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.

It 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 is 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!

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…