The Year’s Final Harvest

The forecast was predicting a winter storm warning for the next couple of days, so I knew that if I wanted to get the garden cleaned out for the winter (and before the busyness of Halloween, birthdays, and the holidays), the time was now.

DSC_0059It was the perfect time for it – what I would describe as the perfect Indian summer day. All in all, I was incredibly happy with our garden’s production this season. Everything grew and flourished against some daunting odds – being seeded late due to my not being so motivated with morning sickness when it would have been ideal to get things planted; multiple hail storms; and our first frost in early September. This was one of my first years having success with pumpkins, and they were so beautiful! (I planted Pumpkin – Rouge Vif D’Etemapes from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds.) When I took the pumpkins from the garden prior to our first hard frost, they were still yellow, but I placed them in the dining room, and over the next few weeks, they turned a gorgeous orange. They are what I imagine when I think of Cinderella’s carriage – I call them Cinderella pumpkins. Our baby pumpkins, Jack Be Little, also did great. I have a basket of them sitting on our kitchen counter, and they will last months.

This last harvest resulted in a wheelbarrow full of beets, carrots, broccoli, kale, and a few potatoes from a rouge plant that didn’t get dug up last year. (We also got a few orphan tomato plants popping up in our garden too – courtesy of the compost pile and chickens.) Our squash (Zucchini, Crookneck, and cucumbers) did well, too. Speaking of squash, one thing I definitely want to try in the future are fried zucchini blossoms. I came across the Sunset magazine recipe in a recent issue, I’ve had clients ask about them, and I’ve seen them on fine restaurants seasonal selections. Next year, I’m on it!

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As for my tomatoes (which I’ve grown for the last couple of years from Baker Creek Heirloom seeds), I picked all of the fruit a few weeks ago in preparation of hard frost, and all of the tomatoes were green at the time, and I was unsure if any would successfully change. But as you can see, my crate of green is turning to a sea of red, so I will most like be roasting them with a bit of garlic and herbs to be frozen and enjoyed in recipes throughout the winter. (I’ll keep you up to date.)

To be a gardener in Montana, you have to be an eternal optimist. Our season is so short, and often times there’s no time for a re-try in the same summer. But, as I dig up and clean this year’s fruits, I am already pondering about what to plant next year, what to do differently, and what new things I would like to try. Just like our seasons, it’s a wonderful cycle, and I feel very lucky to be a part of it.

Now, what to do with all of these vegetables…

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