Vegetables to Harvest in Winter

Many of us who grow our own food are stuck in the rut of thinking we can only harvest that food in the spring, summer, and fall. But the truth is, some vegetables are hardy enough you can harvest them into winter - without any special protection (like a greenhouse or row tunnels). Naturally, your winter weather affects how reasonable it is to plan on winter harvests; you probably don't want to dig through several feet of snow just to grab some carrots! But even in very snowy areas, a few pots placed in a sheltered area (like a porch or under the eves) can provide some fresh winter food.
Carrots planted in spring or summer can be left in the ground and pulled from the garden as needed during winter. In regions with more than a sprinkling of snow, cover the carrots with a thick layer of straw or leaves. In mild regions, where you'll get little or no snow, they don't need covering up. Added benefit: Carrots exposed to hard frost are sweeter.

Green Onions (Scallions)
Green onions (also called scallions) are really just immature onions. Plant them in the fall, and you can either clip the greens all winter long, and expect full sized onions come spring or summer - or pull the whole plants, as needed. Where there will be snow, be sure to cover the green onions with a thick layer of straw or leaves.
Brussels sprouts in snow. (Courtesy Walkerbros and Wikimedia.)

Cauliflower and Broccoli
Until the first hard frost, cauliflower and broccoli can be harvested from the garden.

Brussels Sprouts
Brussels sprouts from the garden are sweeter and more tender than those from the grocery store - plus, they are quite hardy. They can survive through several frosts (and will become sweeter with each), though snow will kill them.

If mulched with a thick layer of straw or leaves, leeks can be harvested even in a snowy winter. (In mild regions mulching isn't necessary.) Varieties with thicker stems (like American Flag) are the best choice for winter gardens.

Radishes are one of the fastest growing veggies, so plant them in the fall, and feel free to harvest them in early winter. Don't keep them in the ground too long, though, or they become woody and unpalatable.

Just cover them with a thick pile of leaves or hay (unless you live in a mild region), and beets can be harvested well into winter. Like radishes, however, they will eventually become woody.

Turnips and Rutabagas
Hardy turnips and rutabagas just require a mulch of leaves or hay in areas where it snows. They take longer to get woody than beets or radishes.
Kohlrabi. (Courtesy Randal.b and Wikimedia.)

Parsnips take quite some time to mature in the garden, but they are still a favorite in my household. It's fine to pull them up and eat them anytime they've finished maturing, but they grow sweeter if you wait until after a hard frost. In mild regions, there's no need to mulch them, but if your area gets more than a little snow, do cover them with a thick layer of straw or leaves.

If planted in the late summer or early fall, kohlrabi can sit out in the garden until a good, hard frost.

Kale, Collards, Cabbage, and other greens
Greens love cold weather, and will continue to live in the garden until a very hard frost comes along. Some other greens to try include mustard greens, spinach, Swiss chard, and lettuce; some varieties are more hardy than others, and most of these greens will die after a hard frost. Kale and collards will likely survive a few frosts.

Jerusalem Artichoke
Another favorite at our house, Jerusalem artichokes taste best after a good hard frost. Read more about how to grow and eat them here.
Jerusalem artichoke tubers. (Courtesy Hans B. and Wikimedia.)

Bet I surprised you with this one! No, you can't really grow tomatoes in the winter without giving them extra warmth and protection, but you can pick all the green tomatoes off your plants before the first frost, then allow them to gradually turn red. In this way, we've had fresh tomatoes until the end of the year. Learn the easiest way to ripen green tomatoes here.

REMEMBER: Timing is Everything
None of these plants are going to really do much growing in winter. So the trick to successful winter harvesting is correctly timing seed sowing. To do this, you'll have to look at each seed packet, to determine how many days it will take the seeds to grow into mature plants. Next, you need to know when the first fall frost is in your area. (Check your cooperative extension website for this date.) Now, time your planting so that each seed will have ample time to mature before that first frost hits. See? Not hard at all! And well worth it for garden fresh produce in winter!

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