The growing season is pretty much over here in Colorado. If you’re lucky enough to have a garden there will still be the occasional snow-covered leaves of kale to harvest, or maybe one last head of cabbage to pull from the cold, hard ground. This Saturday the lot where farmers stands piled high with produce all summer was empty. Living at Zone 5 on the plant hardiness map teaches you to really savor the seasons. Winter is long, and when spring finally arrives at the end of May she’s slow to reveal herself. It seems like all we get is radishes and salad greens forever, until August when summer arrives and gives us everything all at once: peaches, corn, tomatoes, strawberries, peas, zucchini, squash, carrots, cucumbers. The bounty of summer overwhelms us and we hardly have time to appreciate it all. September and October lull us into complacency with seemingly endless offerings of pumpkins and hot peppers, but apples and pears freshly plucked from the tree hint that a change is coming. Autumn turns abruptly to winter here in Colorado, and the first snow in October snaps us back into reality- the barren season of our Zone 5 winter is approaching. A visit to the final farmers market of the season reveals the beauty of nature even at the end of the growing season in November. I’m reminded of a favorite line from the movie, The Calendar Girls:
The flowers of Yorkshire are like the women of Yorkshire. Every stage of their growth has its own beauty,
but the last phase is always the most glorious.
All the flashy produce is gone, and with no tomatoes or peaches around to steal the show, the workhorse vegetables get a chance to shine. A handful of carrots and parsnips makes me feel as rich as a pound of gold, and stumbling upon a gigantic head of radicchio is like winning the lottery.
I eagerly fill a paper bag with gnarly knobs of Jerusalem artichokes (also known as sunchokes), dreaming of how tender and delicious these roots will be when I slice and sauté them in butter with walnuts and herbs.
A wild and bushy bunch of celery makes me think of a pot of stock simmering on the stovetop, and all the wonderful soups I will make this winter. Excited by celery? It must be the end of the season.
The last phase is truly the most glorious.
Wishing you a very happy Thanksgiving,
Jess, Len, and little Minnie