Try these nutritious 'cold crops' this fall

The Examiner

For years I’ve been writing about the benefits and joy of growing your own vegetables. You may have heard the term “cold crops,” but some may be unfamiliar with what it means or how it got its name. Simply put, cold crops are those that are able to grow in cooler temperatures. You can plant them in September and early October, as they continue to grow even after the first frost.

Lynn Youngblood

Just think about tending a vegetable garden without having to weed in the hot sun, without mosquitoes biting, without worrying about slugs or other pests ravaging your harvest.

In some ways, cold crop vegetable growing may be the most enjoyable gardening you will ever try. Even more surprising, these types of vegetables are teeming with vitamins. Here are some of the best choices for cold crop vegetables:

• Beets: One of my all-time favorites and easy to grow. You can eat both the beet root (the red part you are used to seeing at the store) and the tops, or greens. Dig them deep so they stay cool, but do not let the beet get longer than 3 inches or they get tough and woody. Beets are high in vitamins A and C.

• Broccoli: This plant is perfect for home gardens as it is the least susceptible to pests, and can flourish in spring and fall. For best results, protect the plant from extreme temperatures. Broccoli is rich in vitamins K, C, folate, manganese and potassium. Numerous studies have also shown that has sulforaphane, a compound that may prevent cancer growth, and another compound which is significantly heart-healthy. (Vitamin information here is from

• Red cabbage and kale: These leafy beauties are actually heartier in cooler regions than most. I’ve actually seen nurseries planting cabbage and kale in their beds as accents. You can do the same, and then eat it. Be sure to keep watered, but not soaked. Cabbage takes two to three months to harvest, but the result is full, beautiful heads that can be stored for months at a time. Red cabbage is brimming with antioxidants, fiber, anthocyanins (hence the red color) and vitamin C. Kale is also well-known for its nutrients and has vitamins B, potassium, calcium, copper, A, C, and K. Kale may also be beneficial in promoting heart health.

• Carrots: Who doesn’t love carrots? These orange delectables can be stored for up to nine months. Carrots are full of vitamin A, C, K, potassium and beta-carotene – an antioxidant that could help in cancer prevention.

• Spinach: This leafy green germinates fast, and is the easiest to harvest. If you grow lots, you can freeze it for cooking. Spinach is actually considered by some one of the healthiest vegetables. One helping supplies all of your daily vitamin needs of A, and K, for only 7 calories! Spinach also has vitamin C, beta-carotene and Lutein both, which are antioxidants.

From this list you can see it does not need to be a big venture. Just five vegetables to help get you through the autumn and early winter months. Have fun!

Lynn Youngblood is the executive director of the Blue River Watershed Association in Kansas City. Reach her at