Farm Life: Preserving the Harvest, Part 8, Cool Weather Crops

While the rush of activity in the garden usually slows at the end of September or early October, cool weather crops continue to grow until we have a killing freeze.  Frosty mornings often arrive in mid-October, and the 20th is technically the night on which we would expect to find all above ground foliage frozen and wilted.

Fall Gardens at Colonial Williamsburg

This year we had snow instead, which insulates the plants nicely right above the freezing level.   The night temperatures have remained in the upper 30F’s and 40F’s since the snow.  So, here we are, the last day of Novermber, harvesting lettuce, cabbage, brussles sprouts, cauliflower, and broccoli.  If the EPA were to test for methane levels in our home, our garden might be shut down!

A turnip to fill the pot

Other cool weather crops include the root crops, which protect themselves in the warm soil until winter really sets in after the New Year and the ground freezes.  All summer, potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, and turnups send up stems and vines covered in energy capturing leaves.  These little solar collectors charge up the carbohydrate batteries under ground for storage well into the winter.

Digging Potatoes

We start harvesting new potatoes in late July, but we are usually so busy in August and September, and have many short lived vegetables at that time, that we leave the potatoes for fall harvesting.  Of course, we dig up as many rocks as we do potatoes in the harvest, but this just clears the garden soil a little further down.  Potatoes and sweet potatoes can be stored in bushel baskets in the root cellar.  Carrots and turnips last longer by layering them with sawdust in boxes before storage.  We will be grilling, baking, and stewing these up until March.

Sneaking out to get you

While technically not a cool weather plant, nor even one that we should be able to grow this far north, fall brings on the Attack of the Luffa.  We grew these a couple of years ago on a whim, and now could probably not eradicate them from the fields.  They start later in the season, thus evading the attack of the squash and bean beetles.  Late in the season, they put out pretty yellow flowers when most other vegetables are growing fruits instead.    If you are observant, you can harvest the fingerling fruits and dice them up like zucchini.   But, most likely, you will be walking around the garden when you trip over a vine which has escaped across a less trod path, or worse stub you toe on a baseball bat sized luffa.  Let them grow as large and long as you may.

Flowering on a fence

But, what is a luffa?  The place that you have most likely encountered the end product of luffa is in the healthy and beauty section of the store.  Those cream colored, sponge things that you use while bathing to exfoliate dry skin are the innards of luffa.  Of course, what they are selling you in the store is a fraction of a luffa.  A full grown luffa might be two feet long and take two hands to pick up and carry.  When you harvest theses, you have a water filled vegetable which can no longer be eaten and is too wet to peal.  Plan to devote some floor space near a sunny window to let them dry for a few weeks.  Luffa which did not mature will grow white fuzzy mold, which will inform you to cull these from the harvest and toss them into the field.  The goats still manage to eat these: good fiber for the rumin.

Cut, Peal, Dry

When the luffa begin to dry out, and shaking them looses up the seeds, you are ready for preparing your bath and kitchen sponges.  Cut off the ends, run the knife longitudinally end to end, and peal back the dry skin.  You now have a mesh network of the luffa innards.  This needs to dry for a few days.  Now you can shake out thousands of black seeds and decide what neighbor to play a practical joke on by scattering a few luffa seeds in their yard (learned that one from Vicar’s Dad).  Of course, you can only use so many luffa in the tub, so some of you might be finding luffa in your Christmas stocking.  I have not decided whether this is a reward for being naughty or nice, yet.


About hermitsdoor

Up here in the mountains, we have a saying, "You can't get there from here", which really means "We wouldn't go the trouble to do that". Another concept is that "If you don't know, we ain't telling." For the rest, you'll have to read between the lines.
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5 Responses to Farm Life: Preserving the Harvest, Part 8, Cool Weather Crops

  1. The Vicar says:

    I think that I have just expanded my luffa knowledge exponentially. I thought they came from the ocean. I shall check my stocking on Christmas morning to see if I have lived a life worthy of a luffa from Santa.

  2. Hermit says:

    First you must memorize six verses each from Romans and Galatians. I’m still not sure whether you get a luffa for reciting them correctly, or if you make errors. Maybe Luffa is a Vegetable of the Spirit 😉

  3. The Vicar says:

    Hmmm, sounds like a catch 22. If I memorize six verses each from Romans and Galatians I may show that I am more interested in keeping the law, which when kept, turns to pride. I now have earned God’s love and feel entitled to special treatment from God, thereby exposing my “inner Pharisee”.

    Conversely, I could ignore the invitation to learn scripture (which rather than being law, might be for my own good), live happily in my slothful ignorance, guided only by my thoughts, opinions and feelings (I’ll call this my “inner paraphrase”), which have now become my idols informing my selfish desires, in the hope that grace will prevail and my stocking will indeed contain a luffa instead of coal.

  4. iedarla says:

    I love fresh foods from the garden! And I did know that the luffa was a type of Gourd, and not a sponge. We had a neighbor from Arabia when I was a kid that grew them. But they strung them up like my dad did his green beans, but on a bigger scale of course… They were beauties.

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