RECYCLED AND UPDATED – The 3 Tastes of Winter

November 30, 2015 at 9:37 am

Editor’s Note: At the Local Beet, we firmly believe in re-use and recycle, and we know that much of what we have put up on the site remains valid the over the years.  And do you know that tomorrow, December 1, is actually the start of winter?  Meteorological winter that is.  So, it’s time to remind you what it tastes like–with a few updates along the way.


 It may finally be cold enough for my apples in the attic. Will it taste like winter in the bungalow? Well, it depends on when in winter we are eating.

Winter eating covers three periods: it begins with the final accumulations, goes through storage and preservation and ends with hanging on and renewal. Winter eating lasts longer than the calender’s definition of winter. The season of winter eating begins, has begun by fall and lasts full bore until at least the end of March. These three periods lead to different types of produce. Throughout the winter, though, it is the time to eat meat, dry beans and stored grains.

When Winter Tastes Like Fall

The first part of winter, now, eating is roughly akin to the way it has been the last month or so. That is, the few operating markets, like Green City, will have the same stuff this week as in the last few weeks. The markets include the last of the field crops, the heartiest brassicas and sturdiest roots, as well as the things the farmers have, that have not sold, the hard squash, the potatoes, the apples. Maybe if you expect the over-abundance of a summer market, you will find the markets bare now. I find them quite ample (look at Irv and Shelly’s site for an idea what’s around). Right now, it is still possible to eat each week from what can be purchased. It is also possible now, to continue to stock up for later weeks.

Stored and Preserved Foods + Spinach

When we first wrote about the second phase of winter eating, stored and preserved food, we stated, “It will not be that long until the Chicago area markets empty of food. Oh, there will be  Winter Markets and some version of Green City and Cassie and all, but these markets will not be brimming with food.  It will become harder to eat each week from the market purchases. Thus, we go to the stores.”  Well, that was before we had our four season CSA from Tomato Mountain*.  Instead of going to the stores, we go to the box.  Or we go to the market.  Area farms like Geneva Lakes, Genesis Growers, and Nichols should have winter food at area markets.      Regardless of who stores it, the second phase of winter eating, from December through February will be one of roots, potatoes and apples.  This diet will be greened on a regular basis by the ability of sweet, “frost-kissed” spinach to grow in the winter in hoop-houses.  And now, when we write this we can also point out the Sugar Beet Co-op and all the other places where you can find local food all winter.

The Hungry Months

Then it ends. It not so much ends, as there is only so long stored food, even in good conditions, lasts. By late February it will be hard to find, either in your improvised root cellar or in the markets, the beets, the celery roots, the rutabagas that kept you alive for the last few months. It is survival time, but between good planning and places like Local Foods, there will always be something. The leanest time for the locavore. Hopefully, your freezer contains something because there will not be a lot of local food to buy. There are, however, foods that will last even this long. Right about now you start discovering your best onion and potato dishes. Cultivated mushrooms are always around, and in the Bungalow mushrooms become at least a once a week treat. There is also sprouts and micro-greens that grow indoors, and before you turn your nose, think about finding anything else green. Finally, always, there are apples. For the most part, the later apples are not the Turley Winesaps, the Arkansas Black and other heirloom varieties. But the locavore can always find a Michigan red delicious apple when needed. We hang on. Our spring CSA will come soon, offering a fresh round of roots. Right before that, we will have tasted the first the ground offers, watercress that can appear while snow still sits and ramps and nettles and maybe some morels. A turnip will never have tasted so good.

*My wife works for Tomato Mountain.