Friday, December 11, 2009

Living Underground

When I go down to the wintergreens root cellar to check the temperature and humidity, it sometimes feels like a trip to a haunted house. It's underground, very dark, smells moist and earthy, and the heaps of vegetables have pale little antennae growing out of them. It feels very alive, like you're not in the cellar alone.

In fact, all those veggies are alive, and that's a good thing. Roots are filled with energy, and they're sending out shoots looking for light. They continue to require moisture in the form of very damp air, accomplished by hanging wet towels, keeping pots of wet soil and trays of water, and by keeping the floor wet. They're still breathing, and to stay in good shape they require fresh (cool) air coming in, and stale (warm) air to leave.

It's tempting to think that veggies stop growing and are frozen in time once they're plucked from the ground and put in a cool place like a cellar or fridge, but actually they're just hibernating. Like bears, their systems slow down, but they're very much alive. It's only if air or moisture are denied that they shrivel and die.

Hardcore over-wintering types collect these pale sprouts and add them to salads. Like other sprouts, they're packed with energy.

I have to stop thinking of these sprouts as whiskers, shooting out to monitor what's happening in the root cellar. Monitor me, really. Then, maybe, I'll be able to eat them.

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