Happy Halloween!

October 31, 2011 § 2 Comments

Posted by Katharine

It’s that time of the year so let’s ditch the over-priced, store-bought candy and celebrate with some super-sweet, seasonal recipes!

First up, pumpkin loaf. A friend always made this in massive quantities whenever she had her studio tour. It goes perfectly with a cup of hot apple cider on these chilly fall days. I’ve cut down the recipe to make 3 loaves (hence the odd measurements) but you can certainly adjust to suit your needs.

Sue’s Studio Pumpkin Loaf

1 3/4 cup vegetable oil

2 cups brown sugar

3 cups white sugar

7 free-range eggs

2 cups pumpkin

1 cup of water

5 1/4 cups flour

3 1/2 tsp baking soda

2 tsp cinnamon

1 1/2 tsp nutmeg

2 1/2 tsp salt

Prepare the pumpkin by halving it and remove the seeds and ‘guts’. (Tip: save the seeds!*) Bake the pumpkin in a 400 degree oven for about an hour or until the pumpkin is soft. Remove from oven and once cooled remove the skin and puree in a food processor or blender.

In a large bowl beat the eggs and add the pureed pumpkin, water, oil and sugar. In another bowl mix together the remaining dry ingredients. Stir the dry mix into the first bowl.

Grease 3 bread pans with butter and pour in the mixture until they are all about 3/4 full. Bake in a 375 degree over for about an hour. Be sure to test with a fork, if there are still gooey bits remaining leave them in a bit longer. When done let them cool slightly before removing them from their pans and placing on a rack.

* Pumpkin seeds make an awesome snack. Just rinse off any pumpkin ‘guts’ and lightly coat them in oil and salt to taste. Roast them at 400 degrees for 10 to 15 minutes or until they start to look lightly toasted. Let them cool off and enjoy!

Okay, round two. I’m proud to say that I spent Devil’s night icing the most rich, moist, chocolate-y cake I’ve ever made!  You can find the recipe in this weekend’s Globe and Mail*; they’ve aptly dubbed it “bloody good chocolate-beet cake with scream cheese icing”. I picked up the beets from a local farm and threw them in to cook along with the pumpkin. They gave the cake a wonderful density and a distinct flavour. Oh, and the icing is divine! (and not as tricky as it sounds)

*Please note that there seems to be a typo in their recipe, the cake only requires 3oz of semi-sweet chocolate, not 11. Also, stick to just 5 beets, they are very flavourful when fresh and roasted. 


Our Harvest Recap

October 16, 2011 § Leave a comment

Posted by Katharine

So, we’re midway through october and it’s been a while since we’ve talked about the garden. To make up for a lack of info, let’s recap on what’s happened so far!

August brought a steady flow of tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, peas and beans. The weather was a bit tricky for the tomatos and the mix of extreme heat and rain caused their skins to split. This splitting made it hard to harvest and eat them in time but when we could they tasted great!

The corn was an experience. Raccoons liked to knock over stalks only to leave a half eaten cob on the ground as evidence. We also had quite a bit of corn smut, or huitlacoche. This fungus is edible and is commonly found on Mexican menus. Regrettably, we weren’t quite adventurous enough to try it out. We can tell you that the corn that survived the fungus and critters was delicious.

The herbs continued to grow beautifully and we’re still using them now.

We have lots of squash and 3 bright orange pumpkins just about ready to go. Pumpkins are ready to pick when a the stem begins to crack or when the skin is too hard to pierce with your fingernail. Squash is usually ready by the first frost. If you aren’t sure try tapping on the plant, it should feel solid but sound hollow.

The carrots have grown to a healthy size and we were able to dig up enough to make TWO delicious carrot cakes and have many still growing. They are ready to harvest when you can see the tops of them just start to pop out of the ground. Don’t worry, they wont go bad as long as they stay under the soil so take them as you need them through the fall.

Finally, we have a healthy row of leeks that are waiting for the first frost to become soup.

We had a beautiful September and a nice start to October. We’re very happy with what we’ve been able to produce this year and we hope some of you have enjoyed some harvests of your own!

Rainy Day Berry Picking

August 4, 2011 § Leave a comment

Posted by Katharine

Thanks to some good-old-fashioned word of mouth we’ve been introduced to a lovely pick-your-own blueberry farm in Copetown just outside of Dundas. There are rows and rows of bushes covered in plump, ripe berries and the charge is only $4 per litre/quart (about half the cost of what you’d find in an average grocery store!)

Picking your own fruit is a great thing to do with kids, friends, as a date or solo (go early on a quiet morning for some solitude, trust us). It’s simple, provides fresh air and helps us reconnect to where our food comes from. Besides, what could be better than enjoying food at the peak of freshness while also knowing you helped a local farmer keep doing what they do best. If you get tired of eating blueberries straight from a bowl you can try making blueberry jam to top fresh bread or compote to top cereal, yogurt and ice cream. Blueberries also freeze easily and if you’re looking for a way to cool down, add them to a blender with some fresh ginger and apple juice.

So go check it out! The address is 1595 Old Hwy. 99 (map) and there are signs posted along Governors Rd. if you are coming from Dundas. Oh, and this is a bring your own bowl situation. They provide buckets so you know when you’ve picked a litre, but you’ll need something to take your berries home in.

Is it all down to luck?

July 23, 2011 § Leave a comment

Posted by Katharine

Despite the dry and hot weather things are growing fine and we are so close to our first real harvest. We have about 20 tomato plants that are covered in green fruit waiting to turn red, the pumpkin plants have taken over and have produced a few baseball sized, actual pumpkins, the beans and peas are starting to appear, there is broccoli in the middle of the broccoli plants and we even have tiny cucumbers. The corn is growing taller and taller, while the lettuce wont stop producing more greens than we can keep up with. In addition, while trying to weed I accidentally found out that the carrots are coming along nicely.  I can only assume our leeks and onions are doing alright too.

Basically everything is working. We have had some rabbits come and snack, but nothing serious. After earlier bug attacks the cauliflower is looking a bit dire and the eggplant is only just starting to come back but these plants still have potential. It’s amazing how everything seems to happen all at once, and so quickly, after months of waiting. Of course, now that I think about it, I can’t believe we didn’t plant any zucchini! (Check out the post over at Crackers for an excellent suggestion on what to do with abundant zucchini. If you haven’t made a cake with it yet, you haven’t lived.)

The strange thing about all this is that our neighbours had their entire garden eaten by rabbits and deer. Almost nothing was spared. I’ve literally watched entire families of these creatures wander across the property, yards from where our plants are growing, and yet they’ve left us alone. Our neighbours have not made the same attempts to secure the perimeter. They did not string up pie plates, create a string and bamboo barrier, water the plants with garlic or soapy concoctions, douse leaves with cayenne pepper nor hang pantyhose filled with carbolic soap around their garden. I did not expect these mechanisms to work as well as they did, but now I can only assume they have.

So perhaps we got lucky, perhaps it takes less to ward off a deer than I had thought, or perhaps it depends on if there is food nearby that is easier to access. Regardless, we have found a way to encourage food to grow and hope it will continue this way. Of course, we certainly could use some rain.

The Sweet Smell of Pesto

July 11, 2011 § Leave a comment

Posted by Katharine

Pesto is incredibly easy to make and perfect for this time of the year. Not only have our basil and parsley plants grown substantially but it’s too hot for complicated cooking. By throwing a few basic ingredients in the food processor you create an incredibly flavourful addition to pasta, bruschetta, sandwiches, pizza and hors d’ouevres. Today, within half an hour, I had picked the herbs, blended them and used the pesto in a sandwich with some local tomatoes. So good! I can’t wait until our garden produces its own tomatoes and my diet starts to revolve around these two foods.

Here is a really great pesto recipe adapted from Mollie Katzen’s “The Enchanted Broccoli Forest,” 1982:

Makes approximately 1 cup of Pesto

  • 2 packed cups of fresh basil leaves (remove stems)
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1/2 cup of freshly grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup crushed almonds
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1/3 cup fresh parsley
  • ground pepper and salt to taste

Puree all the ingredients into a food processor until you have a uniform paste and voila! If you don’t own a food processor you can use a blender with a steel blade.

This is an easy recipe for experimentation. See what flavours you prefer and adapt portions to suit. Instead of pine nuts I used almonds as the original recipe simply listed “nuts” and I prefer the latter. And be warned, unless you are a garlic fanatic I would stick with 2 cloves and see how it tastes before adding more, I found it got potent very quickly and you don’t want it to overpower the herbs. If you have a large supply of basil you can always make a larger batch and freeze it for later.

Curing Jet Lag with Gardening

July 1, 2011 § Leave a comment

Posted by Katharine

Though I was a bit apprehensive about leaving the garden while I whisked off to the UK for 2 weeks, it turns out this is one of the best things you can do. Take that advice with a grain of salt of course, I only mean in the sense that the ‘before and after’ like transformation is pretty exciting. It seems we had luck with the weather and our plants managed to stave off pests. As a result we now have a healthy and productive garden! Of course, having good friends to help keep an eye on things is an asset.

We had some trouble with rabbits before so to scare them off we strung up some aluminum pie plates to make a clanging noise in the breeze. We also hung pantyhose filled with carbolic soap on posts around the area. The smell from the soap (particularly when it gets wet) is quite strong and is said to keep deer away. You can also make a soapy water mix with it to coat your plants to deter bugs and rodents. In contrast to everything else we’ve planted, the eggplant, which were the most ravaged by insects, have sadly not grown any bigger. This being the only piece of bad news we’re obviously really pleased.

We are starting to realize the literal fruits of our labour. We have little green tomatoes, foot-tall corn, giant broccoli and pumpkin stalks and of course, ample lettuce, parsley and basil ready to eat. Last night we made a delicious salad with greens we had started with seed, some all the way back in April. The difference between your own home-grown greens and store bought ones is surprising. Perhaps not as immediately noticeable as a tomato or an apple, but these leaves were stronger, had a much nicer texture, were more flavourful (particularly the parsley!) and hadn’t been handled by more than one person between the garden and the salad bowl.

There was quite a bit of weeding to get done upon my return but it turns out sitting in the soil admiring how much the herbs have grown, while pulling out plants that look suspiciously like the lettuce they’re growing near, is a perfect way to help your body adjust to jet lag and missing loved ones.

Our first set of challenges

June 10, 2011 § Leave a comment

Posted by Katharine

I’m sure all you Hamilton readers are aware of that epic storm that came through the area a couple nights ago. All that wind, rain and apparent hail seems to have taken its toll on our little plants. It also took a toll on our neighbours tree, causing it to fall onto our shed. Fortunately, everything seems to be fine including the cherry tomatoes we planted along the west wall (exactly where the tree fell!). Not as lucky, the rest of our tomatoes are looking pretty ragged, all bent over and suffering some broken branches. The garden itself was littered with sticks, leaves and branches which have been cleaned up. Meanwhile, some rabbits (I assume they’re rabbits) have eaten the leaves off of 50% of our broccoli and flea beetles are ravaging our eggplant.

In an attempt to deter the pests I’ve watered all the plants with garlic infused concoction made by adding 3 cloves of finely chopped garlic into the watering can. I don’t know how well it’s working since I caught the little bugs at it again today but perhaps its preventing even more from coming. I understand that eggplants are particularly susceptible to these kinds of insects so I’m looking into ways to protect them before it’s too late. Row covers seem to be the most common solution aside from making the plants taste of garlic or hot pepper. I’ll be putting out a bird feeder to attract some predators as well. If the plants are beyond repair we do have some back up seedlings holding out for this very occasion.

Things in the herb and lettuce patch however are looking fantastic! Some weeding needs to be done but otherwise nothing has come near those plants. Not sure what the difference is other than a very basic bamboo and twine fence which should not stop insects or rabbits by any means. Knock on wood, I’m not complaining!