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Growing a Garden All Year Long

Oct 31, 2017 02:03PM ● By Lesley Stiles

Conditions are Ripe for Winter Crops

By Lesley Stiles

The combination of shortened days coupled with cooler evenings creates the perfect environment for superb winter gardening, whether consumed by mouths, eyes, or the olfactory system. Perhaps the gardening-at-home bug eludes you? No fears – farmers’ markets are pretty much year-round in these parts, allowing you to partake of the best produce our local seasons have to offer at any time, so long as the farm has not burned down! A bad fire year for California for sure, with few untouched by loss, including our favorite wineries and farms. Prayers go out to all.

Greens are coming into their own this month along with pomegranates, persimmons, and winter squash. Kale can be had year-round, but in warmer months leaves are not quite as lushly thick with flavor and nutrition. Come cooler weather, leaves plump up and run sugars through muscle-bound veins so much you can smell the life of the plant. In the past several years, many different varieties of kale have popped up but none more lovely in stature and flavor than the purplish red kales, which sport snowflake cut-outs and varying shades of life-giving hues that run through their leaves. Colored by anthocyanins, the pigment mineral found in red wines, purple cauliflower (or just about any other scarlet hued fruit or vegetable) is not only pretty but also power packed with anti-oxidant nutrition.

Amazing chopped up and sautéed with garlic and olive oil, kale makes the best taste popping last addition to virtually any soup, sauce, stew or sauté you may be preparing. Try a couple handfuls in every protein shake you make along with cocoa powder and super soft and ripe Hachiya persimmons, adding just a touch of pumpkin pie spice for a luscious start to any winter day. Purchase stunning bunches and place in vases of water, treating eyes to a sweet gaze before satisfying the tongue.

Persephone is said to have been held prisoner for six months of the year by her husband, Hades, because he tricked her into eating six pomegranate seeds while she was his prisoner. This so devastated her mother, Demeter, that she no longer blessed the earth with fertility for those six months. This is one ancient explanation for the seasons I always talk about, but whatever the cause, when pomegranates come around, they are a delight to behold. Representing romance and mysticism can’t hurt either.

If the long process of cleaning stops you from partaking in the pomegranate, cut off the top, score the sides, and immerse in water to dislodge the arils. They will sink and the inedible pith will float. Use these sweet tart seeds to liven up a salad with Fuyu persimmon slices while dousing all in orange vinaigrette. Eat the seed along with the juice; this is where all the fiber is stored.

Pomegranates are packed full of vitamin C and are an amazing source of antioxidants. You can get fresh-pressed pomegranate juice all winter at most farmers’ markets. This nutrient-filled ruby nectar is a great sauce medium. Reduce two cups pomegranate juice with two cups stock. Take down by half and add a few tablespoons of honey, a handful of toasted walnuts, and a sprinkling of fresh thyme. Toss grilled chicken breast or, better yet, grilled eggplant to achieve romance and health in your life. Shake fresh-pressed pomegranate juice with a dash of soda water, a tablespoon of simple syrup, and a nice jigger of good vodka. Strain into an iced martini glass and garnish liberally with fresh arils and a wedge of lime to create the perfect holiday cocktail, literally guaranteeing passage at all the best parties of the season.

Butternut Squash and Herb Pasta

This is a really quick and yummy pasta that can also be made with quinoa, rice, faro, or any other grain that you love. Feel free to add as many veggies as you like!

1 large butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cubed

2 teaspoons olive oil

3 cloves garlic

Salt and pepper

1 pound regular or gluten free pasta (Ancient Grains makes a great one)

1 onion, chopped

2 teaspoons olive oil

4 cloves garlic, chopped

Handful fresh chopped herbs such as parsley, oregano, basil

½ to ¾ cup vegetable or chicken stock

1 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Salt and pepper to taste

Toss squash with olive oil, salt, and garlic and roast in a 400-degree oven for 20 minutes. Cook pasta in salted boiling water to al dente. Heat olive oil in a sauté pan, add onion and garlic, and sauté for 3 minutes. Toss cooked pasta, squash, and stock in and mix until heated through. Add herbs and season with salt and pepper. Garnish with cheese.

Serves 4.



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