The Sweet Taste of Frost

Hello autumn. For many gardeners, this is the time to take a break from gardening. The summer season has ended, tomatoes, peppers and eggplants are on their last leg, and the first frost is around the corner. This may mean the end of the growing season for some, but avid gardeners know that this is just the beginning of another season of growing to harvest food for the holidays.

So what does that mean for your plants? Will they survive the first frost?

Why do some plants die after being frozen?

Remember in science class when they taught us that water expands when it freezes? Same goes for plants. The water in the cells and membranes inside of the plant leaves and stems become damaged by ice, causing them to expand and burst. This is why plant leaves are gross and mushy after being hit with a frost.

Leafy greens, brassicas and some root veggies actually taste better after experiencing a cold snap. Leafy greens and brassicas have AFPs, antifreeze proteins that are cryoprotectants which protect the plants tissues, cells and membranes from freezing over. In turn, this improves their flavor. Animals and insects that live in cold regions of the world have cryoprotectants also.

Root veggies store energy in the form of starch. When a frost comes, they turn their starches into sugars which act as AFPs just like they do in leafy greens. This does not include potatoes.

If you want crisp, sweet carrots, fall and spring are the best times to plant.

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