The Dominion Post
Fabulous veges for winter
Brassicas are a staple in an edible winter garden, but Jade Temepara says they aren’t the only option.
With our seasons changing and autumn leaving us soon, our gardens need some TLC to get through the cold months. Winter gardens give us new eyes to look at what hard work we have accomplished over summer and autumn, and give us a deserved break from the summer sun.
It’s a time to reflect on what our bodies are needing and wanting, in our kitchens and in what we eat, so we can feel that enjoyable, familiar feeling of fullness.
Traditionally, we stored our summer and autumn bounty to get us through the upcoming season when we used less energy to work and live. Matariki teaches us that this is a time to rest, restore and rebalance our lives and food supplies, enjoy the hard work of the seasons past, and let our bodies recoup for a season.
Those ancient teachings seem like a good idea, but putting them into practice is somewhat of a challenge. While we can’t rest like our ancestors, we certainly can use wisdom as we plan and prepare our gardens for a winter of stillness but nourishment.
What to plant for winter
Brassicas are a staple in a winter garden. As well as being the best addition to soups, stews, roasted, and hearty meals, they are simple to grow. But they aren’t the only winter option.
Brussels sprouts: A kid’s most hated vegetable, so I’ve heard, is also a beautiful plant to grow. It requires little attention, but lots of preparation in good ground and food over winter, and it is a great addition roasted or steamed and put through salads. They get sweeter with each frost. Harvest from the bottom up and they store well in a fridge for weeks.
Bok choy can be grown all year round, and adds bulk to your soups, stir-fries and Asian dishes. Requiring a small space, these are great in pots and will grow for months. Pick the tender leaves at any stage – from the bottom up – and the plants will be a hardy companion over the cold months.
Spinach is another rock star in the garden and your kitchen over the cooler months. There are many varieties you can use that suit your cooking. Try our native, New Zealand spinach for a rich and wholesome variety – just watch frosts with a covering, as they tend to die back when the temperature changes. The leaves are a beautiful heart shape and when you feel like you want salad, not soup, they make a great addition of crunch.
Garlic requires a well dug over and nutrientrich garden bed or pot to be successful. It can only be grown in winter and is traditionally planted on the shortest day and harvested on the longest.
Head to the farmers’ market to buy bulbs and take the fattest outside bulbs to plant. If you are planting in pots, give them 20-30 cm of space to grow. If you are growing in the garden, rows help with spacing and preventing overwatering. They have a few pests to deal with, and make sure you water in well.
Celery is one of our most sprayed vegetables commercially. Made up of around 90 per cent water, you can easily grow your own without any nasty chemicals. Given some good ground to thrive in, which has been weeded and fed with nutrients, celery is one of the most versatile plants. Space out at 30-40cm and make sure you water well, as they are a huge storer of H20. Keep an eye out for discolouring, a common problem. Harvest the stalks from the bottom up and pull right from the bottom. You can juice them or add to all your winter dishes, cheese boards or lunch boxes.
Jade Temepara is an Ellerslie Flower Show medal winner and former New Zealand Gardener of the Year. She is also the host of Ma¯ ori TV’s He Ka¯ kano.