Harvesting Like There's No Tomorrow

Well, sort of.  There’s a frost advisory tonight, and even though we’re in the Southern Paradise of the Dakotas here in Vermillion, it’d be foolish of me to disregard the forecast of lows about two degrees above freezing.  That’s just too close for comfort.

The first thing I did this morning (after reading and responding to about a million lit student postings) was to head out to my little Community Garden plot and clip all the sweet basil, bring it home, and process it into a paste with some olive oil.

Making basil cubes

Making basil cubes

This is where those old-fashionedmetal ice cube trays with the removable insert really come in handy.  They also don’t soak up flavors like plastic ones do.

While these trays aren’t the greatest for actual ice cubes, they work really well for freezing pastes of fresh herbs for use during the winter.  Once they’re frozen, I’ll take them out and store the separated cubes in a plastic freezer bag.

This afternoon I headed out to the garden and harvested a number of frost-tender crops.  I didn’t do a clean sweep–instead, I just pulled the biggest of everything–mostly sweet peppers. They can hang out in the house and turn red over the next few weeks, and if it doesn’t freeze tonight, I’ll have more.

I also picked a few hot peppers, and I pulled three of of my six cayenne pepper plants out of the ground to hang in the basement and ripen what fruits they will over the next few weeks.  Again–if it doesn’t freeze, I’ll have more; if it does, I’ll be glad I took this measure.

The beans got picked, and so did all the cukes.  Because the slicing cukes were not looking so hot anyhow, I pulled all those plants.  I left the picklers in just in case–that crock in my basement isn’t completely full, but the forty or fifty little cukes I picked today will certainly help.

For tomatoes–I did a good once-over a couple of days ago, but I did pull all the good-sized green ones just to be safe.  Of course, when I was doing that, I was thinking, why? why? Yeah, I’ve processed a lot of ‘maters this season.  But those Polish Linguisas are my favorite paste tomatoes, and they’ve been late to ripen this year.

It’s bone-dry out in the gardens, and I haven’t been watering because this time of year, it’s just not worth the resource except for fall greens.  I did water the mustard greens, and I also watered the parsnips and celeriac (before unscrewing the hose from the well-head just in case).

Er, well, guess you're glad you had that removed, eh?

Er, well, guess you're glad you had that removed, eh?

This ugly thing (that looks to me like something out of a T. Coraghessan Boyle story–you know the one) is a celery root, or celeriac.  I only dug one because they could use a little extra time (they’re a 110-day crop–like the Blue Solaise leeks).

But I’m pretty stoked at the looks of the crop so far.  They aren’t huge, but I was feeling a little uncertain that I’d get roots at all–especially after reading Steve Solomon’s Gardening When It Counts, wherein Mr. Solomon says it’s impossible to grow either celery or celeriac without a very deep, loose loam.

Well, I was giving Mr, Solomon a big ol’ Opus-like PFFFFT! when I pulled this beauty.  I guess I shouldn’t celebrate too much until I cut it open to make sure it doesn’t have hollow heart or something.  But I’m just sayin’.

Anywho, I’ll feel pretty good if we do get nipped tonight, and I won’t feel like I jumped the gun if we don’t.  We’ve got a few more days of nice weather after tonight’s dip, and some much-needed rain coming this weekend.

Tomorrow morning at about 8:30 a.m. I’m leading a team of about eleven Vermillion High School students in a Community Garden path clearing and mulching project.

I’ll hop up at about seven-ish or before and head out to the gardens to pick up a few more tools (now that all the veggies are unloaded), so I’ll be able to see pretty quickly and clearly whether we frosted or not.

I hope those kids dress warmly!

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