January and February are often the time of year when allotments find themselves bare and just a little uninspiring.
When you’re all excited and eager in the summer, it is easy to forget about the winter months. Ensuring a steady selection of crops are available all year round is good for fighting the winter blues, so I always try to put a lot of effort into planning winter crops as well as the glamorous summer, shorter-lived favourites.
Here are 5 veg we harvested last week:
Leeks are great winter veg to grow. They’re easy to plant out and will sit in the ground until you need them in most areas.
What’s more, the small ones often put on a big growth spurt during Spring, giving you bonus leeks when you least expected them. I’ve left my disappointing garden leeks to do just that, and have been harvesting nice, big ones from the plot.
I love harvesting leeks – the smell is amazing, and one of the best things about winter on the allotment.
I have an odd situation with kale. At home in the garden, the kale has been decimated by cabbage white caterpillars for three seasons running. However, at the allotment, we have never, ever had trouble with these pests and now we don’t even bother netting down there.
So I’m relying on the allotment kale to keep up in winter greens, as the garden stuff is still deciding whether is it going wilt under the caterpillar damage or make a triumphant return to full fitness.
My cavolo nero has fallen to the same mysterious fate: healthy and verdant on the allotment, gobbled by caterpillars in the garden. I have no idea why this has happened, but it has certainly made my mind up to skip brassicas in the garden this year and use the space for something less appealing to butterflies.
The recent frosts have helped sweeten the leaves of the kale and cavolo nero, and these two greens are now featuring regularly on our dinner plate.
Purple Sprouting Brocolli.
We have been growing an extra early variety called Rudolph. Rudolph is normally harvestable in January, but it has come very early this year, and we even had a few florets on the Christmas table.
The mistake I made this year was getting all excited about New Year PSB and not sowing a later variety in tandem, so once the Rudolph finishes, I’ll have to head to the greengrocers to help fill the hungry gap.
Perpetual Spinach and Chard
More cut and come again goodness, this time from these lovely leafy chards. Perpetual spinach and chard are dead easy to grow and incredibly hardy. They’re also very useful in the kitchen, whether you’re folding them into curries and quiches or simply cooking the leaves as a side dish.
I normally grow the ever-reliable perpetual spinach variety, as well as something colourful to add interest to the plot during an otherwise rather aesthetically dull time. Bright Lights are great chard to grow, with its yellows and pinks functioning as an ornamental crop as much as a culinary one.