beets

Everyday Gardeners

greens from the garden

Floating row cover protected this Provencal mesclun mix from earlier snows and frosts.

Floating row cover protected this Provencal mesclun mix from earlier snows and frosts.

You can have fresh greens from the garden on the table for Thanksgiving dinner, even in central Iowa where the average first frost date arrives in early October. This year my yard was blanketed in snow on the 10th of October. Tender veggies such as the tomatoes and peppers turned to mush after that blast of cold. But other hardier crops continue to thrive despite sub-freezing weather.

I’ve been enjoying salads of chard and mesclun mix (a blend of lettuces and Asian greens) for the last several weeks, and expect to serve some up with the turkey and dressing at Thanksgiving when my family is visiting. I planted the mesclun mix in August, and covered it with floating row cover soon after it emerged, partly to protect it from marauding rabbits, and partly to prevent damage from frost.

Leaves of Bull's Blood beet add wonderful color to salads.

Leaves of Bull's Blood beet add wonderful color to salads.

I’ll add some Bull’s Blood beet greens to the salad to liven up the blend. I grow this beet almost exclusively for its brilliant red/maroon leaves, which are mild and tasty, especially during the cool weather of fall and spring.

BroccoliFresh broccoli is also on the menu. After I harvest the primary head, I let the side shoot sprout. They’ll continue to produce until temperatures dip into the low 20s F. These smaller heads easily fit into the vegetable steamer without needing to be chopped up. Flavor improves with the cool weather. And best yet, there’s no need to worry about closely examining the tight clusters for hidden worms! I prefer to get my Thanksgiving dinner protein source from turkey rather than cabbage loopers.