26 Jan 2021

Ice cold in veg land

Pink and green kale growing in snow
It was a snowy day in the London veg patch

It’s winter here in the northern hemisphere so I shouldn’t be surprised when it snows ... or should I? Over the past few years London has experienced only the kindest of winters but, last Sunday morning, a couple of hours of persistent snowfall settled thickly over the gardens.  Very pretty, certainly, but it was a timely reminder not to get too complacent about the weather and to see which of my veg had coped best with the sudden freeze.

So, after a refreshing long walk through snowy streets and local parks, past cars topped with miniature snowmen, I finished up in the gardens where, as expected, hardier veg were looking good in their icy finery.
Dark Tuscan kale in snow

Kales are known to be hardy so I always have dark Tuscan kale, aka Cavolo Nero, growing throughout the year; useful as baby leaves in spring, a few are grown on in the veg patch where leaves can be pulled off as needed for the kitchen - stir fried, added to soups and stews or blended into smoothies.  Plus, by the end of the season, I love that the plants look like little palm trees.

Head of bright pink curly leaved kale
Candy Floss - the prettiest of curly leaved kales

But the star kale this year has to be pink curly kale. It stayed resolutely green with pink stems as it grew - a pretty plant but I did wonder if I’d mislabelled the seeds. Not now though - colder weather has turned this kale into the Barbara Cartland of my veg patch and very beautiful and tasty it is too. Next year I'll be doubling (or even trebling!) the number of plants growing. (Dame Barbara, determinedly glamorous to the last, favoured deep frivolous pink for her outfits, hence the comparison!)  

I’m regretting not having any parsnips to pull (when the ground defrosts) but never seem to find the space for them, something I should remedy next year as they would love this colder weather. I do have beetroot though -  late summer sown, they’ve bulbed up into small sweet roots, perfect for roasting or juicing raw to unleash the powerhouse of nutrients.

The few Brussels sprouts still standing are looking a bit past their best if I’m honest but, parboiled then stir fried with bacon, will still make a tasty breakfast. Sprouts for breakfast? Why not! Delicious with an egg and dusting of chilli flakes.

Sadly (for me) I am without leeks. Every year I mean to grow them and every year I fail to get round to it. Leeks are a vegetable that I turn to as often as shallots or onions and look beautiful in the winter veg patch.  I’ve ordered seeds for next year that can be pulled in autumn as baby veg or grown on to be harvested in the winter months. Definitely a win:win. 

Purple sprouting broccoli in the snow

But the most thrilling veg to my mind has to be Purple Sprouting broccoli. First sightings of those purple florets is truly a magical moment for me, every year, without fail. The plants take so many months to grow and take up valuable space in the summer months but, my goodness, are worth it.

Sometimes I’ve waited until April for signs of the purple sprouts but this year I’m growing an early variety; tiny purple florets were spotted in the first week of January; now it won’t be long before I can start to take a few stems into the kitchen. Yum. 

And for those, like me, who relish a tasty winter salad, I’ve successfully grown Japanese leaves such as mizuna, komatsuna, rocket and mustard leaves (Red Frills is particularly pretty) in trays outside in the shelter of my balcony for easy picking through the colder months.

I’m lucky in that temperatures rarely drop below -2C at night in winter - and probably not even that low as the gardens here are close to the flats - so there’s a range of veg and herbs that keep growing. I’ve found that parsley (curly or flat leaved) both survive, as does bay, thyme, and winter savoury; I’ve still got mint and lemon balm leaves growing in the herb garden although fennel is looking a little forlorn after the snow. All are valuable and useful additions to meals, stocks and teas. 

Being able to pick even the smallest occasional helpings of fresh veg in the winter feels worthwhile; it’s good to get outside, connect with the seasons and watch the garden waking up to spring. And it gives me truly fresh veg to look forward to- there really is nothing like home-grown!


  1. Can appreciate how nice it is that you still have some fresh produce even in the depths of a snowy winter

    1. Definitely! But it makes me long for an allotment where I could grow so much more!

  2. Your veg looks delightful in the snow, especially the pink curly kale. I have lots of leeks and parsnips in the ground but sadly no purple sprouting broccoli which I love too.xxx

    1. Ah thanks, Dina. How lovely that you have leeks and parsnips to harvest - I have leek seeds ready to sow for next year so there will be no excuse for me not to have any next winter. xx

  3. This post is inspirantional! I must get my veggie garden up and running again, your dishes sound so yummy!

    1. Glad I've inspired you, Pauline - this is the best time for planning ahead; good luck with your veggie garden - I look forward to reading all about it!

  4. Kale is elevated from the humble to the spectacular!

  5. What lovely Winter veg you have! I hope next year we will also have some. We’ve given up on parsnips as we’ve not had a good crop since our very first allotment year. But this year we’ll try again with the PSB, it is such a treat!

    1. I admit I've never grown parsnips before so this will be a first - should be interesting! I'm also going to try Kaibrocc this year - a cross between quick growing Chinese Kailaan and broccoli, apparently the sprouts are delicious. I do love my brassicas!

  6. Your Brassicas look so healthy although among the snow, but last two years I didn't lucky with Brassicas. Snails, worm, fungus, and many more pests


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