January

That huge, blood-orange moon rising behind the skeletal trees, lighting up dark fields where dry grasses give way to green and frost is sparkling on the icy fabric that protects tender winter row-crops… almost makes these chilly temperatures picturesque and charming. The chickens get extra insulation in the henhouse. The citrus trees get covered to keep them from dying of frostbite. Tender young plants are nibbled by hungry sparrows. The cabbages and broccoli, tough as they are, stop and wait for a warmer day to get back to growing.

Indoors, seed catalogs cover the kitchen table, a perennial sign of absurd optimism and renewed ingenuity. After last year’s extreme summer, where the number of days over 104 degrees overwhelmed many plants and the UV rays were at 10 on a scale of 10 far too often – enough to scorch my nylon clothesline to glittery powder at times – “extreme” has become the new “normal”. So seed selection now focuses on heat tolerant, disease resistant, and drought tolerant tough-guy plants. A row of wind-blocking plants has been started to reduce erosion and evaporation. Shade cloth made some difference in plant survival last summer, so a couple of rolls are in the shed at the ready, and seed starting will be farmed out to a friend’s greenhouse for babysitting until the plants are fierce enough for whatever comes along weather-wise.

Small, agile farms can respond this way to dramatic, unpredictable climate change or “global weirding” (and if anybody still doubts the seriousness of it, just ask a farmer.) Large, mono-cropping farms face a harder and more expensive challenge. In Florida, where citrus trees were hit by hurricane Irma and now freezing temperatures, growers are expecting the lowest harvest in decades and a loss of trees for future crops. In an article by Kevin Hecteman in the Daily Democrat, last year’s tomato crop in Yolo County yielded about 10.5 million tons, much lower than the 2016 crop of 12.5 million tons, and farmers were paid a lower price as well. What a rotten deal!

Where will our food come from in the future and what will it cost? Will it take more energy to grow food – for example hothouses in winter and shade structures with fans in the summer? We’ll need more renewable energy! What forms of farming should we be supporting, as consumers, to ensure we have affordable, fresh and delicious produce in the future? How do our food choices affect climate change? I am shamelessly biased when I recommend we eat locally and seasonally, and that we support small and diversified farms. But in 2013, the United Nations Commission on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) consulted with 60 experts who recommended small, sustainable, natural and organic systems as more able to feed the world while decreasing farming’s contribution to climate change.

So, as I spend extra time babying my plants this winter, rolling with the weather drama as we go, adjusting my chores to the quirky wetness or temperature changes, I expect 2018 will be a year of resilience and determination, and hopefully a few wise or lucky choices. As the days get a little longer and brighter, that inexplicable optimism rises again…

What can we cook with seasonal veggies to fortify us, to make us feel resilient, determined, wise or lucky and maybe even a little optimistic?  Black eyed peas turn up in many new year’s dishes, reputed to bring good luck, and we all need some fresh greens at this time of year, so…

 

Black-eyed peas, Fresh Greens, and Pasta

Why this is healthy Beans bring the fiber, potassium, folate, vitamin B6 but also keep your colon clean. The protein-fiber balance is a big help for regulating sugars too. Leeks and garlic offer allicin, great for your cardio-vascular system, has anti-microbial power, and may fight both cancer and the common cold. Greens are loaded with anti-oxidants, calcium and iron.
Why this tastes great Garlicky taste balances the mellow beans and fresh greens.
Why this is easy One pot, a little chopping, stir, serve.
Featured ingredients Black eyed peas

Leek and garlic

Greens

Secondary benefits High in protein, low in fat!
Season Fall – Winter
Note If you have trouble with beans causing gassiness, add one leaf of the mexican herb Epazote – it’s nature’s beano.

 

Ingredients

  • 2 Tbs. olive oil
  • 1 large leek, quartered, white and light green parts chopped (2 cups)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced (2 tsp.)
  • a pinch each of parsley, sage, rosemary and oregano
  • 8 oz. kale or collards, tough stems removed, leaves cut into 2-inch pieces (4 cups)
  • 4cups diced tomatoes
  • diced green chiles to taste
  • ¾ cup dried black-eyed peas  (soaked over night)
  • 1 qt. low-sodium vegetable broth
  • ¾ cup farfalle pasta
  • optional (vegan) Parmesan cheez

Directions

  1. Heat oil in large pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add leek, and sauté 5 to 7 minutes, or until soft. Add garlic and herbs, and sauté 1 minute more. Stir in kale, and cook 5 to 7 minutes, or until leaves are wilted, tossing occasionally.
  2. Add diced tomatoes, diced chiles, black-eyed peas, vegetable broth, and 7 cups water; season with salt and pepper, if desired. Cover, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer 40 to 45 minutes. Stir in pasta, and cook 7 to 10 minutes more, or until pasta is al dente and black-eyed peas are tender.

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