Monday, November 3, 2014

Gardeners' Holidays 2014: Late Harvest

Here in USDA Zone 7a, the garden hasn't exactly stopped producing by early November, but it's definitely winding down. After our first frost in mid-October, we picked the few little tomatoes that were left on the vine and brought them inside to ripen in a paper bag. There are still some lima beans on the trellises, but we've already picked all our winter squash; the beds harbor a few leeks and some parsley, but we've finished off the last of the lettuce and arugula. Our Brussels sprouts, of which we had such high hopes, are still just feeble clusters of leaves, and it looks unlikely at this point that they'll coalesce into proper heads before winter hits. (Next year we'll start them a lot earlier.) And on Saturday, Brian pulled the last few scrawny scallions out of the bed to use in a sausage and apple omelet.

This recipe comes from Olwen Woodier's Apple Cookbook. We usually make it with Gimme Lean Veggie Breakfast Sausage, which has the right texture for crumbling and frying in a skillet, though unlike real pork sausage, it requires the addition of some olive oil to brown properly. You simply brown about half a tube of Gimme Lean in a pan, then add a couple of sliced scallions and a peeled, chopped apple, cook it until it's softened, prepare the eggs in a separate pan, and spoon the sausage filling into them. Paired with some whole-wheat toast, it's satisfying as either a brunch or a light supper. (I would have liked to celebrate this Gardeners' Holiday with a meal that featured our own garden produce a little more prominently—perhaps something with butternut squash—but we were eating out at a friend's house that evening, so we had to make do with brunch instead of dinner.)

This meager handful of scallions surely isn't actually the last harvest we'll get out of our garden this year. Our rhubarb, for example, is still trooping gamely along, and it should easily yield enough for a Thanksgiving pie, plus more for the freezer. We can also hope to pick a few leeks and limas before winter settles in. But it's certainly one of the last, a bittersweet reminder that autumn's bounty is drawing to its end. Soon enough, it will be time to mulch the beds for their long winter's nap, while we settle ourselves inside to snuggle under blankets, sip hot cocoa, and page through seed catalogues dreaming of next year's garden. So while we still can, we'll savor the treasures of fall that remain—the last of our winter squash, the orchard-ripe apples, the butter beans—while stuffing our pantry and freezer as full as we can to see us through the winter to come.
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