As the long darkness of winter sets in, many of us dream of summer. But when June rolls around, I am already thinking of wintertime and how to make the sweet fruits, riotously abundant greens and magically appearing mushrooms of summer survive to brighten the sometimes dreary backdrop of winter days.
So in this time of year, I turn to little glass jars of dried thyme, parsley and oregano; bigger jars of dried mushrooms (morels if it has been a good year); rhubarb jam; wild garlic pesto; and in the freezer—bags of cooked stinging nettle and hardy leaves of kale.
But with a few welcome plants, the great outdoors will do the preserving for me. Brussels sprouts are one such amazing garden plant that gives back in winter. Last fall, I didn’t mind that my Brussels sprout plants yielded only a tiny crop of pea-sized sprouts along their stalks. I left those tough leaves where they were in the garden. Then the first frost came, and the leaves were still perky and green. After another frost, the first snowfall and still more snow, the leaves remained green.
In December, I dug through the snow (really—a foot of snow!), and the leaves were waiting there for me, a beautiful green reminder of the summer that was. I cut the stalk at its base, brought the leaves inside to thaw, sautéed them and smiled at the dream of summer come true.