Picking Greens at 7 Degrees above Zero


by Guest Ranter Marion Owen of Acorns
I live in Alaska, on Kodiak Island. And local greens are hard to come by in the dead of winter.  I know, I know.  I should eat ’em, but after growing my own during the summer, I have a tough time buying "grocery greens."  I’ve learned the hard way and maybe you can relate.  Fresh-picked greens from the garden will keep a couple weeks in the fridge.  Try storing a head of store-bought lettuce for the same period and you end up with a disgusting, olive green, mush.

Which explains why, on a cold winter night, when the thermometer was thumbing its nose at 7 degrees, I ventured out to the garden, kitchen shears in hand. Call me crazy, but I neAlaskakaleeded a fix.

After punching my way through the snow, I found them: Green tufts of kale. Withered, they looked more like old trees than something to eat.  Still, I clipped a dozen tops and stuffed them in a plastic bag.  With my back to the wind, I retraced my steps to the house…

Every gardener knows that a vine-ripened tomato tastes much better than a tomato that traveled 2,000 miles in a truck.  But at some point we end up at the store to buy tomatoes.  Now it gets complicated: Should you buy organic or locally-grown produce?  And what about out-of-season stuff, like asparagus
from Chile?

The question isn’t so much how it’s grown, as where it comes from.  The organic tomato,
even though it’s untainted by chemicals, may have traveled 2,000 miles, burning fossil fuel, to get there.  The tomato from the local farmer, well, that’s just a hop and a skip.  Bottom line: In the face of global warming (hello, you must see Al Gore’s "An Inconvenient Truth") experts say buying local makes better sense.  What’s more, local producers get a fairer price, since there’s no profit-shaving middleman involved.

So, if buying local is good, is there more we can do?  Yes.  That’s for Oliviafountain_1everyone, regardless of income or housing situation, to grow at least some of their food.  Sound old fashioned and foolish?  Good God people, our grandparents put us to shame with their Victory Gardens!  We need clean air, clean water and healthy food more than we need a new cellphone or an Olivia fountain ($1,299) from Smith &

Okay, rants aside… Maybe the idea of growing even some of your own food might seem overwhelming.  It’s not.  Start with say, four basic vegetables–based on ease of growing, longer storage life and superior nutrition.

For cool climates:  Potatoes, onions, kale, and carrots.  For warm climates: tomatoes, beans, leafy greens and squash. (Fresh tomatoes may not store well, but they do when dried or canned.)  No room for a garden?  No excuse.  Join a CSA, rent a community garden plot or try containers.  (Great book: "The Bountiful Container," by McGee and Stuckey.)

Do we need an in-your-picket incentive for growing veggies?  "Yo, Uncle Sam!  We’d like for seeds,
tools and other home gardening supplies to be tax-deductible."  Amy thinks
food seeds and plants are sold tax-free in some states.  Nice start, but why not reach for the stars?   I’m drafting a petition to send to Congress.  So, ranters, here’s your chance: What gardening
supplies should we be able to write off and why?

Back in the kitchen, I shook the crinkly leaves into a tub of cold water.  A few hours later, I checked one of the leaves, rubbing it between my thumb and forefinger.  Like magic, the freeze-dried leaves had swelled up with water.  Victory!  I’d cheated the produce aisle one more time.  Hmmm, now if I could just get the other half of my carrots out of the ground.  The BOTTOM halves of the carrots.


Read a sample of Marion Owen’s "UpBeet Gardener" newsletter, posted online here. The free monthly ezine, with subscribers in 70 countries, is for people who want simple, effective answers for gardening, relationships and life.  And listen to Marion’s 3-minute podcasts on
her Acorns blog.

Just for fun, check out Marion’s amazing bio, or see what Kodiak Island, Alaska looks like.


  1. If we are going to reach for the stars, why not have programs that GIVE plants and seeds to people willing to grow their own vegetables, along with instructions on what to do? Perhaps the Cooperative Extension Services could organize this?

  2. Hooray for a wonderful rant Marion! I have a regular local-versus-organic debate in my head when I’m trying to select my produce at the grocery store, and I doubt anyone could argue the benefits of fresh-picked veggies, fruits, and herbs from the backyard.

    This year, I’m trying my hand with a cold-frame to grow cold-tolerant crops. I have a few greens, some radishes, and I’m about to try onions and carrots. Cold frames are relatively easy to construct, super easy to use, and help satisfy the gardening fix in the dormant months! 😉

    I’m 100% in support of reviving the “victory garden” (perhaps with a slight renaming).

  3. Greens are very easy to grow.So are herbs which all lasted well into this winter with its unusuallly warm temperatures.A couple of the rosemary seedlings from summer starts are currently in residence in a wide sunny window. But what I grow most is fruit. Strawberries,blackberries,currants,gooseberies.
    Wish we had the room for a few nut trees.
    As an urban gardener there is little space to provide much of our food but all summer into fall you can shop at the farmers markets. I always get carried away and buy more than we need but there is something about a produce stand that calls for abundance.

  4. Wonderful post, Marion. If it makes you feel better, I have had trouble getting out “both halves” of my carrots, too. Only my trouble has come during the summer months, in sandy garden soil!

  5. I sure do love your gardening techniques Marion. You go girl!! Your an inspiration to any gardener. I have read just about everything on your website and i need your plantea. It sure sounds good to me. I love gardening myself and all of what it is from taking care of your soil to growing anything.

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