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Garden Lifestyle

Autumn Happenings in the Arkansas Ozarks

Writing from the road, in the Arkansas Ozarks, where the gardens are in full autumnal glory. Check out these photos from the Kitchen Garden at the Ozark Folk Center.

  • Rosemary is happy in the Kitchen Garden at the Ozark Folk Center; it grows into a large shrub in the this zone 7 garden. It likes a Mediterranean mulch of stone. I will be using this to flavor my Root Vegetable and Chickpea Tagine. Click on other pix to enlarge and read captions. 
    Photo/Illustration: Susan Belsinger
  • This beautiful specimen of sage, Salvia officianlis 'Nana'has miniature leaves and enjoys growing in the Mediterranean garden bed. It is ready to be pruned and harvested for the season.
  • The Whipporwill cowpea is a plant grown in the Arkansas; we will be using this in the soup on the Garden Lunch menu. The heirloom seed has been saved and passed on for years.
  • This is one of the largest specimens of lemongrass that I have seen. Since it is a tender perennial, it will have to be dug from the Kitchen Garden before frost and put into pots to bring in for the winter season.
  • Although sorrel is a spring harbinger and dies back in the heat of summer, it has a new flush of growth in the cooler weather of fall. We will be using its lemony-tart flavor in the salad of garden greens and herbs.
  • Parsley is enjoying cooler temperatures; we will be harvesting lots of it for the Sumptuous Herbal Supper. It will be used as a garnish for the main course of Bisteeya.
  • Red flowers and leaves of this amaranth are a bright addition to the Kitchen Garden.
  • Rosehips are ready to be harvested and dried for tea or made into jam. Rose is Herb of the Year for 2012. There are many roses in the Heritage Herb Gardens and they are also grown in North Africa for making essential oil.
  • These showy castor bean pods, will be dried, seeds removed and saved. These plants help to repel moles in the garden.
  • Here is an unlikely, though striking combo of celosia and Malabar spinach. The seeds from this head of celosia will be saved for next year's plants.
  • The Herb Shoppe at the Ozark Folk Center offers a selection of organic seeds harvested from the Heritage Herb Gardens from native plants, herbs, flowers and some local vegetables.
  • Here is a turmeric in bloom. Tender perennials like cardamom, ginger, and turmeric are grown in pots and brought into the greenhouse for the winter. We will be using these exotic spices throughout the Herb Harvest Fall Festival.

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).


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