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Archive for the ‘Gardening’ Category

If you`ve been around these parts for a while, you`ll know I`m a sucker for timelapse photography, especially when it is related to food.

There`s not much more to say about the following video (click on it to go to the source) that shows a bowl of fruit and vegetables to go from fresh to fodder.  There`s a pretty neat surprise in the last third of the video:

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We had an awesome meal last evening – a mashup of ingredients straight from our garden with some great product from our CSA (Community Shared Agriculture program).

Here are some of the things I’ve learned this year:

  • Like puppies and a new job, it really is more work than I thought.
  • That work, when in the right mindset, is most pleasurable.  The more you do the task, the more you can develop the mindset.
  • Consistency is key.  I twice went without watering for a few days and almost killed the entire crop.  These two short faults definately hurt my harvest.
  • Big plants don’t necessarily mean bit yield.  I have two sets of tomato plans – one looks like a rain forest and the other like the Sahara.  The ‘desert’ ones have a higher yield than my pristine plant.
  • Knowing how much water is an art form.  I wasn’t using nearly enough early on and cost myself a tonne of veggies.
  • You can grow awesome plants in the shade – including ones that people claim need a lot of sun to thrive.  They just might not grow a lot of fruit.
  • Picking tomatoes is a two-handed task.  When I cheat I usually break a stem.
  • You can grow a cucumber plant up a wall and attach it to other vines.  More sun would have helped.
  • Never give up.  My hot pepper plant all but died before it really started to grow – yet it is in the best shape of all (and in the best spot for sun).
  • There is nothing like tomatoes off the vine.  I had remembered this intellectually but the taste is something that can’t be intellectually processed to be understood.
  • A few herb plants can be a lot of herbs.  I should have grown a greater variety and used them more often in my cooking
  • Fresh herbs that you’ve grown are also far more flavourful than those purchased.
  • A reminder: things you grow yourself just taste better.
  • While I can grow from seed, our apartment lifestyle is not ideal for it.  Starting with plants may be cheating – or may be practical.
  • Our yield has been relatively miniscule. I’ve also learned how to be ok with that and celebrate our successes first.
  • Ask more questions.

These are some of the lessons of the summer (so far)…

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I have loved the thought of growing food for a long time.

I have romantic visions and memories of a massive garden as a child.  My parents even grew corn when we lived in the country.  I remember planting tiny seeds through suburban rows after we moved closer to the city.  It all seemed to easy when someone else did it.

I have tried different rounds of growing since moving to the city – most ended up with a premature demise of the flavour of the day.  Forgetting to water was the most common culprit though the odd experiment failed due to lack of sun or raccoons deciding I had built them a salad bar.  Other than sprouts, I`ve been struggling to find any success in our urban `farming`adventures (I was also comforted that I really had no other choice since our backyard is actually completely covered in cement being that we share it with a coffee shop).

This year has been different.  We`ve still failed way more than we`ve succeeded; some ambitious early seeding was lost almost in entirety and I have managed to grow 2 beans (not plants, beans).  But a drastic change occurred about 2 weeks ago.  I suddenly began to enjoy pruning and staking and watering.  Not just the idea of these things but the actual task.

Since my enjoyment has gone up, my small gardens have also began to flourish (including the fore mentioned monster crop of beans).  We have oregano, parsley, 2 types of basil, some late cucumbers are coming along and all 8 different heirloom tomatoes are coming to the party.  We`ve also learned a lot about the extreme heat of our fire escape, relative shade of our back yard and the fact that my parking spot gets way less direct sunlight than I assumed.

Regardless of our success, it’s the routine that’s becoming fun.  It’s a whole lot less romance and a whole lot more committment than I thought but it really is fantastic, although we had our first salad featuring our own tomatoes last night to top it off.  Perhaps there is some romance in here yet…

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Planting Day

I fear that we may be a bit far behind but better late than never.  Armed with the confidence of farming sprouts for several weeks, it is time to start to plant our seeds for the coming summer.

We are going to be creating 3 mini-gardens as we don’t have a proper backyard (it’s a cement covered patio for a coffee shop) so it’s time to be a little creative.

Our fire escape will become our herb garden.  We live several stories above ground and having herbs closer to the kitchen would be an advantage compared to running up and down stairs.  I’d rather keep herbs growing until the moment of consumption rather than keeping them in the fridge.  I have some concerns that it may be a little hot for them and am going to have to find some hanging trays in order to ensure that “escaping” is still an option.

We have an outdoor parking spot.  I am picturing at least 2 garbage bins of potatoes growing.  We considered using old tires (I have an ample source of free ones) but disposing of them is awkward, eating something grown in them is somehow eerie to me and the garbage bins will store potatoes or gardening equipment through the winter.

The majority of our garden will be in pots which we can move around the patio of the coffee shop.  We haven’t picked up our pots yet but see that there are plenty of affordable options to get us started.  We won’t need those for several weeks as we’re starting from scratch.  There are plans for many different types of veggies – some for eating and some for preserving (there’s going to be a lot of hot peppers if all works out).

I m also considering an experimental batch of Hops – at our cabin.  Hops are hardy and I could start them in the city before moving them north in mid spring.  An advantage of growing hops is that they are annuals  – they return year after year.  I’ve been warned that they can take over a garden but wouldn’t have that concern if they were grown in the middle of our forest.  I also understand that deer can eat them which would be disappointing as I would lose a key beer ingredient but may gain a different source of food in the fall.

Any which way you look at it, there is time to get growing for the summer.  We are learning as we go and we’ll share our progress as our first full season of experimenting begins.  Right now I am filled with hope and reminding myself to be patient with our first attempt.

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The following pictures were taken two weeks ago today (July 25).  Tomatoes were just starting to appear, spinach was showing and green tomatoes were still gaining size.  We found our first tomato turning red and the herbs were in full glory.  The markets were smelling completely different and the heart of the harvest was just beginning.

Two weeks later and we’re in a different world.  Explore your local market, take a look at a local garden (hopefully your own) and reflect on how many options of eating locally and plentifully have arrived in the last 14 days!

We’d love to hear your seasonal favorites in the comments!

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We were fortunate to visit family this weekend – a trip to suburbia to enjoy a great meal and super company.  My parents gave me the passion I have for cooking (and eating) and it is always a thrill to share a meal, learn from each other and share our passion of food.  Food has a special place in our relationship and has really provided a bridge for us to form an adult friendship and bond – one where I am still their child but closer to equal.  Cooking with and for family is one of the greatest honours I can have and I enjoy doing it with and for them a great deal.

My folks had requested an odd gift in the fall – 10 bulbs of garlic.  The idea was pretty simple – break it into it’s tiny sweet bulbs and plant them a few inches under the ground.  I bought Ontario Garlic at the St Lawrence Market – it’s a far different beast from the bleached white mini bulbs one buys in most major retailers these days.  It’s skin is a beautiful dark tinge shaded with a kiss of purple and beige.  It’s skin can be loose and it’s cloves can be almost as large as one of the standard bulbs.

Ontario Garlic - Living Large and Local

Ontario Garlic - Living Large and Local

My Father planted it in the fall – it is a very straightforward process; break apart the cloves, keep the skin in tact.  Plant them about 6 inches under the surface.  For maximum results, plant the bulb upright (i.e. the tough flat end down towards the center of the earth) – placing these by hand in this manner can result in garlic that is two times larger than otherwise as the garlic shoots have easier access to the sun and therefore grow faster, easier and heartier.

I was excited to see the initial results:

Sure signs of spring...

Sure signs of spring...

This is the start of garlic shoots – they will grow a foot or so and flower.  When 1/3rd of the leaves die, it’s time to dig it up and leave it cure outside (out of the rain – we will likely use the garage and leave the door open a crack) for about 20 days.  It can be stored around freezing for 4-6 months as long as it is ventilated.

One more very important thing to consider – the green shoots are edible and incredible.  If you ever have the chance to buy them, jump at it!  |They can be used like green onion though they taste of garlic – a giant advantage over the bulb is that they burn at a much higher temperature; meaning that you can sear tuna or other meat, add a garlic flavour and not burn it.  You can also use these in a salad, pesto or as a fresh herb.

Too late to grow from buld this year – but it couldn’t be easier, cheaper or better than this come fall!

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