After so many years outside cultivating my urban homesteads, I have developed a good sense for temperature. I don’t need to scan the weather report obsessively – I can usually just feel when it’s getting cold enough to threaten frost or warm enough in spring to remove row covers.
Portland has experienced one of the warmest October’s on record, so despite our average first frost date of late October/early November, I haven’t prioritized collecting the final harvest. That is until a couple days ago.
The morning felt remarkably chilly – cold enough that I wanted the fireplace on – and it just felt a little too brisk during the day. I knew we couldn’t put it off a day longer, so I dropped everything to harvest the last of our warm-season vegetables.
Juniper and I dashed into the shed to grab gloves, clippers, and our biggest harvest basket. It turned out we needed more than just one basket, as we returned several times more for a ramshackle collection of buckets.
The late season tomatoes we picked are not great quality. They are less juicy and not quite as sweet as the gems of summer, but we packed them into our basket anyway – about twenty-five pounds of them. I’m planning to cut and dry them for soup and stew starters this winter. I just can’t bring myself to can anymore after putting away dozens, dozens, dozens of canned tomatoes already this fall.
Juniper cleaned off the final Sungold cherry tomatoes, pulled carrots for our dinner that night and plucked the last of our ever-bearing raspberries. She ate about half of the cherry tomatoes and raspberries, which made me feel a bit sad knowing she won’t be grazing as frequently until late spring. There’s just something about the simplicity of watching her gather and eat from the backyard that I’ll miss during these darker days.
I carefully clipped an entire bucket of ripe, gorgeous eggplants. They don’t keep long after harvest, so we’re eating them everyday for the next week. Tonight it’s Szechwan Eggplant Stir Fry. This weekend it’s Moussaka and Eggplant Cacciatore Sandwiches.
Juniper and I made a game out of hunting for the last of our winter squash. “I found one! I found one!” echoed through the garden as our golden afternoon faded quickly into a dark evening.
Winter crops will yield spinach, arugula, kale, broccoli, chard, fava beans and beets, but I expect those to be light harvests until the temperature warms in spring. The next few months are more for planning and dreaming about next year’s garden. As the saying goes, no garden is as great as next season’s garden. And next season will definitely be spectacular!