The Final Harvest

While it wouldn’t take an archaeologist or a crime scene investigator to know that it was once a garden, the garden is pretty well finished for the year. Given the state of the whole garden and the recent harvest, I think it’s safe to say that I’m done for the season. Since I’m officially calling the season closed, we’re due for a detailed summary of the whole season. But, first, about that final harvest…

I’d been monitoring the carrots fairly closely all season long — looking for signs of growth and promise. Carrots — being root vegetables — don’t offer a lot of information above ground. Though it’s tempting to assume the size of the greens is at least some indicator of the size of the root growing beneath the surface, trust me, it’s all smoke and mirrors!

Carnival Blend Carrots 1Grabbing them by the greens, near the soil level, I ripped them from the bed — sometimes individually and sometimes in manageable clumps. I can honestly say that some of the smallest carrots had the biggest greens while some of the smallest greens were found attached to the largest carrots in the entire garden.

When I first started pulling them out, I was a bit humbled. “Ach! This is all I get?!” I wondered. But, as I progressed through the bed, I realized the bag was getting quite heavy and I was only finished with one of the three varieties I’d planted! By the time I was done, I’d harvested about 12 pounds of carrots of varying sizes and colors!

Carnival Blend Carrots 2

The showiest of all the varieties, of course, was the Carnival Blend carrots. Harvesting them was a treat as the greens gave no clue as to what color lay beneath the soil! Varying shades of orange were among them, but also golden yellow, beet red, and white. In case you were wondering, each color does have its own distinct taste. The white ones tasted almost exactly like parsnips while the red ones had a flavor that was somewhere between a carrot and a very sweet sweet potato (a sweet potarrot?).

Royal Chantenay & Tonda di Parigi Carrots 2

The Tonda di Parigi and Royal Chantenay varieties — while not able to boast the fancy color and flavor variations — did at least make a good standing as far as bulk and quality. The Tonda di Parigi — which is one of few carrots ideally suited for container growing — produces a short, almost bulb-like root with a sweet yet wild and “woodsy” tang. For two years I grew these successfully on the balcony, so it was nice to see how they performed in actual soil.

The Royal Chantenay is also not a bad candidate for container growing, in my opinion. They produce a typical, tap root shaped carrot, but are slightly shorter and much fatter than the more conventional varieties. All of the carrots are happily being stored in the refrigerator which is, admittedly, getting a little crowded, lately! I may try canning a few of these to add to soups, later.

I also took the opportunity to harvest the remainder of the scallions. There were far more remaining to be harvested than I’d anticipated, however, so the only rightful way to store them that I could think of was to put them in a vase and display them as though they were some minimalist floral arrangement. They are quite tasty!

Jarrahdale Pumpkin & Green Onions

Though I’d remained skeptical of the vines’ laissez-faire handling of the wee pumpkins (the vines often putting the pumpkins in perilous positions that I could not correct without harming the vine or the pumpkin), the Jarrahdales ended up producing four nice-sized pumpkins — though some were more shapely than others. As was promised by the seed packet, they were very striking in Jarrahdale Pumpkins 1color. I was a bit puzzled, however, that they did not seem to store very well.

While the ten Sugar Pie pumpkins I’ve harvested have been sitting idly by for nearly a month, now, without a sign of spoilage, all of the Jarrahdales began to ooze a clear, sap-like gel within 24 hours of being harvested. The gel oozed from seemingly random spots along the body of each pumpkin. Cutting them open revealed that they had not spoiled in any way, but — since they were making a mess and I didn’t know where it would lead — I ended up processing all four pumpkins rather than storing them. It’s a shame, too, since they were so interesting to look at.

The flesh of the Jarrahdale pumpkins was a very vivid orange — especially in contrast to the more yellowish-orange Sugar Pie pumpkin. IMG_1324Their smell was different, too — falling somewhere between a pumpkin and a very ripe cantaloupe (I knight thee, Sir Squashaloupe). It’s too early to make a judgment on the overall taste of this variety — I’ve only cooked two recipes, so far, with the purée I’ve made from their pulp. Incidentally, both were new recipes I’d developed, therefore giving me no point of comparison, but it does seem the Jarrahdales may impart a stronger, sweeter flavor than the Sugar Pie variety since the pumpkin flavor of both recipes was pleasantly prominent (pumpkin is a flavor that typically slips into the background, I find).

Finally, taking the pruning shears in hand, I managed to bring myself to cut a few of the Autumn Beauty sunflower blossoms. I’ve always had a hard time cutting flowers — it almost feels like murder to me. I’m not quite sure why I don’t feel the same about severing cucumbers and pumpkins from their mother vine, mercilessly and repeatedly tearing away appendages of herb plants, or ripping out carrots by their hair… gardening’s funny that way, I suppose.

Autumn Beauty Sunflower Bouquet

At any rate, the flowers were murdered/harvested for a worthy cause, as my sister-in-law, Georgia, was in town visiting us and she loves sunflowers — especially the ones with orangish-red color variations. These cheery little blossoms adorned our breakfast and dinner table for the duration of her visit and I sent her home with some seeds from this variety to try in her garden for next year.

So, with autumn making its presence known a little more each day, the garden has almost completely gone to bed. The only viable plants remaining are the still-surviving indeterminate tomato varieties (but they are not producing as heavily), a few thyme plants and the giant sage bush, and the ever-faithful pole beans. I’ve harvested nearly two pounds of dried Kentucky Wonder beans and I’m hoping to get at least a pound of Scarlet Emperor beans before the frost comes, but I remain skeptical on that front.

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~ by Jason on September 14, 2010.

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