Ginger and red currant solstice scones

Ginger and red currant solstice scones
Ginger and red currant solstice scones. Photo by Rebecca Cuttler.

Plants are far more intelligent than you and me. While we humans like to push ourselves through the busyness of the holiday season, frantically rushing from shopping to parties to family gatherings, plants know what’s really going on. Throughout autumn, as daylight hours get shorter and shorter, their growth imperceptibly slows until, when the winter solstice arrives, they almost go into a state of suspended animation. The lack of daylight during the true winter months – December 22 to the spring equinox on March 20 – compels plants to conserve their energy.

Over the winter solstice weekend, I arrived at the garden and realized that this would be my last harvest for a while. Most of our plants are looking pretty tired. Even our parsley, one of the toughest winter vegetables, has damaged leaves from overnight frosts. It’s time to let things rest.

This will likely be our last harvest of 2015. Photo by Rebecca Cuttler.

This will likely be our last harvest of 2015. Photo by Rebecca Cuttler.

I, too, have been feeling tired. Tired in a way that I almost never experience. A kind of tiredness where, the other day, I was incapable of doing anything except for curling up on the couch and watching videos with my family. That kind of tiredness is not easy for me to accept: just think of all the lost productivity! After all, what are weekends for other than getting more work done?

It’s only with some reflection that I am starting to appreciate the true wisdom of plants. Our society gives little credence to the idea of rest and regeneration over the winter months. As much as I want to deny it, those short, dark winter days affect me, too. My wonderful husband, who is encouraging me to get better at relaxing, is trying to introduce the Northern European tradition of hygge into our household. This practice involves actively cultivating a cozy winter space with things like candles, board games, warm woolen sweaters and not being productive.

Which brings me to baking. On the Sunday morning of the winter solstice week, in an effort to have a hygge day, I put my tasks aside and turned on the oven. I’ve been harvesting from the freezer these days – a process that is sort of like opening a time capsule – and had just unearthed two big bags of red currants. These fruits are beautiful and grow incredibly well in our garden, but their sour, almost savoury taste isn’t easy to incorporate into North American cuisine. Every year, I pick bucketloads and then wonder what the heck I’m going to do with them. It took a bit of thinking to come up with the idea to use them in scones instead of the typical blueberries.

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