Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Herbs Pesto Style

The herbs were ready to be picked but I was putting the inevitable off. Picking them would mean acknowledging winter is a-coming. I also was mourning the loss of fresh herbs 'out back' for my cooking pleasure.

Setting all this aside, I gathered the strength and cut my basil, oregano, parsley, chives, (some) borage down. I rinsed them well then let them dry overnight.

I've been experimenting with the recipes from Keeping Food Fresh: Old World Techniques and Recipes by The Gardeners and Farmers of Terre Vivante. This recipe is adapted from there.

1. Chop mix of herbs very finely (the more variation of herbs, the more interesting the flavour).
2. Chop/Mince garlic (vary amount according to your taste. I used a whole bulb for about 4 cups of chopped herbs)
3. Mix herbs and garlic with coarse salt (about 1 teaspoon per 1 pound of herbs).
4. Place mixture in sterilized jars (smaller is better). Avoid allowing too much air in, but don't pack herbs too tightly so that oil can penetrate them. Fill jars to 1/2 inch from top.
5. Pour over herbs about 1 Tablespoon of vinegar per 250 Ml jar and 3/4 oil per 250 ML jar. There should be a layer of oil left on top once oil has infused mixture. If not, add more oil until there is a thin layer at the top OR pack herbs in a little more firmly.
6. Tightly screw on lids and store in a cool (10- 15 degrees), dark place or keep in the fridge.

Use this to flavour pasta, vegetables, grains, salads or spread thinly on bread. It should keep for up to a year in a cool place.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Spicy Rhubarb Chutney Recipe

As the number of apple and rhubarb harvest days dwindle, here’s a Spicy Rhubarb Chutney recipe. Partner it with pork or chicken, or try it on toast for a savory jam!
1. Combine in saucepan:
a. 4 C chopped rhubarb
b. 1C sugar
c. 1/3 C white vinegar
d. 2 apples
e. ½ C raisins
f. ¼ C chopped onion
g. 1T minced gingerroot
2. Cook, covered, on medium heat for 10 minutes or until thickened and fruit is soft, stirring occasionally.
3. Add:
a. 1 t cinnamon
b. 1t salt
c. ¼ t ground cloves
4. Cook a few minutes longer, stirring frequently.
5. Freeze or can. If canning, allow 10 minutes of processing for 250 ml jars, 15 minutes for 500 ml. Makes 4 cups.
Adapted From “Put a Lid on It!” By Ellie Topp and Margaret Howard. Pick it up at the Sprucewood Library for more great recipes.

A Review of the Square foot Gardening method

The squash have been beckoning me. I’ve never had such a large Sp
aghetti squash or Butternut squash grow in my yard and I’m eager to eat ‘em. So while the coming frost doesn’t thrill me, picking my squash may help me tolerate it.

1. The square foot pattern of planting, instead of rows, made it easier to keep track of how many plants I had, as well as easier to ‘companion plant’. I also think I was able to ‘design’ my veggie garden better than in years past; the aesthetic was much prettier.The first season of using Square Foot gardening (a type of raised bed gardening that Mel Bartholomew has advocated in his book by the same name) is behind me. If you remember, in my May article I outlined how we set up the gardens on our otherwise useless backyard cement pad. I planted a variety of t
hings, some I had tried before in my traditional garden while others were new, then I stepped back and waited for the miracle of huge, organic vegetables to emerge. Mel Bartholomew had promised this, as well as the elimination of weeding, fertilizing and tilling. Here’s a short review of the method:
2. While Mel promised weeding would be a thing of the past with Square Foot Gardening, I didn’t experience that! Sure there are less weeds, but perhaps thanks to my weedy alley, I still had to get on my knees and yank out chickweed.
3. More frequent waterings were required (case in point, I haven’t harvested a single cucumber from my growing vine because I can’t keep up with the watering). Reflected heat from the cement pad has no doubt added to this problem. Others might suggest it’s the drought!
4. A strange mold also grew in only one of the beds. After one week with lots of rain, there appeared some dark, hard piles of what looked like cat puke. I dug into them and they were the consistency of Styrofoam with a couple different layers of colour and consistency. My girlfriend, who works at Telus World of Science, did some sleuthing and emailed me back with the verdict: Dog Vomit Slime Mold!?!? Official title. No lie. It wasn’t harmful but looked gross. I aerated and it went away.

5. Most veggies grew as well in the boxes as in my traditional garden: Tomatoes, carrots, onions, spinach, corn, beans, peas and potatoes grew large. My basil and chili peppers didn’t seem to get as large in the boxes, nor did my beets. I wonder too if the squash would have grown bigger with more space.

6. Fertilizing was also supposed to be a thing of the past, according to Mel. About mid-July, I found my beans and corn turning yellow. Thankfully someone had commented on my blog that she found she had to fertilize. I added a little organic veggie fertilizer (I was out of compost) and the leaves grew green again.
7. Experimentation is still required in the planting design. For instance, I didn’t realize how big my potatoes would get, or how much shade the peas would give off. I found that by August, most of the produce I planted was gone (read eaten!). So I may move my peppers and basil into pots, and leave more space for carrots and beets.
Overall, there was less work and more yields from my garden boxes- if only because my gardens were more organized and I could keep track of produce and replant as needed (I have my third planting of spinach now growing). I am excited that I ‘reclaimed’ the wasted space of my cement pad. Now as the frost comes, I guess I can occupy my time with next year’s planting design; that and cooking up some buttercup squash.