When I first saw one of Niki Jabbour’s winter gardening Instagram videos, I was completely awed and inspired. All her videos are fabulous but the specific one I’m referring to shows her in the middle of a snowstorm, lifting up the cover to one of her cold frames to reveal a vibrant bed of gorgeous salad greens, the bright colors almost shocking against the snowy white background. As someone who tries to grow my own food, buy local, and avoid plastic packaging, I have frequent grocery store battles with my salad-loving partner about whether or not to buy those plastic tubs of California greens in the winter. It can be challenging to find locally-grown greens in our snowy climate so seeing that it’s possible to grow certain vegetables through the winter months was an inspiring Ah-Ha moment for me.
Niki has truly perfected the art of not only motivating people to grow their own food, but also of teaching crucial information and tips to achieve gardening success. She is the author of four books on gardening, including her latest book which just came out and is all about growing under cover and extending the season.
On the day I went to Niki’s to film, she had just received the first shipment of the new books and I was thrilled to receive the very first signed copy! In addition to writing, Niki is a frequent speaker at garden shows and hosts a popular radio show about gardening. She also runs the website Savvy Gardening which provides all kinds of tips and musings on growing food. I’ve only just started dabbling in winter gardening with my first overwintered carrots this year. Mulched under straw, they’ve already provided us with many meals and we haven’t had to buy carrots yet this winter! In “Growing Under Cover”, Niki shares all kinds of season extension methods, from mulching to fabric covers, from DIY cloches to cold frames and hoop houses. I cannot wait to put some of these techniques to use in my garden next year.
I absolutely love Niki’s French Carrot Salad because it’s one of those incredibly easy recipes to make and you can customize it to suit your taste. As Niki says, you can add to it with other root vegetables such as grated parsnip, beets, or celeriac. You can use different herbs. You can add protein such as chick peas, a hard-boiled egg, or some feta cheese. I’ve always loved making this kind of grated root salad in the winter months when local greens are harder to find. Whereas in the summer, my salads are big giant bowls of fluffy greens, in the winter my salads tend to be denser, based around root vegetables, greens like kale, or shredded storage veggies like cabbage.
It’s so exciting to push the boundaries of what we think is possible, in this case, growing food through snow and cold. Not only is it an act of self-sufficiency but as Niki says, a garden in the winter time is a magical place, connecting us with winter birds and plants that are still active, albeit differently than in warmer months. Most years I struggle a bit with the winter blues and this year, the simple act of digging up carrots from under the snow and straw in my garden has been an immeasurable source of joy. It’s a reminder that even though the land lies dormant and cold, life is still thriving beneath that snow and spring is just around the corner, waiting to burst forth and bring joy and color into our lives.
Niki Jabbour’s French Carrot Salad
Winter gardening can provide a much-needed way to bring joy and color into our lives. This carrot salad is a perfect example. Read more about this recipe in this Kitchen Vignettes post.
- Salad Ingredients:
- 1 pound carrots (about 4 cups grated)
- 1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley
- Dressing Ingredients:
- 3 Tbsp. olive oil
- 1 1/2 Tbsp. lemon juice
- 1 tsp sugar (or honey)
- 1/4 tsp. salt
- 1/8 tsp. pepper
- Peel and wash the carrots. Grate them using the large holes of a box grater or use a food processor to grate. Wash, dry, and chop the fresh parsley. In a medium bowl, toss the grated carrots and chopped parsley together. Mix all the dressing ingredients together and pour over the salad. Toss together well. Taste and add more salt or pepper if needed.
- Optional add-ons: This is a very adaptable salad. You could swap a different herb for the parsley. You could add grated parsnip or beet to the carrot to make it a rainbow salad. You could add some protein such as chick peas or feta cheese. Make it your own!
Yield: 4 servings
Aube Giroux is a food writer, a James Beard award-winning documentary filmmaker and a passionate organic gardener and home cook, who shares her love of cooking on her farm-to-table blog, Kitchen Vignettes.