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.
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.
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 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.