The sweetness of winter: Harvest of the Month hones in on cabbage and carrots | TheUnion.com

The sweetness of winter: Harvest of the Month hones in on cabbage and carrots

Amanda Thibodeau
Special to The Union

February has been pretty manic. One moment we're in tank tops considering a dip in the Yuba, and the next we are stoking the fire and making soup. Despite what the daffodils may be telling you, it is still winter (just ask the folks in the middle of the country). And wintertime is a notoriously hard time to grow vegetables around these parts.

For years, many farmers just didn't do it. Luckily, as season extension technology has become more cost effective and common, and consumer demand has increased, more and more local producers are growing year round (which is no small feat when one day it's 70 degrees and the next it's 30).

Because of this uptick in year round food production, more crops are available for our community to eat at this time of year. Hooray!

The Nevada City Farmer's Market now runs year round, with a monthly winter market the first weekend of each month from 9 a.m. to noon. And programs and institutions like Harvest of the Month, the Foothills Fresh school lunch program, and Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital are buying record quantities of local produce — which in turn supports our farmers growing year round as well.

This month, Sierra Harvest helped to get over 1,000 pounds of sweet, winter carrots from Mountain Bounty Farm into the bellies of thousands of local students. Additionally, nearly 100 pounds of cabbage from Super Tuber Farm was served through the high school meal program and the Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital cafeteria.

If you've sampled winter produce, you may have noticed that it tends to be on the sweeter side. The reason for this phenomenon is plant protection chemistry. Now, even with some coverage in the field, it gets really cold at night this time of year.

Recommended Stories For You

Plants have to protect their cells from freezing. So what they do is rather genius — they turn their starches into sugars to keep themselves from freezing (sugar freezes at a lower temperature). The result? Super sweet carrots and cabbage.

These extra sweet local treats were made into a delicious slaw called Sambal by the Nevada Union culinary class, which was then served at three high schools for a special tasting at lunch.

A big thanks to Roberta DesBouillons for teaching the students how to prepare your delicious recipe and to Tracey Walsh and Tami Hadley-McVay for encouraging area high school students to eat local.

Get some sweetness and freshness on your plate and try the recipe yourself.

Sambal Slaw

This recipe is by Roberta DesBouillons, but adapted for Harvest of the Month tasting

Dressing:

1/4 cup fresh lime juice

1/4 cup honey

1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger

1 tablespoon minced serrano peppers

1 1/2 teaspoons garlic

1 teaspoon soy sauce

1/2 teaspoons salt

1/2 teaspoons ground black pepper

1/2 cups light olive oil

In the bowl of a food processor, combine the dressing ingredients, except the oil. Process on high speed. With the motor running, add the oil in a steady stream. Adjust the seasoning, to taste.

Sambal:

3 cups shredded cabbage — Organic, Local from Super Tuber Farm

1 cup shredded carrots — Organic, Local from Mountain Bounty Farm

3/4 cups chopped green onions

1/3 cups chopped fresh cilantro

In a large bowl (or many bowls), combine the remaining ingredients. Toss with the dressing, to taste, and serve.

Amanda Thibodeau was the director of the Farm to School program for six years and now writes the Harvest of the Month article each month for Sierra Harvest.