– by Solara Goldwynn –
This time of year on the Saanich Peninsula can seem a little bleak with regards to the availability of local food. Farmer’s markets won’t start up for a few more months, farm stands are typically bare, and garden beds are just beginning to wake up. However, eating local organic food year-round is one very important aspect of leading healthy lives (for us and the planet).
A little-known fact is that there could be something to eat outside every day of the year on the Peninsula. Although it’s not the same bounty as in the summer months, winter gardens can offer nutrient-rich additions to mealtime when seasonal colds, flus and lack of sunshine are taking a toll on our bodies. Whether you have a balcony or an acreage, here are several tips for year-round food:
Herbs: Mediterranean herbs such as sage, thyme, rosemary and oregano are good year round and add flavour and nutrients to most meals, from omelets to healing bone broths. Mint, lemon balm and fennel survive frosty temperatures on the coast and can be added to hot water for tea, enjoyed especially when feeling under the weather.
Winter Vegetables and Self-Seeding Annuals: Harvesting veggies through the winter requires planting in the summer, making sure that your seedlings get adequate water through drought months. Hardy varieties of kale, leeks and collards, as well as other leafy greens, survive freezing temperatures and snow here on the coast. Leaving root crops (beets, carrots, potatoes, etc.) in the ground through colder months is a great way to store veggies, to be harvested when needed. Mulching with leaves in the fall around edibles raises soil temperatures and protects crops from frost. Throughout the growing season let some favourite annuals set seed. The ones that survive normally thrive! Parsley, cilantro, arugula and corn salad can be perpetual additions that move themselves around your garden.
Perennial Vegetables: Although they take a few years to grow from seed, perennial vegetables are worth the wait. These deep-rooted, highly-nutritious plants often grow all year, or are the first to emerge in the late winter. Welsh onions, walking onions, perennial leek, sorrel, nettle and dandelion greens are considered cleansing and nutrient dense. Perennial tubers, like sun chokes, oca, mashua, and skirret – although uncommon in this part of the world – are delicious and loved in climates similar to ours.
If you add fermented vegetables, sprouts, micro-greens and dehydrated or frozen fruit to the mix, eating local is not only possible through the winter months, but also something to look forward to.
For more information visit www.hatchetnseed.ca.