Winter Harvest Cookbook Review

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Category : Book and Movie Reviews

Winter Harvest Cookbook by Lane MorganEating as a locavore (a person who eats only locally grown food, as much as possible) means looking ahead to prepare for the lean winter months when few fresh ingredients are available in our cool winter climate. Part of preparing for winter involves preserving and storing fall harvested foods by canning, fermenting, freezing, salting, smoking, drying, and root cellaring.However, a Pacific Northwest winter isn’t a total fresh food wasteland. Besides crops that can be stored fresh, such as potatoes, apples, and winter squash, there are also a few foods that reach their flavor apex during winter, especially root vegetables such as beets, parsnips, carrots, etc.

I learned about how winter can enhance flavors first hand one February when I hadn’t finished cleaning up my garden in the fall. There were still some battered looking Brussels sprouts on sturdy stalks poking up through a light snow covering. I picked them as much out of curiosity as anything. By pulling off a few more outer leaves than usual from these giant sized sprouts, I ended up with some very healthy looking green globes. Steamed lightly, they turned out to be the sweetest and best Brussels sprouts I’ve ever eaten. I was enchanted!

Since then, I’ve enjoyed learning about winter vegetables and how to cook with them. One of the best resources I’ve found is a cookbook by local author Lane Morgan called Winter Harvest Cookbook: How to select and prepare fresh seasonal produce all winter long.

This wonderful book was first published in 1990. For its 20th anniversary in 2010, Morgan thoroughly revised and updated it and a new edition was released. It’s the kind of cookbook that’s fun just to read, even if you aren’t an avid cook.

Morgan, now a Bellingham resident, explains in the book’s new preface that she originally wrote the book while living on a homestead farm near the Canadian border. Cooking on a woodstove, gardening, and raising animals and children were part of her lifestyle at the time. Now a grandmother, she says, “I still garden year-round, but the livestock is gone along with the woodstove. I have a microwave, a food processor, and even a bread machine. What hasn’t changed is my appreciation of local food and sustainable practices, and my conviction that eating with the seasons is best for our health, our palate and our planet.”

Her writing and recipes reflect that appreciation and conviction. The book begins with an overview of winter ingredients, which included some new to me. Kale and kohlrabi I expected, but scorzonera and rampion were intriguing discoveries.

Morgan says, “There are no corn recipes in this book, no fresh tomatoes or sweet peppers, no green beans or eggplant, no strawberries or sugar snap peas. But implicit in the celebration of one season is the anticipation of the next. It’s like a secret spice that adds flavor to what we have right now.” I can relate to that. Right now while I’m still enjoying the bounty of late summer, I also give a nod to my Brussels sprouts, who will wait patiently for their first winter freeze a few months from now to give them special sweetness. And in the bed next to them, I’m already looking forward to next spring’s first harvest of fresh asparagus. It’s like being visited by old friends every season!

See a sample recipe from the book for Caldo Verde, reprinted with permission.

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