Summer may be waning, but that doesn’t mean that gardening must stop. Fall and into winter can be an advantageous time to grow certain produce. With a bit of wise planning and research, you can harvest crops that are just as delicious and healthy as warmer climate crops. These hardy plants will taste even sweeter due to the cooler temperatures and are just as nutritious.
When cold-season plants come in contact with frost, they react by creating more sugars, making otherwise bitter vegetables taste almost sweet. Unfortunately, the timing is also in alignment with when wildlife is desperately foraging for food, as it is less abundant in the cooler months. You can protect your budding harvest from hungry critters by installing a deer fence around the perimeter of the yard or garden. Durable and attractive, the fencing from Illinois Fence Company serves as a cruelty-free deterrent for four-legged friends and encourages them to keep moving along to other green and open spaces.
The following curated list might inspire you to add these tasty vegetables to your cold weather plantings for nutritious offering during the seasons of colds and flu.
- Brussels Sprouts – Jam packed with fiber, brussels sprouts are also a tremendous source of vitamins K, A, and C. They’re a good source of potassium and calcium, too, and don’t need to ripen before you can eat them. These sprouts will grow best in climates which offer numerous sunny days with modest frost at night.
- Kale – Not only is kale one of the newest health crazes, it’s also one of the hardiest crops and can withstand severe cold weather. Bring on the snow, because it protects kale in the cold weather so you can grow it even longer. It contains vitamins A, C, and K along with folate and even an omega-3 fatty acid, which is good for brain health.
- Cauliflower – Related to kale, both the stems and leaves of cauliflower are edible and nutritious. Caulliflower is chockfull of vitamin C; one cup has nearly 75% of the recommended daily vitamin C intake. It also comes in 5 colors: white, green, purple, orange, and yellow and can tolerate temperatures as low as 10 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Green Onions – They are delicious and used profusely in a variety of healthy dishes. Also, green onions refuse to be killed off by snow, freezing temperatures or frost. They have a mild flavor and are also referred to as scallions. They are a significant source of beta-carotene, vitamin C, and folate.
- Rutabagas – A cross between cabbage and turnips, the rutabaga is a root plant that is normally bitter. However, when exposed to a gentle frost, they can taste sweeter. When colder weather sets in, simply add a generous layer of straw to protect them. Rutabagas are an excellent source of fiber, and vitamins C and A.
- Parsnips – Like its orange cousin the carrot, parsnips are a member of the parsley family. This hearty root vegetable can withstand temperatures as low as 0 degrees Fahrenheit. With exposure to light frost, it’s normally earthy, somewhat bitter taste will sweeten. Parsnips offer heart-healthy potassium and vitamin C.
- Swiss Chard – You wouldn’t expect a leafy vegetable to be tolerant of the cold, but the Swiss chard can survive temperatures that dip as low as 15 degrees Fahrenheit. Milder than spinach, their stalks grow in a variety of colors and taste like beets. One cup of this vegetable provides more than 300% of the daily value for vitamin K. However, avoid this beauty if you suffer from kidney stones.
- Broccoli – Flavorful, and seemingly somewhat delicate, the broccoli plant can tolerate temperatures as low as 28 degrees Fahrenheit. Best harvested between mid-October and December, California is the broccoli king, having grown 90% of the United States’ production of this vegetable. The U.S. is 3rd in the world production of broccoli, behind China and India. This fat free vegetable is loaded with antioxidants and enriching phytochemicals.
- Carrots – The best source of beta-carotene, carrots rank second only to potatoes, as the most favorite vegetable in the world. Extended periods of cold can render long, ashen roots, but carrots can survive cold weather that dips as low as 15 degrees Fahrenheit. Composed of 88% water, covering them with straw or mulch will keep them happy in the ground, and able to be harvested throughout the winter into the spring.
- Cabbage – With more than 400 varieties and all of them preferring cool weather, it’s hard to go wrong with a cabbage crop. First cultivated over 6,000 years ago, it’s known for its powerful punch of vitamin C. Cabbage has been used in the past as a cure for baldness. It will tolerate 15-degree temperatures, and research has shown that it protects against various cancers.
Don’t let the waning days and sunlight deter your gardening efforts! There are a variety of delicious, nutritious crops that can be planted in the fall and harvested all winter long. Enhance your immune system with these nutritious and flavorful vegetables when the cold brings an array of health challenges.