Many of the foods we love are grown in extremes — the edges and shifts of weather found with seasons. I’ve decided consistent, predictable weather makes it easier on the gardener but it’s the margins of weather, heat filled days and equally crisp, winter days that make flavor come alive.
This may not be true for all fruits and veggies, but when I think of the seasonal sweethearts, those foods that make a season a season, it’s the crops grown with an extra dose of heat or cold that taste amazing. Wine made from grapes grown in an exceptionally warm summer tend to be champion vintages, sugars are rounded and subtle flavors brought forward. It’s the same with dry farmed tomatoes and the choicest of blackberries — heat and scarcity of water at just the right time create flavor unequalled by consistent conditions.
Winter crops are not so different. Cold can heighten and concentrate sugars and other flavors in much the same way as heat. Pomegranates come alive, ready for harvest as temperatures drop in fall. And there’s nothing better than carrots seeded when the weather is mild and gathered well after the first frost.
Common knowledge and circadian rhythms tell us spring is the time to get busy, “hurry up, the world is coming to life”. But winter is coming and with it is a whole bunch of life.
You can make the most of winter by growing the right crops — no matter your climate. And count yourself lucky if you’re gardening in the cold.
Here are 6 veggies to try:
- Carrots — they’re a given, especially if you have children. Nantes are my favorite but I generally plant a variety. See What to Plant Now for growing tips.
- Sugar snap peas are only disappointing if the snails get them first. Or grow them simply for their shoots. They’re easy to plant, even for the smallest of hands, and if planted successionally they can be added to salads and sandwiches day in and out.
- Baby greens are perfect, especially if you’re limited on space. They can be scatter seeded and don’t require thinning but will be happier if you trim and harvest leaves regularly. Grow baby kale, chard or a chef’s mix.
- Anything brassica — broccoli, cauliflower, cabbages, turnips, rutabaga, collards, etc.
- Fava Beans — they make a wonderful cover crop and, if left to flower, can be used in much the same way as sugar snap peas.
- And what would life be without beets?