Time for winter. A lesson in minestrone seasons.

We miss our farm box vegetables so much. I bought some groceries at Nesters and made a giant pot of minestrone. My soup tasted like it had been sitting under fluorescent lights for a week.

Italian Food Forever writes:
I believe to make a really great minestrone you need to pay attention to the season and utilize the specific vegetables each season has to offer. In the spring I like to add fresh peas, lava beans, baby artichokes, or even diced asparagus such as in my Minestrone Verde. As summer approaches, I add zucchini, summer squash, baby spinach, diced green beans, and cherry tomatoes into my minestrone pot, and often add rice and serve the soup at room temperature as I do in my Summer Minestrone. In the fall, cubes of pumpkin, and rich, chopped greens such as chard, kale, or chicory celebrate the seasonal change to cooler temperature, and during the winter, potatoes, canned tomatoes, canned beans, and winter squash are often added and the soup can be then be served very warm as in my Winter Minestrone.

A minestrone is supposed to be cooked according to the season. My fresh summery green beans had no place in a fall soup. Not just because they were not “fresh from the farm” or local even, and aside from the fact they tasted quite like a bag of jolly green giant frozen french cuts. Even our bodies know its cold outside. My stomach wants to go into hibernation with stews and roasting and baking. Simple ingredients. A soup with maybe 3 things in it instead of the summer abundance of 15.

I’m lucky enough to live on the west coast where all this is in season:
What's in Season- November

I found a handy chart to look up what’s coming up in the next few months from the BC Farmer’s Market Association:

What’s in season in November?
Apples, Brussels Sprouts, Cabbage, Carrots, Cauliflower, Garlic, Leeks, Onions (cooking), Pears, Rosemary, Sage, Thyme, Turnips, Winter Squash.

What’s in season in December?
Apples, Brussels Sprouts, Cabbage, Garlic, Pears, Rosemary, Sage, Turnips, Winter Squash.

What’s in season in January?
Apples, Cabbage, Pears, Rosemary, Sage, Turnips, Winter Squash.

What’s in season in February?
Apples, Cabbage, Pears, Rosemary, Sage, Turnips.

What’s in season in March?
Apples, Pears, Rosemary, Sage.

What’s in season in April?
Apples, Asparagus, Chives, Pears, Rhubarb, Rosemary, Sage, Spinach.

It looks like rough months ahead until april. Out of curiosity I had to check out how my family in alberta would fare in snowy weather:
Courtesy of localeating.ca
Brussels Sprouts
Cooking onions
Cucumbers (greenhouse)
Eggplant (greenhouse)
Fresh herbs (greenhouse)
Lettuce (greenhouse)
Peppers (greenhouse)
Table potatoes
Tomatoes (greenhouse)
Winter Squash

to January:

Cucumbers (greenhouse)
Eggplant (greenhouse)
Fresh herbs (greenhouse)
Lettuce (greenhouse)
Peppers (greenhouse)
Tomatoes (greenhouse)

Thank goodness for the greenhouse I guess! I am jealous of all of you with a winter CSA. In the rainy season it’s hard to get the energy to bundle up and head to a market at 10am on a Saturday. Wouldn’t you rather sleep in and order some food?
I’m equally envious of those of you with an overwintering garden who can throw on some boots and get some potatoes from the backyard.
Good for you if you were smart and preserved some greens in the freezer or jammed your berries, pears, and fruit.

I’ve learned that it’s not depressing to only have a choice of three vegetables for a few months. It’s more depressing to eat a summer recipe in mid- November when it truly cannot taste the same.

What happened to the minestrone? We ate it, grudgingly, for 2 days then I froze the rest.

After a sad week of an unhealthy project bender on white spot, KFC, and yes a pizza hut hot dog pizza, (our lovely cat had just died) I needed vegetables again. I pulled out the minestrone from the freezer and picked out the wobbly green beans and re-appropriated the soup into a Minestrone ‘Manestra”.

It costs a can of tomatoes, some onion and garlic, orzo, and some leftover soup. It was lovely.

How to use leftover minestrone: A minestrone Manestra

Saute half an onion until translucent
add 2 garlic cloves, red chili flakes and herbs (I used some dried marjoram).
Stir until fragrant – about 30 seconds.
Add leftover soup (4 cups)
Add a can of tomatoes and Juice (3 cups)
add enough water (1 cup) so you have 8 cups of liquid for 2 cups of orzo.
Bring to a boil.
Add orzo, and simmer for 15-30 minutes until orzo is swelled with the soup and soft. Stir often (orzo will stick to the bottom and burn otherwise).
Let rest 10 minutes off heat.
Serve with some parmesan (or feta, to be greek) and parsley.

I look forward to sharing more recipes this winter. Happy cooking everyone.

From Home in Greece: Another Manestra idea here, using a bit of beef and onion

We made a little video of our orange cat Weezie, you can view it here.


4 Comments to “Time for winter. A lesson in minestrone seasons.”

  1. Excellent posting. Good save on the minestrone with Manestra. Having moved from Alberta to Vancouver to escape winter, ironic that the supply of fresh vegetables is abundant in a snowy landscape.

  2. what a helpful post! Always great to have an ‘in season’ reference post!

  3. yes!!! i always feel like im dying inside when i have a tomato dish from fresh tomatoes in january. it isn’t the same. i’d much rather eat a crap ton of leafy greens, turnips (blech!), and brussel sprouts for 3 or 4 months… and then enjoy the tomatoes when they’re at their best – high summer.

    p.s. i miss the west coast so much!!!!! living in toronto, there is very little truly happy food. i have no problem getting local veg, but none of it is organic. if i want organic, it comes from argentina or something. they dont support pastured meat too much. and craft beer and quality local wine is elusive. jealous.

  4. ps. this is an excellent post! the wednesday fresh foods link up goes live tomorrow night (midnight EST) – i’d love to see you there!

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