Earlier we posted instructions for building and preparing cold frames. This post will focus on the plants that we will be harvesting this winter. Our cold frames consist of eleven windows this year and planting took place between late August and late September. Between November and March there is little actual growth that takes place. It's starting to get cold enough at night now to be putting the windows down on the cold frames. This is a sign that growth is slowing for the season.
|Spinach happily thriving in the cold frame in November|
Under some of the windows are carrots, beet greens, and scallions that will over-winter and be ready in early spring. Between the rows of carrots, mache is already being picked for salads. Mache is the hardiest of greens and is one of our favorites. It is a small, low-growing plant that easily reseeds itself if you allow it to flower and go to seed. You may find that it has planted itself in the pathway outside of the cold frame.
We plant spinach also, and several varieties of lettuce. Black Seeded Simpson is a favorite lettuce because it is very prolific. The current crop will take us into January when the cold frame will be reseeded for a March crop.
We also plant arugula, endive, escarole, Swiss chard, sorrel, and claytonia. Endive, escarole, and radicchio are members of the chicory family, with radicchio being an Italian red chicory. Arugula and sorrel add distinct flavors (sorrel is lemony) and are wonderful in a mesclum mix. Claytonia, also called “Miner’s lettuce,” sprouts small white flowers in the spring which we eat with the leaves. Spinach, beet greens, and Swiss chard should not be eaten raw on a regular basis, so we steam them for a side dish.
We use succession planting for some of the crops. Mache, lettuce and spinach are planted in two week intervals so new crops become harvestable in late fall, the middle of winter and in early spring.
These plants are our personal produce selection that keeps us from having to buy Peruvian produce at the super market. With a goal of eating locally, even in our Maine winter months, cold frames are how to eat from the garden year round. Bon appetite. -G.H.