Monday, August 30, 2010

What to do with those Tomatoes!

The bloggers I follow have been posting beautiful photos of their tomatoes...I could almost taste them in their ripe loveliness! So...we waited...hoping...and now finally here are photos to share.

We are enjoying all sorts of tomato color, flavor and texture from the open pollinated varieties. Top of the bowl...a big and hefty German Gold and honestly, for our palate, the best in taste and texture so far. It's definitely an eating tomato, divine, cut thick and doused with herb mayo on a sandwich. (and since posting this earlier, we realize it has a lot of pectin and practically jellifies in a bowl when stewed down or made into salsa)

The Roma's...La Roma and Speckled Roman (but it' s striped) are best cooked. I say that, because, the seeds are few and even though Speckled Roman is sweet as all get out, the flesh is so thick it would be a shame to eat it when it can be made into a fulsome fragrant soup with the help of Billy and a generous dose of dill.

Now you might wonder who Billy is.. I don't know how I existed before he came along about six or so years ago. Tomato skins begone...Billy is they disappear!

I was so very anxious to try Sarah Raven's Chilli Jam recipe using our tomatoes, I committed myself to an hour over the stove on this, a 31 degree day. 'Stinkin hot' it was....Well it was worth it! I did jiggle the ingredient measurements (so this is inspired by Sarah Raven))), but the jam is thick and sweet, hot and sour tart but just a bit...all my favourite flavors together. Yes I substituted..who doesn't when they don't have such and such, and she didn't say whether the chili's should be fresh or dried, so I went with three tiny ones dried with seeds and one fresh without seeds. This jam took about an hour to make not including the canning if you chose to can..but it isn't necessary to do that.

6 to 8 good large solid thick fleshed and full flavor tomatoes...Sarah said '500 g of very ripe tomatoes'. In fact...I stewed my tomatoes first...slowly and gently, respecting the fruit, to get as much water out of them right off the get go...then I measured about 700 g in fact (no need to peel the toms as the skins turn to candy).
4 garlic cloves preferably fresh
3 tiny chili pods dried (maybe a teaspoon of dried store bought)
1 fresh green chili and I used jalapeno...seeds removed. These freeze really well you know so if you find them on discount do buy them.
1 inch of ginger chopped fine or grated
2 Tablespoons of Thai fish sauce (there's the secret ingredient!!)
150 Ml apple cider vinegar or vinegar of choice..but not too harsh.....try red wine, as Sarah suggests, or white balsamic...maybe even rice wine vinegar....that might be nice.
2 cups of light brown sugar

So...blitz the garlic, chilies, ginger, vinegar and fish sauce. Put in a heavy bottom pot and heat it all up to infuse the flavors. Then add sugar to melt, and then tomatoes .....bring to soft boil, then right down to low bubbly simmer and cook till it looks translucent, jammy and sticky (pulling your spoon across the bottom of the pot, it should take about five to eight seconds for the product to come together). Put into glass Mason Jars. I canned mine for fifteen mins in a boiling water bath.

The longer you keep this jam (so says SR), the hotter it gets and should keep about three months in the fridge without canning. I have made this with German Gold tomatoes adding golden seedless raisins so don't be afraid to experiment. It's really delicious.....but we all have different tastes and some might find it, like Goldilocks... too hot, or too sweet..but we think it's just right.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Inside the Vegetable Garden ... What Can You Manage?

We love to eat vegetables as much as we love to grow flowers)))). Including the asparagus bed and bean wall, "the food production garden" is about thirty-five foot by twenty-five, and provides for a family of four when we are all here. Come, I'll open the gate.

The bean tepee has finally come into it's own, giving a good crop of Bleuhilde and Fortex beans.... a beautiful combination of green and purple black beans; truly the most prolific, tender beans we have ever grown. The foot path was covered in nasturtium and marigold, recently cut back as we couldn't get in))))! Brussels sprouts are gaining ground after the early cabbage fly damage...we are looking forward to eating them at Christmas.

Sometimes, it is hard to get a perspective on the vegetable garden when friends visit, unless you are "inside" the rabbit proof gate. The birdbath is the centerpiece.....the deal is....and I know the birds understand this)))... you can have a hop down and get those pesky bugs!!

We are making an effort to gather seed this year; Red Salad Bowl lettuce is one plant we hope to collect from. It is our favourite (red) green, and looks beautiful on presentation.

Swiss Chard has not been a champion this year; leaf miner damage made it just too difficult to harvest until now.

Cosmos has been makes a nice airy bouquet in the veg garden...enticing and welcoming, linking the outside flower beds to the inside food garden.

At the end of today, we gathered more plums to stew...trouble is..the Chief loves the sweet juicy ones and it is a trial to keep him away from them, especially when they fall to the ground.

Hope you enjoyed walking with me through the veg garden. It isn't that big, I know...but it is enough for us and about all I can manage. Think about that if you start a veg garden...just make it as big as you can, from a barrel to a field..but it must be what you can manage.

Monday, August 23, 2010

A Migration has Begun

Has our property finally been considered part of "the highway" by birds? After eleven years of growing bird friendly plants, having water features, three hummingbird feeders and two year round feeders...we think, today was a highlight in our bird and garden experience. Above, this Nuthatch is in water heaven...!

The back yard was alive like it has never been before...birds alighted on the outside table, chairs, every conceivable seed carrying flower, and besides that, they jockeyed for first place at the above water feature. Warblers were flitting, American Gold Finches were glinting, and the stray Grackle (a sure sign of pilgrimage here) wanted first place at the feeder. Blue Jays were complaining, but crows or ravens. Oh to truly know the way of birds.

The "Newfs" are surely coming south! (summer Newfoundland birds going south to avoid the winter))). I am sure there were at least eight hummingbirds today, when we usually have one family.

So, in anticipation of more migration tomorrow....I will keep the binoculars handy!

A Harvest has Begun

Our veg garden is behind those of other blogger friends. For a while now, I have watched with anticipation, hopeful the beans and tomatoes would soon be ready. Shall I say, I was feeling a bit disappointed ours were taking far longer than expected(((. Today however, we did manage our first good crop of beans: Dragon Tongue, Blauhilde, Goldmarie and Fortex, the most tender of them all.

We are also eating late strawberries and tiny sweet plums (no they are not cherry tomatoes in the photo))).

The custard white zucchini are still going...STRONG! How many ways can you eat a zucchini, even if it is a special and tasty one?

Do you notice the little green nubs to the top left of the platter...they are radish seed pods. Chopped up, they added a good bite to our tomato salsa tonight...Speckled Roman, Purple Calabash, Scotia, mint and radish pods...simple food with great flavor. Thanks L for the SR seeds!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Seedy Thoughts

I've been thinking a lot about seeds's a personal thing for most of us...the saving, the planting, the eating, the storing and the sharing. Saving seeds has become a passion for Owen Bridge of Annapolis Seeds in Nova Scotia. He, along with Dan Jason from my beloved Salt Spring Island, are holding three workshops locally and if you check out his blog on the sidebar, you can find out how you can attend.

What I know about seeds is probably about average for most folks. Tomato seeds have been saved in this house, by smearing them on the kitchen window sill, waiting for them to dry and storing them. I don't think Owen and Dan would approve))))!

As for planting, all gardeners can relate to the shock and awe of seeing seeds they planted, germinate and grow to be fruiting and magnificent plants in their own right...starting life from "your own heart and hands".

Then for the best part, eating! Corn, with their precious seed kernels, each connected to a fine filament that forms the tassel, is now available here, fresh picked from the fields, mostly grown in the Annapolis Valley where Owen lives. The Captain and I grew corn as a cash crop when we lived on Salt Spring, getting up before dawn, dressing in rain gear to protect us from the heavy dew, rousing the little one out of bed and handing him a just picked cob to chew on....and after three hours picking, or when the truck was full, whichever came first, off we went to the Salt Spring market. Oh memories...

Memories bring me to the value of all seeds, but applicable to our early life, grain, and the sharing of it. Years before living on Salt Spring, our ship arrived in Bangladesh, with five holds full of United Nations mixed oats, wheat, barley and corn, ....and no automated way to offload. It was early days for the new Bangladesh. For one full month, a legion of men descended to the depths, in heat you cannot imagine, shoveled that grain, those seeds, into sacks, which would then be sewed shut and lifted out of the holds by rope and pulley.

The value of grains...the value of all seed, and knowing how to save it, plant it, store it, and share it... benefit all humankind.

See you at the Seed Saving Workshop!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Back to Beds

It's not too early to smarten up the beds. Daylilies are finishing their bloom and can be divided; the same goes for other perennials...time to freshen the plantings, thin out perhaps, share with friends. So we started in on the Inula magnifica...doesn't that just tumble off the are magnifica!!... "too magnifica dear and you need to come down a few sizes!" Mind you, in our garden it thankfully doesn't reach it's full potential (and perhaps we now know why).

Who knew rockzilla was just below the surface. "Ahem...Captain...over here..we've got a problem!" From the start, this garden has been a rock haven in a sand dune....a challenge to say the least. (Can you feel my pain???) Yards and yards of compost on top does not make rock underneath disappear, and the sand only sucks the good compost into it's miserable depths.

So, crowbar in hand, wedgie of wood, lots of grunt work and it was out! Inula is now much smaller, other plants divided, and yes, the bed looks thin right now but in a week it will start to glow with the new bit of compost and surely, thrive without that lump under it's roots. I really need to make that bed wider...mmmm)))

Hope your beds are comfortable.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Not's Chester Race Week!

"A Year in a South Shore Garden", must include a few days out in the boat! YOU can't garden every day!!! Those mad about sailing, during Chester Race Week, take to the water and compete; magically, most of them arrived back today with spinnakers aloft awesome and thrilling sight only possible with just the right wind conditions. Although the photos show but a few, the horizon was filled with a hundred colors not excluding a giant pink spinnaker! I was quite taken with the red, white and blue.

Chester is crawling with boats and boaters and want to be boaters..and true sailors. Got me one of those)). So the Captain, Chief and I, spent a great day on the sea. The Chief, on "dock lookout duty", was happy to get back to shore..FIRST off, like every Cocker we have known)))

Monday, August 9, 2010

Sweet Peas..Wem...Eckford

Wow..they really made it to the top of the wall!!!....I love Sweet Peas...the strong fragrant smell of them, at the back of the garden, is fantastic. When picking the blooms, bees are buzzing near my face, hummingbirds are giving the zoom is blue, sun is shining...true bliss.

Four short years ago we were in Wem, Shropshire, England, with our good friends R and D, eating cream cakes and searching for Sweet Pea seeds. Wem (don't you know)))) the "Sweet Pea Capitol of the World", because Henry Eckford hybridized the first of our modern sweet peas there.

Instead of "Got The T-SHIRT!"...I got the tea towel.. and the booklets ...and the seeds and I have grown the early sweet pea variety of flowers from Wem ever since.

Memories of thoughts were, at the time...the town didn't promote Eckford enough but that has likely changed. It was a lovely and beautiful town, vibrant and smart looking with great pastry shops! Visit if you ever get the chance.

Ahem..okay ...from the literature (meaning my booklets)))...Henry Eckford was born in Midlothian and employed in horticulture all his life, and at age SIXTY-Five years he began his Sweet Pea Business in Noble Street, Wem, Shropshire, England. (See what us gardeners can still achieve in our senior years))). Here we are today, growing the most wonderful sweet peas because of this man's work! According to the Studio Card..his pioneering work in color, fragrance and form made Wem the "Sweet Pea Capital of the World" and no less than that, he was awarded the Victoria Medal of Honour.

So, in case you missed it..I love sweet peas and always will. If you have never grown them, do give them a try as you will be hugely rewarded.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

My Dry Spot!

No, I'm not talking about my knees!! There is this one miserable spot in the flower garden that has never done well. Every year we'd moan about it, and try to figure out what would do best in the sandy, quick draining soil. Yucca and sedum worked, but the bed still needed more. This year, the supporting cast, Echinacea and Rudbeckia, really took hold. These are part of the largest family of flowering plants, compositae, with over 900 genera and 14,000 species, as noted in the book "Wildflowers of North America" by Pamela Foray. I just like them all... and they really are stalwarts of the garden this time of year... lots of variety, differing heights, colors, cones and more, ...what's not to love. Seems the nasturtium and Salvia Oceana like the same does this mean success...Right Plant in the Right Place!!! Yes!! (smile)

Friday, August 6, 2010

The Lowly Nasturtium

It's the first flower seeded, full of anticipation, buried in the cold spring soil... tucked in about a week before the last frost because" it likes a chill before germination". The peachy-rose one above with the variegated leaf is giving an especially good show this year...but because I tuck seeds in all over...well not sure about it's name but think it is Climbing Nasturtium "Amazon Jewel" from Rene's Seeds. As an aside...I did plant their Mounding Nasturtium "Cherries Jubilee" near the Cambridge Scarlet Monarda..almost an identical color..but let's just say..the Cherries Jubilee didn't really set fire to the bed. It has wonderful color..but poor bloom but of course, it may just be wrong location etc.

Fabulous plants these many varieties, can eat the leaves, flowers and seeds...they are excellent for your body, and they are so merry;... orange, red, peachy and yellow...a delight. As a fellow blogger recently posted...the leaves alone are enough to grow them, even if they never produce flowers.

Well, it's a lovely night...going back out to enjoy the last of the fire...

Sunday, August 1, 2010 ready...beautiful..

The days are winding down in anticipation of the tomato feast...the pearly essence on the fruits and stems sparkle when the sun is starting to go down.

Flying saucer zucchini, "Custard White", are just now forming off the bloom...

We love these stir fried with the garlic scape babies below, sweet onion, any new veg in the garden like green beans, radish...and near the end...adding an organic spicy bean chilli...all topped with shredded cheese...

The last green is dessert..soon...ripening plums...dripping this year from the branch. ready..and beautiful...