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After a recent pond hockey game a friend's farm was finished, we gathered in the farmhouse and talk turned to cabbage. Demand was increasing as winter progressed, said Steve, who had never grown so much cabbage. "Before Christmas we were selling 10 cases a week. Since the holidays we are up to 16."

Last year at about this time, I sat down with a stack of seed catalogs, a warm beverage, and a pantry full of ambition. I repeat this ritual every year, fully aware that it's only a game. Regardless of how many seeds I order, only a token amount of my food will come from my garden.

The farmers markets of summer get all the glory, but pound for pound, the winter markets have more guts. These off-season centers of homegrown commerce, which run from about Halloween through Easter, are like the distilled essence of their summer counterparts, smaller but more potent. Cuter — with more hot cocoa on tap.

The idea the sugar is toxic in the amounts that most Americans regularly consume has many people curbing their intake of sweet things. But even as we shun junk food and other processed sources of sweetness, sugary snacks that are whole foods, if you’ll pardon the expression — like fruit and baby carrots — get a pass.