Archive for August, 2009

Seed harvesting begins

Chive seedsDo you harvest the seeds from your plants? I do. I know this sounds like a tedious, painstaking chore, but actually, for the most part, it’s not. And when you compare how easy it is to harvest a handful of seeds to what you would pay at a garden centre for a tiny envelope of those same seeds, it’s an easy and satisfying thing to do. I love walking around the garden in late summer and fall collecting seed pods from the plants. Already I have a stash of small jars starting to fill up with chive, columbine, poppy, tomato and cosmos seeds. Sweet peas and nasturtiums will be next – these are in their peak right now, but it won’t be long before tiny seed pods form in place of the flowers.

Here is a quick outline of a few of the easiest seeds to harvest. It’s probably no coincidence that they are also some of the easiest plants to grow from seeds. (more…)

August 29, 2009 at 3:34 pm 2 comments

Roasted cauliflower risotto

cauliflower risotto

A recent trip to the market yielded a giant head of fresh cauliflower from Beck’s Farm in Innisfail, Alberta, along with some locally grown garlic and onions. After browsing the recipes in this month’s Canadian Living magazine I decided to try their cauliflower risotto recipe. Here’s my version of it, with a few small tweaks. It was delicious! (more…)

August 25, 2009 at 10:12 pm 2 comments

Poppies

purple poppy

I discovered this year that poppies can be amazingly easy to grow. In the spring (early May) I sprinkled poppy seeds throughout our gardens in the front and backyard. I was fairly liberal with them, especially in places where we didn’t have much growing already.

They were a smashing success. There was a veritable poppy field growing in the front yard, and for a couple of weeks, I could hear people passing by on the sidewalk exclaiming, “Look at all the poppies!” They were beautiful. They grew up tall and straight, some of them almost waist-high, and the sight of them swaying gently in the wind was a lovely thing to look out on. They’re just about finished now. I’ve cleared them out and hung a couple of bunches of stems with seed heads still intact inside the garage to dry, possibly for an indoor arrangement, or at least to harvest some of the seeds for planting next year. I’m not sure if they are perennial or not. I am sure, though, that the squirrels have done a thorough job spreading the seeds around the yard. Squirrels are incredibly fond of poppies. I’ve seen them perched on a tree stump or in the garden dozens of times now, happily munching away on the seed heads of the poppies after they’ve finished blooming. (more…)

August 22, 2009 at 1:25 pm Leave a comment

Best blueberry muffins

blueberry muffins

These are the best blueberry muffins I have ever made, and possibly the best I have ever tasted. I’ve been making muffins almost once a week since the age of 16, so that’s saying something! These were made with fresh blueberries and a generous helping of lemon zest, slightly crispy on the outside and deliciously moist on the inside. Yum! The recipe is adapted from the Four Sisters Inn Cookbook, which I am steadily cooking my way through as the weekends wind by.

Blueberry Lemon Muffins
1/2 cup butter
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup yogurt
2 eggs
1-1/4 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons lemon zest
1-1/2 cups blueberries
1/2 cup flax seeds

Cream butter and sugar. Add lemon juice, yogurt and eggs and mix well. Combine flour, baking soda, salt, lemon zest, blueberries and flax seeds and gently fold into butter mixture. Spoon batter into greased or non-stick muffin tins*. Bake for 15 minutes at 350F. Makes 12 regular or 24 mini muffins.

*I recently received new muffin tins as a gift. I especially love the mini muffin tin, which is the perfect and amazing Non-stick Goldtouch brand from Williams Sonoma.

August 21, 2009 at 10:06 am 1 comment

Caprese salad

caprese salad

Caprese (ka-pree-see) salad, aka the delightful combination of fresh tomatoes, basil and buffalo mozzarella. The latter is pricey (about $10 for a chunk that will serve 4 people), but worth it, especially in the summer when basil and tomatoes are at their most delicious. The salad pictured above was made with tomatoes and mozza from our local farmer’s market, and basil grown on our back deck.

Not sure this is even worth calling a recipe – here’s how to make: Place a few tomato slices on a plate. A combination of different coloured tomatoes is nice, as are the funky shapes and colours of some heirloom tomatoes. Use a serrated knife to gently saw off a few slices from a round of buffalo mozzarella and place the cheese on top of the tomatoes. Scatter some fresh basil leaves on top. Drizzle each plate with a tablespoon of balsamic vinegar and dust with freshly ground pepper. Eat!

Dead simple to make, but incredibly tasty.

August 18, 2009 at 3:51 pm 3 comments

25lb of tomatoes!

farmer's market haul

Caselot season has begun at the farmer’s market. Big beautiful boxes of tomatoes, peaches, nectarines, apricots, blueberries and raspberries were all on display when we made our weekly shopping trip. As part of our quest to be more conscious about the transportation footprint of our food, I am making a point of stocking up while local produce is abundant. Already I have a couple of pounds of spinach from our very own garden and half a case of blueberries packaged and stored in our freezer. Next up is tomatoes! We purchased a 25lb case of pesticide-free BC roma tomatoes at the market today.  This is obviously a huge amount of tomatoes, as you can see from the photo. It’s a long winter, though, and I make a lot of tomato-based dishes like lasagna, pizza sauce and chili, especially in the winter. I’m sure we’ll have no trouble eating our way through them.

Up until now, I’ve relied on crushed canned tomatoes, organic and delicious, but shipped in from California. Plus, that infamous chemical BPA is found in the top of tin can liners, so I’ve mostly given up buying food in cans. So the case of tomatoes is good – we’ll be eating local and doing away with tinned food almost altogether.

My plan for our case of tomatoes is to eat some this week in salads and salsa, to make a huge vat of the tomato sauce recipe from the Rebar cookbook to freeze, and then to chop and freeze the rest. There’s a character in The Stone Diaries, one of my favourite Carol Shields novels, who accidentally poisons her mother-in-law to death with some improperly canned runner beans (botulism). So although I’ve thought about learning how to can food several times, freezing seems safest. I’m quite fond of my mother-in-law and just can’t shake that story out of my head!

Wish me luck with the tomato preparations over the next few days. Have already sliced a finger with my lovely (but sharp!) tomato knife making caprese salad for this evening’s dinner. Hopefully I’ll fare better with the remaining 24.5lb.

August 15, 2009 at 6:56 pm 1 comment

Lovely white lilies

white_lilies

Gifts for the garden are among the best kinds of gifts. For me, gardening has become a creative outlet, a leisure-time hobby, a vehicle for rejuvenation, a way to walk the talk of my environmental aspirations and a place to enjoy a tiny slice of nature’s solitude and beauty. So, given how much I value my garden space, you can imagine how delighted I am when a new plant finds its way into my life as gift from a friend or family member. Raspberry canes, chives, daisies, lilies and hollyhock seeds all have a special place in my garden and I get an extra lift with the memory of the happy place they came from.

The lovely white lilies in the picture above sprung up in the garden this past week. Aren’t they beautiful? Last fall, when my in-laws were putting their garden to bed, my mother-in-law brought over a couple of brown paper bags full of white and pink lily bulbs. I planted several in our sunny west-facing back garden and then a few in the front yard as well. After a hot and sunny day today there are no less than eight white and pink lilies blooming in the backyard. They look stunning, perfectly nestled against the hollyhocks, which have grown from seeds that my mother gave us a couple of years ago, both meant to be exactly in that particular spot. Lilies are a special flower, beautiful in a very striking way. Every time I look at them, I feel a deep breath of summer flowing through me – pure happiness!

The plants in the front are coming along as well, valiantly struggling against the northern exposure and the munching tendencies of the local wildlife. The neighbourhood rabbits are unfortunately exceedingly comfortable in the yard next door – I’ve seen them lounging lazily in the flower bed several times this summer, nibbling happily on the poor plants.

August 8, 2009 at 6:18 pm Leave a comment

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