Simple Pleasures from the Quasi-Winter Garden

Winter lettuce under Reemay

The lettuce beds are looking lush and fluff – if you lift the agricultural fabric swaddled over them, that is – providing huge bowls of greens, but, with the temperature regularly dropping below freezing (at night only for now, thankfully), I am hungering for soup.

(Alas, since no picture of tonight’s soup was taken, you must look at pictures of the winterized kitchen garden beds, and the still lovely lettuce – of which I am quite proud.)

Winter Growing Beds In The Kitchen Garden

A quick walk through the garden yielded enough to make a nutritious hearty soup, what I call my garden soup. What goes into the pot depends on what I have – the secret being to use a super rich broth*. Today’s picking was symptomatic on a late fall day – quasi-winter really.

- Cabbage: yes, some. Still small and not much of a head on most of them – since I planted them much later than I should. But It’s supposed to get down to 15F in a couple of nights and I am pretty sure they won’t like it (and the lettuce will probably suffer some damage too); so two small cabbage heads go in the basket. The tender hearts will be used for tonight’s soup; the outer leaves – which are edible – will be braised like kale for another meal: they are more robust, both in taste and texture, than the inner pale greens, and lend themselves well to braising.

- Carrots: oh yes!

- Celeriac: absolutely, we love its celery taste in soup, gratin & puree

- Herbs: plenty still. I picked a handful of sage, rosemary & thyme

Back in the house, I grabbed a few potatoes that have been in storage since early September. From the fridge, came a rich broth* made a few days ago and a partially pre-baked small winter squash (that had been picked in early September and stored).

Everything was diced roughly the size of my thumbnail – except for the cabbage with was cut in small wedges – and went into the pot with a knob of minced ginger and some left over white beans. I added enough broth to cover everything, brought the whole thing to boil and them simmered until tender – less than 30 minutes – adding a little bit of chopped meat remaining from a roast a few minutes before serving. I served hot with a swirl of roasted hot red pepper sauce, for extra vitamin C, and some good crusty bread.

So pretty much everything used for that soup was home grown or locally produced with a few exceptions: I added a ½ can of white beans to the soup to boost its protein content; the spices and onion I used to make the broth were bought at a local country store, but not produced locally.

It’s not the bounty of summer – but there is great pleasure in making this soup from my garden, and gratefulness in eating it on a cold night.

* Note: while I’ll post – at some point – directions on how I make rich broth, here is a good simple recipe for turkey stock from The Slow Cook, Ed Bruske’s blog.You may also check a prior post of mine here for quick chicken broth.

Note for the Locavore log. From the garden: all the veggies & herbs. Immediately local: chicken for the broth


3 comments

  1. Ed bruske says:

    Originally posted 12/3/08

    You should be proud. That’s gorgeous. When did you do your planting? How far south of Washington are you?

  2. sylvie says:

    Originally posted 12/3

    Ed, Washington, VA is 70 miles west of Washington DC. It’s a little cooler here, we are considered USDA Z6 – although are winter are quite muggy!

    I planted my seeds (lettuce, arugula, mizuna, packchoi etc) from August through October. This particular bed was direct seeded in the first part of October

  3. Vanille says:

    Originally posted 12/3

    Your lettuce looks amazing ! I wish I could have your green thumb… Vanille

    Vanille: keep trying. I have killed my unfair share of plants. Gardening is practice. Sylvie

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