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Weekend Life

Learning to Grow: Fall provides ideal weather for harvesting

Cranberries can be used in pies, jelly and relish. For cranberry recipes, visit allrecipes.com.
Cranberries can be used in pies, jelly and relish. For cranberry recipes, visit allrecipes.com.

Fall is the time for harvest, and while I think most people were definitely ready for some cooler weather, I wasn’t quite ready for our first frost in September. 

At the Idea Garden, located at the University of Illinois Research Farm at the corner of Peck and Route 38, the frost came on Sept. 24. Our garden sits in a low spot, and we lost our tomato and pepper plants to that frost.

Later that week, a quick rally cry went out to the volunteers that have worked diligently in the garden all season, and several of us harvested the produce. It was easy to pick since the plants had all died leaving the fruits easily exposed. 

In just an hour, six of us had harvested 272 pounds of tomatoes, peppers, and chard. 
We loaded up my car and I headed south to the Aurora Interfaith Food Pantry, located at the Hesed House. They were so thrilled to receive the fresh produce; it was distributed within 24 hours of harvest.  

We still have chard that is thriving in the garden and plan on harvesting late into October – weather permitting of course. 

I was also fortunate enough to make a quick trip north to see some of the beautiful colors in the north woods. One of our scenic drives took us to a cranberry marsh to purchase some freshly picked cranberries. 

It was interesting to see the cranberry marsh up close and get an idea of their growing and harvesting practices.  A quick recipe search on allrecipes.com landed us a delicious cranberry pie for dessert that evening.
 
My next search will be for some cranberry jelly or relish recipes to preserve over the next week or so. 

Fall is my favorite time of year; cooler weather, canning the last of the summer vegetables, and cooking with those comfort foods of fall. 

As you put your gardens to bed, check and see if there are local organizations that would benefit from your bountiful harvest. Any amount you can donate would be sincerely appreciated.

Here are a couple local places to donate:

• Aurora Interfaith Food Pantry (www.aurorafoodpantry.org)

• Northern Illinois Food Bank (solvehungertoday.org)

• Vicki Hagstotz is a University of Illinois Extension Master Gardener for Kane County. Call the extension office at 630-584-6166.

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