Fall is my favorite time of year to garden. The pace is so much slower now and more enjoyable to me, not to mention that some of the tastiest things are at their best right about now. Like carrots, for instance. We had lots of carrots from the spring planting, but the ones I am harvesting now are so much sweeter. The deer have munched on the tops a bit, but hopefully some bird netting will help keep them away while the carrots keep on growing and getting sweeter. The ones in the below photo are Yaya, and some were steamed for a side dish and the rest are going into a stir fry tonight or tomorrow.
Another veggie that is tastiest about now is kale. We’ve had several heavy frosts, and one night with temperatures well below freezing, so the kale is nice and sweet tasting. That in the below photo is a mix of Beedy’s Camden and Wild Garden Mix. We braised part of it for a side dish, and some went into a batch of Minestra Maritata I made last night for dinner. I also used some carrots, celery and cabbage from the garden for the soup, plus a few leaves of Lacinato kale. That soup turned out well, and my wife thinks I need to share that recipe here so I will try and get it written up soon.
But despite the frosts and freezes, a few figs are still managing to ripen. The leaves on the plants have mostly fallen off, but the figs hang on. They are sure easy to find now! The varieties we have are Brown Turkey, Conadria, and Hardy Chicago. Many won’t ripen in time before it gets really cold, but we are enjoying the ones that do ripen.
Since the figs here sometimes die back to the ground in winter, they grow more like a multiple stemmed bush rather than a tree with a thick trunk. Some of the stems are at least 10 feet tall, despite my having pruned them back severely in spring. These late summer and fall figs are produced on the current years growth of wood, so we usually get a crop even if they do die back in winter.
Also hanging on are the Asian persimmons. Those leaves also got zapped by the freeze and have all fallen off. The persimmons are ripening fast, and I harvested the first one last week. The two varieties we have planted are Gwang Yang and Ichy Ki Kei Jiro, both non-astringent types that can be eaten while still firm. Our 2013 crop is a total of 11 persimmons, and we have been eagerly waiting all summer for them to ripen. I recently saw Fuyu persimmons in the store for $1.99 each, so they are a pricey treat in this part of the world. The two trees have already paid for themselves, even though we are still waiting to get a big crop. I have read that it takes about 5 years before the trees really start producing, so we still have a year or two to go.
I have been drying many of the figs for use later and I decided to try drying one of the persimmons too. The dehydrating intensifies the flavor of the figs, and I figured it would do the same for the persimmons.
The dried persimmons are very tasty, and I can see that will be a great way to preserve them once the trees get bigger and the harvests increase. Drying the figs also helps bring out their flavor. These late ripening ones aren’t usually as sweet as earlier ones, but drying them concentrates the flavor and they wind up being plenty sweet for me. Figs are highly perishable, keeping for only a day or two when fresh, so drying also helps extend the eating season for them.
Another veggie that is liking the fall weather is the radish. I have mostly Asian types planted this fall. In the below photo that’s China Rose and the daikon Miyashige Green Neck. China Rose is one of my favorite radishes for storage. It may not win any beauty contests, but this heirloom o/p radish is easy to grow, cold hardy, and keeps for a long time after harvest. I also love their sweet/spicy flavor. These radishes are going in a stir fry tonight to add a little crunch. At least some of them, because I think there will be more than enough there.
That’s a little look at what is coming in from the garden here in early November. To see what others are growing and cooking up, visit Daphne’s Dandelions, where Daphne hosts the Harvest Monday series.