Ruth, a recently retired English teacher, has lived most her adult life in San Jose, California, but relocated to Taylors, SC in May, 2011, to share her mother's golden years and to be near three sisters. Now she's excited to have a house with a yard 10 times the size of her property in California, and can't wait to get digging! Follow her blog to see how a recent transplant experiences gardening, both ornamental and vegetable, in the hot clay of South Carolina.

Recent Blog Posts

May 22
Blooms and Beds and Garden Buddies   (2 comments)

Apr 08
Cardinals, Crows and Thunder Snow.   (4 comments)

Jan 02
Minding the Future Garden as the Old Year Wanes   (3 comments)

Dec 30
Brimming Well of Winter and Goblets of Ice   (4 comments)

Dec 16
The Garden Green, Deep in December   (3 comments)

Nov 26
A Taste of Cold November   (3 comments)

Oct 28
In the Cool, Cool, Cool of the (Garden)..I’ll Be There   (4 comments)

Oct 11
Summer Garden Residents: The Original Earthlings   (4 comments)




A Taste of Cold November
by Ruth Mason McElvain - posted 11/26/12

In the South Carolina Piedmont, cold November paints the maples mellow red and brilliant yellow.

Crape myrtles flame with orange, blazing in the cold before the trees all bare their branches to the winter sky.

The yardmen are piling leaves in my compost area with their grass clippings.


And I have a shed, neglected all the busy summer, that needs straightening: tools are tumbled in a dogpile, debris windblown on the floor, and gardening supplies in shameful clutter.

Time to sweep...


.. and hose down dirty wheelbarrows, tarps, tables, and seed starting supplies..


so the shed can overwinter in better order.

Even near winter, my garden still rewards a farmer's soul I garnered from my peanut-farmer Daddy, and my gardener Mama whose corner yard fifteen houses away is a showcase in our neighborhood.  For me, garden bounty in the fall includes beautiful romaine lettuce that does well in cool temps.  l'm so glad it's hardy; it's my favorite lettuce.  I want to grill and chill these when I do steaks next, maybe this week, harvesting these heads, drizzling down the head from the trimmed root ends with a good Caesar dressing before I toss them on a hot grill, mere seconds per side before turning, long enough for grill marks, smoky flavor and a good wilting to create  great bite and flavor.  Just like Chef Gloria does at Chef Peter's studio, Chef 360, here in Greenville.  Mmmm.  All you need then are baked potatoes, piping hot, salted and creamy, with a juicy t-bone.

I'd love to add peas, but though the Burpeana peas are pretty in my garden, so far nary a blossom, much less sweet plump pods; I hold out hope, however, as I do for carrots and beets, unmet also as yet.

The weather is frosting up now, but a week or two ago my peppers still bristled with these waxy green spires.  My first winter garden, nature gives me OJT (on the job training) for a novice.  I left the peppers from the summer garden because blooms still popped up and turned to fragrant spikes.  I got three crops from them all told, handing out a toothy pepper sauce to friends and family.  In my bones I knew I better bring them in soon, though I had hoped for some to color in the thinning sun.  The air whispered warnings to make one last bottle of pepper sauce before the fruit succumbed to the cold.  So, I picked, washed, bottled, added salt, and boiling vinegar.

And managed to bottle summer one last time in glass, cooling here on my screen porch and destined for a family I know who demands their life robusto.

So glad I listen to my tutors, because sure enough, the next day I woke to find the poinsettia pepper plants in the bed by the windmill all withered from the night's frost.  That was close!  The tiny peppers I left, hoping to see get just a little bigger, maybe turn red, were ruined. 

I'm grateful radishes like the cold better.  I love this gridwork table for rinsing my roots by the back steps.

and the scarlet, snowy-white, and purple radishes, loaded with minerals, vitamin C, and fiber are just plain crunchy-delicious with a dip of homemade ranch: sour cream, buttermilk, garden scallions and garlic topsThese both graced my crudite presentation at Thanksgiving.

Yesterday, I harvested golden globe turnips, rinsed them on the table by the steps

and brought them in to fix them like my Mama taught me.

Peel the roots while browning a few strips of bacon and a fresh pork chop.  In go the roots in thick slices...

Then liquid (I use chicken broth) and the thoroughly washed whole greens, spines and all.  Looks like a huge messa greens, but we all know they cooked down to a more modest amount, but enough for a couple servings each for my mother, nearest sister a mile away, and me.

After an hour simmer, you can pull the greens onto a plate with tongs and cut into better bite sizes with two knives.  The greens begged for moist, buttery cornbread.  My own pepper sauce gave zip to the turnips and pot liquor to soak cornbread in, a hearty, satisfying lunch on a cold November day, to enjoy with posies from my yard: paper whites, marigolds, burning bush, iceberg rose, part of my Thanksgiving centerpiece.  All this was perfect fare for watching Gone with the Wind  three days after Thanksgiving.  I'm thankful the South has moved on since those cinematically-depicted days, that I'm back home here, and for a fall garden yielding soulful sustenance from the backyard dirt.



RSS | Print

Share this story on:
Facebook       Twitter      


Christopher (Louisiana - Zone 8a) - 11/27/2012

Glad you got your peppers picked in time. I pickled some habaneros off my rather prolific plant. They were way too hot for me to come close to eating the numbers that I grew.

Have you ever had your peppers rot before you could use them? I picked some and sat them on my counter for maybe a day, then put them in a big jar with a lid to take to family over Thanksgiving. They were only in the jar about a day (and stayed cool), but when we opened it they were warm and smelled like they were rotting. It seemed strange they could rot so quickly, but no one was brave enough to eat one. I no longer put peppers in a closed container unless I pickle them first, but I'm not sure if that was even the problem.
{screen_name}'s avatar

Ruth Mason McElvain - 11/28/2012

Design Bloke,
I'd say your peppers must've already been going "south" when you laid them on the counter. Maybe they got too cold outside and that made them break down faster. Mine were really compromised on the plant when I went out to them, as I mentioned above, after frosty temps. Surely Louisiana is cold like SC was this past week. See what I mean jelly bean? (Thank you for fixing my problem w/the picture).
{screen_name}'s avatar

Janet, The Queen of Seaford - 11/29/2012

Your post is a good reminder to clean out my shed, like you I have just stuck things in there over the summer and fall. Time to get it straightened up.
Lovely harvest of radishes and turnips. Your garden has been a great supplier of good eats this year.
A few of us are going to USC Upstate's Arbor Day (Dec 7) to hear Tracy DeSabato Aust speak. It is in Spartanburg. Will send you my cell number if you are interested in going and meeting up.
{screen_name}'s avatar