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Besides Meat and Potatoes and Roots

October 22, 2013

Our winter menus feature hearty fare, but nothing too exotic.  Farm food, plain and simple.  Again, I am lucky to live in an area that many winter crops can be harvested from the garden right on through to spring.  We’ve been having clear nights and frosty mornings for some time now, so just about everything that is left in the gardens is either going to take the frost or not.  Many of the plants we overwinter in the gardens are in the brassica family, they take the cold, becoming much sweeter in taste, and the plants stand up to our wet, cool winters.

Charmant F1

Charmant F1

Danish Ballhead

Ruby Ball F1

Ruby Ball F1

Melissa F1

Melissa F1

January King

January King

You often hear that cabbage is king, but as far as longevity and pure production numbers, kale is king around here.  Kale is a way of life in the Pacific Northwest I think due to its easy-going nature.  Some are hardier than others, and to make sure we aren’t without kale, we grow many different varieties.  Red Russian, White Russian, Hunger Gap, Winterbor, Redbor, Lacinato, and Lacinato Rainbow work well in our climate.  Some do almost succumb to freezing, but if you’re patient they will bolt with tender new shoots come spring, providing some much-needed spring tonic.  During fall and winter, the ubiquitous kale provides extra vitamin rich greens for the house cow and the hens.  We take top pick, and blems go to the stock for milk and egg making.

Rows and rows of kale

Rows and rows of kale

Lacinato

Lacinato

Winterbor F1

Winterbor F1

Hunger Gap

Hunger Gap

Lacinato Rainbow

Lacinato Rainbow

RedborF1

RedborF1

To pull off this feat of harvesting all winter, I need to seed many of these plants in spring or early summer and grow them through the summer season, much like the root crops we use.  When the fall equinox arrives I want my winter harvest plants fully mature and ready to harvest.

Rounding out the list a bit are some other plants like brussels sprouts, celeriac, chard and leeks.

Diablo F1

Diablo F1

Brilliant celeriac

Brilliant celeriac

Chard and chicory

Chard and chicory

Bandit

Bandit

Fall colors

Fall colors

Most of the work was done on these winter garden plants right alongside the summer work, now all we have to do is sit back and enjoy the more leisurely winter harvest pace.

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21 Comments leave one →
  1. October 22, 2013 9:20 am

    Nice garden. We have to be careful with cabbage as it freezes and splits. You don’t really know that until you take it inside, thaw it and find you have a sloppy mess inside.

    • October 22, 2013 9:29 am

      HFS, it’s pretty mild here, usually the rain causes the splits here, I have to root prune them to keep that from happening. The toughest one? That Ruby Ball, it takes all of it and it still good, along with January King, the green ones, not so much.

  2. October 22, 2013 9:23 am

    Hi i see that you use hybrid seeds ie F1 do you save any of your seeds or do you buy in each year,smiles Fi from New Zealand

    • October 22, 2013 9:26 am

      Fi, I don’t save seeds from cabbage, so growing hybrid cabbage isn’t a worry for me, and brassica seed keeps for a long time, so a large packet of seed which is usually more economical to purchase keeps me in cabbage for several years. I do save lots of seeds from other vegetables, but cabbage isn’t one of them.

  3. October 22, 2013 9:32 am

    Beautiful, as always!

    Do you have a post on slug control? (Is there a simple way to search for a word like ‘slug’?) Some of the items you have there are well-loved by slugs at my place.

    Also, how do you keep paths into the garden / to the produce aisle (as it were), during the winter rains? Or are you high and north enough that the ground freezes? My garden can be a muck-boot-eating swamp in the wintertime.

    And thanks for the tip on saving brassica seeds, too!

    • October 22, 2013 9:41 am

      Marilyn, Thanks!

      I don’t have that much of a slug problem because I don’t mulch, the dryland style of gardening pretty much takes care of that. We have some, but not enough to worry about.

      I don’t keep/make paths per sé, but just use the areas between the rows to harvest from etc., our soil is really well drained so foot traffic ( I try to keep it light) is okay. Our soil doesn’t really freeze either, so I am lucky on both regards.

  4. October 22, 2013 10:43 am

    I’m trying a winter garden with much the same plants you named, but have had a pretty bad infestation of aphids, cabbage moths and snails, leaving the kale, chard and cabbage in some lacy looking patterns. I’m hoping perhaps a freeze (if we ever get one) might wipe out some of the bugs. We shall see. So far it’s not looking very encouraging.

    • October 22, 2013 12:05 pm

      Gunta, they may come out of it, and when your fertility gets better that should help with the insects. They love to attack the weaker plants, it’s not uncommon to see a kale plant in my garden with aphids, and his row mates will have none. In that case I think it is a weak plant, if the infestation is widespread I make a note to better amend that soil.

  5. October 22, 2013 11:33 am

    How fantastic, we are still eating out of the garden but the end is nigh. That kale, I have never had such a wonderful plant in the garden, the pigs eat armloads a day as well. Yours look stunning, must be all those cow patties! c

    • October 22, 2013 12:03 pm

      C, yes, Miss Jane Fussypants likes to get credit for growing the garden 😉 Of course her contribution is duly noted, and she tells me it’s much better than the steer manure from the store. I always wonder about that marketing phrase myself…I have a hard time catching my steers pooping so I will have to settle for plain Jane cow manure!

  6. A.A. permalink
    October 22, 2013 12:42 pm

    How titillating! I forgot to say that a few posts back. 🙂

    What do you think about direct seeding kale? I thought I’d try next year, I’m terrible with transplants. The issue seems to be my feet somehow occupying the place of my hands, and sunlight. There’s no place where they’d get enough light to grow and so they seem to go into waiting mode until I put them in the ground, or grow too tall and thin to take well to transplanting.

    • October 22, 2013 1:07 pm

      AA, direct seeding is fine, I used to do that all the time BG (before greenhouse) and I would just thin, or you can also do a bed of seedlings in the garden for transplants, that’s from my BP days (before plastic.) The commercial growers around here used to do the nursery bed thing to raise transplants. This kale in the picture was seeded in June and transplanted in July, I had a small early row in the other garden and we’re still eating on it, but kale isn’t really a summer plant, much preferring to be mature in cooler weather, so the early stuff is just kind of a filler.

  7. Mich permalink
    October 22, 2013 1:24 pm

    I grow a lot of the same winter crops in my garden in England, although this year I have had no end of problems with caterpillars attacking my brassicas. Very annoying when they manage to sneak under all the protective covers.

  8. October 22, 2013 1:45 pm

    we have awful problems with slugs, they will eat the entire head of cabbage if you leave them alone for a few days. We have to slug pick several times a week. Thinking of getting some ducks.

  9. October 22, 2013 3:10 pm

    It looks in your photo like you might top your Brussels sprouts? This is only our second year growing them, so we’re still learning the finer points and have noticed that some places recommend topping while others don’t. What’s your take on the issue?

    • October 22, 2013 3:47 pm

      Anna, I’ve done both, and topping gives me the most sprouts that are a big enough to deal with. Timing seems to be the key here in my location, Fedco recommends September 1st and if I go that early the tops blow up and grow again, so I actually forgot until October 1st this year, and now the deer are helping too, but as planned the buds are swelling more uniformly instead of the stalk continuing to grow taller and put on more sprouts that will never get large enough to eat before they freeze out. The tops and stems are delicious if you treat them like baby collards or kale, braised or baked they are very good.

      • Sheila permalink
        October 23, 2013 7:54 am

        So, are you saying that if I had topped my Brussels sprouts they wouldn’t have minuscule little sprouts right now? I have been watching them closely and coaxing them to grow larger. I’ve never had this problem. We had problems with aphids one year and always with the deer coming in and eating them to the ground in late November. This year I plan to cover them with deer netting…if there’s anything worth protecting.

        • October 23, 2013 7:59 am

          Sheila, could be or it could be the variety too, lots of the OP varieties are a little slow on the uptake and not near as uniform as the hybrids of course. I’m not that big of fan of preparing them, preferring a cabbage head to 50 baby ones, but the family loves the sprouts so I just have to deal with that. Dang deer! They are zeroing in on mine too, and they are camping here because of hunting season 😦

  10. October 23, 2013 2:41 am

    Some what kind of recipes/how do you cook the kale all winter? Adding to soup/stews, surely….but how else? And for the above-mentioned, do you rip the leaves up and just throw them in raw, to let the soup liquid cook them down? I didn’t grow up on kale but want to learn more. I think I need to try it a good many ways, see what I like!

    • October 23, 2013 5:36 am

      Roz, most of the time I braise it with any other greens we have, chard, chicory, etc. Sauté garlic, leek or onion, add torn greens (I discard the stems, dogs, cows, or chickens get them)toss with a little oil, and I usually add some broth or stock at this time and cover and cook to desired consistency. Some people like them lightly cooked and some like them a little softer, at least go to bright green. Baked kale chips are good too if you aren’t a fan of kale 😉
      http://smittenkitchen.com/blog/2010/03/baked-kale-chips/

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