Get dirty, have fun and grow more food with great gardening tips from real-life gardeners.
Sunday was Terra Madre Day, a global event organized by Slow Food International, now in its third year of promoting good, clean, and fair food for all. We celebrated Terra Madre Day at a potluck in Charlottesville given by the local Slow Foods group. Dishes highlighted seasonal and local fare.
We brought a salad with a riot of greens, leaf lettuce, spinach, kale, tatsoi and arugula. China rose radishes, and carrots. We added yacon for color and texture. This year was our first time growing yacon, a crisp sweet root vegetable from the Andes. Our yacon is storing well after harvest in October, and so far the sweetness is intensifying. A few people at the potluck, not being familiar with yacon, asked which type of pear was in our salad.
It’s easy to grow and enjoy yacon and still save have enough to plant for next year because each plant has two kinds of roots: the larger edible roots that look similar to white fleshed sweet potatoes and a smaller crown that can be stored to grow next year’s plants. We store both kinds of roots in the root cellar, the same as potatoes. We are excited with the harvest from our five yacon plants this year – 5-10 pounds off each three-ft. tall plant – and are planning to plant a hundred foot row in our 2012 garden. We hope to offer yacon starts in our 2013 catalog.
Food historian William Woys Weaver of Roughwood Gardens gave us our yacon crowns last spring. They were already sprouting, so we planted them right away in our new high tunnel, on three foot centers along then center of four foot wide raised beds. For fun, we under-sowed between and around the plants with old fashioned vining petunias (every six inches). This made the beds very pretty and got us a good petunia seed crop!
The last few mornings have been really frosty so we are finally starting to cover even our frost tolerant greens that we want to continue to harvest all winter and bring in late carrots, cabbage and beets for storage. One simple tip for better winter vegetable is to wait until the vegetables are thoroughly thawed before harvesting to avoid damage to the plants and have nice crisp vegggies for the table. This means harvesting roots before heavy frosts come and freeze everything till next spring.
December and January are the months for the reaping the harvest of our summer and fall planting. Planning ahead is the secret to having garden fresh produce. For folks in the Mid-Atlantic we have a number of planting guides for helping you plan for a year round harvest online. There are a number of great tools for garden planning available these days like Cindy Conner’s DVD/CD set Develop a Sustainable Garden Plan and the great online Mother Earth News Garden Planner. If you have a gardener on your gift list consider giving one of these great planning tools or a gift certificate.
Thanks for stopping by and we hope you’ll come back often to see what we’re growing and cooking.
Ira Wallace lives and gardens at Acorn Community Farm home of Southern Exposure Seed Exchange where she coordinates variety selection and seed growers. Southern Exposure offers 700+varieties of Non-GMO, open pollinated and organic seeds. Ira is also a co-organizer of the Heritage Harvest Festival at Monticello. She serves on the board of the Organic Seed Alliance and is a frequent presenter at the Mother Earth News Fairs and many other events throughout the Southeast.