Got several more harvests out of this planting, providing us with many tasty meals and salads. Note the bug holes in the mesclun mix. I'm a 100% organic grower - partly due to ideology, but mostly because I'm too lazy to actually go out and apply pesticides. So a small amount of insect damage is inevitable, however healthy plants generally aren't harmed by it.
I was very slow about planting summer crops - my thesis advisor decreed that I must publish a paper (her tenure review is fast approaching), so I was preoccupied with work. I managed to plant some pole beans (goldmarie, a yellow romano variety) on twine trellises, along with vegetable amaranth (edible red leaf) and swiss chard (bright lights). The amaranth dominated the chard, didn't realize it would grow so quickly. The pole beans were very tasty, but I wasn't too fond of the vegetable amaranth, though the foliage is attractive and resembles coleus. Baby amaranth leaves are OK (taste sort of like spinach), but leaves from plants >6 inches tall are tough and chewy.
Despite being very busy, I managed some fall plantings mid-September. I totally neglected everything thereafter - no watering, never put up the plastic covers for the cold frames, etc. Amazingly, the garden grew very well. I harvested everything on December 20th, in advance of a predicted winter storm. The final haul: kale, radishes, swiss chard, mild and tangy mesclun mix, and bok choy (all same varieties as above plantings). Out of all the harvests, this was by far the most memorable (what could be more fun than picking greens in near-freezing heavy rain) and definitely the best tasting. Time for some biochemistry. Plant metabolism is highly responsive to temperature. Cold temperatures induce production of sugars, which serve as cryoprotectants (protect plant tissues from freeze damage, basically like antifreeze). Additionally many secondary metabolic pathways are differentially regulated by temperature... The end result is that veggies grown under cold conditions are usually much sweeter and have a noticeably different flavor than those grown in warmer weather. The old timers call this "cold-sweetening". The effect was noticeable for all of the veggies in this final harvest, but it was particularly dramatic for arugula (main component of tangy mesclun mix). Spring and summer grown arugula (which comprises most of what you get in stores and restaurants) is in-your-face peppery and bitter, which I like in it's own right. However, winter arugula is totally different, the peppery-bitterness is still there but subdued, and the flavor develops a complex sweet and nutty overtone. Jen and I both agreed that our homegrown winter arugula was absolutely delicious (especially with poppyseed dressing) and made some of the best salads we have ever had.
Alas, due to the fence our yard gets no light in the winter, otherwise I would continuing gardening in hoop-houses. Stay tuned for my attempts at indoor gardening....