It’s that time: Time to savor the last fresh bites from the garden. With the first new moon of October, I begin closely watching the forecasted nighttime temperatures. One clear night is all it takes to zap the remaining outdoor vegetables and threaten even the greenhouse goodies. Even though local weather stations recorded 79°F on Tuesday, I could be frantically harvesting before a potential freeze tomorrow night.
Fall’s weather swings are always unexpected, and every year I try—and fail—to time each plant’s final harvest just right. Instead of bemoaning the last round of beans that froze on the vine, I look instead to the boxes of produce all over my little cabin, ripening and waiting to be eaten and preserved.
We’ve been busy in the garden in the recent warm days, digging and plucking this year’s crops and prepping for next season’s plants. Digging potatoes, planting garlic, weeding and amending beds cleared of earlier crops, and saving seeds for next year are just some of the many garden chores. I’m anxiously watching for apples and tomatoes to ripen and shell beans to reach full size so that I can harvest them before the weather turns.
Many of these big fall harvests are destined for storage bins or canning jars, and my fermentation crock is again full of cabbage. But a portion lands in my favorite fresh meals that signal the end of summer’s bounty.
Hanging on to Summer
Last month, an unpredicted hard frost cut my summer harvest short. Cucumber, snap bean, and zucchini plants clung on but never recovered enough to churn out a final crop. So in recent days, I’ve been fixing some of my favorite summer dishes using the final round of these frost-intolerant vegetables:
- Quick-Pickled Cucumber Salad (Sunomono)
- Panzanella (Tomato and Bread Salad)
- Zucchini Pancakes with Fresh Asian Salad
- Garden Risotto
- Three-Bean Salad
- Grilled Thin-Crust Pizza with fresh toppings
Fall’s Tough Breaks
When harvesting fall crops and planting overwintered ones, individuals inevitably suffer damage. Carrots break as they are pulled, potatoes get speared by the broad fork or spade, garlic cloves split their peels, and dew-touched tomatoes break their skins. But broken doesn’t mean inedible: it means “use me first.” That philosophy puts these dishes on my October radar:
- Asian Cabbage Salad
- Moroccan Shaved and Roasted Carrots
- Spanish Shrimp in Garlic Oil
- Herbed-Tomato Dip
- Braised Breakfast Potatoes
- Tangy Potato Mashers
Grab It All
When freezing temperatures are imminent, it’s time to admit the growing season is done. Anything that’s developed enough to set fruit but comes up short of fully grown gets plucked. Some may ripen indoors over coming weeks; others just want to be enjoyed. That late planting of beets and carrots will never mature, and the last blooms that formed tomatoes and peppers will never change from green to red. But other plants hit their peak: apples picked after a light frost but before frigid nights taste sweet and store well. Here’s how I enjoy the season’s true last bites:
- Basic Potato Salad
- Fried Green Tomatoes
- Glazed Carrots
- Orange-Sweetened Marinated Beets
- Curried Green Tomatoes
- Apple Crumble Pie
Twice as Tasty
Plenty of my final harvest is intended for winter enjoyment: canned, fermented, frozen, or stored just as it came out of the garden. This time of year, the biggest challenge is finding space to save what I grew. My canning shelves are full. Bins of storage vegetables take up all available mudroom floor space. Almost everything in my refrigerator is a ferment. We will be eating well.
As part of my fall cleanup, I redesigned the blog’s recipe page to entice you into saving your own home- or locally grown treats. It highlights some of my favorite recipes and those that most often draw in other readers. I’ll update this page as new recipes appear, including later this month. You can still find a full listing of Twice as Tasty recipes by clicking any of the “See more” links. I hope this redesigned page, and the recipes highlighted here, make your fall as tasty as mine.
Get recipes for that use your fall harvest in pickles, salsas, chutneys, and more in my cookbook, The Complete Guide to Pickling. Click here to order a personally signed, packaged, and shipped copy directly from me. I share more tasty treats in The Pickled Picnic, a digital collection in an easy-to-read PDF format. It’s available exclusively through Twice as Tasty.
2 thoughts on “Last Bites”
I just harvested the last of my pathetic looking basil, which will be delicious pesto for the freezer. 70s later this afternoon; 50s tonight.
It looks like we might hit 29 tonight, so I’ll be doing the same thing! My pathetic basil has been hanging on in the greenhouse, but even with that protection it likely won’t survive until morning.
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