A colorful look and a savory taste

Our eyes love color: Japanese maple becomes glowing focal point in monotone autumn landscape. — Photo by Susan Safford

Last Thursday’s 1.4-inch rain was welcome; the gentle onset permitted maximum absorption. Deer are moving about as the rutting season is underway; be vigilant when driving at dusk and later. Adult deer ticks are prevalent just now, too. Strangling bittersweet vines hold onto their leaves later than surrounding vegetation, making them easier to spot and eliminate.

Color from small trees

Our eyes really seem to be addicted to color, by their physical structures and by our aesthetic preferences, and autumn gives it to us as a final, parting gift. In this northern temperate climate it is an extraordinary thing to be in a landscape becoming darker and more monotone daily, and yet to experience — just then — an entire shrub or tree that has transformed into a glowing focal point.

Inspired by an item in the Advice section of the October “The Garden,” I direct attention here to alternatives to the sensational but invasive “burning bush” (Euonymus alatus) to supply the color that our eyes crave. A small tree in the garden is a valuable addition, in some ways more so than a shrub.

Trees of small stature may be planted to anchor a bed and under-planted in the same space with compatible herbaceous plants; they may provide shade or strategic screening. Winter structure, bare of leaves, provides pleasing alternatives to leafed-out phases; several mentioned here feature interesting bark.

Small trees with differing forms may be chosen, such as single or multi-stemmed, weeping, columnar, and canopied. Habit many be single- or multi-stemmed. Colorful fruit could be an added bonus. For example, crab apples (Malus) are available in larger and smaller growing forms; red-, orange-, and gold-fruited; and weeping, spreading and columnar in habit; with bright yellow to blushed to orange fall foliage.

Cornus kousa ‘Satomi’ grows to about twelve feet with interesting form and excellent fall color. Sorbus species provide brilliant autumn color; “The Garden” item mentions ‘Joseph Rock’ and its sport ‘Autumn Spire,’ (although they may be harder to find in the US).

Maples (Acer) are automatically associated with splendid autumn color. Those of small stature include many Japanese maple species, cultivars, and grafted specimens, as well as the species maples A. ginnala; A. griseum; and A. maximowiczianum.

Falling somewhere between shrub and small tree are: Disanthus cercidifolia, a Joseph’s coat of pink-orange-burgundy; many cultivars of Lagerstroemia (crape myrtle) and our own two natives providing clear golden yellows: Chionanthus virginianum (fringetree), and Clethra alnifolia.

Brussels sprouts

Brussels sprouts are one of the best fall and winter vegetables, as are many other members of the large Brassica family. They are resistant to frost and actually sweeten up with it.

For a fall and winter crop, Brussels sprouts are direct-sown in seedbeds in June and planted out in rows where they are to grow. They do best in soils that are about neutral or slightly alkaline in pH and high in organic matter, and can be intercropped with salad greens for space saving. Tall-growing varieties may need staking against wind-rock by November.

According to DK’s “Fruit and Vegetable Gardening,” spacing may be used to manipulate the results with Brussels sprouts. With close spacing of less than two feet in each direction, they can be grown to produce smaller sprouts of uniform maturity. Spaced two feet apart in the row with rows wider apart, grow them to produce larger sprouts to be picked in succession over a longer period.

Menu research is under way in many kitchens as the holidays near. Brussels sprouts are a fine, fall-garden harvest vegetable, but their drawback is that many, both children and growns, profess not to like them. Maybe this recipe is a mind-changer? It originally appeared in “Fine Cooking,” but I found it on the Internet and added my own twist.

For a family meal, use one pound of sprouts, and double all ingredients for a festive one. For the lemon flavoring I use a freezer-stored product that is a 24 karat culinary ingredient, frozen lemon powder:

Buy a nice organic lemon, wash and dry it, and place to freeze solid in your freezer. Then, using the food processor and the grating/shredding plate, grate the entire frozen lemon, skin and all. Store the frozen lemon powder in an airtight freezer container and measure out by the spoonful when bright lemon flavoring is called for.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts

(with lemon powder and Parmesan)

1 pound Brussels sprouts

3 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil, plus more if desired

1/2 tsp. salt

several grinds fresh black pepper

1-2 Tbsp. frozen lemon powder

1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

optional: handful of rinsed, cooked garbanzo beans (chickpeas)

Preheat oven to 475F. Remove yellowed leaves and trim bases of sprouts. Halve lengthwise. In a large mixing bowl, toss the sprouts, salt, pepper, and olive oil together until well coated. Arrange cut side down on the baking sheet lined with parchment paper or silpat. Roast until tender and browned, 12-15 minutes.

Lift corners of silpat or parchment paper and dump hot roasted sprouts back into mixing bowl, add the frozen lemon powder, grated Parmesan, and garbanzo beans, and toss to combine. Adjust seasoning and add a little more olive oil if desired, and serve hot.