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The Big, the Bad, and the Beautiful in a Late Fall Harvest

IL white crookneck

By Lisa Brunette

This year marked the first time we've reached for three full harvests throughout the growing season: early spring, peak summer, and late fall. You can read about the first two here:

But today I'll report on the results of our late fall harvest, which as of Thanksgiving week is technically still ongoing! 


The star of the show - at least in terms of sheer size - is that monster squash you see in the photo above. Just one of those suckers had great heft and could feed a small army, and we got four of them. The variety is Illinois white crookneck, the seeds from Southern Exposure Seed Exchange. It fleshed out the roasted veggie dishes well.

Root veg roast 21

Our winter squash harvest overall was nothing to brag about, as the Waltham butternut and Seminole pumpkins germinated too late and didn't grow to full maturity before the first hard freeze, unfortunately. We're still working on the soil where they were planted, and a tree in a neighboring yard that had been drastically trimmed back grew like gangbusters, giving the squash patch too much afternoon shade. Next time, we plant squash with better conditions.

We also had one ginormous squash plant rise up smack dab in the middle of a row of collards, the squash seed likely planted by a squirrel. We haven't tried it yet, but we got this little beauty as a result.

Squirrel pumpkin

This Harlequin Ain't Romantic

Allow me to introduce you to our new nemesis, the harlequin beetle. It decimated our bok choy and rutabaga crops and knocked our kale crop back a few weeks. Luckily, we were able to get some of the tender baby bok choy shoots before the buggers moved in, but yeah, the whole bok choy crop was relegated to lacework leaves after that. As I tell my friends, it's a good thing we aren't completely dependent on our garden for sustenance.

Harlequin beetle
Murgantia histrionica, or harlequin bug. It had me in histrionics, all right.

There's really no great way to fight these pests, either. Anthony sprinkled the crop with a noxious mix of garlic and hot pepper, and they merely thanked him for spicing their food. The only solution is to keep a bucket of soapy water nearby and handpick them off, dropping them to their deaths in the bucket. Believe me, once you've painstakingly put in a row of bok choy and watched it come up beautifully only to get devoured by hordes of beetles, you won't feel too bad about the bucket drop, either.

We're of course 100 percent organic, so we wouldn't even consider chemical control, but even if we did, that's no real solution either, as agricultural extension offices do not recommend pesticides for these stink bug-type pests. Besides the handpicking/soap drop method above, we made sure to halt the generational life cycle by destroying any eggs. I also completely removed all trace of the bok choy crop instead of letting it decay in place.

Cabbage looper
Evergestis rimosalis, or cabbage-worm moth.

The other creepy crawlie I'd like you to meet is this cabbage looper, or cross-striped cabbage worm. What little the harlequins left behind was eaten by these guys. Granted, they turn into pretty moths after metamorphosis, but at this larvae stage, they eat our food.

The food crops probably could have withstood the cabbage loopers, but the harlequin bug infestation was catastrophic.  

Lettuce Hear You Cry

Swiss chard 21

Look at this awesome Swiss chard! 

Unfortunately, that's all we got. Due to a massive heat wave throughout August, the lettuce, collards, and Swiss chard seeds germinated very poorly. Like I said, it's a good thing we don't fully depend on our garden for food. I can't even show you the lettuce. It was too sad.

Rooting for Veggies

Root veg 21
Carrots and turnips accompany that sasquash pretty well.

Fortunately, our carrot and turnip harvests were brilliant this year, and not just once, but twice. We enjoyed a great carrot crop in the early spring, and then we had another one this fall. The variety that works is the New Kuroda carrot, the seeds from the organization formally known as Gateway Greening. Now they're Seed St. Louis. Why'd they change it, I can't say. Maybe they just liked it better that way?

At any rate, Seed St. Louis grows the New Kuroda in their demonstration garden, and then they save seeds, package them up, and sell them to the public for only USD $1 a packet. It's a beautiful thing.

I also buy our purple top white globe turnips from Seed St. Louis, another offering from their demo gardens. The turnip has been a staple food for many cultures, and it's easy to see why: They give twice, once for the turnip root and again for the greens, which are tasty and nutritious. I've used them in stir fries and soups.

Colorful stirfry 21
Everything here except the broccoli came from the garden: tomatoes, carrots, turnip greens.

Though they're not as easy to work into a dish as turnip greens, carrot greens are also edible. I like to chop them up finely and add them to rice, for a sort of alternative to rice Florentine.

We harvested several successions of turnips and carrots, with the final batch of carrots just last week. We still have a few turnips for greens out there now.

Last of the root harvest
Last of the carrot and turnip root harvest.

Greens for the Win!

When I started this post, I mentioned that we're still harvesting food from the garden here during the week of Thanksgiving. That's mainly in the form of cold-hardy greens kale and arugula. You might recall my tarp-mulch method applied to the arugula patch. Well, I'm now on a fourth harvest from one packet of arugula! And the kale recovered from the harlequin bugs once the weather turned cold enough to kill those buggers off, and now we're rich in kale.

Kale and onion patch 21
A row of kale, survivor from the bug attack!

Next time, I'll show you some of the processing we did to take advantage of a unique perennial fruit, the passionfruit, as well as a whole crop of teas and herbs. But now I turn my attention to indoor activities, pore over seed catalogs, and dream about getting my hands in the dirt again next spring. 

How was your fall harvest? Tell us in the comments below!