14 September 2009

The flavor of frost

This is a gorgeous time of year, the temperatures have cooled off, and the mosquitoes, blackflies, biting midges, deerflies, and horseflies have disappeared with the heat, which makes a huge difference in our ability to enjoy the garden, and outdoor activities. We even had our first stargaze in quite a few months, dreaming up at the night sky without being eaten alive!

We did have our first major frost on September 9th, dawn broke to a dusting of fine white frost over the garden and fields. But we were prepared, and had covered the tender crops: peppers, tomatoes, ground cherries, a late basil crop, and even a pair of flowering fennel plants, hoping for some fennel seed. The frost spelled the end for the winter squash, pumpkin and cucumber vines, but the zucchini bushes showed real vigor, only burning the tallest leaves and not damaging the crown or small fruits. The last bean crop was also frosted, so we harvested the last of the green beans, and have been feasting on them, getting our fill of the fresh crop knowing it will be canned or fermented from now on.

The frost also marked the end of our market garden crops, which is more of a relief than a disappointment, we did as well as we could this year, and it is good to be able to focus all of our energies on our own harvest and winter preparation.

The bulk of our tomatoes, tomatillos and ground cherries are just ripening now, so we will keep them protected from frost for another 3-4 weeks before bringing in the remaining green fruits to ripen indoors. So my tomato sauce, salsa and chutney canning fest has begun. I'm also drying some ground cherries, they make nice little "raisins" for baked goods, with that unique pineapple flavor.
The sunflowers have indeed bloomed in time to make seeds, I always forget how frost hardy they are. We are going to experiment with de-hulling the seeds this fall/winter.

My own accidental hybrid "Sweet Curry" kabocha type winter squash, ripening in the dappled shade of the frosted vines. These will have to be brought in before the next frost, without the sheltering umbrella of leaves, the squash fruits would be damaged by a frost.

The popcorn is ready to harvest, the kernels mostly dried on the cob. I husk them right away, then store them in a large onion bag and let them continue drying for a few weeks before shelling the cobs.

A late summer fruit, Wild Raisins are ripening. They have a date-like flavor, but also like dates, have an unfortunate pit. My favorite way of making use of these delicious and abundant fruits is to put them through a food mill raw, and dry them as a fruit leather, they need no sugar this way. The pulp is also good added to applesauce, making an interesting applesauce variation.

Of course, the local songbird population is also fond of these sweet fruits. This female Common Yellowthroat, of the wood warbler family, foraged in the same bush.

I got this lucky shot some time later.

I try to keep a profusion of late summer and fall flowers available for the insects. These flowering lettuce bushes would normally be a part of my seed saving regime, but we are going to start over with regionally appropriate seed varieties in our next garden, somewhere on the West coast, so these flowers are just for the bees. The last pollen producing flowers in the garden are the hardy broccoli flowers, I always leave the small side shoots to go to flower, they continue to bloom and attract bumble bees even after the ground starts to freeze, well into November, even early December.

A fennel flower, on it's way to seed, I hope. I started these fennel plants in March this year, determined to get some fennel seed from these slow-pokes, we'll see.

The last of the Coriander flowers, my absolute favorite flower in the garden, they make a delicate bouquet all of their own.

It's amazing that they become such homely clusters, which is likewise, one of my favorite spices. We're curry-aholics, and if you've never tried coriander in baked goods, replace it with cinnamon in a spiced cookie recipe for a nice delight.


June said...

Coriander is one of our favorites too. And I've been contemplating fennel but thought it might be a stretch here in Maine. Would love to know if yours make it to seed...

Freija and Beringian Fritillary said...

June, you can be sure I'll be jumping for joy if those fennel seeds make it to the finish line, I couldn't find much info on length of days to mature seed when I was looking into growing fennel seed, so I'll be sure to pass the info on...

AmandaAsABee said...

Beautiful photos. I love Autumn too though by the sounds of it, you are getting it a lot sooner than us. We had a beautiful warm day here on Pender Island.

randi said...

Great post...autumn is such a busy and poignant time, is it not? We've yet to get a light frost here, which is a little unusual. This Spring I discovered a bunch of volunteer fennel seedlings and I'm glad I let them go because, thanks to you, making your curry chutney, did I too discover how much I love those fennel seeds I've been collecting,(somewhat purposelessly),the last few years!

Mr. H. said...

I would love to hear how your sunflower de-hulling experiments go. We have yet to come up with a viable solution to hulling ours.

I have never seen "wild raisins" before, how interesting. Perhaps they grow in my area as well.

Chiot's Run said...

Everything is quite lovely. I can't believe you're having frosts already, I'm dreading those days!

ChicagoMike said...

That shot of the warbler is outstanding!

d.a. said...

Amazing photos, especially of the warbler. Yum!

Freija and Beringian Fritillary said...

Amanda, yup the crips fall weather comes pretty early here, I feel like I just put all of my winter sweaters away, and I'm rummaging the closet to bring them out again!

randi, so glad you have a new found love for that wild fennel seed. I love fennel, makes a great curry. Try it in homemade granola, it's great browned with the oats. Or another good recipe is to brown the seeds in oil when making the base for leek and potato soup, yum! Wish we had some wild fennel, I have the feeling I'm going to have to keep these fennel plants covered for a while!

Mr H, I think the wild raisins are an eastern plant, I'd never seen them before we came out here. But you have so many wonderful fruits in your mountains!

We will post about the sunflower seed de-hulling to be sure, I'll be interested to see how it goes too!

Chiot's, oh the dreaded first frost! Hope you have some tarps or blankets to cover up some of your tender plants, it makes such a difference to sneak a couple of extra weeks outo of the season!

ChicagoMike, Thanks!

d.a. muchos gracias!