Sunday, January 19, 2014

Growing Greens Indoors in Winter

In the polar vortex regions, gardeners are often looking for the magic formula to have healthy greens during the winter. There's always extending the season under cold frames, polytunnels and by bringing vegetables into a cellar or processing them to eat later by canning, freezing and drying but what about growing? Growing is so much fun. Some people have had enough of a break by January that they want to get their hands dirty again. Well, let me enable you with these four techniques:

1. Sprouting roots

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Photo from a previous post where I also explore fridge sprouting and a great book on Salad Greens.

In my experience, this is by far the easiest. It can be done with roots you grew yourself and stored in a cellar* OR you can do it with the roots from your C.S.A. delivery OR the Organic Farmer's Market OR really any root you get from the grocery store.

Simply, get a vegetable that produces both edible greens and roots such as a beet and plant it so that it starts sending that stored rooty energy into making delicious fresh greeny goodness for you. Try it with:

  • Onions: after all they are always sprouting in your drawer right?
  • Garlic: this can even be done with crowded cloves in a dish of water
  • Leek, Green Onions: Even after you cut off the greens to eat, just leave a portion with the roots
  • Beets: Beet greens are yummy (you can do this with Swiss Chard too if you have taken in your own roots or happen to find some with roots at you veg. supplier)
  • Carrots: I don't find these thrilling greens but it can be done.
  • Dandelions: For milder greens, grow without light
  • Chicory, all sorts: Particular types are used to produce Belgium Endive by forcing the roots in the dark
  • Celery, celeriac
  • Parsley
  • Sweet Potatoes: Yes, these have edible greens too. 
  • Turnips
  • And more, just make sure the greens are edible (as not all tubers produce edible greens)

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Celery and walking onion growing on my window sill.

2. Sprouting seeds

Second up comes seed sprouting. There is no lack of internet-searchability on this subject but it's essentially germinating the seed and eating them at the baby plant stage. Make sure that you use seeds and seedlings that are safe to eat. Good candidates from your own garden are mustards, broccoli, dill and other plants that produce an abundance of seed. You can go quite sophisticated with specialized tailor made equipment or as simple as a glass jar. All sorts of grains, herb seeds and vegetable seeds are used though it is suggested that some of them are eaten cooked. For ideas, you could go to one of the commercial sites to gander at their extensive lists.

3. Microgreens and cut and come again salads

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Growing pea shoots in winter.

The older siblings of sprouts, microgreens are allowed to grow a touch bigger. I'm a fan of pea shoots that are easy to grow on a windowsill in winter. They can be grown in a shallow dish of water or in soil. If allowed to get big enough to cut down in bunches, you get the holy grail of indoor salads, the cut and come again.** Succession sow a new tray every few weeks as they may peter out quickly in crowded, less than ideal growing conditions.

4. Aquaponics!

Okay, so the reason I was inspired to write this post was because fellow blogger at Whistling Girls and Crowing Hens has ventured into the fascinating world of clay balls, fish tubs, and worms to grow her winter salads. For those of you with an empty basement corner looking for a fun project, this might be your solution. Instead of stumbling through my own description, I'll let her take you on an aquaponic adventure.

* There are lots of cellar designs, including ones build into a corner of your basement, but roots will also store a long time in the fridge (and eventually sprout there).
** The holy grail is probably the indoor tomato but that would deserve its own post.


Anonymous said...

I'm worried I'm becoming a little overzealous with my aquaponic proselytizing, but thank you for the link! I love any opportunity to evangelize.

Ottawa Gardener said...

We're all plant prophets in our own way ;)

Jean Campbell said...

My celery resprout project was going great until I drowned it.