Salad Greens You Can Grow in Winter
A Guide to Planting and Harvesting Winter Salad Greens
by BC Farms & Food
Want to eat fresh lettuce and salad greens this winter? Late summer to early fall is the time to plant your winter garden.
Spinach grows well throughout the winter when protected in a cold frame or tunnel. Low winter light slows the growth. Young tender spinach leaves have an earthy flavour that pairs well with fruit in fresh salads.
If you like fresh garden salads, you’ll be glad to know you can grow a full range of salad greens throughout the winter in our moderate southern BC maritime climate. Leafy winter salad vegetables come in a variety of flavours, colours and textures—from peppery to earthy, crunchy to delicate.
Flavours of Cold Weather Salad Greens
Fall and winter salad greens include such hardy plants as spicy arugula, fresh baby spinach leaves and cold-season lettuces. Baby beet greens bring lovely deep red and green colour to salads.
Brassicas and mustards, such as baby kale, bok choi, tatsoi, mizuna and red mustard offer crunchy, sharp and earthy flavours. The slightly bitter leaves of chicories like endive, escarole, frisée, and radicchio add texture and various degrees of bitters to mixed salad greens.
Mild-Flavoured Winter Greens
Most winter salad greens are hardy and have some bite. Are there any mild winter salad greens? Lettuce, of course—romaine, buttercrunch, oakleaf and other loose-leaf varieties, grow well in cool weather.
Mâche (Corn Salad, Lamb’s Lettuce) is refreshing and full of flavour. One of the most cold hardy of all greens, this lesser-known leaf vegetable can survive temperatures as low as -18ºC (0ºF). Mâche grows slowly in small, low rosettes and is ready for harvest when it is about 10 cm or 4 inches across. The leaves are delicate and damage easily in shipment, which is why you’ll rarely find mâche at the supermarket. (Grow this one yourself!)
Another mild, succulent and greatly overlooked salad green is the West Coast native, Claytonia (Miner’s Lettuce, Winter Purslane). Claytonia has sweet, green-tasting leaves and stems, and small edible white blossoms in the spring. Claytonia can grow without protection throughout the winter.
How to Grow Winter Salad Greens
If planting from seed, start most winter salad greens between July and September. Plant established starts as late as September or October. Keep in mind that the cold and low winter light will slow the growth, so plant a lot.
Mulch, cold frames, hoop houses and other season extension techniques can help speed growth and protect your plants from wind and cold. Because the daytime temperatures are warmer inside a cold frame, cultivars have a chance to recover from cold nighttime temperatures.
For a detailed guide on seed planting and harvest times for winter salad greens in southern maritime British Columbia https://bcfarmsandfood.com/salad-greens-you-can-grow-in-winter/
CHUFF thanks BC Farms & Food for this article.
Do you grow your own food, or would you like to start feeding yourself or your family sustainably? Join CHUFF – neighbours helping neighbours grow good food in the Quadra Cedar Hill Community Association neighbourhoods.
For CHUFF’s next monthly gathering – September 25 HATs Off to the Winter Garden – a long-time grower shows us what she is planning and planting in her winter food garden, and we tour the Garry Oak ecosystem she has stewarded over the years in her backyard. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.