NATURE’S TURN: A full plateMore Info
September 10 – 23, 2018
Mount Washington — At the same time that we in northern climes feed ourselves from an abundance of fresh-picked vegetables, many of us are also engaged in preparing the harvest for the cold seasons ahead. Onions and potatoes, tomatoes and basil, cucumbers and kale, snap beans and zucchini fill dinner plates and overflow salad plates as the growing season peaks. Red raspberries and peaches add sweetness, color and fragrance to the transition from August to September. Each day, ripe fruits and mature vegetables that exceed our needs are set aside to be prepared for winter storage.
Long, purple bean pods hang in bunches on vigorous vines: They are so prolific that I pull them off by the fistful once a day. Last week we stuffed them into wide-mouth quart jars and poured a classic dilly bean brine of vinegar and water over them. In the coming days, much of my bean and cucumber harvest will be packed into jars with a lacto-ferment preparation.*
After over a month of curing inside a breezy shed, I cut garlic bulbs off their stems and hung them in mesh bags in a cool room. Many varieties of red and yellow onions, sun-dried for a week and then, before a rain, moved indoors to air-dry for another, now hang near the garlic. When clipping tops off onion bulbs, preserve about an inch of dried neck above the bulbs. Optimum storage is 32 degrees.
Part of my potato crop awaits a dry day before digging; then I will leave the tubers on the ground to dry briefly in the sun before placing on screens or in shallow boxes to air-dry for about two weeks. Optimum storage is 40–45 degrees.
As soon as each crop is removed, my focus shifts to reseeding the ground. I planted summer spinach after the onion harvest and will sow rows of winter spinach after the potatoes. Hardy lettuces, Asian greens and cover crops are up where early potatoes grew. My cover crops this year are crimson clover and winter wheat – more to be sown very soon – and winter rye, which may be seeded until mid-October.
Prepare to sow garlic in mid-October. According to Eliot Coleman: “Onion-family plants are greatly affected by the preceding crop in the rotation. The most favorable preceding crops are a fine grass (red-top), lettuce, or a member of the squash family.” Choose your best garlic bulbs, with the biggest cloves, to set aside for planting.
A full plate, indeed!