Towards the end of winter we all long for the warmth and sunshine of Spring. But early Spring can be a lean time in the kitchen garden. That is why this period was traditionally referred to as ‘the hungry season’. Green vegetables are bolting and stores of potatoes, onions and root vegetables are running low. Spring vegetables have only just been sown and won’t be ready to harvest for several months.
Nowadays most of us don’t notice because supermarkets do such a great job of supplying us with cheap and abundant ‘fresh’ produce all year round. Yet, depending on where we live and the local climate, this produce is often imported and holds a high carbon footprint.
So what are we eating this month and how do we maintain and enhance productivity and variety in the garden and on the plate? Let’s begin with fruit.
Despite enjoying our fruit preserves daily throughout winter we still have over 30 jars of last summer’s fruit left in our pantry.Throughout summer we preserve over 100 jars of fruits – mostly plums, apricots and peaches. During the autumn months we put away apples, pears and feijoas, and make jams, pickles and chutneys. The fruit comes from the surplus grown in our own and our neighbours’ gardens as well as local farmers’ markets.
The orange tree in the backyard provides kilos of fresh oranges for us and the neighbourhood throughout the winter months. It remains productive until early Spring. At this time of year though our oranges become very precious and we have to stop sharing them to extend our eating season.
Throughout Autumn the apple tree produced kilos of Granny Smiths – a good keeping apple which can be picked and stored for several months in a cool, dark place. These stored apples are now beginning to soften so this week I stewed and froze the lot in glass jars. Another variety of fruit to enjoy over ‘the hungry season’.
Ok, so we are not going to miss out on fruits. But what about protein and fresh vegetable?
The vine of Madagascar beans is now barren of leaves but there are still plenty of dry pods to pick. The beans can be eaten fresh, straight from the pod or dried and stored. A good source of protein, one plant produces more than enough for a small household all year round.
Our pantry is still well stocked with jars of beans collected and dried over winter along with jars of preserved tomatoes from last summer.