Winter CSA: Week 2

What's in your Winter CSA share this week:

  • Costarossa Radicchio - the last of the season. I am crying bitter radicchio tears because I have to wait unti next November to make that Tasty n Sons salad again.
  • Hakurei Turnips
  • Carrots
  • Italian Parsley
  • Celeriac
  • Yellow Potatoes
  • Autumn Frost Winter Squash - a new variety we trialed this year that I'm falling in love with. It's a specialty butternut with extra-long storage superpowers, thanks in part to that natural "frosty" wax layer on the skin (which also makes it look extra pretty while it sits on your counter waiting it's turn to jump in the soup pot). The flavor is stellar. I made the best squash soup of my life out of this variety a couple weeks back. Squash soup is six-year old Uma's favorite dinner, which is good news for mom cuz it's a 10 minute meal in the pressure cooker: chop up a couple leeks and saute them until soft and slightly browned. Peel and cube your winter squash and add it to the leeks. Dump in two cans of coconut milk, a couple cups of water, and a big spoonful of Better than Bouillon chicken stock. Lock the lid in place and cook at high pressure for 6 minutes. Quick-release the pressure and use an immersion blender to puree it smooth. If you don't have a pressure cooker, you can do the same thing stovetop at a slightly mellower pace. And if you don't have an immersion blender, you can use an egg beater or transfer the soup in batches into a regular blender to render it silky-smooth. And then, 10 minutes later, you're wearing the "best mom ever" badge, handmade by your six-year-old. It's a great feeling. 
  • Bulk Kale
  • Savoy Cabbage
  • Yellow Onion
  • Micro Mix
  • Baby Winter Greens

The bag of winter salad in your share this week marks the almost-end of the Persephone period here at our latitude. Gardeners and farmers talk about the "Persephone days" to refer to that part of the year when there are fewer than 10 hours of daylight. For us, here at 42 degrees N, the Persephone period begins around November 7th and ends around the first of February - aka, "winter." It takes its name from the Greek myth in which Hades, king of the Underworld, falls in love with beautiful maiden Persephone when he sees her picking flowers in a meadow. He kidnaps her in his chariot and carries her off to the dark underworld to be his bride (some say with the blessings of her father Zeus...yeah, the women's movement still had a long way to go back then). Persephone's mother, Demeter - goddess of vegetation and grain - is beside herself and searches the earth for her daughter, to no avail. At that point she withdraws into her temple and causes a great drought - a nice tactic to strongarm Zeus into releasing her daughter. But Hades tricks Persephone and gives her a pomegranate seed to eat, which seals her fate to remain in the underwold forever. Meanwhile up on earth, plants are shriveling and the ground is parched and Demeter is playing her cards well. In the end, a deal gets brokered where Persephone is released but has to return to Hades for three months of the year - winter, or the Persephone period.  

As a farmer, it's significant because most plants require 10 hours of daylight for active growth, so the Persphone period is a time of dormancy (and the greatest mental relaxation for those of us who tend plants). I used to think it meant that things don't grow at all. But that's really not true here in our climate where it doesn't get that cold. Plant growth simply slows down dramatically. Once I realized this, I started playing around with somewhat bizarre planting dates in our unheated field tunnels. The greens you're getting this week were seeded on December 3rd. In the summer, they'd be ready for harvest within three weeks, but through the Persephone period it took 2 months. The good news is that I've been seeding greens in our tunnels every other week since December 3rd, so we have tender baby greens - mizuna! arugula! kale! mustards! tatsoi! - to look forward to all season.

Enjoy your last week of the Persephone period in all it's icy rain glory. The wild plum just broke into brave bloom outside my window, and our first daffodils are showing their heads. Persephone will be climbing up from the Underworld any day now and delivering us into our long, drawn-out, wonderful, Oregon springtime - and the end of mental relaxation for farmers!