Ahh, winter. Winter can be weary-dreary or wondrous depending on an Oregonian’s outlook. Instead of pining for warm climates, marvel at a simplicity that brightens the darkness...winter crops. A sunny butternut squash, rich emerald kale, flaming persimmons...yes, these foods of the gods grow in Oregon during winter.
Take that new year’s resolution of healthy, wholesome eating one step further and commit to eating locally grown, in-season crops. Packed with garden-goodness and nutrients, fresh veggies not only taste better, they help you feel better. Even though there’s not the bounty of late summer and fall, Oregon farmers offer plenty of vegetables for a hearty soups and savory dishes.
Where can you find these elusive winter crops beyond the grocery store? The McMinnville Public Market, Oregon’s only year-round Saturday market. The McMinnville Public Market sells vegetables from Denison Farms and Growing Wild Farm; fresh-frozen berries from Blue Acres; dried herbs and spices from Seasonings...and More; and pasture-raised, organic chickens from Tessa’s Menagerie.
Head to the McMinnville Public Market, just 35 miles from Portland for a fun and low-key outing this weekend. Open every Saturday from 10:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m., it offers way more than winter vegetables. Over 40 vendors make their home in the historic Granary District. Meander among the cheery indoor booths, and soak up a multisensory experience.
Musician Larry Brown croons folksy songs on his acoustic guitar while smoky cups of espresso entice shoppers to follow their nose to Mud River Coffee Roasters. Nibble on samples from Bard’s Chocolatier and Be Happy Bakery. Many artists showcase distinctive handcrafted wares such as jewelry made from coins, wood crafts, alpaca wool socks and hats, recycled/repurposed clothing..... It’s fascinating to listen to each artisan enthusiastically share their craft.
There’s even wine tasting at The Market Wines and tea tasting at Somali Tea for Two.
Grab lunch at the World Food Village, adjacent to the Market. Choose from Incredible India, Fred’s Chicken Coop, or The Soup Shack. The majority of the soups are made with ingredients from local farms, including their popular butternut squash-apple soup.
Speaking of the versatile darling of winter crops, butternut squash, here’s a recipe:
Hearty (Vegan) Winter Squash Soup
- 1 large butternut squash, cut in half and seeds/pulp removed
- 2 Tablespoon olive oil
- 1 large onion, cut in half
- 6 garlic cloves, unpeeled
- 4 cups vegetable broth
- 1 can white beans, drained
- 1-2 cups chopped kale, ribs removed
- 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1 teaspoon dried parsley
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Brush cut surfaces of squash and onions with olive oil. Place cut-side down in a 10x15 baking dish. Slide garlic under squash.
- Bake about 45 minutes, until vegetables are soft. Scoop flesh, discard skins. Peel garlic. Peel and chop onion.
- In a stock pot, combine squash, garlic, onions. Mash with a potato masher. Add broth, beans, kale, thyme, parsley, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to low. Simmer 30-45 minutes, stirring occasionally. This soup can simmer for a couple hours and still retain excellent texture.