Although winter is a time of vegetative rest for many plants, it is not said that the garden remains empty during the cold months; in fact, many vegetables benefit from a little frost, which improves the organoleptic qualities and often also the taste. Not all vegetables, however, can survive the cold, those that are most commonly grown during the winter months are vegetables obtained from fairly rustic, often native plants; some types of vegetables instead find their place in the garden during the autumn, and will be harvested only in spring.
Most bulb vegetables can be planted outdoors from mid-autumn until the end of autumn; at the onset of the cold the bulb will already be well rooted in the soil, and as soon as the spring heat arrives, it will be able to take advantage of the climate to develop immediately, so already at the beginning of spring we will be able to catch the first ripe bulbs. It is garlic, shallots, onions and spring onions: the small bulbils are placed in the garden in October-November; at the arrival of spring they will begin to swell, giving us the possibility to carry out the first harvests early, already at the beginning of spring. Obviously everything depends on the variety we have chosen; surely this type of cultivation allows us to have, for these vegetables, a much shorter cultivation time, compared to what we would have through sowing; moreover, in order to be able to sow onions, leeks and spring onions, we should wait for spring, because the young plants do not bear frost.
To grow these bulb vegetables, we prepare a good well-drained and soft soil, so that the roots can immediately find a suitable soil in which to grow, and even the bulbs can expand in spring without having to fight against an excessively compact soil.
We avoid watering, especially if the climate, like in autumn, is rainy; excessive humidity can easily cause the rot of the bulbs, with the consequent loss of a large part of the planted bulbs.
In fact, fennels are grown all year long; the plants used to produce seed or foliage for phytotherapic use are cultivated as biennials, generally in areas with not too cold winters and not too dry summers. In the family vegetable garden, fennel is more easily found in autumn and winter; it is sown directly at home, in summer, and when the plants are at least 4-7 cm high they thin out, so as to leave a space of at least 20-25 cm between each.
Watering is not a problem, since the autumn and winter climate is generally sufficiently humid; of the fennel is consumed the basal heart, or the thick elongated rosette created by the lower extremity of the leaves, white and fleshy; to allow the heart to swell and become crunchy and juicy, it is advisable to bury it as soon as it begins to develop; for this reason it is good to keep the rows of fennel well apart, so as to be able to periodically bring the soil closer to the heart, to keep it in the dark.
Broccoli and cabbage
There are varieties of cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower practically every season of the year; once the cabbage was consumed only in winter, a precious source of vitamins and fiber, when the practice of growing vegetables in greenhouses or transporting them from anywhere in the world was not so widespread.
Broccoli, cabbage, cabbage, cauliflower and turnips are varieties and species of the same genus: brassica. To get the vegetables in the winter it is necessary to put it in the summer or late autumn; we use well-developed and rooted plants, to be planted in well-spaced rows, depending on the final size of the ball that forms between the leaves: it is very important that the brassica tufts do not touch each other as they develop, to avoid the development of rot or even the malformed growth of the vegetable.
There are those who say that some cabbage and cabbage a few nights of frost give a better taste, try to believe; in fact prolonged exposure to very intense frost causes in some varieties the ruin of the outer leaves of the head, which would in any case be discarded.
These types of vegetables have been grown by humans for millennia, which is why there are several hundred varieties; when at the beginning of autumn we plant our favorite brassica, let's make sure that it is a winter-grown variety, because not all varieties benefit from the cold, on the contrary, some fear even the lightest frosts.
In principle, in every area of Italy in garden centers or in local markets, the plants that are most commonly grown in that particular area are sold.
Spinach and other vegetables
In much of the peninsula during the winter many leafy vegetables are cultivated in the garden, salads, radicchio, spinach, beets; even in the central north a good part of these vegetables can find a place in the garden even in autumn and in the first winter weeks, with a climate that is not too fresh and very humid. The autumn and winter climate allows us to give these plants little care: most of the insects and fungi that most often attack vegetables from the garden fear the cold and therefore are not present in this period; moreover, the environmental humidity is often such as to allow us not to worry about watering.
As for the radicchio, some varieties are specially planted in late summer or in autumn: during cold months, these vegetables give a much stronger flavor to these vegetables and produce more compact, fleshy and colored heads.
Winter vegetables: Winter salads
Although salads are a dish that reminds of summer, there are some typical winter varieties made with typical products of the cold season. First of all, a typical specialty of the Sicily region: the fennel and orange salad. The acid taste of the citrus is perfectly combined with the sweetness of the fennel. Very simple to make, it can be a tasty side dish for meat or fish dishes. Still with fennel, a truly excellent salad can be made with very thin raw sliced apples and mushrooms. How about a salad of red radicchio and pomegranate? Even in this case, the acidity of the pomegranate creates a pleasant blend with the flavor of vegetables. To give it an extra touch season with a vinaigrette prepared with oil, salt, pepper, vinegar and orange juice. The radicchio also goes well with other ingredients such as walnuts and parmesan. A recipe not really light but certainly tasty.