Have a garden box that you grew beets, chard, escarole, kale or spinach in? When the cold weather sets in you might want to consider keeping some of these going. They are all pretty sturdy and cold resistant vegetables. They are also some of the most healthy greens you can eat. These dark leafy greens are rich in antioxidants, vitamins C, A, folic acid, and minerals like calcium, iron, and potassium. They are also a good source of fiber in the diet. All in all, eating these winter greens can be a big help in the cold weather when nasty visitors like the flu arrive.
It doesn’t take too much effort to turn a garden box or small garden section into a cold frame. If you already have a garden box, you are already half the way there. Find some translucent, heavy plastic (you can find this at Home Depot or a hardware store) and fasten it over the wood frame. Keep moist inside, but often you will find there will be condensation when the sunlight heats it up. You might want to raise one side up higher with wood so the snow or ice doesn’t sit on it. If there is a small section of the garden where the greens are you can buy small ready made tents or frames made with plastic from an online garden supply site or get creative and rig one up yourself.
- Beet greens are rich in vitamins and a good cleanser for the system. The small leaves are good in salads, the larger ones can be stir fried or steamed.
- Swiss Chard is tasty like spinach but without the bitter taste. It makes a great addition to salads and can be substituted for beet greens or spinach.
- Kale is another winter favorite. It comes in a variety of colors and leaf shapes. It is a good source of fiber and tastes great fried up with onions and oil or butter. It is a little on the tough side and does need to be steamed or fried.
- Escarole looks a little like lettuce but has thicker leaves with more flavor. It is used in Italian cooking, often sauteed with butter or wine, or as a lettuce substitute in salads.
- The humble Dandelion is prized for its leaves which are said to have medicinal properties. If you pick them outside your garden make sure nobody used any herbicides around them. They have a bitter taste and are added to liven up the taste of salads.
- Spinach is another staple cooked or used raw in salads. With a little added protection from the cold it can last well into the winter.
A good idea for cleaning these greens is to soak them in cold water with a little salt added. Then give them an additional rinse with cold water. There are plenty of other greens not mentioned here that can be grown in the cold. Everything from collard greens to bok choy can continue growing with a little help when the weather gets cold. The health benefits of these greens justify a little extra effort to keep them growing outside in the winter.