The Amazing Staying Power of Vegetables

February 18, 2011 at 12:19 pm

Rob Gardner

A fair amount of our weekly Friday night dinners start on Wednesday at the latest, scrounging around the basement freezer for meat.  There one can find a few cuts of beef from a very old cow purchase, a hunk or two of Ann Boleyn our pig who came without her head (the subsequent head provided to us was later donated for this video), bits of Bacon the lamb and other assorted carnivore catches.  The fact that meat stays for a long time, frozen, should not surprise.  Can you get your head around the fact that the rest of the dinner that Friday featured various vegetables lying around since at least October, including two bags of very old spinach.  The real key to eating local in a northerly locale like ours is the amazing staying power of vegetables.

We subscribed to the fall/winter CSA from Tomato Mountain.*  The CSA included much spinach.  Much.  A smart locavore would have blanched and froze the spinach for later use; a knowing locavore just waited for a later use.  Now, I will admit that not 100 percent of the fall spinach made it to February use.  I will also admit that I was not necessarily able to make spinach salad from this spinach.  Still, after weeding out the bad leaves and snipping the occasional yellow tips, we had more than enough spinach to make one of my favorite dishes, Greek style spinach-rice.  I’ll add that although the recipe for the spinach-rice called for green onions, we could substitute leeks also from long storage–with leeks, just rid yourselves of the whithered outer leaves and there is plenty leeky goodness inside.

The amount of good spinach around for dinner should have been a little amazing, but I am not that amazed that the rest of the veg that went into the dinner, the turnips and potatoes for the lamb stew; the rutabaga that got mashed with Moroccan spices and the white cabbage for my famous lemon-y garlic cabbage salad are known keepers.  All we do is keep them cold and damp and they stay amazingly well for us. 

I remain convinced that the secret to producing a true local food system in the Chicago area comes from the amazing staying power of vegetables.  Much more effort gets focused on winter/indoor production.  Even if a nice green salad breaks the monotony of winter eating, it’s not like an abundance of rocket and chard will make for more local eating anyways.  We can, however, fill up our root cellars with a big variety of vegetables, from sweet squash to sulfurous onions.  The only thing missing, of course, is an abundance of root cellars.  The person who builds the community root cellar, who recognizes the amazing staying power of vegetables will be the person who advances the cause of eating local more than any re-packer and I-57 warehouse.  It will also be a person who makes some money.

*My wife was employed by Tomato Mountain at the time of our subscription.  We did not receive a discount on the subscription but received free home delivery.



  1. reh herbal says:

    thanks for sharing this cool post

  2. Hello Rob, I must admit, living out in the suburbs, we are an island in a sea of SUV’s and mown lawns. Ron and I built a root cellar right into our passive solar house 30 years ago and then proceeded to reject the concept of a lawn and instead planted a mini-farm (some call it permaculture) on our suburban-sized lot.
    I’m just so happy to see someone else writing about eating out of a root cellar, freezer, canning shelf and so forth so that they can continue to eat local organic every day of the year that I just had to make a comment. Hope to see you at the expo for our workshop on preserving food! Vicki

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