October 15, 2012

Points East: Plenty of harvest yet

LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. — My Mom always said that a pumpkin or cushaw would grow until frost killed the vine.

The message there being, “don’t bring you pumpkins and winter squash indoors until after there’s been at least one or two good heavy frosts.”

On the other hand, she dreaded, as I do to this day, the first killing frost.  Many, many times in my youth I helped her pack old tarpaulins, bed quilts, burlap feed sacks and even our good over coats to the garden well after dark on October nights.  

One or the other of us would hold up a carbide light so that the other could see how to spread frost protecting covers over that last little row of fall beans and pepper and tomato plants that might still have a lot of life left in them if they could dodge the first few early frosts.  Just after sunrise the next morning, all the covers got packed back to the house so that the plants could soak up sunlight throughout the day.

Mom could walk out on the porch just before dark and almost always accurately predict whether or not it was going to frost that night and sometimes she would say something like, “Well, it may frost a little bit but it ain’t gonna hurt nothing.”   And me and or my little brother, Keeter, would breathe a sigh of relief that we were not going to have to spread and cover stuff that night because, truth be known, we’d been tired of green beans, served up at supper with peppers and maters, for several weeks and we were actually craving that first big pot of pinto soup beans, a good, strong onion and a pan full of corn bread fritters.

But Mom always swore that the best green vegetables of the year were the ones that got ripe during Indian Summer so she put more work into fighting off cold weather in early autumn than she did in fighting springtime weeds .  

And she was right, of course, at least about the taste.  I don’t put nearly as much effort into frost damage protection now as I did when I was much younger but all you have to do is bite into a big bell pepper or late tomato, feel the crunch and swoon at the flavor to realize that vegetables don’t get any better than this.

From the looks and feel of things tonight and according to the forecast, Loretta and I are going to have to spend the better part of one evening this week packing in the last few bucket full of summer veggies from my garden because old Jack is nipping at the air.  We will try to keep some tomatoes ripening in the basement and on window sills until well into November.  She will stuff a crisper drawer in the fridge full of bell and banana peppers and we will be begging friends and family members to take some of this stuff off our hands before it goes to waste.

In the meantime, I have a little short row of snow peas getting ready to bloom and they may just make it.  We have mustard, kale and collard greens ready to pick, enough to feed the village, and the turnips are commencing to show their stuff.   There’s still plenty of good eating set to come our way from the garden, frost or not.

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