Ohioans put up with a lot of winter white this year to get to a season of green – salad and cooking greens! While local growers are beginning to bring bundles of leafy lettuces and sturdy chard and spinach to market, some, like Ohio Farm Bureau members Mindy and Phil Bartholomae of Breezy Hill Farm in Columbiana County, have been doing this all winter. They’ve adopted innovative and resourceful ways to grow and harvest greens earlier in the season, usually before the snow has even melted.
Just shy of three years into farming and coming from careers in the corporate world, the Bartholomaes bought a picturesque 23-acre farm with a pond, apple trees, artesian springs, a couple of acres of cutting flowers and plenty of room to grow. They quickly found a niche in growing greens using high tunnels or hoop houses that create a greenhouse-like atmosphere where the soil never freezes and plants grow slowly throughout the winter.
“It’s an old technique that relies on the warmth of the sun,” explained Mindy. The couple further adapts by planting cool weather loving greens including spinach, chard, arugula and sturdy Asian salad greens like Pac Choi, a spoon shaped green, similar to bok choy, and mizuna, a saw-toothed, mild flavored salad green.
A typical growing season in the high tunnels at Breezy Hill begins with an early fall planting of specialty turnips, radishes, carrots and hearty fall greens that grow throughout the winter, which the Bartholomaes harvest and sell at local winter farmers markets. Behind that, two succession plantings of spinach and salad greens sprout and grow as the soil in the tunnel warms. By March, the couple begins to harvest fresh, tender salad greens.
“Because they are cold tolerant, these greens withstand gentle freeze and thaw cycles,” Mindy said. “Still rooted in the soil, they are a living, viable plant and are able to recover. The process concentrates the sugars so they have a sweeter taste.”
For those farmers who push the envelope on Ohio’s growing seasons, high tunnels offer some assurance that fresh, locally grown greens and other produce will be available to “green up” their customers’ winter diets a little earlier in the season. But as Mindy points out, there are a lot more variables that impact winter farming. “A lot of what we can do depends on the number of sunny days in the winter. In Ohio, that’s a bit unpredictable.”
Marilou Suszko is a food writer from Vermilion. She is the author of “Farms and Foods of Ohio: From Garden Gate to Dinner Plate” and hosts “From My Ohio Kitchen to Yours” on the Our Ohio TV series.
There are plenty of farms throughout Ohio getting ready to put fresh greens into your salad bowls this growing season. You can find growers in your area by using the Buying Local Directory at OurOhio.org. Here are just a few of the Farm Bureau members you might come across.
Breezy Hill Farm
Phil and Mindy Bartholomae
Spinach, chard, Asian greens and leaf lettuces
Bergefurd’s Farm Market
Brad and Marcia Bergefurd
Spinach, kale, mustard greens, red and green leaf lettuces and chard
Larry and Tina Klco
Red and green romaine, Bibb, curly red and green lettuces, spinach, kale, baby beet tops and cut herbs
Allen and Pat Rupiper
Arugula, mache, spinach, cut salad greens and Asian greens and selling at the Chillicothe Farmers Market
Bibb lettuce; variety of cut blends
Shared Legacy Farms
Kurt and Corinna Bench
Spinach, Asian greens, collards, endive, kale, chard, radicchio, arugula and turnip greens, many varieties of head and loose leaf lettuce
Know Your Greens
Great salads are built with an enticing balance of flavors and textures, color and shapes. Use this field guide to get to know the names of some of the greens being “tossed around” this growing season at farmers markets and in home gardens.
1) Oscarde Red Oak Leaf, Tender and Sweet
2) Green Oak Leaf, Mild and Sweet
3) Freckles Romaine, Crisp and Sweet
4) Ferrari Red Oak Leaf, Delicate and Sweet
5) Mizuna, Mildly tangy
6) Arugala, Nutty and Peppery
7) Giant Red Mustard, Mildly pungent
8,9,10) Bright Lights Swiss Chard, Mild, Colorful and “Spinach-like”
11) Bull’s Blood Beet Greens, Tender and Sweet
12) Red Komatsuna, Slightly Spicy
13) Yukina Savoy, Mild and Sweet
14) Red Pac Choi, Crunchy and “Spinach-like”
15) Green Pac Choi, Crunchy and “Spinach-like”
16) Bionda Di Lyon Chard, Tender and Mild