2013 Oxbow Winter Newsletter #4 — Brrrrr… How Do Veggies Survive the Cold?

Surprising enough, some vegetables not only survive in cold weather like this, they actually thrive in it. Our favorites, the brassicas – cabbage, kale, collards and the like – get sweeter and more succulent after a good hard frost. This week’s carrots are the sweetest we’ve harvested in a while thanks to their cold beds. And the parsnips are so sweet, that simply roasted they taste like sweetly spiced cookies.

How? Why? When these plants get cold during a hard frost they release sugars into their circulatory system to help keep them warm. While the sugar acts like antifreeze it also provides needed nutrients that the frozen ground is no longer supplying. So the many mornings of hard frost that we had last week gave our greens and roots high-blood sugar, which made them super tasty. Our frozen crew on the other hand was a bit grumpy this week harvesting in the cold, but they busted a move and harvested 3500 lbs of carrots, 1500 lbs of parsnips and over 200 lbs of braising mix Monday and Tuesday before the hard freeze hit Tuesday night. Mariana, our harvest-processing coordinator is still recovering from the carrot tsunami that hit her world. We wanted to get as many of our beloved orange roots out of the ground before the freeze hit — they don’t like frozen beds, but will happily store for months in our walk-in and still be tasty in March. That said, because small scale farmers are always looking to get the most out of their fields, we are trailing a couple beds to see how well they fare… and we might still have carrots to harvest this year.

We were lucky this year to have a number of days where we had a hard frost at night followed but a thaw out during the day. This allows the plants to get ready for the freeze that comes next. Their cellular structure actually changes to handle cold temps — don’t ask me how, I just work in a farm office. But farmer Adam assures me that the plants do this and hopefully once we get back above freezing our brassicas will continue to produce tasty leaves that we’ll sell at Ballard Farmers Market and to our chefs. Our parsnips are also still cozy in their frozen beds and will be at Ballard thought December and on chefs menus into the new year.
Luke, Adam, Sarah, Megan, Bridget, Tino, Yolanda, Valentin, Julio-Cesar, Casey, Marianna, Lisa, Alice, Sarah D, Dana, Joshua, Arwen, Grace, Brandon, (and our inspiration Pearl, Emuna, Avi Ray & Zoe Rose).