Garden Lifestyle

Early December Garden to Kitchen

We have had a mild autumn/winter season thus far in my zone 7 Maryland garden.

  • Although the garden appears to be dead--indeed these tomato vines are spent--it is really just going to sleep for the winter. Click on other pix to enlarge and read captions.
    Photo/Illustration: susan belsinger
  • There are still rogue wild foods offering their goodness like this last flush of nettles. I'm still harvesting dandelion greens and chickweed.
    Photo/Illustration: susan belsinger
  • The bright green goodness of wild weeds is a happy sight in the garden and the kitchen.
    Photo/Illustration: susan belsinger
  • Here's a delightful quiche featuring wild greens, garden grown onions, chiles and garlic topped with some thinly sliced 'Bishop's Crown' peppers.
    Photo/Illustration: susan belsinger
  • Under this blanket of wheat straw lies 2 rows of November-planted garlic. The straw helps with soil erosion and heaving.
    Photo/Illustration: susan belsinger
  • This year's selection of garlic bulbs from Filaree Farms to plant: 'Burque' Artichoke; 'Chesnok Red' Purple Stripe (a favorite of mine); 'Belarus' Marbled PS; 'Xian' Turban.    
    Photo/Illustration: susan belsinger
  • Winter squash can be challenging to peel; it is best to cut them into smaller pieces for easier handling. A grapefruit spoon is the ideal tool for removing seeds and strings.
    Photo/Illustration: susan belsinger
  • Every season we are faced with many large, rather daunting piles of wood to be split. They say that wood warms us more than once.
    Photo/Illustration: susan belsinger
  • We finally invested in a splitter a few years back and wondered why we hadn't done it 30 years ago!
    Photo/Illustration: susan belsinger
  • The woodpile: split, stacked and covered.
    Photo/Illustration: susan belsinger
  • After all of the chores have been done, it sure is nice to come into a warming winter supper--here's one of my favorite sweet potato dishes with chipotle and garlic cream sauce with sage--a great side to enchiladas or burritos.
    Photo/Illustration: susan belsinger
  • Gardeners need not despair: view this Full cold moon--the winter solstice is just a few weeks away--and then the days will be getting longer!
    Photo/Illustration: susan belsinger

We have had a mild autumn/winter season thus far in my zone 7 Maryland garden. Still able to do chores in the garden and bring in bounty to create warming seasonal dishes. Time for harvesting whatever is still available, cleaning up the garden, last-minute planting, getting ready for the holidays and wood chores.

The latter warms us more than once. From felling to sawing, loading and splitting, stacking and hauling and feeding the stove and keeping it stoked day and night in the cold weather, it occupies a lot of time and energy.

The garden always seems desolate to me this time of year with withered tomato vines, dying pepper plants and greens, flowers and herbs that have wilted from freezing temps at night. However, I’ve gathered seeds to dry and am still harvesting wild greens like dandelion, chickweed and a last flush of leaves from the nettle patch. Soup, wilted greens, spanakopita or pie?

There is still life out there! Though I didn’t get the garlic in until late November, it is putting out shoots under the earth that is nestled beneath a thick layer of wheat straw mulch. I am always delighted to get my box of organic garlic for planting from Filaree Farm. ( It seems expensive; you get what you pay for and their selection and quality of garlic is choice. It is challenging to choose just a few: artichoke, tuban or hardneck, white, purple or red, marbled or striped? I am enjoying this year’s harvest–I use garlic daily to fend off cooties (not just vampires)–and I love roasting the whole bulbs until soft and creamy to smear on toast, scatter on top of pizza or focaccia or toss with pasta. I also like it just popped from its skin into my mouth!

I love all of the orange vegetables and they are so good for us; their color is indicative of carotenoids, which are so good for us. Not just carrots; both sweet potatoes and winter squash are regularly on the menu here. From oven-roasted to mashed, in soups and stews and combined with risotto, grains, pasta and as a pizza topping.

Now, with the holidays upon us (how did it get to be December already?), I am thinking of gifts that I can create with garden-grown bounty for the cook, gardener, friends and family… more on that in the next blog!




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