Tuesday night freeze could make local collards sweeter


WILMINGTON,NC (WWAY) — The Stormtrack3 Weather team have been warning of some cold air headed our way Tuesday. Farmers are gearing up across the Cape Fear to protect their crops.

The temperatures are expected to take a deep dive into the 20s and 30s, which is below freezing. This will give frost a better chance to grow on outdoor vegetation.

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But, have you ever heard of collards being sweeter, after a freeze?

“Peppers, tomatoes and eggplant are really sensitive to the frost,” Kyle Stenersen, owner of Humble Roots farm, said. “A cold snap like this where it could get below freezing will kill those plants.”

Stenersen says he’s not a year round tomato grower. He has other products to worry about.

“The biggest impact for me is how my greens look,” Stenersen said. “The plants have antifreeze mechanisms in them, but they kind of get burnt around the edges of the leaves.”

But he says greens like kale, collards, and kholrabi are left out uncovered intentionally.

“Cause those things a lot of times don’t get sweet until it freezes and it’s because the plants produce an anti-freeze, which is sugar,” Stenersen said. “They produce these sugars as an anti-freeze against the frost. So that’s what they talk about collards getting sweeter after the frost or carrots getting sweeter in the ground after it gets real cold.”

Stenersen says the mild winters across southeastern North Carolina allow farmers to grow many seasonal crops year round. He says farm preps are just beginning.

“I’ve got to make sure that my pipes are drained that we have in our processing facility,” Stenersen said. “I’m going to cover our most sensitive crops to keep them looking nice. So, there is work to be done, but we won’t do that until tomorrow cause right now it is beautiful and we want them to soak up as much sun as they can.”

Stenersen says thankfully his irrigation system is underground which reduces the likelihood of pipes bursting.

A freeze watch has been issued for Brunswick, New Hanover and coastal Pender counties for late Tuesday into Wednesday morning. It includes a reminder to all residents to protect tender plants and drain in-ground sprinkler systems.