I think it’s fair to say that February can be a challenging month for many. It’s dark, it’s cold and we are all waiting eagerly for Spring. February can become a bit of a forgotten month, a month passed through impatiently and wished away in favor of brighter, warmer months.
February is a month of transition. There are days were it can feel so Spring-like and others were we realise we are very much, still in winter. Being the brunt end of winter we can feel bored of root vegetables, long dark afternoons and wrapping up warmly. We crave the warm heat of the sun, of ripe strawberries and those magical golden hued summer evenings.
However, In this episode I wanted to highlight all the wonderful things February has to offer, the food, what to expect in nature and ideas to lift the month and make it a special one.
Guide to February-What does February mean?
February derives it’s name from the latin Februum, meaning Purification, after the Roman ritual held on the 15th of the month. Other names for February are Solmonath which means mud month and Kale-monath which means Cabbage month. Both rather appropriate I think! In other countries February can be translated as the month of hard frost, cutting wood, and icicles.
February is also the shortest month of the year with only 28 days and it is also the only month in the year where it is possible to have no full moon.
There are a few traditional celebrations during February. Imbloc and St. Bridget’s day are on the 1st of the month. Imbolc was the original Celtic festival, translated as “in the belly” and is believed to link with the pregnancy of sheep and the cleansing away of winter. St. Bridget’s day is more widely celebrated in Ireland today with school children weaving rush crosses to possibly to symbolise the conversion of pagans to Christianity and also as a symbol of protection.
Imbolc is followed by Candlemas on the 2nd, Shrove Tuesday on the 13th, Valentine’s Day on the 14th and the Chinese New Year on the 16th. I also love the sound of the Japanese Setsubun festival on the 3rd. Celebrated to cleanse away the previous year and create a seasonal divide between winter and spring, it’s also called the bean throwing festival due to the tradition of throwing beans out of the door!
Being greedy, I’m always curious to know what foodie delights a new month will bring to my plate. While February isn’t exactly the most exciting culinary time there is still plenty to take joy in.
February is a good month to embrace warming dishes like soups, stews and oven roasted veg. There’s still an abundance of good winter root veg so make the most of these while you can.
There’s still ample to time to cheer up your kitchen with the uplifting smell of citrus fruit while you make marmalade. Imported fruits like Seville and blood oranges are at their best now and readily available for a brief time. I’ve just finished making a batch and although the kitchen is decidedly sticky, the amber coloured jars lined up on the counter are making me very happy.
Leeks and savoy cabbage are also particularly good at this time of year. Personally I adore leeks cut into 2 inch chunks as part of a slow cooked stew. I also stumbled across a beautiful recipe by Mimi Thorisson where she poaches leeks and then serves them with a sharp vinaigrette. This really turns the simple leek into something heavenly! As for savoy cabbage I love to semi cook it in water then finish it off in a hot pan with a slick of chilli oil.
Other produce you can expect to find in your garden, farmers market or shop are; Brussel Sprouts Cauliflower, Celeriac, Chicory, Horseradish, Jerusalem artichoke, kale, kohlrabi, parsnips, potatoes, salsify, shallots, swede, turnips, carrots pears, and the first forced rhubarb.
Imported seasonal produce include : Blood oranges, Seville oranges, clementines. Kiwi fruit, lemons,. Passion fruit, pears, pineapple, pomegranate, satsumas, tangerines. brazil nuts, walnuts.
As for seasonal wild game the pheasant season is now over but wild venison should still be easily available.
Salmon, skate, cod, cockle, crab, rock oysters are all good to eat in February.
For a full list download my free seasonal eat sheet and meal planner.
Recipes for February
The Garden in February
In the garden there is still plenty of time to plant trees, shrubs and hedges as well as moving the above to new locations. You need to get these tasks done while growth is dormant for the best success rate. It’s also a good time of year to do any final pruning to apple and pear trees, trim hedges, prune winter dogwoods, make a pond and mulch and prepare the ground before planting any first crops.
On the colder, wetter days of February I love nothing more than to order in some seed catalogues and try my hand at growing something new. This year I am very excited to grow some more unusual herbs in our polytunnels. Ps; I swear by this book for polytunnel tips. If you’re looking for my go-to gardening read for smaller gardens and urban gardens, then I cant recommend the lovely Laetita Maklouf’s beautiful gardening books enough!
Nature in February
Although the trees are still skeletal and bare there are signs of growth everywhere in February. Snowdrops are pushing themselves out of the cold ground and their pretty white bells are suddenly everywhere in our garden. I like to replant a handful into a old teacup to bring inside.
Other February flowering bulbs include the crocus, iris reticulata, early daffodils, cyclamen and winter aconites. These alone are enough to make this month a far more vibrant and joyful one than it’s predecessor.
February harks the start of the breeding season for frogs so expect to see frogspawn in ponds between now and March
While many birds are still away in warmer clims, you can keep your eyes peeled for flocks of fieldfares and redwings. In later February you may be able to hear the song thrush claim it’s territory, as well a the blackbirds, greenfinches and great tits joining in. It is well worth leaving some food out for the birds during this harsh month, and especially through frosts and snow. Also tits will be looking for nest boxes if you fancy putting a few up.
PS. Make the most of the last month of winter!
While its is still cold and wintery I like to make the most of the long evenings and finish up any half completed craft projects-I just cast off a pair of knitted shoes for baby Roo and am planning to chalk paint a couple of bedside tables too.
I also am reading plenty of books, I have a Persephone book and Louise Gray’s Ethical Carnivore on the go at the moment and Nightingale Wood by Stella Gibbons has just arrived. I know once Spring sets in, I’ll be spending a lot less time inside so it can take me months to complete a novel. Instead of wishing away February I will be enjoying ever single day that I can stay in hibernation mode, with a cup of hot chocolate, warm blanket and good book by my side.
10 Ways to Enjoy a Seasonal February
Put up nest boxes for the birds
Look out for frog spawn in the ponds
Finish any knitting projects
Enjoy the long evenings with a log fire and good book
Order some seeds to sow
Make pancakes on Shrove Tuesday
Learn about February traditions in other cultures
Eat up seasonal veg like cabbage and leeks
Listen out for the Song Thrush