How does my garden grow without me?

I planted my garden in the spring, watched it start to grow, and then abandoned it for three months for a trip across Canada. Well, not totally abandoned – a friend was taking care of it. But I missed a lot of it from August through October. Some of it did pretty well without me, and some of it didn’t.

I have a plethora of store mannequins (more on that story for another time). So I decided to use a couple of them for bean and pea trellises, with the addition of willow-branch cages around them. I think my neighbors were a bit worried about me for a while, especially before the peas and beans started to grow:

The sugar snap peas grew faster:

But the pole beans made the nicest mannequin dress:

And after the vines died off, one yellow bean remained as an earring for the mannequin:

I planted nasturtiums between the trellis mannequins as well as around a mannequin torso on the deck and in the vegetable garden:

Fresh nasturtium flowers, leaves and seeds are edible. They have a tangy, peppery flavour and are delicious in salads and look very pretty. Nasturtiums also help to keep some bugs out of the garden. I harvest the nasturtium seeds every fall and replant them in the spring. I leave them in a flat container to dry completely before storing them for the winter:

I also harvest and dry marigold and calendula seeds and petals. Their fresh flowers are also edible. The petals have a stronger flavour, so I use them more sparingly in salads. Calendula officinalus (a particular type of calendula) tea can be made from the dried petals, and has many health benefits. Steep 2 teaspoons of dried calendula petals in a cup of boiling water and let steep for 10 minutes.

Root vegetables were another story. On the not-so-successful side, the beets did not fare well. Apparently the beet leaves were being enjoyed by some creepy crawlers who ignored the warnings of the nasturtiums, and the beet roots never really grew. The yield from the garlic was actually less than what I planted. How did that happen?

But the potatoes and carrots produced admirably. I just harvested the last of them and I have put them into moist sand in burlap-lined baskets in the cold room that I made in the basement. I insulated a small room that has one uninsulated concrete wall. The carrots will be put into a separate sandy container, and I will spread another layer of moist sand over both the potatoes and carrots so that they are covered completely. This is my first try at a cold room (other than the one I grew up with. It had salamanders that terrified me when I had to get potatoes for supper). I suspect there will be no salamanders in my cold room, and if there are, it will be worthy of some scientific investigation.

Happy harvest!


The Real Black Gold

In Alberta when they refer to “Black Gold” they are referring to oil, but here in BC this is what I call “Black Gold,”

Blackberries! And they grow free everywhere. They are my favourite invasive weed. These are in my sister’s backyard. I stopped by to drop some things off at her house the other day and she wasn’t home. I decided to wait in the backyard and within minutes I started picking the berries.

Within a few more minutes I had picked an entire container.

These would’ve cost me a fortune in Alberta. Husband was also there, but he only picked enough to fill his belly. The only downside to blackberry picking is…


the black, sticky hand. A small price to pay for my favourite berries. On another note you may remember my interest in mushroom picking. This last weekend I was too zonked after the wedding to go with my parents, but they managed to pick 10 pounds of chanterelles in 20 minutes at our secret mushroom spot. Here is a sample of one:

The rest is already in my belly.

Posted by King Crabby


Ellerslie Gift & Garden Bistro

I have always liked the Ellerslie Greenhouse for specialty plants for my garden, but they also have beautiful gifts when I am looking for something special. They also have a Coffee and Bistro Bar. I don’t know if I just thought they only served coffee and pastries, or whether they added a lunch menu recently, or if I just never noticed before, but I slipped over there on a lunch hour last week to buy a gift for a friend’s birthday, and I saw their lunch menu board. I ordered the Cassoulet which was on the soup menu, but it was so thick that it was really more of a stew.

Sorry about the poor picture quality – I didn’t have my camera with me so I snapped these photos with my cell phone. I also had a V8 and the woman at the Bistro put it into a glass for me so it would look nicer.  Here is their description of the Cassoulet:

Cassoulet – If you have travelled in southern France, you’ve seen this offering on the menu.  Our take on this centuries old recipe combines pork meatballs, roast chicken, roast breast of duck, and a bit of dried sausage in a rich tomato broth with navy and kidney beans.  This soup is so filling, you won’t be wanting a sandwich on the side. Wheat but no dairy.

It was such a nice surprise – absolutely delicious. I asked the woman at the Bistro what the spices were.  She said bay leaf, thyme and cloves. It was the cloves that I was tasting that gave it such as warm rich flavour. It had a bit of heat too so I think there may have been some cayenne. I lucked out with the Cassoulet because she said they only have it on the menu about once a month.

The Cassoulet was served with a crisp that was made from bread crumbs and parmesan that she toasted on the Panini press. The crisp is crisper than it looks in this photo. But the mosaic table top is in good focus!

The handful of Bistro tables are tucked away in a corner of the gift shop, surrounded by plants and beautiful things. They have garden magazines on the tables that you can browse through while you eat.

In the winter, I like to visit there and go into their tropical greenhouse to breathe in the air and remind myself that there is life after winter.

If my lunch that day is any indication of the other items on their menu, I really want to go back and sample some more. You can find it as you are heading south out of town. Take Ellerslie Road to your right in that tangle of new overpasses.

Posted by Truly Scrumptious

Tomato tamahto

Right before the cruel frost in the second week of September I quickly harvested all the remaining vegetables in my garden. I didn’t mind harvesting the carrots and beets as they had grown to a nice size and I was able to easily can or store them for the winter. What pained me the most was picking dozens and dozen of green tomatoes. For weeks now I have watched them slowly turn from green to red. Of course since I picked them all at the same time, almost all of them turned red at the same time. I decided to slow roast most of the Roma tomatoes in my oven. I cut them in half and sprinkled them with olive oil and seasoned them with salt and pepper.

Then I placed them in the oven for a couple of hours at a low temperature and the results were glorious.

The bottoms of the tomatoes were slightly caramelized from all the natural sugars.  I served these with a bit of goat cheese and mixed greens with a balsamic dressing. Heaven.

For dinner I made a vegetable galette with a roasted tomato puree. I roasted some beefsteak tomatoes and onions from my garden and some garlic from my dad’s garden.

After 30 minutes in the oven the tomato mixture was ready to go into the blender.

After the mixture was pureed I put it back on the stove and reduced it a bit.

As for the galette, I sautéed some vegetables and made a corn meal crust. You are supposed to use four-inch tart shells, but since I had none I just rolled the dough into six-inch circles. I placed a half cup of vegetables in the middle of the pastry and folded in the sides of the pastry. I topped it off with a dollop of goat cheese. I baked it for 20 minutes and served it with the tomato puree. I can’t take total (or any really) credit for the recipe as I stole most of it from John Bishop’s cookbook Fresh. He owns Bishop’s in Vancouver.

You might have noticed that I’ve mentioned goat cheese twice in this posting. I have to say that Smoky Valley Goat Cheese, (an Alberta product sold at the downtown farmers’ market), is some of the best goat cheese I have ever had. I bought a CSA share from them so I can enjoy their wonderful product all year round. I would also encourage you to read the entry by Kevin Kossowan. It’s interesting for two reasons: the product itself, and Kevin’s dedication to helping this producer. I hear a lot of people talking about supporting local producers, but this is the first time I have ever seen someone take it upon themselves to really help. He is redesigning their website, promoting their product, and. when I was at the market on Saturday, I saw him at their booth (I recognize him from his video on butchering pork, so I’m not a total creeper). It’s totally making a difference as I had to line up to get my goat cheese this week. Way to go Kevin and Smoky Valley – keep up the great work, and please keep supplying my goat cheese cravings.

JP, if you have never had their cheese I suggest you get your butt over to my house sometime this weekend before I eat it all.

My next post will be about Thanksgiving – Boyfriend Makes Coq au Vin or maybe Burnt Boyfriend, when he attempts to deglaze the pan.

Posted by King Crabby

It’s the most wonderful time of the year

It really is, Jean. It’s the time of year when all my hard gardening work (and hard work shopping at the farmers’ market) gets rewarded with more hard work. However, all the hard work I put into preserving summer fruits and vegetables is enjoyed all year. I was going to take it easy this weekend because I have been away so much this summer, but when I saw the beautiful bag of cucumbers at the farmers market I just had to buy it and make pickles. I made bread and butter pickles, which have always been my favourite. I called my mom tonight and told her I made 7 pints of them and she replied Me too. Well actually she replied she had made several ice-cream buckets full of them. She also told me she canned 60 pints of sockeye salmon. I guess it looks like I will have to step up my canning if I want to even reach par with my mom. Do you like bread and butter pickles? If so I made a jar for you and I will bring it by sometime this week. Here is a sampler to tide you over until then.

Aside from the Nanking jelly, I also canned some peaches with a friend a week or so ago. We canned peaches in syrup and we also tried a new recipe where we canned the peaches in a honey syrup with a cinnamon stick and whole allspice. I have not tried either yet, but they are guaranteed to be delicious. The only thing I didn’t like about the latter was that the cinnamon stick tore some of the peaches when I put it in the jar. I will have to come up with a better strategy next time.

Boyfriend and I harvested all the onions from the garden and we laid them out to dry so we can store them for the winter. One more thing about harvest – I pretty much lose all access to my kitchen table. Presently it has onions and pickles on it and soon they will have hundreds of potatoes joining them.

Next weekend it’s time to pickle beets and the weekend after that it’s time to can the stewed tomatoes.

On a side note, people are always asking me what canning/preserving books are any good. I think this is because I am the only person they know who cans, aside from their grandma. My five favourites at the moment are:

Put ’em Up

Bernardin’s Complete Book of Home Preserving

jam it, pickle it and cure it and other cooking projects

Well Preserved: Small Batch Preserving for the New Cook

The Beginner’s Guide to Preserving Food at Home

Posted by King Crabby

Table Scraps

Now with 10% less sodium.

• So Crabby, now that you’re a mushroom identification expert (having been on one mushroom foraging expedition), what can you tell me about this enormous specimen I found on my lawn? Delicious sautéd in butter or deathly toxic? A little moot now, since the lawn cutting dude was here today while I was out.

• I just watered your potatoes, which pretty much guarantees we’ll be getting a torrential downpour tonight. As you can see, they’re blooming. Should I be nipping these in the bud (as it were), the way you’d pinch the blossoms off herbs so that energy isn’t diverted from the edible parts into producing flowers? There’s so much I don’t know about gardening (though I do know not to water in the heat of the day).

• One reason (among many) that I don’t want to be a contestant on Hell’s Kitchen is because Gordon Ramsay would constantly be yelling “You didn’t season this!!! Donkey!!!” at me. That’s because I seldom salt food when I’m cooking.* It’s how I grew up – my mom didn’t salt her food either (because of blood pressure issues) and so my palate is probably a little skewed compared to most people. I mention this because I heard on the radio today (and is anyone really surprised?) that most Canadians eat too much salt. I can’t really be smug about this, though. I’m probably getting more than I need from salty foods such as cheese, olives, pickles and so on, and of course from eating out.

*I do tend to use a lot of freshly ground pepper though – maybe too much (he’d yell at me for that too)

-Posted by Jean Poutine

I can taste the fresh veggies already

Jean, I’m sorry I haven’t posted recently. Boyfriend went to a conference and took our camera. I was going to make a post without pictures, but for once I didn’t have much to say. I have been busy with another passion: gardening! I went to the garden on Sunday and there were a couple of seedlings poking through the ground. Then I went today after work and there were dozens. I know there are weeks and months until harvest time, but I can’t help getting excited. We planted tomatoes, peas, chard, beets, onions, mustard greens, salad mix, spinach, beans and carrots.

Here’s the plot. Check out all those seedlings.

This bean was the first seedling I saw Sunday.

Here are the beets. Did I tell you someone stole a bunch of my beets last year? They ripped off the greens and left them in my garden wilted. That was a double slap in the face as they stole my beets and wasted perfectly good greens. When I saw what happened I promptly dug up the rest of the beets just in case the thief decided to come back.

Here are the onions. I won’t bore you with more photos of my garden, but I have lots more if you want to come over for a slide show. I also planted marigolds around the edge of the garden to keep deer and other critters from eating my vegetables.

I know you will not think this is a food post, but the garden provides the majority of vegetables I eat in the summer, therefore I must post this to provide background for all the wonderful creations I make in the summer.

Posted by King Crabby