In midwinter, supermarkets offer many kinds of fresh vegetables and fruits, trucked from across the continent or flown from around the world. And farmers markets sometimes continue through the winter months, offering the “winter” vegetables — hard squashes, late fruits, and root vegetables. You can even still get hardy greens such as kale, lettuce, and spinach.
A century or two ago, it took planning, ingenuity and hard work to keep fruits and vegetables on the winter dinner table.
Now we have basements, but then people had cellars, which were more than foundations to hold up the house and stash junk. They were big refrigerators that provided cold storage. Potatoes, parsnips, turnips, rutabagas, onions, carrots, and squashes of all sorts, harvested in fall, could be stored well into and often through the winter.
Varieties of winter apples, picked in October, wouldn’t even taste their best until January or so. Other apples were milled into cider and kept in barrels for midwinter nips. Vegetables and fruits that wouldn’t keep in the cellar were “put up” in jars, and kept in the pantry.
Thus, throughout the winter, families could enjoy literally the fruits of their warmer- weather labors — and relax while doing it. As one farmer put it many years ago, winter was the only time a person could loaf with an easy conscience. —J.S.