Top five winter soup-pot crops

There’s no better way to nurture our bodies through winter than with nourishing soups from the garden. A few well-chosen crops, some stored summer produce, and delicious soup is minutes away. Here are my top five winter soup-pot crops. They’re all easy to grow, and suit small spaces and containers. 

Words Kath Irvine

Dwarf celery

There cannot be good soup without celery! Those of you put off growing celery because it’s too big and needy will be delighted with its smaller cousin. Dwarf celery stalks are small, but also crispy and tasty. Pick stalks from the outside and it’ll keep growing. Celery is hungry, so plant it in compost and give it a dose of seaweed tea often. For extra nutrition, tuck a length of seaweed under the mulch. Don’t let it dry out.

Perennial leeks

This old-fashioned plant deserves to be grown more; the pint-sized leeks fit a lot of vegetable (and flavour) into a small space. Give them a generous layer of rotten manure in autumn and an occasional splash of liquid feed, and you’ll be rewarded with thumb-size leeks through to December.

Perpetual beet

Milder in taste and softer in texture than silverbeet or kale, this is my perfect soup green. Grow in rich compost, give it some room and it’ll provide vitamin-rich leafy greens through until summer. 

Carrots and parsnips

I love the efficiency of root crops: you can fit 100 carrots per square metre. The trick is to grow them after a heavy feeder, where the ground was composted for the previous crop – root crops don’t like rich soil.  Sow them in autumn and they’ll store in the ground till spring, then come out crunchy and sweet.

Italian flat-leaf parsley

This is my favourite winter herb; I love its fresh flavour and snack on it while I’m gardening. As with other leafy greens, it needs rich soil, good moisture and thrives with a bit of seaweed tea. Leave a plant to self
-seed and you’ll never be without. Flavour soup with a classic bouquet garni – a stalk of parsley bagged up with thyme and bay leaves – or finely slice parsley and sprinkle on your soup for beautiful flavour and bonus minerals!

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