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The Importance of Planting Ahead

I love January.

Holidays are but a memory, old man winter has settled in for awhile and the new vegetable seed catalogs are stacked high on my kitchen counter.

I know how I am getting through the dreary months ahead... planning out my vegetable garden. I am so happy when vegetables are for the taking right out of my garden; it is one of the things as a cook that I look forward to. I can munch to my heart’s content on crunchy lettuce, candy-sweet tomatoes and crisp cucumbers.

Even prolific zucchini wins me over as I concoct as many recipes as my family will tolerate. Vegetables don’t ask much from a cook, just a little know how on treating them properly for maximum flavor. Choosing them in season is key, as well as using them as quickly as possible and subjecting them to minimum cooking, which will preserve their flavor, texture, visual appeal, and nutritional value.

Less is more when it comes to cooking time. Vegetables should retain their shape, color and be tender but not mushy. I have adapted many cooking methods for them, including a quick sauté’ steaming, grilling and my favorite, roasting. which caramelizes the natural sugars and concentrates the flavor.

Come winter I am like Sherlock Holmes, searching desperately for produce as close to the same quality as that of my garden. I know the pickings will be slim and I read each label to see how far away from home winter vegetables have traveled. Root vegetables are my mainstay, carrying me through to the first warm days of spring and the promise of a new garden season in full swing again.

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