12 Winter Vegetables You Should Consider Growing


12 Winter Vegetables You Should Consider Growing

As cold weather settles in – signaling that winter will soon be upon us, it is time to dawn your gardening gloves and arm yourself with your favorite garden tools (and maybe even a warm winter coat and hat) in anticipation of all the sweet and hearty bounty that winter vegetable gardens provide.

Some say that winter vegetables are superior in sweet flavor to those grown during the spring and summer seasons, and just about everyone can agree that food grown with your own hands is something to be proud of. Just because the days are becoming shorter, a coating of frost blankets Mother Nature, and the creatures of the woodland are retreating for a long winter slumber does not mean you need to put away your love of gardening as these 12 vegetables love to be grown during the cold months of the year.

1. Kale

A ruffly and regal-looking leafy green of the Brassica family, kale takes the center stage when it comes to nutrition and health benefits. It is a mighty superfood that is packed with calcium, iron, vitamins A, K, C, and fiber.

Kale can be grown in the ground or in containers on your patio. Start your plants in July or August so that they are ready for harvest by the time colder temperatures come around. Varieties of kale to consider growing include Dinosaur, Red Russian, Curly, and Premier. Each has its own distinct texture and taste. You won’t need to worry about the cold affecting your kale very much unless you live in sub-arctic conditions as this is a tough leafy green that actually gets sweeter after weathering a few frosty nights.

Health Benefits of Kale

  • Aids in digestion

  • Improves immune system

  • Improves metabolism

  • Offers protection against cancer

  • Promotes healthy skin and nails

2. Carrots

Typically associated with spring and Easter bunnies, carrots are a sweet root vegetable you can enjoy fresh from your garden through the winter. Carrots are an excellent source of collagen, beta-carotene, carotenoids, Vitamins A, B6, K, and fiber.

Carrots can be grown anywhere you have fluffy loose soil that is at least seven inches deep. Your winter carrots will be slightly shorter than your summer harvests, but so much sweeter thanks to the frost. Direct sow carrots into your garden or into containers at least 60 days before the first frost and be sure to dig out all carrots before March so they do not go to seed with the coming of spring.

Health Benefits of Carrots

  • Prevents cancer-causing cell mutations

  • Promotes good eye health

  • Improves skin and internal injury healing

  • Prevents tooth decay

  • Aids in digestion

3. Cabbage

A hearty cole crop that makes fantastic sauerkraut, coleslaw, and a divine pot of corned beef and cabbage, this is one hearty winter vegetable you do not want to miss out on growing this year. In cabbage, you will find an abundance of calcium, vitamin B6, folate, magnesium, and antioxidants.

Cabbage is a staple winter food in many European countries and should be planted in mid-summer for a late fall or early winter harvest. Cabbage needs to be planted in well-drained and fertilized soil and be given lots of room to leaf out and grow uniformly. Cabbage can be grown in containers or raised beds as long as there is plenty of room for its large head to form. Like with other winter vegetables, it only gets sweeter when the weather outside is frightful!

Health Benefits of Cabbage

  • Lowers risk some forms of cancer

  • Counteracts the harmful effects of radiation therapy

  • Helps relieve constipation

  • Lowers risk of heart disease

  • Lowers risk of diabetes

4. Broccoli

Loaded with nutrients such as vitamins A, B9, K, C, as well as potassium, Broccoli is a powerhouse vegetable that is super easy to grow for a healthy fall and winter harvest. Broccoli should be planted at least 90 days before the first frost and is ideal for ground and container gardens. After you have experienced the sweet taste of winter broccoli, you may never want to grow summer broccoli again!

Health Benefits of Broccoli

  • Lowers the risk of breast, stomach, bladder, colon, and prostate cancer

  • Relieves constipation

  • Promotes healthy brain function

  • Anti-inflammatory

5. Scallions

A fabulous onion crop that can easily be grown in a flower pot during the cold winter months, scallions are the perfect companion to a plate of nachos, on a baked potato, or a fresh salad. Scallions that are best for growing in the winter months include Libson, Winter Hardy, and Parade Reformer. In the right conditions, scallions can be planted all year long. Scallions are a good source of vitamins A, C, K, sulfur, and antioxidants.

Health Benefits of Scallions

  • Relieves inflammation

  • Lowers risk of stomach cancer

  • Increases bone strength

  • Energy booster

6. Spinach

For any of you who were kids during the Popeye the Sailor Man cartoon era, you were taught early on how important spinach is to your health and well-being. It is a complex leafy green vegetable that is packed with potassium, zinc, iron, calcium, and Vitamins A, B6, C, K.

Spinach can be grown all year long in a container or in your garden. Spinach has frost-tender leaves, so if you are going to grow it during the winter months, you should grow it in a greenhouse or cold frame. For a winter harvest, plant your spinach during late summer or early fall in nitrogen-rich soil. The great thing about spinach is that you do not need to wait until the leaves are fully grown to harvest it…baby spinach salad anyone?

Health Benefits of Spinach

  • Improves eyesight

  • Improves cognitive function

  • Helps you grow muscle

  • Keeps blood pressure in check

  • Reduces risk of cancer

  • Reduces inflammation

  • Relieves constipation

7. Leeks

A gentle giant of the onion family, leeks date back to the ancient Egyptian civilization when Pharaohs used to consume them regularly. Leeks are high in vitamins A & C as well as manganese. They are hearty vegetables that can be harvested in the winter and spring months and can stay in the ground until such time as you wish to eat them. Leeks are ideal for container gardening as well as direct planting into the garden.

Health Benefits of Leeks

  • Reduces risk of heart disease

  • Aids in weight loss

  • Lowers risk of gastric and colon cancers

  • Keeps blood pressure in check

  • Reduces risk of cancer

  • Reduces inflammation

  • Improves bone health

8. Brussels Sprouts

While not as popular as some winter vegetables as they can be quite smelly when cooked, brussels sprouts are a delicious and filling food that has a long list of nutrients. Brussels sprouts contain antioxidants, fiber, Vitamins A, C, & E, and omega-3 fatty acids.

Brussels sprouts are considered to be tiny cabbages that grow from the main stalk. They should be planted in spring for a fall or winter harvest. It can take up to six months for brussels sprouts to be ready for harvest, but the sweet flavor and health benefits make them worth the wait. Brussels sprouts should be planted directly into your garden and fertilized at least twice during their growth cycle.

Health Benefits of Brussels Sprouts

  • Lowers blood sugar

  • Reduces inflammation

  • Cleans out cancer-causing free radicals

  • Keeps blood pressure in check

9. Lettuce

Iceberg, butter, romaine, and the list goes on…they all make the perfect base for a delicious winter salad. Like with many other vegetables grown during the winter months, lettuces get sweeter when they are grown in cold temperatures. To harvest an abundance of lettuce in the winter, start your seeds approximately 60 days before the first frost. Grow your lettuce in a greenhouse or indoors during the cold season if there is a lot of frost in your growing region. Lettuce contains a healthy dose of Vitamins A, C, and E as well as omega-3 fatty acids and an abundance of water.

Health Benefits of Lettuce

  • Hydrates your body

  • Aids in relaxation and makes it easier to sleep

  • Helps with weight loss

  • Improves digestion

10. Winter Squash

Popular among holiday decorating enthusiasts, bakers, and those who are looking for a hearty vegetable to savor, winter squash is celebrated for its diversity in flavors and looks! In order to enjoy your share of winter squash during the fall and winter months, you will want to be sure to get it planted into the ground early; it can take up to 100 days for squash to grow and ripen. Some of the most popular winter squash include butternut, delicata, acorn squash, spaghetti squash, and hubbard squash.

Squash can be grown in large containers, but these plants can vine out over 10 feet, so take this into consideration when picking your growing spot. When properly harvested and cured, winter squash can be stored in a dark and cool space for months. Winter squash is a good source of Vitamins A & C, carotenoids, antioxidants, and omega-3 fatty acids.

Health Benefits of Winter Squash

  • Stimulates the immune system

  • Assists with digestion

  • Reduces blood pressure

  • Helps keep skin healthy

  • Stimulates the immune system

11. Potatoes

A hearty tuber vegetable that has been cultivated for thousands of years, the humble potato is ideal for countless culinary delights! It is a versatile vegetable that is extremely easy to grow. Depending on the climate where you live, you can grow potatoes directly in your garden, in a container, or in a greenhouse most months of the year.

Potatoes are best grown using a layering approach, so you will want to make sure your planting container is big enough if you choose not to grow them in the ground. Plastic storage totes, troughs, and 5-gallon buckets make great planters for potatoes. Potatoes sometimes get a bad rap due to their carb content, but they are excellent sources of fiber, calcium, potassium, Vitamin C, and other vitamins and minerals.

Health Benefits of Potatoes

  • Alleviates constipation

  • Reduces inflammation

  • Improved brain function and memory

  • Reduces the risk of cancer (purple, russet, and red potatoes)

  • Satisfies hunger and prevents the need to snack

12. Beets

Looking for a root vegetable that is easy to grow, is loaded with health benefits, and stores well in a root cellar? Beets are a powerhouse of nutrients and grow well direct sowed into the ground or in gardening containers during the spring or fall seasons. They contain a healthy dose of calcium, Vitamins B & C, iron, potassium, phosphorus, and magnesium.

Health Benefits of Beets

  • Prolonged energy in athletes

  • Reduces risk of cancer

  • Cleans the liver

  • Promotes weight loss

  • Provides a boost to the libido

  • Helps prevent infections

Care For Winter Vegetables

Winter vegetable plants require different types of care than the plants you grow for a summer harvest. Depending on where you live, you will need to pay attention to frost dates so that your plants do not get damaged by freezing temperatures. Once you have chosen the vegetables you wish to grow, be sure to do some research to learn more about how to properly grow winter harvests in your neck of the woods. For example, you may need to install frost cloth over your veggies or grow them inside of a warm and cozy greenhouse. Be sure to check with your local nursery for winter growing tips for your specific region.

Don’t let the cold winter months stop you from having fresh home-grown vegetables. As a matter of fact, many vegetables taste even better when grown for winter harvest – so bundle up and get more use out of your garden!

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