November 14, 2017

November Harvest and our Kitchen Remodel Continues

Shell beans are drying on the porch, most are props for my book on vegetable gardening but they wont go to waste. It's been fun raising a dozen or so varieties of dried beans, as they remind me of one of the first crops I raised as a kid after seeing an exhibit of dried beans at a fall harvest show at the Worcester County Horticultural Society back in the 1970's. 

One month. One entire month since my last post! That's what writing a book does to you. If there is any free time, it seems to go towards writing or photography. I keep telling myself that it will be worth it (even though I well know that one doesn't make money from writing a book - I know that!). Yet, for those of us who are burdoned by a need to create things, it at the very least, satisfies that desire. 

Since it is already November,  if not nearly December, you who visit here from time to time, deserve some sign that I am still ere- even if it is just a post with a bunch of random pictures documenting what is happening in the garden and house over the past few weeks.

Autumn color is late in arriving this year due to a long, frost-free autumn. The low angle sunshine seems to illuminate every inch of the garden right now, but I keep telling myself that winter is just around the bend.

Someone was trying to explain to me why they hate autumn the other day. I hear this often in New England which is odd, since autumn and colored leaves, pumpkins, squashes and even Thanksgiving are all icons which surround us here. I happen to be a hopeless romantic, and can't get enough of these seasonal changes, wanting to immerse myself in every bit of seasonal experience be it gingerbread, Indian Pudding and the autumn harvest crops like colorful dried beans, storage squashes and dried corn varieties.

Because I wanted to grow or find local growers who could allow me to show multiple varieties of rare or unusual vegetables for my book., I've been busy picking, digging and photographing the last crops of the season before it gets too cold -even though there are some crops here that will make it into the winter chapter. Nearing the end of photogrpahy is a bit of a relief, but now I am deep in thousands of digital images attempting to flag the best ones that might make it into the book, and then the daunting task of organizing, storing and backing up images.

Homegrown heirloom potatoes are not unlike heirloom tomatoes in that their flavor is almost indescribable, especially when freshly dug. If you have never tasted a fresh potato hours after being dug out of the soil, you can't imagine the flavor. Earthy,  waxy and just so delicious - I swear that they lose this unique flavor in a couple of days after digging.

With Thanksgiving a week away, and a longer than average summer, many of un in the East have had time to harvest crops which in some years fall victim to early hard frosts. Root crops usually are OK until mid-November, and this year is no exception with record breaking warmth and rainfall, this could be the year of the turnip, radish and potato. I was late in digging our potato rows this year, but they were just fine resting in the ground until I could get to them. 

Nothing tastes like a potato straight from the garden - terroir on steroids. I cannot think of any other crop, aside from carrots maybe, that tasted absolutely different when freshly harvested, and different from garden to garden depending on the mineral content and balance in the soil. Lets face it, potatoes taste like soil (in a good way), and nothing tastes as incredible as a potato from ones own back yard.

Heirloom Blue Hopi Corn has an almost unbelivable denim color in the right light. We'll be making blue cornmeal with this harvest, and then I will have a good excuse to haul out my wooden tortilla press that Joe bought me for Christmas last year.

Black Aztec pop corn fresh from the garden still drying on the porch. Grown as props for my vegetable book, the colors of dried field and popcorn always surprise me when tearing back the husks. So colorful, especially the black varieties which are sometimes maroon or deep violet more than they are black. Ears must be totally dry however if you are going to actually pop the kernels.

While on the subject of black, I have to share these black Spanish radishes. So spicy and crisp, they can function as a storage turnip if kept in a root cellar or in the fridge - that is, if they last that long. We are addicted to using them in stews and pot roast, braised after peeling them like turnips, and for use in kimchi, or freshly sliced in salads. Only 50 days from seed sown in late August, it's a fast autumn crop.

Speaking of autumn crops - Asian radishes are really quite easy to grow - but really only as an autumn crop. Here are some red turnips, watermelon radishes, purple Asian and white Tokyo turnips that a friends farm allowed me to pick. Just about a photogenic that a vegetable can get - you should see some of the shots that have made it into the book!

Not one to waste photoprops, we've been up to out ears in turnips and radishes this autumn. Kimchi, pickles and braised beef dishes are all on the menu.

I'm moving on to squashes now as photo subjects, but it's such a large subject for a vegetbale book, that only a few will make it onto the pages.

While buying cider at the orchard in Bolton MA this weekend, we saw our friend Gayle Joseph from the Dahlia Society of New England across the street digging her tubers after our first hard frost. She has an amazine 18th century brick house in Bolton, MA but her garden and dahlias are insane. I know that she is rushing to get them dug and stored before ski season, as she works as a ski race official at our local ski mountain.

Gayle showed us a little bird nest in a dahlia plant which was just a few feet from a busy road. I think that it might be the nest of a field sparrow. It was only 2 feet off of the ground.

The colors underneath the old tile in our kitchen revealed some interesting tones. Now, I am inspired - what about a pink, coral and orange kitchen with light teal? Sounds like a tuban winter squash to me - so I am off to the paint store!

Now, as if we are not doing enough, the kitchen remodel has taken off again since the Holidays are sneaking up. We've got a bit of help from some neighborhood handimen who are helping us tile, plaster and finally finish this 1 year project. As anyone who has undergone a kitchen project knows, these are painful projects - especially when doing them yourself. Hopefully we are nearly done, and when it is complete, I promise that I will write a great post about the entire project, with before and after shots.

With paper removed, we discovered pink walls and old woodwork. Most of this will be marble tile, but the pink is giving me some ideas.

Subway tile mauy be overused, but I think it works well with my dad's mural and the period of the house.  We are using two types. An all white tile, and one that looks like alabaster or marble.

In the greenhouse its crowded now that the cold weather has arrived. The heat has officially been turned on and the shade cloth removed. It's funny how quickly the seasons change in the autumn. Spring comes on gradually, but autumn, or winter seems to come suddenly. One hard frosty night and every tender plant turns brown and limp. Underglass, however, everything is lush and fragrant. Safe from freezes.

It's where the chili peppers are spending an extended vacation until it gets really cold, something the later-ripening peppers really need such as the habanero, Carolina Reapers and the Rocoto peppers. I never knew that there was this secret society of chili pepper enthusiasts who trade seeds of favortie varieties and keep plants through the winter indoors. Well, it's not really secret, but it's a think that I never knew about until this year.

Some of my chili peppers that are wintering over in the greenhouse.

Pepper enthusiasts are just a passionate about their chili pepper plants as orchid growers are about their plants, and they often share tips  and tricks on-line, either via Youtube or chat groups about how to dig and prune pepper plants so that they can survive a safe winter indoors. Peppers are perennial in long-season areas, but in the north, the hard-core pepper fans keep their favorite chili's through the winter, often for a few years. Some brag that they have tubs of plants over 8 years old.

Certain chilis fare better than others indoors. Mostly folks save their chiltipin types, some habanero and Rocoto types of peppers. Late maturing types are usually brought in (as most raise them in containers), and the peppers are harvested as they ripen through the autumn. Others trim their plants back, and keep them in a semi-dorman state until late winter when the plants begin to show new growth. This past summer I saw some amazing tiny Pequin-type peppers that were three years old, and wintered over in a cellar. They were being raised in 5 gallon bakery buckets.

Cyclamen species, even though they are done blooming, are entering what many beleive are their most attractive phase - foliage. I never tire of looking at a bed of different cyclamen species. My sand beds hold about 8 species, mostly C. hederifolium and C. graecum variations and a handful of others.

I'm at that pont when cyclamen are self seeding everywhere thanks to ants which plant the seeds in May and June from the dried pods where ever they want - usually in the ground near the foundation, or in other pots. This is making my cyclamen beds a bit of a jumbled mess (I mean, trying to identify C. hederifolium from C. africanum drives me crazy!).

The last of the Nerine sarniensis are blooming, with some newer crosses showing some very interesting color patterns. My seedlings from random crosses are beginning to bloom this year. I know that these are not common plants and not something most people can grow unless they have a greenhouse, but I am sharing just the same. They are rarely seen in gardens or most collections these days sine they are winter blooming, and tender - related to the amaryllis.

I have aquired a collection of Zepheranthes and thought that I might keep them in pots . This is Z. drummondii, which has been blooming on and off all summer and now, in the greenhouse.

1 comment :

  1. Love the post! Your november harvest is looking wonderful, and I can't wait to see your remodeling!


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