A recent discussion on Twitter about homegrown harvests in January, has inspired me to write a blog about all of the lovely homegrown veggies I am cooking in my kitchen.

January may be a long, dark cold month but there’s still a lot of homegrown deliciousness. With planning, and some growing space, you could be making some almost entirely homegrown meals next January too. Alternatively, these are the kind of veggies that will have the fewest food miles in shops and markets. 

Steph with Raab
Harvesting Raab for my evening meal

There’s a misconception that January is a time with scant availability of homegrown veg in the UK. The actual “hungry gap” is April/May (depending on your location) when spring sown veg isn’t quite ready yet and over wintered crops have bolted.

I have a polytunnel which helps a lot of course, but everything I am growing in my polytunnel can be grown at an allotment under a polythene cloche (homemade or store bought) – or if you are able to get one, a glass cloche or cold frame. These keep the weather off which helps growth enormously – you should see the difference between autumn sown peas sown outside – rather sad and bedraggled after the awful storms – and those sown under cover  – lush and perky. This morning there was a hard frost and I took these photos:

If it freezes outside, it freezes inside the polytunnel and cloches too – just a bit less chilly. That’s why I only grow plants there during the winter that can recover from some freezing.

I’m possibly not the best advert for the sustainable organic lifestyle as I have had a bad cold all week, but including some freshly harvested veg in one’s diet is incredibly beneficial: vitamins, minerals, fibre; boosts the immune system; aids gut health with beneficial microbes. It’s great for your physical health, spending time outside in fresh air, and mental health too. I’ve spent too much time indoors with this horrible weather and getting outside to the plot to pick some veg for my tea (I’m from Yorkshire, it means an evening meal) really helps to clear my head and stop those January blues.

So, this is what I have to choose from when preparing meals. With some seasoning, oil and a few other store bought ingredients I can make nutritious, healthy, almost entirely homegrown meals in the middle of winter.

Veg and herbs I am harvesting outside in January

These are all crops that have less protection – either nothing or a netting cover to keep unwanted munchers (birds, deer, rabbits etc) off. Some of the carrots and beetroot have a fleece cover spread over – see this blog. These are things I am actually cropping now, rather than veg that are not ready yet.

Broccoli – this is actually a bit early, as it is a spring variety but should keep cropping for months

Radicchio and chicories – including luscious leaf chicories, a delicious bitterness

Mangelwurzel leaves – tastier than chard imo, I use the root for wine but that is edible too, used like beetroot

Cabbages – some are fine, some are thinking of bolting due to the bonkers weather, but these are edible too

Kale and Perennial Kale – fantastic in so many dishes and smoothies

Herbs – rosemary, thyme, sage, perennial sorrel, parsley, coriander

Leeks – one of my favourite winter veggies

Parsnips – another favourite, fantastic cooked and raw

Salad – smaller and more beaten up by weather than the undercover leaves but I am picking rocket, lettuce, corn salad, mustards, spinach, chard

Brussels sprouts and sprout tops – oh yum! I even like them for breakfast

Flower sprouts and tops – so delicious and attractive

Beetroot – sown in April and May, they should crop until they bolt in April

Carrots – I’ve harvested some which are stored at home, the rest are pulled as needed from the plot

Almost harvesting rhubarb – I’m forcing some under an old metal dustbin

Crops I am harvesting undercover in January

Mostly from the polytunnel and greenhouse but also from the Vegepod.

Maris Peer potatoes

New potatoes – these were planted during September in potato sacks in the greenhouse. The foliage died back ages ago due to frosts, and I’ve harvested most of them over the past few weeks. The sacks are covered with layers of up cycled bubble wrap to keep them cosy.

In the polytunnel – spinach, salads (as above), pea shoots, dill, coriander, flat leaf parsley, curly parsley, different kales, rocket, wild rocket, land cress, mustards, various oriental leaves, chervil, broccoli raab, Hon Tsai Tai (a flowering brassica, see photo)

 

 

 

From the Vegepod – salad leaves of kale, lettuce, mustard. Not bad considering it was only put up on November 28th and it is winter.

First harvest from the Vegepod

 

Growing in my house

Mushrooms – all from different kits, such fun

Herbs – including oregano, kaffir lime, ginger rosemary and mint, pots on windowsills mostly

Citrus – lemons mainly, not many but no food miles!

Micro leaves – all kinds of flavours

Stored harvests

Fruit, herbs and vegetables I grew during 2019 and stored for the winter

In the cupboard/on shelves: squash, celeriac, potatoes, onions, shallots, garlic, chillies, sweet potatoes, apples, the last few tomatoes

In the freezer: tomatoes, black, red and white currants, strawberries, raspberries, aubergines, other soft fruit

Dried and dehydrated: many different kinds of beans and peas, tomatoes, herbs for cooking and teas, all kinds of vegetables (sliced and dried, for extra flavour in soups and stocks), apples, pears, soft fruit, elderberries, chillies

Preserved: chutney, salts, sugars, liqueurs, canned veg including tomatoes, blackcurrants and apples

Yum!
To find out how to grow some of my favourite vegetables for sowing in April that store right through the winter, see this blog.

What are your homegrown favourites for winter eating?

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For recipe ideas, check out my plant based seasonal recipe book, which is currently on special offer in my shop.

This is one of my favourite books of the year for gardeners and cooks alike. I highlight the gardening aspect because as a keen grow your own food enthusiast with an allotment but then an incredibly average cook, I need all of the help I can get with making the most of my produce. This is one of the best books I’ve read on cooking the things I grow, written beautifully and informatively. Stephanie’s expertise as a gardener and as a cook shine through on every page. More importantly for me, recipes are simple, generally quick and always easy to follow so calamity cook over here (me) can follow them all without problems. Having cooked a number of meals from the book now I can say they all taste good too. One element I particularly liked are the simpler recipes, like teas and sauces, meaning nothing I grow now need go to waste and instead will be properly used.”

Jack Wallington, author of Wild About Weeds 

 

25 comments

  1. Hi Stephanie , oh wow I can’t believe how much you are still growing at this time of year. That’s wonderful , I make lots of jams and chutneys and I freeze some of my summer veg like runner and french beans . In my little veg plot at the moment all I have is leeks , a few carrots , Brussels , purple sprouting broccoli and a few little cabbages , but I’m certainly going to try more things for next winter . I love beetroot and grow tons of it but they finished in the autumn , so I’m buying it now , I will give it a try next winter . Thank you for another lovely post as usual . 🌸xxx

  2. You are harvesting so much in winter I am so inspired. It is summer here in Tasmania and most of my veggies are slow to ripen, I am patient. you have an amazing plot. How large is your polytunnel please? I feel I may have to create a green house. but I would prefer glass as I prefer to limit use of plastics. Of course I am not perfect but most I reuse a lot.

    1. Thank you.
      My polytunnel is 12 x 40 ft. I have a greenhouse too, which is very old and shabby. I’ve been spending time the week repairing the gaps with old pieces of polytunnel polythene and bubble wrap saved from parcels. I’d rather have a large glass house than a polytunnel but that would be prohibitively expensive here. At least these days polytunnel polythene is much more durable and doesn’t need replacing often.

      1. Yes I can understand the prohibitive cost of the green house, and I imagine in your much colder climate than i have here you would need special glass maybe. Many people here build them out of old windows. The joy of living in a rural area

      2. I know people do make them from old windows and things. I don’t have much carpentry skill myself 🙂

  3. Inspiring Steph, thank you. I’m thrilled with my planted crates of various salads and herbs in the greenhouse following Charles’ videos and hope to have a polytunnel by next winter. What variety is the pointed cabbage outside? It looks amazing, everything looks so healthy. Thanks

    1. Thank you. Yes, it is surprising how much can be grown in a few crates!
      I think it is “April” from Real Seeds – freezing outside so I’m not going to check 😉

  4. Wow, impressive! Thank you for a wonderful blog, a nice treat for reading on my birthday 😊
    Yes, another January baby.
    Did you sow the broccoli raab in the Autumn? I have always sown it in Spring, but of course it flowers quite quickly then. One of my favourite veggies – I first ate it years ago in the US, loved the slight bitterness.
    My daughter gave me No dig Organic Home and Garden for my birthday – very exciting!

    1. Happy Birthday! I’m a December baby but Charles is a January one 🙂
      Yes, i sowed the Raab in September and planted it in October. Lovely stuff, it should last until April when it flowers, unless the weather goes bonkers.

      Happy reading and I hope you enjoy our book

  5. I love sprouts too I’ve just frozen a few and have more still to come, I was wondering how do you cook yours At breakfast lol

  6. Hi Steph,
    Thanks for get another inspirational post. Actually Tazzi asked my question about your polytunnel, from the pics it looks wider than 12ft so that’s a good start. I am thinking of getting one in the spring, probably a polycarbonate one though. We do get really strong winds here, We now live in in Bulgaria (close to the Black Sea). Growing here is still a way of life for the locals, they preserve a lot too. So, I shall be very busy in the seasons to follow.
    Best Wishes
    Rosemary

    1. Bulgaria sounds fascinating, what an interesting place to grow and live. My side beds are quite narrow in the polytunnel, which might give the impression that it is wider.

      1. Bulgaria is one of those hidden gems. We discovered it quite a few years ago, moved here permanently July 2016. So the garden is now the main project area. Although, the Bulgarian’s grow in abundance they do now appear t use compost bins or mulch. Mulch will help with the hot summers and cold winters. I’ll mark out the area for the polytunnel and see how much space it takes up.
        I really want to use it all year round, especially for leafy greans.
        Do you use an irrigation system in the polytunnel?
        Happy growing.

      2. I must try to get there sometime.

        I don’t have much of an irrigation system. There is a leaky hose for the summer to reduce hand watering, but that is operated by me and not a timer because I worry that if I leave a timer set up when I’m away, something may go wrong and I’d end up paying for the tap running 24/7!!

        I also have different kinds of Ollas, mostly homemade.

  7. Thank you for sharing all this wonderful information! Your veggies look amazing and your photos are beautiful! Back when I had a greenhouse I used to grow in that during the winter, I was surprised to see it get into the 40’s Fahrenheit during even colder days. It even kept the top couple of inches of soil unfrozen so things could continue to grow well enough.

    1. Thank you. I have thermometers in my greenhouse and polytunnel. As you say, it’s amazing to see how warm they can get during the day if there’s some sunshine. Everything is frozen solid outside now though!

  8. Lovely blog Steph I try to grow as much as I can & have been using vegi mesh but wanted to get some fleece can you recommend what grade/ weight to use that will last a few years in a windy spot ! Thanks so much I love reading what you are up to in the garden mandy

  9. Hi Steph

    Please can I come for tea? I’m now in sunny Exmouth but was brought up in Liverpool where tea was our evening meal, not a fancy cup of Earl Grey. The variety from your plot is fantastic. Kath is particularly interested in the mushrooms. I have two large solid sheds on the allotment and I think they would be good for mushrooms in the warmer weather but have no idea where to start. Any advice?

    On another tack, I notice you have your squash in a living room. Mine are in the shed but sometimes I get rot on the butternuts (better at home?) but Crown Prince seems to survive anything. We have the option of a living room, an unheated room in the flat and the allotment shed. What’s best?

    Thanks you.

    John

    1. Thanks John. I’m growing the mushrooms from different kits. I’ve found the ones from smaller mushroom companies (Merryhill mushrooms, Grow Gourmet, Mushroom Box) to be more productive and reliable than those from the big name seed companies so far.

      Either the living room or unheated (but presumably frost free?) room in your house are better for squash than the allotment shed, which will get below freezing during cold spells – this can cause the squash to rot.

  10. Your veg all look amazing. i am curious on what a vegepod is as I have never heard of them.
    I have a greenhouse but do not grow vegetables in it over winter as i use to overwinter Geraniums but have now decided to replan for next winter.

    1. I’m writing a blog about the vegepod soon, it is like a small polytunnel on legs! Now is a good time to plan for next winter 🙂

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