When I left home, my Maryland zone 7 garden had slowed production enormously. With cooler days and much cooler nights, not to mention less sun, warm-weather crops like tomatoes and basil have nearly stopped production. Recently set-out greens, cool-weather crops like kale, chard, lettuces and brassicas are happily putting out new growth. Although chiles are maturing to red, there are still a lot of green ones on the vine, which need to ripen. If there is frost in the forecast, the chiles, basil and any green tomatoes will need to be harvested in a hurry. Sometimes, I pull up the whole chile plants, shake the soil from the roots and hang them in the shed until I can get to them. Same with the basil, only I snip off the root balls and bring plants into the house and hang it from the ceiling beams to dry.
Here in the Ozarks, they are a few weeks behind, so warm days are lingering and the gardens are full of plants in full bloom and maximum harvestable growth. Even though they had a drought here this summer, with high temps of over 100 degrees F for weeks on end, the plants bounced back and are in their full autumnal glory. In the Kitchen Garden at the Ozark Folk Center, bounteous herbs need to be pruned back and harvested, and seeds need to be gathered. Not only are the gardeners harvesting bounty, they are getting ready for the upcoming annual Herb Harvest Fall Festival, which is October 5 and 6. (Check out the schedule at www.ozarkfolkcenter.com.)
I arrived early to help prepare for this event, which is kicked off with a Sumptuous Herbal Supper on Thursday, October 4. Each year, the HHFF has been featuring different areas around the globe and this year, we are highlighting the countries of North Africa. We will be showcasing the herbs and plants, foods, crafts, customs, dance and music of North Africa. Presenters Holly Shimizu, director of the U.S. Botanic Garden, and author and culinary herbalist, Pat Crocker from Ontario, Canada will be arriving this week. Meanwhile, there is a lot of activity happening around the park–from perfecting the gardens, harvesting produce and herbs for the supper, the crafters are creating handmade items from tagines to beads–and the cooks at the Skillet Restaurant are planning and cooking up a storm. I have been working in the kitchen with them creating menus, testing recipes, and mixing up exotic blends from herbs and spices.
I am fortunate to be a gardener, who is able to travel to these kind of educational events around the country. And am looking forward to seeing all of the herbal friends who travel from around the country to celebrate herbs, plants and gardening. From here, the next events will be two hands-on workshops, which I will be doing with co-author Tina Marie Wilcox at the Memphis Botanic Garden on Friday, October, 26 (www.memphisbotanicgarden.com).