Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Welcome Fall!


This blog post won't be one of my longer ones because I've been hooked by a book, "Sycamore Row" by John Grisham and it is calling me.
I love reading. If you find a good book it is such a pleasure.  I used to read gardening books all the time and have a complete library of them, but discovered I guess that I liked figuring things out myself in the garden, and that some things that people talked about in those books just didn't turn out that way for me.
Maybe too it's  the need to get involved in things beyond vegetables and my garden. I'm not young anymore and as much as I love what I do, I recognize there's more to life. I think a lot about what I'll do when I "retire". I wonder how I'll mange not working so hard, having more time and what I'll do with that time.
A lot of interests of mine have sort of fallen by the wayside over the years, because the veg business has taken so much time and effort. Sadly, some friendships which I should have nurtured have too.
In my life now, it's time to get ready for slower days....make some phone calls, play with my dogs, knit a bit and enjoy. Make wine with my grapes, drink that wine with friends and enjoy the next whole bunch of years. And read that book!


Fall is a busy time though in the garden, no question about it. I'll finish up seeding the hoophouses for winter tomorrow, but over the coming weeks I have dozens of varieties of bean seeds to harvest, some of which I hope will be enjoyed as dried beans in my CSA baskets. And lots of other seeds to process as well.

It doesn't look like frost is imminent, but no matter, it's on my mind. I have lots of peppers to pick and dry, herbs as well, and tons of tomatoes still to deal with. It's a great time of year, an abundant time of year. I love the fall.
Today's baskets had a good hit of summer still and a good hit of heat in the form of hot peppers. Tomatillos, sweet peppers, summer squash or melon, kale or chard, parsley, leaf celery, heirloom tomatoes, edamame, a handful of ground cherries and a branch of thorny Morelle de Balbis. Be careful with those!


Here's a recipe for those tomatillos. In this cooler weather remember too, they make a great soup.



Tomatillo Salsa (from Practical Paleo)
Yield: aprox 1 cup
Ingredients
  • 2C tomatillos, outer skin peeled and fruit quartered
  • 1 tsp jalapeno pepper minced
  • ½ tsp garlic minced or grated
  • 1-2 tsp fresh horseradish minced or grated (to taste- using more will yield a spicier sauce)
  • 1 T apple cider vinegar or distilled vinegar
  • 1 T extra virgin olive oil
Method
Combine all ingredients in a food processor and pulse until smooth.  Serve chilled.
For a less spicy version leave the jalapeno out and adjust the horse radish

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

California, Conversation and Carrots

A week ago today I was wandering through the National Heirloom Exposition in Santa Rosa California with my friend Karen.

We had headed to California for a vacation, but part of my motivation was to attend this event when not drinking wine or gazing up at the 1400 year old redwoods.


It was a great vacation and a great break. I needed it. Getting away and clearing your head is such a good thing and maybe more necessary when you work from your home as I do.
The Exposition was disappointing for me, but it sure made me realize the value of the diversity that I have on my humble plot of clay here in Wainfleet. The diversity of veggies just wasn't on display there and sadly it was like so many other events there was an emphasis on the vendors and some were oddly quite unrelated to the event.
I know these vendors help pay for the event because of the fees they pay. I've organized enough events of my own to understand that.  But I get just a bit tired of it.
I did talk to some very enjoyable seed people, and yes, came home with a good number of seeds as I had expected.
Perhaps if I'd taken the time to listen to some of the speakers I would have felt more harmony with the event, but for us time marched on. There was wine to drink, California cuisine to sample, the redwoods and the Pacific to swoon over.


One definite highlight for me was a visit to Luther Burbank's experimental farm. I grow a number of his  cultivars here on my farm, such as the Shasta daisy and the sunberry. It was so incredible to walk through this very quiet area and see the magical things he created and grew.


Everything struggled though. The California drought is so severe that brown was the order of the day. My heart goes out to the farmers in particular. Not sure how they cope.

The next day after I returned from my trip I had the opportunity to be involved in a panel discussion at the Shaw Theatre, topic being local food and the farm to table "movement."
The restauranteur and the winery owner, both of Niagara on the Lake and the Wainfleet farmer. If that made you smile or chuckle, that says it all.
It was a good discussion, but one of course which can't change anything and really could only skim the surface of a topic with many implications. Perhaps for me the most important thing to relay was the plight of the farmer. Can local feed the world? The question really is or should be can farmers continue to feed the world? When most farmers hold down an off farm job to get by, when farmers are aging, when land prices are unaffordable for new farmers...what then?
Our wine industry is well supported ...but let's face it, wine is a luxury item unless you are drinking homemade "rotgut" as my father would call it.
High end restaurants are a luxury too and supported only by those who can afford them.
Food though is a necessity, good healthful simple food a preventative health care measure. The economic burden for producing this necessity can't fall on the farmers back alone when production costs outweigh income. We need to think about this.
And as a footnote...I am a fan of Bill Redelmeier of Southbrook now. I'll be buying his wine.



When I finally got around to doing a good walk through of my garden, I couldn't believe how everything had grown in my absence. What a difference a good rain makes.
Today's CSA offerings included lots of heirloom tomatoes, sweet and hot peppers, edamame, basil, parsley, summer squash, thyme, carrots and kale. The kale in particular needed the rain so badly and has exploded now. I'm happy to see it. (The weeds of course have exploded too!)

I like simple, do you know that? This recipe is simple and takes advantage of the wonderful taste of fresh carrots.

Roasted Carrots (the Food Network)

Ingredients

12 carrots
3 tablespoons good olive oil
1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons minced fresh dill or parsley
Directions
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

If the carrots are thick, cut them in half lengthwise; if not, leave whole. Slice the carrots diagonally in 1 1/2-inch-thick slices. (The carrots will shrink while cooking so make the slices big.) Toss them in a bowl with the olive oil, salt, and pepper. Transfer to a sheet pan in 1 layer and roast in the oven for 20 minutes, until browned and tender.

Toss the carrots with minced dill or parsley, season to taste, and serve.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

CSA week 11- Mollie guest post

I haven't done a guest post in a long time. But I think most of you know that my mom is on vacation this week, therefore this is my responsibility. And I'm getting a bit frustrated because this it the second time I have done this post. The first one I was just posting and the whole thing deleted. Stupid technology.

This week has been a little chilly. But I'm not complaining, it's much better than extreme humidity like we had a little while ago. And we finally got rain, and I mean finally,  we really needed it. But the cold is causing the tomatoes to ripen a bit more slowly than normal. But that doesn't mean we don't have any, of course we do!

This past week we have had more responsibilities that normal, but I hope mom is having a great time in California. With all her wine tastings and heirloom tomato expeditions. Even if she leaves the farm, she can't leave the tomatoes behind, she truly is the tomato lady. But she deserves a break from the chores and the vegetables, she works really hard and needs a super fun week!

This week in the baskets there are a lot of deliciousnesses! Things like summer squash, tomatoes, edamame, carrots, tomatillos, ground cherries, herbs, beets, potatoes, lettuce and peppers.

The recipe this week is nice and refreshing for the warm days, and still nice for the cooler ones. It's a shaved summer squash salad! Enjoy!
ingredients:
  • 3 tablespoons whole almonds
  • 1 pound summer squash (a mix of green and yellow)
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 minced garlic clove
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Baby arugula or lettuce

preparation

Roast almonds and coarsely crush. Meanwhile, trim the ends off summer squash. Using a vegetable peeler, thinly slice the squash lengthwise into strips and transfer to a large bowl.
In a small bowl, whisk together extra-virgin olive oil, fresh lemon juice, minced garlic clove, and kosher salt to taste. Pour dressing over squash. Let stand for a few minutes, then add a few handfuls of baby arugula. Shave a little Pecorino over the squash and toss. Season with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. Garnish with the crushed almonds.


Thats it! Have a great week everyone!

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

CSA Week 10 and Scalloped Tomatoes with Croutons

Emily and I scurried getting the CSA baskets ready to deliver today. Rain finally was in the forecast and it did look like it might happen.

My friend Sandie from Richard's Landing near the Sault was visiting last week and said they've had too much rain. Maybe there are people closer by who've had too much too, because it does seem to be going around us. The clouds are dark, the wind whips up...but alas nothing.

The weather prognosticators have messed up this year on a few counts.

On the way home from deliveries a pretty good downfall made me feel like singing. I remember when I was a kid racing to get on my bathing suit when rain was imminent on a sticky humid day. It was so much fun turning your face towards the refreshing rain, getting that first chill as it cooled you down just perfectly.
I swear, had I been home when this rain came, I would have raced for my bathing suit so welcome was it.
But I'm not complaining about the weather this year, not at all. The past few days of humidity reminded me how absolutely wonderful this summer has been to work in. The cooler days with less humidity that have dominated this summer have been so welcome. If  I was guaranteed another 10 years of this weather, I may decide to retire later than I anticipate.



This year I planted a lot of tomatoes, as always. Some of them are stunners. I love the diversity of colour, shape, taste and, well...even of name. Wooly Blue Jay? Togorific? Dancing with the Smurfs? Does it get any better than that?


But as much as I am thrilled by the tomatoes I am also thrilled with the beans. I planted so many different varieties. Lots have been for fresh use, but also many for seed and the remainder for dry beans.
Some of the beans are very rare and have been hard for me to find and maintain. I am surprised when I look in my seed exchanges, especially the massive tomb that is the Seed Savers Exchange Yearbook, and I see some of my varieties aren't listed. My goal this year is to offer more of them there, to share and ensure that they can live on in other people's gardens, and therefore just simply continue to exist.


There has been lots of food in the baskets the past several weeks. The garden is really in top producing form right now, and I hope the amount in the baskets is agreeable. Soon will be gone the cukes and zukes/yellow patty pans, but for this week they still have a presence in the baskets. There are lots of tomatoes, beans thyme and basil. Curly celery, peppers, mini eggplants were in the baskets as well as the stunning Purple Dragon carrots, onions and garlic.


Lately I've been doing big stir fries with the veggies and adding curry. To everything. I seem to go like this. I'll eat the same thing day after day for weeks thinking it is the best thing in the world. Then I wake up one day and the thought of it makes me feel nauseous. For now it is curry. Maybe next week it won't be.

But the tomatoes-what to do? Try this great recipe from Smitten Kitchen.

Scalloped Tomatoes with Croutons


3 tablespoons olive oil 
2 cups bread from a French boule, in a 1/2-inch dice, crusts removed 
2 1/2 pounds  whatever good tomatoes you’ve got, cut into 1/2-inch dice
3 cloves garlic, minced (about 1 tablespoon)
2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons Kosher salt 
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup thinly slivered basil leaves, lightly packed
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese or vegan alternative
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Heat olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high. Add the bread cubes and stir so that they are evenly coated with oil. Cook cubes, tossing frequently, until toasty on all sides, about 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, combine tomatoes, garlic, sugar, salt and pepper in a large bowl. When the bread cubes are toasted, add the tomato mixture and cook them together, stirring frequently, for 5 minutes. Remove from heat, and stir in the basil. Pour into a shallow (6 to 8 cup) baking dish and top with Parmesan cheese. Bake 35 to 40 minutes until the top is browned and the tomatoes are bubbly. Serve hot or warm with a big green salad, a bean salad and/or a poached egg from a happy chicken.



My true friend Ruby