I live in Vermont. It is February. It is very difficult to eat fresh, locally grown vegetables in Vermont, in February.
I’ve lamented the lack of fresh vegetables every February, since I moved to Vermont for college from the sunshine and produce laden state of California. While I lived on campus and was on my college’s meal plan, I easily helped myself to salad greens and steamed broccoli in the winter. Since the food had already been prepared and paid for, I was more able to disregard these vegetables’ less than desirable origins—conventional growing fields in California and Mexico, most likely. However, once I moved off campus and took control of my meals, I was presented with the difficult decision of buying fresh vegetables, all the way away from my home in California (my co-op displays the origin of the produce right next to the price, no way to hide from the truth), or being true to my local-eating guidelines. This decision is always the hardest to make by the time February comes around.
By February, I’ve eaten my way through most of my summer crop of frozen vegetables, and the locally grown storage crops are starting to dwindle from the grocery store shelves. By February, I’m also usually hankering for some color, crunch and fresh flavor. Squash soup and frozen peas have lost their appeal, and the only other options are: wait until May to have a delicious fresh, crunchy salad, or buy some vegetables from California. In the bleak month of February, I buy the vegetables. But, trying to be true to my environmental cause, I try to buy the veggies that have a lower carbon footprint. They all have to travel 3000 miles from California to New England, but the energetic cost of production can vary. For example, instead of the pre-washed salad greens that are sold in their own plastic containers, I choose vegetables that are shipped and sold with hopefully less plastic: kale, cabbage, carrots and onions. And, because I’m craving something raw and fresh, I make a raw kale, cabbage, carrot and red onion salad.
The secret to this salad is to let it marinate for a while. The acid and salt in the dressing will start to break down the cell walls of these hearty vegetables and make them easier for you to eat and digest. The colors, fresh taste and crunchy texture will surely fulfill your need for the month of July, in the month of February.
Michaela Wood is a very recent, very broke graduate from Marlboro College in the hills of Southern Vermont. She loves dark chocolate, kale, and taco night in the dining hall.
Raw Kale Salad with Cabbage, Carrots and Onions
1 bunch lacinata kale, chopped into long thin ribbons
¼ medium sized red cabbage, chopped into long thin ribbons
1-2 carrots, grated
½ large red onion, minced
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 large clove garlic, finely minced
1 teaspoon salt
pepper to taste
Combine the kale, olive oil, salt and garlic in a large salad bowl and massage the kale for 2 to 3 minutes. It will begin to soften and look like it’s been sautéed. Add the cabbage, carrots, red onion and toss the salad with the lemon juice.
Add more salt, pepper and possibly more lemon juice to taste. Let the salad marinate for at least a half hour before serving. This is a great dish to even make in the morning and then take to a friend’s house for supper.