I used to believe that vegetable gardening was a seasonal past-time reserved for a few months of the year. That was until my friend shared this book with me. The author discusses the benefits of cold frames, suggests cold-hardy varieties and goes into great detail about green manure to keep the ground temperature above zero to prolong the growing season. My winter gardening efforts are basically non-existent but I did take note of some of her recommended winter hardy varieties of kale and added them to my seed list.
After harvesting my kale throughout the summer months, I decided to keep a few varieties in the ground to see how they would cope with our Zone 5 winter. There were three varieties, Nero Toscana, Dwarf Blue and Redbor.
Up until January, Toronto was treated with a pretty mild winter. With only a few sub-zero days, my kale did nicely! There was little growth probably due to the shorter days but the plants themselves looked healthy and were putting on some new leaves. Much to my surprise, the leaves were still tender, crunchy and impressively sweet! I’ve read that a mild frost for some vegetables, especially root vegetables actually draws out their sweetness.
I wanted to test out my winter kale in the most unadultered form so I decided to throw it into a lightly dressed salad for one of my Sunday family dinners. Feedback was that the Nero was the most tender while the other two varieties with curly leaves were sweeter and prettier.
It is hard to imagine eating anything out of my garden in the dead of winter but there is something magical about it.
Winter Kale Salad
- 6 cups of kale (I used a mixture of Redbor, Dwarf Blue and Nero Toscano)
- Seeds from ½ a pomegranate
- 1 Granny Smith apple, chopped
- 5-6 radishes, thinly sliced
- 2 green onions, thinly sliced
- ¼ cup thinly sliced red onion
- 3 Tbsp toasted or spiced pumpkin seeds (see note below)
- ¼ cup crumbled feta cheese (optional)
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 Tbsp sherry vinegar (Balsamic or just lemon juice would be fine)
- 1 Tbsp pomegranate molasses (maple syrup or honey would be fine)
- 1 tsp mustard (I used Dijon)
- Salt and pepper to taste
In a large bowl, whisk together the oil, vinegar, molasses, mustard and salt and pepper.
Add all the remaining ingredients but reserve half the feta, pumpkin seeds and pomegranate seeds for garnish. Mix the salad and keep in fridge for 15 minutes to let the kale marinate. Plate the salad and sprinkle the remaining garnish prior to serving.
I love spiced pumpkin and sunflower seeds. Here’s a quick way to make them at home. In a cool pan, distribute 2 Tbsp brown sugar on the surface. Turn heat to medium-high until some of the sugar begins to melt and sizzle. Add 1 cup of pumpkin seeds and shake the pan to coat seeds in the melting sugar. Sprinkle a light dusting of salt and your preferred spice. I like to the combinations of cumin, paprika and cinnamon. Remember to shake the pan or the seeds and sugar will burn. Once coated, pour the seeds onto a piece of parchment to cool. If I can get my hands on quality ingredients, I prefer to like to let them shine rather than bathing them in dressing. If you want, you could easily triple the dressing and use more than the recipe calls for. It keeps well refrigerated in a jar for about a week. Just shake it up before using it.