Piglets born circa Feb. 18, 2017, photographed Feb. 23 by Judy Isacoff

NATURE’S TURN: The sun reigns – birthing in the barnyard, digging deep into winter’s cache

As winter turns toward spring, I’m inspired to dig deep into my pantry and pull out dried seeds that may have been there for many seasons; to look them over and turn them into the fresh food I crave – by sprouting.

February 27 – March 12, 2017

Mt. Washington — Squirreling away a cache of food is as habitual among home cooks and gardeners as it is for squirrels. As winter turns toward spring, I’m inspired to dig deep into my pantry and pull out dried seeds that may have been there for many seasons; to look them over and turn them into the fresh food I crave – by sprouting (more about this later). As for garden produce stowed in spaces that are between 33 and 45 degrees, some varieties of onions, garlic, potatoes and winter squash are pushing the limits of their storage potential. Carrots and beets kept in a refrigerator or root cellar have to be checked regularly to avoid waste. This exercise also helps to inform our choices of the most hardy varieties to plant in our new year’s garden. As for frozen vegetables, our ingenuity is called upon to pick up the pace of including the stash of leafy greens and green beans in side dishes and, along with pestos, combine into soups and croquettes.

Red squirrel burrow with red oak acorn shells. Photo: Judy Isacoff
Red squirrel burrow with red oak acorn shells. Photo: Judy Isacoff

In the midst of the flurry of tasks related to end-of-winter food storage and planning for the new season’s gardens, I went out exploring on snowshoes. Just 10 yards from my door, I discovered that another mammal had been engaged in a similar activity. It appeared that a red squirrel had dug into its store of acorns and brought some out of its burrow for a picnic on the elevated snow porch that surrounded the hole that led deep underground! There were no tracks (therefore no positive identification), which led me to believe that the food gathering had been done from the nearby stand of red oaks before the snows came.

Last week, seeds I found in my pantry included clover, radish and broccoli along with wheat berries, adzuki, navy and Aunt Ada beans (see “Opportunities to Participate,” below, for complete directions for sprouting). For starters, I poured a cupful of adzuki beans into a half-gallon Mason jar, added two cups water, swished and let soak overnight. I also spooned 4 tablespoons of each of the small seeds into quart-sized jars and left them to soak overnight. They have grown into fresh salad and crunchy additions to sandwiches, appetizers and soups. A whole new set of jars are in service to provide for next week’s meals.

Radish sprouts, top; adzuki, middle; and clover. Photo: Judy Isacoff
Radish sprouts, top; adzuki, middle; and clover. Photo: Judy Isacoff

I find that Redwing and Copra onions keep perfectly until late spring. My records are not clear about Stuttgarter and Cippolini. Several onions I’ve grown as curiosities are putting out great green leaves. I’ll cook those first. Soon, onion soup will be on the menu. Cosmic red carrots are the first to sprout, not meant for long storage.

When I arrived at Fern Farm to purchase eggs from truly free-range hens, Kathy Torrico showed me the fragrant, even-grained garlic powder she had just made as a way to preserve cloves before they sprout. I am pickling a portion of my harvest by packing peeled, halved cloves in jars of sauerkraut juice (see “Opportunities to Participate,” below, for other pickling options).

Opportunities to Participate

Saturday, March 4, Mad Gardeners Symposium, Just Plain Gorgeous – Resilient Landscapes for Drought or Deluge, Housatonic Valley High School, Falls Village, Connecticut: https://madgardeners.com/

Sprouting Information:

https://www.treehugger.com/green-food/grow-your-own-sprouts-jar.html

https://sproutman.com/all-about-growing-sprouts/

https://sproutpeople.org/sprouters/sprouting-jars

Pickling Garlic:

https://www.culturesforhealth.com/learn/recipe/lacto-fermentation-recipes/lacto-fermented-garlic-cloves

https://foodpreservation.about.com/od/LactoFermentation/r/Lacto-fermented-Garlic-Recipe.htm

https://www.growingagreenerworld.com/pickled-garlic-recipe-video/

https://www.eatingwell.com/recipe/250668/pickled-garlic-cloves

Sources and Resources

Eggs – Fern Farm, Mt. Washington, Kathy Torrico, (413) 528-2305