Winter Local Vegetables

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Winter Local Vegetables

Postby Enuja » Sun Oct 25, 2009 3:03 pm UTC

I'm currently on the cusp of my first real winter ever. (I was born in Seattle, Washington, but didn't make any food choices there, then I lived in Florida, then in California, and I've just moved to Chicago.) While I was in California, I got into local food, and went to the Farmer's Market every single weekend. And got amazing fresh vegetables every week, all throughout the year. Friday was the last day for the closest farmer's market before June next year (although there appears to be a single city-wide winter farmer's market inside, and I'm planning on at least checking that out). Two weeks ago, I bought cabbage and butternut squash, because there wasn't much else available. I liked the things I made with them, but not as much as I like fresh tomatoes, spinach, summer squash and herbs. Or, rather, the cabbage and squash get old in my pallet long before they get old in my fridge. So I'm not sure if I should just buy vegetables from California and Florida all winter, or if I should find a way to appreciate the local stuff. I'm planning on starting to make sprouts, at least, but I don't think that's going to satisfy my appetite for fresh green vegetables, which I love. I live in a studio with two curious cats, so doing an herb garden inside would require me building a cage to put the plants in, which I don't really want to do.

I'd love advice for how to have good fresh vegetables in the winter for people trying to eat more local food, from people who have actually lived through winters.

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Re: Winter Local Vegetables

Postby Twirlcan » Sun Oct 25, 2009 3:29 pm UTC

I grew up in Wisconsin and here is what we did for Winter veggies:

Opened up of can of whatever was on sale.

But in Chicago you will likely have more variety shipped to you fresh but if you insist on eating seasonal I would go for the route of eating what keeps longest and those would be carrotts, cabbage, beets, squash, pumpkins and kale. (with onions and garlic as staples as well)

Kale is great, and I think that may be what you need to get your green fix. It tastes better after it has been frozen for a bit since it is naturally frost resistant. Never steam kale. People always say that steaming is better but I think that is nonsense. Some veggies are bitter and need some boiling or some frying, steaming just keeps that aftertaste that is akin to putting your finger in your mouth by accident after it has been in your ear (I blame Mollie Katzen and her horrible Moosewood cookbooks for this..she made people all smug about eating horrible tasting vegetables).

My trick for kale is this:

Throw in freezer for 30 minutes and during this time chop garlic and shallots or onions instead of shallots. You know how much garlic and onions you like so put in that amount and don't listen to a recipe to tell you. Then get about two or three anchovies (I use four but I like anchovies) and set it all in a small bowl.

When your kale has been a bit frozen, clean it, cut out the bitter stem parts as much as possible and chop it into one inch wide strips.

Get a wok or a big enough pan to hold a bunch of kale and add some olive oil that tastes good enough to eat on bread (why people fry with oil they would never eat straight is beyond me) and put heat on low medium and add the garlic, shallots and anchovies. fry until the anchovies have dissolved in the oil and the shallots and garlic are "sweated", then add the kale and stir until it reduces to a tender bright green. It will never reduce like spinach but you should sample little bits to make sure it is tender.

If you hate anchovies then get a bunch of those dried and oiled really salty morroccan olives and pit and chop them. It will be similar in saltiness and consistancy to the anchovies.

Roast beets are great too just roasted in a pan basted with olive oil and dusted with thyme.

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Re: Winter Local Vegetables

Postby acb » Sun Oct 25, 2009 4:34 pm UTC

Purple sprouting broccoli is also in season in the winter, I don't know how easy it will be to get hold of where you are but it should help with the need for green (well, greeny-purple) veg. Normal broccoli and cauliflower and other brassicas should still be available too.

Root veg like turnips, swede etc are also around, and keep really well. I love these in stews, roasted, soup etc.

Maybe you could try and track down some local produce that has been frozen over the summer? I'm not sure how easy this will be to do (I imagine not very if you want really local) but frozen peas are a wonderful thing in january when you need to see some vibrant green on your plate! According to wikipedia, frozen veg has just as much nutritional value as fresh, although obviously it won't taste quite as good and the texture might be a little odd.

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Re: Winter Local Vegetables

Postby Enuja » Sun Oct 25, 2009 5:39 pm UTC

I do love kale and collards and, in fact, almost all Brassica oleracea: I looked it up, and the greens appear to be in season spring and fall: March to May and September to October. No such luck for fall. I like kale so much that I even ate an loved a fresh kale salad at a restaurant in California. At home, I do cook my kale and use it soups, veggieburgers, and stir fries. I sometimes use the stems as well, as long as the stem tastes good (sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn't).

I think that freezing local produce is going to be the way to go for next winter, but it would be great if I could find a place to buy frozen local produce. I am picky about my vegetable textures, but I think I'm just going to have to learn to deal with frozen and canned.

When I was visiting a friend in San Francisco he had a beautiful poster of what local food was in a seasons when: I've love to be able to find something like that for this area, but maybe they don't make beautiful posters that show "eat stored food in winter". I did find this website which says that basically everything is out of season November-April (except broccoli & cabbage which hold on throughout November and come back in March, and greens, asparagus and herbs, which also start a bit early) which I guess isn't much of a surprise.

It's going to be extremely tempting to eat shipped in fresh greens all winter, because I want to eat healthy and love greens. I have fresh spinach in my fridge right now, which really made my squash soup pop, but the spinach is not local.

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Re: Winter Local Vegetables

Postby PAstrychef » Sun Oct 25, 2009 9:37 pm UTC

As a long-time Chicago resident there is no way to eat fresh local veggies in the winter if you don't preserve them yourself. If you have the time, space and foresight to can, freeze or dry stuff in the summer you can eat local, but there just aren't many fresh foods growing around here from November to May.
If being a locavore is really important to you you may want to reconsider living in the frigid North. Otherwise, Chicago is a great city.
The City Market at the Nature Museum has some stuff, but it is limited. You could get an indoor gardening set up and grow your own greens.
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Re: Winter Local Vegetables

Postby Not A Llama » Tue Oct 27, 2009 12:39 am UTC

Greens are quite easy to grow as long as you have some light, especially baby mixed lettuces. Just sprout them in a flat and snip off leaves for a salad whenever you want.
I admit, when winter rolls around up here in Canada, i either choose local hothouse foods or subscribe to my local organic vegetable delivery box. As my "organic guy" says "It's better to ship food around the world then ship chemicals!"

Um, Organic Guy is a little strange, but he does sort of have a point there. I can't stomach squash, kale and potatoes, followed closely by a meal of kale, potatoes and squash every day, you know?

The google tells me that these guys have a Chicago veggie box program

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Re: Winter Local Vegetables

Postby Bakemaster » Tue Oct 27, 2009 4:19 pm UTC

I'm a big fan of kale, as it is ridiculously tasty, ridiculously healthy, and fairly flexible. I had it last night in my matzo ball soup, and highly recommend adding it to any chicken-base soup, torn into medium-sized pieces. Bigger than what I'd call bite-size before cooking, which makes for good-sized pieces after soupifying. I also cooked kale two nights prior, as a complement to the last of our ling cod; I heated my large saute about medium-high, added the juice of a lemon and an equal amount of vodka, threw in the kale and covered immediately. Gave it a few minutes like that before uncovering and giving it LOTS of motion (or the kale will turn brown and then burn), just until the free liquid cooked off. In other words, the kale is still moist but as you toss it in the pan there is no liquid on the pan. It was absolutely delicious, and although I was serving it as a bed for the ling cod and some quinoa vegetable pilaf, I would just as soon serve it as its own dish, probably with some nuts added.

There's also the fantastic sausage and kale soup, which I think is a Portuguese tradition (oh, that reminds me that feijoada, while amazing all by itself, is unbelievable served alongside kale).

In fact, I just found this on allrecipes: seasonal cooking in the winter: top 20 fresh kale recipes. Notice they're mostly soup recipes. Kale is honestly so good in my mind that it doesn't need a huge variety of preparations. There are some more interesting-looking recipes in this epicurious list.

My other favorite winter vegetable is acorn squash. We grew some this year but started late and only got five of them, that didn't get as big as they could have. Still wonderful. Cut them in half, scoop out the seedpulp, drizzle a little good local honey and blackstrap molasses in, plus a little pat of butter, and bake or microwave, spooning the inside mixture over the top and inner sides of the squash cup every five minutes until the texture is right when you pierce the flesh with a fork. Then eat it right out of the skin.
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