The past week of warmth and sunshine might have made you think that winter's far, far off, but a trip to the farm stand will fill you in: summer, Indian or otherwise, is done. Tomatoes and corn have been replaced by winter squashes, alliums (onions, leeks, chives, garlic, and shallots), dark greens and a panoply of root vegetables. For cooks, especially those of us with access to local, farm-fresh produce, the bounty right now is almost overwhelming. But the real trick is making the harvest last the winter.
Local organic farmers Chris and Katie Cashen of the Farm at Miller's Crossing, in Hudson, know this all too well and do their best to inform their customers about how to keep their produce fresh for eating through the cold months. Successful storage is dependent upon both humidity and temperature, and techniques range from the basic (throw it in the fridge, or in a cold corner of a basement) to the more complex, involving sand or peat moss-filled buckets or even submerged outdoor pits.
Participants in the farm's CSA program received detailed instructions a few weeks ago on how to maximize the longevity of the current crops. The Cashens recommend refrigeration for everything from cabbages, and onions, to garlic and root vegetables. Winter squash, however, fare better in a cool, not cold, room where the air can circulate around them a bit. For vegetables stored in the refrigerator crisper, the addition of a damp rag will boost humidity, while a wrap of brown paper will bring it down. For really ambitious hoarders, information on more complex storage systems (basically, recreating the root cellar of yore) is available from the National Garden Association
But the Miller's Crossing upcoming bulk sale offers an even simpler solution—the option of storing quantities of produce in the farm's commercial coolers. "We realized early on that if we wanted people to buy in bulk, we had to help them solve their storage problem," says Chris Cashen. "You can understand why customers say 'I don't have anywhere to put fifty pounds of carrots.'"
The November 1st sale will include winter squash, celeriac, beets, potatoes, sweet potatoes, onions, garlic, braising greens such as collards and rapini, as well as organic apples from nearby Threshold Farm in Philmont, NY. Grass-fed beef (raised by the Cashens) will also be available. Customers who wish to store their purchases will be provided with labelled boxes for their stash. They may then pick up supplies as needed throughout the winter.
Cashen also wants his customers to know that the dirt left on the vegetables at the sale is intentional, and not just a marketing ploy to reinforce the idea that all is farm-fresh! Root vegetables retain more flavor and stay fresher if allowed to rest with the dirt still on them. In the depth of winter, maybe that whiff of earth, along with the flavors of these delicious local vegetables, will help you get through until spring.
The Farm at Miller's Crossing
81 Roxbury Road, Hudson; 518.851.2331
Bulk Sale: Saturday, November 1, 10 - 2
Cash or check only
Mexican food update:
The kitchen at Picante Uno
in Valatie is now open, serving tamales, tacos, enchiladas and tortas (Mexican sandwiches). The menu changes daily, at least for now, so call ahead if your heart is set on something specific. Otherwise, take your chances, and try something new. You won't be disappointed.