Winter gardening and climate change

So, living in Howard county Maryland, our USDA plant hardiness zone recently changed from 6b to a warmer 7a, which raised USDA’s extreme minimum temperature from -5 to 0 degrees Fahrenheit.  This and other evidence indicates that our climate is in a warming cycle which means that we vegetable gardeners with prior planning can harvest vegetables into the late fall and even early winter.  It doesn’t, however, mean that we will escape winter’s onslaught during the months of January and February.  So, based on the weather forecast for this week, suppose to hit the single digits to night, I decided to harvest the remainder of my fall plantings, yesterday.  The cauliflower, broccoli, tatsoi, cabbage and pak choi are long gone, but the hardiest of the brassicas (Brussels sprouts and kale) are still alive and producing.

In mid July, I transplanted about 16 Jade Cross Brussels sprouts grown under my fluorescent lights into the garden.  They have provided my daughter and I with a continuous supply of taste little cabbages throughout the fall. They grew quite tall, reaching heights between 2 and 2.5 feet. However, with this cold onslaught, they probably would not survive much longer so I picked them all, froze some and saved some for fresh eating.  My favorite way to cook them is to mist them with olive oil, sprinkle them with a little sea salt and roast them in a 375 degree oven.

In mid August, I planted two types of kale.  My old standby is dwarf Siberian and some Winterbor.  They both did very well and have provided the family with lots of tasty fall greens.  One of my favorite dishes is to cook the kale, drain it, then saute it with some olive oil and garlic.  Makes a great, simple and healthy side.  However, with this large batch,

I decide to not only freeze some for future use but also made some Portuguese kale and potato soup for cold winter nights when a hot bowl of soup and a warm crust of bread hits the spot.  So back into the garden for some leeks, into the basement for some garlic, fall potatoes and venison sausage from the freezer.  Recipes for Portuguese kale soup abound on the web, so pick one you like.  Mine consists of a gallon of chicken stock, 2 large leeks, 7 diced cloves of garlic, 2 lbs. each of browned venison sausage, stemmed and chopped kale and potatoes in quarter inch slices.  Had a bowl last night (it was fabulous) and froze 6 quarts this morning.

The best part about the kale is that much like spinach, it will survive the winters in Maryland and green up in April to provide the earliest bounty from the garden.. So, next fall, plant some late season brassicas and enjoy the harvest into January.

2 Comments on “Winter gardening and climate change

  1. My kale never quite got big enough to harvest in the fall. I still have it in a bed covered with a low tunnel. Do you think it will come back in the fall?

  2. I may try growing Brussel Sprouts this year. I love those little cabbages. I never thought of stating them under grown lights and transplanting them in July. Thanks for the idea

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