Monday, February 11, 2013

Spring... Or Something Like


February is a two-faced beast: it lulls you into thinking that the doom and gloom of winter is over with a welcome warm spell, and then hits you with a snow storm. But worry not, even though winter is likely to be with us for a few more weeks yet, the thaw will come. Eventually.

While home gardeners and farmers alike are already gearing up for a new season, the land still seems to be in a deep sleep. New appearances are rare and far between at markets and shops, and many of us are experiencing root vegetable fatigue. And yet, whatever the weather where you live, there are seasonal goodies during this manic month, just to keep you going until the glut arrives.

Jerusalem artichokes usually have a first run in the fall, after the first hard frost. However, they keep very poorly in storage, so growers will only harvest as much as they can sell immediately, leaving a good part of the haul in the ground for a second run come February. If you've never had Jerusalem artichokes before, this is one of the few vegetables that I would recommend tasting in little bites: these roots contain a starch that can be highly indigestible to many, so you need to get used to it before you can indulge in its silky texture and wonderful flavour.

The climate in the UK is considerably milder than that in Canada, so there are a few seasonal crops available in before the onslaught of spring. However, even though January King cabbages and purple Brussels sprouts may not be (easily) available in North America, there are other cabbages that are making their way to shop stalls straight from the fields, albeit from warmer North American climes. Fresh greens such are collards (also known as spring greens in the UK) and kale easily survive winter in Southern US, and just might make it in the North with a little protection. Obviously, protecting winter crops is not always economically feasible for farmers, but home growers can easily take advantage of this option. 

The rest of us will just have to wait out this winter.



Bon app'!



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