Lord: it is time. The summer was immense.
Lay your shadow on the sundials
and let loose the wind in the fields.
Bid the last fruits to be full;
give them another two more southerly days,
press them to ripeness, and chase
the last sweetness into the heavy wine.
Whoever has no house now will not build one anymore.
Whoever is alone now will remain so for a long time,
will stay up, read, write long letters,
and wander the avenues, up and down,
restlessly, while the leaves are blowing.
-Rainer Maria Rilke, translated by Galway Kinnell and Hannah Liebmann
Yes, the summer was immense, hot and wet, full of new experiences and adventures. And now the leaves are beginning to blow, tangling in the still-green grasses of the fields. Though our days of southerly sun are not yet over, frost warnings have begun to appear in the weather forecasts and in between harvesting salad greens and spinach, kale, chard, peppers, eggplant, winter squash, and the last few zucchini and tomatoes, Diane and I work to prepare our fields for the cold season to come.
We took advantage of this afternoon’s warm sunshine to plant next year’s garlic crop. Garlic cloves are planted in fall so that they can begin developing root systems before winter stops their growth. When the soil warms in spring, those well-developed roots will be ready to suck up the nutrients needed to make leaves and push them upward toward the sun. And as they absorb that sunlight, those leaves will manufacture the energy to develop the bulbs we’ll harvest and enjoy next summer. We’re trying four new garlic varieties this year, all certified organic and purchased through The Garlic Store. A mix of softnecks and hardnecks, their catalogue descriptions range from “perky” to “piquant” to “quite pungent.” What’s the difference between perky and piquant garlic? Come by the farm next July and we’ll both find out!
We also took time today to harvest a few crates of winter squash. I have to admit that as happy as I am to have salad greens again, when I came in at dusk last night, my fingers numbed from putting a frost-protective row cover over the spinach, a bowl of cold lettuce was not what my tummy was craving. But a plate of hot butternut squash warmed me right up. Besides the butternut, we’re also currently harvesting spaghetti squash, acorns, delicatas, and sweet dumplings. These last two varieties are my favorites. They don’t keep as well as the butternuts and acorns, but their flesh is so rich and sweet that I often simply slice them in half, scoop out the seeds, bake the halves on a cookie sheet at 350 degrees F until they are soft, and then eat the squash plain right out of the bowl of its skin.
Last fall someone gave me a recipe for roasting delicata squash with apples, which I made frequently and enjoyed quite a bit. I can’t put my fingers on the recipe at the moment, but here’s my best approximation of it, adapted from an EatingWell.com recipe that calls for pears and bacon instead of apples (http://www.eatingwell.com/recipes/chili_squash_and_pears.html):
Roasted Delicata Squash with Apples
Ingredients: 1 delicata squash; 2 medium apples; 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil; 1/4 teaspoon salt; 1/4 teaspoon pepper; 1 tablespoon light brown sugar; 1 teaspoon chili powder
Preheat oven to 425°F.
Cut squash in half lengthwise; scoop out the seeds. Cut crosswise into 1/4-inch slices. (The skin is thin and edible, so no need to peel.) Cut apples into similarly sized slices. Toss together in a large bowl with oil, salt, pepper, brown sugar and chili powder. Spread on a large baking sheet and roast, stirring once or twice, 20-30 minutes or until tender.
Delicata and sweet dumpling squash are also great stuffed, as are acorns. You can pretty much stuff them with anything you like: rice, vegetables, bread crumbs, sausage, cheese, etc. Then just bake the whole lot until the squash is tender. It’s a great way to use up leftovers.
Happy Fall, ya’ll! May your days be full and sweet.