|Madison Farmer's Market|
Eating locally grown produce in the summer in Madison just seems natural. Our regional agricultural roots are reflected in the fact that we have the largest producer-only farmers' market in the country, the South Side Farmers' Market that is open five days a week in the summer, many other markets around the city (which you can find listed by both region and day), and plenty of restaurants that serve locally grown food. It's easy during the growing season, but what about when the days get shorter, the cold creeps in, and gardens and farms are less productive? Eating fresh produce is difficult, and local produce seems even more scarce. While it can take a bit of planning, eating locally in the winter is not only possible, but also healthy and delicious!
The farmers' market is a wonderful resource, but growing your own food and storing it can be a great, money-saving alternative. This will have required some planning ahead, so if you did not happen to plant a garden this year, the good news is that now is a perfect time to start planning your garden for next year! If you're eager to begin, though, you can make your very own mini greenhouse out of a soda bottle and create an indoor hanging garden for herbs to tide you over until spring!
|Planting at the|
Aldo Leopold Nature Center
If you do not have space for a garden, organizations like Community GroundWorks have community gardens and CSA (community sponsored agriculture) programs. Both options are wonderful; you can garden if you have the knowledge and time, or become a CSA member if you have a busier schedule and would like to pick up fresh produce each week. Community GroundWorks is also home to the Goodman Youth Farm where kids can help plant, harvest, and eat all the goodies from the garden. The Youth Farm participated in the Madison Sweet Potato Project this year, which is a program that supplies local food pantries in the fall in exchange for cost-free plants in the spring. If you're looking for something sweet, the Ironworks Cafe (stocked with produce from the Goodman Farm) sells honey from the Goodman Youth Farm beehives, as well as locally produced cheese. Snug Haven Farm sells Madison-grown spinach year round, and the Crossroads Community Farm offers a winter CSA program.
To freeze squash, for example, you can do so after you have cooked it or even freeze it while it's still raw. Canning foods in the summer makes them last for years, so if that sounds more appealing, the USDA has a complete guide to learning to can. Still a little unsure about freezing or canning your food? Fitchburg Fields offers classes in both!
If you get produce from a market and want to eat it soon, you can still give it a longer shelf life by "heat shocking" it. This works surprisingly well with foods like kale or lettuce, which may not freeze well, anyway. All you do is dip the fruit or vegetable in a bowl of hot water. Some foods may require more or less time in the hot water. Here's a guide for heat shocking commonly used fruits and vegetables. This is also a technique that you can use year round on foods that may have otherwise gone bad in your fridge or on your counter.
Once you've preserved your food, there are all kinds of yummy recipes to try! If you have stored whole acorn squashes, this recipe for Stuffed Acorn Squash would make a delicious winter dinner. EatingWell.com has a list of their ten most popular winter recipes, whose ingredients include kale, leeks, beans, and chard. The popular website All Recipes even lets you search for recipes by
ingredient. The internet is absolutely swarming with recipes these days, so finding one to use with your delicious local veggies is a piece of cake!
Now... If only I could find a way to make cake last...
Emma, Nature Net Intern