Winter Garden Greens

Two items are still going (relatively) strong in our winter garden — and I can say that now that it is officially winter. Sure, it's super-warm today (52 degrees as I am writing this, even though the sun set about 45 minutes ago), but for me, the cold has never been the hard part of winter. The truly terrible part is the darkness. So solstice is worth celebrating — after our mere 9 hours and 4 minutes of daylight in Newburyport today, we are climbing back up from what always feels to me like the bottom of the year. 

Anyway, despite the darkness and the temperatures that dropped to the teens last weekend, we've got some unprotected kale that is doing just fine:

The kale is the curly, slightly bluish greenery you see here. Several weeds are also (still) thriving, too. This kale had been under the greenhouse hoop, and wasn't doing particularly well--there isn't much here. It doesn't need the heat under the plastic at all, and actually tastes sweeter when it is out in the cold temperatures for a while. We'll let these stay unprotected for the duration and see how much of the New England winter they can take.

Another crop of green that was doing incredibly well this fall is our arugula:

This just won't quit, and has been unprotected the whole season. It turns out that the super-strong peppery flavor of arugula in the summer is also mellowed by colder temps. These leaves are quite big, but are still tender since it hasn't bolted. The flavor is mild enough to use a pretty hefty dose of arugula in winter salads. Sure, it's still peppery, but without the intense bite that it can get in the summer. My new favorite use: as a replacement for lettuce on tacos. It's strong flavor stands up well to spicy salsas and rich meat (beef or bison). 

To be completely honest, I should point out that the picture above was taken last weekend before the temperatures dropped early in the week. This is what all that arugula looks like right now, after getting socked with a 19 degree night:

So it's not as lush and beautiful, but there are still many useful leaves on them. I just sampled some this afternoon, and it doesn't seem much worse for wear. It's not mushy or brown, so we will hopefully get more use out of this. As with the kale, we are keeping it uncovered to see how long it lasts, so eventually we'll run out for this season. We will be armed with more knowledge for next year, though, and maybe we'll be able to figure out how to make it last straight through until spring.


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