This Weeks Share: Beets, Chard, Cucumber, Garlic, Lettuce, Onions, Peppers, Poblano hot peppers, Nicola potatoes, Tomatoes, Carnival winter squash, Thyme
I hate to be the one to break it to you, but summer is ending.
And how do I know this? Well, these are the sorts of things farmers tend to notice. We are keen observers of nature, and of course the weather impacts us in profound ways. For instance, I have recently had to go back to wearing socks.
There are other clues. The small skeins of geese flying south. And north, east and west. If they are migrating they are doing a lousy job of it. They’re as likely to end up back on the tundra as in some balmy climate. Perhaps they are just practicing flying in formation. One does not really think of birds practicing such things. They’re simply supposed to know how to do it, oddly because they are not so bright. The dumber you are, the more instinct controls your behavior. We are so clever it takes us years to figure out anything at all, let alone how to cooperate with one another while commuting to speed up everybody’s travel. Actually, we seem to be way too bright ever to get the hang of that. Or possibly any other truly productive form of communal cooperation. For all I know, though, it does not come easily to geese either. Hence all that rather tetchy honking at one another.
I don’t know if weeds run purely on instinct or possess some malevolent intelligence. Biology tends to suggest the former, but experience makes me lean towards the latter. Like the geese, the weeds have noted the shortening days and cold nights. They know the end is near. If the could, they would probably form flocks and head for warmer places too. But they have put down too many roots to move on. So instead they are frantically doing everything in their power to go to seed. They don’t have time to grow big and strong, but even the tiniest amongst them can reproduce before it is too late. Lamb’s Quarters two or three inches tall, like evil bonsais, are busy ensuring that we will have plenty of work next year hoeing out their offspring. They are probably just concerned about us. Idle hands are something or other bad. With all those weeds we won’t have to figure out what precisely.
I don’t particularly feel inclined to fly south. Balmy climates are not entirely my thing. Too upbeat maybe, or just too balmy. I actually enjoy a nice bleak November day, the land’s contours revealed again through the bare trees. I am not averse to brighter colors, but the late autumn palette of grays and browns and faded greens seems just as worthy of appreciation as any garish summer display.
As bracing as this weather is, my body seems to be preparing for hibernation. I am hungrier, slower, and on warm afternoons feel a strong inclination to curl up in the underbrush for a long nap. Some deep inner ursine part of my brain is watching the corn ripen, watching the first leaves fall, watching the asters bloom in the ditches, watching the apples ripen, watching those geese headed this way and that. It sees summer passing, sees how early the sun goes down, feels the shock of that early morning chill, and it just wants we to crawl into my den and wait for another growing season.
It is tempting. We have planted a lot of seedlings, pulled a lot of weeds, picked a lot of crops. A good long rest seems in order. Except it isn’t. We are not nearly done yet. The onions and squash are in the barn, the last transplants are in the ground, the sunflowers all turned to seed. But we still have a lot of crops to tend and harvest and hand out. There’s a little more time to slack off, to lean against the tailgate and chat, to dawdle on the way to the potato patch Only a little though. Summer’s ending, but our season goes on.
Vegetable notes: The summer crops have noticed the changes too. Tomato production has fallen off significantly in the past week, you may have seen the last summer squash of the year (is that cheering I hear?) and the peppers are all trying to ripen at the same time. I watch these crops die off with some regret. Well, maybe not the squash so much. But there’s no replacement for a real ripe tomato.
Fortunately, there are other crops to take the tomato’s place. This cool weather keeps flea beetles at bay and helps leafy crops stay sweet and tender, and roots don’t really care what is going on up in our world.
As you can see, the summer crops are not quite done yet. You could make a last batch of gazpacho or a summery potato and beet salad. If you are feeling more autumnal, you might consider squash soup or roasted potatoes, beets and onions (the Nicola potatoes are excellent roasted). And if you cannot make up your mind, why not sauté the peppers (the Poblanos are the dark green ones) and onions slowly in olive oil with thyme and finish with a little lemon juice. You can eat them hot or cold as the mood and season strike you.