By Tina Casagrand
Fall never seems to last very long in mid-Missouri. Good apples ripen and fall, the Hartsburg Pumpkin Festival whizzes by in a weekend, the last tomatoes drop off the vine, and jack-o-lantern smiles melt into dirt.
Winter’s here. The veggie stock’s down. But that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a fresh, fruitful bounty from local producers. It just means you have to do things differently. Here are five things we learned from Columbia farmers at the last outdoor market of the season:
Hens slow down as the days get shorter
The Stanton Brothers don’t use synthetic lighting for their hens. “We keep enough lights on to keep the varmints away, and enough for them to see their feed,” says Andrew Stanton. Otherwise, they let their little ladies slow down with the season (unlike industrial hen houses which have no windows, keep bright lights on year-round, and click from instant light to instant darkness on timers).
And because it’s so cold, the Stantons have to gather eggs every couple of hours or else they’ll freeze and break. While this means slower production, it doesn’t mean you can’t still find delicious Stanton Brothers eggs at the winter farmers market, Clovers and HyVee in Columbia at the same price you get them in the summer.
High-nutrient products are still available
Greg Sellmeyer promises that his farm will keep squash and sweet potatoes “deep into the winter.” They also have eggs, dried apples, and all kinds of bread: winter squash bread, persimmon bread, zucchini bread, and banana bread.
See the Guide to Eating Seasonal for more winter produce
Chestnuts roast well on a Missouri fire
It’s the first word in The Christmas Song. What’s more wintry than that?
The MU Center for Agroforestry leads the Midwest in an effort to create a chestnut industry in this part of the country by crossing the American chestnut with a Chinese chestnut resistant to blight.
The nut won’t hit a boom for a couple of decades, but in the meantime, the Center hosts a yearly roast, sells at the farmers market for a few weeks (but no more this season), and will also make an appearance downtown at the Living Windows Festival on December 5.
In the meantime, why not whip up some tasty chestnut dishes with these recipes?
Keep frozen berries in the freezing months
You can still buy frozen blackberries from Manitou Farm for $6 a quart. Use them in fresh pies, or make preserves! It’s a great way to keep some fruit in your diet during the cold months.
Keep this in mind next summer when berries reach their peak. You can buy them for a low price and keep them around all year.
There’s lots of local lamb around for pies and soups
Flatbranch Pub and Brewing offers a delicious seasonal shepherd’s pie, but to make your own, look no further than Susie’s Grassfed Meats. She keeps lamb available year-round, but with less grass, there’s a little less for them to eat. In the winter, they much on a lot of forages and the best quality hay Susie Everhart can find.
She didn’t have a shepherd’s pie recipe on hand, but when we asked about the best winter lamb meal, Susie smiled and shuffled through books at the back of her trailer. She returned with a magazine clipping. This lamb soup recipe, she said, is an absolute favorite.