I blame the Ground Hog. For the snow and the ice and the polar vortex. Oh yeah, and the dearth of fresh local vegetables. That’s his fault, too.
In spite of the repellant little rodent, there are certainly options for eating local in winter. The G&G Long Island Farmers Market does business all winter long with locations in Baldwin and Huntington, and Taste of Long Island in Farmingdale always has an interesting selection of local vendors.
But, here’s the cold truth about eating local in winter: my chest freezer is my friend. I’ll say it. I’m a hoarder of frozen local produce. There may be a cable reality show in my future.
This serving of ratatouille was once zucchini, peppers and eggplant harvested from Restoration Farm in Bethpage. 2013 was a big summer for summer squash. I made vats of ratatouille. If I don’t get moving, I’ll still be eating it come June.
And, there’s more. Reach into my treasure chest of local food on ice, and you’ll find Ziploc bags of blueberries and strawberries harvested on the North Fork, tubs of heirloom tomato sauce, white bean and escarole soup, eggplant dip, spaghetti squash and kielbasa braised with local red cabbage. If I dig really deep, I might even unearth a jar of homemade pesto made with basil from my very own garden and a heritage chicken that once wandered the fields of Restoration Farm. It’s about time that one got roasted.
There are certain skills one must cultivate when dining local from the freezer. You must label and date your items, or risk the possibility that your hearty soup might end up at the bottom of the chest as a frosty, unidentifiable block of ice. And, you’ve got to plan for defrosting. Microwaving can be hard on frozen delicate summer vegetables. If you don’t plan, you’re likely to be having sandwiches for dinner.
Surely the biggest benefit of dining on a summer harvest on ice is the hope it offers that spring isn’t as far away as it might seem. I just got the notice that seeding of onions will shortly begin at Restoration Farm. God willing, there will once again be fresh local vegetables peeking out of the soil before we know it. We deserve it.
T.W. Barritt blogs at culinarytypes.blogspot.com