Savoring winter greens

20191201_124752It’s a relief to catch my breath after the frenetic pace of summer. Winter is a time of rest, both for the soil and for our bodies. Shorter days, cooler weather – an opportunity to slow down, go to bed earlier, take stock of the previous months and contemplate what lies ahead. Recently, however, I wandered outside to visit my neglected vegetable beds and reacquaint myself with my edible garden.

Around the yard, the bare limbs of our apple, pear, and hazelnut trees were outlined against a heavy gray sky. Much of the garden appeared dormant and yet life pulsed just below the surface. A few beds offered their remaining bounty – herbs, a lone rutabaga and kohlrabi hiding beneath an overgrown forest of aragula, a last row of leeks, a small patch of beets.

As usual, I’ve impressed with the hardiness of greens like kale and swiss chard, and how they often persevere through frost and snow.  Aren’t we all like this – surprising in our resilience?

This year, I’d also purchased a seed packet of Scarletta, a variety of Chinese Cabbage from Territorial Seeds. The first spring sowing didn’t fare so well, although I began with transplants that I grew inside; snails quickly devoured many of the young cabbages and the rest bolted by early May.

I discovered that late summer is just the right time to start and transplant a second batch of Chinese Cabbage – the pests are fewer and the August-to-September weather is perfect (although well-applied row covers work wonders during any season). By the time I returned from a Thanksgiving trip out of town, these beautiful purple rosettes were ready to harvest.

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It turns out that timing is everything, and some things are worth waiting for.

A couple of days ago, I cut my first bundle of cabbage and julienned the brightly colored leaves into a raw slaw, tossed with a little salt, pepper, soy sauce, and sesame oil. It’s excellent sauteed, as well.

I’m really big on “eye hunger” (if you’re not familiar with this concept, we’ll cover it in a future Mindful Eating workshop) – I love an explosion of colors on the plate, so mixing it with kale and green onions makes me especially happy. Why feed only your mouth when the other senses can join the party?

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This particular winter is bittersweet because we’re pretty certain that we’ll be moving by next summer, so it’s likely my last with this garden. I’ll miss our sweet piece of land, and what it’s taught me, but I’ve realized over the past year that I really enjoy gardening in community. I love being around other people who like to dig in the dirt (or want to learn how). I’ve got some big ideas about growing The SAVOR Project into a non-profit therapeutic horticulture program and I look forward to moving these efforts back into an urban neighborhood setting.

[Because truly, edible gardening, mindful eating, and savoring practices are accessible to everyone…whether you’re tending kitchen window herb pots, cultivating a few patio containers, or growing a vegetable plot in the middle of your south-facing front yard.]

In the meantime, I’ll enjoy my kale and cabbage harvests while they last. Every meal is a chance to savor. Although to be honest, I’m already fantasizing about spring green possibilities, too.