Archive for the ‘Gardening’ Category

NasturtiumMid-October and half of the beds in my garden are still occupied with Swiss card, kale, salsify, carrots, beets and fall lettuces. I’ve put off harvesting them, because I haven’t had time to process them and don’t have the appropriate indoor cool storage space. I figure they’re better “stored” in the ground for the time being.

I’m not worried. These are the hardier vegetables, resistant to lower temperatures. Some, like kale and carrots, I’ve read will get sweeter and/or more tender as they are exposed to the cool temperatures (and even frost).

As fall progresses, fresh vegetables from the garden become a bigger treat.

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Giant tomatoGiant carrots
So far, this tomato and this carrot are the winners in the size category of this gardening season! The largest carrot weighed almost 500g, but there are still more in the ground…

Unfortunately I don’t think the tomato (Brandywine variety) will ripen, but the carrot was crisp and sweet. I’m looking forward to pursuing the harvest.

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In July, I was dealing with a pea jungle. Now it’s a pole bean jungle. It’s a scavenger hunt every time I go to pick beans. Lesson learned for next year: give them taller stakes. I’d also plant them somewhere they can’t put a choke-hold on the smaller plants growing in the same bed.

Regardless, there are lots of beans! What to do with them all?

Green beans

Green beans, lots of them. I’ve picked at least two piles like this!

When I was growing up, Bohnen and Speck (green beans and bacon) would appear on the dinner table as of mid-August, when the beans were ready to pick and the tomatoes ripening. I haven’t found a cookbook recipe for Bohnen and Speck, but this one-pot meal is firmly anchored in the Swiss home-cooking repertoire. The recipe probably has as many variations as there are Swiss dialects; the one below is from my mom. I’ve respectfully renamed it “Swiss Summer Stew.”

Recipe: Swiss Summer Stew (Green Beans and Bacon)

This is one of those recipes that doesn’t require precise quantities, so I’m not going to give any either!

Swiss Summer Stew (green beans and bacon)

onion, chopped
garlic, minced
green beans, topped and tailed
tomatoes, halved/quartered depending on size
hot pepper (optional)
smoked bacon, or any other smoked meat (I’ve tried bacon from several good butchers in Ottawa and beyond. My favourite is the double smoked bacon from Saslove’s)
summer savory
potatoes (1-3 per person, depending on size), halved/quartered depending on size

Saute onion and garlic over medium heat in a Creuset(-like) pot with a lid (or pressure cooker) until translucent. Run the beans quickly under water and add them to the pot. Toss them with the onions and garlic. Heat for several minutes before mixing in the savory and hot pepper (if using, leave whole). Place the tomatoes, potatoes and piece of bacon on top of beans. Season with salt and pepper. Cover with the lid and turn the heat down to medium-low/low.

The tomatoes should generate enough liquid to prevent sticking and burning, but check periodically to make sure. If the pot is dry, add a little water and make sure the heat is on low. Cook 45-60 minutes until beans are meltingly tender (if using a pressure cooker, adjust cooking times according to pressure cooker guidelines).

En Guete!

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Lazy Gardener

Lately I’ve neglected to write about how my garden is doing, because I’ve been blogging about my side trips instead. It’s also because “lazy gardener” is a pretty accurate label these days.

I’m turning a blind eye to the weeds that have crept between the rows of carrots, beets, chard, kale, etc. Instead, I’m like a raven attracted to shiny objects, aiming single-mindedly for the bright orange and red tomatoes, the rainbow chard stalks, and the deep green beans.

Tumbling Tom tomatoes

These Tumbling Tom cherry tomatoes worked well in this box and produced a generous harvest.

I did manage to plant two kinds of kale after I took out the garlic and the peas. But I’d also planned to do a second planting of peas for the fall. And what about those mâche/lamb’s lettuce seeds, also intended for a fall harvest? Oops… Maybe I should actually pencil it into my calendar for next year. I can live with these oversights, as long as I don’t forget to plant the garlic in October.

Do five tomatoes a day keep the doctor away?! Trying to keep up with the harvest is another reason I’ve spent less time in the garden—I’m keeping busy in the kitchen. It’s a challenge. Some weekends, it seems like David and I are both cooking/preserving non-stop. And then we made the amateur mistake of not having the patience to wait until our own harvest was ready (or not believing that it would produce enough) and actually bought vegetables at the market to put up… Lesson learned.

Garden tomatoes, mostly heirloom

Rainbow of garden, mostly heirloom, tomatoes: orange cherry tomatoes (aka "garden candy"), large red Brandywine (tomato giants), Green Zebra (green when ripe, low acidity) and medium ruffled Calabash (early ripening, touch of sweetness).

Can’t complain though. The freezer and the pantry shelves are full of summer’s bounty; we can look forward to great variety this winter.

First tomatillo harvest and hot peppers

We made salsa verde with this first harvest of tomatillos. I suspect the next basket will be just as full. Also a variety of hot peppers: jalapeno, cherry bombs and cayenne.

The garden is forgiving too. Everything keeps growing. It’s naturally (and a bit wildly) beautiful. It must know that I love it no matter what it looks like.

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Thank You Garden

Garden view

The vegetable beds line the entire length of our backyard. Growing zucchini, sunflowers, beans, Swiss chard, (peas, snow peas, garlic -- done), tomatillos, hot peppers, herbs, cucumbers, ...

Garden view

...tomatillos, 5 kinds of tomatoes, red beets, golden beets, salsify, carrots, kale, radishes, lettuces, kohlrabi, fennel, peppers, rhubarb, raspberries, and currants.

Garden goodness

Mmmm. Meal of garden goodness.

Every day I’m grateful for my garden.

I appreciate having a colourful, thriving and abundant microcosm of plants, birds, bugs, and butterflies in my backyard. I recognize how lucky I am to have the means and the space, and to live in a region that allows me to grow natural goodness. I marvel at the power and beauty of nature, how every plant out there emerged from a tiny seed. I’m thankful for everything I harvest: vegetables, herbs, berries, flowers, joy, satisfaction, and peace.

On Sunday, I prepared a meal made almost exclusively of produce from the garden: grilled zucchini and sweet-tart cherry tomato salad with arugula and basil; sautéed yellow corn (from the market) and tender beet tops; roast beets tossed with mint, served with grilled haloumi (from Shiraz supermarket). Amazing flavours, colours and freshness.

Thank you garden!

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