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It’s official. We’ve had our first frost here in western Pennsylvania, and while it’s always sad to see the end of another summer, there are still a lot of beautiful and delicious things happening in the vegetable garden.
Although I harvested the last of the tomatoes and peppers yesterday afternoon, a plethora of cold-tolerant, homegrown veggies still remain in the vegetable patch. The endive is ready for harvest, as are the French Breakfast radishes I planted in mid-September. Other root crops, such as beets, turnips and carrots, are now snug under the protection of a layer of fabric row cover. I’ll be harvesting them as-needed from now until the arrival of the new year.
I’ll also be harvesting a mixture of baby greens. I have young Swiss chard, kale, mache, arugula and spinach ready to pick for salads and braising. I’m particularly fond of Winter Density lettuce for fall and winter harvests. It stands up beautifully to these cold temperatures with nothing more than a recycled milk jug cloche for protection.
I’ve tugged out all my winter squash and pumpkin vines and moved the fruits into the basement for storage. This week’s to-do list includes a roasting fest for some of those pumpkins and squash. I always halve and de-seed several of the fruits and then roast them in the oven—on a baking sheet, cut side down—until the flesh is soft. After they cool, I scoop out the flesh and pack it in zipper-top plastic freezer bags. I use the mash in soups and stews and baked goods all winter long. I try to have two or three dozen bags of it in the freezer and ready-to-go every winter.
Another pending task for the vegetable garden now that frost has arrived is my final parsley harvest of the season. For some reason, my family uses a lot of parsley, and I like to have plenty of it on-hand year-round. It’s a tradition of sorts to head out to the garden soon after the first frost and snip off most of the parsley. I then bring it inside, wash the leaves, and pack them into labeled freezer bags. I toss the frozen leaves into pot pies, stews, and soups, and really enjoy the “green” flavor they bring to these dishes.
And my last chore in the vegetable garden for this week is to harvest my bean seeds. I stopped picking my pole and runner beans a few weeks ago to allow enough of them to reach maturity so I can harvest the seeds. Beans are largely self-pollinating, so seeds from open-pollinated bean varieties can easily be harvested and saved for planting next year. I’ll save seeds from my French Gold pole beans and my Scarlet Runner beans by plucking the dried pods off the vines and letting them sit on a screen in the garage for a few weeks. Once the pods crack open, I pick out the seeds and store them in labeled jars in the fridge.