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Saturday, November 26, 2022

Garden Guru: Giving Thanks

ColumnsGarden Guru: Giving Thanks

I’m feeling very blessed. November is here, and Thanksgiving on the way. I just watched the full moon rise slowly above the mountains, with a tip of a craggy point slowly receding as the face of the moon rose above it. Magical! 

So far, most of my family and close friends have avoided the curse of COVID, and for that I am very grateful. There is a lot of controversy over vaccinations, possibly because it all happened so fast. Before we even knew much about the disease, new vaccination strategies were being pushed, and many people rejected the vaccine model, preferring to rely on their own immune systems and personal health protocols.

Possibly because I am old enough to remember epidemics of some of the diseases for which we vaccinate, I am generally a fan of vaccines. My mother nearly died of diphtheria, my father of rabies and tuberculosis. I heard personal horror stories of the 1918 flu. I had measles as a child and had to stay in a dark room for two weeks to prevent the disease from damaging my sight. My young friend had to scooch along the floor instead of walking because of polio. When we went to the family graveyard, it was full of graves of young children who died of one epidemic or another. Now, because of vaccines, most of those diseases are rare.

But more research is coming out about COVID-19 that suggests that lifestyle may be a factor in the seriousness of a response, and this is where gardeners may have an edge. Diet and activity may play a significant role in how sick a person gets with COVID. Those who get quality outdoor exercise and eat lots of fresh fruits and vegetables generally fare much better. 

“TUESDAY, Sept. 14, 2021 (HealthDay News)—People who eat plenty of fruits and vegetables may have a somewhat lower risk of COVID-19 than those with unhealthy diets, a new study suggests.

“Of more than 590,000 adults surveyed, researchers found that the quarter with the most plant-rich diets had a 9% lower risk of developing COVID-19 than the quarter with the least-healthy diets. Their risk of severe COVID-19, meanwhile, was 41% lower, according to findings recently published online in the journal Gut.”

I just fixed a salad for dinner. I picked the lettuce and spinach from the row I planted around the first of August. The plants are now about 4” to 6” tall, and they survived three inches of snow in mid-October. After the snow, I covered them with old sheets on the coldest nights. The leaves may freeze at night, but thaw again the next day. They will survive down to about 20°. 

I added a few beet greens and a beet root, carrots, and a little cauliflower and topped the greenery with a homegrown tomato that I picked a few weeks ago and ripened indoors. I’m hoping to harvest salad greens for a few more weeks, until the ground freezes and doesn’t thaw during the day. Then I will cover any remaining greenery with straw and see if it comes back in the spring for a second round of salads.

I harvested my second-year’s parsley a few days ago. I usually plant parsley in the spring and pick some as needed during the first year. Since it is a biennial, it usually overwinters, and then comes back abundantly the second year. If I cut the flower stalks off these plants as they form, they will continue to make edible leaves for a second season, and then, as the season is wrapping up, I cut all the good leaves and dry them for seasoning over the winter. The parsley that I planted this past spring will survive under straw and snow to provide early greens next spring. 

Parsley is one of the healthiest plants you can eat. Fresh kale is right up there with it and hardy varieties can be treated the same way as parsley. With these two, you can almost guarantee healthy, fresh and nutritious salads for an extra two months in the fall. Often these same plants will be some of the first to reappear in the spring, especially if they are covered with straw before the really hard freezes come, usually sometime in November.  

And I’m planting my indoor salad boxes this week. It’s a little late, but they will probably make some lettuce and other hardy salad greens to replace the ones in the garden when it turns colder. I also harvested a lot of kale seeds from plants that bolted earlier. I plan to do some kale sprouts in jars, like I do other seeds, for fresh greenery in the middle of winter. 

I hope to be able to bring a fresh green salad to the Neighbors Helping Neighbors Thanksgiving dinner. I hope to see you there. Happy Thanksgiving!  

Matie Belle Lakish
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