The holiday season is famous for tempting us with all kinds of treats, from savory h’ors oeuvres to decadent desserts, succulent salads to sumptuous dinners, and maybe a cocktail or two! If you enjoy cooking and entertaining, it’s the perfect season for you.
But imagine how much better it could be if you prepared those treats for family and guests with fresh food right from your home garden. While winter may not strike you as a growing season, there are a surprising number of vegetables and herbs that can survive the cold, and even frost.
And in addition to fresh, delicious produce, your winter garden can add color, texture and beauty to your landscape during months when most people succumb to the blahs of a monotone view. Take a look at some of the things you can grow through December and January to give your health a boost – both mentally and physically! – and see which ones tempt you to add them to your four-season landscape.
All The Greens Of The Rainbow
Delicate greens are out. Hearty, rich winter greens are in! These leafy treasures hold up very well in the cold, and in fact, some even taste better after a frost.
Kale, cabbage and Swiss chard in particular will all get tastier and sweeter the colder the weather gets. They’re prolific winter growers and will reward you with a bountiful harvest if you keep cutting them down. In many cases you can grow them all winter long. Other hearty winter greens include collards, arugula and mustard greens, all of which pack a ton of health benefits and flavor into a few lush leaves.
These greens are perfect dinner companions. They can be steamed, roasted, baked, stewed or paired with a few other delicious ingredients like nuts and berries for a crispy, delicious (and healthy, but we won’t tell!) raw salad. They also hold up well to other hearty ingredients like balsamic vinegar, mustard, and the star of many holiday appetizers, snacks and vegetable dishes: bacon!
You might be surprised by the variety of color you can get out of what amounts to salad greens. Kale has a number of varieties, in shades of greens, reds and purples. And the long, red and rainbow colored stems of Swiss chard bring a gorgeous and tasty pop of color wherever they’re planted.
Plus you really can’t go wrong with the unique textures of these greens. From curly kale to crinkly cabbage and shiny chard, these plants look just as beautiful on your dinner plate as they do in your winter landscape.
Grow these greens in the ground, in raised beds or even in containers on a porch or patio and you’ll eat well and enjoy the view all season. For the passionate gardener, a simple greenhouse or other sheltered structure can keep greens and the other plants on this list safe from weather all year.
Get Your Roast On
Greens are wonderful and versatile, but that’s not all that your winter garden can produce. Plenty of hearty vegetables can go from ground to oven in a heartbeat.
Beets are another plant that sweetens with frost, so even if you’re not a fan, you may be converted once you pull one from a chilled garden. Parsnips and carrots, two other hearty winter root vegetables, make the perfect roasting trio for your holiday table.
Love them or hate them, Brussels sprouts make a pretty incredible impression in the garden. And much like their other seasonal vegetable friends, they get sweeter as they are exposed to cold and frost. Roasted winter Brussels sprouts have converted many die-hard opponents, especially when prepared with a little bacon and some fresh maple syrup.
Radishes grow rather quickly and both the stems and roots are edible, adding a nice peppery punch to dishes they appear in. The pretty red tops of the root poking through the ground will also add a nice splash of color to your landscape. You may not think of roasting radishes but they play nicely with roasted onions and small potatoes, too.
Speaking of potatoes, these tubers survive cold nicely, though they are not as fond of frost as some other plants on this list. The good news is that you can grow them just as easily in a raised bed or container that you can insulate against deep cold, or even move to a warmer spot indoors as needed.
Finally, we can’t put together a list of winter vegetables without asparagus. This unique plant looks rather striking as it grows, and it’s one edible that you can grow and harvest all year long. They take a bit longer to establish but this hearty vegetable crop can produce a feast for as many as 25 years. And that’s a whole lot of holiday dinners!
Plants You Can Raise A Glass To
For food with flavor, you can rely on herbs like the big four: parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme (bonus points if you’re humming along to a certain tune right now.)
They make for a pretty spectacular winter garden, too. The best thing about herbs is that they’re a cinch to grow indoors or out, so if you grow them in containers they’ll be easy to move from patio to windowsill if they need to be protected from frost and harsh weather.
They may produce less harvest and smaller leaves during cold weather, but you can grow these beauties year round with a little bit of TLC. Cover soil with hay or mulch, or use a fleece cover over plants if they’re left outdoors during freezing spells.
In addition to making tasty food even tastier, these herbs can go from dinner plate to cocktail glass in one snip. Garnish a yuletide Mule with a bit of fresh rosemary, or pair it with a cranberry-infused punch for flavor and seasonal color. Sage pairs nicely with ginger flavors or pear-based cocktails, and thyme just begs to meet citrus in lemon, orange or lime based drinks.
Whether cocktail or mocktail, these herbs add an enticing aroma and unique taste that will have your guests refilling their glasses before you can say, “Cheers!”
As you prepare your holiday menu this year, take a moment to consider how an edible winter garden can turn your meals – and your landscape – into something truly special. You and your guests will appreciate the lovely view of colors and textures, and enjoy the fresh flavors they bring.
Treat yourself to a beautiful and delicious landscape. Contact us for a consultation and let’s talk about how we can bring the sights, scents and tastes of the season to your outdoor space. It’s time to enjoy your gardens all year long.