February’s garden features an abundance of root vegetables, greens, citrus and pears. When it comes to eating with the seasons, this bountiful selection is perfect for a Valentine’s month salad.
Beginning with beets, which as a child I encountered only as pickled, crimson disks on Italian salads, there are more tasty ways to eat them, including raw.
Roasting well-washed beets takes 35 to 60 minutes depending on size. Coat the vegetables lightly with oil, and then cook at 375 degrees F in a covered casserole or wrapped in foil. They’re done when a thin knife easily pierces to the core. When cool enough to handle, the skin practically slips off with the help of a dull knife. To avoid pink fingers, wear gloves when handling the red ones.
More unusual is the Jerusalem artichoke, or sunchoke. It’s a bumpy tuber that can be eaten raw and unskinned. I always discard the end slice, the cut made during harvest, as theoretically some organisms could have begun feasting on the sugar. Circular slices are as crisp as fresh water chestnuts, but not as sweet. They can also be steamed or boiled and mashed like potatoes.
I grew up eating ripe yellow Bartlett pears, but now I can choose a not-as-shapely green Anjou, a sweet, cinnamon-colored Bosc, or a buttery, bulbous Comice. For salads, I like firm fruit.
A dozen Meyer lemons were hanging on my tree this morning, destined to dress this winter bounty. I made a simple vinaigrette with 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice, a pinch of freshly grated nutmeg, and a tablespoon each of olive oil, Dijon mustard and balsamic vinegar.
Local spinach, sliced pears and sunchokes, with julienne of fresh beets, and sweet, roasted wedges combined to create a colorful celebration of winter.