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The other night I was staring at what grocery store produce we had left and it wasn’t much. Since we moved off-grid and ditched the big ‘ol refrigerator, keeping enough produce on hand has been an ongoing challenge. We were spoiled before, you see, with big refrigerators and local weekly farmers markets and CSAs and co-ops. Not that there’s anything wrong with any of those things. On the contrary, I’m a big fan of all of those food sources and would love to see us on the other side of those ventures some day, growing greens and veggies for others.

But keeping fresh the large quantities of produce we got in our weekly CSA box or stop at the market was only possible with refrigeration. And now that space in the solar freezer and cooler are limited, things look a whole lot different.

This time of year I buy big bags of organic carrots and heads of thrifty cabbage. I try to make ferments from these frequently so that we’ve got something fresh, even when we can’t get to town. But sometimes we just eat big bowls of coleslaw contrived from these two plus the stray onion or beet we’ve got languishing in the produce box.

The answer to this conundrum of not enough fresh food is, of course, to grow it ourselves. As it so happened,  the winter garden filled with collards and kale and herbs and lettuces was set aside for the act of building shelter and that is just fine by me. Such is the juggling of hours and prioritizing of duties that so often happens here; one thing can be done, but there are not enough hours for all things.

The other answer, I suppose, is to go to the grocery store every couple of days but that only ensures zero homestead productivity for me. So that is not much of an option after all.

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Anyway, there were only carrots the other night as the cabbages had run dry. But it occurred to me, in the chaos of the dinner hour with little Ruthie pulling on my apron, that there was in fact something green in the garden.This fact may have only come to me due to the 83 degree day we were finishing out… in February.

In any case, I headed to the chicken field. There, amongst the dried out stems of pigeon peas, little green weeds, and decomposing melon vines stood a couple of patches of cilantro. One was planted deliberately in the fall, the other a volunteer. They weren’t huge and flourishing, having survived the whole of winter with no covering, but they were green and delicious. A little ways down the row were the perennial onions Stewart had planted in the fall. They were as high as the biggest green onions I’ve seen in grocery stores and a delightful, vibrant green surprise.

I picked what I could and headed into the cabin to mix these into the carrots Abram was happily grating. Stewart was just heading out to unload the day’s trailer full of mulch with little Annie and Ruthie at his side. The boys were eagerly chatting about what garden work they were headed out to do, leaving me alone with dinner preparations. That might have been the only solitary moment I had all day and so I soaked it in while I filled a skillet full of “dirty rice” and finished preparing this salad.

As dark fell, everyone came back inside. It was chaos as usual but it was refreshing, the sweet-tangy-spicy salad, the return of of my family, the few minutes of quiet while my hands worked.

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February Carrot Salad

Ingredients

  • 8 medium carrots
  • 2 Tablespoons minced cilantro
  • 2 green onions, sliced thin
  • 2 Tablespoons vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon raw honey
  • pinch cayenne
  • salt to taste

Directions

  1. Grate carrots into bowl using the largest holes of a box grater.
  2. Mix in cilantro, onions, vinegar, and honey. Add a pinch of cayenne and season with salt to taste. Serve.