How can I dare mention wearying winter on the heals of our first glorious 70°April day? Because on days like these you plant tomorrow’s meal of beets and peas. As a gardener-chef, delight is found in delayed gratification, and that’s why I am thinking ahead to fall, when I sit down and inventory all the flavorful and nutritious tidbits I will have at my disposal over the long, wet winter. The list reads like a sailing ship’s manifest, only tastier: “A bottle of dandelion wine, 9 containers of strawberry freezer jam, 391 kiwis, 2 rows of carrots, 2 cases of Pocky’s Red Ale, 5 stalks of Brussels sprouts...”, all proud products of my 5000 ft² Green Lake lot. Think of this like the time spent waiting for pizza dough to rise, only a little longer. For me, the kitchen starts in the garden, and thus June’s dinner starts right now. I can already taste black currant jam on my 2013 January toast, I’m already savoring over-wintered chard in my gnocchi. There shall be no dine until it’s time, so plan ahead, get your seeds in the ground, and get your fantasy pantry in motion for those short, gray days in the distance!
Plant berries. Berries of all varieties hit the mark in many ways, as they are easy to maintain year after year for super tasty homegrown food. Just follow the recipe on the box–quick and simple to make, and no canning involved. Strawberry jam is loved dearly by my girls throughout the winter!
Consider canning. Whenever I have canned, the reward was great! How awesome is it to pull a jar of my pears with cinnamon and cloves off the shelf in the middle of December?
Plant with an eye for the future. Start beets, leeks, carrots, and other cold weather veggies now; if space frees up, seed another patch later. Don’t touch them until the weather turns, and then let the outdoors become your auxiliary fridge.
Consider other ways to preserve summer’s bounty. Homemade liqueurs, freezer pesto, dried herbs, oven-dried tomatoes, and “lazy man’s canning”— gallon Ziploc bags filled with tomatoes prepped for making sauce, pie-ready rhubarb and berries, and shelled fava beans for soups and sautés.