Garden Talk

snake gourd in the Discovery Garden

Horticultural Highlight: Fall Harvest

Lindsey Luks

In this series, the staff of Duke Gardens highlights plants you’ll find within our 55-acre living collection. This week Doris Duke Center Gardens horticulturist Lindsey Luks talks about harvest season. 

Where I grew up in northeastern N.C., the fall season was always something more to us than pumpkin spice lattes and cozy sweaters. The fall harvest is a very demanding yet exciting time of year.

Fall means long days for farmers, which when I was younger included my father. They work from sun up to well beyond sundown, when lumbering combines then light their way through darkened fields digging peanuts so they can begin drying in the sun the next morning. The cool, damp night air thickens with the smell of fresh earth and peanuts.

grackle with fruit in a tree

Fall also ushers in swarms of blackbirds gleaning the fields for food left behind, taking noisy residence in our old hickory trees in the back yard.  Cotton escapes from its bales during transport, sprinkling down along the autumn roadsides and ditch banks, accenting the golden and blue blooms of the season.

I always remember to give thanks to our farmers during this time of year. Here at Duke Gardens, I am equally as thankful to take part in my own kind of harvest, which we celebrate daily in the Charlotte Brody Discovery Garden. This year alone we harvested 3,265 pounds of produce, bringing our cumulative total to 16,310 pounds since the garden first opened in 2012. We use a small portion of this produce for our education programs and donate the rest to Healthy Families Durham, a nonprofit devoted to nutritional education and hunger relief.

We do grow peanuts here, too, and I love to share with visitors the joy of digging up and eating a green peanut. The smell of earth that clings to the shell before you crack it open to get the good stuff is just as important as eating it. In the Discovery Garden, we also grow and display many other North Carolina crops, as well as food and textile crops from around the world.

While we won’t have peanuts at our free Harvest Festival on Oct. 20, there will be a variety of activities that celebrate fall in the Discovery Garden. We welcome everyone to enjoy festivities ranging from crafts to games, free children’s books, seed planting, tropical fruit tasting, garden tours, storytelling and more.

We welcome you to bring your family and friends to this drop-in festival, or simply come by yourself and join us for a lovely fall day of celebration. And whenever you enjoy a nutritious meal, I hope you’ll remember to thank a farmer for the harvests that bring this food to you!

Please click the photo below to link to more information about this year's Harvest Festival.

More Garden Talk highlights

Photos from top: A snake gourd growing in the Discovery Garden; a grackle eats fruit from the garden; families enjoying activities at a past Harvest Festival. All photos by Sue Lannon.

Families enjoy Harvest Festival activities