Bittersweet Fruits of Climate Change: Phyto-Fall Garden Bounty

Campsie garden harvest, October 2012

Campsie garden harvest, October 2012

In this week of devastation by Hurricane Sandy, which surely seems like a climate change event to me (even though media and political candidates don't say so), we are eating fresh, first-rate, organic vegetables from our own garden. They are both delicious and bittersweet.

Bittersweet because their presence also seems to me to be a climate change event. If I could choose, I would prefer an unharmed ozone layer along with the likely colder weather, instead of these precious foods. Since I do not get to choose, I am grateful for the benefits of this year's long growing season.

In recent years, we often have tomatoes ripening on the vine well into October. The built-in Campsie Gardener routinely takes chances now on August plantings of green beans that, 10 years ago, would have had little chance of maturing before a frost. Today, November 1, we have green bean plants still in bloom, and tiny green beans hanging in clusters, maturing for meals in the expected upcoming 50+degree days.

Central Kentucky's frost date is October 15, an average that has not changed much yet. Living right in a downtown heat island, we often see no frost until a week or two after cooler, rural parts of the county start scraping car windshields.

Last week's bountiful harvest, shown above, fills our plates with beautiful flavor and fine nutrients this week. The late fall confluence of summer vegetables and fall crops means salads can include both tender fall lettuce and dead-ripe tomatoes, both homegrown, a combination that eludes us during the spring lettuce flush.

As our planet warms, we see Kentucky's gardening months lengthening. Weather is still unpredictable, so in a different year, even with a warmer climate, we could still see an early killing frost, just as farms and orchards suffered from a single devastating night in the 20s in April this year. This year, though, we enjoy sweetly crunchy green beans that seem strangely out of season.

With more gardens and the slow increase in high tunnel (hoop house) winter vegetable production in Kentucky, all Kentuckians may soon have the opportunity to eat fresh, recently harvested, locally grown vegetables year round. That will bring much needed health benefits, ones that partially stem from a situation that threatens life as we know it. Strange, but what to do?

Walk a little more, drive a little less, save up for solar collectors. In the meantime, eat more salad.