Friday, October 5, 2012

Experience the Harvest

The Harvest Celebration & Antique Tractor Show will be the highlight of this weekend at Powell Gardens.  A widespread frost or freeze also looms but we are still not under a freeze watch on this side of the state line.  The Heartland Harvest Garden staff are busy preparing the harvest for the visitors to experience the bounty of the garden as well as preparing the garden for a potential freeze.

Barbara Fetchenhier is de-stemming tomatoes harvested to beat the freeze.  Gardeners have been bringing in a bounty of frost tender tomatoes, peppers and eggplant.

Here's a closer look at a box of freshly picked tomatoes, peppers and eggplant.  It makes me hungry just looking at this colorful harvest.

Here's Barbara with a batch of fresh ratatouille made from the harvest.

Heartland Harvest Garden Horticulturist Matt Bunch digs peanuts before a potential freeze.  Yes, peanuts are produced underground!  Not from the roots but from above ground flowers that burrow underground to produce the fruit.  How's that for a plant nut!

Here's a closeup of the peanuts.  You can see they are attached back up to the above ground part of the plant and not the roots.  The roots have nodules with nitrogen fixing capabilities as do most legumes.  Anyone with peanut allergies are not to fear the plant, only the processed peanut can cause the allergic reaction.

Speaking of nuts, be sure and drop in the Good Earth Workshop in the Missouri Barn.  Here you will see a display of some of the nuts of the Heartland Harvest Garden.

Crack yourself some hazelnuts to sample from the garden (note safety glasses provided).  Our hazelnut shrubs had a great year this past summer.

Hardy Almonds always are a surprise product from the Heartland Harvest Garden.  They are actually Peach-Almond hybrids (Prunus x amygdalopersica) and make beautiful trees with gorgeous pink flowers in spring and almonds in fall (cultivars 'Hall's Hardy' and 'Reliable').  True almonds (Prunus dulcis) are not as hardy but we are trialing some very hardy cultivars from the Ukraine.  Remember peach pits are poisonous!

Pine nuts are another garden surprise!  Pinjons are well-known pine nuts from New Mexico that don't do well in our climate but others like the Lacebark Pine Pinus bungeana produce delicious pine nuts!  We only have one cultivar of Lacebark Pine in the Harvest Garden so not many of the nuts have pollinated very well so there are many "blank" (empty) nuts.  Come out and try one!  We need to plant a couple more lacebark pine seedlings or other varieties to help pollinate for the future.

The Good Earth Workshop also has a display of our hardy oranges (Poncirus now Citrus trifoliata).  Barbara has made a wonderful drink from them for you to taste.  It reminds me of grapefruit juice.  To make the drink Barbara de-fuzzed the fruit and then used the juice and zest of the rinds for a very flavorful refreshment.

Here's a picture of our hardy orange tree and how loaded it was with fruit this year.  It is just south of the Visitor Center and is the cultivar 'Flying Dragon' which has unique spiraled branching.  We have many hardy oranges planted in the Heartland Harvest Garden and we expect them to start producing oranges soon (they are just 5 years old and grown from seed). 

Even if we happen to get a freeze Sunday morning don't be afraid to visit the garden.  I guarantee it will be filled with "berried treasures" like this Victoria Southern Magnolia and we have many flowers and edibles that are freeze resistant on display, not to mention fall color that is beginning.  So bundle up with the predicted temperatures in the 50's and enjoy the crisp autumn air; tastes, sights and sounds of the garden and don't forget to walk the Visitor Center allee to see all the unique antique tractors too.

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