Winter Harvests

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The calendar says December but there are still vegetables that I’m harvesting from my garden. This year the freezes so far haven’t been severe enough to kill the hardier plants, and using row covers [porous fabrics that give a few degrees of added warmth to the protected plants] helps to extend harvest time. I seed Radicchio in mid- July, but this member of the chicory family isn’t really enjoyed here until the late season of November and beyond. It’s bittersweet flavor and mild crunch are appealing, but it’s the vivid color that excites me the most- reddish purple to rosy pink with creamy white ribs. The outer plant leaves are a bit more greenish, but they’re not as tasty and also a bit tough compared to the inner leaves. The variety pictured is ‘Indigo’, available from Johnny’s Selected Seeds. This year a few succumbed by rotting in the very wet weather we had in September, but typically, they’ve done well.

The inner leaves are best appreciated by mixing with just a couple of other ingredients for a vibrant salad. Try tossing them with a few clementine or orange wedges, some shaved fennel and a few squeezes of lemon juice and a drizzle of olive oil. Since they are somewhat bitter, the addition of something sweet  provides a welcome balance of flavors- pears, apples and dried cranberries work well too. The  outer leaves are better if quickly sauteed with some olive oil and garlic and added to a bean soup, pasta dish, mashed potatoes or a pizza topping.