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Winter Blues for Greens

Winter Blues for Greens

Janaki Jitchotvisut | Chef's Blade

You’d think, having been born and raised in the Midwest, that I’d have an easier time with the winter. And I try. Oh, do I try.

I spent my time as a child, vacillating between farmland wilderness and the hustle and bustle of Chicago. And eventually growing up in Chicago, but spending summers back out in the wild, learning how to plant things and also such important skills as the ability to recognize that ladybugs are our friends and are not, in fact, aphids. (It took an unfortunate incident when I was about five to teach me this, but the ladybug courts thankfully did not prosecute, as I was a minor.)

But unfortunately, we have this thing called “winter” here. And it’s a vicious, terrible, horrible thing if you’re trying to do your best to enjoy what’s seasonal and local and wonderful. And nothing feels quite as nice as wandering around any number of farmers’ markets in the sunshine, drinking in the atmosphere as you peruse any number of fabulous produce items for sale.

I also can’t help but miss Nichols’ Farms and Orchards’ stands at some of my local markets, because they consistently have some fantastic heirloom varieties of tomatoes and apples and things you just won’t find anywhere else. Their webpage may not be much to look at, but trust me – if you’re in the area, you’re missing out if you don’t obsessively track down which farmers’ markets they’re going to be at and when. Period. These people know their business, and they know it well. I’m getting a little sad just thinking of it, to be honest – it’s only February, and May is still three whole months away!

So what’s a local food lover to do in the dead of winter? My garden’s long covered under straw, mulched leaves, and loads of snow. All the farmers’ markets have closed up shop for the winter. It seems hibernation is advisable… or is it?

Not, it seems, if you head out to Heritage Prairie Market. I have to confess, I’ve been meaning to get out there for a very long time, but haven’t done it yet – despite the fact that at this moment, they’re the only game in town as far as “local farmers’ markets” go. Why haven’t I gone yet? Because I can’t ride right now. See what I meant about PMS? It would just be too heartbreaking to drive out there right now, knowing how much more fun I’d be having if I was riding.

So I’m going to make a pact with myself right here and now. The first opportunity I get, after the first big thaw and rain that cleans the streets of all the salt and nastiness that’s built up over the winter, I’m off to visit that market, trusty cooler bungeed to my pillion seat. Last winter, I distinctly remember a day in January that I was able to go out riding. The year before that, when I was still working on the south side of Chicago, I remember riding to work in January, too. Since we’re a few days into February, we’re obviously overdue for a thaw. Here’s hoping the weather gods cooperate while there are still lovely winter veg to be had.