Tuesday, September 6, 2016

CSA Week 13 (14) and Life on the Farm

Mollie is back at school and the wood for the winter is in the driveway waiting to be stacked under my shelter.
Hard to believe it could be September and hard to believe it is still so hot and dry.

Yes, I am a bit tired and every few weeks I'll check online for travel bargains in November. It's nice to dream and have something to look forward to. At this point in the season, I describe my energy level as "crawling towards the finish line", the finish line being the end of the season.
It has been a lot of work this year, and I think the hard work has paid off for the most part. The most disappointing crop for me has been the beans, and why they did poorly is anyone's guess. There have been some, but not nearly what there should have been. I put it down to the drought, but I watered reasonably well, or so I thought.

Now it's time to think about growing for the winter, and time to clear the tomatoes out of the hoop houses and get the plastic ready for the winter.
I've seeded some new items outside, including turnips, kohlrabi, radishes arugula and beans. The days are shortening and the nights are getting a bit cooler and it would be a miracle if the beans made it, but they popped up pretty quickly and the heat is pushing them on. So with any luck, some of these new crops should be in the shares in a month or so.

Newly planted beans-good luck
The last date of my Tuesday deliveries is well into October, the 23rd I believe and Wednesday finishes the week before.
It has been a great group of people I've had in the CSA this year, and I thank everyone for their continued support.
I've been grateful for any and all feedback I have received, because I will tell you honestly, lots of times it is a guessing game. Everyone is different and what is too much produce for one person, is not enough for others. When people came to the open house I held, it was nice to get feedback on certain crops, because I was unsure how they were going over. The consensus appeared to be that papalo was not a hit with most shareholders, but the NZ spinach and malabar spinach were, and there could never be too many tomatoes.
Of course that's why it is good to have get togethers like that because it lets me know if I am on the right track, I can identify mystery items and of course you can see what I have been working all season at.

Very special De Djerba carrots
The baskets today were pretty heavy. Yes, that was one beet in the share, or mangel as it were, a big one and I figured it could stand alone. Also carrots, NZ spinach, chard or broccoli spouts, tomatoes, hot and sweet peppers, herbs (parsley, sage, basil), small onions, garlic,  and some sort of bean, lima or cowpea or tomatillos. Possibly more.
If you are looking for a quick and easy dish, grab the carrots.
This recipe is one I have made for years and is very simple, but good. Brown a pound of crumbled firm tofu in cooking oil of your choice, I use coconut. Shred a pound or so of carrot and cook with the tofu until softened. Add soy sauce to taste, and voila, a very easy main dish which can be accompanied with a green salad, or of course a tomato salad.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

CSA Week 12 and Summer Tomato Panzanella

This summer has had it's highs and lows, like every other season, every other year.

But some lows have been very low.

One such very sad event has been the passing earlier this month of long time seed saver and gardener Brian Calvert. If you have attended the Seedy Saturdays I organize over the years, you may remember Brian quite well.

Brian managed my seed exchange table for me at Seedy Saturday and perhaps you remember a conversation with him. He came well supplied with seed he had saved from his garden, all labelled and ready to share, and he eagerly told the story of the seed.

Brian was also an avid naturalist, animal rights defender and could tell stories with the best of them. A retired math professor from Brock, he kept his days busy and was known by many.  I think of the many conversations we had, and the many, many events we attended because of common interests.

You will be missed Brian.  I am sure your garden overfloweth.

It is nice to have had a bit of rain lately, but some of it, it seems, is localized to my area.
Good thing too.
I've just planted beans, a long shot I know. Why not though? I've heard two versions of the fall weather, the first being extra mild weather for September and October, and the other that we should brace for snow in early October. So, I choose to go with the first, and have planted 2 types of beans that are supposed to mature in 43 days. Will I be picking beans in October? I doubt it, but why not try?
The other things I have planted are turnips, kohlrabi, and arugula. I expect them to do something. Lettuce too of course, but it seems to have trouble sprouting because yes, the ground is still very dry.

The tomatoes keep coming, yes they do. Todays shares included 3 quarts, lots of different sizes, shapes and colours. Beans of some sort (lima, edamame or cowpea), summer squash, peppers hot and sweet, swiss chard, lettuce, garlic, beets (some of them monster sugar beets) and a smattering of herbs.

What to do with all those tomatoes? My paper, The Hamilton Spectator provide a great recipe tonight, so as originally printed in The Washington Post, this recipe is by Tim Carmen.

Summer Tomato Panzanella

3 cups torn sourdough bread-8 ox loaf
1/4 cup olive oil
2 1/4 lbs heirloom tomatoes, bite sized pieces
1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp garlic
1 Tbsp minced shallot
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
freshly cracked black pepper
10 fresh basil leaves

Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Arrange bread on baking sheet, drizzle with half of the oil, toss to coat.
Bake for 15 minutes, until bread is dried, but not browned.
Place tomatoes in colander, sprinkle with salt and let them sit for 20 minutes, tossing gently every few minutes
Transfer the tomatoes to a serving bowl, along with bread. toss.Reserve the tomato juices in their bowl, add garlic, shallots and vinegar to the juices and whisk in remaining tbsp of oil. Season with salt and pepper and pour over tomato bread mixture. Scatter basil over salad and serve immediately.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

CSA Week 11 and Life on the Farm

A bit of rain came, a few weeds grew and I enjoyed my company immensely the last few weeks. Now Sherry has returned to BC, and Izabell to New Brunswick and I realize that I have to buckle down a bit, do a bit of weeding and seeding and pick all those tomatoes by myself.
When in Niagara....

It has been so nice the last few evenings, with the temperature dropping down and finally a bit of relief from the scorching temperatures and the intense humidity.

My sweet boy Bandit cooling off

Indeed when I think back on this summer, I certainly will remember it as the driest I have experienced in the garden, and one of the hottest to work in.

In a nutshell, it has been a lot of hard work to keep things alive and growing. It certainly has been the talk of growers; the drought, the failures and the exhaustion.

In most cases I have succeeded, but not in all.  But there has been a lot of food, and there still is lots in the garden, although some fall crops have not done as well as they should have.

The ground has some nice moisture in it now from our recent rains, and I will be planting more lettuce mix, turnips, fall radishes with coloured flesh, arugula and mustards this week, and hopefully harvesting them in a month or so.

I really enjoyed having my CSA people out last week! Thanks to those of you who came out, and thanks to those of you who responded to my invite. It was great to show people the gardens, and what I have been working on since-wow- as early as January, when I seeded some of the ultra hot peppers. What a great group of people, and I really enjoyed chatting with you.

Percy has the crowd under control

Today's baskets included: tomatoes, sweet and hot peppers, onions, garlic, beans of some sort-either fresh or shelling, carrots, radishes, ground cherries, NZ spinach, zucchini or summer squash and a whole bunch of herbs. Rosemary, thyme, basil, broadleaf thyme, mint (mojito), parsley. There might be something else I can't think of right now.

Yes, my friends...the tomatoes will keep on coming for the foreseeable future and it appears most of you are good with that, some of you even picking up extra ones at my CSA night here.

On the weekend, I made freezer salsa with some of my tomatoes. You can find the recipe I used here, but I did modify it to exclude the sugar and coriander, and I used the apple cider version. It is superb, but mine was very hot, and I had the unfortunate experience of splashing some in my eye while I was stirring it while it simmered. Advisable not to do this.

Or try this, 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.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Guest Post -- Week 2 -- Epic Reunion

Well, it is week two of a reunion of three old friends.  East and west meeting in the centre (pretty much).  We have spent the last 10 days or so laughing, talking, catching up on things that have happened in our lives.  It's been 38 years since we have been together in the same room, so some of the details might have been left out.  We have also been picking vegetables, weeding and gaining some insight into what life is like on a farm.  It's a lot of hard work.  Especially when the summer has been as dry as this year summer has been.

The best part of these two weeks of reuniting - besides just hanging out with dear friends - is the experience of eating what we pick.  Fresh greens, fresh tomatoes (of course), beets, peppers, onions - you name it, we're pretty much eating it.  For me, a meat-eater, eating "vegan" has been a new experience.  And surprisingly, a very nice experience and one I hope to incorporate into part of my meal routine when I get back home.

Linda has a number of CSA customers and part of what we have done this week and last, is help her  prepare the CSA baskets.  This week's bounty included: tomatoes, hot & sweet peppers, edamame beans, carrots/okra, Malabar & New Zealand spinach, garlic, summer squash, radishes, basil, parsley, sage, celery and ground cherries.  A veritable feast for the taste buds.

Last evening she hosted a garden tour for her customers. The long-awaited rain came and went.  (It wasn't nearly enough.)  The sun came out and we were treated to a sunny, lovely evening.  Afterwards, we gathered to chat and snack on dips and crackers.

Below are three of my recipes, two from last evening and one, a family favourite, which also happens to be a Hungarian recipe.

Basil Lemonade                                    

1/2 cup rinsed, lightly packed fresh basil
3 TBSP sugar
4 cups water
Juice of one lemon
Lemon slices

Combine basil and sugar in a small dish.  With a wooden spoon, crush the leaves with the sugar until "bruised" or pasty.
Mix lemon juice and water in a pitcher, add the basil-sugar mixture.  Stir well.  Let sit to fully infuse. Pour through a strainer into glass or another pitcher.
You may wish to add lemon slices to the pitcher or glasses while serving.  Serve chilled.


This is a tried and true family favourite in our house and I am sure in the houses of many Hungarian families.  It is versatile as you na service it over rice, mashed potatoes, or mixed with eggs as part of a breakfast meal.  You can service it without meat, with bacon or with tofu as we have been having this week.  (A spicy, firm tofu works best if that is the route you choose.)

Tomatoes, sliced / diced (which ever is easiest)
Sweet peppers (pale yellow ones works best)  sliced length-wise, seeds removed
Onions, sliced lengthwise
Hungarian paprika (Sweet, smoked or hot - whichever you prefer)
1 TBSP Olive Oil

Saute the onions in oil.  Throw in the tomatoes and peppers, saute until slightly softened.

That's it.

If you choose it for  breakfast meal, you can break and egg or two into it just before it is done.

Beet Hummus

2 cups of cooked chickpeas, drained
1 cup of cooked, diced beets (white), drained
lime juice & lemon juice (about 1/4 cup of each)
1/2 tsp cumin
1 tsp dijon mustard (or honey mustard
2 tsp tahini (or to taste)
sea salt & pepper to taste

Put all ingredients into a blender and process until the texture is smooth.

This hummus has only a mild beet flavour and was well-received by those who tried it.

** This recipe was modified because we didn't have all the ingredients the recipe called for, so you'll want to season to your own taste.