The Colours of Harvest

If you looked up just around sunset last night, you may have seen the rising of the harvest moon – an early fall event that refers to the full moon nearest the Autumnal Equinox. It seems appropriate then, that I write something in honour of harvest. Of course we’ve been harvesting from our vegetable garden for a good part of the summer, but this weekend we’ll pull in the remainder of frost tender produce – green and yellow zucchini, pattypan squash, tomatoes and tender herbs. Apparently there is snow in the forecast this week!

It’s been a good year though, despite the cold wet start to the season which slowed germination, the hailstorms which set everything back, and the hot dry weather of July and August that left even heat loving plants looking scorched and wilted. However, we were still able to eat fresh produce from the garden from June onwards, so all in all we’ve been blessed with a fine harvest.

My husband is the veggie gardener in our family – it was my baby many years ago, but as I gained an interest in ornamental gardening, I lost interest in the vegetable garden. It makes sense that hubby would take it over – after all he is the superior cook, and I’m most grateful for his labour and the love with which he cultivates the garden. Although I don’t tend that garden anymore, I’m still delighted by its bounty.

Harvest is more than just a feast for the palate – it can be a feast for the eyes too. As a designer, I find the whole trend towards ‘Designer Veggies’ very appealing – purple and yellow carrots, orange, yellow and black(ish) tomatoes, golden beets, pink striped beets. There’s a whole new world of colour out there! Except it’s not new. In fact, many of these colourful vegetables are actually heirloom varieties that are now being reintroduced. As with many heirloom vegetables, the flavours are better and so is disease and pest resistance. While they may not be suited to large-scale agricultural production, they are perfect for the home garden or market garden.  And they make for a colourful feast that looks as good as it tastes.

Heirloom carrots lack the large size and uniformity of their more hybridized counterparts, but their sweet crunch makes them perfect for eating right out of the garden. Photo: Sue Gaviller

Left: Cherry, plum and pear tomatoes are small and sweet. Right: clockwise from top – Black Krim, Tangerine and St. Pierre heirloom tomatoes. Photos: Sue Gaviller

Left: Baby heirloom carrots glisten with the chicken ‘jus’ in which they were roasted.
Top: Green and yellow zucchini and pattypan squash tossed in olive oil and roasted.
Right: Baby heirloom potatoes are tender and flavourful – they’re best simply steamed and buttered….mmmmm. Photos: Sue Gaviller

Mother Nature too has been busy, readying her own colourful feast for our fine feathered friends – indeed the birds have already begun partaking of her bounty. The abundance of berries and pomes, hips and haws, provides fuel for birds preparing to embark on their migratory journey, as well as those needing winter long sustenance. These beautiful fruits have significant ornamental value as well – a bonus Mother nature didn’t really intend for us, but we’re happy to accept.

Many fruit bearing trees and shrubs have bright red fruit to attract the birds. Clockwise from top: Sorbus decora, Viburnum trilobum, Malus sp., Lonicera tatarica. Photos: Sue Gaviller

Not all fruit is bright and showy, but the birds manage to find it nonetheless. Clockwise from top left: Prunus mackii, Cotoneaster lucidus, Cornus sericea, Malus baccata ‘Rosthern’, Malus ‘Rosy Glo’. Photos: Pat Gaviller

Crataegus mordenensis ‘Toba’ has very ornamental fall fruit, loved by birds. Photo: Pat Gaviller

The very showy fruit of Sorbus decora will remain on the tree until stripped by the huge amoeba-like flocks of Bohemian Waxwings. Photo: Sue Gaviller

Harvest Moon 2012. Photo: Pat Gaviller

It was a good summer – the fruits of our labour bear witness to this. But there is a chill in the air today – fall is definitely here, and it’s time to reap what we have sown. May your harvest be plentiful!

Til next time,
Sue

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