Winter market ready to weather the cold
by Staff Writer
Winter is fast approaching, but that doesn’t mean an end to fresh, local produce.
The Davidson Farmers Market began their winter market Saturday, Nov. 5, and will continue the first and third Saturday of the month through December and the second and fourth Saturday of the month January through March.
“It can be a boring time of year for produce,” Market Manager Courtney Spear said.
So management kicked off the winter season with a chef challenge, where local chefs competed to create a dish with surprise ingredients from the market.
“If you’re cooking, people are going to come, and if you’re cooking what’s in season, right there at the market, people are going to buy it, because it’s delicious,” Spear said.
The demonstrations and challenges will mostly disappear over the winter season, but the produce will not.
Spear said supplies of meat, cheese and bread stay steady through the winter. After the best-attended season the market has seen in years, the outlook for the winter isn’t too bleak.
With more greenhouse and storage space, Barbee Farms in Concord is extending its season and will continue to supply the Davidson Farmers Market, owner Tommy Barbee said.
Winter months are difficult for local farms, with uncertainty about weather and how many people might show up to buy produce.
“But people, especially Davidson people, will brave the elements to come get fresh vegetables,” Barbee said.
Greens freeze below 20 degrees, but they flourish in cool fall weather.
Once their outdoor greens freeze, Barbee will start selling the bok choy, mixed lettuce, spinach and arugula he grows in the greenhouse. Growing in the greenhouse is more expensive, so Barbee tries to only grow things there that he knows he’ll be able to sell for a good price.
“It’s a balancing act right now,” Barbee said.
Based on past years’ data, farmers aim to get greenhouse crops to pick up when it gets too cold for outside crops, without a gap or overlap.
Barbee also has to gamble on when to pick outside greens. He could wait for his bok choy and Swiss chard to grow larger, and get a better price for them, but then he risks losing the whole thing in an unexpected freeze.
Even after nights drop below 20 degrees, Barbee will have a fresh supply of greenhouse bok choy, spinach and arugula every two weeks.
Barbee is growing Russian red kale for the first time this year, so he’s not sure how well it will withstand dropping temperatures and how long it will be available at the market.
The frozen ground actually preserves beets and carrots after their greens have wilted.
The two vegetables will last into the early winter, and green onions will stay steady throughout the cold season.
Turnips, technically a root vegetable, actually grow above ground and won’t last through the first freeze.
Greenhouse tomatoes will be available until after Christmas, and a fresh outdoor crop will pick up in April.
“I want you to be able to leave Santa a tomato sandwich instead of cookies,” Barbee said.
Barbee stores white potatoes at 40 degrees to keep them from sprouting. The winter supply usually lasts through February or March, and potatoes will be harvested again in June.
Sweet potatoes, butternut squash and spaghetti squash are stored around 60 degrees through the winter, to prevent freezing. They should be available all winter.
Spaghetti squash, a sweet low-carbohydrate pasta replacement, is growing in popularity. Barbee microwaves the squash for four to five minutes, with a few holes poked in the skin. After scooping out the seeds, Barbee scrapes the squash out with a fork and serves it with butter and a little garlic salt.
With more storage capacity than last year, Barbee Farms still can’t save all their crops through the winter.
“If it’s got room in the greenhouse, it’s either one of Tommy’s favorites or it sells good, or both,” Barbee said.
Barbee Farms will sell their greenhouse and stored produce, along with dried pinto beans, peas and pecans at the Davidson Farmers Market throughout the winter. They update their website, www.BarbeeFarms.net, every Saturday afternoon with available produce. A seasonal produce chart is also available online.
To stay updated on Farmers Market news, visit www.DavidsonFarmersMarket.org.
The spring market will return every Saturday beginning April 7, 2012.