Most people think about planting crops in the spring and harvesting them in the summer and fall. A number of plants, however, grow well in cooler temperatures. These winter crops include root vegetables, chicories, and cruciferous vegetables, which are members of the cabbage family. Some fruits are also commonly grown as winter crops in warm climates. These include citrus fruits, kiwi, and some varieties of pears.
Oranges, grapefruits, and lemons grown in the winter are sweeter than at any other time. Tangerines and satsumas are also winter crops in warmer climes. In the United States, Florida and California have a thriving agricultural industry that produces fruits and vegetables year-round. Winter crops and vegetables that store well are available so that consumers can have access to fresh produce any time of the year.
Winter wheat is a commercial crop sown in the fall in North America, Europe, and parts of northern Asia. This type of wheat is sown in the fall and sprouts before the temperatures drop in winter, when it becomes dormant. Winter wheat requires cold temperatures before it can flower and is harvested in the summer. Some other grains are grown as winter crops and used as ground cover to prevent erosion and to replace nutrients in the soil that may have been absorbed by previous plantings. Winter rye is commonly used as winter ground cover since it is cold-tolerant and has an extensive root system good for controlling erosion.
In some temperate climates, there are other crops that will live through the winter and be ready to harvest when the temperatures rise in late winter or early spring. Some winter crops can be grown year-round in certain climates, but they cannot tolerate high temperatures. Celery, some varieties of lettuce, and other greens such as Swiss chard, collard greens, and spinach may be grown throughout the year in temperate zones, but they cannot tolerate the high temperatures of summer in tropical climates. Kale, parsley, and cauliflower can also be grown year round in some regions.
Some winter crops are grown in the fall and harvested in the winter. Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, bok choy, and kale thrive in colder temperatures and are harvested during the winter. Root crops such as beets, potatoes, and carrots also prefer cold temperatures. Radishes, garlic, and onions are some other winter crops that grow best in cool temperatures. These root crops also store well after being harvested in the winter, and can often last until spring.