As of yesterday, the only thing that remains in our vegetable gardens is a lemon drop (read: HOT!) pepper plant. I cleared out the last of the green beans and kale plants last week, and Kyle collected the last haul of squash and other peppers. I also cleared out the cherry tomatoes this weekend (pictured above) – some of them still green, because we had cool weather moving in and I didn’t think they’d survive. I was hoping that they would continue ripening on my kitchen counter, which some have, but now I need to actually DO something with them before they go bad.
I had high hopes of officially putting the gardens “to bed” for the winter this last weekend, but that did not happen, so I’m trying to carve out time one evening this week. This job mainly consists of us pulling any remaining plant material, hand-tilling the beds, and then piling them with compost (our backyard compost bin is almost full).
I think I’ll consider 2017, “The Year of the Bumper Crop” on account of the surprising excess of certain vegetables we’ve had.
Spaghetti squash was by far our best performer. I think we harvested 15 of these puppies, and some were NOT small. One weighed in at 13 pounds! I don’t recall how many squash seeds I planted, but because these grew in our community garden, they quickly got out of control because we didn’t check on them every day like we are able to with our yard beds. They took over the two beds that abut ours in the garden as well as the footpath – we had to do a fair amount of “rerouting” to keep them contained into our 20×10 foot plot.
I’m most delighted that our butternut squash also did great this year – coming in a close second to the spaghetti squash. I didn’t count, but I think we probably harvested a dozen butternuts. We’ve given many away, eaten one already, and are curing the rest in hopes that they will last for a good bit. Kyle and I have differing preferences on how we like to eat our butternut (give me all the butter and brown sugar, I say! While he prefers the savory variety), but Eamon seems to enjoy butternut any old way, so I trust we will have no trouble consuming it all.
The kale was also prolific – it literally started producing in late June and continued giving me weekly basketfuls until I called it quits this first week of October. Much of it we ate in real-time, so to speak, and a good portion of it went straight into the freezer. I simply rinse, de-stem, and pack into gallon-sized ziplock bags. I also tried dehydrating kale for the first time this year because Pinterest told me to, so I have about two quarts of dried Kale flakes that I have yet to use, but I’ve heard are good in soups, eggs, casseroles, etc.
Finally, I must mention the basil. My best year ever, by far! I’m wishing that I had made a little more pesto than I did (I only made five half-pints), but I had neither time nor motivation to do any more pesto-making a few weeks ago when I needed to harvest the basil (lest it succumb to the cold), so I gave the last of it away. However, I transplanted a few stems of basil into a pot in hopes that it will survive the winter on my kitchen counter. I’ve had terrible luck with indoor basil in the past, but nevertheless, the investment in this seemed to outweigh the potential loss, so here’s hoping.
This may be my last mention of our dear gardens until spring, which is a bit sad, but as is usually the case, I’m finding myself pleased with the changing seasons and already turning my focus and energy on indoor endeavors. Though, I had a middle-of-the-night moment of inspiration last night where I thought I’d best hustle over to a farmer’s market this weekend in hopes of securing some late (and cheap!) season tomatoes since I just used up my last jar of marinara sauce. We shall see if my tomato dreams come true…