February and the Foods of Deep Winter

February. By this month, we’re in deep winter. Normally we would have had several snowstorms by now, but this winter has been disappointingly mild. A reminder that climate change is real and ever-present…but I’m still holding strong to the late-winter feelings and energies, honoring the last part of a season of rest and coziness.

The past month has been one of great food, brisk hikes and prepping for the spring. We’re now past the halfway point between winter and spring, and I can feel it in the air. While it is somewhat conflicting, as part of me is still waiting for a real winter with real snow, I can’t help but smile at the little signs of spring I’m already picking up on. I hear more birds, singing in the sunlight of longer days. I’m starting to catch whiffs of skunk cabbage on my walks, in parks near the apartment and at my family’s cottage. One of the coolest things about the transition between winter and spring, I think, is when the snow melts around the trunks of trees and where skunk cabbage “flowers” start to emerge. Perfect rings circling these plants, as they radiate heat, waking up for the spring.

But spring isn’t here quite yet! And there’s something so magical about this time, the month of February. The way deep winter makes everything cozier, brings us all together, craving connection in a period of hibernation.

One of the common ways of honoring this time of year is with warm comfort food. Soups, stews, broths – anything that’s warming and created by throwing everything you’ve got in your pantry into a pot. The smell of the pot cooking all day, going for a cold walk outdoors and then warming up with a tender meal afterwards, as snowflakes fall gently from the sky… this is perhaps one of my favorite parts of winter.

I’ve enjoyed many of these kinds of meals these past few weeks, most recently while hosting a hot pot with a group of friends. Hot pot is a Chinese meal where everyone sits around a pot of soup stock, which is kept constantly simmering over a burner, and adds ingredients to the pot to cook and then fish out and eat over the course of the meal. The special magic behind this process is in the gathering. All hands are on deck, as everyone chops vegetables, stirs spices into the stock, sets up the tables and chairs, laughing and sharing stories, drinks in hand, all culminating in the actual cooking and eating of the meal. I can’t think of a better way to honor the season – huddling together with your nearest and dearest, over a boiling pot of soup and the most warming of ingredients (butternut squash, noodles, dumplings, tofu, enoki mushrooms, simmering away) safe from the elements outside.

Other nourishing meals of the past few weeks include:

  • My mother’s crockpot chicken cacciatore, which I made myself for the first time. This meal was so rewarding! It was quick and relaxing to chop up mushrooms and onion and toss them into the crockpot with the other ingredients, letting it all cook down throughout the day. When you come home from a walk in the freezing weather and lift up the pot’s lid to be greeted by the steam and the delicious scent, you’re immediately nourished.
  • Nettle and rose cake, from Forest & Home by Spencre McGowan. Though not seasonal (this recipe is from the summer section of the book), winter is a perfect time to bake new recipes while indoors! Nettle is an herb with tons of vitamins and healing properties. Dry nettle from the Foraged Feast and matcha gave the cake a unique shade of green, while rose petals from local tea shop Sally Lunn’s and beetroot powder made the frosting a romantic pink. This cake was fun to make, very photogenic, and so scrumptious and tasty!
  • Oyster mushroom curry. Another warming meal perfect for deep winter! This recipe is from Wild Mushrooms by Kristen and Trent Blizzard, an amazing Christmas/birthday gift I received this season! I made the curry using oyster mushrooms from our local winter farmers market (yes, you can get farm-fresh foods in the winter!), and added chicken for an extra hearty boost. The dish was creamy with the perfect amount of spice.
  • Winter farmers market stir-fry. As I mentioned earlier, a lot of the ingredients we’ve cooked with this month have been from our local winter farmers market. A beautiful, crazy phenomenon, really – who knew there were farmers markets in winter? Turns out they do exist, and are a perfect way to incorporate local, in-season foods into your diet. One of our favorite things to do is throw our leftover market finds into the wok at the end of the week, stir-frying an assortment of veggies and serving over rice. Yum!

Of course, the best part of any meal is sharing it with loved ones. I’ve been lucky and blessed to have been able to spend time with many friends and family members these past few weeks – some who I haven’t seen in ages! Surrounding yourself with those who matter is the coziest thing of all. So, in these last few weeks of winter, huddle up with your loved ones, cook a warm meal, and listen to the bird song as the days get longer. Spring will be here before you know it.

If you’re interested, here are some other fun, short stories and bites from the past few weeks!

If you’re a gardener, you might be flipping through your seed catalogs this time of year. I’m currently dog-earing the pages of the Seed Savers Exchange catalog. This nonprofit is dedicated to preserving heirloom plants through seed saving, and protects many of the world’s endangered garden plants. I’ve also been planning my garden using the amazing Lunica Planner from Woodspell Apothecary. This planner has everything you need for living seasonally and gardening by the moon and stars.

I’m still making time for regular walks in nature, even when it’s cold out. Even in deep winter, there are still magical encounters and discoveries to be found; on one of my most recent hikes at the cottage, I saw a muskrat swimming in the river. He was the first creature I met when my dad made the trail to the river, and I hadn’t seen him in perhaps a year, so he was a welcome sight when he popped up to say hello! I’ve also been caught in a saga with a heron near the apartment. One day while hiking, a blue heron landed on the path in front of me. I had never been so close to a heron before, especially one that seemed unafraid and wouldn’t run from me. But of course, I didn’t have my camera! The best I could do was take a video with my phone. The next day, I returned with my camera, and the heron was there! But, he was hiding in the reeds. Maybe one day I’ll snag a good photo of him!

Other exciting hikes I’ve been on were with my boyfriend, one along the most lovely riverside trail dotted with eastern cedars, with the roaring water making music, and one where we may have ventured down an unofficial trail that led to a strange well in the woods… it really felt like a fairytale discovery, and I’m looking forward to investigating and trying to figure out what the “well” could be!

Goodness, who knew such a short month with short days would lead to such a long post? Thank you for reading this far if you did. Leave a comment with your favorite winter meal to cook, if you’d like to share! Until next month!

6 Comments on “February and the Foods of Deep Winter

  1. I really liked this post as we are waiting for spring and look back on the wealth of winter experience,inspiring for future summer fun.I especially enjoyed the photos,so beautiful and the colorful cake,probably so tasty.an inspiration to move forward and enjoy all of the day in all of the season.
    Ps.liked that shot of Maccullough Hall in the snow😉

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you Lisa, so glad you enjoyed it! We’re in the transition month between winter and spring (though I guess in our state March is too). I can send you the cake recipe if you would like, it was delicious!


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