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Gifts of Frost
have had several frosts this past week, including one last Friday night, as
predicted. Fortunately most of the produce for last week's Farmer's Market
had already been picked by then. When
I went out at dawn to pick dill, the arugula leaves crackled where I stepped and
the dill leaves shattered if I did not pick carefully.
Everything was crusted with ice.
The arugula and dill regain their resilience and turgor as soon as the
sun warms them. Not so for the hot-season vegetables.
No longer available are squash, cucumbers, melons, and beans.
There may be a very few eggplants, peppers and tomatoes picked before the
frost that are still good enough to sell, but realize that they were not picked
the frost is taking the life of hot-weather plants, it also reveals.
This was not a productive year for tomatoes.
The plants grew and grew, but produced few flowers and thus few fruits.
Some varieties were very late. I
was especially disappointed with my two favorite heirloom tomatoes:
Brandywine and Persimmon. Both
are late season tomatoes, not expected to produce until late August or early
September, but usually they are doing well by then.
This year I harvested two Brandywine tomatoes and perhaps a half dozen
the plants produced so much foliage, I wondered if perhaps I just couldn't see
the ripening fruits under all the leaves. It
takes the first frost to find out. This
year the frost revealed a number of green fruit on my heirlooms that may yet
ripen for me. In contrast,
the Sunleaper and Costoluto Genovese that had started producing in abundance by
September were covered with green fruits that I've harvested and left on our
porch or in our garage to ripen for the winter.
Many will mold first, but some are likely to last until December, when
they will be a true gift of the frost.
squash plants also reveal gifts. The
white and green pattypan are often camouflaged by leaves and stems until they
reach 4-6 inches. I found two large
white patty pan hidden under the squash stems once the leaves wilted.
Similarly, several eggplants that were hidden in foliage became visible.
Best of all, I found two entire pepper plants in the midst of my tomatoes
where I had forgotten that I had planted them.
The tomato foliage protected them from the frost so there were 4 or 5
lovely green bell peppers ready to pick.
crops actually do better after the frost: winter
squash, carrots and beets, for example. They convert starches to sugar with a freeze, so they get
though, the frost is the harbinger of winter's sleepfulness and peace.
Poet Robert Frost described it well:
of winter sleep is on the night,
The scent of apples: I am drowsing off.
I cannot rub the strangeness from my sight
I got from looking through a pane of glass
I skimmed this morning from the drinking trough
And held against the world of hoary grass.
It melted, and I let it fall and break.
But I was well
Upon my way to sleep before it fell,
And I could tell
What form my dreaming was about to take. …
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October 18, 2002
Copyright © 2002, Karen Strickler. All rights reserved.