I’ve been thinking about this. Fall is my favorite harvesting season. If I had to marry a vegetable growing time of year, it would be Fall.
Spring is a virgin. She makes you wait. You want Spring in April, but she doesn’t actually put out until late June. I’m all for keeping it buttoned up (especially my daughter – she’s not harvestable until she’s 45) but by the time Spring is giving you the sweet pea goods, the easy pickings of Summer are starting to look pretty good and you’re wondering if all that work for early radishes was really worth it.
Summer is a slut. Sorry, but it’s true. Summer just begs you to come harvest: “Ooh, pick me now, baby, look how ripe I am! Get me now or you get me big!” In harvesting Summer, more is always better. Hey, twice a day picking doesn’t phase Summer. Zucchini, beans, patty pans, cherry tomatoes, and cucumbers never stop. They throw themselves at you with such eagerness that after a month or so you’re looking at those big, sprawling, enveloping summer squash leaves and thinking, “um, maybe we should just be friends,” and you’re quite concerned that if the beans see you harvesting anything else they’ll get jealous and hold you fast in their serpentine coil of tangled bines.
But Fall…steadfast Fall. Fall is the wife. Fall is the backbone, the workhorse. She isn’t flashy, but she is beautiful, clad in the multi-hued greens of kales and cabbages and bejeweled with beets and purple-blushed rutabagas. If you have planned right, and if you have shown loyalty to her over the past months, despite the overwhelming temptations of Summer, Fall will be waiting in the wings, ready to offer you up hardy greens, lovely, long-lasting roots, tenacious and caramelized winter squash and meltingly sweet brassicas at the exact moment when you think, “hey, it kinda feels like fall now.”
Fall is ready to meet you when you are ready for her. She happily grows kale into small trees, she nurtures kholrabi and beets to globe-like perfection that rival even the bosom-like rotundity of a Summer melon. I dare not push this thinly veiled analogy onto parsnips. Suffice it to say, it’s true about frost-kissed being sweeter.
While Summer parties, Fall quietly gets the garden house in order. We do what we can to capture the magic of Slutty Summer in a jar, but a family will not thrive on peach jam alone. And so the pale, broad shoulders of Fall will carry our meals for as long as we can hold back frigid, sleepy Winter.
When properly supported, warmed and protected, Fall can and will keep giving long after her theoretical peak. Long after Winter should have made barren the garden, Fall will push back, defying cold and frost and continuing to shed provisioning upon a grateful gardener.
Fall’s is strong, she is right on time. She’s fecund, but she is patient. Fall’s my girl. Fall the wife.