It did not descend below 32 at our house. But the risk of frost was enough to spur us to pick the tomatoes and butternut squash and bring them inside. Now comes the business of curing and storing the squash, and using the red tomatoes and coaxing the green ones into ripening.
This is our modest and modern version of the English festival “harvest home,” also called ingathering. It’s a celebration of the last day of the harvest, dating from antiquity but still practiced in some places, and involves singing, shouting, and decorating the village with boughs. As the hymn says, “Come, ye thankful people, come, raise the song of harvest home.”
Our red tomatoes will be turned into soup or sauce to be frozen for winter use, or tossed into a salad. Many of the green tomatoes we will ripen by swaddling each in newspaper, but the recalcitrant ones we will turn into green tomato chutney.
We have already canned 25 quarts of tomatoes and have 10 quarts of tomato soup in the freezer. We hope to add to this total over the next month.
We picked 47 pounds of butternut squash, our best harvest ever. We will let these cure in a warm place for 10-14 days, wipe them with diluted bleach, then store them under our bed. They deserve the name “winter squash,” because they really do keep until February or March. I use them for a curried squash and mushroom soup.
The peppers, eggplants and green beans reached their time limit Saturday and got picked. But other vegetables got tucked in for the night with old blankets and sheets. The sweet potatoes, which are new to us this year, received this treatment (photo at right) and will get dug up soon. We covered a volunteer tomato plant that has been growing vigorously (creating the ghostly image below), as well as the celery and the few remaining zucchinis.
This is a time of year when gardeners pay particular attention to the weather. It’s so changeable in New England; after dipping into the low thirties this morning, tomorrow the temperature will soar into the mid-seventies.
Frost is but one phase of life in a garden, and doesn’t stop all the growing. We look for kale to provide us with fresh greens under a hoop house through the winter, and this week I’ll be planting garlic for next year’s crop.
It’s satisfying to be in touch with the cycle of the seasons and carry on the traditions of people through the centuries, gathering in crops before the frost hits and storing them for winter sustenance.
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