If you’re an amateur grower without a green thumb, like me, getting anything to grow is no small achievement. Getting it to grow in winter is practically heroic. So when I bought a few seedlings at the end of summer, I had little hope they’d make it past October.
The summer vegetable harvest was less than I had hoped for. I had envisaged this bounty of courgettes and tomatoes, enough for ratatouille to last the winter. In fact, my tomato yield was exceedingly low, and my courgettes looked rather like dwarves. Disappointing and disheartening. I left the rest to do as they would and figured my neglect would mean it was soon time to pull the poor dead stalks up by the root and start over again come spring.
So you can imagine my surprise and delight when before Christmas, I notice a fairly large head of broccoli at the end of a strong, substantial stalk. I was over the moon! We chopped it after leaving it a few more days to fill out and had it as part of a Sunday roast dinner. That, I thought, was that. The extent of my harvest.
I came back from the holidays and lo and behold, there were several more baby broccolis on the way. My excitement at this almost made me overlook the new addition… a huge, perfectly formed Brussel sprout!
Who would’ve thought that in the corner of my garden, a place with no direct sun in winter, that these two crops would flourish? Intrigued, I did a bit more research and discovered winter crops are a hearty lot, practically immune to failure in this Mediterranean climate if you know what to do and when to plant.
Growing in a Mediterranean Climate #
A brief, and very basic, definition of “Mediterranean climate” is a climate where there is little to no summer rainfall, and a mild and wet winter season.
It turns out, this region is ideal for winter gardening, because we can take advantage of the natural rainfall and mild temperatures. Who knew, right?
September into early October is the best time to plant here on Mallorca and the best things to plant may surprise you. In addition to root vegetables, like Jerusalem artichokes, (better in winter, though can be grown year-round) parsnips, carrots, and beets, autumn is an ideal time to plant most vegetables from the cabbage family, including broccoli, cauliflower, Brussel sprouts, kale, celery, lettuces of all sorts, spinach and endives. Potatoes, usually planted in the spring, also can be planted in autumn in our climate. And if you don’t mind waiting until spring or early summer for your harvest, onions, garlic, leeks, and shallots can be planted in the same time period.
Health Bonus #
Eating foods suited to specific seasons is also great for your health. The latest from health experts is that eating seasonally allows us to eat fresher produce, picked at the peak of the season. Consumers receive the crops in time to take advantage of the better taste and nutritional value. Eating seasonally also means chances are better you’re getting food grown with less or no pesticides as the need lessens when growing and eating crops designed for each season.
Another benefit to seasonal eating is the one you see in your pocketbook. In-season foods are less expensive in the grocery stores and farmers' markets, and of course are free when you grow them at home. When produce is in season, it follows that the supply is at its zenith. This means less transportation and distribution costs for farmers, and the savings are translated to the consumer.
So when you start to get the winter blues, just remember, this too, can be a season of bounty, and one of the best to get your share of what nature has to offer. Get growing!
By Stephanie Horsman
5 January, 2021