Harvesting produce and herbs in the snow

There are some crops that can last you well into winter. If you plan ahead (or even if you don’t) you can be enjoying fresh herbs and vegetables long past first snow fall.

Last week I was amazed to find parsley in pristine shape under three feet of snow and chives not great, but good enough for a forgotten recipe item.

outdoor vegetable and herb plants you can harvest in the winter

OK - maybe a summer bounty isn't possible in snowy winter months, but there are still a lot of fun crops you can harvest from outdoors in the winter. The kale and leaks in this photo are some.

Simple things, like marking the location of plants, are important prep work for settling into winter with access to your garden goodies. Here are some crops that tend to be winter hearty:

Carrots – there’s nothing like a fresh dug carrot. The taste is so rich and texture different from anything you buy in the supermarket. Untreated are best eaten immediately, so having immediate access to them can make a meal much better. We’ve harvested carrots the entire winter and into the spring in some years. It depends on how quickly the snow falls. If you get a good cover before the ground freezes, the soil often stays soft. Portions of carrots that are in frozen ground are no good – plus very difficult to dig up. It depends on the year.

Turnips – these are more sensitive to freezing but if snow falls early and keeps its cover, they’re good well into winter.

Parsley – this is a biennial that goes to seed the second year producing bitter leaves but good propagation help in year two. I’m finding it stays green and very tasty through winter under heavy snow between the first and second year. This year the ground is frozen deep, and it’s even doing well in those conditions.

Kale – able to withstand very cold temperatures, this one is surprising me with its heartiness this winter. Leaves yellow or wilt if it’s no good, but if it looks like is supposed to, it’s fine to eat well into cold months.

Sage – leaves stay green and healthy after most other plants have suffered from frostbite. Even dried on the vine, they’re great to cook with.

Chives – if you have a thick patch, you’ll be able to find green and firm stems in the mass. You’ll have to read through some dead stuff, but it’s better than buying high-priced and treated herb packets.

Brussel Sprouts – these plants will withstand a heavy frost, and can even stay tasty under heavy snow if they’re mature enough. These plants grow tall so you might even be able to see them after a heavy accumulation. Sometimes you need to peel off the outer leaves, but they seldom freeze all the way through.

Herbs – parsley, thyme, sage and sometimes chives tend to stay hearty well into the winter months. Sage may dry and turn a bit brown, but the leaves stay on the plant and are still tasty. Chives requires a fairly dense set of plants and you’ll have to spend some time culling out the green from the dead, but if they’re bushing enough, you’ll find green gems in the mix through much of the winter. The rest remain green, at least on this Zone 5 plot.

There’s nothing like going out into your garden during the dead of winter and discovering an edible delight. With a little bit of planning, you can still be harvesting while others are settling for old supermarket fare.

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nlevin

Nanette Levin learned the produce practices she uses mostly the hard way over 20 years of experimentation. Hopefully you'll consider this site one of the many good resources that have cropped up to help you avoid mistakes as a new gardener or a more experienced one shifting to chemical-free solutions. There's a lot of free information (concerning plants and horses), but we also offer consultative support for those seeking customized attention.

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4 Responses to Harvesting produce and herbs in the snow
  1. Cher
    January 9, 2013 | 2:37 pm

    Hi Nanette, this is a great article, I too have some little wonders still surviving, I spotted broccoli shooting yesterday, but we are about to have snow so it will be interesting to see what will happen. What has amazed me is I moved house in October and was heartbroken to leave my veg patch so I thought I would have a go at bringing some with me and transplanting, they seemed a little disturbed to begin with, but very happy now, kale, cabbage, carrots and beets – very happy me, I hope they survive the snow, shame to lose them now.
    Cher
    Cher recently posted..Green Juice ~ Perhaps A Tad EarthyMy Profile

    • nlevin
      January 10, 2013 | 4:41 am

      So glad to hear you found some garden treasures at your new home, Cher. Snow can actually protect some of the plants (particularly the root vegetables). Thanks for stopping in and sharing.

  2. Alana (@RamblinGarden)
    January 14, 2013 | 2:34 am

    I tweeted this and posted on my blog’s Facebook fan page.
    Alana (@RamblinGarden) recently posted..Civil War Sunday – Battlefield RehabMy Profile

    • nlevin
      January 14, 2013 | 10:03 am

      Thank you Alana. Nice to see you here.

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