February

What is seasonal in February? We are teased with the promise of spring but often has the barb of winter.

There is always in February some one day, at least, when one smells the yet distant, but surely coming, summer.

Gertrude Jekyll
Snow on the High Peak Trail Derbyshire - Copyright Richard Coxon
Snow on the High Peak Trail

Snowdrops in full glory, crocus towards the end of the month and Daffodils powering they way up into the light in readiness for March and St. Davids day. aconites and annenomies starting to show, celandines tentatively growing. Cow parsley, nettles, and all sorts of greenery can start sprouting, yet, all can still get buried in snow.

I have seen plants growing proud to be buried under feet of snow. When the snow melts it looks like devastation, yet within days the plants are recovered and spring approaches once more.

Notable dates in February

9th February – Full Moon

14th February – St Valentines Day

Saturday 15th to Sunday 23rd – JORVIK Viking Festival

23rd February – New Moon

25th February- Shrove Tuesday / Pancake day

25th & 26th February –  Ashbourne Royal Shrovetide Football

26th February – Ash Wednesday

29 February – A leap year, we have an extra day.

February seasonal foods

What is seasonal in February.

If you would like a selection of Seasonal Organic produce, try Riverford veg, fruit and meat boxes

Greens and leaves: kale, brussels sprouts, winter cabbage, savoy cabbage.

Roots and other veg: stored carrots, main crop potatoes, swedes, turnips, parsnips, leeks, celery.

Meat: beef, venison, pork.

Fruit: forced rhubarb, stored apples and pears.

Seafood: cod, Crab, Oyster.

In nature

Trees can start to change: how much depends on the weather and how north or south you might be.

Buds start to enlarge. Close up you may see tiny changes, but from a distance woods and forests can dramatically change colour. Notables are Birch that can appear as a purple haze, Willows that can be yellow or even bright orange. Anywhere that there are trees you may notice this.

February can also herald the first blossom from the middle of the month. Blankets of white flowers of the Blackthorn (Prunus spinosa) also called the Sloe.

It’s still a good time to plant trees and hedges if the ground is not flooded or frozen.

On the farm

Hedging, tree planting. Sheep in lower pastures. Sheep being given additional feed (hay, beets, Sheep nuts).

Muck spreading.

Early seed drilling, Peas & Beans. Resow of failed Winter crops or crops that were not sown in Autumn.

Hazel catkins flowering in February

Things to do in February

In the February garden

If the ground is not frozen or too wet, time to start sowing Onion seeds, Broad Beans, Peas and Summer Cabbage. If you have Cloches, you can sow early Beetroot and carrot.

Plant Garlic and shallots.

If you have a greenhouse or heated growing space (window cill) Tomatoes, cauliflower and some summer bedding plants can be considered.

Gardening hints

Do the digging that you meant to do over the winter, but never had the time or weather to do it.

Prune Apples and pear trees. Trim hedges if needed; unless overgrown, leave them for a year to two to supply nesting habitat.

Time to get outside and start enjoying the first flowers. Snowdrops are in glory at the start of the moth, with primroses, Crocus, Polyanthus, and anemones showing.

Out and about

Unless the weather is harsh the birds start fully on the business of territories. The mornings start to be filled with beautiful sounding song – in effect the bird telling others to go away, this is mine.

The National Trust run a series of events in February that coincide with Helf Term. See whats on in your local area with February half term events for all the family

Days getting longer and, but winters not done yet!

Snowdrops flowering in February

Recipe of the month.

Champ(ion) Colcannon

Colcannon might be a traditional Irish dish for all souls night ( or Halloween as we now call it). however, making a champ variant is a good use for Winter greens. I omit the spring onion, as not in season. Rely instead on the leeks.

For more seasonal recipes, see the February food and nature blog

Ingredients

1lb / 450g potatoes (or approx 200g / person)

A good handful of Kale or other greens (you can use shredded sprouts)

A leek

a good knob of butter

A slosh of Milk

Salt and pepper to taste

Ground nutmeg or wholegrain mustard

Equipment.

A couple of Largish pans

Potato Masher

Preparation

Clean the leeks: remove any damaged areas or faded green, trim the tip of the green end.
Slice the leek lengthways almost from the base to the green top. Then wash the leeks under a running tap, green end down (upsidedown), opening the leek up to allow the water through. This will ensure that any grit gets washed away.

Chop the leeks. This does not need to be exact.

Clean the potatoes, no need to peel. Chop into similar sized pieces.

Prepare the greenery. If using Kale or any other cabbage that has a tough rib down the middle, it is very desirable to remove this. Wash and chop reasonably fine.

Cooking

Place potatoes into a pan of cold water. Bring to the boil and simmer for about 15 – 25 minutes, depending on size and variety of potato. Test the potato by prodding with a knife, there should be little resistance. Beware of over cooking as the potato will absorb too much water.

Heat Oil / butter.

Cook leeks for about 5 minutes over medium heat.

Add the Kale or other chopped greenery to the Leeks. Cook for another 5 – 10 minutes.

Test potato to ensure its cooked. If not, cook for a while longer.

Mash the potatoes. Add a pinch of salt and pepper to taste. Add either a pinch of Nutmeg (careful not to use too much) or a good spoon or two of wholegrain mustard

Blend in the Leek and greenery. Add milk to improve blending and texture – careful not to add too much, or it will be too liquid.

Serve with good sausages, carrots and gravy, or as a side to a hearty casserole. Alternatively, for a winter warmer, server with Carrots and peas and Creamy mustard pork or Pork Dijon from Cook Foods.

Babbling river Cressbrok dale in the peak district february

Activities, things to see and do in February

With the days getting longer, it can really feel like spring is in the air. Depending on the hours you hold, (and the weather) it may be possible to get out in the early evening for a stroll. You can see small green shoots here and there and hear birds in full song defining their territories. Even city dwellers can take leafier back streets or visit the park and hear Blackbirds and Robins singing away.

For some of us, our minds also turn to the long-forgotten garden or allotment. The lucky (or organised) might have got their land into good order in the back end of the previous year. This never describes me, and I am now pleased to report that after many years of feeling guilty about this Horticultural slackness, I have been doing a good thing. This might not a good gardening thing but a good habitat thing and is not a good health habitat a good gardening thing?

Dead plant stems can provide winter quarters for a variety of insects. Leaves on the lawn will disappear because worms pull them down for food (fertilising and aerating it for you). OK, this might also provide quarters for slugs, however, that’s food for hedgehogs and frogs, who will help you in the battle against leaf-munching foes. More information on Habitat friendly gardening from the RSPB.

Something different?

If you are after a peculiarly unique event, try the famous Ashbourne Royal Shrovetide Football. However, your safety can pretty much not be guaranteed!

If you are in Ashbourne, it is hard to beat a walk (or cycle) up the Tissington Trail because a former railway line, it is reasonably flat and fully accessible. It’s a lovely route and can form part of a longer ramble. The route offers some lovely views and has a variety of microhabitats that can have early flowers here and snow elsewhere.

If you have or event that you would like me to mention or feature, please contact me. Please visit the blog for any up to date news.

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February in pictures