My questions are in regard to growing greens for winter harvest and/or consumption.
Is it worth trying to seed anything in August/September for winter harvest in an unheated greenhouse, Eliot Coleman style? (Our site is even further north and even colder than Coleman's, at 48 degrees N in Quebec, within sight of the St. Lawrence estuary. We will be building an unheated greenhouse next year, and I am starting to plan how it will be used.)
If yes, what plants, conditions, timing would you recommend?
If not, what would be your recommendations for growing greens in the house? (We have a solarium that we keep very cool (10 C) in the winter, which receives a good amount of light from all directions but the south.)
And if you're up for yet one more, what are you preferred methods of preserving greens for the winter? Drying, freezing, fermenting, canning?
Thanks so much! Clearly, this is an area of concern for me. I want to get those nutrients year around, and not from the grocery store! Up here, this presents a bit of a challenge.
Sounds like you are up where Northern Lights are spectacular. That combination of low temperatures, short days, and long angle sun is a challenge to any gardener. Greens are definitely the most realistic possibility. You can improve the photosynthesis a bit with reflective surfaces around the planted area, but not having southern exposure is a big problem. You would likely get leggy spindly plants reaching for more sunshine. Probably the best strategy for you would be to start seeds 2 or 3 weeks before the 1st expected frost, so they some roots before the harsh weather hit. When it is really cold and thin sunlight the plants will grow very slowly, so slowly that it is basically a way to hold the greens fresh that made most of their growth earlier. If you can nurse them through you'll not only get winter greens but a big flush of growth in early spring when things warm up a bit. If you can provide a little heat from below the soil it is steadier than trying to heat the air. Might try an old fashioned hot bed with 16'” of fresh horse manure under 6-8” of soil. As the manure decomposes it warms the soil above. Elliott Coleman is by far the best source of information on this that I now of. SolarGardening by Leandre and Gretchen Poisson is another good one.
As for preserving greens: I don't recommend canning (damages flavor, texture, and nutrition too much). Fermenting is good but really creates foods with pretty different flavors and uses. If you like sauerkraut and Kimchi they are a great addition to the winter diet. Freezing produces a food most like the original greens in flavor and texture, if you have adequate freezer space and a reliable electric supply. I use drying a lot, partly because I work a lot with people who have no freezers or refrigerators in the tropics. Drying leaves to below 10% moisture then grinding them finely and packing them in an airtight container out of sunlight gives you a concentrated nutritious food that will keep for a year without electricity. Dried leaf powder can be added to a lot of recipes that fresh leaves don't work well with. I usually try to replace 20% of the flour, corn meal or whatever staple is in a recipe with dried leaf powder from a high nutrition leaf crop.
I run dried spinach through the grain mill.
I add the spinach powder to flour and eggs to make spinach fettucini. Boil it up, add a splash of butter, way too much garlic, maybe a touch of lemon juice and it's a meal all by itself.
Seed the Mind, Harvest Ideas.
posted 5 years ago
Thanks so much for the advice, David! Your comments confirm my limited experience and provide some great inspiration for my next efforts.
A friend has offered all the horse manure we are prepared to come get, so a good deep hotbed may be included in my cold-frame projects for next year. I am thinking of starting deepish flats of assorted greens outside in August or September and see how far I can nurse them through the winter in the solarium.
I had seen the idea of drying greens before but never tried it. I think that will be my go-to method, as freezer space is high-value. We are omnivores, and pasture-raised meat of various kinds fills the freezer in the fall, so veggies have to go on the shelf in some form. I dry a lot of things, as it involves less processing than canning and the final products take up less space, but greens will be new for me. We follow a grain-free diet as well, so the recipes with wheat flour and cornmeal won't work for us, but I have become a wizard with alternatives like buckwheat, almond flour and coconut flour
We do like ferments, so some version of kimchee with mixed greens will be on the agenda for next year as well.
These comments have been rather helpful for my own operation. Drying is definitely my go to method for several outlets, now greens too!
My question is about what would be best for cold crop operation. Of course the obvious Kale and collards, I've done a little research and have seen chickweed to be very hardy. As one who has already done the research for the world, what crops, unique or standard, do you recommend for a cold frame or a greenhouse in the winter?
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