Winter, roots & the absence of greens: A lesson in patience

Yup, it's still cold, but today was a warm 32 at one point! (Also, New Englanders, we have no right to complain: Some regions of the country are experiencing temperatures in the -30s. ) As of late, when I'm working outside, I'm used to being cold and have resigned myself to being dressed in many shapeless yet incredibly warm layers. At the farm, it's all about roots: sorting, processing and getting them ready for market. In other words, lots of lifting of 30-plus-pound crates of carrots, beets, turnips, rutabagas, potatoes, etc., peeling the undesirable outer (sometimes furry/moldy) leaf layers from storage cabbage and leeks, schlepping veggies to and from coolers to the root washer, worrying about freezing temperatures and access to water, and generally never standing still for long. 

The cold has also affected greens production. Spinach and other greens are slow to grow, and I don't blame them. Row covers provide some warmth during the cold days and nights, and hopefully, the ideal incubation to make it grow. Apologies to loyal customers at the farmers' market seem to be commonplace in the past two weeks, as they see a sign with the promise of "our spinach will be back soon!" instead of the sweet green. As an eater, I get it - a rutabaga doesn't really have the same panache as freshly cut greens. (Poor rutabaga. It's tasty, but I doubt it will ever become a sexy vegetable.)

The moral of this winter: A commitment to locally grown food requires patience and understanding for both plants and the humans who grow them. Farmers: You're not doing anything wrong - it's just cold, so chill out. (That was a winter pun. Sorry. Ignore it.)

In the summer, I didn't think twice about taking pictures at work. But, in the winter, I end up asking myself questions like, "If I take off my gloves now, how long will it take for my hands to stop being numb?" But, for these pictures, I did suck it up for the sake of sharing some winter sights.

Remember: Let's praise and enjoy the roots for their resilience while they're still here!

(1) Potatoes at market, with purple top turnips, rutabagas, and salad turnips. (2) Beets! Red, chioggia and golden. (3) Mmmm...German butterball potatoes. (4) Icicles on a glass greenhouse at Gilbertie's Herb Farm. (5) Rutabagas, front and center. (6) Remaining apples on a frozen tree (Roxbury, CT).

(All photos by A.Gross, January 2014)