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Winter Greens

January 5, 2012


Growing greens in the winter can be a challenge even in our mild Pacific Northwest dark days.  Certainly having a greenhouse helps, but after losing our greenhouses to heavy snow in ’08, I changed my attitude about winter greens growing.  Nothing like jumping off the deep end to test the mettle of the winter greens you’re growing.  After that disaster I decided I would never again depend on a greenhouse for my winter greens.   Just to hedge our bets we stocked the freezer with greens during the summer with the plans to use them during the lean months of March and April.  Spring has sprung by those months but growth is slow, it is nice to have a stockpile in the freezer.

Bok Choy.

In the meantime, we harvest from our greens rows that we planted during summer.  We’ve had weeks of frost, and these plants are the ones that have survived without any help.  They are in the greenhouse, but the cover is up and the sides are rolled up.  At this stage, the greenhouse serves as a deer, elk  (and sheep) proof garden spot.

Five Color Silverbeet.

The key to success with greens is to plant more than you need.  Just like when someone asks me how big to build a greenhouse.  I say build as big as you can afford.  You’ll always find a use for that “extra” space.  And I always find a use for any extra greens.  Anything too damaged for the kitchen can certainly be utilized by the hens.

Kale “forest.”  Lacinato, Winterbor, Redbor, and Lacinato Rainbow.

Kale of all types is probably the mainstay of our greens supplies.  Some are hardier than others, and in a permanent garden, kale can almost become a perennial in our maritime area.  We are fortunate to have Frank Morton and Wild Garden Seed not too far away.  Excellent seed source.

When harvesting kale,  make sure to pick lower leaves first and leave the growing tip.  Buds at the leaf axil will form shoots in the spring for a tender napini or raab, making kale another extended, dual purpose plant in the garden.


How do we eat kale?  Salads, braised, in soups and stews, gratins, savory galettes and this winter I have been experimenting with Colcannon made with celeriac instead of potatoes.  Probably not technically colcannon but delicious nonetheless.

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16 Comments leave one →
  1. brenda permalink
    January 5, 2012 12:28 am

    The colors are so vivid and they are pretty enough to go in a flowerbed. I’ve grown rainbow chard, but never kale. I used to think it was just some ornamental thing to dress up salad bars.

    brenda from arkansas

    • January 5, 2012 6:38 am

      Brenda, the kale is pretty, and after a frost or two the colors intensify and the kale gets sweet. Kale in the summer is an acquired taste ;)

  2. January 5, 2012 7:16 am

    We have quite a lot of dehydrated kale from summer as well as the tops available now; the fresh kale tends to go in with the eggs and the colcannon, and the crumbled greens with everything, including in breads and hot cereals.

    • January 5, 2012 7:40 am

      Risa, I’m thinking I may do some dehydrating next year. Freezing greens was not my favorite thing to do! I’ve got jerky and pumpkin seeds drying today near the cook stove :)

  3. sharonstern permalink
    January 5, 2012 7:30 am

    Kale is my favorite. For some reason, I’m able to eat ours straight out of the garden still. Also our lettuce, even though we’ve had several freezes in Portland.

    How do you freeze greens? Just … put them in the freezer? Do you blanch them first?

    • January 5, 2012 7:38 am

      Kale for the most part stays edible throughout the winter here, as does chicory, and lettuce sometimes makes it all the way through. Everyday in December it didn’t rain, it froze here and the kale and cabbage just keep getting sweeter :)

      To freeze vegetables you should blanch first, then cool, and bag. Risa’s (see above)method of drying would work great too, and take up less space.

  4. January 5, 2012 8:20 am

    Your chard is beautiful…I can hardly wait for spring

    Linda

    http://coloradofarmlife.wordpress.com

  5. Carole permalink
    January 5, 2012 8:42 am

    How does your kale get so big before winter? Mine is too tiny to provide much food for us through winter.

    • January 5, 2012 8:45 am

      Carole, winter is harvest time vs. growing time, so I plant my kale for winter use in mid-summer and actually some of my kale and chard is from last spring. If you start a little earlier next year you should have a fine harvest. Succession planting gives you lots of leeway, in case you have a crop failure.

  6. January 5, 2012 11:14 am

    We have been eating kale chips, they are very addictive

  7. January 5, 2012 12:39 pm

    I have a tiny purple kale plant growing here at the moment. Not sure if it’ll survive the summer.

  8. January 5, 2012 5:22 pm

    Ahhh I am morning the last of my kale! and was still eating it into December, but alas it is now gone, kale chips and all:( Still have a freezer full of mustard and collard greens though. And I am snow harvesting brusselsprouts (under 2 feet of snow), along with beets and carrots.. but oh how I envy your kale!

    Beautiful blog BTW,

    fondly, your neighbour to the north
    http://www.eatingwithSOLE.wordpress.com

  9. Sheila permalink
    January 5, 2012 9:11 pm

    It all looks lovely. I was just at the grocery store and looked at the kale and fennel. UGH! The kale was wilted and the fennel had brown spots; not to mention it’s also a bit pricey. My garden was coming along wonderfully until the deer decided to jump the fence. Kale, fennel, spinach, lettuces, kohlrabi, carrots, beets, Brussels sprouts…all gone in a couple days. They left the garden alone all summer long, but I guess December hit and they were hungry. Next year I will buy some deer netting and hopefully we’ll also have a dog by then. OH well, live and learn. I am looking forward to starting seeds again.

  10. January 6, 2012 12:13 am

    Your pictures make me want to run down to my allotment and pick my kale….but we have only had a couple of frosts here near London, England. I didn’t know that they get sweeter with frosts. How do you keep the white fly off …or are they killed off by the frosts too? Thank you for another interesting post with beautiful pictures.

    • Throwback at Trapper Creek permalink*
      January 11, 2012 8:43 pm

      Mumofteenagers, the only whitefly we see here is in greenhouses usually. Do you mean what we call cabbage moth with the green caterpillars that love brassicas? We have those, but the birds eat them, and we didn’t have too bad of year with them this year.

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