Cucumber, Brandywine tomato. parsley, basil. Blossoms of borage, Monarda didyma and scarlet runner bean. Aug. 31, 2019. Photo: Judy Isacoff

NATURE’S TURN: Harvest, feast and prepare for storage, renewal

Harvesting, preparing and preserving the season’s crops, combined with ongoing care of the plants and soil, has reached a climax of activity.

September 9 – 22, 2019

Mount Washington — With the spirit of a juggler, I toss green beans into a steaming pot, squeeze pickling cucumbers into a glass jar and arrange 5-inch round slices of a ripe red tomato on a platter, all the while painfully resisting the garden’s insistent call. A bed of deep brown earth, bared of its carrot crop, called for its seeding of winter rye.

Oh! I forgot the basil I harvested, chopped and strewed on the Brandywine tomato and the first head of new garlic I brought in from the drying shed. I cleaned garlic cloves and added them to the pickle jar along with fresh picked dill and coriander seed.

Harvesting, preparing and preserving the season’s crops, combined with ongoing care of the plants and soil, has reached a climax of activity.

Cippolini onion, buttercup squash runt, Magic Molly potato, red pepper, zucchini and corn. Aug. 31, 2019. Photo: Judy Isacoff

This is my to-do list:

  • Check all brassicas for both green and cross-striped cabbageworms. Harvest broccoli heads and prune lower leaves of kale and collards; shred and sauté for current eating and freezing.
  • Check muskmelons, which are ready to eat when their fragrance fills the air and the melon falls off its stem when gently lifted, known as “full slip.”
  • Pull a few beets and turnips every day. Prepare tops and roots for current eating; in the absence of a root cellar, store extra roots in reused perforated plastic produce bags. Refrigerate.
  • Take down the hanging bunches of stowed, dried garlic plants. Cut the bulbs off the stems, and clean and place in mesh bags. Separate out the bulbs with the largest cloves to save for planting next month.
  • Cut any remaining dried tops off harvested onions; leave about an inch. Brush away loose skins and cull misshapen or bruised onions; eat these first. Store fully cured bulbs in mesh bags and hang in cold room.
  • Check all winter squash for dryness of stems and hardness of skin before removing from garden to storage indoors in a cool, dark room. Harvest remaining potatoes and cure in hot location.
  • Harvest red, yellow and orange peppers. Add to pickles or slice and briefly sauté surplus and freeze.
  • Weed and aerate harvested beds; rake smooth and broadcast winter rye grains. Cover seed with a quarter inch of soil.
  • Water all vegetable seedlings and cover crop beds.
New York Ironweed (Vernonia noveboracensis) with giant swallowtail butterfly (Heraclides cresphontes). The giant swallowtail and female tiger swallowtails are the largest North American butterflies. Sept. 4, 2019. Photo: Judy Isacoff

Taking a respite from these tasks, I sit beside my garden to write to you. Pollinators alight on late summer blossoms. An uncommon butterfly feeds on a 10-foot-tall New York ironweed (Vernonia noveboracensis). I am enchanted by this visitor, a giant swallowtail (Heraclides cresphontes).

Call to action

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