In addition to anticipating the Harvest Moon every September, I start watching for spider weavers and webs, and eventually go on a hunt with my camera. Check out this earlier post for more about spiders in the the fall and photos from that year. The answer to my trivia question is “b” although probably also “c” and “d” (trick question). Spiders mate in the fall, and females, anticipating their demise (maybe its just instinctual, but I’m inclined to give them credit for thinking ahead) they spin more webs to catch the food that will feed their babies when they hatch out come spring, sans mama. Spiders are our friends in the garden, and so there’s that bit of trivia, too. They are marvelous creatures, and if you want an amazing fall late afternoon or early evening activity, go looking for a spider spinning or fixing her web and watch what she can do.
The emergence of all these spider webs also signals goodbye to certain crops. The tomatoes you see in the Market from this point on are still worth eating, especially stewed, sauteed, or roasted, but they have acquired the chill of fall and are quickly dwindling away, especially the tender heirloom beefsteak varieties. Cucumbers are winding down too, and summer squash, but actually, we need them to diminish to make room for all the colorful, hearty, winter squash, and sweet potatoes. Besides, having them go gives us a whole year to remember their goodness and to look forward to their return while enjoying the fruits this season provides…
Anticipated in the Market
Red Kuri or Baby Blue Hubbard Squash
Kale (Dinosaur, Red Russian & Meadowlark)
Tromboncino & Patty Pan
Marketmore and Green Finger Cucumbers
Copia, Pineapple, & Rose de Berne Tomatoes (a few)
Roma and San Marzano Paste Tomatoes (a few more)
Yellow Pear, Indigo, Matt’s Wild, & Snow White Cherry Tomatoes
Black Beauty & de la Guardia Eggplant
Jalepeno, Serrano, and Cayenne Peppers
Mint & Sage
Pick One or Two
Blue Lake, Yellow Wax, & Fortex Beans
Baby Red Onions
If you happen to choose a pepper with a bit of red or yellow color on it, keep it on the counter or in the pantry for a week and it will change completely over to red or yellow. We harvest them when they just start to turn, although unfortunately we’re finding a blight on many of our peppers that appears with the first hint of color. I’m cutting around it, and using them–these are the ones you might find in the help yourself bin. Peppers freeze well. Core and de-seed, and then chop them up and freeze them on a cookie sheet. Once frozen store in wax-lined cardboard boxes or glass jars or freezer bags.
New from the Field
Blue Hubbard and Red Kuri Squash
All of the varieties of squash we have from this point on are eatable and great in pies, breads, soups and stews, muffins, and pancakes. They can also simply be prepared as a side (roasted cubes or slices of squash are delicious drizzled with a bit of butter, and sprinkled with salt, and pepper). Some will be sweeter, some nuttier, but these pumpkins are not stringy like the Howden (your Jack-o-Lantern). If you choose a large squash this week (or in any coming week) you can freeze or can whatever you don’t eat the first round for use later in the winter. I generally split the larger squash into smaller pieces, remove the seeds and stringy center and roast the squash in the oven until fork tender. Since I have a pressure canner, I preserve some in pint jars, but you can also freeze cooked squash in one or two cup bags to pull out later.
Since so many of these squash are beautiful or unique, use them as decoration through Thanksgiving and then cook them up. They will keep well through Thanksgiving. If you plan to keep them longer know that they do best stored at about 60 degrees, so your porch is a perfect place for now, but bring it in for a centerpiece when you want one. Don’t let it freeze if you plan to eat it. Bring it inside on a night where temperatures are expected to drop below 40, or store it/then in the garage at that point.
This teardrop-shaped squash is a baby red Hubbard type of fruit–a mix of pumpkin and Blue Hubbard. The flesh is smooth-textured and good for pies and purees. Also know as Orange Hokkaido.
Sweet potatoes are a tropical plan, and prefer hotter weather than we usually get in the northwest, but this summer has made for happy sweet potato vines and we’re glad to be able to share some with you. These haven’t been cured yet (we are curing others as we speak), so they won’t be as sweet as the next batch. If you want to cure these rather than eat them right away, keep them in a warm (75-85˚ space) for a week to 10 days and then store them where it’s about 55˚. Even if you eat these now they will be good–just not as sweet as they get once the sugars have a chance to convert. Sweet potatoes pack a lot of health benefits into something that already tastes a bit like eating dessert. In fact the beta carotene (higher than in any other vegetable) is better absorbed when some fat is consumed with the potato, so go ahead and add a pat of butter to that potato, or drizzle it with a bit of olive oil. Sweet potatoes are valuable for their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory traits, though I mostly like just thinking of them as one of the delicious expressions of God’s creativity, love, and care for sweet potato eaters everywhere. You can cut them into little cubes and roast, steam or boil them rather quickly. Mash them, eat them as a baked potato, in black bean and sweet potato enchiladas, or use them in soups and stews (like this African Sweet Potato & Peanut Stew). In the store you often only see the big roots, we’re including a wider range of what we find in the dirt, which includes skinny roots and fat ones, small ones and big ones, long ones and short ones. Enjoy them all.