Sunday, December 7, 2008

Winter light... add it and toss.

In winter when the fields are white,
I sing this song for your delight.

In spring when woods are getting green,
I'll try and tell you what I mean.

In summer when the days are long,
Perhaps you'll understand the song.

In autumn, when the leaves are brown,
Take pen and ink and write it down.

From Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll.

December 21st is the first official day of winter but we've been feeling it set in around here for several weeks now. This being Georgia, there are still warm days but overall this fall has been colder than the past several have been and of course there's that particular quality to the light...

...and another learning phase in my gardening education has begun...understanding the importance of light. There is one thing that I know I'll do next year and that is, I will start earlier. I sowed kale from seed in October and planted Brussels sprouts seedlings around the same time. I have fine little plants growing, but that's just it...they're little. If I had started these back in August, I think I would have been seeing a harvest by now. It's an important lesson for me, this importance of day length.

Here's the strawberry pot. It appears that the plants have gone dormant.

Plants need a rest too. Some things are still doing well. The rosemary that I planted at the side of the house is thriving and the salad greens have done just fine. Here's the pot of micro-greens, a mix of mustard, cress, and radish greens . While not shade lovers, they are at least tolerant of less light.

Most salad greens prefer a cooler temperature to a hotter one, so we've had lettuce pretty steadily since October.

I love the color variations and ruffled leaves of loose leaf lettuces.

Here's a recent salad - mixed greens with dried cherries and toasted pecans.

I like to toss it lightly with this dressing:

4 TBS olive oil
1 TBS red wine vinegar
1 crushed garlic clove
2 tsp Dijon mustard
2 tsp ketchup (it's good!)
2 tsp sour cream
dried basil, thyme, or oregano...or all of them
salt and pepper to taste

Of course you can increase the proportions if you want more dressing. My formula departs from the classic vinaigrette ratio of oil to vinegar which is 3 to 1 but I like the less "bitey" taste it has when it's 4 to 1. As any good cook does, you'll be sticking spoon or finger into the dressing to taste it as you adjust the seasonings and add-ins. I have a glass dressing bottle that I use, but I've often made salad for one (me!) where I mix a dressing at the bottom of the salad bowl, pile my greens in and toss.

Yum...I know that salad greens are traditionally a spring vegetable and "tonic" but we get so few locally during our sauna like summers that it feels like a great treat to be eating them now. Maybe for me their soft sweetness is a "tonic" to the tomatoes and peppers that I love so much but that seem to avalanche us in the hot months.

Today's twist -

Lewis Carroll is the pen name of the English author and mathematician, Charles Dodgson, who was active in the mid to late 1800's. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, published in 1865, was an immediate commercial success which turned "Lewis Carroll", overnight, into a household name and turned Dodgson into a wealthy man. The sequel, Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There, published in 1872, was no less successful although it, in many ways, is a darker piece of work. The income and fame allowed Dodgson, who was socially ambitious, to move in more rarefied circles and to become a respected photographer. He is today considered one of the very best photographers of the Victorian period. Many of his photographs are of very young girls, but despite popular conceptions there is no solid evidence to prove that Dodgson was a pedophile.

The verse above is recited by Humpty Dumpty who is sitting atop his famous wall when Alice meets him. Their conversation is seemingly an odd debate concerning semantics. For example, Alice questions Humpty Dumpty's use of the word "glory"...

"When I use a word," Humpty Dumpty said, in a rather scornful tone, "It means exactly what I choose it to mean, neither more nor less."

Although the haughty egg seems bent on convincing Alice that everything that she thinks is correct is, in fact, not, and is, in fact, idiotic and completely backward - he assures her that should he fall off the wall, the king will send all his horses and men, because..." he has promised me- with his very own mouth. "

Alice, who is unfailingly polite but always self-possessed, finally tires of Humpty Dumpty's convoluted insults and walks away. Behind her, a heavy crash shakes the forest end to end.

Needless to say, both Alice books remain among my favorites.