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Harvest time for winter vegetables

Harvest time for winter vegetables

The vegetable harvest is long over in most gardens. But not everywhere. Because slowly but surely, word is getting around that vegetables can be harvested, even in the middle of winter.

Let's just assume you have a vegetable garden. Or just a few plant boxes on your balcony. And let's also assume that you wouldn't mind having some fresh (and I mean freshly harvested) vegetables on your plate, even now in the wintertime. Then please read on. If, however, you're of the conviction that the garden is better left to hibernate in the winter because you're off to some South Sea island anyway, you might still want to read on. Then, at least, you'll know what you're missing when you're lying at the poolside sipping your pineapple cocktail.

Indoor vegetable harvest
Those who don't feel like waiting for the first shoots to appear in the garden can buy dried peas from the shop (as edible peas) and sow them in flat crates on a little earth (8 to 10 cm deep). In the absence of sowing trays, a sturdy cardboard box from a supermarket vegetable department makes a handy substitute (these actually last throughout the entire winter and only need to be placed on thin wooden strips to keep the bottoms dry). These can be filled with potting soil onto which the peas are then sown, tightly packed. Here, a spacing of two centimetres should be maintained between each pea. These must then be covered with one centimetre of earth at most and watered with a fine spray. The pea shoots are ready to harvest when they reach a height of 10 centimetres. In warm living spaces, this happens after around three weeks, at cool corridor windows, it takes a little longer, but works just as well. Then, the delicious pea shoots, which are also extremely pleasing to the eye with their grass-green leaves and fine tendrils, can be savoured.

Winter vegetables from the garden
But let's now return to the garden. In order to harvest fresh leafy vegetables in the winter here as well, a greenhouse or cold frame is necessary. The trick for winter crops is to sow and plant again in late summer – until mid September. Vegetables that are suitable for winter harvesting include spinach, miner's lettuce, lamb's lettuce, the wide and exciting range of Asian greens, radicchio and sugarloaf chicory, radishes and autumn turnips. What is sown in the autumn will be especially appreciated in the winter. While temperatures remain above 10°C, the vegetables will grow. Many of the vegetables are frost resistant, i.e. even if they are exposed to frost overnight, they thaw during the day and can be harvested throughout the winter months.

From the Chinese shop into the garden
Particularly interesting is the wide range of Asian greens, which can be sown in unheated greenhouses all the year round. Even at outdoor temperatures of -15°C and chilly indoor temperatures of -10°C, these can be harvested week in, week out. For harvesting as baby leaf plants, Asian greens should be sown in rows at 10 cm intervals. A very fast growing, originally Chinese green with a very high yield is mizuna. The plant forms a dense rosette of very feathery, light-green leaves on long, thin, white stems and has a spicy aroma. The baby leaf plant is harvested at the 6–8 leaf stage. The vigorous and high-yielding plants have a mild cabbage-like flavour. Asian greens can also be planted or sown on the balcony. The only thing that they do not tolerate is slushy snow. The pots should therefore be placed under a roof. But even here, there is an exception: the delicious mustard "green in snow" even holds what its name promises. It can even be harvested under the snow.