Ginger Johnson

Following the relentless heat of summer, I say bring on the cooler weather! Autumn seems to be a timely change for many of us eager for signs of crisp weather. Friends around the fireplaces, cool evening walks, cozy sweaters, and the bounty of harvest time are all worthy of this colorful season.

Fall is an excellent time to reconnect with your friends, family and neighbors. Summer scatters people to lakes, cabins, far-flung vacations and can be a tougher time to really enjoy each other's company. Fall brings us back together to reconvene, prepare and settle into the coming winter.

And with fall comes the cornucopia of produce waiting their turn at our table -- the last push of Mother Nature to get her goods on our plates.

It's the time I circle my wagons, so to speak, and think about what's ahead for eatings in the coming months. What are the foods, drinks and activities you can hardly wait to enjoy again each fall? Squash? Mulled cider? Canning parties to put up the last of the garden veggies? All of that and more are on my can't-wait-to-do list. So let's talk fall food and drink goodness.

As the last of the tomatoes blush to red and the fragile zucchini leaves falls prey to Jack Frost, we can start harvesting squash and any remaining melons. These store well in a cool environment for future use; be sure to keep them clean & dry in the cool space you choose. We can also dig potatoes, give them a good brush off and house them in a suitable, dark, cool and dry home until we call them into action. Freshly dug tubers from the earth always make me smile and spark my culinary creativity.

Onions are ready to go, as are any pepper holdouts. You can pick them all pre-frost to store or use as desired. Greens will still grow for a while, depending on what you've planted and if you give them extra fall protection. Hearty kale and chard will keep cranking, though your lettuce and spinach plants will give up the ghost with little protest to cold weather.

Herbs and spice plants may require a bit of extra care to ensure they can either survive the winter where they're at; or, replant them in pots to take indoors until spring rolls around again.

And how about those apples? They're going to swamp you with their ripe crispness, so be prepared to pick and process, store and give away (if you've got plenty extra). These beauties will last long into the winter when properly stored.

As you continue to harvest or buy fruits and vegetables, know that treatment and storage will be tantamount to them retaining the best quality and nutrition they can offer. Do a bit of quick and easy research, prepare spaces and containers for use, get it done and then relax. You'll have an army of flavor waiting for you to reward you for your work.

Extra, extra: Eat all about it!

In this time of sometimes overly abundant produce, food pantries and kitchens would greatly welcome your overflow. A quick search online will yield organizations and phone numbers to call. Inquire first to see what they need, want and can accept. If you have something they unfortunately can't take, offer you overflow to friends and local charities. We have so much to share and many hungry recipients out there who'd love your extra fresh goods.

Ginger Johnson can often be found pairing food & drink, speaking, developing recipes and teaching all sorts of classes to flavor lovers all over. Read more at and She can also be found on Twitter (@gingerjohnson) and Facebook (Ginger Johnson LLC).