Have you ever picked a ripe orange fresh from the tree in southern Europe and eaten it straight away? Then you will know what difference it makes in taste to consume regional fruit or vegetables. Too early harvesting and long transport routes contribute to the loss of aroma in food from distant countries.
This makes it all the more sensible to use domestic products. In winter the selection is smaller than in summer, but not less tasty. In the cold season, many vegetables are in high season.
Aroma meets Vitamins
It is no coincidence that winter vegetables are rich in vitamins. Red cabbage or white cabbage contains a lot of vitamin C. Beetroot is full of minerals such as potassium, magnesium, iron and calcium. The pumpkin is in no way inferior to this and trumps with the vitamins A, E and C up. And although you don't see it one wouldn't think that the leek contains a good portion of Beta Carotene.
Our body needs all these vitamins for a strong immune system. And that is what we need in order to remain through the winter healthy. Winter vegetables are not only an excellent source of vitamins, but also very aromatic.
Five winter vegetables under the magnifying glass
On the beetroot, people are of divided opinion. Some love them, others hate them. Many people only know it in the inlaid version. However, it tastes quite different as raw vegetable salad or cooked with a creamy cream sauce. With its high content of betaine, it supports our digestion and thus the smooth elimination of metabolic products. The red tuber is also visually appealing and brings a powerful dash of colour to the plate.
Let's get to Brussels sprouts, a real nutrient miracle. It is one of the vegetables with the most dietary fibres and is one of the best suppliers of potassium. Although the little florets are such power packs, not everyone likes them. The reason for this is their slightly bitter taste, which especially children are not so enthusiastic about. The Brussels sprouts, for example, often have a miserable existence as a side dish. However, it is quite different as a main course. In combination with curry, it immediately gets a completely different note and its bitter substances move discreetly into the background.
Let's have a look at another winter vegetable, the leek. Allicin is the name of the substance that distinguishes it. This sulphur compound is said to have an antibacterial effect. It is also the reason for the onion-typical smell of vegetables. Due to its intense taste, it can be used as a condiment to spice up a dish. It is also delicious as a cake, soup or risotto. It has a strange name, the butternut squash. Its shape, similar to that of a pear, is also somewhat unusual. So it's not surprising that it is also known as a pear squash. What characterizes it is its particularly soft flesh, which tastes discreetly of butter. However, it does not only impress with its taste, but also with its ingredients such as vitamin A, vitamin C, potassium, magnesium and calcium. On the plate it shines in many variations. Whether as soup, puree, roasted or raw, its nutty note matches many dishes.
The fifth vegetable in the bunch is cauliflower. It may not look like this, but it is quite a vitamin C bomb. 100 grams of cauliflower contain as much vitamin C as 100 grams of oranges. In its luggage it also carries vitamin K, which is important for blood clotting. Cauliflower is easily digestible and can be eaten raw. Especially, in the cold season there are of course recipes where it is prepared warm. Whether raw, cooked, baked or fried, the white florets are quite something.
With crisp winter vegetables, there is no winter blues in the kitchen. And if you don't like these five, I'm sure one of the many others will. Instead of cold weather there are now warm dishes – Enjoy your meal.
Recipes with winter vegetables
The quantities quoted refer to two persons.
250 g leek
1 clove of garlic
150 g risotto rice
75 ml white wine
250 ml vegetable stock
100 g grated cheese (Parmesan, Gruyere, etc.)
1 tablespoon oil
Pepper and salt
Cut half of the onion into fine rings. Then fry them in some oil until they are brown and crispy and put them aside. Cut the cleaned leek into fine rings. Chop the remaining onion and garlic and briefly stew in hot oil. Add rice, briefly stew and then top up with wine and broth until it is just covered. Let it simmer in the covered pot over medium heat. Stir occasionally and top up with wine and broth. The risotto takes about 30 minutes to cook. Add the leek 10 minutes before the end and let it simmer. Finally add the cheese and season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve with the fried onion rings.
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The national delegates met in Luxembourg on February 23rd and 24th, 2018 for their annual statutory general assembly.
In addition to the statutory missions, the conclusions from the study session in Copenhagen were drawn. The cornerstones for a greater internal and external efficiency of our work were fixed.
The Norwegian federation presented its activities, successes and problems in a very interesting PowerPoint. All the other federations informed on their activities.
This exchange brought interesting insights and gave – according to what was needed – stimulations for national activities and international discussions.
A working group discussed the topic “competition between green organizations” and gave suggestions to better position our movement in future in the “urban gardening landscape”.
A special Hyphen on the topic urban gardening will be published and a working group is charged to work out a specific strategy.
The Office and the affiliated federations decided to also take part in the week without pesticides in 2018 and to publish a memorandum on the Office homepage, the national homepages as well as in the national allotment magazines.
The delegates will meet again in Kortrijk (Belgium) on coming 22nd August during their study session
The next statutory general assembly will take place in Luxembourg on March 8th and 9th, 2019.
During my stay in Rovaniemi I could, thanks to the Finnish allotment federation, visit the most northern allotments of the world. Edmond and myself were warmly welcomed by Marjukka METSOLA, member of the executive board of the Finnish federation. She is a passionate gardener and photographer. She helped the architect with the layout of the site, when it was created in 2002.
The allotment site, 6 kilometers from the city center, is idyllically situated at the border of a small forest. There are 24 plots (+/- 300 sqm) with very smart cottages. .An extension of the site is possible in the future.
The cottages, between 25 and 35 sqm, in the center of the site are painted in yellow to symbolise the sun, the cottages near the forest in red/brown, the cottages near the entrance in blue. According to a Finnish tradition the cottages have/can have a sauna. The gardeners stay in their cottages during the summer.
There are no wooden fences separating the plots, but you could guess under the snow the fruit bushes making the separation. Many, many nestboxes could be seen.
There is a common shed for the tools with an information board. Next to it you also find a large place to sit together and have barbecues when the days will be longer and warmer. We found, however, only lots of snow but the cold was acceptable.
Around a cup of coffee and local specialities Edmond and myself could learn much about the Finnish allotment gardening near the Arctic cercle.
I addressed the best wishes on behalf of their colleagues all around Europe and Japan to the Rovaniemi allotment gardeners.
For many information on this allotment gardening you can read the article in Hyphen no. 59.
Secretary General of the International Office du Coin de Terre et des Jardins Familiaux
In winter, you can observe a drop off in animal activity, whether they be mammals, reptiles, insects or even fish. However, not all animals behave the same way in the face of winter’s harshness. So what do they do?
To confront the cold, animals adapt different behaviours depending on either they stay where they are and therefore have to find a way to fight the cold, or alternatively leave and find a warmer place (the latter is done by some birds, insects, butterflies and fish).
When animals stay where they are, they must prepare themselves to fight the cold. They do so in three different ways:
• Morphological adaptation;
• Physiological adaptation;
• Behavioural adaptation.
Whilst some only adapt morphologically, others adapt to winter in all three ways. Each species has its own trick.
Some animals continue to move around in winter, living almost normally. Almost, because in reality they do adapt to lower temperatures and a shortage of food.
Some animals opt for morphological adaptation, which means modifying their body, such as the fox, which develops a “winter coat”. You see this in some mammals but also in certain birds, who fluff up their plumage. Other animals, such as the hare and stoat, go even further in modifying their coat: they turn white in winter to camouflage them in the snowy landscape and not be seen by predators.
Other animals, such as the great tit, change their behaviour and feeding habits. In fact, for the majority of the year the great tit eats insects, but during the winter it struggles to find insects and therefore eats seeds instead. As for the red squirrel, it simply builds up reserves of food throughout the year in preparation for winter, then once winter is here it continues to live normally. Only in severe cold, which can be fatal, will it take shelter until the temperature is milder. In fact, January-February is one of the breeding seasons for red squirrels.
You will also see some animals change physiologically, meaning that they change how their body works: this is the case of animals that hibernate or spend winter sheltering.
When the winter cold arrives, some animals adopt a behaviour called torpor: they fall into a very deep sleep, in a shelter, and only rarely wake up to get something from their food reserves that they built up prior to hibernating. When an animal hibernates, there is a drop in:
• Oxygen consumption;
• Respiratory rate;
• Heart rate (from 350 to 3 beats per minute for the ground squirrel, and from 500 to 5 for the garden dormouse);
• Blood flow (there is a special flow for the brain, heart and fatty tissue);
• Growth hormones.
Here are just some of the animals that hibernate: hedgehogs, garden dormice, bats, frogs, lizards, grass snakes…
Beware that some animals do not hibernate but do spend winter sheltering. Famously the bear, that there is no risk of finding in our garden, spends winter sheltering, rather than hibernating.
Winter sheltering (semi-hibernation)
When you think of hibernation you think of bears. However, that is wrong. In no way is the bear in a state of torpor, as it does not sleep deeply, far from it. The bear simply slows its activity; so, do not hang around near a bear, thinking it is hibernating, stay far away. An animal that does semi-hibernate and that you have more chance of coming across than a bear is the badger! You also see this drop in activity in some insects, such as bees, who rest next to each other to maintain their temperature at 35°C and eat the honey that they have stored (which is why it is important to leave it there).
And where are the insects in all of this?
Unfortunately, the majority of insects die in winter. This is the case with the magnificent dragonflies and grasshoppers. But some of them can semi-hibernate, even if all those who do don’t survive. Alongside bees, this also includes firebugs, ladybirds, earwigs, crickets and lacewings.
Food is one of the things I love. However, I am not only concerned about my own physical well-being, but also that of the birds. While they can feed themselves sufficiently in the summer, it looks less rosy in the cold season. Nature conservationists therefore recommend that food be made available to our feathered friends from November to the end of February. Now you might think that it's enough to throw them a little bread. This is not right, however, because bread is not a species-appropriate bird food.
With just a few ingredients you can make high-quality bird food yourself. Add a dash of creativity and the result becomes an eye-catcher in your garden.
The basic ingredients
During winter birds need fatty and nutrient-rich food. Some are soft eaters, others grain eaters. The designations already give a glimmer of what kind of food they both prefer. Soft eaters like crushed grains, dried berries and shelled seeds. Grain eaters, on the other hand, like seeds and grains with the shell. Nuts are also very popular with them. However, make sure that they are not bad or even moody, as this can be fatal for our feathered friends.
The production process is based on beef tallow, vegetable fat and/or edible oils. You can mix these ingredients as you like: oat flakes, sunflower seeds, chopped nuts, flax seeds, millet, wheat bran, dried berries or raisins. You can buy beef tallow from the butcher.
The following quantities are sufficient to fill a medium-sized flowerpot or the shell of half a coconut.
Preparation - quick and easy
Dissolve 100 grams of beef tallow - alternatively coconut fat - in a pot. It's supposed to melt, but not boil. Add a small dash of liquid vegetable oil. This helps to prevent the food from becoming too hard when cold. Now stir in about 150 grams of a home-made grain mixture. The sunflower seeds should make up two thirds of the total mixture, because their high oil content makes them very healthy for birds.
Allow the mixture to cool a little and then refill it. Decoratively painted flower pots, half a coconut shell, empty yoghurt pots, painted tins or cups are suitable as vessels. Insert small wooden sticks or branches into the warm mass. The birds can hold on to it later.
Fir cones are a natural alternative to the vessels. Brush the slightly cooled mass into the cone and allow it to harden in a cool place. Now attach a packing cord to the cone and hang it outside.
Another variation is to first attach a string to the pine cone and then dip it in the melted oil. Make sure that it is evenly coated with grease. Then turn it in the grain mixture so that it is thickly covered and place it on baking paper to dry. Place the cones on a cold place so that they cure well before you hang them out.
With homemade bird food you not only do well, but you also bring vitality to your garden. The more versatile the food, the more bird species you attract. Have fun watching the colourful hustle and bustle!