The Sweetness of the Fall Harvest

John Tashiro, General Manager

Happy November! It’s hard to believe that in just a few weeks (on November 16th) we’ll be celebrating two years since the opening of our South End Store! Even harder to believe that in just a few short months, we’ll be entering a new decade. As I shared at the Annual Member Meeting, things have continued to settle since our expansion and it remains a time of learning from the constant operational considerations and adjustments across the two locations to the general communication and support needed with larger staff and departments. In combination with the record low unemployment levels in Burlington and Vermont, the Co-op continues to look at the best ways to navigate, manage and improve in an ever growing competitive marketplace, while staying true to our mission and living out the Global Ends.

Thinking about our Ends, I wanted to express appreciation for your participation in last month’s Board Elections. We had a record setting 13 Board candidates and I wanted to convey our gratitude to each of them recognizing the critical importance with the Board’s guidance to steward the Co-op. For your reference, please find the results here.

With the dropping of temperatures this time of year, I often think about the wisdom by Mother Nature and the impact of frost on our local farmers. In early fall, farmers place great importance with paying attention to nighttime temperatures so that they can get their frost-sensitive crops harvested before the first frost. There is a reference to “frost tolerance” which is a crop’s ability to survive a frost or below freezing temperatures. When air is cooled to below the dew point, dew forms on surfaces; if temperatures are also below 36°F, this results in frost which is frozen ice crystals. A light freeze is considered 28°–32°F, and a hard freeze below 28°F. However, any temperature below 25°F is dangerous territory for most vegetable plants.

Frost or freeze damage occurs when the water in plant cells expands as it turns into ice, which in turn causes the cell walls to burst. To avoid such freezing and bursting of cell walls, cool-season vegetables and other cold-hardy varieties may produce more sugars as a protective measure. Sugar water freezes at a lower temperature than water, which is also why frost-tolerant vegetables tend to get sweeter with cool temperatures. Sweetening is one of a few strategies plants may have to avoid frost or freeze damage. Shorter variety plants have the advantage of being closer to the ground, which is insulated and radiates some heat. This can often be enough to quell the possible effects of freezing temperatures. The more mature the frost-tolerant plant, the better able it is to withstand frost or freezing. Humidity can also help protect plants from frost because moisture holds heat, effectively insulating the air. However, a clear or windy night can sweep away any warm air radiating from the ground, allowing colder air to sink in.

As you might imagine, frost-tolerance can really vary between varieties. Greens like kale or spinach, and especially those with savoyed, wavy, curled, or textured leaves are generally hardier. Mulched root crops like beets, carrots, leeks, radishes, and parsnips can be harvested later in fall before the ground freezes, and some can even withstand such circumstances for a period of time. 

We’re pleased to have a variety of local produce available even as we enter the colder months, especially with the fall and winter holidays just around the corner! This will be our third Thanksgiving as a multi-store co-op and we are well prepared to offer everything you need for a festive celebration. From local turkeys, pre-made side dishes, local pies and fresh produce to vegetarian and vegan options, we hope you’ll find everything you need for your holiday table! When you pre-order your local turkey with us, you'll receive a coupon for $2 off your turkey and $1 off our house-made Brine Mix. Looking for more tips on preparing the holiday meal? Check out our Thanksgiving Meal Guide here.

As always, we are deeply grateful for your incredible support to the Co-op as we are committed to serving you, our Members and the community, in the very best way we can.

In cooperation,