Posts tagged ‘tomatoes’

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

Summer garden

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Somehow it is already the August long weekend. I’ve been dipping into a book of poems by T.S. Eliot this weekend and thinking about the “still point” in Burnt Norton, the idea that past and future can gather together in the present, creating a sense of meaning and solace, of something more permanent than time.

The still point reveals itself more often in the summer months when there is more slowness and reflection, more space for being instead of just doing. As I write this I am on the patio. The dog is sitting beside me in the shade of a plant, positioned so there are tomato leaves resting against her forehead and nose. I’ve just fed her the last few snap peas from a waning vine in an effort to distract her from what has become her latest game, nipping off the buds of my string beans (she should at least wait until they are fully grown if she’s going to be the one to enjoy them).

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Eliot’s poem takes a walk through an imaginary garden, and I hope whatever you’re doing this weekend feels a bit like that. In my garden, the roses are mostly gone, but the tomatoes are thriving, lavender is about to rebloom, pole beans are winding their way up bamboo stakes and the mint and oregano plants I have scattered throughout the garden have sprouted tiny purple flowers. Life is still as it’s going to get, I think.

There they were, dignified, invisible,
Moving without pressure, over the dead leaves,
In the autumn heat,
through the vibrant air,
And the bird called, in response to
The unheard music hidden in the shrubbery,
And the unseen eyebeam crossed, for the roses
Had the look of flowers that are looked at.

strawberries and roses

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mint flowers

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pinks

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balloon flower

climbing roses

August 5, 2013 at 1:21 pm Leave a comment

End of summer garden

This weekend feels like the end of summer. The weather is still warm, but it is changing, as is the light, which is thinner now and less intense. Shadows are more pronounced and I see them invading sunny places earlier in the day. I don’t mind – there is something beautiful about the dance of tree leaves in the shade.

The plants of summer are still growing – yellow impatiens, a pot of blue forget-me-nots grown from seed that are just catching their stride, green tomatoes, mint, oregano and chives – but they’re slowing down. Two strawberry plants joined the garden this year and I’m pleased about that: from what I’ve seen in other people’s yards, they don’t wither away in the cold. I’m hoping the Asian greens will stay with me, too, if I don’t eat through them before winter arrives. Gai lan (Chinese broccoli) is the one below with the beautiful white flowers.

I’m looking forward to spending the afternoon outside on the patio in my wicker lounger chair saying farewell to summer and enjoying the beginning of fall. Next weekend I’ll find a garden store so I can plant kale, chrysanthemums, and winter pansies.

September 16, 2012 at 12:33 pm 1 comment

Green tomato season

It’s that time of year again. Green tomatoes on the windowsill time. Do you have them lined up on your windows, too?

At lunch today I did what I often do, which is to walk from my corporate office job down to the beautiful beach. I sat down on a bench on the seawall, and after about 10 minutes I was too hot. I got up and walked a few minutes further and settled myself against a piece of driftwood on the beach proper, near the water. Much better. My sandwich and I were quite happy to have such a wonderful problem.

It is downright chilly in the morning and the night now that mid-September has arrived, and I think this is the last hurrah for my tomato plants. I’ve done all right this year – a steady harvest of two or three cherry tomatoes every day for the last month, and I have another tomato plant with larger fruit that occasionally produces a tomato worth slicing.

I am beginning to wonder about the green tomatoes hanging on the plants. The minute I see a tinge of yellow, they are whisked inside where they can finish ripening in the warm, sunny window of  my studio and not draw away any energy from the other tomatoes on the plant that still need more time. This is working well so far, but I am a little sad watching new tomato nubbins just beginning to form. I don’t think they’re going to have the chance to meet my sandwich or go to the beach.

September 13, 2012 at 9:08 pm 2 comments

Tomato and olive gnocchi

As you might remember, I recently tackled what I long felt was a daunting recipe: homemade gnocchi. I’ve made it three times now and as long as you can summon your patience it is easy to make these beautiful potatoey pillows.

Cooking is a huge source of relaxation to me and this recipe really fits with that. There is lots of meditative prep work to do preparing the dough, an endless array of choices for dressing the gnocchi and the satisfaction of sitting down to something special and handmade.

We had this olive and tomato gnocchi last weekend. We weren’t doing anything special, but it was Saturday and there is more time for cooking. We spent the day painting the main floor of our house (a beautiful robin’s egg blue) and puttering around outside in the garden (finally a warm weekend!). There is a celebratory feeling about both of those things, so I thought it was a good night for a special dinner.

Olives are a wonderful match with a simple tomato sauce, giving it a good zing of salty, tangy flavour.

Tomato and olive gnocchi
Serves 4 (at least)

1 recipe of homemade gnocchi
1 jar homemade tomato sauce
1/2 cup of pitted green olives, coarsely chopped
Grated parmesan, chili flakes and chopped fresh herbs to garnish

Doesn’t that sound easy and delicious? It is! I made the gnocchi from dough I had frozen in the freezer since I made more than we could eat the last time. This works perfectly fine, just defrost the dough thoroughly and use extra flour when you are making the little gnocchis.

March 28, 2012 at 8:42 pm 2 comments

Mmm…fake bacon (and how I came to be a vegetarian)

Is fake bacon sufficiently inspiring as a blog topic? I don’t know, except to say look at this beautiful veggie BLT. Actually it’s a FBLAATC sandwich – fake bacon, lettuce, arugula (still growing in my garden even in January), avocado, tomato and cheese sandwich. Not quite as catchy as BLT, but every bit as good if not better.

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January 15, 2012 at 10:42 pm Leave a comment

Gnocchi with chanterelle mushroom sauce


We hosted a dinner party on New Year’s Eve and with that I decided to tackle a long held goal: to make homemade gnocchi. I consulted several recipe books for different variations on how to make the actual gnocchi pasta and landed on Mario Batali’s version, along with a sauce inspired by my affection for chanterelle mushrooms.

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January 2, 2012 at 11:34 pm 5 comments

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