Digging for Gold

Last week we had our first snow of the season, so it was time to make some major decisions about what to leave in the garden and what to pull out. We decided to harvest the beets and carrots, and mulch the remaining vegetables, mostly leeks and various cold-tolerant brassicas.

I don’t have much experience with long-term storage of garden produce. One of our books recommended storing beets in damp sand in a cool, dark place, so they have joined our canning shelf for the time being until I figure out what in the world to do with that many beets. Probably some will be fermented and some will become chocolate beet muffins!

The carrots were a pretty mixed bag this year. A few, like the one above, came out perfectly shaped and sized, but many of them were seriously deformed, which makes them difficult to clean. Orange and purple alike, they are all trimmed and filling a grocery bag in the basement right now, and I am hoping to make at least one large jar of ginger carrots, since those seem to be such a popular ferment.

We are due for another 5-10″ of snow starting tonight, so my dad and I headed back out to the community garden yesterday and finally dug up our potatoes. I’ve never grown potatoes before, and the harvest was seriously fun, like digging for buried treasure. The leafy part of the plant died off a month or more back, so when we started feeling around in the mounds, it was almost as if the potato fairy had come through and left all these perfect little presents for us in the ground! From two mounds of Yukon Gold plants, each seeded with just a few small chunks of potato, we ended up with 8.5 pounds of gorgeous, good sized specimens.

Here my dad is digging up red potatoes (next to the cauliflower plants that are still hanging in there and thinking very leisurely about maybe producing heads). From two mounds of reds, we ended up harvesting 9.5 pounds!

Hard to believe these came from our own garden and not from the grocery store!

I also planted some purple fingerling potato mounds, although those didn’t get started until almost the end of June. We dug up one plant and most of the potatoes were marble-sized or smaller, so I think they just didn’t have quite enough time to grow before the cold weather killed off the plant. We left the other two mounds untouched; either they will have a head-start next spring, or they will just break down over the winter and become mulch. In any case, this bowlful represents about a pound and a half of all the potato varieties that are too small to be worth peeling; I’ll probably be roasting these whole.

Looks pretty bare now, eh? I think we are the only ones who are trying to extend the season with aggressive mulching and row covers (you can see our plots where the white sheets are). There is a garden work day this Saturday to mulch and till the empty plots and winterize the aisles, but that is about all the work we can do outside until spring.

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