Temperatures have been dipping well below freezing on a regular basis for some time now, but our little box of cold hardy greens remains alive and well. In hindsight, I should have planted more greens, earlier. It is important to start your winter greens early enough to allow for sufficient growth. As the hours of sunlight decrease and the temperatures drop, the greens stop growing altogether and remain as a sort of living salad bar. Elliot Coleman's book provides advice on how to figure out the best start date. As the season progresses, the later you start your seeds, the longer they will take to reach maturity, meaning, the number of days to maturity might differ from the packet's 'days to maturity'.
As I learned, it does vary from plant to plant, and area to area, so experiment and keep records! I definitely didn't get it right the first time. Our salad greens remain baby size because I started them at the end of August, rather than at the beginning when I should have.
When eating cold hardy greens, be prepared for a change in texture and taste - they will not be the same as the early summer lettuce varieties. Cold hardy greens are slightly more tough and chewy, and have a mild bitter aftertaste, making many of them good candidates for sautéing. Our experimental line up, in order of least bitter tasting to most (the last being still quite mild):
Red Deer Tongue Lettuce (not showing any red yet)
Red Oak Leaf Lettuce
The green and red leaves have been such a welcoming sight amidst all of the browns and yellows of the season!
The Cottage Gardener, www.cottagegardener.com
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