January 18, 2011. I find myself standing in a field behind the barn, eating a carrot fresh from the ground, dirt and all! Truly the “Ice Wine” of carrots. Pure sweetness, full of flavour, packed with beta-carotene. Don’t believe it could be possible?
Today I spent the morning under the cover of the Miller Family’s Cool-Hoop-Houses, exploring their winter gardens as well as learning about harvesting ice for their ice houses, which I will explore further and share with you soon. What an awesome yet serene feeling standing in the quiet stillness of winter looking at hope springing eternal yet again from Mother Earth. The only sound breaking the cool crisp air was the pop and crunch of these beautiful carrots in my mouth, uprooted from their beds all snug and safe from the elements outside.
Carrots are among the many crops growing in the winter gardens at this time of the year. The family have a huge crop of spring salad mixed greens, spinach, radishes and tatsoi as well, all waiting to be picked at their peak of perfection for our organic share boxes. Growing in the winter has its benefits. The weeds are sparse, yet the odd one still hangs in there. Bugs are doing their job, working the soil still, yet at a slower pace, and the need for watering is reduced, as the sun warms and creates condensation inside the plastic covering of the metal hoops. Winter inside the hoop house is always as cold as it is outside, but with our weather hovering around freezing, conditions allow the crops to warm and cool every day, encouraging plants to grow every day at a slower yet steady pace. This growing process puts a healthy stress on the plants. Because of the up and down temperatures, the plant produces more concentrated sugars in order to maintain productivity and sustainability, and therefore producing a more mild and sweet product.
I am so excited to be sharing some of these winter vegetables with you as this new Winter/Spring Organic Produce program begins. Happy Eating!