It’s mid-November here in zone 4, and there’s still plenty to eat in my vegetable garden. Most prolific and versatile is the arugula. I have been eating it almost every day since September and there’s still LOTS. I eat it raw as salad, chop and sauté it with shallots and mix it into pasta or white beans. I eat it on pizza, put it in sandwiches, or just munch on it when I’m outside. My next door neighbor comes over once or twice a week to fill up a plastic bag for herself. Another friend does the same.
I planted several different types of arugula in the middle of August—filling in empty spots in the garden as other plants were removed. I could start nibbling leaves about a month later and it really started to come on strong around the end of September. Though the plants can take a light frost, by early October we’re getting hard frosts. So I covered all the plants with hoops and GardenQuilt. They’ve been thriving in this little microclimate, which buffers them from temperature extremes than have ranged from 72 degrees to 18 degrees.
I could go on and on about my arugula but instead I’ll mention a couple other vegetables that I’m still harvesting fresh: cavalo nero (lacinata kale) is at its best (I think!) when blanched and then sautéed in olive oil. I usually remove the center stalks. Gutsy in texture and flavor, it’s one of those plants that makes your body say “YES!” when you eat it.
There are also plenty of leeks, which I’ve barely started to harvest because I’m still finishing up the last of the sweet onions. Usually one of the vegetable garden beauties, they’re now looking bedraggled on the outside, but the eating part is fine. I’ll be banking them with straw this weekend so they’ll still be in good shape for Thanksgiving dinner.
Then there are the beets, both golden and red. I’m partial to the golden ones because they don’t “bleed”. Johnny’s Selected Seeds offered a new variety of golden beets this year (Touchstone Gold) that I was thrilled to confirm has a much higher germination rate than other golden beets. I planted most of my beets sometime in June, and though I could have started harvesting them in August, they are the most patient of vegetables and are just waiting their turn, getting sweeter by the day. I usually peel them first, cut into big chunks, toss with olive oil, cover with foil and roast in a 400 degree oven until tender. I sometimes add garlic or shallots, sometimes carrots, potatoes or squash. Roasted root vegetables make a great lunch.
These fall vegetables are not only free, organic, nutritious, fresh and right outside the door—they’re also delicious. They feel like the right foods to be eating at this time of year—earth energy to fuel our bodies as we come indoors for winter.