What do you grow in your garden when the temperatures head towards single digits? Over the years we’ve trialed many varieties of winter hardy vegetables to find out what we can store in place in the garden deep into the winter here in Zone 6b of the Northern Shenandoah Valley. Not surprisingly everything that survived well was either a root or a green vegetable. Here’s how we cook with some of these tenacious plants.
White Russian Kale and Green Wave Mustard are two of the most frost-hardy vegetables in my garden – both surviving down to 10 degrees. Tapping into our Scottish heritage, these tasty greens pair up in a slightly spicy hearty colcannon recipe on cold January and February nights.
- 1 pound of White Russian Kale, steamed and finely chopped
- ½ pound of Green Wave Mustard, steamed and finely chopped
- ½ pound bacon, cooked crisp and crumbled
- 2 T. bacon drippings
- ¼ tsp. salt
- Large pinch of pepper
- 6 medium gold potatoes, quartered and boiled in salted water until soft
- 1/3 cup softened butter
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- Salt and pepper
- While the kale and mustard are steaming, boil the potatoes
- Drain the greens and mix together with crisp bacon, salt, pepper, and bacon drippings
- Turn into a buttered casserole dish
- Mash the potatoes with butter, garlic, salt and pepper
- Spread over the top of the greens mixture, roughing the surface with a fork
- Bake uncovered at 400 degrees for 45 minutes until lightly browned
Buttered Rainbow Chard
Rainbow Swiss Chard (5-color Silver Beet) stays fresh and green in the garden down to 15%. After years of trialing all kinds of greens for both winter and summer, this lovely plant is a multi-season winner. We plant it in April, start harvesting it in June, and keep harvesting into January. It is simple and quick to prepare, and a favorite of everyone in my family.
- 2 large bunches of Rainbow Swiss Chard
- 2 cups vegetable broth mixed with 4 cups water
- 3 T. butter
- Salt and pepper
- Cut the leaves from the stems of the chard and chop leaves coarsely
- Cut stems into 2-inch sections
- Bring water and broth to a boil in large pot
- Lower heat to medium and simmer stems for 10 minutes
- Add chopped leaves and cook 10 minutes longer
- Drain greens
- Mix with butter, salt and pepper, and serve
I didn’t think I liked turnips until I discovered that roasting brings out their sweetness. In particular we like the Boule D’Or golden turnip which stores well in the ground without getting pithy. When temperatures drop to 20 degrees I cover the turnip bed with an 8-inch layer of fluffed straw. To harvest mid-winter, I just pull back the straw and am able to dig up turnips for dinner.
Roasting the Turnips
- Dice 2 turnips for each serving and put in a large baking dish
- Pour in ¼ cup of olive oil
- Sprinkle with 1 T. kosher salt
- Toss well with your hands to mix
- Bake in a preheated oven at 400 degrees for 30 minutes
The Edible Winter Garden
Don’t let winter stop your garden. The plants won’t grow in super cold temperatures, but they will keep and be ready to harvest when you are ready to cook. By covering the base of the plants in straw, many greens will keep going into January and February. And with a thick covering of fluffed straw, your root vegetables will hunker down in the garden until you need them.
Down to 20 degrees
- Deadon, Brunswick, and Ruby Perfection Cabbage
- Beets and radishes
- Baby lettuce
Down to 15 degrees
- Kale and some mustards
- Swiss Chard
- Spinach (often down to 10 degrees)
All Winter, Under Cover of Straw
- Winter radishes
Plan your 2022 garden to have room for late summer plantings of these winter delights and enjoy comfort food from the garden throughout winter.
Sheryl Campbell is an heirloom gardener, shepherd, and edible flower educator who owns Bouquet Banquet in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley. Read Sheryl’s previous blogging with Mother Earth Gardener and Grit and read all of her MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.
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