In most parts of India, winter is the ideal time to grow a wide range of vegetables. Since many of our contemporary urban food choices are “imported” from countries with more temperate climates, they grow best in this part of the year. This is especially true in the Konkan coastal region, which also experiences lower humidity in the months from November to February (compared to the rest of the year).
The cooler temperatures also mean less pests than in warmer and wetter periods, which makes gardening much easier. The lower intensity of sunlight also means that watering requirements are considerably reduced.
So what should you grow in your kitchen garden at this time of the year?
First, we suggest you grow things that don’t thrive at other times of the year. That means most root vegetables (radish, carrot, turnip, beetroot etc.), and also crucifers like cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli which require cooler temperatures to form their “heads”.
Lettuces and mustard greens are also great choices for this season, and your lettuce seeds will germinate best when the minimum temperatures dip below 20 deg C. One crop that just doesn’t do well for us in this season is Lady Finger (or Okra) which prefers warmer weather, many gourd and bean varieties also prefer warmer conditions.
1. Bull’s Blood Beetroot
Beetroot has become one of our favourite things to grow in winter, partly because our daughter relishes them and also because some beetroot varieties also provide delicious and nutritious greens along with the lovely roots. It also provides a little variety from mustards, which can dominate the garden and attract certain pests.
2. Tokyo Bekana Mustard Greens
This is one of our most useful discoveries, because it is a Chinese Cabbage that provides mild tasking lovely romaine lettuce like leaves with white crunchy stems. Grows well in a wider range of temperatures than lettuce and has become a staple of our salads through most of the year.
3. Jersey Wakefield Cabbage
This unusual pointy headed cabbage variety is ready to harvest pretty quickly and doesn’t require serious cold to produce its heads. It’s been our preferred garden cabbage for several years now.
4. Marvel of Four Seasons Lettuce
A loose headed, french lettuce variety that has lovely golden-bronze leaves and tolerates heat better than many others. It is slow to bolt as the weather gets warmer and can be harvested many times before the leaves get bitter.
5. Golden Zucchini
While its a summer squash in many countries, zucchini grows very well in India’s winters, producing abundant fruits. You do need to look out for trouble with fruit flies however, but this can be largely prevented with pheromone traps.
6. Plain Leaf Parsley
One of the continental herbs that grows well even in coastal climates (unlike rosemary, thyme, sage, lavender etc), parsley is a versatile herb that adds a wonderful flavour to your plate.