Cover crops and compost carpet polyculture garden in readiness for winter. Nov. 10, 2020. Photo: Judy Isacoff

NATURE’S TURN: Yields of sensational roots and greens through freeze, snow and balmy thaw

If the voles allow, the carrots will be mulched and left in the ground for harvesting through the winter or in spring — same for a row of parsnips. A bed of perennial green onions, commonly referred to as scallions, continues to provide zest to raw and cooked dishes.

November 16 – 29, 2020

Mount Washington — My garden is growing its winter coat. There are soil-nourishing swatches of lush crimson clover and swaths of winter rye grass in varying sizes, shapes and stages of development (see photograph). Edibles for the table, also shown, include a small square of arugula up front, close to the kitchen for cutting, and a large square of feathery carrot tops in the background. If the voles allow, the carrots will be mulched and left in the ground for harvesting through the winter or in spring — same for a row of parsnips. A bed of perennial green onions, commonly referred to as scallions, continues to provide zest to raw and cooked dishes.

Arugula, foreground; top, crimson clover. Nov. 3, 2020. Photo: Judy Isacoff

As the climate warms, late plantings of frost-hardy vegetables are succeeding to maturity. That said, predictions of killing frost dominated my relationship with my garden following the surprise mid-September freeze. From that night on, as temperatures sporadically dipped into the low 30s and 20s, I pulled protective row-cover fabric over late-season crops. By the last days of October, just before a snowfall, I filled baskets of purple-top turnips to overflowing. The root that took the prize weighed in at 2 ½ pounds.

Purple Top turnips, Oct. 29. Photo: Judy Isacoff

Turnip steaks, thick slices braised, are velvety smooth and sweet. Perhaps frigid nights also mellowed the flavorful turnip tops. Chopped and briefly sauteed, they are the savory greens of the moment. The surplus freezes well. There is one more row of turnips to pull. The roots are hard-as-rock healthy even though they have not been protected from the harsh weather. But many of the greens, to my amazement, are riddled with holes made by cross-striped cabbageworms that have survived the frosts! A cursory search produced no clues to understanding this awful phenomenon.

Turning to another prize and surprise of the season, Hong Vit radish, a plant that remains vital through freeze and snow, was sometimes draped with fabric on the coldest nights. See its greens flattened but unharmed by snow on Nov. 3. I published a photograph of this plant, labeled “daikon radish” in my Sept. 21 column. As it grew, I was confused by its red color; the seed packet showed it white, as to be expected. Upon ordering winter rye from the purveyor of the would-be daikon seed, I mentioned the red radish. “Oh,” said the clerk, “the seed of Hong Vit Radish Greens were mistakenly packaged in Daikon Radish envelopes. Hong Vit is grown as a microgreen.”

Hong Vit radish greens: seed-grown to full root. Harvested Nov. 6, 2020. Photo: Judy Isacoff

Hong Vit is known for its “early color in a fast-growing leaf radish with smooth pink and red stems. It has virtually hairless, lobed green leaves with a light red midrib and mild radish flavor. Ideal for microgreens or as a baby leaf in salads. Also for bunched greens with roots on, or full size radishes.”* I harvested most of the Hong Vit on Nov. 9. Some roots were nearly daikon size, at 8 inches long by 2 inches in diameter. The lush, hairless tops, different from those of other radishes, are tender and mild. They, too, have satisfied my craving for intensely colored leafy greens and have been added to my winter cache.

During this Thanks Giving time of year, I wish you an abundant harvest of inspiration for growing deliciously beautiful environments.

Resources

*High Mowing Seeds Hong Vit Radish Greens
https://www.highmowingseeds.com/organic-non-gmo-hong-vit-radish-greens.html

Perennial onions
https://www.motherearthnews.com/organic-gardening/perennial-onions-zmaz03aszgoe

Cross-striped cabbage worm
https://ag.umass.edu/vegetable/fact-sheets/cross-striped-cabbage-worm