Psst.. did you know that there are certain vegetables that taste better AFTER a frost? It’s true! In cold conditions many starchy vegetables like parsnips, celeriac, and carrots, turn the starches in their cells into a botanical ‘anti-freeze’ to avoid cold damage. That anti-freeze is sucrose, also known as sugar!
Not only does this allow the plants to tolerate colder temperatures, but it also makes them taste better. In fact, I don’t even start to harvest my late kale crop until it’s been sweetened by a few frosts. Ditto for my celeriac, leeks, beets, carrots, and parsnips. At a recent farmers market, one of the farmers at my favourite stall told me that his kale had been ‘frost-cured’.. what a cool way to describe this frost response!
To prolong the harvest season of these cold season superstars, protect your autumn vegetable beds with mini hoop tunnels or row covers. I like to set up my mini tunnels before the first hard frost, typically mid-October. Initially, they are covered with a medium weight row cover, but if we plan on harvesting into winter, the fabric is topped with a sheet of greenhouse plastic in late November.
Depending on the crop, you can extend the harvest by weeks or months with these simple devices. For detailed instructions on building and using mini hoop tunnels and other season extending devices, please check out my book, The Year Round Vegetable Gardener.
Vegetables that taste better after a frost:
1) Kale & cabbage
3) Swiss Chard
6) Brussels Sprouts
9) Turnips & rutabagas
What’s your favourite fall or winter vegetable?