Autumn is officially here, although you might not know it from the temperature. The length of daylight shortens every day and soon enough we will all be pitched into blackness by the early evening. Although this means after-work outdoor recreation will be cut short, it also means it's time to start planting fall crops!
Fall crops tend to fall into three broad (and occasionally overlapping) categories: leafy greens, cruciferous vegetables and root crop vegetables. There are also peas, a cool-weather loving legume.
Leafy greens like kale, chard, spinach and mustard make wonderful additions to salad and soups. They can also be cooked, preferably sautéed with some oil and garlic. A couple of my favorite recipes are kale and rice soup and sautéed greens with eggs and toast. With regular watering and fertilizing these greens can produce all season!
Cruciferous vegetables are vegetables of the Brassicaceae family which include cabbage, broccoli, bok choy, Brussels sprouts and many more. In addition to having the coolest name ever (cross bearing because the flowers resemble crosses), these crops are high in Vitamin A and soluble fiber. Unlike leafy greens you only get one harvest out of most of the cruciferous vegetables – a head of cabbage or cauliflower. Also, be prepared to patiently wait for your prize as Brussels sprouts and broccoli can take up to three months before they are ready to harvest.
I liken root crops to comic book superheroes like Superman. They look pretty dull and placid while they're growing because the fun, tasty part grows underground. When you harvest them - KAPOW - big, colorful, nutrient roots were hiding just below the surface! Time to plant your beets, carrots, radishes, parsnips, onions and garlic! Potatoes, although they are tubers, are generally classed with the root vegetables also. These are one-time harvest crops and many are fantastic raw, roasted or mashed. Some oil or butter and fresh herbs are all you need to make a wonderful dish out of your root vegetables!
Submitted by Kate Wilkins, AmeriCorps VISTA at Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services.