There is a filthy frugality about winter vegetables. Perhaps it’s because so many of them have to be dug up, rather than daintily picked from on high. You can feel it, in the dirt that gets under your frozen fingernails and the dew drop that hangs from your nose; digging up grubby root veg really puts you in touch with the earth, and our heritage – a link to the sort of food that has sustained us since the time before hairbrushes. There is satisfaction and meagre comfort in trudging muddily from the veg patch with home-grown winter fare, but don’t worry if you’ve missed your chance this year; buying them is cleaner, nearly as satisfying and only slightly less primordial. I heard Bruce Robinson (writer of Withnail and I) on the radio this week describing how he was once so poor he lived only on old vegetables that had fallen on the ground at Camden Market. It sounded so bleak, romantic – and weirdly healthy. It put me in the right frame of mind for winter gardening.
Brassicas like compacted clay
Swiss chard is similar to spinach, but the leaves have a thicker stem
Perpetual spinach (often called spinach beet) is very tough, but other varieties will appreciate the cover of a cloche
Pak Choi and oriental greens are, like spinach, great to grow in cooler weather
There is satisfaction and meagre comfort in trudging muddily from the veg patch with home-grown winter fare
- words: Jo Arnell
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