Saturday, November 21, 2009

Cut and Come Again! Hail the regrowing vegetable!

You gotta love a vegetable that will take your scissor-y vengeance and reward you by saying, "HA! Look at me!"  and burst into song with disco thumping in the background:

"... I will survive
as long as I know how to grow again
I know I will stay alive
I've got all my life to live
I've got all my chlorophyll to give
and I'll survive
I will survive

Hey! Hey!"

Winter gardening is so exciting and adventurous feeling!  It makes me feel like some Swiss Alps Mountaineer Gardener!

Growing tomatoes in the fall/winter is adventurous if you don't have a greenhouse, but in all reality, there are some super hardy greens and plants that just happen to be rather frost tolerant (to an extent of course) and don't leave you in the cold in terms of growth or taste!

My husband is not a fan of bland lettuces, and we tend to like it spicy here when we're freezing are little toes off so we stick with variety of kales and mustards in our salads and cooking for a bit of kick to warm us up.

Some well known cool weather "cut and come again" greens/plants include:

-Arugula (too bitter for the man here.  Bah, he doesn't know what tough is! :)
-Various Mustards such as: mizuna, tatsoi, india, purple wave, etc. (it's a hardy family!)
-Greens considered weeds (dandelions, lamb's quarters/corn salad/mache, chicory)
-Pak choi (Chinese cabbage)
-Gourmet greens: escarole, endive, radicchio
-Swiss chards
-certain spinach varieties
-beet leaves
-radish leaves
-miner's lettuce
-Some varieties of cauliflower and broccoli (if you cut off the main flowerhead, smaller shoots can form heads off to the side)

Many of these plants are eaten young before they get too bitter or tough, though are still edible at a more mature state;  a little cooking is just needed to make them more palatable.

As a great amount are of these plants' consist of are leaves, it's highly suggested to foliar feed them every other week especially as you will be cutting them constantly and need to make up for the loss of energy producing chlorophyll filled cells you're taking from the plant.

It's best  not to go plucking mad when you harvest your greens because you don't want to end up pulling up the shallow roots.  So use some sharp cutting scissor rather than a machete because whacking your greens to pieces is not going to earn you any points when it comes to them growing back.  It's not brain surgery, but you'll want to cut your greens (if they are the loose leaf type) at lowest an end above the ground to ensure you don't cut the growing tip and then no more deliciousness!

Like anything, you can wear a good thing out and it's suggested for the lettuces (and we'll see about my kales and mustards) that you should re-seed every other week to ensure continual harvests.  If you are planning to grow a nice variety of plants and greens I suggest you grow them in their own separate areas so that when you do harvest you make it easier on yourself and able to insure that you cutting them at a good height for future harvests to grow.  Mixing spoon shaped leaves tatsoi with frilly kales for example would make this difficult.

Don't  be put off if you think it's too late to grow these plants outside.  Many of them are germinate quite well actually in cool weather and to further shoot down any excuses, there's always indoor windowbox gardening!

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