Winter Veg and Salads
Footprints in the snow at the plot
It’s only May and I need to start thinking and planning on what I want to grow and eat for winter, sounds ridiculous to be thinking of winter when we’ve just had one of the hottest and driest April’s on record, but if I don’t start sowing now I’ll miss my
The first couple of years on my allotment saw me concentrating on spring and summer veg with little going on in autumn or winter other than a few Leeks and some Purple Sprouting Broccoli. Last year changed – partly because of my curiosity as to what I could grow well in the depths of winter, how I could push the seasons a bit – i.e. keeping salads going through autumn, conversations I had with fellow gardeners, and I guess time and energy to plan ahead. The thought of eating fresh veggies and salads in winter was the real driver though – that and the thought of eating shop bought salads, read largely tasteless, made me shudder, so I got my act together.
I can’t say I was wholly successful (but what gardener can?), many things keeled over, or went into hibernation/shut-down, some things were nibbled by slugs and the like, plus some veg like the radicchio rotted from the insides, but on reflection my 1st real attempt at growing food for the winter table was a successful, we had some meals from home grown veg. But I know I can improve on it.
The major problem, so I’ve discovered is that the light levels in this part of the Northern hemisphere are miserable in terms of wanting to grow veg over winter – the sun simply doesn’t get out for long enough or get high enough. Added to that, a classic British winter is not just cold but damp and wet. I’ve found over the years that I’ve lost more to the damp and wet in the garden than to the cold. The one positive I have on my side is being on the south coast, which means the frosts aren’t as severe as they would be 10 miles inland. We do get frosts, but they don’t tend to be heavy or go on for long. On the negatives, living on the coast means dealing with strong winds and gales, so means that whatever protection I try to give my plants it needs to be firmly in place, otherwise after a storm the structure will be found several plots away.
What I have to try and remember is that last winter was exceptional – cold in December and lots of snow, we didn’t have the atypical days of cool and wet, so maybe that is why my winter veg survived so well, and without much protection. Only time will tell.
Eating the winter sown salads and sowing the summer salads makes me realise that I crave fresh, raw, crunchy salads. Letting the sowing commence!
Further reading -
- Elliot Coleman ‘The Winter HArvest Handbook’ and ‘Four-Season Harvest’ http://www.fourseasonfarm.com/
- Charles Dowding ‘Salad Leaves for All Seasons’ – http://www.charlesdowding.co.uk/Homepage
Winter Grow List for 2011
- Broccoli ~ Nine Star Perennial (Thompson & Morgan). I’m looking forward to trying this as I’ve read loads of positive reviews. ‘A perennial white sprouting broccoli with the ability to produce bumper crops year after year on the same plant. The variable sized, creamy heads make a great spring vegetable.’ So again not a true winter veg, but one
that will be in the ground and ready in the south early spring
- Purple Sprouting Broccoli ~ Sown in April and picked the following March. ‘Early Purple’ (Real Seeds). tried and
tested over the last few years and has survived all that winter can throw at it. Oh, and it tastes great and crops for ages. But do netting against Pigeons, grow to approx 4 to 5ft high
- Brussel Sprouts ~
- Falstaff (from a US swapper), Park Seeds describe it as ‘Keeps its Purple Color Even After Cooking! – which I found to
be fairly true last year. “Slow-growing but utterly delicious. 125 days. There has never been a more beautiful brussels sprout than this deep purplish-redvariety, and we would recommend it even if it weren’t also one of the most flavourful.
But the fact is that these rosy sprouts are simply delicious, with a mild, nut-like flavour that appeals more to children than other brussels sprout varieties may. Slow to mature, this plant intensifies its lovely color if exposed to a bit of frost, so can be left quite late in the season without damage. And when you cook the sprouts, they keep their rich purple tones! What a pleasing and delicious sprout for the entire family! ‘
- Evesham Special (seed swap & grown in Lewes) ‘A favourite old variety which produces good, reliable early crops. The large tasty sprouts are packed onto medium-sized plants, which makes them ideal for exposed locations.’ I’m hoping this does well as the allotments are pretty exposed to winter storms
- Cabbage ~
- Delaway Cabbage (Seed Swap) ‘ This is Irish Seed Savers listing who have it in their catalogue “An Irish heirloom variety, saved for generations by the Hughes family in Co. Mayo. Exceptionally hardy cut ‘n come again cabbage. Tall vigorous plant with large tender leaves and purple stems.’
- Wintergreen (Kings Seeds) sow July to aug for picking late winter early spring
- January King (Johnsons) ‘Purple tinged winter hardy variety with good flavour’. Sow April to June for harvesting November to March
- Savoy ‘Tarvpy’ (kings Seeds) sow May to early June for harvesting late Autumn and early Winter. A classic Savoy, which I need to pick early as it can be prone to bolting
- Cauliflower ~ Purple - stood well over winter with minimal frost damage. Kept it’s purple colour when cooked and generally a good cauliflower flavour
- Carrots ~ I grow most of my carrots in tubs and crates as my clay soil is too heavy and they tend to fork. I’m hoping to be able to keep some carrots alive and well into early winter by giving them a bit of fleece for frost protection I’m going to try Autumn King and Nantes Frubund (Thompson & Morgan), a freebie, so nothing to lose
- Chard ~ Swiss Chard – a classic and a must have in the kitchen garden. Lovely added to pasta or chopped finely in an omelette, or when the leaves are small in a green salad
- Kale~ Nero Di Toscana (Real Seeds) ‘ Non heading traditional Kale from Italy. A very useful plant. As well as cooked baby leaves and shoots are particularly nice raw in salads’.
- Ragged Jack (seed swap)
- Vates Blue Curled (HSL) ‘This dwarf (30-40cm), non heading variety produces finely curled, blue-green leaves is very hardy, and particularly tender to eat following a light frost. Can be eaten as a cut and come again, or the whole plant can be uprooted. The extent of the blue colouration varies but it does look great in an ornamental border as well as being a valuable food crop. Sown in early March and transplanted in mid-April, you can begin harvesting delicate frilly leaves in late May. Sow again in late June or early July for a fall crop. Kale likes to be transplanted–even the summer sowing–and it wastes less garden space to do so. ‘
- Musselborough – sow March to April. ‘Most popular variety/strong growing habit • Very winter hardy, thick stems • Ready from December onwards ‘. Abit of a stalwart for winte rveg.
- Bleu de Solaise – ‘ an excellent variety of winter leek with dark green bluish tinted leaves and a thick short shaft’.
- Oriental Leaves~ I’ve had some successes and failures with these, I find the late plantings more successful than spring sowings. I find I have to net them against White Fly and Cabbage White Butterflies otherwise I’m eating something that has more holes in it than a string vest. Oh, and it’s always a bit of a battle of attrition with the slugs
- Pak Choi ~
- Red (Suffolk Herbs) ‘red tinged leaves as the plant matures. Excellent flavour’ sow May to Sept. I looked on in envy last year as another plotholder had this variety – looked stunning, hope it tastes as good as it looks. And I’m also hoping it is winter hardy
- Yuushou F1 (Johnsons). ‘Very long season and slow to bolt, thick tender stems’
- White Celery Mustard (Kings Seeds) ‘Soup Spoon Type’
- Mizuna ~ Kyoto (Johnsons) ‘very easy to grow oriental leaf with deeply cut glossy leaves and a mild spicy tang. Can be picked young for salads or mature for stir frys’. Sow March to August
- ChopSuey Greens ~ Garland Chrysanthemum Shungiku (Kings Seed & seed swaps). Sow by broad-casting in small blocks, harvest when about 10cm high and cook like spinach. Sow spring and late summer. These stood well in winter and I was bale too eat some in Jan / Feb
Chinese Celery ~ Kintsai (Kings Seeds) ‘Leaves and stalks are vivid green and have a distinctive flavour and aroma. Sow anytime, fast to mature, about 2 months from sowing.’ I hope to do better with these this year, as they were well and truly munched by slugs last year.
- Mustard Oriental ~ Ruby Streaks (Johnsons) ‘with attractive deeply divided, darkly coloured leaves which become hotter as they mature’. Sow april to August
- Choy Sum ~
- Purple Flowering (Kings Seeds) ‘In warm areas may be sown in Autumn’. Another veg that was munched by slugs
- Hon Tsai Tai (Nickys Seeds). ‘ Best sown mid to late summer into early autumn. Can be sown autumn, transplanted into polytunnels or greenhouses for a winter harvest’
- Chinese Cabbage ~ Wong Bok (Kings Seeds) ‘Barrel shaped heads’ Sow July to August. Again this is in my ‘could do better ;ist’, largely down to the appetite of slugs. Is there a Chinese type cabbage that slugs don’t like?
- Indian Mustard ~ Amsoi (Kings Seeds) Sow all year round. Quick to bolt of it is too dry and hot, so I tend to sow this
late summer or very early spring onwards
- Parsnips ~
- Tender & True (Seed Swap) ‘with long, smooth skinned roots’
- Arrow (Kew). ‘Bayonet shaped roots, virtually coreless and tender and sweet.’
- Radish ~
- Black Round Spanish (Pennard Plants). ”Gros Noir d’Hiver’ , Ancient Spanish radish dates in Europe to 1548 & common garden variety in England & France in the early 19th century. Fine round-rooted orb, with deep, near-black skin & snowy-white flesh with a smooth, fairly hot pungent flavour, good raw or cooked. Excellent storability,
keeping right through the winter. ‘ Personally I love them as an appetiser or thinly sliced on a piece of bread and butter with a tiny sprinkling of salt. Yum! I was still eating these in February in stor-frys
- Hilds Blauer Herbst Und Winter (seed swap). ‘An exceptionally flamboyant and vividly coloured radish with crisp, firm flesh and long tapering roots that store well once lifted, lasting into winter. Perfect for colourful salads it is also used as an appetiser and is often served as an accompaniment to beer in Germany’. I was happy to eat it with or without the
- Mooli – Mino Early (Johnsons). Superb, grown in tubs, and produces lovely long roots with a mild radish flavour. Good raw as a side dish / salad or cooked Indian style. Still eating these in Jan/Feb
- Salads – various Salad mixes / Mesculin, like Salad Mix – Aunties Cold Snap Mix (Thomas Etty)– sown throughout winter into early Spring (Thomas Etty), “a good sturdy, hearty winter leafy salad
- Radicchio –
- Di Treviso Black (Seeds of Italy) sown July to August for picking December onwards, “An Italian favourite and the first Italian vegetable to be issued with DOP status like champagne. A rare special selection Radicchio of Treviso called ‘Awake or Alive’ because of it’s upright leaves which are also very dark red, hence the name”. An absolute classic, and with a touch of frost to it, it looses some of the bitter strength. Lovely cooked in risotto or grilled.
- Grumolo Rossa (Seeds of Italy) ‘radicchio of Verona with beautiful rosette shaped heads which add colour to your salad bowl. Sow from May-Sep and harvest from Oct-Mar.’
- Pall Rosso Precoce (Mr Fothergills). Classic Italian salad. I found this variety stood fairly well, but some plants rotted from the centre. Lovely round deep red variety
- Lettuce ~
- Valdor (Nickys Seeds) Winter Butterhead lettuce sown late August to mid November and late January onwards.
Needs some protection. I found this to be a star of a lettuce to overwinter. Gentle buttery flavour, lovely bright green heads, and can get to a good size.
- Merveille Des Quatre Saisons (Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds), “ an old world crop that requires cooler temps to
grow really well. Sow in spring and autumn
- Rossa Di Trento (Seeds of Italy)’ A lettuce from the alpine city of Trento. Large green lettuce with red outer leaves.’ Sow Mar-mid Sep and harvest till mid Nov. New to me this year
- Romana Bionda Delgi Ortolani – “These seeds produce mid/early, large, upright headed lettuce. Consistent,
blond coloured leaves with crunchy rib. Used especially in Caesar salad. Sow from February to August. Harvest from May to November.” New to me this year
- Arctic King (seed swap)
- Bronze Arrow (HSL). ‘A beautiful, productive and very useful lettuce. This California heirloom is popular in the USA but almost unknown here. Drought and cold hardy, making it ideal when autumn-sown, for overwintering. It survived frost and snowfall at Ryton. Also, less popular with slugs. A large, non-hearting lettuce; the attractive, arrowhead-shaped leaves have a distinctive bronze tinge and mild flavour.’ New to me this year
- Brune d’Hiver (Baker Creek). ‘Compact, hardy, French butterhead-type lettuce that was introduced in 1855. Crunchy green leaves are blushed reddish-brown colour. Plants require little space when growing and are perfect for fall plantings’. A must grow for me, picked the last one at the end of November (no protection). Memo to self, grow more of these as they are beautifully coloured and very crisp tasting
- Brown Goldring (HSL / Swap). ‘Cos Lettuce. Produces crisp heads in the summer and will successfully overwinter with minimal protection’. new to me this year
- Petite Rouge (Baker Creek). ‘An exciting true baby red-romaine! This cute specialty lettuce is hardy and easy to grow in many climates’. New to me this year
- Red Sails (Nickys Seeds). ‘Red Sails has been trialed as a winter lettuce in the South’. Looking forward to trying this
- Sunset (Baker Creek). ‘Super deep, beautiful red! A great variety for home and market gardeners alike. An excellent leaf type that was AAS winner in 1987, but has become rare’. New to me this year
- Tom Thumb (Baker Creek). overwintered well for me in my placcy greenhouse, but not convinced by the flavour. Will give it another go just to make sure
- Winter Marvel (Real Seeds). Winter Butterhead lettuce, ‘A cold resistant lettuce from France, for production under a bit of cover over winter. Sow from August onwards for harvest through Autumn and Spring’. New to me this year
- Val d’Orges (Baker Creek). ‘Tender, buttery-soft, light-green leaves are a delight to eat. A French heirloom type that is large and perfect for overwintering in mild climates, or fall harvesting in cooler climates’. New to me this year
- Winter Density (D T Brown). ‘’Winter Density’ is a dwarf, compact lettuce that forms crisp, dark green heads of leaves from spring to autumn. hearts. Good for autumn sowing ‘Winter Density’ is a dwarf, compact lettuce that forms crisp, dark green heads of leaves from spring to autumn. hearts. Good for autumn sowing Like a larger version of Little Gem in shape and flavour, you will not be disappointed by this reliable cos lettuce’. I’ll see about that last comment later this
- Land Cress ~ (seed swap) Also known as American Cress, and is a good substitute for Watercress
- Endive ~
- De Meaux (Baker Creek). ‘Broad, dark green heads with creamy-white, blanched hearts that are heavenly in salads; the leaves are very notched. This pre-1885 French heirloom is best for fall plantings’. Looking forward to trying this as only some of the Endive made it through the winter, and I have a great recipe for Endive and Borlotto bean soup
- Riccia Pancaliri a Costa Bianca (Original Touch). ‘Endive seeds for the Pancalieri a Costa Rosata produces an early and curly variety of endive. It grows a yellow heart and a self-whitening head with long, green leaves. This variety is ideal for eating both raw and cooked. Best in the Autumn but can harvest from September right through until November’. Over wintered well and still going strong in April
- Fiorentina (Original Touch). ‘Endive seeds for the Super Fiorentina Verde grow an Autumn/Winter variety of endive
with sowing from July through until October. Harvesting starts from August and runs right through until Christmas. A couple of days before picking, cover the head and this will turn the leaves white’. New to me this year
- Chicory Variegata Di Castelfranco (Seeds of Italy). ‘Beautiful stunning leaves which look like they have been splattered with red paint from a brush. This Venetian variety is quite hardy and can be harvested till the end of December.’
- Lambs Lettuce (Mache) –
- D’Olanda A Seme Grosso (Seeds of Italy). ‘Lambs lettuce / Mache or corn salad. Resists low temperatures. Open full heart rosettes of soft melt-in-the-mouth leaves. SowMar-Apr and Jul-Oct’.
- Jade (D T Brown) Can also be grown under glass, sow September to January in pots, harvest from November.
‘Glossy green, spoon-shaped leaves on compact plants with a distinct mild flavour. Can be grown for the whole head or as an easy ‘cut and come again’ crop.’
- Ronde Maraichere (Condian). Did well last year, but needs protection from Pigeons as they seem to like it as well
- Spinach ~
- Viking – Picked throughout winter but especially good in late winter and early spring for picking young leaves
- Perpetual – I was able to pick this up till late winter then again from February onwards. A real survivor!
- Geant d’Hiver (Association Kokopelli) sow Sept to Oct and harvest November through to Spring. Lovely large leaves,
perfect for sauteing
- Spring Onion
- Pal – overwintered well with minimal protection
- White Lisbon (D T Brown) ‘Regarded by many as THE spring onion, it is a fast grower and has a great taste.’
- Tonga – overwintered well with minimal protection
- Turnip Snowball. Not normally considered a winter crop but a batch sown late summer overwintered well for me last year. (Thompson & Morgan) ‘ 1st class, crystal white, globular roots with a juicy sweet flavour’.
How to Grow Winter crops
- Indoors / Outdoors
Extending the Seasons