Growing the Desert Garden

Welcome to the Desert Garden, with garden coach Tyler Storey, where we talk about everything having to do with gardening and landscaping in the Desert Southwest. From composting to Cercidium and agaves to arugula — we'll cover everything you want to know to grow your own beautiful Desert Garden.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Back at the Ranch: Mid-Winter Vegetable Harvest

Winter Pepper Harvest © Tyler Storey

If you continue to water your Summer and Spring crops, and absent early freezes, you'll find that certain of your vegetables will continue producing into the Winter. Here at The Ranch, the eggplant, peppers, and chiles are still producing.

Don't be surprised if the vegetables you harvest at this time of year are smaller than what you saw in the warmer months; the early heat, later cold, and shortening days result in significantly smaller fruits. The photo shows red and golden bell peppers, and Poblano and Serrano chiles that came out of the garden the other afternoon; all are on the small side, but they all had excellent flavor.

If you saw these in the grocery, you'd probably pass them by, but these are home-grown bounty and there's nothing at all wrong with them.

Growing vegetables at home calls for two adjustments to how most of us have come to view food. First, we need to realize that "perfection" isn't a matter of how something looks, but rather a matter of what it is. And, second, we start deciding what's for dinner on the basis of what's ready in the garden instead of what we can drive off and pick up at the grocery. The second of these is without a doubt the bigger adjustment for the modern American eater.

So what do you do with a mid-Winter bunch of dwarf peppers and chiles?

This particular bunch went into a soup pot with some store-bought onion, garlic, chicken and kernel corn, and were seasoned with cilantro, oregano, lime, and epazote from the garden. In theory, the onion, garlic, and corn could also have come from the garden, but I didn't freeze any corn from earlier, and the onion and garlic went in late this year. Had I grown zucchini this year, some of that would have gone in also.

And if I had chickens . . . . I might have to think about that one.

As I've said before, year-round vegetables are one of the great advantages of living in the Desert Garden. And the more you garden, the more eating what you grow becomes an every-day habit, and not just for special occasions.


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