This evening marks the beginning of autumn. And the weather seems to know that this date on the calendar has arrived. Here in North Texas, the word is that temperatures over the next few days will return to a more seasonal norm, and the humidity is expected to drop to bearable levels.
It’s beyond the optimal time to plant a fall garden, but still not too late, say the experts.
According to Texas Gardener, if you braved the recent heat to prepare your garden properly and you’re ready to sow those seeds, this is a great time to plant, transplant, hope for those pleasant days of Indian Summer, and then wait to enjoy the fruits of your labor.
Who doesn’t look forward to ripe tomatoes, fresh lettuces, spinach and chard — all those things that withered on the vine during the sultry days of summer — and, of course, the broccoli, carrots and squash that thrive in local gardens in the fall. Some of the best salads and soups are those that contain freshly-harvested fall vegetables. This is also the time for colorful produce at the farmers markets, painted pumpkins and fall decorating.
Gardening seems easier in this area in the fall because of the moderate temperatures and still abundant sun, but anyone who has lived in Texas more than a year knows how fast the weather is likely to change. Just wait a minute, as the old saying goes. So, while fall is a great time to garden, be aware that the first frost may come earlier than expected and you might have to scramble to pick the last of the green tomatoes quickly. Luckily, there are a lot of green tomato recipes.
North Haven Gardens in Dallas has prepared a helpful listing of crops and planting dates, both indoor and outdoor, that is a wonderful guide for local gardeners. Keep that list handy, now and through the winter; try some of the vegetables you might not have considered before, including English peas, beets and leeks. Spend some quality time outdoors in your garden this fall, and spend some more time planning your spring crops.
Enjoy the Fall Bounty
Enjoying the harvest is the reward for the time you spend working in the garden. If you love squash soup, think about trying some new twists on that old favorite fall recipe. By keeping the ingredients fresh and simple, you can eat well, stay healthy and spend less time in the kitchen this fall. The result? You’ll have more time to enjoy family and friends, and all the fall activities that you can squeeze into your schedule. You might even try a fall picnic in the park with insulated mugs full of steaming soup.
Even if you don’t grow your own, you can still find plenty of fall squash at your local market. Or, if you haven’t yet visited the newly-opened Farmers Shed at the Downtown Dallas Market, make an excursion to stock up on colorful gourds, squashes and pumpkins for fall cooking and decorating. Fall is a great time to get out of doors, cook fresh and and eat well.
Here’s just one recipe:
Butternut Squash, Lime and Coconut Soup
About 6 cups of mashed squash, peeled and steamed or roasted
2 cups (or a little more) of vegetable stock
8-10 oz coconut milk
juice of 2 large limes, and the zest of one lime
1 onion, finely chopped
A little olive oil
A little chopped jalapeno (optional)
Cumin, Coriander and Ginger (up to 1 tsp of each, to taste)
Saute the onion briefly in the olive oil, with the seasonings; add the vegetable stock, the lime and the coconut milk; then add the squash, cilantro and jalapeno and simmer gently for 20 to 30 minutes. If you prefer perfectly smooth soup, run the mixture through a food processor or blender; if you like it a little chunky, serve it with some cilantro and a dollop of sour cream for garnish.