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Garden Lifestyle

Fall Harvest Festivals and Happy Autumn Equinox!

With the advent of fall comes a cornucopia of harvest festivals like the one at the Ozark Folk Center. Attend it if you can, or celebrate the harvest locally.

  • Here is the Shannon Cabin at the Ozark Folk Center with the root cellar hill in the foreground, covered with blooming garlic chives.
    Photo/Illustration: Susan Belsinger
  • The herb arbor in front of the Herb Shop at the OFC is filled with native plants, herbs from around the globe, as well as a variety of garden ornamentation from hypertufa planters and birdbaths to bottle trees.
  • Handmade scarecrows abound amongst the pumpkins, gourds, mums and haybales. I like the ones with the gourd heads.
  • Whipporwill cowpeas are a crop we don't see much up north. We enjoyed them for lunch at the Skillet Restaurant with Garden Sass, corn bread and local sorghum molasses.
  • For Southern gardeners--if planted late  summer to early fall--they can have a second round of annual herbs to harvest up until the cold weather sets in. Here is some healthy-looking basil that was set out in late August, cut back, and is still producing.

It is time to celebrate the fall harvests at festivals across the nation. This year, September 23 is the fall equinox: a time when day and night are equal in length—both 12 hours.  Now we are headed into shortening days and longer nights. This is the seasonal rhythm that we go through every year; the end of summer allows us to say farewell to hot weather and welcome fresh air and cooler temps. It also signals the slowdown of garden produce—it is a time to be thankful for a bountiful harvest—and make ready for the cold weather to come. Since the weather is cooler, we are wanting to eat heartier dishes, such as Baked Red Cabbage with Spices.

I am writing from Mountain View, Arkansas, where we are getting ready for the annual Herb Harvest Fall Festival (September 30 to October 1, 2011) at the Ozark Folk Center. For the past few years the theme has been countries around the Mediterranean, where many of our grey and green herbs originated. This year we celebrate the herbs, foods and culture of Israel, Syria, and Lebanon. You can check out the schedule for the two-day event, as well as the menu for our Sumptuous Herbal Supper (which is sold out with a wait list!). The Skillet Restaurant and the Ozark Unit of the HSA put on an amazing shindig featuring seasonal herbs and produce. The cabbage recipe is one that I created for part of our Mid-Eastern Mediterranean lunch on Saturday.

We have many wonderful speakers coming to do programs. Jo Ann and Jigs Gardner are coming from the Adirondacks to speak on “Gardens of Use and Delight” and “Solomon’s Garden: The Biblical Roots of Holy Land Flora”. I am excited to meet them since I have all of her books. Local butterfly expert Lori Spencer will speak on “Concerning Butterflies: What is in a name?” and gardening buddies Kathleen Connole and Paul White will inspire us with “Creating the Garden of your Dreams in the Ozarks”. Mary Nell Jackson is driving from Texas to tell us about “The Secrets of Saffron” and head gardener and herbalist at the OFC, Tina Marie Wilcox will inform us about “Calamus, an Herb of the Middle East and the Ozarks”. I will be doing cooking demos both days—Friday is “Capturing the Essence of Roses” featuring our upcoming herb of the year for 2012—and Saturday is “The Mid-Eastern Mediterranean Table”.

If you can’t make it to this event, find something local since there are garden festivals happening everywhere. Keep next year in mind when we travel to North Africa and Egypt! Meanwhile, get out there and gather the garden harvest, visit your local farmers’ market and celebrate fall! 

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