By Well Seasoned, Jan 9 2019 09:47AM
January tends to get a raw deal. It’s the cold, dark, hungover month, often now sacrificed to the god of abstinence (or the new false prophet, detox). But as the new year begins, I think we should resolve to think more positively about it.
Cold, crisp mornings, bright blue skies, the days getting longer, snow... January has plenty of positive attributes. Granted, there’s still a long way to go until the warmer, brighter weather of spring, but it should be an exciting month. The short days mean we have plenty of time indoors to make plans for the year ahead. So, stock up on outdoor kit in the sales, brush up your nature knowledge and put the year’s seasonal adventures in the diary.
On the food front, the game season is still in full swing, with partridge, pheasant and duck all bringing a touch of wild class to our tables. Frost-resistant roots like parsnips, Jerusalem artichokes and carrots are all quite content to sit tight during the coldest part of the year, doing nothing much apart from staying fresh.
Our coastline is still teeming with a great selection of fine fish that thrive in Britain’s cool, clear waters. Shellfish such as cockles, mussels and oysters are especially good this month and worth exploring as a tasty, lighter alternative to meat (especially if, like me, your trousers tend to inexplicably shrink over the Christmas period). If you’re feeling a bit cold at any point, you might spare a thought for our ever-reliable fishing fleet who are out in (nearly) all weathers so that the worst we have to endure is a slightly nippy stroll to the fishmonger’s.
After the gluttony and excess of the festive season, January is a bracing, fresh start to the year and the perfect place to begin our seasonal journey.
Our Out and About section this month looks for the emergence of snowdrops, one of the earliest signs that spring is on the way, and in most years you’ll see the very first ones make an appearance in late January. They are also known in some parts as Candlemas because of the time of year they emerge. As the saying goes, ‘The snowdrop, in purest white array, first rears her head on Candlemas Day’ (2nd February).
There are several species of snowdrop. Our native wild flowers have drooping white blooms with a small green patch on the inner petal tip and just one flower per stem. If you see any other kind on your winter walk it’s likely to originate from a cultivated variety (of which there are many). So, towards the end of the month, wrap up warm and take a wintery wander through damp woodland near to streams or ponds, keep a close eye on the ground and you should spot them. The delicate flowers you see were actually formed nearly a year ago, but they wait until the following winter before pushing up through the soil. (They contain a natural anti-freeze which helps them survive the icy weather. It’s so effective that the wild plants were harvested during the First World War to make de-icing chemicals for tanks.)