Fall to winter is a tricky time to be a farmer. Transitions in temperature put the Katchkie Farm microclimate in flux, and we can't always predict what's around the corner.
There's a lot of scampering involved: we have to make sure our late season crops get enough water during Indian Summer days, but we have to harvest like mad in case a frost comes up to kill any summer straggler vegetables like peppers, tomatoes, and eggplant. These guys are damaged when water vapor in the air condenses on plant surfaces and freezes. Why does condensation form on plants, you ask? Well, plant tissues are initially warmer than the surrounding evening air, often creating a frost only briefly.
For some vegetables that crave heat, this quick frost is a fast finale to the growing season.
For other vegetables that can stand up to winter cold, the cold weather kicks a survival mechanism into action. Read on for a brief science lesson to learn how vegetables stress themselves out for the benefit of you, dear eater!
Here's how: when temperature drops, vegetables that are comfortable with cold will convert some of their starch reserves into sugar. This is to prevent the water in their cells from freezing, the same way that putting salt on a road keeps it from freezing over - when a foreign substance is mixed with cold water, it's hard for enough water molecules to reach the surface and freeze there. This means that the freezing point for the vegetable gets lower: the cells inside a carrot or kale leaf might be filled with freezing water, but that water won't become ice, so the vegetable can continue to live!
Happy and healthy Brussels sprouts!
And in the meantime, all those sugars are more available to your taste buds, giving you incentive to keep visiting your local Greenmarket all winter long!
Your sweet shopping list for the next few months includes: