Versatile apple cider can be used in recipes sweet and savory, including this recipe for root vegetables roasted with apple cider. (Patricia Beck/Detroit Free Press/MCT) - MCT

Getting to the root of seasonal eating

Those of us with a year of seasonal eating under our belts deserve a reward.

But before rushing out and buying raspberries from the Southern Hemisphere, let's stop and consider the consequences.

Underripe fruits shipped across the globe in winter play havoc with senses attuned to summer's sweet, juicy bounty. These inferior foods also are hard on the wallet.

By contrast, root vegetables, which usually don't rate very high on the flavor meter, offer an unmatched, earthy essence when grown locally and eaten when nature intends. Plus, they are storehouses of fiber and micronutrients.

Last winter's columns acknowledged that eating with the seasons is hardest in the cold months to come. Farmers' markets are on hiatus, and grocers' commitment to local, seasonal foods can be sporadic. Joining a community-supported agriculture program in wintertime can ease the burden of tracking down scarce, local produce.

In its third year offering a winter CSA, Barking Moon Farm promises much more than roots. With the typical carrots, beets, parsnips, potatoes and onions will be enough cold-hardy greens for salads, stir-frying and braising, along with some brassicas, such as cabbage, cauliflower and broccoli. Who knew so much can grow in the Rogue Valley without spring and summer sun?

About 20 pounds of certified-organic produce every other week is allotted per CSA share. To that, Barking Moon plans to add a few goodies: dry beans, popcorn kernels and flour corn (aka masa) all grown on the Applegate farm, plus fermented vegetables from nearby Mellonia Farm. The program costs $360 — $30 per week — and runs from December into February.

"It helps us get through that time of year that's usually a cash-strapped time for farmers," says farm co-owner Melissa Matthewson.

CSAs were devised a few decades ago to funnel start-up funds to farmers who, in exchange, pledge shares of the harvest to customers. As with any investment, CSA shareholders assume some degree of risk. If the weather doesn't cooperate, members may not reap the harvest they anticipated.

Barking Moon, along with other area farms, saw acres of field crops wiped out two years ago during an unusually deep freeze, yet it still managed to serve 20 families. Last year, they signed up just over 40. This year, they have room for 80.

CSAs may be superfluous for home gardeners in summer, but winter gardening takes much more dedication. Barking Moon planted overwintering crops in July and August amid its harvest heyday. "Extending" the season allows Barking Moon to extend its reach to the online growers market, Rogue Valley Local Foods, Ashland and Medford food co-ops and the year's first, frigid month of outdoor markets in March.

A CSA isn't as convenient as pulling up a few carrots from your own garden, but Barking Moon does have drop sites around the valley from Ashland to Williams, from Medford to Grants Pass. Find the CSA brochure at www.barkingmoonfarm.com.

CSA initiates know the contents of a box vary from week to week, so flexibility in the kitchen is key. Almost any root vegetable, including turnips, rutabaga, celeriac — even Barking Moon's burdock — could be included in this dish.

Reach Mail Tribune Food Editor Sarah Lemon at 541-776-4487 or email slemon@mailtribune.com. Read her blog, The Whole Dish, at www.mailtribune.com/wholedish, see her Facebook page or follow thewholedish on Twitter.

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