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Fresh Winter Greens


Nothing beats fresh vegetables, both in taste and for good health. And here, in this beautiful and much blessed land, we can have fresh greens right from the garden even in the winter. That's right; even in the midst of our winters - and superbly healthy and tasty ones to boot. All this makes it worthwhile, methinks, to talk about winter when our summer is not quite here yet. But these vegies have to be sown now if we want to feast superbly on very healthy, and very tasty, fresh winter greens.

In addition, these vegetables will also provide plenty of fresh greens beginning in late fall - and right through to late spring, at a time when our gardens cannot offer any other edibles. These sturdy, cold-hardy and very nutritious providers of fresh winter greens are the various kales, chards and savoy cabbages.

Kale is an extremely hardy, reliable and very nutritious winter green anywhere along the coast, and it improves greatly in sweetness, flavour and taste after a few frosts. It is also very rich in vitamins A, C, E and K, as well as the cancer fighting flavenoids. The curly Kales are great in fresh salads and stir-frys, superb as a gourmet vegetable side dish, and excellent in soups and stews. There are too many kinds to mention here; West Coast Seeds carries more than a half dozen reliable and well proven varieties for our climate; select the ones you fancy the most.

Sow from now until mid July directly into raised beds - an absolute necessity for surviving our very wet winters - into rich soil treated with a handful of dolomite lime per 10 square feet, also an absolute necessity for these members of the cabbage family. Thin to at least 18 inches apart, as many kales grow into rather big strapping plants. Harvest individual outer leaves, as from leaf lettuces, beginning in late October until they start flowering in spring. And the unopened flower shoots are a gourmet's delight.

Savoy cabbages are the easiest of all cabbages to grow, and also the hardiest. Developed in Europe for very late fall and very early spring greens, these are stronger and more cold hardy than the Japanese types, yet still fine in fresh salads and excellent for cooking. Again, select the ones you fancy the most from your local seed company. More of these should be grown as the whole head is harvested. When harvesting the heads, leave the plant in the ground and make sure to cut the head above six to eight bottom leaves. With any half decent weather, between four and six miniature cabbages, each about as large as a lady's fist, will grow on each stump. Sweet, tender and mild beyond belief, they are a cabbage made in in heaven which makes even gourmets drool, and are just the perfect size for individual servings.

Again, sow from now until mid July into raised beds and rich soil, treated with a handful of dolomite lime. Thin to 18 inches apart. Side dress over wintered savoys with nitrogen-rich manure in February for lush growth.

Chard is not quite as cold hardy as kale and savoy cabbages but will stand through most of our winters. At least, it will provide very tasty fresh greens until a hard frost comes along. With any luck with the weather, the outer leaves can be harvested continuously from late fall to early spring, while the plant keeps on making new leaves. And a simple cold frame will assure their survival through the worst of our winters. Sow and treat as above, and thin to 10 inches apart.

All of these winter greens will benefit much from a biweekly side dressing with wood ashes in winter, for its potash for hardiness. Also, since our winter wetness can be far more damaging than our winter cold, any kind of minimal means of keeping the rain off a bit when there is no end to it, will assure their survival, barring only unusually severe frosts. And come winter, enjoy.


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