14 Can't-Miss Cool-Season Edibles
Discover tasty crops that grow best in chilly weather.
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Turnip (Brassica rapa var. rapifera)
Cool temperatures are the secret to mild flavor in turnips. Plant this chubby veggie in early spring or late summer. Harvest young roots (2 inches across) for fresh eating in salads. Pick larger roots for storing (3- to 4-inch size). Don’t be quick to toss green tops of turnips on the compost pile. These leafy greens bring big nutrition to the dinner table. Eat them raw or cook them like greens. Let plants experience light frost for the sweetest roots.
Swiss Chard (Beta vulgaris subsp. cicla)
Count on chard to inject color into your early-season landscape. The brightly-hued stems and deep green leaves blend effortlessly into flower, herb and vegetable gardens. The entire plant is edible: stems and leaves. Use it fresh, or chop and freeze. Use chard to stand in for spinach, although it needs a little more cooking time. Leaves are frost-tolerant. As summer heats up, chard doesn’t bolt, making it a great green for warm weather as well.
Kohlrabi (Brassica oleracea var. gongylodes)
Tuck kohlrabi into the early spring or fall garden to enjoy its quirky appearance. Also known as cabbage-turnip, kohlrabi brings a mild turnip flavor to the kitchen. Enjoy it raw with dip, chopped into salads or shredded for coleslaw. For best flavor, harvest bulbs while they’re small — less than 1 inch across. To harvest, pull bulbs from soil and trim away leaves and roots. Pick a few young leaves to toss into salads.
Radish (Raphanus sativus)
Kale (Brassica oleracea var. acephala)
Kale is the new go-to veggie for dieters, health-conscious eaters and juicers. This leafy green is the most nutrient-dense vegetable and works well raw in salads, roasted to make chips, chopped into soups or steamed as a side dish. Leaves withstand extreme cold. Kale can easily be the first and last vegetable you harvest each year. Look for varieties with leaves in shades of purple, burgundy and green. Dinosaur kale has a puckered leaf texture.
Peas (Pisum sativum)
Homegrown peas serve delectable sweetness you won’t find in the grocery store. Why? Peas start converting sugar to starch a few hours after they have been picked. Eating peas fresh from the garden gives you a taste treat that’s tough to beat. Plant seeds well before last chance of spring frost. Choose edible pod peas, like snow peas or snap peas, or grow garden or English peas (nonedible shells).
Fill your garden with the eye-catching goodness of homegrown berries. Strawberries are easy to grow —j ust give plants well-drained soil and full sun. Look for the small-fruited alpine types to enjoy a harvest season from mid- to late spring into early summer. Day-neutral types ripen small amounts of berries starting in late spring and continuing all summer long. Ounce for ounce, strawberries pack more vitamin C than citrus. Work these beauties into your mealtimes by slicing onto salads or cereal, or in whipping up smoothies.
Leaf Lettuce (Lactuca sativa)
Broccoli (Brassica oleracea var. italica)
This nutrition-packed veggie is a snap to grow. Just plant broccoli in early spring or late summer so it can bask in cool temperatures (around 60 degrees F). When harvesting, slice stems at an angle to prevent rot. Keep an eye out for caterpillars; spray Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) if you spot any. Harvest smaller side shoots as they mature. These smaller heads are perfect for stir-fries or soups.
Green Onion (Allium fistulosum)
Beet (Beta vulgaris)
Asparagus (Asparagus officinalis)
Cauliflower (Brassica oleracea var. botrytis)
Cauliflower is a demanding cool-season edible, thriving only in temperatures below 70 degrees F. As heads start to form, they must be blanched — protected from the sun — to remain white and mildly-flavored. Wrap outer leaves over heads and hold in place with clothespins, rubber bands or garden twine. Also be on the lookout for varieties that yield green or orange heads.
Mustard Greens (Brassica juncea)
Mustard greens offer a quick crop that yields nutrient-rich leaves perfect for cooking Southern-style or adding to salads for a tangy zing. The secret to tasty mustard greens is evenly moist soil. When plants experience drought stress, the mustard flavor intensifies, bringing on the heat. Frost sweetens leaves. If you garden where killing frosts don’t occur, plan on harvesting mustard greens all winter long.