How to maximise your winter garden

At this time of year my garden doesn’t seem very productive and I can easily waste what little it has growing. That’s the worst kind of waste - growing something then not using it! The heads on the spouting broccoli are sparse, salad leaves are full of holes and the carrots are questionable. I can’t rely on a quick dash to the garden each night – I need to get into the garden once a week, get amongst the ugly and sometimes sad vegetables and prep those guys for the week ahead.

If your garden is the same here's my four tips to not let produce go to waste -

· Pick from your garden weekly

· Wash everything

· Prepare and store your vegetables for meals for the week

· Make and use in salads, coleslaw

A garden forage also includes flowers and herbs

PICK in the garden weekly

Whatever the size of your garden I bet you struggle at this time of year. It’s not as luscious and prolific as it was in Spring. After work the garden dash means a few salady leaves, one or two carrots or beetroot, some herbs and a whole lot of kale.

This sad looking garden is full of meals - it just needs to be approached in one hit rather than day by day.

My first tip is – pick a few days, even a weeks worth in one go. I like to do this on Sunday because it’ll set me up for lunches and meals for the start of the working week. You might be different so do this when suits.

This is what I’m picking now in autumn/winter -

· Salad greens – lettuce, cress, mizuna, rocket, beetroot leaves, bunching onion leaves.

· Kale and chard

· Brassicas – never good for me. I’m picking sprouting broccoli and romanesco broccoli, bok choy and tatsoi.

· Root vegetables – carrots, beetroot, potatoes, yacon.

· The last of the green house tomatoes.


Wash everything first. While your produce may have been grown organically contact with soil or wildlife may introduce harmful pathogens.

PREPARE, STORE and USE the produce

This might seem obvious but the best way to make sure you use your maybe not so beautiful looking vegetables is to prepare them. Dumping them dirty and tired looking into the veggie crisper isn’t inspiring and is likely to result in their demise.

Salad greens

Prepare - Don’t cut or take them off the central rib at this point, they will keep longer left whole.

Store - pack whole leaves into a container and keep in the fridge. A moist paper towel in the bottom of the container will help keep them for longer.

Use – in fresh salads.

leaves washed for salads and cooking

Kale, chard and similar vegetables – silverbeet, spinach bok/pak choy, tatsoi. Even though these last ones are brasiccas I've included them in this group as they are more leaf like than the brassicas below which have a head.

Prepare - don’t take them off the central rib or chop them up at this stage, they will keep longer left whole.

Store - in a container with a moist paper towel in the bottom, wrapped in a moist tea towel or in a plastic bag. Keep in the fridge.

Use – slow cook into soups, bolognaise, pasta meals. The Asian vegetables eg bok choy can also be used raw - slice thinly and include in a coleslaw or salad.


Purple sprouting broccoli

Most people grow wonderful cabbages, cauliflowers etc but for me it’s just sprouting and Romanesco broccoli. I only get a few small sprouts on these – nothing inspiring.

Prepare – clean up by cutting away eaten or slightly rotten bits.

Store in the fridge in a container or plastic bag.

Use – under or overgrown brassicas are best in a stir fry, pasta or cheese bake. The stalks can also be eaten so don't cut these off and throw them away.


less than perfect carrots are still tasty

While I’m finally managing to grow carrots they’ve hardly perfect. Some are small, some are a bit woody inside.

Prepare - they need a good scrub to get rid of the dirt but can still look uninspiring in the veggie crisper.

Store – keep whole in a plastic or paper bag.

Use – the fuggly carrots are more usable grated up and included in salad, coleslaw, soups and stirfries.

Store the grated mix in a container along with other grated vegetables.


My beetroot are the same as carrots - never a decent size.

Prepare - give these a good scrub to get rid of dirt.

Store – keep whole in a plastic or paper bag.

Use – if small they’re more usable grated up and included in salad, soups and stir-fries.

Store the grated mix in a container along with other grated vegetables.


I have loads of this. I only lift one plant at a time as small and damaged tubers don’t keep very well.

Prepare - Yacon oxidises (turns brown) once peeled or grated so can't easily be prepared in advance.

Use - it can be grated and mixed with beetroot or cover it in loads of lemon juice to stop it oxidising. It can also be grated, squeezed to drain juice and mixed with yoghurt for a tzatziki type dressing - this will keep for a day or two in the fridge.


I’m not having much joy with growing potatoes of late – they’re tiny and if left in a dirty pile I’m unlikely to be bothered when in a rush with dinner.

Prepare – give them a good scrub and dry before storing. If you have a good haul of decent sized potatoes they don't need the same scrubbing - just brush off excess dirt. One large potato looks more user friendly than half a dozen small ones after all.

Store – once washed and scrubbed store in a container with airflow. A cloth bag is good. They don't need to be in the fridge at this point.

Use – roast or cook for salad.


If you still have tomatoes growing they can be picked and bought inside to ripen on the windowsill before the mice get to them!

Use - mine don't have the same flavour as a summer ripened one but are fine diced into anything cooked eg a stew.

MAKE your uninspiring harvest into meals

Coleslaw type salad

Use your prepared grated/sliced vegetables - carrots, cabbage, parsley, pak/bok/tatsoi.

Make - dress with yoghurt, mayonnaise or an Asian dressing. Only add dressing to the amount required.

Use - in sandwiches, salad or (undressed) in a stir-fry.

Grated beetroot salad

Use your grated/sliced vegetables - beetroot, yacon, apple, carrot, mint, parsley.

Make - dress with yoghurt, lemon juice, vinegar or oil to suit your taste and meal. Only add dressing to the amount required.

Use - in sandwiches, salad or (undressed) in a stir-fry.

risotto and beetroot salad

Fresh green salad

Use your washed leaves and also grated carrot, cabbage, yacon (beetroot will leach red all over the salad so I don't tend to include it in a 'green' salad).

While I haven't included these in the foraging notes above a fresh salad is a chance to include flowers, herbs, beetroot leaves and whatever you can find in the garden at this time of year. Some might not keep well in the fridge (eg basil if you're lucky enough to still have it growing) so it might need a pick on the day.

Prepare – destem and tear leaves into small pieces.

Make – add dressing if required. I don’t always dress my salad, it depends on what else is included in the meal – if you have another oiled or sauce component then salad leaves don't always need more dressing.

Now put your rain jacket on and go out and forage in your garden

the sad looking garden still has much to offer

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