Cooking with Local Foods through the Winter

Photo: Laurel Fan; Creative Commons

Not much compares to sitting down to a delicious warm soup and homemade cornbread on a cold winter evening. In my opinion, at least… It is one of those simple pleasures that folks living in temperate climates can embrace during the shorter days of the year. The shorter days and colder weather also give Wisconsin produce farmers time to rest, reflect on the previous season, and plan for the next–which is an important period in sustaining the drive to continue farming. If I farmed in California, where every day of the year could be as busy as the end of August, I don’t think I could make it.

One thing I love to do is cook. To me, it is an art form, intuitive and spontaneous and dependent on whatever medium is around. Perhaps I gained this creativity from my parents, both of whom are artists, or from just working intimately with vegetables over the past five years. Believe me, if you spend 3 hours washing radishes each day, you start to become less intimidated by them. I have also had some incredible role models in the kitchen, whether they were the farm chefs cooking our lunch at JenEhr Family Farm, various chefs at GRAZE during my winter waitressing stints in years past, or friends I’ve met along the way. Food has been my passion for some time now and I feel like I have learned quite a few things I can pass on to others.

During the winter, I have the time to experiment and cook, but not necessarily the bounty of fresh produce coming out of the fields. In the summer, the über-fresh produce goes towards simple and convenient meals. As your CSA farmer, I’d like to enable you to use local sustainable produce all year round. This past summer, Dennis and I invested in a chest freezer, which has easily paid for itself considering the amount of produce we have not had to purchase from California at winter produce prices. Plus, the tomatoes we cook with still retain the fresh flavor of Wisconsin summers, rather than the mealiness of something bred to be shipped across the planet. There are many reasons to support local and organic foods–environmental, social, economic– but to me the most obvious is taste. If I can convince a child that they actually like carrots, because they can pull one from the soil at our farm, clean it off a bit, and take a crunchy and sweet bite, then I feel like I’ve done my part to create an alternative to the industrial food system that focuses on shipping and shelf-stability, rather than customer enjoyment.

This coming season, our goal is to help members utilize their box to the fullest. We will include recipes for quick and easy summer dishes, but also suggestions for putting away some of the food for the winter. We hope to offer extra roma tomatoes and roasting peppers for purchase, so you too can enjoy delicious soups throughout the winter. The time I spent this summer throwing full paste tomatoes into a ziplock bag, roasting sweet Italian peppers, and blanching broccoli, has been greatly appreciated at this time of year. Sure, it takes a little extra meal planning to thaw frozen vegetables, but I promise it makes up for it in flavor. — Anne, February 9th, 2012

Basics Food Cooperative (Janesville, WI) offers local, organic produce year round. Get 15% off storewide on Super Tuesdays, the first Tuesday of each month.
The Black Sheep (Whitewater, WI) will be opening soon! This fine dining establishment in downtown Whitewater will feature products from local farms. We hope to team up with them to offer a few cooking classes on utilizing a Regenerative Roots CSA share.