Like the healing leaves of the Tree of Life can restore the soul and spirit, greens can renew your body. Spinach, romaine lettuce, watercress, collard and beet greens, and many others contain powerful antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids that can renew your brain, help protect against alzheimer’s and birth defects in pregnant women, normalize your blood sugar, and usher in a host of other health perks. (see references below.)
It was bitingly chilly outside, and our dog had no interest in my greens or cold-frame, but I stubbornly pinched off leaf after baby leaf, and I finally gathered enough tender lettuces to half-fill the salad bowl. The smell of the fresh greens intoxicated my senses, and my chilly fingers unthawed gradually in the warm kitchen as I reflected that next time I tried to venture into my winter garden, I was going to fortify myself with practically a gallon of hot chocolate, and array myself in the fleeciest, warmest sweatshirt and scarf that I own. I glanced at the thermometer sitting in our kitchen windowsill and read, “38 degrees F” [outside temperature]. Sigh.
….This seemed like a good idea, back in the summer when i was reading an inspiring book by Eliot Coleman (The Four Season Harvest), with exciting charts and lists of cold-weather vegetable varieties and planting dates for winter harvesting. Coleman lives on the northern seaboard, so I reasoned, “well, if he plants his spinach in August, i probably have a good two to four weeks behind him to do the same” (since I live in southern Missouri). It was great fun watching the baby seedlings thicken the dark, rich earth of my cold frame with their greening carpet. It wasn’t quite so much fun battling the onslaught of a blizzard in January, trying to pluck tiny greens out of an icy-bordered cement block recess.
I know, though, from hard experience, that a steady diet of white sugar and white flour will kill you eventually, for lack of colorful, alive, vitamins, and that when I choose alive, fresh colors in spinach- and blueberry-gorgeous gourmet salads, my being thrives.
I had a broccoli plant that over-wintered several years in my backyard, and produced broccoli shoots (although not another tight, full head like the first one) without any help or winter covering from me whatsoever. It only succumbed to the lawn mower of an, alas!, uninformed, helpful family member :). Certain cold-weather crops like broccoli, spinach, beets, brussels sprouts, etc, actually thrive at cooler temperatures, and would rather produce in the spring or fall than in summer’s heat. (Brussels sprouts, in fact, are among those greens that actually grow sweeter with a frost, and are prone to bitterness in the heat.)
It really didn’t take much time to care for my cold frame once we got the seeds sown; it is sheltered behind the two-story garage wall, and after several frosts, i finally covered it with a plastic drop-cloth, which promptly blew off and tangled itself into twists and rolls in the first subsequent strong wind. However, the strong little plants didn’t seem to mind too much, and thankfully, they received more rainwater that way, so, I say, all’s well that ends well. Smile. Thank Heaven for healing leaves.
Research on how greens have been proven to help your brain and body:
The Fifty Best Plants on the Planet, Cathy Thomas
The China Study, Dr. Colin Campbell
The Hormone Reset Diet, Dr. Sara Gottfried (Harvard University)
The New Heart Health, Dr. Louis Ignarro (Nobel laureate) & Dr. Andrew Myers
How to grow greens in the winter:
Four Season Harvest, Eliot Coleman