Putting the garden to rest in Kelowna occupies much of my gardening time in late October and early November. It is a calm time at our home but in the Abruzzo region of Italy, it is also a time to celebrate the crocus, or saffron to be particular. Each crocus flower produces only three threads (stigmas) of saffron. It blooms for only one week each year at the end of October. The saffron must be harvested by hand, in the mid morning, when the flowers are still closed. This protects the delicate stigmas inside. It takes about 1000 flowers to produce one ounce of saffron.
Many small towns around the Abruzzo capital of Aquila have entered the Agri-tourism business. One town, San Pio delle Camere has a festival at the end of October. This festival gives people a chance to pick the flowers, remove the stigmas from the flowers and prepare them for drying. The resulting saffron is a real delicacy and is marketed in small packages.
Similarly chestnut and truffle festivals are also held in many parts of Italy. Recently I came across a chestnut infused cheese that is making headway in Italy. November also sees Bagna Cauda Days in many small towns of the Piemonte region. This fondue type dish is a glorious combination of garlic, sardines and fall vegetables.
Not all of the garden is resting during November. Late seeded lettuce, nestled under clear umbrellas, is giving me a fresh salad every night. Grown in half wine barrels, these greens usually last for most of November. Then, the greenhouse seeded lettuce and micro-greens will be ready for harvest. Kale, grown against the house, is quite frost hardy so we will be picking it for stir fries well into mid winter. Our pole beans consisted of scarlet runners and Romano varieties and they were doing very well until this last frost. Taking down the vines left us with a bucket of dried Romano beans which will be used this winter. The scarlet runner beans were still quite fresh, and will be shelled and will used this week.
Also still doing well are the parsley and chives. I moved the parsley pot closer to the house and there it will stay quite green, even under the snow. Also doing their best at this time of the year are the fall asters and chrysanthemums. November is also the time I use the dried flowers and seed pods that I picked all summer. They will be assembled into small bouquets, that I will delivered to family members grave sites on All Souls Day, November 2.
And then there is the final job for this year’s garden… spreading my black gold, my home made compost. What started out as two full bins of dried leaves and green matter worked its way down to a half a bin… but oh is it beautiful!
Life-long Gardener Don Rampone shares his tips and advice for gardening