Posts tagged ‘garden’

Instead of snow

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I am very happy to see online that my friends to the east are embracing the crazy dump of snow that just happened. Snow men, snow angels, snow pants are all a lot of fun. I am almost envious, except that I am too busy gardening and gloating among the flowers here in Victoria.

Not to say there hasn’t been rain, because there has, and lots of it, especially yesterday when it poured all day yesterday. We got drenched in the best sort of way when I had the dog and baby out for a (very) early morning walk. It’s impossible to grumble about the dark and the cold and the wet when there is a bright-eyed little boy in awe of it all helping to hold the umbrella with one hand, pointing out all the street lights with the other, frantically doing his sign for tree every time we go past one (often!). This is my favourite thing about being a mom: experiencing the world anew through fresh eyes every day. It’s a cliche, I guess, but a true and joyful one.

Seeing the world with wonder is particularly lovely when paired with spring. Rhododendrons, hellebores, crocuses, snowdrops and are all blooming now, and the first daffodils and cherry blossoms are out, too.  As soon as we have some warm weather I know the plant life will start to explode, so I have been trying to get an hour of gardening in every day while I can still see the ground. Last year we were parenting a newborn and in no position to be gardening, so our yard quickly became a jungle. I learned from our neighbours that the people who lived here before us had a regular gardener, which made me feel a little better, but reinforced that something needs to be done! This year I am trying to tame the beast, at least a little, and also trying to reclaim some areas overgrown with invasive perennials (free daylilies, buttercups or Queen Anne’s Lace anyone?) so we can have more space for fruit and veggie growing.

I need to take some “before” pictures this week so we can marvel later this summer at what is sure to be an improvement! For now, I am very content to be digging and dividing and enjoying the relative simplicity and smallness of the garden – delicate patches of purple crocuses, hardy edibles, the first daffodils opening, nodding hellebores, and strawberry runners starting to make their move. 

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February 16, 2016 at 9:33 pm Leave a comment

Almond pear cake

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I tore this recipe out of a magazine a few years ago. The increasingly tattered page has been stuck to the side of not one, but two fridges (the one in our Vancouver apartment, and then at our house in Victoria), and now it has earned a place of honour in the pine recipe box my grandfather made for me when I was about 15.

I made the cake early in December with some D’Anjou pears that took forever to ripen, and then got too ripe too quickly. It was amazing that such an elegant and delicious cake could emerge from those pears, which were mottled with brown spots and mushy parts. I planned to serve it for a dinner we were having with an old friend until I remembered his nut allergy, so I put it in the freezer and then brought it out on Christmas morning to munch on as “pre-breakfast” while we opened gifts.

Last summer we pre-ordered two pear trees from Fruit Trees and More, a nursery in North Saanich  (a truly inspiring place that deserves a post all on its own). This weekend’s project is to prepare space for them in our yard, so it seems like a fitting time to share the recipe for this lovely cake. It is perfect in so many ways: gluten free, so easy to make, stores well in the freezer, and it’s a little bit healthier than the average dessert thanks to almond meal and the fruit. I hope in a few years once our new pear trees are established that I’ll be able to go on a baking frenzy like I’ve done in the past the harvest from our other fruit trees, which gave us delicious plum cakes and apple pies.

Almond pear cake (adapted from Style at Home’s recipe for Almond Pear Tart)
Makes 1 cake (6-8 servings)

1/3 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/3 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1-1/3 cups almond meal
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp baking powder
Zest of 2 lemons
3 pears, peeled, cored and sliced
Raw sugar and cinnamon for dusting
Plain yogurt for serving

Preheat the oven to 325°F. Lightly grease a round springform pan. Cream the butter and sugar in a mix master until just combined. Add the eggs, almond meal, flour, baking powder and lemon zest and process until all the ingredients are just incorporated. Spoon the mixture into the springform pan. Arrange the pears on top of the tart mixture and bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the centre of the tart comes out clean. Sprinkle the tart with the raw sugar and cinnamon and allow to cool in the pan. Serve with yogurt.

January 21, 2016 at 12:32 pm Leave a comment

The daily harvest

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I’ve written before about how something as simple as tending to a row of peas can calm frenzied days, and how flowers from the garden can lighten even the saddest days. My faith in garden therapy continues to grow. It’s been a spring and summer of gardening in five or ten minute stints throughout the day as I navigate the joys and challenges of being a new mommy.

Our little guy has his own chair outside on the deck and many mornings we enjoy our breakfast or lunch outside and I do the watering in between bites, or pick a strawberry or two for us to eat. Once in a while a weed gets pulled, but only in the food growing areas. The rest of them have free reign of the yard, I’m afraid (motherhood is doing wonders for curing my perfectionist tendencies).

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Best of all is going out, usually late afternoon, to harvest something good for dinner. We’ve had a steady crop of greens that I’ve been using in salad and pasta – rainbow chard, spinach, arugula, bok choy and more – since late spring. Cucumbers have been a success as well – from one little plant I’ve harvested at least a dozen full-sized cukes. Tomatoes are also collecting in a basket I keep on the windowsill. I’ve been picking them a bit green to encourage others on the vine to ripen up. The tomatoes I grew this year shot up sky-high, so it is a race to get the fruit before the plants topple over from the weight.

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We have plums, plums, and more plums. I have made six beautiful plum cakes over the past couple of weeks, and I might still make one or two more. The plums are wonderful for eating fresh as well. No one is enjoying them more than our 7-month old. Good luck eating one if he is in arms-length of you: he’ll reach over, grab it away and hoover it down with the most intense passion and focus. All that is left a minute later is a sticky, drippy, gooey mess of plum juice and slobber all over everyone and everything. Motherhood also cures you of caring about whether your house or shirt or arm is clean: I am in love with this kind of mess.

Apples, sadly are a bust this year, for reasons unknown. Last year’s harvest was incredible, so I will have to figure out what we did wrong so the pie-making can recommence next season. Tent caterpillars might be to blame. We found a pile of them nesting in the tree in the late spring, so I wonder if they ate all the blossoms. Last year’s apple sauce is still here, though, and almost as popular as the plums with our little guy.

Fresh herbs – chives, dill, sage, basil, thyme, and oregano – are all thriving in pots and in the garden. The ambitious me wants to dry mint leaves, lemon balm, lavender, and rose petals for tea. We’ll see if that happens this year, but for now I am reminding myself to brew up a pot of what’s growing fresh in the garden.

There will be time enough for tea bags all winter, and for weeding maybe some day. For now I will enjoy my five minutes here and there in the garden by picking something good to eat.

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August 7, 2015 at 11:18 am Leave a comment

Scenes from the berry patch

A tiny bounty of berries is growing in our garden right now. It is the first year for the strawberries, blueberries and raspberries we planted, so I am happy to have anything at all.

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The tally so far: about 40-50 raspberries, maybe a dozen strawberries (and counting since there are still a few flowers and white berries), and six blueberries. A modest harvest to be sure, but it has thrilled me to bits to be able to take our little guy out to the garden every day and pick a berry or two to go along with his cereal.

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I have fond memories of picking berries (and other good things) from the gardens of my childhood and I hope our garden can be the same source of happiness for our son as he grows up. I also love the picture I have in my head of my now three-year-old nephew running out to the yard when he was just over a year old to pick berries from the raspberry patch. It was amazing to see such a little guy so tuned into the good stuff growing in the yard.

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Casey will be a year-and-a-half-old next summer, so I wanted to get our berry patch planted this year so we have a chance of keeping up with demand. One thing I know about this kid is that he’s an eater… I’m sure no berry will be left behind next year!

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Strawberries are his hands-down favourite right now. He loves to hold them by the stem and suck on the berry until there is nothing left but a white core and leaves. Who says you need teeth to eat?

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July 20, 2015 at 11:27 am Leave a comment

Flowers from the garden

All winter long I’ve been buying cut flowers from the store. No longer. Now I just need scissors. My container garden is full of spring blooms: tulips are opening up, pale daffodils that came up late are just starting to fade away alongside the long, variegated leaves of the crocuses, which are quite beautiful all on their own even though the flowers are long gone. My hanging baskets are filled with a mix of primulas and the pink and orange ranunculus and purple periwinkles you see here. All are plentiful enough that I’ve filled a little vase with them.

For those of you who are counting, there are 25 flowers and leaves in this little vase, picked in honour of a sad but special day. Life is a strange place, and hard to deal with at times. Somehow everything feels a bit lighter with flowers brightening a space, especially when you’ve been outside carefully plucking them from your own garden. It’s easier to find a sense of meaning and calm when you’re surrounded by beauty. It’s a simple thing, maybe silly, but there’s a little voice in things like flowers from the garden that calls at you and pushes you to try to make the rest of your world just as right – whether it’s indoors, outdoors, or like these flowers on a windowsill, somewhere in between.

April 25, 2012 at 11:14 pm 3 comments

Spring bulbs already sprouting!

It’s hard to believe, but the first shoots of snowdrops and crocuses are peeking up in gardens around the neighbourhood, including mine. This photo was taken yesterday afternoon, which you can see was lovely and sunny compared to today’s drizzle and grey. (more…)

January 6, 2012 at 5:18 pm Leave a comment

Travel Eats: Mas Rabell, Penedès, Spain

Ensaladade Tomate del Huerto (organic tomato salad)

I’ve started going through travel photos recently as a diversion to the grey winter days. Tomatoes have never looked more beautiful to me than they did in this salad, which was served on a hot July day as part of our lunch at the Torres family’s Mas Rabell restaurant in the Penedès wine region of Spain (about an hour south of Barcelona).

The produce was grown in an on-site organic vegetable garden and all of the food was seasonal, local and impeccably fresh. Seasonal and local have a completely different meaning and taste in Mediterranean countries. Vegetables like tomatoes, artichokes and olives come with rich flavours and an abundance we rarely experience in North America, and the olive oil is truly a wonder. We brought some back with us, but it just doesn’t taste the same as it did when the weather was hot and you could see groves of olive and almond trees dotting the landscape.

Everything we ate at Mas Rabell tasted like something from a beautiful dream. Along with the tomato salad was fresh bread with extra virgin olive oil, a cod fish main course, a cheese course, apple pie and, of course, delicious Torres wines: Santa Digna Sauvignon Blanc (2009); Ibericos (2007); Mas La Plana (2006), sweet Moscatel Floralis and the Torres 20 brandy.

Pescado con timbale de cebolla y patata (fish with onion and potato timbale)

Quesos Catalanes (local cheese from the Catalonia region)

Pastel de Manzana (apple pie)

Moscatel Floralis (a dessert wine)

The garden at Mas Rabell where they grow tomatoes, fresh herbs and other produce for the restaurant kitchen.

January 23, 2011 at 9:12 pm 4 comments

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