What a great time of year for edible gardeners in this part of the country. The harvest keeps coming thanks to a still-warm-enough Sun and just enough rain. It’s time to “process” some of that harvest, putting up goods for winter. There’s a whole new season to anticipate – one made up of cool weather crops soon to be sheltered by “mini hoop houses.” And, of course, it’s time to reflect on the victories and failures of the year and learn what we can for next spring.
Early Fall Rewards
This morning’s trip through the garden yielded organic beans, cucumbers and peas (all started from seed), organic peppers, rosemary, basil and thyme and more raspberries than needed for tomorrow’s bowl of cereal. Harvesting always feels rewarding, but even more so now that early mornings are dark as pitch and evenings come before dinner. It’s what is missed most when winter finally arrives.
The herbs are thick and lush, reminding us that this is the optimal time to harvest them. End-of-season dehydration makes it quicker and easier to dry them on the hearth.
Berries keep coming, but so do the yellow jackets that munch them to pulp, apparently requiring sugar in their diet at this time of year. Still, there are more than enough berries to freeze for winter. That two-part process starts with placing the berries in the freezer on a baking sheet, covered with plastic wrap, then separating the frozen berries into daily portions and placing them back in the freezer in baggies.
A late planting of cucumbers has been rewarded with a plentiful yield…and the arrival of a large toad (possibly an Eastern American Toad), who hides beneath the giant leaves. (He doesn’t like photography.) It’s time to pull out the pickling recipes.
Like cucumbers, beans don’t appear to have natural predators here in the Delaware River Valley. Since they first appeared several weeks back, there has been no sign of insect damage and no need to fight off the neighborhood groundhog.
A second wave of peas triggers a case of springtime nostalgia. The plants look like prisoners tucked beneath layers of protective mesh.
The winter crop of lettuce and parsley is just getting planted in the raised beds, alongside some straggling seed starts. This will be the first test of our mini hoop house, a term coined by Eliot Coleman (author of Four Season Harvest) who, along with his partner, Barbara Damrosch, grows organically in a much harsher climate than this, mid-coast Maine. If the coming winter isn’t a repeat of last year, perhaps we’ll be adding a fourth season to our own organic edible garden!