Wednesday, December 17, 2008

We Have a Bowl of Kale Called "Sideshow Bob"...

...and a bucket of leeks we think of as...well, I imagine you can guess. To me, the resemblance to another distinctively coifed TV show character is uncanny.

I was embarrassed to admit, in a previous post, that our "root cellar" actually consisted of various boxes, baskets, and bins haphazardly strewn around our basement. But now I'm happy to report that I've since revved up my resolve, charged into the vegetable chaos, and put things in order.

We have a great spot for a root cellar, a closet space that opens into a half crawl space, half dirt-floored cellar area that we call "the dungeon." I had originally thought to put the storage shelf right in the dungeon, but it was way too scary in there--dank, cobwebby. I settled for the adjacent closet, where the temperature hovers around 50 degrees.

That should be fine for the potatoes, onions, garlic, and squash. I should have bought more onions, I realize. There's no way we're getting through the winter on what we have.

The other part of the root cellaring operation is the second fridge we have in the basement. We got it to hold extra baking supplies--case of butter, a few dozen eggs, extra bottles of buttermilk, etc. For the late fall and winter it's where we keep carrots, parsnips, apples, cabbage, 'kraut. (That's a jar of fermented baby eggplants in the gallon jar, back right; a very spur-of-the-moment attempt to save some produce that was a couple days away from the compost pile. I haven't gotten up the nerve to try them yet.)

To extend the harvest here in the frozen north, we've used root cellaring, freezing, drying, fermenting, pickling, and cold frames. One method we had not considered was hydroponic gardening, but we seem to have stumbled into that this year.

The "Sideshow Bob" kale pictured above is the tops of several lacinato kale plants we had in our community garden plot. They'd been sitting in plastic bags in the cool garage, and when I pulled them out they were looking a bit wilted. I put them in water in the big stainless bowl, and they perked right up.

That was some weeks ago. They stayed right perky in their bowl by the kitchen sink, and we've just been pulling off a few leaves as we need them. When I was changing the water in the bowl one day, I noticed that those snapped-off kale tops were actually starting to take root, and new growth was sprouting from the center.

This is not a great picture, but I think you can see the tiny white roots at the bottom, and the new, light green leaves. I suppose I could try potting them, see if I can get them through the winter.

That's where we stand for local produce as we approach the winter solstice, 2008. January, February, and March are the toughest months for keeping local, of course. Your resources become pretty limited, but that can lead to some really creative cooking. You'll see the results right here.

p.s.~ All you Simpsons-heads out there saw the resemblance immediately, I'm sure. For the rest of you, here he is, in all his diabolical glory, Mr Robert Underdunk Terwilliger, aka, "Sideshow Bob":

Text and photos copyright 2008 by Brett Laidlaw; Sideshow Bob image copyright Fox Broadcasting Company

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