The lingering harvest

IMG_20141002_075356583We have never harvested a zucchini in October before. Or a cucumber. Or a pepper.

As the leaves start to turn, we have more warm-weather vegetables still growing than ever before. There has been no killing frost yet, but that’s only part of the story.

We were able to avoid the insect infestations that have typically zapped our zucchini and cucumber plants, so they survived to keep on keeping on. We covered the zucchini plants for longer than usual, frustrating the vine borer moth. When we opened them up and exposed their flowers, they attracted cucumber beetles, which I squished. Both plants benefited.

There were fewer 90-degree days than usual this summer, but the first frost is coming later. This is enabling us to eat up the cucumbers still in our fridge, and give more away, while knowing there will still be more to pick (such as the one in photo above). The zucchini plants look exhausted, but there are still some tiny ones with the potential to grow to full size (photo below).

Over in the pepper bed, Betsy and I have had a difference of opinion. She wanted to delay picking the abundant peppers because she thought they would turn red and become sweeter. Well, that hasn’t happened, but insects and slugs have gotten into some of them. Later this week, I plan to pick all of the peppers, core them and cut them up, then freeze them in plastic bags. The hot peppers (called “Czech Black”) are doing very well and turning a beautiful color, though they’re not as hot as expected.

IMG_20141002_075445606The celery is also still in the ground. We’ve never grown this before and have much more than we need, and I’ve already made several batches of celery soup. I’d like to know other ways to preserve it. Also in the backyard garden are rutabagas, kale, celeriac and carrots, which can all stand a frost.

Over at the community garden, eggplants and butternut squash are the only ones left. I’ve let the eggplants go a lot longer than usual, but I think that they just don’t get any bigger this late in the season. I’ll probably make eggplant caviar and freeze it next week.

It’s about time to pick the butternut squash. I’ll set them outside to cure for a week or so, then store them under our bed, which by mid-October is cool enough. Here’s a great recipe from the Moosewood Cookbook for squash soup, with a secret ingredient I often ask guests to guess. I tell them it’s something you don’t usually find in soup, but many people consume it every day.

4 medium butternut squash

5 cups stock

2 cups orange juice (the secret ingredient)

4 Tbsp butter or oil

1 cup chopped onion

2 cloves garlic, minced

12 oz mushrooms, sliced

1 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp coriander

1 tsp cinnamon

1 1/2 tsp ginger

1/2 tsp dry mustard

2 tsp salt

Bake squash in 375-degree oven for 30 minutes or until soft. Cool and scoop out about 6 cups of flesh. Put it in a blender with the stock and puree. Combine in kettle with orange juice. Heat butter and add garlic, onion, salt and spices. Add mushrooms, cover and cook for 10 minutes. Put in kettle with the squash mixture. If you like hot stuff, add a little cayenne.


One thought on “The lingering harvest

  1. Thanks for the advice on the butternut squash. I will harvest mine today. Another twist to the soup is to add a dollop of red pepper. (Had that in a restaurant once and bought some, in a bottle, but I cannot remember exactly what it was called.)

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