Hungry Gap

What to think of growing for next winter’s hungry gap?

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Kale

It will start to flourish in the most ‘hungriest’ gap of all, around February when all of your stores have dwindled. Boil, steam, fry or add to stews, curries, soups, pizza toppings, lasagnes, bologneses, casseroles, etc and it will wilt down to nothing but is so good for you!

The last of the Kale

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Cabbage

Kept under only insect netting, cabbages can be grown for an early spring crop or throughout the autumnal and winter months for a warming cooked green due to their hardiness.

Cabbages

Spanish Tree Cabbage

Huge plants that should last for two-three years once sown. They are frost resistant and produce huge green leaves that you harvest like kale. Pull them off, cut them up, and cook like cabbage/kale. They taste just like them.

Purple Sprouting Broccoli

This one will not be ready until just before spring each year, but it will give you an early green before the calabrese broccoli has even been planted out into the ground. Snip off the little flowers as the grow and boil or steam for some homegrown goodness before the rest of the veg is ready for harvesting. The plants are frost hardy during the winter months.

Swiss Chard

Giant spinach that lasts all year round and self-seeds magnificently. Plant a few and they will die back when they get worn out but will regrown pretty quickly. You will want to cook these leaves as they are a bit strong – avoid the stalks, they are not very tasty. I like putting mine on top of homemade pizzas or chucking them in a stir fry.

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Potatoes 

Plant lots of potatoes, store some and cover the rest in the ground with tonnes of soil and some horticultural fleece to prevent frost damage. They might suffer a little from slug damage but I promise that they will still be completely edible and wonderful! They last a lot longer in the ground than they do in storage.

The MIGHTY Potato

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Swede

Swedes can be left in the ground, like potatoes, all winter long. You don’t need to fleece them but can if you like. They will be exhausted by mid-spring so aim to pull them all up then.

Turnips

Same as swedes.

Beetroot

Cover your beetroot with fleece and they will stay in the ground throughout the winter.

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Carrots

Again, keep covered with fleece and dig them up throughout the winter months. The green tops will die back but the roots themselves will stay fresh in the ground.

Carrots

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Brussels Sprouts and Brukale

These need a little frost to keep them tender. They should be pickable around Christmas time and thoughout the winter months. Boil or steam.

Brukale is a cross between a Brussels Sprout and Kale – I personally think it is even more delicious than either!

Brussels Sprouts

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Leeks

Will last longer than onions in the ground that will rot when the frost strikes.

Leeks

Celeriac 

These should be ready to harvest after the frosty time, during December and throughout the winter months. They can be roasted, boiled, mashed, made into soups, added to stocks etc. for a nourishing root vegetable.

Watercress

I was surprised when our watercress flourished in the cooler months than it did throughout spring or summer. Grow it in pots and cover with fleece and it will be a salad leaf that will see you through winter.

Rocket

It won’t last as long as watercress in the cold months but it will see you through a majority of it as long as you keep it fleeced.

Micro-Greens

Grow these on your windowsill indoors. These can include speedy cress, sunflower seeds, beansprouts, alfalfa, pea shoots, and lots more sprouting seeds are available in the shops.

 

Do you have any winter veggies to grow through the ‘hungry gap’? 

 

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Swedes and Turnips – Hello May!

Finally, the frost has gone, the sun is shining and the world is hot. Boiling, in fact. The horticultural fleeces have been ripped from the trees and are now being used as shade for the vegetables I am planting out from indoors – a word on the wonders of fleece later.

I have been starting off pretty much all my seeds indoors this year. It was even too cold for the turnips to germinate outdoors and I did not dare sow my cosmos or lupin flower seeds outdoors in March with that strange weather happening. I think the only seeds I put straight in the ground that actually did really well this year were some spinach and radishes – they are huge, I just harvested some of the first the other day. Some Pak Choi, Tatsoi, spring onions and beetroot managed to germinate outdoors but not quite enough so I have tried planting some of all of these indoors for the first time. I just planted out the beetroot the other day and they are looking really good. I would recommend anyone to try sowing indoors, popping the plants daily on a sunny windowsill during daylight hours when they start to bud through the surface of the compost before planting them out when they are large enough to handle and the weather is forgiving.

However, now that the sun is shining I have a little more faith in sowing direct. On Thursday I took the risk of sowing some swede and more turnip seeds into the ground. Last year I was pleasantly surprised by how well the swedes germinated, and then tasted! I had never had a swede before and was pleased by how nice it was. We have tried it cup up and boiled along with carrots before mashing the two together with butter and serving alongside sausages (and Glamorgan sausages, in my case). We also have had them just boiled, like one would serve along with boiled peas, carrots, runner-beans, potatoes, so forth, at a roast dinner or again with sausages or chicken. They look like an odd vegetable but are quite hardy. I left mine in the ground, with no fleece all winter and they survived really well, only minor slug damage and still edible. The last couple that I have left in that were not worth harvesting due to their feeble size are currently going to flower and will either be a treat for my kune kune pigs or our friend’s collection of Jersey cows. I will put it out there right now, I love cows.

Anyway, back to sowing swedes: I planted the same type as last year, ‘Helenor’ that I bought from trusty Sainsbury’s (that we often manage to avoid for more than a month at a time as we are really not keen shoppers, hence the daydreaming of self-sufficiency and the good life seem so appealing). I planted them in well-rotted cow manure (courtesy of the Jersey cows), mixed in with earth and a good layer of mulch over the top to hold the water and nutrients in – I live on sandy soil so the goodness and water just runs away from the plants so feeding the soil is a constant priority to build it up. One sows seeds about half an inch deep, a hand apart is good enough. It is the same for the turnips. Now, I have never tried a turnip before and most people say it is gross, including my dad, but growing turnips is such a sweet old-fashioned thing and I am a sucker for the romantic old days, I just had to try it. Plus, Baldrick from ‘Blackadder’ loves turnips. I am trying ‘Purple Top Milan’, we shall see how they go. If they are really gross and I can’t shift them onto some poor neighbour then at least the pigs won’t be too fussy. You would be amazed how quickly they clean up their food at dinner time.

We shall see how the swedes and turnips grow. Until then, my next post will be coming very shortly, with a recipe intact…