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.
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.