Final Harvest… Finally?!

With temps forecast around 0 (fahrenheit – the “real” temperature) coming this weekend, I took my trusty trug and harvest knife and made my final rounds in the gardens this afternoon. Lugged in a bunch more kale, several heads of celery, very small cabbage heads both green and purple, and brussels sprouts. So now there is more (yet more) washing, sorting, trimming, blanching, chopping, and freezing to do! But what a nice thing to have on your To Do list – handling still more harvest the week before Thanksgiving!! Such unusual weather we had in central Montana this year, this very long, very warm Fall.

The greenhouse is holding up just swell, with only one oscillating temperature-controlled tower fan running. Temps have gotten down to low 20’s and it’s upper 40’s in the greenhouse!! Mark set up another heater in there that I can activate remotely (great for the middle of the night!), and my remote temperature gauge lets me know how cold it’s getting in there. It’s amazing how a even very small investment of money can really bring you some peace of mind and warmth of toes even when it’s frigid outside!

For the weekend’s forecast hard freeze, I’ll be putting the greenhouse shelves to bed, sort of, by laying floating row cover over the top. It’s lightweight but each layer saves 3-4 degrees… doubled up ought to get me 6-8, and with the two heaters running – no worries, mate! When the weather settles down to doing this consistently for the winter, I’ll move most of the plants indoors and let the greenhouse hibernate for the winter. The gardens outside that I just finished harvesting can now take their winter’s nap beneath layers of shredded Autumn leaves and wheat straw.

One of the coolest things about having gardens is the flexibility it gives you in the kitchen. I love having homegrown, diced veggies in the freezer that I can store in a ziploc, simply whipping out a handful or so to toss into a cooking recipe. Examples include diced celery, onions, bellpepper, zucchini (also great shredded), kale, swiss chard… you can do it with herbs as well, such as parsley, basil, etc. Many of these veggies are bases for great cuisine. Mirepoix is a combination of diced onions, celery and carrots, sauteed in butter and used in classic French cooking… the holy trinity of Cajun food is onions, celery and bellpepper… sofrito in Spain is onions, green peppers and garlic sauteed in pork fat… soffrito of Italy is celery, green peppers, onions and garlic sauteed in olive oil. All of these will keep fairly well when purchased or grown fresh and prepared before freezing. Here in Montana, it’s alot better to grow your own and keep it in the freezer than to hope that your local stores will get reasonably good veggies in the middle of winter – not complaining, just sayin’.

Love those incredible soups at Olive Garden? Freeze your kale and have it ready to go!! Kale’s so easy to freeze, and you can crush it up if you like to save space, and just toss in a scoop to your soup or meal. (Have I mentioned, I love love LOVE kale??)

The scent of homegrown celery is wafting off my fingers as I type – I’d best get the Prince and Princess down for their naps and start working on the green mountain piled on my kitchen counter!!!

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