Archive for January, 2013


The Future of Farming Has Four Legs

Thursday, January 31st, 2013

Today, many farmers are finding magic in what was once considered a primitive technology — draft power — and helping fuel a rapid and passionate resurgence.

Once upon a time, coaxing food out of the earth required our whole bodies, working in tandem with the immense strength of horses and oxen, in teams powered by the strength of the relationship between us and our four-legged companions.

Horses (as well as mules and oxen) were once a farmer’s only method of traction power. If you needed to pull something heavy across any distance, you hitched up your team—to plow, till your fields, weed them, cut your hay, or take your produce to market. Combines the size of farmhouses being guided by GPS and not a farmer’s voice weren’t to be seen, as they often are in today’s American Midwest.

Today, advanced technologies — and the natural resources and petroleum products needed to fuel them — are omnipresent in agriculture, if not our daily lives. Most of spend our days staring at a glowing screen, pushing text around or copying numbers into spreadsheets — disconnected from that long ago, earthy past. But you’d be mistaken if you thought we could sever the ties completely. We remain dependent upon myriads of diverse beings, from bacteria to beasts, even as we wage wars against the former with soaps and sprays, and sequester the latter to feedlots and distant warehouses.

Thankfully, we are in the midst of a rapidly growing local food movement plowing ahead with all the passion of the back-to-the-land movement, plus all the pragmatism you’d expect from capitalism. The current resurgence of small-scale, holistic, sustainable agriculture has been inspired by many things: A growing awareness of our precarious environmental situation thanks to climate change, a deepening dissatisfaction with a life divorced from nature, and a deep desire to restore the interconnections that make us human.

That desire has led new farmers to try methods of working the earth that go beyond productivity in the narrow sense of how much profit can be gained from an acre of soil. Instead we see farmers using techniques gleaned from permaculture, from biodynamics, from all sorts of traditional skills that respect the ecological cycles of life, and incorporating animals into the farm-system at every step. Curious, passionate farmers today ask not only how many tomatoes they need to pay their mortgages. They ask how much happiness can be packed into a lifestyle? How much magic?

In this quest for reconnection, and a deeper understanding of what it means to be human, farmers are increasingly putting their tractors out to pasture.

In the introduction to his forthcoming book, The New Horse-Powered Farm, longtime horse farmer Stephen Leslie says, “this book is not about trying to go back to some idyllic past. It is designed to be a manual to help us move a few steps forward to a more sustainable future.”

The book will augment the efforts of organizations like the Draft Animal Power Network and publications like the Small Farmers Journal that have been instrumental in keeping the tradition of horse-powered farming alive. They bring teamsters with decades of experience together with new farmers just getting started with draft animals (and yes, they take plenty of beautiful photos of strong and intelligent animals at work)—from Donn Hewes’s towering mules (pictured above and to the right), to Jean Cross’s adorable miniature horses, and Stephen Leslie’s Fjords with their punk-rock manes (above left), and even the Green Mountain College oxen.

Instead of noxious diesel exhaust, draft animals plowing fields emit nitrogenous fertilizer to feed the soil. Instead of rumbling engine noise, they just snort, whinny, or moo now and then. And instead of depreciating in value over time like your John Deere, animals trained to harness only become more valuable the longer you work with them. Can you imagine a tractor being glad to see you in the morning? Or giving birth to baby tractors?

You can’t bond with a machine. And on every level, from the probiotics in your diet, to the resilience of your community, relationships are the locus of real magic.

Photo Credits, from top to bottom: William Stack, Jennifer McCharen, Draft Animal Power Network

Save on Select Sustainable Agriculture Books

Wednesday, January 30th, 2013

In an era of ebooks and digital friends, good old fashioned fellowship is still one of the best ways to share inspiring ideas, swap tips with fellow craftsmen in your field, and start learning a new skill.

Winter is the season of sustainable farming conferences where you can do just that, and several of our authors are hitting the road to share their stories and their expertise. Take a look at the full list of author conference appearances here.

Whether you’re interested in fermentation, cheesemaking, running a resilient homestead, or using horses for draft power, sustainable farming conferences are a great opportunity to get hands-on experience and find mentors to guide you. Some highlights from the coming season include:

  •     Jack Lazor’s workshop on growing and processing oats in Vermont (NOFA-VT, February 15-17)
  •     Gianaclis Caldwell’s workshop on managing a raw milk dairy safely (PASA, February 8-9)
  •     Stephen Leslie’s workshop on The New Horse-Powered Farm (NOFA-NH, March 1-2)
  •     Eliot Coleman’s seminar on keeping the farm in the family (NOFA-VT, February 15-17)

In addition to our authors, Chelsea Green staff will be at many of these winter conferences, and many of our books will be available to browse in-person. We love getting a chance to talk face to face with our readers, so please stop by to say hello.

We hope to see you out there!

P.S. Have you ‘liked’ us yet? Our Facebook page is a great way to stay connected to our authors, find out about special events, get how-to tips for gardening, as well as plenty of news about the politics and practice of sustainability. So, if you haven’t yet, click on over, and let us know how much you ‘like‘ us!

Winter Conference Kick Off Sale: 35% off 

 Books on sale until February 15th.

Eat. Meat. Repeat. It’s National Meat Week!

Tuesday, January 29th, 2013

An oft-repeated koan of the conscious or ethical foodie movement and the environmental movement is that adopting a vegan diet will do more to heal the ills of the planet than buying a brand new Prius.

Here at Chelsea Green, we believe that it’s unreasonable to expect the entire meat-loving world to give up their steaks and drumsticks, their shortribs and salame, their sashimi and their kibbe. Instead of a radical approach, influenced as much by ideology as it is by positive intention, we would like to suggest a corollary to the meatless mission: eat less meat, grassfed only, local if possible.

Since this is National Meat Week, a relatively new holiday created by Erni Walker and Chris Cantey, it’s a perfect time to try some new recipes specifically designed for sustainably-raised meats. If you haven’t already, you should also browse your local farmers’ offerings at Local Harvest or FarmPlate to find a source of good meat near you.

Eating the entire animal is a good way to maximize the pleasure and nutrition one can get from carnivory. Grassfed beef farmer Shannon Hayes’s new book, Long Way on a Little is designed to help meat-lovers do this. Check out her four “offal” recipes, recently shared by Mother Earth News.

Hayes’s other books also encourage conscious eaters to enjoy meat responsibly. The Farmer and the Grill, and The Grassfed Gourmet Cookbook are both excellent additions to any planet-loving omnivore’s kitchen bookshelf.

If you already have a stockpile of excellent recipes, but want to learn more about why and how meat can be part of a healthy planet, you might want to check out Simon Fairlie’s info-packed book Meat: A Benign Extravagance.

Fairlie makes the case for pastured livestock as part of a soil-healing, integrated permaculture system. His arguments are strong enough that they even made George Monbiot change his mind about the benefits of a vegetarian diet! Even if you’re already convinced, Meat will give context and depth to your understanding of just why meat doesn’t have to be taboo—and some great talking points when you’re debating your vegan or vegetarian kin.

For people in climates with cold winters, meat has traditionally been a reliable source of nutrition through the dark half of the year. Of course, with well-insulated homes, heaters of all shapes and sorts, refrigerators to keep food fresh INSIDE our toasty warm houses, and a globalized food system that provides even Vermonters with fresh tomatoes in February you can understand why we’ve lost touch with some of our traditional foodways.

Full Moon Feast, by Jessica Prentice seeks to re-educate us about these traditions, and how they intertwine with the changing seasons. With a chapter for each month, or moon, this cookbook is full of interesting lore and delicious recipes. Try this one for Meat Week: Swedish Meatballs.

Another way to look at the meat issue is by paying careful attention to the health of livestock animals. Cattle, pigs, and poultry raised in commercial-scale facilities and fed corn and soy rations laced with antibiotics are definitely worth avoiding for many reasons. But chickens raised with care in your backyard or on a farmer’s pasture are a completely different story.

Harvey Ussery cares for his flock with a holistic attitude influenced by his studies in Zen Buddhism. His book, The Small-Scale Poultry Flock, outlines Ussery’s methods for raising healthy and happy birds, including how to pasture them, and how to raise a completely local food source for them by harvesting grubs. He even includes a few recipes, like this one for making a simple, versatile, and healthy broth.

A Short History of Agricultural Seed

Monday, January 28th, 2013

Seeds are the foundation of agriculture.

As John Navazio describes in this excerpt from his new book, The Organic Seed Grower: A Farmer’s Guide to Vegetable Seed Production, America was once home to hundreds of small-scale seed producers, each of which developed seeds adapted to grow best in the surrounding region.

Today, following the trend of most business, just a few large companies provide seed for farmers everywhere. With the advent and rapid spread of transgenic seeds, and companies like Monsanto actually owning patents to the organisms they sell, we’ve come a long way since the first human saved the first spelt seed back in the Fertile Crescent!

What have we lost in the move to corporate seed production? Navazio explains in this excerpt, and points the way to a better system.

A Short History of Agricultural Seed: An Excerpt from The Organic Seed Grower by

The Wolf Moon: An Excerpt from Full Moon Feast

Friday, January 25th, 2013

The solstice is behind us, and sun is slowly returning to the land, but if you live in a northern climate chances are you’re still shoveling snow and huddling by the fire to keep warm during this dark time of year. 

Jessica Prentice’s cookbook Full Moon Feast shares traditions from each “moon” of the year, along with seasonal recipes. The excerpt and recipe below are for the deep midwinter, or Wolf Moon.

The Wolf Moon comes in the deep dark of winter, when the North is covered with snow. At this time of year our northern ancestors would have taken refuge in their homes, staying close to the fire as the winds and the wolves howled outside. Families lived off the food they had put up in the fall, often supplemented by hunting for wild game. It was these rations that kept the wolf from the door.

The wolf as a metaphor for hunger, appetite, or famine dates back to at least the fifteenth century. Over the past sixty years we have steadily driven the metaphorical wolf from our door, and we have also steadily driven the actual wolf from the land. We have also, perhaps, driven the wildness of the wolf from our hearts. These developments are not unrelated. By the mid-1970s wolves, once the most populous large mammals in North America, had become an endangered species. The development throughout the American West of large tracts of rangeland for cattle and sheep, and the widespread practice on the part of ranchers of shooting predators on sight, contributed to the wolf ’s demise. Agricultural and urban development also steadily eroded the large, uninterrupted areas of wilderness where wolves thrived.

Cream of Butternut Squash Soup
Serves 3–4

This is one of my favorite cold-weather standards. The primary recipe is for an herby, European-style squash soup. Then I offer an Asian-style variation.

  • 2 tablespoons butter or olive oil
  • 2–3 leeks, sliced into rounds
  • 1 fresh seasonal butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into chunks
  • Chicken stock or filtered water to cover
  • 1 bouquet garni (page 309)
  • ½ cup cream, crème fraîche, or yogurt; or 1 cup buttermilk or half-and-half
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Crème fraîche or yogurt, for garnish
  • Finely minced rosemary, thyme, sage, or parsley leaves (or a combination of
  • these herbs); or a grating of nutmeg; or a grind of black pepper, for garnish
  1. Heat the butter or oil in a medium-sized soup pot. Add the leeks and sauté until soft.
  2. Add the butternut squash, then add stock or filtered water to cover the vegetables by about ½ inch. Add the bouquet garni and bring the pot to a boil.
  3. Reduce the heat and simmer until the squash is soft.
  4. Turn off the heat and remove the bouquet garni.
  5. Puree the soup with an immersion blender (or in a standard blender), adding the yogurt or other dairy, and plenty of salt and pepper as you blend. Taste the soup and adjust the seasonings—adding more salt and pepper if it’s too bland.
  6. Serve in a shallow bowl with a dollop of crème fraîche (or yogurt) and a sprinkling of herbs, nutmeg, or pepper.

Note: This simple recipe shows off the flavor of a good in-season squash, but might be unimpressive if made with an older, less-flavorful squash—in which case you might want to roast the squash first to bring out the sweetness.

Variation: Butternut Soup with Coconut Milk and Ginger

  1. Replace the butter or olive oil with ghee, if you have it.
  2. Replace the bouquet garni with 3 to 4 slices fresh gingerroot.
  3. Add a tablespoon or so of fish sauce to the soup while it’s cooking (reduce the salt).
  4. Replace the yogurt (or other dairy) in the puree with coconut milk (you can use a whole 13.5-oz can).
  5. Garnish with a dollop of yogurt and a sprinkling of minced scallions.

Watch and Learn with our New DVDs

Thursday, January 24th, 2013

If you’re a visual learner, a book full of text can sometimes leave you scratching your head. What did he mean when he said use the hive-smoker with short, fast puffs? Or, where exactly is that ramial mulch supposed to go in relation to the trunk of the apple tree?If this describes your state of mind as you peruse our how-to titles, you’re in luck. We have several new DVDs that serve as visual companions to some of our recent, best-selling how-to books, all narrated by the farmer-authors you know and love.

Natural Beekeeping with Ross Conrad

In this filmed workshop, noted Vermont beekeeper Ross Conrad flips the script on traditional approaches by proposing a program of selective breeding and natural hive management. The video presents a comprehensive survey of natural beekeeping methods and challenges, including segments filmed in thefield. It offers practical information that every aspiring beekeeper needs to know—everything from basic hive equipment to working with your bees to harvesting and processing honey.

Also available with the new, fully-illustrated second edition of Conrad’s essential text Natural Beekeeping as a convenient set.

Perennial Vegetable Gardening with Eric Toensmeier

In this DVD—a culmination of workshops recorded in Mexico, Florida, and Massachusetts—plant specialist Eric Toensmeier introduces gardeners to more than 100 species of little-known, underappreciated plants. Ranging beyond the usual suspects (asparagus, rhubarb, and artichoke) to include such delights as ground cherry, ramps, air potatoes, the fragrant spring tree, and the much-sought-after, antioxidant-rich wolfberry (also known as the goji berry), Toensmeier explains how to raise, tend, harvest, and cook with plants that yield great crops and culinary satisfaction. Toensmeier also takes viewers on a plant-by-plant tour of his garden in Massachusetts.

Also available alongside Perennial Vegetables as a book/DVD set.

Top-Bar Beekeeping with Les Crowder and Heather Harrell

In this instructive video, New Mexico beekeeper Les Crowder shares his thirty years’ experience in developing best practices for working with bees in top-bar hives. Les and Heather Harrell, authors of Top-Bar Beekeeping (Chelsea Green, 2012) discuss everything from hive management techniques to how to harvest and process honey and beeswax to the best plants to grow for the foraging bees.

Get the book, Top-Bar Beekeeping, and the DVD together.

COMING SOON! Holistic Orcharding with Michael Phillips

Michael Phillips is a pioneering author and orchardist whose books include The Holistic Orchard and The Apple Grower. In this video, he leads viewers through a year in his own orchard, demonstrating basic horticultural skills like grafting and pruning, but also revealing groundbreaking and field-tested strategies for growing apples and other tree fruits not just organically, but holistically. With this information in hand, there’s now every reason to confidently plant that very first fruit tree!

In addition to the DVDs we publish ourselves, we also distribute DVDs from other publishers and independent filmmakers that are central to our mission of sustainability. The videos below are some of our latest distributed titles.

Genetic Roulette

Monsanto’s strong-arm tactics, the FDA’s fraudulent policies, and how the USDA ignores a growing health emergency are also laid bare. This sometimes shocking film may change your diet, help you protect your family, and accelerate the consumer tipping point against genetically modified organisms (GMOs). A film not to be missed.

Sourlands

In the Sourlands, farmers struggle against high land prices, high property taxes, and increasingly erratic weather patterns. A local entrepreneur struggles to find a market for his innovative product. But pay close attention, and the challenges facing this community look a lot like the challenges facing ecosystems, farmers, and visionary entrepreneurs everywhere. The message of cautious hope presented in the film is just as universal: To start solving complicated environmental problems, we need to forgo quick fixes and start restoring the natural world—and people’s connection to it—from the forest floor up.

Celebrate National Pie Day with a Few Great Recipes

Wednesday, January 23rd, 2013

Not to be confused with “Pi Day,” the nerdy celebration of everyone’s favorite irrational number, which takes place on March 14th, today is National PIE Day.

Today we celebrate the delicious beauty of scrumptious round baked goods with fillings both fruity and savory, with crusts both crumbly and crisp.

The American Pie Council*, which has as its mission to “preserve America’s pie heritage and promote American’s love affair with pies,” and which sponsors National Pie Day, shares some tidbits from man’s long love affair with pies:

  • The first pies were made by early Romans who may have learned about it through the Greeks (sic). These pies were sometimes made in “reeds” which were used for the sole purpose of holding the filling and not for eating with the filling.
  • Pie came to America with the first English settlers. The early colonists cooked their pies in long narrow pans calling them “coffins” like the crust in England. As in the Roman times, the early American pie crusts often were not eaten, but simply designed to hold the filling during baking. It was during the American Revolution that the term crust was used instead of coffyn.

We want you to be able to celebrate the illustrious pie in style, so we’re happy to share some fun pie recipes from Chelsea Green books.

First, we’ve got a simple, mouthwatering recipe from our newest cookbook, Home Baked: Hanne’s Lemon Pie.

Home Baked comes from the Risgaard family, who grow and grind organic grains in Denmark. The Risgaards grow and sell some of the finest grains on the planet, and bake phenomenal breads and pastries with them. A unique bread book, Home Baked features recipes made with spelt and rye as well as conventional wheat. With fresh ingredients such as nettles and ramps, you’re sure to find a surprising treat within its pages. And, of course, a pie.

An alternative to the typical apple pie comes from Michael Phillips’s book The Apple Grower. This pie is made from cider, reduced down to a thick and tangy syrup more like lemon curd than the familiar beverage that warms up your Christmas parties. Get the recipe here.

And lastly, from Joan Gussow’s classic memoir This Organic Life comes a recipe for Gooseberry Pie. The tart, tiny, green fruits look a little like grapes gone mad, but their flavor is unforgettable. And, what endears us to them even more is that they are a reliable perennial crop. Perfect for a permaculture-inspired home garden!

As Joan says,

“Nothing I know of tastes anything like gooseberry pie. My first Christmas away from home, in 1950, with my whole family across the continent in California, I tried all over Manhattan to get fresh gooseberries. Finally, in the German section, I got two cans of gooseberries for a price which was, then, about 20 percent of a week’s salary. Well worth it. My recipe calls for fresh ones.”

We hope you have a delicious and exciting National Pie Day!

*Yes, there is an American Pie Council. No, it is not a joke.

Curing Squash for Better Flavor — Tips from The Resilient Gardener

Tuesday, January 22nd, 2013

Reposted from GRIT.com

In The Resilient Gardener (Chelsea Green Publishing, 2010) scientist and gardener Carol Deppe combines her passion for gardening with newly emerging scientific information from many fields—resilience science, climate change, sustainable agriculture and more. In this book you’ll learn how to garden in an era of unpredictable weather and climate change; grow, store and cook different varieties of her five “key crops”; and keep a home laying flock of ducks or chickens. Deppe didn’t just write this book, she lives the principles in it every day, and you can, too, with her expert advice. In this excerpt from chapter 10, “Squash and Pumpkins,” learn how curing squash brings out the best flavor and texture for cooking.

Why You Can’t Buy a Prime Winter Squash

Bad squash, like bad coins, tend to drive out the good. Wherever bad coins circulate, people keep back the good ones and spend the bad. Soon only bad coins are circulating. The grower who picks squash too early is the first to market. He beats out those who grow their squash to full maturity by weeks. Customers see those first displays of squashly beauty in the fall and celebrate the season by buying one. Then they try to eat it. Then they remember why they don’t usually buy squash. So year after year, the customer is discouraged from buying squash, and year after year, the fact that squash can be a spectacular, gourmet-quality food remains largely a secret.

Squash in the supermarkets and even those in the farmer’s markets are often not of the best varieties. However, even the good early varieties are picked immature. Then they are sold uncured. Cucurbita maxima (the most common “winter squash”) varieties should have a full month of curing before going to market. Farmers are not set up to do that, and customers don’t know that they should, and it isn’t worth the effort anyway if the squash isn’t full grown. If we want prime winter squash, we must select premier gourmet varieties, then grow and cure them ourselves.

Curing Squash: Three Squash Species, Three Curing and Use Patterns

There are three major squash species grown and used in the United States and Canada: Cucurbita maxima, C. pepo, and C. moschata. (A fourth, Cucurbita mixta, isn’t widely grown, as it requires too much heat for most people in the United States to grow and has poor flesh. In Mexico, however, there are many mixta varieties, which are grown primarily for their edible seeds. I won’t cover C. mixta.)

Squash varieties of the Cucurbita maxima species need a full month of storage indoors to cure into prime quality. Many max varieties will keep several months. Some varieties actually become sweeter and develop more intense flavors for six months or more of storage. ‘Sweet Meat-Oregon Homestead’ is actually sweeter and more flavorful at six months than when harvested and is still only getting better. Some varieties, such as ‘Sweet Meat-Oregon Homestead’ and ‘Blue Hubbard’, are very large and are especially nice for those who want to use prime winter squash as a major part of the homestead food supply. There are also prime smaller varieties such as ‘Buttercup’, for those who just want a meal at a time for a person or two. The better-keeping max varieties can provide prime squash through March and even beyond. The very largest varieties of orange pumpkins, which are not culinary quality, are also maxes.

Cucurbita maxima varieties include ‘All Gold’, ‘Amish Pie Pumpkin’, ‘Atlantic Giant’, ‘Autumn Pride’, ‘Banana’ (all), ‘Big Max’, ‘Big Moon’, ‘Black Forest’, ‘Blue Ballet’, ‘Buttercup’ (all), ‘Flat White Boer’, ‘Gold Nugget’, ‘Hokkaido’ (all), ‘Hubbard’ (all), ‘Jarrahdale’, ‘Kindred’, ‘Kuri’ (all), ‘Marina di Chioggia’, ‘Mooregold’, ‘Queensland Blue’, ‘Rouge Vif d’Etampes’ (a.k.a. Cinderella), ‘Sibley’, and ‘Turban’ (all).

The species Cucurbita pepo includes nearly all our summer squash as well as most of the small and medium-sized Halloween pumpkins that are not culinary quality, many ornamental pump­kins, naked-seeded pumpkins, and many gourds. It also includes a few winter squash varieties of prime eating quality such as the delicatas and the classic ‘Small Sugar Pie’ (a.k.a. ‘New England Pie Pumpkin’). All the pepos of prime culinary qual­ity are small.

The pepos require only about seven to four­teen days of curing. So we can eat the little prime pepos while we are waiting for our maxes to cure. Ideally, we eat up the pepos before the end of December. Even those that are among the better keepers are not prime beyond that time. The pepos are prime right after the curing period and deteriorate from there, with the flesh getting stringier, and the sugar and flavor going downhill. The better-storing pepos such as the delicatas are prime for two months only, and good for no more than three. The prime pepos such as delicatas and ‘Small Sugar’ have flavors that are distinct enough from those of the maxes so as to constitute an entirely different vegetable.

KEEP READING: http://cappers.grit.com/garden/vegetables/curing-squash-ze0z1212zwar.aspx#ixzz2Hc20BWDk

Save 25% on The Organic Seed Grower

Monday, January 21st, 2013

If you could take a time machine back eight years, you might have heard Chelsea Green making the announcement that the first comprehensive book on growing seeds commercially was on its way to your bookshelf. But life happens, and the project hit nearly a decade of delays on its way to completion.

Ladies and gentlemen, that long-awaited and much-anticipated book, The Organic Seed Grower by John Navazio, is finally available, and will be on sale for 25% off this week.

Editor Ben Watson has been along for the entire journey.

“A lesser author, and a lesser publisher, would have called it quits on this project years ago. But the subject is one that’s important enough to take the time that it takes. If anything, with the phenomenal growth in the organic food sector, this book is even more relevant and more critically needed than it would have been if we’d published it eight years ago. In hindsight, the timing was almost perfect.”

Funded by a grant from the Northeast SARE program, The Organic Seed Grower is an in-depth manual for the serious vegetable grower who is interested in growing high-quality seeds using organic farming practices. It is written for both serious home seed savers and diversified small-scale farmers who want to learn the necessary steps involved in successfully producing a commercial seed crop organically..

Early praise for the book from Suzanne Ashworth, author of Seed to Seed, says that, “John Navazio has taken organic seed production to a higher level with extensive information on selection, genetic integrity, isolation distances, and seedborne diseases. Although his focus is on plant breeders and commercial growers, much of the information is also applicable to small-scale farms producing seed for on-site use.”

It’s been a long time coming, but the best book on growing seeds is finally here! Get a copy for 25% off this week.

Winter Gardening Tips from Eliot Coleman and Charles Dowding

Friday, January 18th, 2013

It may seem counterintuitive, but now is the perfect time to be thinking about next winter’s harvest. How can you time your plantings this summer and fall so your broccoli and cabbage are big enough to survive the winter and get cranking as early as possible the following spring? What kinds of vegetables can you expect to last through the cold season, and into the ‘hungry gap’? In this post, we share a couple of excellent resources on the kind of year-round vegetable production a dedicated homesteader, or anyone attempting to bring food closer to home will want to try.

Eliot Coleman was one of the first authors we published, and his book The New Organic Grower helped set Chelsea Green on the path to becoming the leading publisher of books on sustainable agriculture.

Coleman runs Four Season Farm up in Harborside, Maine — a very chilly place to make a living growing salad. But that’s exactly what he does, and his two most recent books are full of information on how to keep tender, tasty veggies growing throughout the dark and cold of winter. Chances are, you live in a climate several hardiness zones more hospitable than Coleman, so we’re here to tell you that when it comes to growing fresh food year-round, sorry, you have no excuses! Or at least, with advice from this master-farmer, winter will no longer be one of them.

Coleman was by no means the first to implement the winter-gardening strategies he has helped make famous. In this excerpt from The Winter Harvest Handbook, he points to the inspiring example of Parisian farmers 150 years ago, who grew vegetables under glass cloches for city markets.

“La culture maraîchère (market gardening) in Paris during the second half of the nineteenth century was the impressive result of years of improvement in both protected and outdoor vegetable production…In addition to feeding the inhabitants of Paris, the growers also exported vegetables to England. Growers averaged at least four and usually up to eight harvests per year from the same piece of ground. It was a successful system both practically and economically.”

Read more about these enterprising French farmers here. And take a peek inside The Winter Harvest Handbook, here. All three of Coleman’s classic organic farming books are now available as a convenient set, which you can purchase in our bookstore.

Over in the United Kingdom, another farmer-author is busily tackling the challenges of winter gardening. Charles Dowding is the author of many gardening books, including How to Grow Winter Vegetables.

In this beautifully illustrated volume Dowding explains step-by-step how to grow, and more importantly, how to plan, for plentiful harvests during the “winter half” of the year.

“True winter is underway by December, when growth is almost halted, and continues until March or even April, by which time daylight and some early warmth have returned, although there are still very few fresh vegetables to eat. Then, in April, May, and even into June in a cold spring, there can be a long and frustrating wait for plants to grow and mature. Although the weather may be fine and warm, there is surprisingly little to eat from the garden, in a period known as the ‘hungry gap’ — a kind of ‘second winter’ in food terms.”

Read more from Dowding’s book, here.

And happy gardening!


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