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Kitchen Witch

Winter Vegetable Chowder

by Lily

Corporate hands in agribusiness mean that as consumers we usually only get one or two choices of varieties when we pick a vegetable out in the supermarket produce aisle. Produce is hybridized, bred so that desirable qualities, like a skin thick enough to keep fruit intact when shipping it long distances and then storing it in coolers for several weeks before putting it on a supermarket shelf. The fact that texture and flavor are sacrificed for shipping convenience affects the consumer. But it is just part of business for the large-scale corporate farmer. The first time you taste a homegrown tomato that was picked when it was at peak ripeness (and not three weeks prior while still green) you'll realize what you've been missing in exchange for shippability. And you might find it hard to go back to flavorless, mealy store tomatoes once you've been enlightened.

Selected Resources
Robyn Van En Center for CSA Resources —
On Good Land: The Autobiography of an Urban Farm — Michael Ableman
This Organic Life: Confessions of a Suburban Homesteader — Joan Dye Gussow
Local Flavors: Cooking and Eating from America's Farmers' Markets — Deborah Madison

There are over 300 different varieties of apples. Many people don't know this, since you get about six varieties to choose from in an average grocery store. Many of those 300 varieties are delicious, visually beautiful, and have been in existence since the 1800s or before; however, if they bruise easily or have thin, easily-punctured skin they're too expensive to ship. And if small-scale farmers don't do enough business and can't afford to grow them, they slowly become extinct.

It's easy to become a food activist. Many of the steps are little things that you can start right away or fit into your life as you can. Buy local produce directly from the farmer, either from a farmer's market or through a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture), where you pay a certain amount of money up front and in exchange get a share of the farmer's yield for that season. Buy organic whenever you can, for your health and the health of the people who grow your food. Buy fruits and vegetables that are in season for your area, and shy away from picking out bell peppers and tomatoes in the dead of winter that were shipped in from across the globe. Grow some of your own food if you have the space. Homegrown tomatoes in particular are addictive and taste fantastic eaten right off the vine while standing in your yard. And when you sit down to eat, take a minute to honor the food that Gaia has given you, and also honor the people who have made it their life's work to grow this food that nourishes you.


The following vegetables are a suggestion of what you can put into a winter soup, based on what's available at a farmer's market in the wintertime. Many markets close down for the winter but some stay open year-round. All of these vegetables should also be available at a grocery store as well.


1-2 tsp. butter or soy margarine
2 onions
6-7 cloves garlic
2 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. fresh thyme, or 1 tsp. dried
2-1/2 Tbsp. fresh basil, or 1 Tbsp. dried
1/2 tsp. sage
1 potato (red potatoes are good)
2 stalks of celery
2 carrots
1 head of broccoli
1 head of cauliflower
1 pound of mushrooms
1 pound of shelling peas
3 cups corn (if no fresh, use frozen)
1 quart of milk (dairy or soy)
1-1/2 cups of potato flakes
salt and pepper to taste

  1. Chop up the potato, celery, carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, and mushrooms, and set aside. Shell the peas and set aside as well.
  2. Chop up onions, garlic, and herbs. Sauté in a soup pot with the butter/margarine until the onions are soft.
  3. Add the chopped potato, celery, carrots, broccoli, and cauliflower, and sauté until the carrots are somewhat soft. Add the peas, mushrooms, and corn, and sauté until the mushrooms are soft.
  4. Add 1-1/4 cups of water and bring to a boil, then turn down the heat and simmer for about 10-15 minutes until everything is tender.
  5. Meanwhile, heat the milk to just below boiling (do not actually boil the milk) and keep warm on the stove.
  6. When the vegetables are tender, take about 1/3 of them out and blend them in a blender. Put them back into the pot. (This helps thicken the soup.)
  7. Take the pot off the heat. Add the warmed milk and the potato flakes, and stir while chanting a spell:
    Turning inward to home and hearth
    Comforting and warming in Winter's dark.
    Cold outside but warm within
    Nourish and comfort as the Wheel does spin.
    ‘Til the bursting forth of Spring's delights,
    Ward off the chill of Winter nights.
    Blessed be.
  8. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve with a chunk of crusty bread, or hollow out a round loaf of bread and use it as a bowl to serve the soup in. Enjoy!

Note: When reheating this soup, warm it on the stove to just below boiling. You don't want to boil it once the milk has been added.

You too can be a Kitchen Witch! Send a favorite recipe to RQ with a spell, or just send the recipe and we'll write a spell to go with it.