Unusual choices for winter gardens
By Rebecca Jepsen
For the Mercury News
September 3, 2010
Tired of the same ol' winter veggies? Here are some suggestions:
If you want to try something a bit unusual, consider kohlrabi. It produces a spaceship-like orb that grows above ground and is very striking -- especially the Early Purple Vienna variety. It has bright purple skin and greenish-white flesh that is very mild and sweet. Kohlrabi can be eaten raw or cooked. Although it is part of the cabbage family, it tastes more like a broccoli stem, only much milder and sweeter. It is also a nutritional powerhouse high in fiber, vitamin C and potassium; one cup has just 36 calories.
Fava beans are another interesting winter favorite. Not only are they great to eat, they are great for our soil as well. Many gardeners and farmers grow fava beans as nitrogen-fixing cover crops that nourish fields and plots in between their primary growing seasons. Although favas are fairly labor-intensive to cook, the process can be rather Zen-like. First, you string and shuck the beans, then parboil and let them cool before popping the bean out of its waxy coating. The beans can be sauteed, boiled, mashed or pureed and used as a side dish, in pasta, as a spread, or in soups and stews. They are also nutrition superstars, high in fiber and iron while low in sodium and fat.
There are many wonderful tastes, textures and varieties of Asian greens to choose from. Although you may be familiar with bok choy, also known as pak choi or spoon cabbage, you might not have tried mizuna. This plant produces dark green, feathery leaves that have a peppery taste. It is extremely easy to grow and makes a fabulous addition to salads or can be sauteed with chicken or root vegetables. Other great Asian greens to try: green or red mustard, tatsoi, pea shoots, Chinese cabbage, komatsuna, perilla and garland chrysanthemum.
Have a question for the Master Gardeners? Call the University of California Cooperative Extension Master Gardener hot line, 408-282-3105, 9:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. weekdays. Or go to www.mastergardeners.org.