What Vegetables Are You Growing This Winter?


Showing remarkable restraint, I came home from the Heirloom Expo with only three packages of seeds. I’ve decided to keep it simple this winter (our best growing season for veggies in Los Angeles) and only grow varieties that:

  • Do well with minimal intervention.
  • Can’t be found in the market.
  • Taste better fresh out of the garden (greens and salad mixes).
  • I like to eat (sorry turnips).

And I’m sticking with my favorite seed company: Franchi.

The winners are:

Cavolo Broccolo Spigariello, what I keep predicting will be the new kale, though that trend has yet to happen. It’s a weedy looking primitive broccoli. You eat the leaves and the small flower clusters. I think it’s my favorite green.

Rucola Selvatica a Foglia d’ulivo (“olive leaf” wild arugula). From what little I can gather from English language sources, this arugula has a broader olive shaped leaf and a flavor that is stronger than cultivated arugula, but milder than other wild arugulas. This will be the first time I’ve tried this variety. And this year I plan on sowing successively so that I’ll have a longer harvest period. In my opinion, you can never have enough arugula.

Tuscany salad mix. You can also never have enough lettuces. I’ve always had good luck with Franchi’s salad mixes. They are beautiful and much stronger tasting than the stuff at the supermarket. And store bought lettuce wilts instantly.

What are you growing this winter? If you’re in a cold climate, do you grow year round?

Note: if you’re in the US, Franchi has several distributors. I got my seeds from the Heirloom Seed Store, run by a very nice family that has a farm in Half Moon Bay in Northern California. The seeds I bought are not listed on their website, so you may need to call them. They can also be found on the website of another Franchi distributor, Seeds From Italy.

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  1. I am going to grow garlic for the first time. Hopefully, lettuces in the house will work, considering my house gets to freezing inside when it is freezing or below outside. My chickens lay no eggs now. Not sure why.

    Do you like turnip greens? They are delicious in a salad or cooked. My friend eats the tiny turnips sliced on a salad. Turnips are gross to me.

  2. I love winter gardening. I still struggle to get timing right, but even if I don’t get a bumper crop in late fall, stuff manages to overwinter and I get a great head start in early spring. There is nothing like brushing snow off a plastic greenhouse cover to pick some salad greens!
    On turnips: if you like Korean food, I invite you to make some turnip kimchi. I also make Lebanese turnip pickles. If you think of them as a condiment, you might be converted!

  3. I’m on the coast of Massachusetts, just shy of New Hampshire. For winter have leeks, parsnips, carrots, beets, turnips, kale, Brussels sprouts, spinach, mache, bok choy, celery, arugula, Swiss chard, and some lettuces. The leeks, parsnips, some carrots, celery, Brussels sprouts, and Swiss chard are all planted out in the spring, and we winter them for either in tunnels or under straw. The rest of our “fall” planting usually has to happen in August to allow it to get up to size before we lose daylight. The greens are usually in pvc and plastic tunnels, although we also keep spinach, mache, and some carrots in wooden cold frames with old windows for lights. The kale is the only thing that doesn’t need protection. By January, all that covering will keep only the toughest stuff alive, but if it makes it, it’ll begin to put on new growth under glass by late February, when we have enough daylight to break its dormancy.

  4. Also, I lie to call turnips “soup potatoes.” I don’t like them plain, but they do really well in soups. They don’t get mushy like a potato in soup, and they tend to absorb all the other flavors, so you can just pretend it’s a potato–the kind of potato you always wished you had in soup instead of mushy bits. That also lets us save our potatoes for roasting and enjoying in all the best potato-y ways.

  5. We grew Spigariello after you mentioned it in a post a few years ago. Gourmet Seeds no longer carries it though so I am hoping to overwinter it so it goes to seed this year. It didn’t last year but we had a terrible winter. It is so tasty and sold very well at our farmers’ market. We usually do winter radishes but the groundhog ate them all. Also the turnips and kohlrabi got ate. We do have lettuce, spinach, endive, onions, and kale left. We had to buy a daikon at the store today. It was very sad.

  6. In Western PA we are growing; leeks, lettuces, kale, arugula, mustard, mizuna, radish, and carrots. Planning to cover with hoops and row cover.

  7. I grow franchi chicories, escaroles, and frisee’s. I like the speckled radicchios especially. In Colorado, I plant these in Late July-Mid August. I planted Spigariello in Spring this year and loved it. Comparing to Piracicaba, a brazillian version, it was a smaller plant with equal production. Still harvesting although the aphids are asserting their dominance. I also planted three Daikons, 5 lettuces, spinach, early wonder beats, arugula, mokum carrot, dill, cilantro, Raab, Red frills mustard, other radishes. All of this from seed in mid July. I don’t cover anything except with straw, sometimes. I just eat it until its gone and the winter light yields no more. In spring, it starts growing again, and I don’t have to do a thing. Winter garden planting is the favorite non-secret in gardening.

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