all that’s really in season is snow. Take last year for example: Eric broke two shovels last year in what we now fondly refer to as Snowmageddon 2010-11.
This winter’s been a little different. Yesterday, it was 52* in Minnesota. Fifty. Two.
I’ve been tempted to dig up my garden and plant something it’s been so balmy thus far.
Despite the unseasonably warm temperatures, there’s a lot of winter left, and that begs the question: How do you eat seasonally in the winter….when nothing grows…and everything’s dead? And to be honest, I’ve been dragging my feet to post this because there is still so much that I don’t know. But! I am learning, and I know a ton more than I did even two years ago…so…without further ado, here are some tips and principles for keeping your diet seasonal, even while Old Man Winter freezes our car doors shut…again.
1. Recognize winter for what it is. Let’s be real here. Nothing grows in the winter. And sometimes, it’s seriously depressing to bypass all of those fresh veggies and fruits flown in from all corners of the world, in an effort to eat seasonally. But I think there’s also a beauty to the waiting too. In depriving ourselves for a season, partaking becomes all the more celebratory. In other words, embrace winter for what it is: a season of dormancy, a season of waiting….and embrace it knowing how much more fully you’ll appreciate a fresh spinach salad come spring. There is so much to be said for teaching ourselves anticipation over instant gratification. (P.S. Read Animal, Vegetable, Miracle to explore this idea more fully. What a beautiful, beautiful book…it kept me laughing and learning in its entirety.)
2. Eat it frozen; eat it canned. What’s the next best thing to fresh vegetables? Frozen or canned. While I’m not a nutritionist, there’s a lot to be said for frozen or canned produce. Even though the blanching/heating steps of freezing/canning a vegetable can slightly decrease its nutritional value, so can days spent in cold storage on a truck, heading from field to consumer. In the last few years, I’ve done a lot of experimental freezing and canning of farmers’ market produce, and yeah, it’s time consuming. But it’s also uber-rewarding to pull a frozen quart of tomatoes out of the freezer to make a richly flavorful pasta sauce, or to throw a bunch of frozen bell peppers into a soup or chili and add a splash of color to a normally dreary winter world.
No time to can or freeze? I get that. One option is to go frozen or canned wherever you purchase your food. Another great option that I’m just learning about? Frozen CSA’s. Some farms that sell regular summer CSA’s are beginning to freeze various shares of their produce for winter consumption. I’m really excited about this idea for next year in case the baby eats up all of our time with reckless abandon, leaving me with no time to freeze or can produce myself. This is a list of Minnesota farms that offer CSAs; you can search for the word “frozen” on the page and find ones that sell frozen shares.
3. Farmers’ Market: Yeah, some of them are open in winter. I know, right? Every farmers’ market schedule I’ve ever seen closes its doors in November. But I heard the author of The Northern Heartland Kitchen cookbook (want!) on the radio, talking about a select few farmers’ market that endure the winter. So I checked out the St. Paul Winter Market, hoping to score some root vegetables…I struck out there (maybe I got there too late?) but was surprised at the number of vendors and the meat, eggs, and home-canned veggies available, plus goodies like local honey and jam and baked goods. Go ahead, google it. Find your winter farmer’s market.
4. Seek out people who have been doing this longer than you have: One of my most favorite
blog discoveries..blogiscoveries as of late has been Minnesota Locavore. This girl’s got a passion for local and seasonal food and can cook like a rockstar. Well, she and a bunch of other like-minded bloggers are taking part of the 5th Annual Dark Days Challenge: to cook one meal per week, from December to April, using only sustainable, organic, local, and ethical ingredients. The blog Not Dabbling in Normal is co-running the challenge and has a great list of participating blogs, which, in turn have several weeks of winter-worthy recipes. I totally did not know about this challenge until it was too late, but I’ll definitely take on the challenge next year! Byah!
Additionally, I’ve been all over Minnesota Locavore’s Find It Local Friday series for seasonal recipe ideas. Plus there are some great resources on the blog Nourishing Days; author Shannon and her family recently moved !off grid! and are all about eating seasonally and locally. She’s really into fermentation, which I don’t know a ton about, but she’s got great ideas about alternative food sources of vitamins that our bodies need during winter….like lard!
In celebration of tip #4, what are some of the great ideas that
YOU have for eating seasonally in the winter?