18 Leafy Greens To Grow in Winter for Fresh, Healthy Eating

What’s better for spicing up a healthy diet than some fresh vegetables? The only issue is that winter can be a challenging season in the garden, even for people with green thumbs.

We’ve got you covered, though. Let’s dive in with delicious 18 leafy greens to grow in winter seasons!

1. Kale

Although you can grow kale in summer, you should let it mature in winter for better results. In cold temperatures, it converts the stored starch into sugars to escape freezing, which gives it a sweeter taste. 

In well-drained, fertile soil and full sun, plant kale around three months before the first frost in your area.

Keep in mind that curly kale is the most common variety. It works with steam, stir-fry, and roast recipes. You can even eat it raw as long as you top it with salad dressing and nuts.

2. Spinach

Once the temperatures drop, spinach resists the frost by increasing its sugar content. This makes it particularly cold-hardy. All you need is a bit of compost and fertilizer before sowing the spinach seeds half an inch deep. 

Reliable winter varieties include Corvair, Kolibri, and Giant Winter. A tip when harvesting is to use scissors and cut the outer leaves, leaving room for the immature buds to grow.

As a saute, spinach pairs well with salads, casseroles, and even quiche!

3. Lettuce

Winter lettuce, Winter Density, and Winter Wonderland are a staple for fresh salads on colder days. Plus, they both have a similar cold tolerance mechanism to kale and spinach.

However, you can always cloche your lettuce to protect it from extreme frost. Once the weather is milder, remove the cloche to provide air circulation. This is crucial to prevent mold growth in the soil.

4. Beets

Winter beets can even be sweeter than summer harvests, and they’re mostly low-maintenance. When sown in the ground, beet seeds can survive freeze because soil temperature remains warm. 

You’ll just need to plant a bit more densely and mulch for extra warmth. Crosby Egyptian beet is a fast-growing option to consider in a vegetable roast or as a pre-workout snack.

5. Mache (Lamb’s Lettuce)

Small-seeded mache varieties withstand cold weather, down to about 5°F. It’ll germinate when the soil temperature is between 55° to 68°F. However, you’ll want to harvest it as soon as possible before it spoils.

Mache is popular in salads, but you can also serve it sauteed or steamed. Not only is it delicious, but it’ll give you a nutritional boost!

6. Mustard Greens

Ideally, you’ll want to harvest mustard greens before it gets to 75°F. So, aim to get them started around three weeks to a month before the first frost.

While it’s not as cold-hardy as other plants on the list, the Sher-li-hon variety makes for a great pickled winter delicacy!

7. Collards 

Rich in protein, the winter-producing collards can survive temperatures under 20°F. They only get more delicious with the cold. Just make sure to seed in full sun three months before the fall frost and space them around three feet apart.

Champion, Georgia Southern, and Ole Timey Blue varieties can all be a tasty addition to a hearty southern-style greens dish.

8. Arugula

Although arugula is cold-tolerant, it’s always better to cover it when it’s colder and harvest the outer leaves to encourage regrowth. Something as simple as a cold frame can keep the plant going for the entire winter season up to 22°F.

Italian Cress and Rocket arugulas are both popular choices in salads. Even their flowers are edible, but you can choose to leave them in the soil to self-sow.

9. Mizuna

Mizuna is cool weather Japanese mustard green that adds a peppery kick to many savory dishes, like risottos. For fall and winter growth, it’s better to sow in an unheated greenhouse and harvest it before it flowers.

The komatsuna variety is a resilient option, but you might also consider the purple mizuna if you want a dash of color.

10. Turnip Greens

Depending on how harsh the winters are where you live, the turnip greens could either survive the winter or remain a fall plant. Ideally, you’ll want to harvest when the temperature is around 40°F.

However, it’s crucial to space turnips 6 inches apart in well-drained, regularly irrigated soil. Shogoin, Seven Top, and Topper varieties all work for soups, casseroles, or salads.

11. Garden Sorrel

This leafy green tolerates an impressive -20°F! It needs a bit of work on your side, from keeping the soil slightly acidic to fertilizing. It’ll be ready for harvest when the leaves are 4 inches long—older sorrel leaves taste bitter.

Besides the garden sorrel variety, you can try the French sorrel. You can use both in salads or sandwiches when you need to add a lemony flavor. 

12. Tatsoi

Tatsoi is a type of Chinese cabbage that can withstand low temperatures around 15°F, and it doesn’t mind the partial sun. 

It’s popular in Asian cuisines and used in stir-fries, salads, or garnish. Although similar to bok choy, tatsoi has a stronger mustard flavor.

You can either settle for the regular green tatsoi or opt for the Red Cloud variety for a color pop!

13. Chard

The strikingly colorful chard dies at temperatures under 15°F. So, you might need a cold frame depending on how cold the winter is where you live. You’ll also need to harvest the leaves when they’re around 8 inches long to avoid bitterness.

Bright Yellow and Fordhook Giant are both moderately winter-hardy swiss chard varieties to consider in soups, frittatas, casseroles, and quiches.

14. Radish

Winter radishes like Daikon, Spanish, and Watermelon radish withstand a heavy frost. They’re low maintenance but take longer time (8 to 10 weeks) than spring radishes to ripen. Plus, they still need 6 hours of direct sunlight.

Because winter radishes are bigger, you can heat cook them or slice them into salads to get a sweet crisp.

15. Bok Choy

Bok choy can tolerate light frost in USDA zones 4-7, but it’s not particularly winter hardy. So, you might need to grow the plant indoors if the outside is too cold outside in your region.

The black summer variety is a good option for late fall and winter harvest. It works well as a filling for spring rolls and dumplings.

16. Scallions

Scallions start to show up in the spring, but they’re good to go well into the winter. On the plus side, you can harvest only what you need by the leaf without killing the plant. Just seed them 2-4 inches apart, do not over-water, and mulch around the bulbs.

The evergreen hardy white variety is a particularly good fit. You can use it in Asian cuisine, sauces, baked goods, and more!

17. Upland Cress

Upland Cress is a quick-growing, cold-hardy vegetable variety. These peppery-flavored leaves thrive in rich soil and partial sun. The plant survives mild freeze, but you can cover it with a cloche and continue growing it in the cold.

Pluck the upward cress leaves from the stem at 4 inches to encourage regrowth.

You can use cress in salads and sandwiches, saute it with spinach, or add it to dipping and sauces.

18. Salad Burnet

If you’re looking for something winter-hardy and also tolerant of dry soil, the salad burnet is the one for you. From USDA zones 6 and colder, you’ll need to move it indoors, though.

Harvest young leaves before they grow old and bitter. Just make sure to use the Sanguisorba minor variety fresh because it loses most of the flavor when dried.

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