Thursday, November 6, 2008

Cover crops and fall salads

The last few weeks have been busy as we finish removing and building new compost piles with all the vegetation from our summer crops and generally cleaning up. We clean, sharpen and oil our garden tools before storing them, and tackle the inevitable task of organizing our garden storage shed after a busy summer of pulling things out without putting them away properly. (Now if I could only be as organized about all the CDs piling up around my stereo or at least act on my last year's resolution to get them onto my computer so I can listen to them when I work! )
fava beans as green manureTrial garden manager Lindsay and her assistant Mila are busy sowing fava beans as a "green manure" crop in many of our biggest garden beds that grew heavy feeders this summer and will lie fallow over the cold season. Although we get hard frost here, the sturdy fava beans will grow through the winter and both fix nitrogen in the soil and produce lots of top growth. When they begin to bloom in spring, we will pull them and compost all the green material so they end up being entirely recycled. ( Of course we always save a little patch to grow the beans to the shelling stage and harvest them. I particularly like to quickly steam young ones to make fava bean pâté with fruity olive oil, minced garlic, lemon juice and salt-and-pepper!)
summer bouquet lettuce seedsIn our upper garden beds, we are enjoying looking at and eating a late crop of our "Summer Bouquet lettuce" trio. Alongside is a small bed of Merveille de Quatre Saisons butterheads, one of my other favorite late-season lettuces for their bronzy color and sweet flavor.
Merveille de Quatre Saisons butterhead late season lettuceThese tasty lettuces make really appetizing fall salads combined with a few fresh chives, a big handful of Italian parsley and slices of golden orange persimmon with a sprinkle ruby red pomegranate seeds and toasted sliced almonds over the top. New harvests of fall fruits like these are in the markets now as we head for Thanksgiving.

I've been lucky to have had a persimmon tree for years but it got split by lightning last fall and what remains of it has taken a year off from fruiting. Our local farmers market continues weekly through the end of November and I've been going regularly to buy persimmons, artichokes, new crop walnuts, almonds and raisins.
king midas carrotsFinally, we've grown out our King Midas carrots. They are ready to harvest now although we'll probably keep some in the ground to sweet up even more with the frosts. fall produce harvestLittle Pepper, the adorable ( but feisty) dog that Lindsay takes care of when his owners are away, has been a regular trial garden visitor and love his carrots. Here's a picture of him guarding them and another of my harvest basket yesterday afternoon.

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