The Annual Spring Migration Came Early
A winter of eating local sure ended early this season for the Local Family. As in the past several seasons, we made it through the darkest days on local food. We did this primarily by stocking away a good portion of food obtained in our late season Tomato Mountain CSA*–you can see what our food looked like in January here. We also made key purchases at area farmer’s markets in November and December; we got a lot in a run to South Bend where we also purchased a Thanksgiving turkey. Finally, we supplemented over the winter. When Caputo’s put Illinois grown beets on sale, we grabbed. We added a bushel of Hillside Orchard apples. At the Evanston Winter Farmer’s Market we picked up onions and celery root from Nichol’s. There always seemed to be Tomato Mountain hoop-house, frost kissed, spinach when we needed it. Of course we ate seasonal citrus and the always in season banana, but we maintained, again, our locavore lifestyle.
The other day we began the migration. Winter, the benefit of cold weather, went away way too soon. To keep our local food around we relied on an un-heated “mudroom” outside our kitchen and an un-heated attic over our living room. Both of these environments stay, during the winter, in a good preservation range, between freezing and fifty (although the mudroom did get too cold at times). We kept root vegetables, apples, spinach, leeks and potatoes as well as onions and winter squash. For instance, many a-day, the Local Kids went off to school with some slices of root cellar turnips as the veg component of their lunch. It aint cold now, and whatever cold returns, it aint gonna be food preservation cold. We needed the food out.
Over the last few days, we’ve–I mean, they’ve since I busted up my foot real bad playing basketball, I get to opt out of the migration–lugged food out of the attic and cleaned out the mudroom. A lot of what’s left, we’re keeping. Apples, eat apples, we push the remaining apples on the kids. There’s a ton of potatoes we have now in the cooler basement. There’s a bushel filled with assorted local onions. That’s just now in the kitchen. The roots that looked fine went in the basement fridge, but we culled out a lot of turnips for compost. A Cinderella squash still decorates a room.
Ordinarily, the period of migration commences the hardest period for locavoring. What to do between the root cellar and the new roots? After all, our next CSA does not start until mid-April. This was a period where we relied on the heartiest crops, sunchokes and celery root, and we made much use of onions as vegetables. Still, the early migration this year also portends a very early (I strongly believe) arrival of new food. At the Spring markets like Evanston and Green City, I expect to see, very soon, lettuces, rocket, radishes. I expect soon after that, the first crops of baby turnips and baby beets. The big irony of local eating around here is that after months of root crops and hearty greeens, the first things to arrive are root crops and hearty greens. We don’t mind because we like being the Local Family. And we always seem to have local food to eat where ever in the house we keep it.
*One member of the Local Family is employed by Tomato Mountain Farm