Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Noshing in November!

November is all about food.

"You should make a harvest calendar," someone said to me recently: a list of what we can harvest, month by month, from our garden and landscape. I like a challenge. It's easy to have bounty from your back yard, in, say, July. One peach tree can produce hundreds of fruit. With stone fruit varieties available to ripen as early as May and as late as October, a well-planned and rigorously pruned family orchard can readily yield from late spring into early fall. Citrus varieties ripen winter and spring, with some outliers into the summer and beyond (kumquats and Meyer lemons can have ripe fruit all year).

By now most gardeners have pulled their tomatoes, perhaps planted a few winter vegetables. The fruit trees are dropping their leaves. Perhaps grandmother made jams and preserves from the summer garden to enjoy during winter, but "putting food by" is a less common practice nowadays. What could be in your harvest basket in November and December?

A November harvest basket!
Clockwise from the upper rose: 'Owari Satsuma' mandarin, Feijoa; turnips, sweet peppers, rose hips; walnuts; hot peppers; Arbutus (small white blossoms). All surrounded by Ginkgo leaves.

The vegetable garden.

We almost always have sunny, dry weather here in the fall. While I have pulled most of my tomatoes, I was still harvesting fruit into November. Nights in the 40's and a couple of rainstorms put an end to that. But don't pull your pepper plants, if you have room: the green fruit that have set in late summer will continue to ripen nearly until frost.
This year we built a new vegetable planter primarily for root vegetables. I was curious if we could get winter vegetables going early enough to harvest for the Thanksgiving meal. Root vegetables like loose soil, and I decided that the easiest way to accomplish that was with a raised bed. So 2 x 12's were hammered into a 4 x 8 rectangle. The soil was amended with 2 parts compost to 1 part native soil, dug thoroughly to a depth of about 18 inches. A mini-sprinkler water line was attached and run nearly daily. Seeds were planted in early September: radishes, carrots, turnips, and beets. I could have planted parsnips, but my suspicion is that nobody would eat them; maybe next year.
Voila! Radishes were ready in October. Turnips will be on the Thanksgiving table, parboiled and then braised in butter and pepper. Beets are just bulging, so they will be later holiday fare. And the carrots look to be at least a month or so away. Brussels sprouts planted nearby have just begun to form their odd little side sprouts; six plants may produce enough for a small side dish now, with lots more to come as they mature up the stem. Lettuce and other salad greens can be harvested within a few weeks of planting; likewise Pak choi and Swiss chard. And all of these will continue to yield through the winter and spring, until hot weather returns.

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