Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Gardening Article: 5 Must Have Salad Plants For Your Edible Winter Garden

We all know that getting a jump on the growing season means starting plants indoors early each spring. Why not spread that excitement throughout the year and sow seeds in fall for an edible winter garden?

Depending on your location November is the perfect time to plant salad crops that will overwinter, providing you with fresh greens all winter long. In maritime or mild climates the plants below can be grown outside. If you happen to be in a place with a little colder temperatures then growing these in a green house or cold frame may be necessary. For best results try germinating seeds inside and transition plants outside once they are a few inches tall.

1. Collards – Collards are often forgotten as a winter type green, especially in the West. Typically cooked, collards have a strong bitter flavor so use them sparingly in fresh salads until you are comfortable with the taste. Many of the “bitter greens” as they are called (kales, endive, escarole etc.) are not widely available in stores and as a result most people are not used to the flavors. Collards are also easy to grow and easy to overwinter.

2. Kale – What can I say other than Kale is awesome! There are many types of kale with a wide variety of leaf shapes, colors and textures. Not only does kale taste great, it will add to the beauty of your edible garden. Kale does very well as an overwintering plant. In fact, some varieties even become sweeter after a frost. Most people only like using the young leaves for salad but I find the mature leaves add much needed texture and flavor to most salads. Mature leaves are also great in soups or baked dishes as they don’t wilt and fall apart like lettuce or spinach would.

3. Maché (a.k.a. corn salad, lamb’s lettuce) – Maché is an incredibly easy plant to grow. It was discovered in cornfields where it was thought to be a weed. This is a low growing plant with very delicate leaves. The growth pattern of maché is neat. Every whorl of leaves are paired and off set by 90 degrees. Maché to me is similar in taste to spinach but has a lighter texture.

4. Peas – While not a green leafy salad plant, peas, especially snow peas are a perfect addition to any green salad. Peas do best in cooler times of the year but are not as cold tolerant as kale or chard so you might find these better suited to growing in a greenhouse. Nonetheless, peas can be grown for winter harvest. Peas are a fast growing plant with harvest between about 55-70 days for most varieties.

5. Swiss Chard – Like kale, there are many varieties of Swiss chard with a range of colors and textures. Most of the difference in color is related to the stalks of chard, some are pure white while others are bright yellow, orange and red. Again, smaller leaves are more suitable for fresh salads while mature leaves and stalks are typically saved for cooked dishes, but the choice is yours.

The great thing about all of the above plants is that the harvest can be prolonged, spread out over weeks or months by taking outer leaves first. In the case of peas, the harvesting will induce production of additional pods in most cases. For more specific growing information on the above plants check out http://ediblegardennw.com/plants.

Plant now and enjoy a bounty of greens for your holiday dinners!

Image courtesy of ediblegardennw.com

About the author: Galen is a gardener who enjoys writing about edible gardening. Read his gardening articles at
http://ediblegardennw.com/articles.

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