The Hungry Season

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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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.

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Our pantry is still well stocked with  jars of beans collected and dried over winter along with jars of preserved tomatoes from last summer.

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Supplementary protein at this time of year can also come from young nettles. Their season can be extended by regularly cutting them back before they can go to seed. They are a healthy additive to soups and also good mixed with other cooked greens Just remember to handle with gloves until cooked!

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All the large broccoli heads have been picked by now but there are still plenty of tender side shoots and the young broccoli leaves are also delicious steamed. Amongst the broccoli plants  a variety of  lettuces and silver-beet plants are still growing.

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Other fresh vegetables growing in the backyard at this time of year include spring onions, kale, warrigal greens (a native spinach) and perpetual native celery. The trick is to leave the plants alone and only harvest the leaves. Asparagus shoots are now making their entrance – a welcome new addition to salads and side vegetables.

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Fresh herbs are a staple growing all year round. They provide added flavour and variety as well as nutritional and medicinal value.

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And let’s not forget sprouts. Crunchy, healthy and so easy to grow. All these need is plenty of light and a little water. Another good source of protein, fresh or lightly cooked.

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Neighbourhood Share & Swaps and local farmers’ markets selling seasonal produce are also good ways of increasing the variety of fresh food at this time of year. By adding pantry staples such as lentils, chickpeas, rice, pasta and eggs, daily meals can remain healthy, nutritious and enjoyable.

 What do you grow and eat during  ‘the hungry season’?

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11 Responses to The Hungry Season

  1. Maxine Jones says:

    Good to have you back online!


  2. Your pantry is inspiring. 🙂

  3. jan2132 says:

    I came over from Rhonda’s blog. I did an enormous amount of Fowlers Vacola preserving when my sons were small, mush of it from a small but productive patch. Sometimes gifts, sometimes from a market or roadside stall if we were out. Gradually this eased as they grew up. Our lifestyle changed too and now , although fresh fruit is welcome, I rarely eat a dessert course at all.

    • I just love my Fowlers Vacola set, Jan. It’s the best investment I have ever made (oh, apart from my house…). 🙂

      • jan2132 says:

        I started with the smallest stove top container and went up gradually while I fed hungry teenage boys and their mates who arrived right on dinner, to an automatic electric set. Lots of work, but I knew what my family was eating. Strange how those boys always know dinner time, They were all fed and filled.

  4. selina says:

    have popped over from DTE blog, just read a few of your posts, interesting read & some good information on the climate change
    thanx for sharing

  5. Dani says:

    Love this article. I want to have a pantry like that one day (bring on a sunny garden in the future!) 🙂

  6. Jan says:

    Your oranges look absolutely beautiful, and I loves your jars of dried beans., I will be planting Borlotti beans for the first time this year.

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