by Sandy Swegel
We had our first big snow…just six inches but very cold and wet followed by more snow and below freezing temperatures so one might easily assume the vegetable garden is done for the year. It certainly looks forlorn outside my window. But fortunately, Nature is kinder than that. For reasons I can’t quite fathom, lettuce that freezes if it’s too far in the back of my refrigerator can handle quite a lot of extreme temperature especially when it’s well insulated by snow. I expect that when the sun returns in a couple of days, I’ll be able to brush away any remaining snow and harvest excellent crispy sweet lettuce. Hardier greens like spinach and chard can even be exposed to the air and frozen solid at 8 am but then be perfect and ready to eat by noon with a little mid-day thawing.
The warm season plants like basil and tomatoes have no chance in the cold. Basil turns brown below about 35 degrees. Tomatoes don’t taste nearly as good once night time temps dip into the 30s. Squash leaves croak right at 32 although sometimes the ambient heat from the ground will keep the pumpkins and winter squash edible even though the air is freezing. Still, the warm season plants are done. Corn on the cob is a memory held by the dried stalks turned into Halloween decorations.
The root crops are another story. Carrots and beets improve with each freezing night. As long as you can pry root crops from the freezing ground, you’ll be rewarded with intense flavor and sweetness that improves even more if you roast the vegetables with some olive oil. Many a picky eater who refused to eat turnips or rutabagas, finds November turnips roasted with rosemary and thyme to be irresistible.
It may be the end of the growing season….but the eating season has just begun!