Before we had grocery stores, how did we eat in the winter? Even the hardiest cold weather crops– kale, arugula, carrots– can’t grow in the coldest months. If you have a garden, you’ll have noticed that leaves are dying, that plants aren’t producing as much as they were in July, that the dew in the morning feels more like frost than like water.
Luckily, vegetable consumers on the East Coast need not begin to envision a winter world without vegetables (aka, apocalypse). Farmers invented a beautiful thing called “season extension.”
Here’s how it works at Drumlin Farm. We start seeding (putting tiny seeds in trays of organic soil) in the fall, and keep those trays inside the warm greenhouse, instead of putting them outside, as we would in the summer. We grow those plants to full size in the greenhouse during the winter. There isn’t much room in our small greenhouse, but it’s enough to give around 50 CSA shares of greens like lettuce and kale.
In addition to those greens, we grew a lot of storage crops over the summer– things we intended to put away for the winter. Those crops include squash, onions, garlic, carrots, beets, and parsnips. These crops yield enough for another 100 shares of storage crops for our winter CSA.
Moral of the story: don’t panic! Most farms do some season extension. A lot of farmers’ markets go all the way into December.
Green Bean Heaven: saute Italian green beans (the long, flat kind) in olive oil until darker and juicy. Add pesto at the end. Eat with steamed collard greens and fresh bread, and fresh dairy farmed cheese.
Let me know if you have questions about season extension, or even doing cold weather gardening yourself!