Garden and Orchard

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!

5 Comments on “Harvesting from My December Garden

  1. Have you ever tried putting your root veggies in a garbage can?
    When I lived in Idaho, farming friends had huge gardens. They were self sufficient because in winter the weather made them be. They filled old galvanized XL garbage cans with???? It looked like contractor sand. How wet it was I could not tell you, guessing bone dry not to freeze solid. And i seem to recall some straw on the top under the lids, which were kept on. They kept these in their big farm barn/garages/sheds/outbuildings, placed close together, edge to edge. My first winter, it was -44 degrees on New Year’s Eve: there’s no digging in winter. Frost line is 8 feet down and snow can come in September. In February “Tallie” went out to feed the llamas, asked me if I wanted any carrots, and led me out a dug path through the snow to a barn/shed. She lifted the lid, reached inside, dug around, spread the top sand away with her gloved fingers, until she uncovered gorgeous unfrozen carrots trimmed of their green tops. They looked to have been placed horizontally, no one quite touching another but snugged in like sardines with a little sand between each one. That entire – what, 50 gallon maybe – can was chock full of carrots. There were cans of russets, parsnips, turnips, etc. You see, all those Idaho russets are stored in massive underground sheds and this was a mini “underground.” Their climate is semi-arid, however.

    1. We used to do this when I was a kid. We had carrots, beets, and sometimes parsnips and turnips that we stored in damp sand in boxes or cans. We kept them in the cold part of the basement and would use them until maybe February…by then they were gone! Potatoes were stored in boxes in the cold, but not freezing, area of my gram and gramp’s basement. They keep well at about 40 degrees.

      I think there was an article in Mother Earth News in the 70s that shared how to store root crops this way. My dad was big into Mother Earth News back in the day and I used to read them too.

      These days, I do not have a very good place to store my veggies like this. But I’m thinking about working on an area in the garage where it might be possible.

      Thanks for stirring up some memories!

  2. I found a few mini-heads of purple cabbage last week in what’s left of the garden. I believe this past weekend’s cold has taken care of anything I missed in my last walk through. Have you gotten any seed catalogs in the mail? I very rarely order from them but they are such a boost to my light starved soul in the darkness of December!!

    1. Hi Laura,
      I messed around and didn’t get all of my potatoes and carrots dug while it was still in the 40s…now they are frozen in until we get a thaw…not supposed to happen any time soon! Darn! I love the seed catalogs too, even though I rarely order from them either. I like Seeds of Change though and usually order some seed from them. I read a fun post that you might enjoy, complete with pix of vintage seed catalogs. Let me see if I can find it again. Ok, here it is… Seed Catalogs: Selling Dreams for 400 Years

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