On late fall garden crops

While I am tidying up, I am also running around harvesting the last crops out of the garden.  There are quite a few that needed the whole season to reach maturity, and there are others that I planted in August that are ready to eat now.

P1010781Twinned roots!  Complete with lots of worm-filled dirt:  Brilliant celeriac

Celeriac, or celery root, is one of the former.  I started these puppies indoors with the celery, Italian parsley, cutting celery (wonderful crop:  tastes like a mix of celery and curly parsley), and Chinese parsley all going in under the lights way back in February.  While I have been harvesting all these other crops all spring, summer and fall, the celeriac gets a pass until now.  I appreciate its knobby ugliness mashed with potatoes, or sliced raw in a salad, or used as a subtle “what is that taste” in a creamed soup.  The tops and stalks likewise can be used like celery, though they’re admittedly stringier.

P1010795

Garden-planted fennel

August-planted crops include bulb fennel and kohlrabi, baby turnips and rapini.  I actually never plant these crops in the spring, and always wait for August:  they tend to get big, spicy, woody, and bolt into seed if they’re spring planted.  Fennel is another one of those miraculous vegetables that can be cooked or eaten raw:  indeed, when salad lettuces are scarce, a fennel/apple salad is quite welcome, and wonderfully crunchy too.  And the fronds are tasty little garnishes to add to any dish. When my fish-averse husband is out of town, the girl and I usually chow down on a bouillabaisse in which fennel plays a major part.

P1010794Purple kohlrabi: a bit on the small side but tasty

I have converted more people to kohlrabi than I have to any other vegetable.  I am not quite sure why this is:  were they afraid to try it otherwise?  It does look otherworldly.  This is another better-as-salad vegetable, but that could just be me.  Its subtle broccoli-stem flavor tends to go away when cooked.  We eat it julienned or chopped or even just shredded in a salad.

Turnips and Swedes (rutabagas) are actually something I do plant in spring, but most turnips get infernally hot unless I pick them as babies.  Fall turnips, though, are just sweet things, accepting life as part of a roasted root veg dish, as part of a stew, or–of course–eaten raw in a salad.  I have found a variety, the Gilfeather turnip, that doesn’t get terribly hot as a spring-planted veg, but that’s mainly because it’s part rutabaga.  My mother, an Atkins zombie, eats rutabagas like candy, so I always grow a few rows for her.

Late August-seeded rapini joins late July-seeded broccoli in avoiding the summer cabbage-worm infestation that all my coles undergo.  Rapini (broccoli raab) likewise can get blasted-hot if planted in the spring or summer, but it comes into its own quite well in the fall garden.  This is one of our favorite sauteed greens.  And broccoli.  No need for explanation there.

P1010801And finally, a peek in the fennel forest in the new greenhouse.  I harvest the big ones first, thus letting the others grow bigger; this crop should last until Christmas

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14 responses to “On late fall garden crops

  1. El, thanks for the great planting intel on celeriac and fennel. We love both of them, but have only toyed with the idea of actually adding them to the garden. We actually had great success with our spring planted purple kohlrabi and started a whole bunch more in seed trays in early
    August. They’ve been hiding behind the late sunflowers, but are starting to show that bulge–like little sputniks. Kohlrabi is one of the best tasting and easiest of all vegetables, a well-kept secret. Our broccoli raab are doing fantastically well, also started in August, with huge foliage, but for some reason no florets. Don’t know why, but they are planted in the same spot where we got huge edamame plants but no beans.

  2. A double celeriac, how great is that. Your fennel is looking good, our grandson loves to eat the fronds. He thinks fennel is a licorice plant.:)

    One of these days when I actually get a fennel to bulb up I will have to try the fennel apple salad, it sounds divine.

  3. Hi El, I too am wondering if there is any special variety of bulbing fennel seed you use? I know they can be grown nearby but I’ve not exactly figured the whole deal out. I’ve become addicted to fennel seed and have gotten that down but I think they come mostly from my bronze fennel plants that are ornamental and seem to reappear more or less every year. I bought some bulbs from a farmers market 40 miles south and significantly closer to sea level than I am but sheesh I must be able to grow it here as well. Any additional thoughts welcome.

  4. Ed, sounds to me like that one patch might be a bit nitrogen-rich: nitrogen makes leaves grow and shorts out on flower/seed production. Maybe amp it up with some rock phosphate, which helps with both. Interesting problem though. Especially since you’re a composter too. But yeah, I add rock phosphate to my “special” compost (that destined for sick plants, or those areas where things didn’t do so well). I’m not one to buy things to put in the ground so I splurge every year or two for a 50# bag (about $15).

    Mike. Trees Must Fall. Though in all honesty I am not sure why some plants bulb up, some don’t; could be some are just plain poky! But with many of your “problem” plants I think there’s a certain sun deficit…

    Hi Randi! Bronze fennel is quite beautiful, isn’t it. It’s the Italan bulbing type that works best though for eating the stems. I am growing two different kinds, Zefa Fino from Fedco and a package someone left for me to plant in the school garden, just something from the big-box store; they both head up fine. I tend to seed them in one area and transfer them into rows when they’re REALLY small: they have taproots so they hate getting moved when they’re big. Small enough, you can actually pick up the whole clod of dirt, tap root and all. I don’t think your zone has anything to do with it: these guys can handle some frost just fine, if that helps.

  5. They look great. I have some kohlrabi to transplant, once I decide where it’s going to go.

  6. Kohlarabi I only planted in the spring, and there are so versatile indeed: sauteed, stir-fry, slaw, mashed, soup etc.. like celeriac which I love, and that I am also just starting to harvest.

    Fennel… got to try that again. I can’t get the timing right for it to bulb. The hoop house will help… I hope. Yours are truly handsome. I need to search your archives for other post on fennel.

  7. I cannot believe I still haven’t tried kohlrabi. I really need to hop to it.

  8. I am educated. Beautifully. Lots of things I’ve wondered about fall plantings, and woody, root crops, too. Thank you. Fantastic post!

  9. Stef, don’t wait too long! My experience is you can crowd them pretty well. And yes: we’ll be watching your winter harvesting, greedily.

    Sylvie, this might be the only post I made about fennel! Used to be, I was the only one who liked it but now our girl is on board 🙂 I am not quite sure about good timing for you with it. It does like it cool, but if it heats up too quickly it will go to seed…likewise if you plant it too late you might not get good bulbing. I am thinking mid-Sept. maybe for you, under the hoop frames: they last a while, even if it’s chilly, and this will give them more time to plump up. And kohlrabi in stir-fry sounds good. I still love it raw best, with a tiny sprinkling of good salt…

    Denise, get on it! I am quite sure you should be able to find it by you somewhere. It’s really tasty. You just have to do a bit of peeling to find that out, though.

    Sharon! Great, glad I taught you a little something. I guess the only thing I have tended to notice is that older stuff gets woody especially when it’s hot. Beets, though: they almost never get woody at all! One of the reasons I love them so.

  10. We got some kohlrabi in our CSA last summer. It was the first time we’d eaten it. We cut it up raw into sticks and ate it with ranch. DELICIOUS. We’re kohlrabi converts.

  11. Heh

    I’ve decided to take that quite personally!!

    • OMG I have been slapped with the stupid stick!!! Wow normally I am a lot more with it (was about to say “on top of things” but, oops!)

  12. Huh, I see that what I was responding to did not appear in my comment, but it was, “older stuff gets woody especially when it’s hot,” and that’s why (I reasoned) I must be getting woody — I used to be hot!

  13. Though I am new to Michigan, I’ve developed a “Michigan Slaw” recipe that is great for introducing my friends to Kohlrabi. I julienne kohlrabi, apples and beets, and toss them in a sauce of honey, dijon mustard, apple cider vinegar, tarragon, garlic, salt, pepper, and just enough mayo to make sure it is all coated.

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