Salad Greens You Can Grow in Winter

A Guide to Planting and Harvesting Winter Salad Greens

by BC Farms & Food  -  Permalink
July 24, 2021

Want to eat fresh lettuce and salad greens this winter?  Late summer to early fall is the time to plant your winter garden.

Spinach grows well throughout the winter when protected in a cold frame or tunnel. Low winter light slows the growth. Young tender spinach leaves have an earthy flavour that pairs well with fruit in fresh salads.
Lettuce thrives well into winter in a cold frame or hoop house. Choose cold-hardy varieties such as Romaine or Cos, Buttercrunch or Bibb, and loose leaf lettuces.  Harvest as baby greens for crisp, mild salads. Grows slowly in low winter light.
Mâche (Corn Salad,  Lamb’s Lettuce) germinates best when overnight temperatures are below 10ºC / 50ºF. Low-growing, with a small rosette of delicate leaves, mâche has a mild, refreshing flavour. Cut the entire plant and serve intact. Easily bruised.
Claytonia (Miner’s Lettuce, Winter Purslane) is a cold-hardy West Coast native. Its succulent leaves and stems make it a top choice for salads. Cut the stems, leaving at least 5 cm (2 inches), and the leaves will grow back.
Arugula (Rocket) grows quickly with frost protection in the low light of winter. This tender green has a distinctive sharp flavour, which is milder during cold weather. Use arugula to add bite to fresh salads, or as a pizza topping.
Radicchio, such as the Treviso variety (above), thrives in cool weather and tolerates light frost. The bitter leaves of this chicory become mellower in cold temperatures. Radicchio's pungent taste goes well with balsamic vinegar.
Endive (above), frisée, and escarole grow easily during cooler months. Frisée has distinctive narrow, finely pointed leaves. Escarole has broad, rounded leaves. These chicories taste mildly bitter and add accent to salad.
Red Mustard greens, with their striking green and red leaves, grow well in winter. Frost deepens the flavour and colour. Tender when young, the peppery taste of this cold-hardy brassica sharpens as it matures. Eat fresh in salads, or stir fry.
Baby Bok Choi and Tatsoi are small-size relatives of broccoli, collards, and kale, which also grow in winter. These frost tolerant cabbage-like vegetables have thick crunchy ribs and tasty leaves. Bok choi grows upright; tatsoi forms a rosette.
Mizuna, an Asian green with distinctive jagged leaves and a pungent flavour, grows quickly in cool weather. Mizuna has a peppery taste that adds spice to stir-fries and soups. The small pointed leaves of mizuna bring texture to fresh salads.
Baby Beet Greens, the leaves of immature beet roots, like cool temperatures and tolerate light frost. Clip only a couple of leaves from each plant to allow the root to continue to grow. These tender, slightly bitter greens add vibrant colour to salads.
Spinach grows well throughout the winter when protected in a cold frame or tunnel. Low winter light slows the growth. Young tender spinach leaves have an earthy flavour that pairs well with fruit in fresh salads.

If you like fresh garden salads, you’ll be glad to know you can grow a full range of salad greens throughout the winter in our moderate southern BC maritime climate. Leafy winter salad vegetables come in a variety of flavours, colours and textures—from peppery to earthy, crunchy to delicate.

Flavours of Cold Weather Salad Greens

Fall and winter salad greens include such hardy plants as spicy arugula, fresh baby spinach leaves and cold-season lettuces. Baby beet greens bring lovely deep red and green colour to salads.

Brassicas and mustards, such as baby kale, bok choi, tatsoi, mizuna and red mustard offer crunchy, sharp and earthy flavours. The slightly bitter leaves of chicories like endive, escarole, frisée, and radicchio add texture and various degrees of bitters to mixed salad greens.

Mild-Flavoured Winter Greens

Most winter salad greens are hardy and have some bite. Are there any mild winter salad greens? Lettuce, of course—romaine, buttercrunch, oakleaf and other loose-leaf varieties, grow well in cool weather.

Mâche (Corn Salad, Lamb’s Lettuce) is refreshing and full of flavour. One of the most cold hardy of all greens, this lesser-known leaf vegetable can survive temperatures as low as -18ºC (0ºF). Mâche grows slowly in small, low rosettes and is ready for harvest when it is about 10 cm or 4 inches across. The leaves are delicate and damage easily in shipment, which is why you’ll rarely find mâche at the supermarket. (Grow this one yourself!)

Another mild, succulent and greatly overlooked salad green is the West Coast native, Claytonia (Miner’s Lettuce, Winter Purslane). Claytonia has sweet, green-tasting leaves and stems, and small edible white blossoms in the spring. Claytonia can grow without protection throughout the winter.

How to Grow Winter Salad Greens

If planting from seed, start most winter salad greens between July and September. Plant established starts as late as September or October. Keep in mind that the cold and low winter light will slow the growth, so plant a lot.

Mulch, cold frames, hoop houses and other season extension techniques can help speed growth and protect your plants from wind and cold. Because the daytime temperatures are warmer inside a cold frame, cultivars have a chance to recover from cold nighttime temperatures.

The guide below shows seed planting and harvest times for winter salad greens in southern maritime British Columbia.

Planting & Harvesting Winter Salad Greens in South Coast BC

Winter Salad Greens Flavour Planting Date Harvest
Spicy, Sharp Aug – Sept Fall, Winter, Spring
Beet Greens Mildly Bitter Aug – Sept Fall, Winter
Bok Choi Crunchy, Mildly Bitter Aug – Oct Winter, Spring
(Miner’s Lettuce,
Winter Purslane)
Succulent, Mild Sept Winter, Spring
Endive Crisp, Mildly Bitter Aug – Sept Fall, Winter
Escarole Mildly Bitter Aug – Sept Fall, Winter
Frisée Crisp, Mildly Bitter Aug – Sept Fall, Winter
Kale Earthy, Strong Flavoured July – Aug Fall, Winter, Spring
Lettuce Crisp, Crunchy, Mild July – Sept Fall, Winter
(Corn Salad)
Delicate, Mild, Refreshing Aug – Oct Fall, Winter, Spring
Mizuna Sharp, Peppery June – July Fall, Winter
Mustards Peppery July – Aug Fall, Winter
(Curly Parsley)
Earthy, Hint of Minerals April – Sept Fall, Winter, Spring
Bitter, Spicy June – July Fall, Winter
Sorrel Tangy, Lemony April (perennial) Fall, Spring
Spinach Earthy, Hints of Minerals July – Oct Fall, Winter
(Spoon Cabbage)
Mild Mustardlike Flavour Aug – Oct Winter, Spring




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2 Responses leave one →
  1. 2023 August 31
    Rick permalink

    I love the idea of planting in the fall, but my experience has been the shortening days — not the threat of frost — to be the BIG problem. I’ve never had much success, in spite of many efforts. Am I missing something?

    • 2023 August 31
      BC Farms & Food permalink

      You need to plant A LOT of greens to have enough to harvest with any regularity. This is because the light is much lower and more limited in the fall and winter. Greens grow much more slowly than in the summer. The best crops will be those that are well established before the cold weather sets in. For winter salad greens, plan on harvesting less often: about once a week (as compared to every couple of days in high summer.)

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