Photos: Greg and Trina
The Halloween Panic we experience has nothing whatsoever to do with goblins and ghosts, but with the garden.
It has to do with the first hard, garden-zapping freeze of the year which, for each of the last 13 years that I've lived and gardened here, has been, like clockwork, on Halloween. Which means coming home from work in the dark and realizing you have the entire garden to harvest before you can go to bed. Panic! It means harvesting at night, by headlamp, as the temperature plummets toward finger-numbing winter, and as goblins and ghosts prowl the neighborhood demanding free candy from strangers. Then spending what's left of the night dealing with the various piles of food in one way or another - cleaning, blanching and freezing; cleaning, blanching and canning; not cleaning, not blanching, and shoving it by the armful into the fridge and finally going to bed.
This year the Halloween Panic came a week early with four consecutive nights of freezing temperatures that dipped as low as 26. The panic was mostly still the same -- headlamps, dark, cold, pulling every last growing fruit and leaf from the garden and hauling it all inside where it was mounded up on every flat surface in the kitchen awaiting processing of one kind or another.
The biggest difference from previous years was that this year most of the butternut squash crop had to be picked before they had ripened, and from what I've read, they won't ripen indoors off the vine. I suppose time will tell. We thought it was a bummer when someone stole a single two-foot long butternut from the garden this summer; this may turn out to be a much bigger loss.
The good news is that the freezer and pantry are full of other homegrown spoils from a bountiful year - chard, kale, broccoli raab, squash, beans, carrots, basil, peppers, tomatoes, cherries, wild mushrooms, beet chutney, grape jelly, roasted garlic and onion jam...
...and the other good news is that the cold spell was brief -- deadly, but brief -- so we have quite happily come down from the panic, put our t-shirts and shorts back on, and returned to our previous state of revelling in a seemingly extended, definitely stunning autumn which has, at last, made its way down to our low-lying river valley.