Today is the day of winter solstice which marks the beginning of the coldest time of the year – the true winter, with freezing winds and ground frost at night. Our fireplace gets a good workout, and we do as well, carrying heavy firewood from the storage at the top of the garden every morning. Hearty winter casseroles and jars of fermented vegetables rule in the kitchen.
In our winter hibernation we gardeners dream about the warm days of spring. Many of us do more than just dream – we plant a few vegetables now, mostly greens or some long-term crops, such as beets, cabbages, garlic, onions, peas or potatoes. July is the month when we plant the least number of edible plants. This is the fallow time of the year, with very little happening in the food garden.
Most of the autumn crops were cleared, the soil rests under winter manures and soft mulches of slashed comfrey and yarrow, but citrus trees still hang heavy with fruit. Winter weeds pop up and some are picked for salads or to make medicines, but no other weeding is done. The hens have nearly stopped laying and fluff up their new feathers, huddling together at night.
Yesterday I harvested various edible and medicinal roots and corms. I am always amazed by the abundance of food I get from a few pieces of roots or a pinch of seeds. Two small pieces of turmeric I planted formed two huge bunches of bright orange, finger-shaped knobs. A couple of water chestnuts grown in a styrofoam box became 1 kg of nuts. Three small slips from a sweet potato plant are now 5 kilograms of pink-orange goodness.
I will keep these crops in a storage room under the house. The turmeric will be used to make a tonic and some of it will be dried, then powdered and packed into jars.
Fresh turmeric is not only great looking, but is also a very strong anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant and cancer prevention medicine. You can use it together with other seasonal winter crops (such as grapefruit, lemon or ginger) to make fantastic tonics to alleviate symptoms of arthritis and to protect yourself from winter colds.
A turmeric tonic recipe was published on this blog as The Healing Power of Turmeric