By: WFAE’s Roger Sarow
It’s been an extremely mild winter (so far), but we have to wait till late March for a reliable spring. What’s a cook to do right now to offset the winter “blahs”? We asked the folks at the new 7th Street Market in Uptown Charlotte. It turns out several crops do not rely on a freezer or a can.
WFAEats: What fresh and local foods are available in February?
Produce this time of year falls into three basic categories: storage crops, outdoor crops, and greenhouse crops. Storage crops are grown in summer to late fall. They include sweet potatoes, white potatoes, turnips, beets, winter squash (like butternut and spaghetti), apples, and carrots. Most of these get stored in a climate-controlled building, but carrots store well in the ground. In fact, they actually get sweeter.
Outdoor crops include collards, red and green kale, bok choi, and cabbages. They are weather dependent and are much more resilient in a mild winter like this year’s. A milder winter benefits consumers because it provides more choices during this time of year and benefits farmers by offering more income during this time.
WFAEats: Suppose we can get more elaborate in our growing techniques?
When it gets too cold, even kale stops growing, so it may not always be available throughout February. Some farms cover their outdoor crops with a cloth system that protects crops in sub 25-degree weather. It will keep the crops 6-8 degrees warmer than the outdoor temperature, which is a significant amount.
Greenhouse crops have a controlled climate, of course. Greenhouse (or high tunnel, i.e. unheated) crops include arugula, bok choi, and lettuce.
WFAEats: Are there particular sub-varieties of these foods that are especially useful during our southern winter?
Pink Lady apples store really well. Red Russian Kale is very popular and grows well in this climate.
WFAEats: What are some really tasty or unusual ways to prepare each food?
While the variety of local fruits and vegetables may be less diverse this time of year, the ones that are available offer great opportunities to expand your palate.
- Kale Chips. Eat ’em like potato chips!:
- Sautéed Turnips with Spinach and Raisins – a great source of Vitamins A and C:
- The CMC LiveWell Health Center has registered dietitians that can help you find the healthy recipes.
WFAEats: Any particular food that’s coming on line in February that is especially “healthy”?
Kale is a superfood, packed with beta carotene, Vitamins K & C, calcium, and more.
Colorful vegetables like beets, sweet potatoes and squash are loaded with vitamins as well.
WFAEats: Okay, so it’s been a warm winter (as of this writing at the tail-end of January); still and all, can you give us any inspiration to get us through February?
This week, Barbee Farms is setting out tomatoes that will be ready 2nd week in April.
WFAEats thanks the following contributors, in collaboration with 7th Street Market: CMC Registered Dietitian Jennifer Lowrie with the LiveWELL Health Center; Wes Shi and Sara Zadeh of Know Your Farms; Jacqueline Venner Senske, Operations Manager at the 7th Street Public Market. Thanks also to local farmer Tommy Barbee.
7th Street Public Market is open Wed-Thu-Fri 11-7; Sat-Sun 10-3. Closed Monday and Tuesday.