The other side of thinking about reducing carbon emissions is the joyful work of being more connected to the place where we live, the people who surround us, and how we physically live in a physical world. We know, of course, that here in New England buying conventionally-grown food from California is unsustainable, and necessitates large fossil-fuel inputs for fertilizer, pesticide, irrigation, powering machinery, and storage and transport in refrigerator trucks. So what’s the alternative? How can we responsibly procure food for ourselves in the winter in New England?
Here in the northeast, we can grow winter storage crops and keep them with fairly minimal inputs through the winter. If we grow them ourselves, or buy them from organic producers, we can get a large percentage of our winter calories with some good karma attached. It does require cooking somewhat differently, and some forethought before the winter, but what’s that if you can have the coolth of having squash strewn around your living room, and nod knowingly and say “That’s my dinner!” when someone comes over and eyes them warily? Oh, and knowing that your dinner is helping build the world we want to see.
The practicalities: Things that like it dry and warmer (garlic, mature winter squash, &c) can stay in your living quarters, without anything special. That is, you can put them on shelves, or in a tub next to the couch (or, if you keep your living room warm, in a cooler part of the house – someplace that stays in the 60’s or lower). When they start to get squishy or mold (depending on the type of squash, its growing conditions, and how humid and warm your house is, that usually ends up being somewhere between February and the next fall), eat them up, or process them and put them in the freezer, or dehydrate them. In general, the cooler and drier the place, the longer the squash will last.
Ideally for root veggies, like carrots, potatoes, turnips and the like, you need a place that stays just above freezing, and that you can keep rather moist. What you’re trying to do is make these biennial plants think that they’re dormant and in the ground, so they’ll stay alive (and thus be fresh in January when you want to eat them). This is generally what’s thought of when the term ‘root cellar’ is used. A basement will usually work just fine. A covered porch that stays above freezing could work as well. Fill buckets with holes in the bottom (like the kind of pot that trees or shrubs from the nursery come in), or cardboard boxes with the roots, and check them periodically to make sure they’re not sopping wet (they’ll rot) or getting too dry and shriveled (just spritz them with water).
As for the cooking and eating habits that have to change? A heavy knife and large cutting board help for opening big winter squash, but an axe outdoors will work just as well. Then just swap out roots or squash for pasta or other grains in your meals, and presto, there’s dinner and more connection to place and less contribution to climate change all on your plate!
Some links to help you find where to procure your veggies from: