Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Haskap Vinaigrette

Haskaps are pretty much done, but I was left with a handful in the fridge after my pie-making venture. This is tart and tasty and will really make any simple mixed green salad sing. Use it on more complex salads too. 

4 to 8 servings
15 minutes prep time

Haskap Vinaigrette

1/2 cup haskap berries
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon honey
1/3 cup cold pressed sunflower seed oil
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/4 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste

Wash and pick over the haskap berries, removing any leaves or calyxes. Put them in a blender or food processor with the remaining ingredients, and process until smoothly blended. Transfer to a serving container and keep refrigerated until ready to use.

I expect this to keep in the fridge for up to a week. Toss over mixed greens, with or without fruit and nuts, or whatever salad ingredients will go with a fruity sweet-sour dressing.

Last year at this time I made Strawberry-Haskap Jam... huh. 

Monday, 27 June 2016

Drought Measures in the Garden

Here it is, almost July, and the garden is looking good! We have a certain amount of anxiety going on though, because it has been so HOT and so DRY.

We went into spring with a bit of a water deficit, due to the lack of snow over the winter. April and May managed to get enough rain to be okay, but we have not had any rain since the last time I posted, on June 6th when we got a small rainfall to alleviate what was then already a dry situation.

We get very fluctuating summers here. Hot, dry summers are not uncommon, although we have had summers where it has rained regularly and not gotten above 20°C too. They seem to go in cycles, and we were about due for a hot stinker and here we are.

Peas are looking good, up above (better than they actually are in fact). This isn't going to be a bumper year for peas. We will get a reasonable quantity, but expect the season to be short and the quality not top notch.

Our carrots are behind the times, which is a problem. Garden row cover helps keep them moist while we get them fully germinated and from tiny seedlings to, well, less tiny seedlings. As we often do, we had to do a second seeding because the first seeding had such a terrible germination rate. My expensive and hard gotten French seeds, too.

In this weather (well in any weather) they must be kept very moist at this stage. That means that it is not unusual for us to water them twice a day. As they get larger we can let up on this level of attention. It's much better if we can get them going earlier in the season before it is both dry and hot.

The carrots going to seed in the bean bed are a mixed success. One particular carrot variety overwintered very well, and there are enough carrots that they are really interfering with the beans. We think we can make this work better in the future though, by harvesting the carrots with the intention of leaving the ones to go to seed in the 2 open spaces created by the 3 rows of beans rather than higglety-pigglety.

Our Strike peas are finished and out; the Knight peas should be out within 3 days. Now we are just in the process of cleaning out the weeds before we replant with beans. On schedule for before July 1st, which is our goal. 

Mr. Ferdzy has completed digging and gravelling the long central path in our four-square garden plan. This is a milepost! Having the gravel paths make it so much easier to manoeuvre, and it also makes weeding and other maintenance much faster. Plus it's just so nice not to be under construction!

Oops, did I say it's nice not to be under construction? Mr. Ferdzy has moved on and started the final interior path (and little leg out from it) of our main bed complex. However, we have not been managing to keep that path mowed and clear, so even under construction it is more passable than it was.

Ultimately we would like to have the gravel path surround the outside of the main bed complex too, but that won't be this year. This section may not even be done this year due to an upcoming hernia operation, but right now he is enthused and whipping along. That will just leave the 2 beds next to this path which have gotten completely overgrown and need to be rehabilitated. I hope to make some more progress on them once I have the main garden weeding under control... *hollow laugh*

This is fun! It's the perennial wheat I got from Annapolis Seeds and planted last year. It was sold as Eezer, but I have since discovered the correct name is Ezeer, and it was bred by Tim Peters

In its first season it was just basically clumps of grass. This year it has formed very wheaty-looking seed heads and yeah, those seed heads are pretty much at eye-level. I didn't realize it would be quite so tall, but it's so light and airy it's fine. This could definitely be grown as an ornamental, although we're a little curious about how much it will self-seed if not harvested. Not that we really intend to find out.

Okay, I haven't actually said much about drought measures in the garden, have I? Here's one of them. We are acquiring 2 litre pop bottles, by fair means and foul (by drinking club soda and performing garbage night blue-bin raids). The bottoms are cut off, and the capless bottles are then planted head-down near to a plant or several, so water can be directed right to their roots, avoiding wholesale scattering of water and excess evaporation. Works quite well, but only on the larger plants. Onions, carrots, peas and beans, etc, are too small and close together. They are better watered with soaker hose laid down shortly after they come up (i.e. before they get too big to get it in without damaging them).

Once the bottles are set up we then aim to mulch the beds with wood chips. We get them for free by calling tree cutting companies, who are often happy to drop their wood chips on your driveway if they are working in your neighbourhood. It saves them  having to haul them elsewhere and dispose of them. Wood chips have their problems as a mulch - mostly they last several years, and small things struggle to come up amongst them, and also they make weeding difficult - but they really keep in moisture and cut down the number of weeds by a lot. Over time they decay and add to the fertility of the soil. We need to rake them off of beds which are to be planted with onions or carrots but that is still a lot of work saved overall.

Lawn clippings are another good source of mulch, but we learned the hard way that we should only use them until things growing in the lawn start going to seed... then we should stop, stat. We put a lot of weed seeds into some beds that way before we smartened up.

If you are my age or older and used to read garden books back in the '70s, you will know they all used to recommend that you raise your beds or at least plant things mounded up for best results. That's because all the garden books sold in Canada seemed to be actually British. We don't have their cool rainy summers for the most part so we should really be doing the opposite. When I plant anything expected to take up a square foot or more, I scoop a little valley a few inches deep and plant it in that. That will help hold the water when you water them. Those little valleys tend to fill in and need to be replaced by the pop bottles, but they really help things get established while you are working on that. 

If watering is difficult to impossible, it's best to leave more space between vegetables if you think it will be a dry season. On the other  hand, we  have found with the present and seed crops doubled up in some beds that while they dry out quicker, our watering is concentrated so this may be a reasonable strategy if watering is possible.

ADDED: After I wrote this yesterday afternoon, we got some rain! Fourteen milimetres, yee-haw - well that should take us to Thursday anyway. Better than a kick in the head with a frozen boot. 

Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Haskap & Dried Apple Pie

For the first time we picked enough haskap berries to be able to make a pie. Since they are so tart, I decided I would cut them with some apples. Because they are very juicy, I thought it might help if the apples were dried.

This is the first haskap pie I have ever made, and while the results were good and were consumed with enthusiasm, there were some minor points for improvement. I did not add the sugar suggested in the recipe, just the honey, but next time I would. They really are SO SOUR.

The other problem was that it leaked all over. Bake this pie on a tray! This site notes that haskap pie may leak less if the berries are frozen then thawed. Since even with 5 haskap shrubs it took me about a week to accumulate enough berries, that may not be a bad idea. However, the pie was fine with fresh berries - just messy. I used ready-made pie crust for this, which perhaps was not quite as robust as if I had had time to make my own.

People really liked the texture of this pie as well as the flavour - mincemeat was the comparison that kept coming up. Also like mincemeat, it is rich and intensely flavoured. Smaller pieces than usual may be in order. 

8 servings
1 hour prep time; 1 hour bake time

Haskap & Dried Apple Pie

pastry for a double pie; maybe this one

60 grams (2 ounces; 1 cup) dried apples
2/3 cup honey
1/3 cup sugar, OPTIONAL
1/4 cup water
4 cups haskap berries
1/4 cup minute tapioca

Make the pastry and let it rest.

Put the apples, honey, sugar if using, and water into a pot and bring to a simmer. Simmer for 5 minutes, then cover and let cool.

While the apples cool, wash and pick over the berries. Stir them into the cooled apples, then the tapioca. Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Roll out the pastry as described in the recipe, and scrape in the filling. Top with the remaining rolled out pastry, and seal it well. Cut some steam vents and bake the pie for 50 minutes to an hour, until well browned.

Monday, 20 June 2016

Quinoa Salad with Peas & Strawberries

Third salad in a row - no apologies! It is June, after all. We had this with a chicken salad and they went together very well.

Peas and strawberries are now streaming into the kitchen; I don't know for how much longer. It is SOOOO hot and dry out there. Lettuce is rapidly going bitter. Get 'em while you can.

6 servings
20 minutes to cook the peas & quinoa, plus cooling time
20 minutes to assemble the salad

Quinoa Salad with Peas & Strawberries

Cook Quinoa & Peas in Advance:
1 cup quinoa
2 cups water
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups shelled peas (about 6 cups before shelling)

Put the quinoa with the water and salt into a rice cooker and cook. Alternatively, put them into a pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and cook, covered, for 15 minutes. Let cool.

Shell the peas and blanch them in boiling water for 2 or 3 minutes. Rinse in cold water until cool then drain well.

Both of these can be done up to a day in advance; keep covered in the fridge until needed.

Make the Salad:
2 cups strawberries
1/2 cup finely chopped parsley
2 or 3 tablespoons finely minced chives
1/2 cup toasted sunflower seeds OR sliced hazelnuts or almonds
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup sunflower seed oil OR hazelnut or almond oil
1/4 cup raspberry vinegar
salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste

Fluff up the quinoa and put it in a salad bowl with the peas. Wash and hull the strawberries, and cut them in halves or quarters so they are not too much bigger than the peas. Wash, dry, and mince the parsley and chives and add them. Add the sunflower seeds (or nuts) and the dried cranberries.

Drizzle the oil and vinegar over, and season with salt and pepper. Toss well.

Last year at this time I made Haskap Jam

Friday, 17 June 2016

Knight Peas

One pod of Strike, with three pods of Knight peas

As I've mentioned before, we plant 2 beds with determinate peas as early in the spring as we can. They should then produce heavily for 2 weeks in the middle of June, after which they are pulled out and replaced with short season dry beans for the rest of the season. Thus we get 2 crops from 1 bed; well, okay, 2 beds. The peas we have been  using are Strike, which are rated at 55 days to maturity - the fastest pea we know.

This year we planted a section of Knight. Knight is also very early, rated at 59 days to maturity. We thought that since they were that close, they were worth a try. So far though, we are more than 4 days past our first picking of Strike and Knight has only produced a few pods of mature peas (with many more plainly to come). But wow, what pods!

The pods of Knight are almost twice as long as the pods of Strike. (The pod nearest the peony* is a Strike, for comparison.) There aren't twice as many peas though. Eight seems typical, although as they get going I can hope for up to 10. The peas are a little larger, very similar in colour even though Knight as a plant is a pale green all over where Strike is a very deep blue-green. The plants definitely grow longer, and have much denser leaves. They might benefit from some pea sticks, which is a bit of a pain for half-season peas. They are doing alright without any. I found them to be very tasty and tender, and a little sweeter than the Strike. Of course I don't know how they freeze yet.

Knight peas were bred by Dr. Gerald A. Marx at Cornell University in New York state. They should have tolerance to common wilt, powdery mildew (uh huh, we'll see) and some of the mosaic viruses. I can't find an exact date of introduction, but it would have been some time between 1970 and 1988.

There were (are?) a number of older peas with "Knight" included in the name, such as Knight's Dwarf White Champion of England named after a late 18th - early 19th century pea breeder, Thomas Andrew Knight, but as far as I can see this is the only pea which is simply called Knight. Perhaps Dr. Marx named his pea after Thomas Knight.

So far these are good and interesting enough that we hope to continue to grow them. The main question is whether they will be finished by June 30, which is the last possible date... It seems possible, and given their larger size, more peas per pod, and very good flavour I'm really rooting for them. Of course, if you are not double cropping, you can just grow them! In which case they are highly recommended. 

*And the peony is Athelstane in case you wanted to know.

Wednesday, 15 June 2016

Radish & Blue Cheese Salad

Not too much to say about this; it's a quick and simple salad that plays off the bite and crunch of radishes against the creamy but assertive flavour of blue cheese. 'Tis good.

2 servings
15 minutes prep time

Radish & Blue Cheese Salad

Make the Dressing:
3 tablespoons sunflower seed oil
4 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

Shake together in a small jar or whisk in a bowl.

Make the Salad:
4 cups mixed salad greens
1 small bunch (10 to 12) radishes
6 to 8 small button mushrooms
AND/OR 1 small greenhouse cucumber
60 grams (2 ounces) blue cheese
1/4 cup toasted sunflower seeds OR pepitas (pumpkin seeds)

Wash, trim, and tear or chop up the salad greens. If your radish greens are nice and fresh, you can use some of them as part of the greens. Dry them well and arrange them in salad bowl(s).

Clean, trim and slice the radishes, the mushrooms, and the cucumber. Arrange them over the salad(s), and sprinkle over them the crumbled blue cheese and the sunflower seeds or pepitas. Toss with the dressing.

Friday, 10 June 2016

Still in Pursuit of Dau Miu

I've mentioned before that one of my favourite vegetables is dau miu. I have yet to see any locally grown dau miu, though.

Usually the name is translated as pea shoots. At various times I've been able to buy things labelled pea shoots, but they have not been dau miu. They have been sprouted peas, grown to 4" or 5" in height, then mowed down and used. The leaves are small and the stem is the main stem of the plant; tougher and stringier than you would expect in well-grown dau miu, even at a smaller size.

On a whim I wandered through the garden today, and picked a bunch of the youngest leaflets from my Norli snow peas. These are not really proper dau miu either, since they are not the growing tips of the plants. Unfortunately, if I wanted dau miu I had left it a bit late, as the Norli is starting to flower - I should have been out there a week ago, at least. And of course, I would lose the chance to have snow peas by picking the growing tips.

The resulting vegetable was okay, but still stronger tasting and stringier than proper dau miu. I may have to bite the bullet and order some seed from Agro Hai Tai next year. They sell a pea specially for dau miu. I'm sure I can find some space somewhere! Especially since they would be a quick spring green, finished and out right around now.

Wednesday, 8 June 2016

Taco Salad

Been a while since there's been a salad around here! This one was a big hit and should be do-able all summer. The tomatoes are greenhouse ones at this stage of the season, but soon there will better ones from the garden.

This is really a meal-in-itself salad, although you could serve it as a side salad, I suppose. In that case I might control access to the corn chips, and sprinkle some crushed ones in with the salad instead of passing them to keep them down to a dull roar. And you didn't hear it from me, but if you don't have pepitas (pumpkin seeds) or sunflower seeds, those nasty little fake bacon bits work quite well in their place. Ahem.

Also, don't I usually have a bean salad in the spring? I guess this one is this years, albeit a bit late and a little skimpy on the beans. You can certainly add more if  you want.

4 servings
20 minutes prep time, not including cooking the beans

Make the Dressing:
1 green onion
1 clove of garlic
2 to 4 slices of pickled JalapeƱo pepper
1 teaspoon sweet Hungarian paprika
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds, ground
1 tablespoon tomato ketchup or sauce
3 tablespoons mild vegetable oil
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar

Clean and slice the green onion. Peel and slice the garlic. Put them, with the remaining ingredients, into a blender and blend until very smooth. Scrape out into your serving dish.

This can be done up to a day ahead, and some time for the flavours to blend is not a bad idea.

Make the Salad:
8 cups loosely packed lettuce or mixed salad greens
1 cup cooked, drained beans
1 cup grated old Cheddar cheese
1 medium tomato
1 ripe medium avocado
2 to 4 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro
1/4 cup salted roasted pepitas or sunflower seeds
corn chips ad lib

Clean and chop the lettuce; wash it well and dry it thoroughly. Arrange it in a salad bowl or individual serving bowls. Spread the beans and the grated cheese evenly over it.

Chop the tomato and avocado fairly finely, and sprinkle them over the salad, along with the cilantro.

Serve; pass the dressing and also a bowl of corn chips. Some people just eat chips with the salad; some will crumble them in; some will pile the salad on the chips like a lettucey dip. You could put the salad in actual taco shells, I suppose, but at that point you might as well cook some ground beef and have tacos.

Monday, 6 June 2016

High Panic Season Garden Post

The last week of May through the first week of June are peak garden crazy for the entire year, so of course I came down with some kind of tummy bug that had me eating a bland diet and sleeping whenever I wasn't out in the garden. Seems to be over though, so let's catch up on what's happening.

Those seeds above are from my treasured yellow-ripening gene watermelon hybrid from last year. This project is already running into a minor snag; the seeds may be very attractive, but they have the hides of rhinoceri. It took a month for them to come up. I got alarmed, and started soaking a few seeds to see if they would germinate. A couple have, and I suspect more may, but they are SO SLOW. Going to have to select against this... but at least they are germinating.

The collection of trays of started plants is starting to noticeably shrink, as we get them planted out. This photo is now out of date, as the brassicas all went in yesterday as did the leeks and shallots.

First couple of trellises are up... I think that means just 5 more to go...

When did Mr. Ferdzy get the time for trellises? He's been working on getting gravel paths down, after no action on that front last year. Progress is really happening! Soon the main central path will be done and that is a landmark. We're finding the paths do need weeding, but compared to the encroaching twitch grass that used to surround everything they are so nice and easy.

The good news is that I do not have to haul gravel. The bad news is that the weeding is pretty much mine, all mine... I am falling behind. What else is new?

Our first 2 beds of peas for freezing are blooming and starting to form pods. I hope we can pull them out by July 1st and replace them with short season beans. They got off to a slow start this year as it was so cool for a while there.

We are trying a new type of pea this year; most of the peas are Strike but one section is Knight, which is also supposed to be ready in the same short time period. So far, they seem to be a couple of days later... which will be okay if they are better peas. Not that the Strike aren't fine; it's just nice to have an alternative.

The garlic is looking excellent. They are planted in alphabetical order which amusingly is also in order of size. Soon we will have scapes.

To facilitate the hauling of tons of gravel (when we, and by we I mean Mr. Ferdzy, are finished with this lot it will be 30 tons; probably about halfway done so I really do mean tons) we splashed out and bought a new wheelbarrow. This is our third. Apparently we are death on wheelbarrows. I have NO idea why. They just don't build things like they useta, etc etc.

Intelligently applied laziness is one of my goals in life, and our brainwave this year was to leave the carrots we want to go to seed in place, and just plant the new crop (beans) around them. Some of the beans don't seem to be coming up but I think it is because they are old. We will find out if this works or if it is all too crowded. The other bed where we did this sort of thing was the tomato bed, where we left a bunch of leeks to go to seed. 


 And in fact, there they are; much more visible than the tomatoes which are still pretty feeble looking. All our starts seemed a bit sub-par this year but as ever once they get into real dirt we expect they will perk up.

Mr. Ferdzy waters; it has been dry dry dry already and much time is being spent watering when we would rather be getting the planting done.

And then, on Sunday if finally rained a decent rain overnight. We got a bonus surprise shower in the evening which was a little funny because it was bright sunshine out at the same time. Between the 2 rainfalls we got 17mm which should allow us to stagger  happily into next week and get the rest of the planting done in the next few days. After that we are off for a week in the Ottawa area to visit Mr. Ferdzy pater, and also my aunt and uncle. Cousins? Maybe.

And then we will be back and it will be the next stage of the garden season, known to me as Weeding, Whacking, and Watering.