Spring has finally arrived. Traditionally, this was the time when winter stores were running low and new growth was not ready for harvest – the lean times. How can we stretch our gardening season so that even in our cold climate we have access to fresh produce year round?
Learn to eat seasonally. Now is not the time to expect sweet corn in Wisconsin. Look for spring greens – young dandelion and nettles are rich in vitamins and are widely available (note: do not harvest greens that may have been sprayed with chemicals within the last year). Many types of garden vegetables thrive in cooler weather. If you started them earlier in the season, they may be available for harvest now. Otherwise, you can directly sow them in the garden now for harvest in a few weeks. Spinach, mache, lettuce, radishes, potatoes, peas and onions are a few of the crops that prefer cooler temperatures.
Second, plan for storage crops. Some crops, like parsnips and sunchokes, can overwinter directly in the garden. I just dug up my parsnips on Easter and they were wonderfully sweet and delicious. They will hold for a while in the crisper drawer of the refrigerator, but for long term storage they must be cooked and frozen. I still have carrots, beets and potatoes in the root cellar. They are starting to sprout, but are still firm and tasty. To extend their storage life, I break/cut off the sprouts as they appear. Shell beans are another “easy to store” crop. I have several jars in the pantry that I use for everything from soup to baked beans. I just cooked up the last of my pumpkins earlier this month and pureed and froze them. This will keep us in pumpkin bread and other goodies until next fall’s harvest.
Four Season Harvest Related Links:
Planning for Storage Crops – How to plan for storage crops in your garden.
The dandelion is a healthful, great tasting weed you can eat – From Backwoods Home magazine, a dandelion primer.
How to Recognize and Eat Stinging Nettles (and what to do if you get stung) – from Identifying and Harvesting Edible and Medicinal Plants in Wild (and Not So Wild) Places
Maple Roasted Parsnips from Food Network
2 1/4 pounds parsnips
4 tablespoons melted butter
3 1/2 fluid ounces maple syrup
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Peel the parsnips and then halve them crosswise, then halve or quarter each piece lengthwise. Place the parsnips into a roasting tin. Pour the butter over the parsnips and mix them well so that the butter covers all of the pieces. Pour the maple syrup over the parsnips and transfer the roasting tin to the oven. Roast the parsnips for 35 minutes, or until they are tender and golden brown. To serve place on a clean serving dish. Makes eight servings.
Note: I also enjoy parsnips roasted simply with sesame oil and a little salt and pepper, especially spring harvested parsnips which are quite sweet already.
Boston Baked Beans from AllRecipes.com
2 cups navy beans
1/2 pound bacon
1 onion, finely diced
3 tablespoons molasses
2 teaspoons salt 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon dry mustard
1/2 cup ketchup
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup brown sugar
Soak beans overnight in cold water. Simmer the beans in the same water until tender, approximately 1 to 2 hours. Drain and reserve the liquid. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C). Arrange the beans in a 2 quart bean pot or casserole dish by placing a portion of the beans in the bottom of dish, and layering them with bacon and onion. In a saucepan, combine molasses, salt, pepper, dry mustard, ketchup, Worcestershire sauce and brown sugar. Bring the mixture to a boil and pour over beans. Pour in just enough of the reserved bean water to cover the beans. Cover the dish with a lid or aluminum foil.
Bake for 3 to 4 hours in the preheated oven, until beans are tender. Remove the lid about halfway through cooking, and add more liquid if necessary to prevent the beans from getting too dry.
Note: I like to use Tiger Eye heirloom beans for this recipe. They give it an extra-rich buttery texture.
Whole Wheat Pumpkin Pancakes from Pinch My Salt.com
1 C. whole wheat flour
1/2 C. cake flour
1 t. baking soda
2 t. baking powder
1/4 t. salt
1 t. ground cinnamon
1/2 t. ground ginger
1/2 t. ground nutmeg
1 C. buttermilk
1 C. pumpkin puree
2 tablespoons melted butter
1 t. vanilla
2 T. dark brown sugar
In a large bowl, whisk together the first eight ingredients (whole wheat flour through nutmeg). In a separate bowl, whisk together the last six ingredients (buttermilk through brown sugar).
Pour wet ingredients into dry ingredients and blend together with a wooden spoon until just combined. Lumps are ok, just make sure all the flour on the bottom of the bowl is mixed in. If batter seems too thick to pour, you can gently stir in a little more buttermilk.
Drop pancakes by ladleful onto a medium-hot griddle. Pancakes are ready to turn when the edges start to look a little dry and you can see small bubbles forming on the surface.
Notes: You may substitute all-purpose flour for the cake flour if that’s all you have on hand. You may also use only whole wheat flour, just increase whole wheat to 1 1/2 cups and omit cake flour; pancakes will be just a bit heavier. Light brown sugar or white sugar may be substituted for dark brown sugar. If you have it on hand, 2 teaspoons of pumpkin pie spice can be used in place of the cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg.