In the Garden:
Northern & Central Midwest
March, 2011
Regional Report

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These Chinese cabbage plants came through the winter and are happily growing in my cold frame.

Eat Locally

I'm so excited -- with our recent thaw, my cold frames finally emerged from beneath the heavy layers of snow. When I peaked inside of one, there were sturdy green spinach plants growing as if they had not been covered with snow and in darkness for weeks. In the other, my Chinese cabbage and mustard look just as good. The snow was a perfect insulation, and I couldn't resist opening the covers and picking a nibble.

I've been thinking a lot lately about local food. I'm teaching two vegetables classes, and the project we are working on is building an urban farm. So that naturally leads to thinking about the food we will produce there, as well as what's available to us as consumers.

Make Grocery Choices Wisely
We hear so much these days about eating locally as much as we can and are regularly shamed about our reliance on global foods. In many cases, though, it simply means that we need to be a bit more conscious about our choices in the grocery store. It's certainly hard to resist those beautiful red peppers, and the last ones I saw were from Holland. I passed them by because I couldn't help but think about how much energy it must have taken to get them here. I know, they are already here. But not buying them is my way of telling my grocer that I don't support bringing in foods from all over the world. Of course, that means I don't get to eat red peppers right now. But that's okay. I will eat red peppers in July when they're coming in around here.

Check out Local Farmers' Markets
I certainly don't mean to sound like I'm preaching. This was simply my decision. But there are actually foods available that have been grown more locally. With the improvements in greenhouse growing over the past years, almost everything is being grown indoors. Many local companies are producing greens year-round right here in the Midwest in high tunnels. All you need to do is check out the farmers' markets that are open in winter, and look closely at the tagging on vegetables in the grocery. They will say where they are grown and you can pick and choose as your desires dictate.

Grow Your own Greens Now
Spinach, mustard greens, and all sorts of oriental greens are extremely cold tolerant and are being grown in high tunnels and hoop houses all over the state. Mustard greens have become a staple in our house for use in stir-fries and soups. In fact, just about any green can be sauteed in garlic and olive oil for a healthy, tasty addition to rice, pasta and soups.

So, fire up your cold frame to grow your own greens, or check out your local indoor farmers markets. You'll be glad you did.








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