Winter vegetables

Winter vegetables

Generality

Even if for many plants winter is a time of vegetative rest, it is not certain that the garden will remain empty during the cold months; in fact, many vegetables benefit from a little frost, which improves their organoleptic qualities and often also their flavor. Not all vegetables, however, can survive the cold, those that are most commonly grown during the winter months are vegetables obtained from fairly rustic plants, often indigenous; some types of vegetables instead find a place in the garden during the autumn, and will be harvested only in the spring.


Bulb vegetables

Most bulb vegetables can be planted outdoors from mid-autumn to the end of autumn; when the cold arrives, the bulb will already be well rooted in the ground, and as soon as the spring heat arrives, it will be able to take advantage of the climate to develop immediately, so already in early spring we will be able to pick the first ripe bulbs. These are garlic, shallots, onions and spring onions: the small bulbils are placed in the garden in October-November; when spring arrives they will begin to swell, giving us the opportunity to carry out the first harvests early, already at the beginning of spring. Obviously it all depends on the variety we choose; certainly this type of cultivation allows us to have, for these vegetables, a much shorter cultivation time, compared to that which would occur through sowing; moreover, in order to sow onions, leeks and spring onions, we should wait for spring, because the young plants cannot bear the frost.

To grow these bulb vegetables let's prepare a good, well-drained and soft soil, so that the roots can immediately find a suitable soil in which to develop, and also the bulbs in spring can expand without having to fight against an excessively compact soil.

Let's avoid watering, especially if the climate, as happens in autumn, is rainy; excessive humidity can easily cause the bulbs to rot, with consequent loss of most of the bulbs planted.


The fennel

In fact, fennel grows throughout the year; the plants used to produce seeds or foliage for phytotherapeutic use are grown as biennials, generally in areas with not excessively cold winters and not excessively dry summers. In the family garden, fennels find their place more easily in autumn and winter; it is sown directly in the home, in summer, and when the seedlings are at least 4-7 cm high they thin out, so as to leave a space of at least 20-25 cm between each one.

Watering is not a problem, since the autumn and winter climate is generally sufficiently humid; of the fennel the basal heart is consumed, that is the dense elongated rosette created by the lower end of the leaves, white and fleshy; to allow the heart to swell and become crunchy and juicy, it is advisable to bury it as soon as it begins to develop; for this reason it is good to keep the rows of fennel well apart, in order to periodically bring the soil closer to the heart, to keep it in the dark.


Broccoli and cabbage

There are varieties of cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower for practically every season of the year; once the cabbage was consumed only in winter, a precious source of vitamins and fibers, when the practice of growing vegetables in greenhouses or transporting them from anywhere in the world was not so widespread.

Broccoli, cabbage, head cabbage, cauliflower and turnips are varieties and species of the same genus: brassica. To obtain the vegetables in winter it is necessary to plant them in late summer or early autumn; well-developed and rooted seedlings are used, to be planted in well-spaced rows, depending on the final size of the ball that forms between the leaves: it is very important that the brassica tufts do not touch each other while they are developing, to avoid the development of rot or even the malformed growth of the vegetable.

There are those who say that a few nights of frost give a better taste to cabbages and savoy cabbage, try it to believe it; in fact, prolonged exposure to very intense frost causes in some varieties the damage of the outermost leaves of the clump, which would in any case be discarded.

These types of vegetables have been cultivated by man for millennia, for this reason there are several hundreds of varieties; when at the beginning of autumn we plant our favorite brassica, let's make sure that it is a variety with a winter development, because not all varieties benefit from the cold, indeed, some fear even the lightest frosts.

In general, in every area of ​​Italy, the plants that are most commonly grown in that particular area are sold in the garden centers or in the local markets.


Spinach and other vegetables

In much of the peninsula during the winter many leafy vegetables are grown in the garden, salads, radicchio, spinach, chard; even in the north-central most of these vegetables can find a place in the garden even in autumn and in the first weeks of winter, with a climate that is not excessively cool and well humid. The autumn and winter climate allows us to give these plants little care: most of the insects and fungi that most often attack the vegetables in the garden fear the cold and therefore are not present in this period; moreover, the ambient humidity is often such as to allow us not to worry about watering.

As for the radicchio, some varieties are specially planted in late summer or autumn: the development during the cold months gives these vegetables a much more pronounced flavor and produces more compact, fleshy and colorful tufts.


Winter vegetables: Winter salads

Even if salads are a dish that recalls summer, there are some typically winter varieties made with typical cold season products. First of all, a typical specialty of the Sicily region: the fennel and orange salad. The acidic flavor of citrus blends perfectly with the sweetness of fennel. Very simple to make, it can be a tasty side dish for meat or fish main courses. Always with fennel you can make a really good salad with raw apples and champignon mushrooms and very thin sliced. What about a red radicchio and pomegranate salad? Also in this case, the acidity of the pomegranate creates a pleasant combination with the flavor of the vegetable. To give it an extra touch, season it with a vinaigrette prepared with oil, salt, pepper, vinegar and orange juice. Radicchio also goes well with other ingredients such as walnuts and parmesan. A recipe not really light but certainly tasty.


Video: 5 Super-Early Vegetables to Start in Winter