The Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program has just come to an end at Creekside Farm at Walnut Cove, but there is still plenty to be done this season as Farm Manager Melissa Wickham reaps this year’s final harvests and prepares for next year’s bounty.
In preparation for winter and cooler days ahead, Melissa is sowing and growing cool-weather crops such as arugula, baby kale, radishes, salad turnips, tatsoi, mizuna and lettuces in several season extension structures. These include a high tunnel (an unheated greenhouse) and two caterpillar tunnels (movable hoop houses) that help keep crops warm on the chilly nights to come and give us a jump start on an early spring harvest.
Winter is also the time to reflect on the previous seasons and plan for those to come. This is when Melissa selects what vegetables will be grown next year, develops planting schedules, orders seeds, transplants, irrigation, fertilizers, tools and more. Though this process can be daunting, it’s a change of pace from the busy seasons of spring, summer and fall. “There is something very peaceful about sitting down with a cup of coffee and a seed catalogue on a chilly morning,” says Melissa.
As she hunkers down for winter and prepares for spring, one of the most important fall tasks on Melissa’s list is to cover crop the gardens in preparation for the next growing season. A cover crop protects and enriches the soil. They work to improve soil health and structure, reduce weed pressure, add organic matter, prevent erosion and more. Come spring, we will incorporate the biomass of these cover crops into the soil and plant the spring garden. According to Melissa, incorporating cover crops into your growing plan is one of the best things you can do for your soil.
In celebration of this season’s final Creekside Farm harvest — broccoli, cauliflower, greens, cabbage, radishes, carrots, beets, fennel, sweet potatoes, butternut and winter squashes, onions and more — we asked Bill Klein, Executive Chef of The Cliffs at Walnut Cove, to share his favorite, simple ways to turn autumn’s bounty into delightful dishes. Try these with your farmer’s market haul or CSA produce.
French Breakfast Radish Hors D’oeuvre
Slice a freshly baked baguette and spread a thin layer of room temperature, unsalted butter on each slice. Thinly slice a handful of radishes using a mandoline and place on buttered bread. On each slice, sprinkle some Fleur de Sel and enjoy!
Roasted Butternut Squash Soup
Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Cut squash in half and scoop out seeds. Lightly coat squash with oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast until tender, then let cool.
When the roasted butternut is cool enough to handle, scoop the squash flesh from the skins and place in a soup pot. Add enough cool water to make a thick purée. Add a dash of heavy cream and bring to a boil. Adjust seasoning to taste when the base has warmed through.
Pour the purée into a heat-safe blender and blend until smooth. Strain through a fine mesh sieve if needed. Adjust seasoning as needed and stir. Garnish with a swirl of heavy cream and pepitas if desired.