Harvesting from My December Garden

Pak Choi flowers, blooming in my December garden.
Pak Choi flowers, blooming in my December garden.

Harvesting Roots & Greens in December

If you live further south than I do, this might not seem like such a big deal…you probably harvest from your garden well into the winter! In Northern Illinois, harvesting roots and greens in the middle of December isn’t typical. However, our weather has been fairly mild this fall and it may remain warmer than normal into early winter. And that means I can harvest vegetables longer than I’m accustomed to. Yippee!

Celariac from Trogg's Hollow CSA
Celariac from Trogg’s Hollow CSA – Pretty? Perhaps not. Tasty? Most Definitely!

My friend Farmer Trogg, from Trogg’s Hollow CSA, has also been harvesting well into December for winter shareholders. He gifted me with some delicious celeriac this week! I chopped it into my winter vegetable soup for a sweetly mild celery flavor…yum! If you live in the Chicago or Rockford, Illinois area you should check out Trogg’s Hollow’s share program. They provide some amazing food for their customers!

Beets...ready to eats.
Beets…ready to eats.

On the Menu this Week…

I enjoy harvesting fresh veggies from my garden to use in simple, from-scratch meals. And with the mild weather, I’ve been harvesting potatoes, rutabagas, beets, carrots, chard, kale, broccoli, and mustard greens. When time is limited, the potatoes can be scrubbed clean and ‘baked’ in the microwave for a quick and easy side dish.

Broccoli - will you make it to the kitchen? I think not! Crunch :)
Broccoli – will you make it to the kitchen? I think not! Crunch 🙂

All of the veggies I’m harvesting go great in winter vegetable soups…just wash, chop, add to a pot with some water or broth, and set on top of the woodstove to cook. Rutabagas are delicious boiled and mashed with some butter, salt, and pepper. The carrots are sweet and crunchy after a few touches of frost and I snack away as I chop them to add to the slow cooker with a pork roast (or whole chicken).

Fresh greens!
Fresh greens!

The kale and mustard greens are good added to the winter vegetable soup, torn up into a tossed salad, or used for greens in sandwiches and stir-fries. I like these greens raw with some nuts or cheese and a little drizzle of salad dressing, but some folks don’t care for their strong flavor. However, they are very frost resistant and provide a wealth of nutrients…all for the cost of a packet of seeds. So it is worth planting a row in your garden for the cold hard greens.

A tub trug full of root veggies.
A tub trug full of root veggies.

I also found some little Brussels sprouts as I walked through the garden yesterday. I intend to go back out later this week and pick them for roasting with a little olive oil and garlic, drool! There are florets of broccoli too and I pop a few in my mouth each time I walk through the garden. I think there might be enough for a meal, if I can stop sneaking them, that is.

Rutabagas, carrots, and beets...just getting started.
Rutabagas, carrots, and beets…just getting started.

Storing Roots?

All of these root vegetables store well in a root cellar for a month or more. My basement is too warm and the potatoes I dug in October are already starting to sprout. This year I decided to cover the rows with straw if there are any veggies left when the ground begins to freeze. Hopefully, I can dig fresh roots and bring them right to the kitchen until they are all used up. This is a great way to supplement all of the food I’ve canned and frozen for the winter. I do buy some fresh foods from the grocery store since I’m not completely self-sufficient. Maybe someday.

Are you still harvesting food from your garden? What zone do you live in? Do you have any tips for harvesting food all winter? I love to hear about your gardens!

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Lisa Lombardo

Freelance Writer at Tohoca, LLC
Lisa writes in-depth articles about gardening and homesteading topics. She grew up on a farm and has continued learning about horticulture, animal husbandry, and home food preservation ever since. She has earned an Associate of Applied Science in Horticulture and a Bachelor of Fine Arts. She is a self proclaimed gardening freak and crazy chicken lady.

In addition to writing for her own websites, Lisa has contributed articles to The Prepper Project and Homestead.org.

The author lives outside of Chicago with her husband, son, 2 dogs, 1 cat, and a variety of poultry.
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