I am also interested in what we can gather and eat that grows naturally; I have had an older person who grew up gathering what grows wild to eat and had her show me those things. It seems to me that actually having someone show you is better than reading a book with pictures or drawings.
Cynthia, do you have a garden? There are a number of very hardy and tasty greens, with kale probably being the easiest and most productive.
In our area the premier cool season wild green is nettles, which are starting up now. They are nutritious and delicious and plentiful, and you can dry them for teas and soups. (The sting goes away when you cook them; use gloves to harvest and clean.) Miners lettuce and sorrel are also popular, and dandelion greens, of course. All those are great for early spring. In midwinter I turn to the garden and my freezer.
The various chicories are hardy enough to provide some leafy greens through the winter. I find them a little bitter to eat raw, but that goes away with a little bit of cooking, either parboiling them or pan-frying them in a a little olive oil.
If your winter is cold, you won't find much or anything outdoors in the middle of winter, not even kale. But if you can make a greenhouse or cold frame, you can keep some hardy greens like kale, chard, and certain others going through the winter.
We have a similar situation here -- a very cold winter with nothing green outdoors from November to April, and in our case the passes from our region to the outside close in December, so we don't have any fresh vegetables available in shops all winter. These are our methods to keep our diet varied in the winter:
1) Store potatoes, carrots, cabbage, and sometimes other vegetables in root cellar conditions, and store onions in a dry cold room.
2) Grow hardy greens in our greenhouses. In winter we grow chard and a leafy mustard green that is inexplicably called "salad" here, though you have to cook it. Kale would be good.
3) In summer and autumn we dry a lot of vegetables. Our best results are with tomatoes, leafy greens, cauliflower, eggplant and bitter gourd.
4) Preserves and pickles. We ferment local pickle and kimchi and keep them in the root cellar, and we can apricot jam and tomato ketchup in glass jars.
5) We sprout any and every kind of dried pea, lentil or bean in winter. These make a nice fresh salad type vegetable that feels like it is loaded with vitamins, and supposedly is.
Works at a residential alternative high school in the Himalayas SECMOL.org . "Back home" is Cape Cod, E Coast USA.
My mother relied heavily on sprouts (especially mung bean and alfalfa) to keep fresh crunchies in our diet when it was 40 below outside and even the moose were yarded up and had given up on browsing outside. All it takes is a mason jar with a ventilated lid and some seeds.
I have not verified this, but apparently kale freezes really well, so it could be an option in the winter. We love Kale chips, so dehydration could be another option. Micro greens in a window might also work if there is enough sun.
Drying greens - all sorts, even lettuce - works well and then can be incorporated into soups, stews, etc. Since I am currently looking out my window at a blizzard I'm definitely not going to be harvesting any greens any time soon and so am always glad to have these dried greens on hand.
Freezing kale is easy.
I have never parboiled it first. I learned from my sister-in-law to strip the leaves, put them in the WASHING MACHINE, use cold water on gentle cycle (in my case the gentle cycle isn't working so I just swish it by hand, let it sit for 5-10min and use the spin cycle). Add some salt if you have aphids. After the spin cycle, it's ready to stuff into freezer bags.
Once it's frozen, you can smash and flatten it some more to save space and so that it's already 'chopped'.
Kale gets sweeter after it's been frozen.
Since I grow so much and don't want to fill my freezer with too much kale, I also dry it. Makes a quick pesto as does nettles.
Dried kale is great for camping/backwoods. The Dutch have a national dish called Boerenkool (farmer's 'kale'). In one pot put pototoes, kale, sausage. Mash the potatoes and kale.
I used to parboil chard but don't anymore.
Last fall a neighbor of mine begged me to take her extra kale. I froze 20 bags or it. I also froze milkweed shoots, ate them last night. The trick is to plan ahead and take any opportunity to put extra greens away for the off-season. We're getting blasted by snow today, 8 inches so far, I would normally be gardening and checking for spring greens....
Here in south central washington (zone 6 winters) we have had good results with a combination of:
1.) very cold hardy Siberian kale variety we have bred to remain evergreen even through winter. We can harvest the leaves from plants into winter, but they are dormant and not growing.
2.) Cold frame growing of colder hardy stuff. We started some spinach in the mid winter in cold frames and are now getting some greens from them. Basically a way to get greens faster in the spring.
Here's a pic of that cold frame.
3.) solar dehydrating various cooking greens through the growing season. We add the greens to soups/ bone broths through the winter. Things we have growing in our gardens and food forest that we dry and cook with include:
-Brassicas: Kale, Collards , Turnip Broccoli and cabbage leaves, Tumble Mustard (Sisymbrium altissimum)
-Chenopods; Beets, Lambs Quarters (Chenopodium alba), Good King Henry, Swiss Chard
-Alfalfa and white clover greens
-Common mallow greens. (Malva neglecta)
-Curly dock (Rumex crispus) and Sheep sorrels (R. acetosella), but is lesser amounts.
Those are things that grow really well for us. With basically no maintenance (except for Cabbage and Brocolli) . many are either perennial or self-seeding in the margins of our growing spaces.
interested in getting some Turkish Rocket to add to the mix, as it seems like it would behave similarly to the other brassica's we have going. Also trying to find an environment to get nettles established. They are not native to our higher altitudes, but I believe they are worth the effort to try and establish.
Oh, another caveat: we don't freeze greens at all.
We have come to regard it as a waste of energy/resources/freezerspace. In the sense that there is little caloric value in the greens, and it takes loads of energy to keep something frozen.
We are also feeding 10 people or so through a 4 month winter, and we eat the greens regularly. It would be a rediculous amount of freezer space to store all the greens we make.
We find dehydating them in a system where they do not get directly hit with any sunlight (see the link I posted above) works exceptionally well. We can store a lot of greens which retain their greeness and nutritional value, without needing any energy in surplus of what the sun provides. The dried greens last for a year or so.
i saw this after i posted a thread about growing greens on our windowsill..it worked so well..just put the seeds in regular potting soil and watered them with fish emulsion..they weren't as crisp as growing out in the cold air, but after rinsing and putting in the frig to crisp up they were a nice salad..can grow them all winter long, if you have a cooler room than i have (70) it probably would have worked even better
Bloom where you are planted.
I also dried all the leaves off the celery, chard, chickweed, dandelion, lambsquarters, and whatever else I could find in excess to use all winter, The kale is wonderfal as an addition to most meals all winter. It's organic, free and there was freezer space. Once we get a solar dryer(thank you for the link) we will dry so much more. Also we bought a greenhouse frame in the fall, once it's in place we will be able to allocate an area in it to grow greens for a much longer 'fresh food ' season.
Where things get REAL cold in winter, traditionally, people would have root cellars (which generally don't work well in the balmy maritime where you grow your greens at most under a cloche) and have baskets or crates of specially dug roots, which they would select from and take up into the house and "FORCE" ie, start them growing with water and light (or not light= "blanched") These are usually strong tasting greens like escarole, chickory, dandelion, and I'm sure you could use scorzonera. I first ran into the idea reading Euell Gibbons, who was my intro to foraging, wild gardening, managing ecologies, etc, back in the sixties. (I think I wasn't even yet a teen when I started reading Euell. If you haven't ever read "Stalking The Wild Asparagus" it is worth it. Stalking The Blue-Eyed Scallop will make you weep over what we have done to the oceans. (I saw this happen- you should have seen Orcas Island WA in 1972, or the Georgia Sea Islands in the 60's) The Beach Comber's Handbook is his first, and covers how to live off the land in Hawaii, which did me very well in nthe Yucatan in the 70's. Stalking the Healthful Herbs was one of his later books and has more about managing what we would call zone 4-5
Anyway, check out forcing and related techniques. You can learn about the specialized containers and all kinds of traditional European tricks. Then of course, there's the Asian slant on it- kimchee, which generally gets covered in permie fermented food workshops. These days there are a few very enlightened potters making beautiful crocks for fermenting foods. In Korea, it is traditional to put "up" (they traditionally put the jars "down" in the ground) enough bok choy etc. to make it through the winter. I am unable to digest legumes very well, so I tend to leave sprouts alone, but there are non-legume sprouts you can do. When I lived in Ecuador we couldn't get alfalfa (I didn't know much about contra-nutritive factors in legume sprouts back then- I let my body teach me, hence my gut-feeling about the subject so since we could get Quinoa, we sprouted that. Works great, but here you'll have to get UNWASHED quinoa, which still will germinate. (gasp! does that mean I've been buying DEAD quinoa? quite possibly! they wash it because most gringos don't understand the soaking/washing process to get the saponin coating gone. Which happens automatically with sprouting. I hope all this helps...
How many are you growing for? It doesn't take much of a coldframe for one or a couple. You can make it with scrap lumber and windows free from craiglist. I use old shower doors--they are big but fairly light and tempered glass so they are safer if they do break. And I use straw bales as the sides--good insulation and they become mulch or compost when done.
There are lots of greens that are cold hardy, but they don't really grow very fast in the cold so you have to have them established in the fall so they coast through the winter. You will get some regrowth, but not like in the summer.
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I live in SE Arizona. Winter nights go down to 10 to 15 degrees.
I use glass globes, cake toppers, vases, etc as cloches. I also put tomato cages over my taller chard and kale.
During the day they are protected with sheer curtains. At night I throw quilts over everything. Takes 3 minutes and another 3 minutes in the morning to uncover. If it is a really cold day I leave the quilts on. Consequently i have chard, kale sorrel, and lettuce all thru winter.
These are all planted in vintage enamel washing machines, metal milk containers, large pots, ET , right outside my front door so I can just walk put to gather for dinner or put to bed for the night.
I picked up a wonderful book this past winter called "Year-Round Indoor Salad Gardening" by Peter Burke.
He's created a simple weekly system for growing indoor "soil sprouts". It sounds a lot like what Brenda mentioned above.
They're harvested earlier than micro-greens, but don't require any of the watering of regular sprouts. He grows them on a windowsill - no grow lights required - and makes enough salad with them for a family of 4.
I tried his method myself and it was very, very easy and I liked having larger greens than just the small alfalfa sprouts I was doing before with water. I tried clover, radish and sunflower sprouts with his method and they were great. And I didn't have any trouble with them not being crisp, despite being in the main room with our wood-stove.
I got the book just as my cold-frame was getting into action, so I only did a couple of rounds, but I plan to use it much more extensively this winter.
Also, if you have any kind of protected outdoor growing area, here in Canada both mizuna and corn salad (mache) are super hardy spring/fall greens. The mizuna grows fast, and the corn salad is v...e...r...y slow to get going, and both are tasty.
Not totally to the topic, but related -any ideas how to make a windowsill extension for my sprouting jars. Our windowsills are very narrow and made from metal. I looked into cat perches, but they are very pricey and not made very flat since cats like it soft.