Saturday was the December Norwich Farmer’s Market. They have it indoors in the largest building in Norwich, the Tracy Hall, which also serves as the community theater. It was time to stock-up for the next month of cold and snow and avoiding trips to the grocery story. Unfortunately, Sam was at work, so I was hauling the veggies myself. I got our cooler on rollers and headed across the river. The winter market is mostly durable goods and crafts, but there were a handful of vegetable dealers.
I wanted to avoid $4 ATM fees, so instead of taking out cash on the way to the market, I tried the Market Cash program for the first time. One vendor has a credit card/debit card machine. He swiped my credit card for $60, and gave me 12 $5 tokens made of wood. The tokens were accepted at all of the vendors and the vendors made change in US dollars. If I had unused tokens, I could bring them back to the next market (but that practice is discouraged… makes accounting difficult). So I walked around the market with a pocket full of wooden tokens, buying veggies and loading them into my rolling cooler.
This was not weird to anyone… I blended right in.
I came home with:
– 10 lbs of potatoes, russets and kennebeck
– 10 lbs of yellow onions, carolina, IIRC
– 1 lb hardneck garlic
– 4 butternut squash
– 3 cabbages, standard green, red, and napa
– 10 lbs carrots
– 1 alien baby
– 2 celeriac
Now I have a lot of vegetables – where do they go? Not in the American Refrigerator, but in our German Refrigerator, the Kuhlschrank.
I hope Germans have boring old electric refrigerators nowadays, but German fridges used to use cold air from outside to keep food cold in the house. Modern hippy-types are repurposing the idea to build modern root cellars in houses without basements.
We decided to build a kuhlschrank four years ago after The Rutabaga Incident. We were storing our vegetables in the garage and it got cold enough to freeze our potatoes. I went out to the garage to get potatoes to make for dinner, and they were all mush. It was January, I had seasonal affective disorder and I had no potatoes. I was in the thick of Locavorism, so I wasn’t going to run out to the store and buy a bag of potatoes. The only vegetables that survived the freeze were the rutabagas. I tried to roast one and make something tasty, but I only made my house smell like a Eastern European Grandmother. Sam came home in time to watch his sobbing wife throw a pot of boiled rutabags off the back porch and into a snow bank. I vowed never to loose my potatoes again. (Yes, this was my Scarlett O’Hara “I’ll never go hungry again,” moment.)
This will be the third year that we’ve used the kuhlschrank to keep our veggies through the winter, and we have had no vegetal failures since we started storing with it.
Sam designed and built the kuhlschrank. He’s such a good husband. It’s basically a 150 quart marine cooler wired into a temperature control and an incandescent (ILLEGAL!) lightbulb. If it gets too cold in the cooler, the lightbulb turns on and warms up the inside. If the interior gets too warm, we prop the lid open at night for an hour to cool it off. The temperature control keeps the temperature above 34F, and the red LED panel on the front shows us the interior temperature. We have a box full of sand to keep the potatoes from sprouting and to keep the moisture level high. The veggies that like the dark (garlic and onions) are kept in thick paper bags. The carrots, kohlrabi and celeriac like it moist, so they stay in plastic bags. Since we don’t have a garage, we moved it under the stairs just outside the front door of our apartment. It doesn’t have a lock, so I’m hoping we don’t loose vegetables to bears or our neighbors.