Top 7 Cool Season Vegetables and Herbs
The temperatures may be dipping, but don’t drop your trowel just yet—these cool season vegetables and herbs are still totally viable through autumn in Edmonton. While we tend to associate fresh garden vegetables with summer salads and light eats, you can add these cool weather vegetables into tons of classic, cold-weather comfort foods. If you’ve got some extra containers lying around, or if you’ve got a raised garden bed, you have all you need to grow cold weather herbs and vegetables. That being said, you should still be able to transplant them directly into the ground if need be—you might just need to provide them with a little extra frost protection once we roll into November. Now without further ado, here’s the “Top 7 List” to top all “Top 7 Lists”: the best cool season vegetables and herbs to grow in Edmonton.
These spicy little leafy greens pack some serious punch. They mature pretty quickly and will reach up to around 12 inches tall at harvest time. To keep the plant producing edible leaves for longer, pinch off any flowers as soon as you see them. Arugula makes a great container plant, but it likes lots of regular watering, so make sure the pots have good-sized drainage holes. Toss arugula on top of burgers, pasta, or pizza for a bit of crunch and extra flavour, or add them into salads with something sweet to balance out the spice. I like arugula salads with honey-based vinaigrettes and some soft cheese added in—chevre and feta are my favourites.
Perhaps the most controversial of all the herbs, you’ll either love or hate cilantro. It tastes delicious and fragrant to some, whereas others liken it to licking a bar of soap (which in a way is kind of nostalgic; it reminds me of the time I got caught swearing in front of my grandma). Anyhow, cilantro has long been regarded as a classic Mexican spice, adding flavour and freshness to tacos, salsas, and oh-so-glorious guacamole. It doesn’t handle summer heat too well, as it tends to bolt from too much sun, so fall is a perfect time to sprout some from seeds. If you don’t have tons of space in the yard, you can easily grow a pot of cilantro right on your windowsill.
These cool season vegetables aren’t exactly fast growers, so it’s probably in your best interests to purchase a starter plant instead of trying to grow from seed this late in the season. Broccoli needs lots of sunshine and moist, well-draining soil with lots of compost or organic material mixed in. Spreading some mulch across the soil surface will help to conserve moisture and regulate temperature. Water frequently around the base of the plant, but try not to get the heads wet. They’re ready to harvest once the heads are firm, and the surrounding petals start to turn yellow. Chop up some broccoli and add it into a pan of baked mac and cheese—somehow, crushing a whole pan in one sitting feels like less of a low point when broccoli is involved.
Why do people rag on brussels sprouts so much? They’re pretty dang delicious vegetables, especially when you fry ‘em up with bacon. But, then again, bacon makes most things exponentially more delicious. Lately, I’ve noticed lots of swanky pizza places using minced, fried brussels sprouts as a pizza topping, and I am fully on board with that. Plant some starter plants one foot apart, spread some mulch across the soil, and then add in some liquid fertilizer about 3 weeks after the transplant. Water them regularly, and once the sprouts are 1 inch thick, they’re ready to pop off and cook up!
The best thing about these cool season vegetables is that they’re just as beautiful as they are tasty. Mixing some colourful cabbage into your flower garden or container arrangements won’t look out of place at all—sometimes they’re the most eye-catching plants of the bunch! Water them generously and consistently to prevent the heads from splitting, and plant them 1-2 feet apart. When you harvest the heads, remove the root system to prevent bad bacteria or disease developing in the soil. For a supremely satisfying side dish, fry up some sweet-and-sour cabbage with bacon—it makes a great side for meat-and-potatoes comfort meals.
The restaurant industry is going cauliflower crazy right now! It’s definitely the trendiest veggie-based alternative food right now, replacing the wings in hot wings, the crust in pizza, and even the cream in alfredo sauce. It grows very similarly to broccoli, so you can plant those two together since they have similar water and sunlight needs. Lots of water is a “must” because inadequate watering will leave you with a very bitter plant. Harvest cauliflower when the flower buds are firm and tight, before they open up.
There are so many different types of lettuce and other salad greens that you can graze on all autumn long. Personally, I’m a big fan of spinach because you can whip up a pan of cheesy spanakopita and pretty much eat the equivalent of 5 spinach salads in one sitting. Lettuce and other salad green plants should be spaced out around one foot apart, and planted in dappled shade. Fertilize three weeks after transplanting, and weed very carefully to avoid damaging the delicate plant leaves. Try to harvest lettuce leaves when they’re still young-ish, because—not unlike many of my old friends from college—they get a little more bitter the older they get. Pluck out the outer leaves first to let the inner leaves develop more.
These seven cool season vegetables and herbs will make delicious additions to your favourite cold-weather comfort foods. Plant them now to get that extra dose of vitamins and nutrients during the chilly months, when your immune system could use a little boost. To pick up some seeds, starter plants, or whatever else you may need to kick off this late-season gardening endeavour, visit us at our garden centre in Edmonton!