Summer days are shortening and while the days are hot, the nights are getting cold. Fall is creeping in on us. I’m never really ready to say goodbye to summer, but I do love this time of year. Mostly, for the food. This is when all the preparation, the effort, the care, the hope pay off. It’s harvest time.
Fall Harvest & Family Feast
For families who try to eat as “locavores,” this is feast time. For the kids in those families, this is where the lesson in patience really hits home. Our kids have been waiting. They’ve been nibbling. Picking. Trying. But they’ve mostly been waiting. Waiting for the carrots, cucumbers and peppers to be big enough. Waiting for the corn to be juicy. Waiting for the berries to be plump. Waiting for the tomatoes to be red. And now that all those things have come to be, the waiting is over and the feasting has begun in earnest.
Sometimes we feast in the garden; to eager to wait until we are inside, the kids wash the carrots with the hose and bite into the crunchy goodness. Often we feast around the table, enjoying the mix of flavors and company. We pick and purchase, cook, bake and eat. And it’s good.
Preserve, Prepare & Plant
It’s also busy. The fall is a time for preparation as much as the spring. The key to eating locally, especially with a large family, is preparation.
- Preserve Seasonal foods.
- Bake with seasonal ingredients.
- Plant a winter garden
- Plant cover crops
- Preserve beauty – press flowers, dry lavender or rose petals
- Save Seeds
- Dry herbs
- Prune, transplant and prep for the coming year.
Preserve Seasonal Foods
Buying in-season fruit by the case and putting it up for the winter saves an incredible amount of money, eliminates the carbon associated with shipping produce and ensures truly delicious produce is available year round. We’re big fans of freezing foods for the winter as opposed to canning for a couple of reasons. First when food is frozen soon after harvest, the nutrients are preserved and second freezing is fast and easy, and with 3 little ones that is good.
That said, nothing beats canned peaches or pickled beets, so I hope to find the time to do a few jars of each! Also if you do have time to can, and you are not running your freezer on alternative energy of some kind, the more you can, the less freezer space you will need – which makes the earth happy. It also saves money by unplugging that extra freezer in the garage.
Bake with Seasonal Ingredients
With school aged children in the house, fresh baking is a staple. We parents who deny (or significantly limit) our children’s Oreo intake have to provide a reasonable alternative. Bulk baking when fruits and berries are in season makes healthy treats easy and simplifies waste-free lunches.
Plant a Winter Garden
A winter garden is a possibility for many and if it isn’t, an indoor herb garden or sprouter can still provide a bit of green goodness during the winter months. We’re planning carrots, garlic, brussell sprouts, another round of peas and leafy greens in the garden and we’ll start sprouting inside soon.
Plant Cover Crops
Organic gardening is really about organic soil care. Planting a cover crop like White Mustard or Fall Rye to cut down and turn back into the soil is a great way to build nutrient rich soil that can sustain a garden without chemical assistance. It’s also pretty, keeps the weeds at bay and easy! For added fun, when it’s time to till, cut a maze or path into the crop before cutting it entirely and tilling it in. The kids love this!
Pressing flowers is a simple, free outdoor activity that allows you and the kids to enjoy the beauty of the garden later in the year. We’ve pressed a selection of flowers and will use them for card making and crafts during the winter months. Lavender and rose petals can also be collected and dried in the early fall to be used in soaps or scrubs – a fun rainy day activity that makes great gifts for Christmas.
Heirloom seeds preserve genetic diversity in our food system and saving those seeds at home from the strongest plants in your garden ensures a good growing season next year and saves you the cost of buying seeds again! It’s simpler than I thought, and the kids love to explore all the different shapes and sizes of seeds.
Herbs in the garden are extremely beneficial for pest management and companion growing. They’re also easy and plentiful – the sort of thing that guarantees the success that delights small children. I grow lots of herbs and then let the kids pick them for anything they want, which often ends up being dirt soup or rock pie. Despite this, we’ve still got lots of parsley, chives, anise, dill, sage and mint left. We’ll hang these to dry and fill the spice rack.
Prune, Transplant and Prep for the coming year
Strawberry runners need clipping. Herbs, like Sage that become woody after a few years benefit from clipping and starting anew. Many perennials and fruit trees need mulching and/or fertilizing. Enjoy the cooling weather and stick with the garden!