Monday, October 25, 2010

All hail-it's KALE!!

When I first started selling my veggies years ago, people would often ask me to leave the kale out of their veggies basket.  Kale and eggplants- "no thanks!"

Well, lots of folks still don't want the eggplants.  But it seems to me that kale is catching on. More and more people are discovering it, and actually finding out that they really like it.  And why not?  It is versatile and really (double really) good for you.

I grew 5 types this year.  As I refer back to my Seed Savers Exchange yearbook, I see 26 varieties were offered to members in 2010.  That's a lot of different kales!

Kale is a member of the brassica family (Brassica oleracae), a very interesting family indeed.  This family includes broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, brussels sprouts, kohlrabi as well as mustards and cress.  Hard to believe isn't it, that this whole family most likely descended from one single wild mustard variety which was most likely originally found in the Mediterranean.

Through individuals selecting and reselecting seed based on their personal preferences this family developed many new members.  By the fifth century B.C. a preference across Europe for larger leaf varieties, led to the introduction of kale.  I have one in my garden that is particularly large leaved called Asparagus Kale.  It even looks like a primitive variety-but it is yummy!

I plant all my kale from transplant, no direct seeding in the garden because of pests that love it. Small young seedlings just starting out can be a favourite for flea beetles and cabbage loopers.  I figure if I put in transplants, I'm guaranteed a good crop.

I start my seed indoors in March, transplant into larger containers a few weeks later- and try to get plants out in the field when they are 6 weeks old.  Some books say to start kale as a fall crop, but I'm eating it in June....and still eating it in the fall, so I don't see the point in a late start.

But there is no doubt it shines in the cooler fall garden.  It takes frost after frost and just gets better.  Sweeter, tastier and the plant itself becomes more robust.

Pest wise, the cabbage loopers love it.  I patrol all my brassicas throughout the growing season, picking off the loopers at least once a week.  I pop them in a small bucket, then feed them to the chickens who are happy about this indeed.

 I would say that out of the ones I grow Lacinato (aka Dinosaur or Nero di toscano) is my favourite.  I like the sturdy texture of it, it's dark green bubbly appearance and strong flavour-especially after a frost which sweetens it up remarkably.

My neighbour , an elderly dutch woman is always so excited when the kale is ready.  She calls it borekale (which is farmer's kale in dutch and I believe is the equivalent of collards), but it is truly kale she is after.  She cooks it up with her potatoes, and mashes it all together with some butter, salt and sometimes a bit of bacon.  A dutch treat!

I like mine stir fried in a bit of olive oil, with a good bit of chopped garlic.  Yummy!

Or how about this -

Kale Chips


  • 1 bunch kale
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon seasoned salt


  1. Preheat an oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Line a non insulated cookie sheet with parchment paper.
  2. With a knife or kitchen shears carefully remove the leaves from the thick stems and tear into bite size pieces. Wash and thoroughly dry kale with a salad spinner. Drizzle kale with olive oil and sprinkle with seasoning salt.
  3. Bake until the edges brown but are not burnt, 10 to 15 minutes.

(recipe from

Friday, October 22, 2010


Fresh pulled beets!

Beets are one of those things that I never seem to plant quite enough of.

My husband always loves to tell the story of the year he didn't get  beets.  "Why didn't you plant them" he asked?

I explained to him that I actually had, but the CSA and restaurant folks had been getting them all.  I guess I just didn't know he was missing them.

Well, I don't do that anymore.

I plant lots of 'em and lots of kinds.  I've just come in from the garden and pulled 11 distinctive varieties...a mere drop in the bucket!  As I check my Seed Saver's Exchange Yearbook(2010), I see members have listed 35 different open pollinated varieties.  Wow!

The varieties boiling in my pot are: Long Blood Red, Early Wonder Tall Top, Cylindra, Sugar beet, Albino, Collosal Red mangel, Intermediate Yellow mangel, 3 Root Grex, Chioggia, Crapaudine, and Burpee's Golden.

Beets have been a part of our food story for a long time.  They were cultivated in the area surrounding the Mediterranean Sea, and in India as early  as third century B.C.
Selection of beet types over the years has provided us with an astounding variety - flat, round, long, tapered, red, white , black, striped, yellow and golden.

Their flavour is as different as their appearance-sweet, mild, earthy. And their use equally versatile.

Grated raw beets are "grate" on salad, in baking too.  Roasted, boiled and of course pickled, they shine!

They are really quite easily to grow, but like a loose fertile soil.  This year in my clay soil, they did really well when I did something just a bit different.  When the soil became workable in the early spring, I drew a nice long trench as my row, then filled the trench with some lovely compost.  I wasn't sure if the beets would revolt once they hit the clay when growing, but in fact, they didn't.  They just kept on growing.

I pushed the little cluster of beet seed into the compost at about 3" intervals, and kept the rows well watered until I saw germination.  The rate of germination was fantastic.

I still have most of the crop in the garden, selling and eating as the days roll by.  I know very soon, I'll have to take them up, it will simply get too cold.  But that's the other great thing about beets.  Their ability to store really well.

I'll take their greens off at the root ( and feed them to the waiting chickens), then put the beets in barrels layered with straw.  These barrels will store well in my garage in the winter.  The only thing I have found is the barrels must have lids of some sort....the mice appreciate the sweet treats too!

In the spring, I'll pull some nice specimens out, and replant them so I grow them on for seed.  As they cross readily with each other, and with chard, it's important to separate them in each of 3 hoophouses, and others scattered around the property.

It doesn't take long for them to send up their seed stalks, and the work of creating seed begins.

Then the cycle begins again!

Here's a recipe that's a bit different to consider:

Beet Cake with Cream Cheese Icing


  • Cake:
  • 1  pound  beets (about 2 medium)
  • Cooking spray
  • 2/3  cup  granulated sugar
  • 2/3  cup  packed dark brown sugar
  • 1/2  cup  vegetable oil
  • 2  large eggs
  • 2 1/2  cups  all-purpose flour
  • 2  teaspoons  baking powder
  • 1  teaspoon  ground ginger
  • 1  teaspoon  ground cinnamon
  • 1/2  teaspoon  baking soda
  • 1/4  teaspoon  salt
  • 1/2  cup  1% low-fat milk
  • Frosting:
  • 2  teaspoons  grated orange rind
  • 1  teaspoon  vanilla extract
  • 1  (8-ounce) block 1/3-less-fat cream cheese, chilled
  • 3  cups  sifted powdered sugar
  • 2  tablespoons  finely chopped walnuts, toasted


Preheat oven to 350°.
To prepare cake, peel beets using a vegetable peeler. Grate beets, using the large holes of a grater, to measure 2 cups.
Coat 2 (9-inch) round cake pans with cooking spray; line bottoms with wax paper. Coat wax paper with cooking spray.
Combine the granulated sugar, brown sugar, oil, and eggs in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until well-blended. Add beets; beat well. Lightly spoon the flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour and next 5 ingredients (flour through salt) in a large bowl, stirring well with a whisk. Add flour mixture to sugar mixture alternately with milk, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Pour batter into prepared pans; sharply tap pans once on counter to remove air bubbles.
Bake at 350° for 30 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pans 10 minutes on wire racks; remove from pans. Carefully peel off wax paper, and cool cake completely on wire racks.
To prepare frosting, beat orange rind, vanilla, and cream cheese with a mixer at high speed until fluffy. Add the powdered sugar; beat at low speed just until blended (do not overbeat).
Place 1 cake layer on a plate; spread with 1/2 cup frosting; top with remaining cake layer. Spread remaining frosting over top and sides of cake. Sprinkle nuts over top of cake. Store cake loosely covered in refrigerator.
  • This recipe is from  - It is fantastic!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Guest Post-Mollie is back!

I'm glad I'm back ( writing ) ! This time I'll talk about our animals and a few others!  First I'll talk about
Joey! He's our pig.He's a great (hungry) guy, he's also a pot belly . Then there is our chickens, three  old and 21 younger . The rooster is mean and I have a chicken named Hazelnut.
And there is our puppies, Ellie and Darwin, Darwin is a beagle and Ellie is a collie. they are the best.
I can't forget the ducks one brown two white indian runners and one white muscovy. The muscovy will nibble your feet......wear boots!
oh and the bunnies. One light brown and white named Napoleon, another dark brown and white named Lucky.
And 5 cats,Penny ,Pickle , Pippy, Baby and Cookie
Thats all ,

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Radical radish!

What can I say?
This gal was running across the garden today-I tackled her and brought her in.
Now what do I do ?

Who speaks for me?

I've been feeling a bit exasperated lately.

Is it because there is a municipal election coming up, and living as I do in Wainfleet, it seems all the candidates are eager to impress with their sympathy towards, and ties to agriculture?

The current mayor, it appears, is a farmer. (Personally, I'd love to see if there is any dirt under her nails).

I have found this administration and the staff less than supportive of farming. Or at least farming the way I do it.

When I approached them several years ago about building a heated greenhouse, which would help me expand my transplant business in the spring, and allow me to do early season heirloom tomatoes, I was shut down hard and fast.

We're not talking any sort of giant structure. A small structure with access where I needed it for a propane truck was all I was proposing.

After being stood up initially for my meeting with the town planner, I waited for him to arrive.
Only to be shot down fast. On 9 acres it appears there is nowhere that the township and conservation authority deem I can do such a thing. Or build a barn, without jumping through fiery hoops.

So I am a little bit cynical when the current council professes their love and support for farmers. Builders will tell you, as they have told me, that planning staff in my township is excessively difficult to work with. Council is not embracing all farmers here.

Who else in Niagara speaks for me?

I'm not a BIG farmer. As in BIG machinery, BIG acreage and BIG chemicals. The local farm associations, growers associations and agritourism organizations do not speak for me.

I'm not big enough, don't embrace technology and don't want to pay to be promoted if it is someone's whim to do that.

Organic organizations-nope. The national and provincial ones don't speak for me. I'm like the Prince of the organic know "the grower formerly known as organic." If I choose not to certify (and pay again), then that is my moniker.

Provincial and federal governments pay lip service to the role that farmers play. But really. The Greenbelt? The HST? Now- CETA? Governments are not farmer friendly. If they were more people would not be working off farm to survive.

I like the National Farmer's Union though (NFU) with their focus on support of the small scale sustainable family farm. I'm a proud member of this organization-one that is not afraid to take a stand on the important issues. I find (with relief) that I usually agree with them.

I love the purity of what the seed saving organizations do. Despite the turmoil that seems to exist in Seed Savers Exchange, I find the support of fellow seed savers so wonderful.

I think sometimes the only thing to do is keep your head down, and keep on planting. Listen to the right voices and align yourself with something beyond the turmoil. Farming may be my business, but it is also the most basic thing in the world to me. It is unadulterated seed and the miracles they produce. I'm grateful for that.

I guess the seed speaks for me.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Get your garlic growing!

I love garlic.

I say it unabashedly and with pride.

It surprised me to learn that some fine chefs I deal with snicker at those who use garlic in their cooking.

Seems the taste is too overpowering.

Pshaw! (Like that one? My grandma used to say it.) Eat your garlic-so good and good for you.

And if you haven't already, now is the time to get it in.

But first, a little garlic trivia.

Garlic (Allium sativum) has two subspecies, the hardneck and softneck. The hardneck is better tasting and has bigger cloves which are easier to peel. It also produces tasty scapes in the late spring. Softneck garlics have the ability to store better and of course can be braided. But alas, no scapes from them.

Both will do better from a fall planting, producing larger cloves. Ideally, you want to plant when your soil temperature is around 50 degrees F a few inches down. A few frosts into the season should be just about right. You want your garlic to have a chance to root down a bit before the soil is frozen solid, but you don't want the greens to grow so much that they get frozen off. They will come back, but your heads won't size up quite the same.

I've found that garlic does pretty good on my clay loam. I do look for a spot that is not terribly heavy clay, and I add a good measure of compost or aged manure to my planting area.

I separate my cloves just before planting and plant with the tip up. My cloves are usually spaced around 5" apart and I leave 8 or so inches between the rows. For bigger bulbs you can space a bit further apart. I plant in trenches I have outlined with a hoe, and cover the cloves with 3-4 inches of soil.

Garlic seems to do well with a covering of mulch in the winter and I use straw for this purpose.
It can be put on immediately after planting. It helps with moderating the soil temperatures and prevents your garlic from lifting during freeze and thaw periods which seem to be all too common. It also acts as a weed barrier.

There are hundreds of varieties of garlic to choose from. I plant Music, which is one of the most widely grown and adapted in Ontario, and a hardneck. I have saved my own cloves for planting for at least 10 years.

This year I will also plant a softneck called Italian Purple. I am anxious to see how it compares.

The temperatures are definitely telling me I've got to get this chore done ensure lots of tasty eating next year. Greens, scapes and cloves- I love garlic!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Ten things for my garden-the conclusion

Here we go's the final decision on the last 3 things I would put in my garden-t'wer it small!

It's not I know. But having lots of garden to plant things in has afforded me the opportunity to try so very many things over the years.

So without further delay, the conclusion.

I really like kale, and lacinato-aka tuscan or dinosaur is my favourite.

It is just darn good looking, but also makes a very substantial dish when sauteed with a bit of olive oil an garlic. My Mollie is a lover of kale, quite interesting for a 9 year old. But she has been munching on the stuff since she could tour the garden on her own two legs, free range as you will. She won't eat it cooked however, but I take great pleasure out of seeing her rip the leaves off while standing in the garden and chow down.

I did something right! That sure is how it feels when I see her choose something that is so good for her.

Of course the next item I choose has to be a garlic, and Music is my standard garlic I have replanted faithfully every year from saved cloves. Great flavour, big cloves and really reliable. Maybe when I retire I'll develop more of a collection of different garlic varieties, but for now, Music is just fine.

And the final item. What a struggle to decide.

Potatoes it has to be and specifically French Fingerling.

Later in his life my dad stopped growing potatoes because they were so cheap in the grocery stores.

I know where he was coming from. They are cheap. But I can't agree with him on not growing them because homegrown quality shines through with potatoes, and i can't envision not having my own.

They just taste better right out of the garden, and better again because they are grown organically. I'm always so leery of root veggies grown in the "conventional" way. (Why is chemical ag considered "conventional?")

French Fingerlings are a fine variety, with a lovely pink skin, pale yellow flesh with a bit of rose blush. They produce well and are very versatile in the kitchen. I always feel good when I have bushels of them stored in my fruit cellar for the coming winter, as I do now.

Bring on the cold, we'll still eat well!

That's the ten.
Any comments anyone wants to add would make my day.

What are your favourites-what could your veg garden never be without?

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Ten things for my garden-beans, carrots and more

I'm going to pick up here where I left off last time.

The general theme is what to plant in a small garden...what gives a real bang for your buck, taste-wise and production-wise.

I love beans. One little seed really goes a long way.

And I must say I struggled over which bean I would plant if I could only plant one. But, the winner has to be Dragon Tongue, despite the fact it isn't quite as versatile as some green beans because it doesn't freeze particularly well.

But this awesome Dutch heirloom tastes magnificent and produces really well, and for that reason it has my vote.
It is an easy to grow, pale yellow bean, with delightful purple stripes, and it's juicy flesh is quite distinctive. Lovely.

I grow lots of carrots, but some are really more for my restaurant business than they are for home eating. Purples, oranges, blacks,whites, yellows and reds- I grow them all. The first seed I sell out of is always Purple Dragon, with its' showy purple skin and glowing orange interior. It's a good carrot-but not the one I would plant if I could only plant one. I like BIG carrots, so am swayed to Danvers, which is big around the middle. But my vote is for Scarlet Nantes, which is long, sweet and crisp-always. Yum.

Let me begin talking about peppers by saying I don't like green peppers. After all, they aren't ripe! When all hot and sweet peppers are ripe, they are red and the sweets are super-sweet! I like thick walled and fleshy peppers, and although I do have some that are standards in my garden, like the sweet frying peppers Jimmy Nardello and the great bell King of the North which is the best for our northern gardens, I love the pimento types and Tennessee Cheese is the one for me.

It has those great crunchy thick walls, is a convenient size for picking and eating out of the garden (a necessity for me), and it is wonderfully sweet. I think it is a winner.

I love beets. There is nothing like them with their earthy sweet taste. Again I grow lots of different varieties of beets and their cousins mangels. I love them all-whites, goldens, yellows, chioggias, and a good selection of different shaped purples. But if forced to pick one, I guess it would be Cylindra.

Lots of people choose Cylindra for it's shape, which is ideal for pickling. But it is much more than that. It has a wonderful sweet flavour, especially after a frost, and I like the fact it can get big, and still doesn't become fibrous.

And if you are only going to grow a limited number of crops, beets and carrots too are especially good because they have great storage abilities. I layer mine in barrels with hay straw or leaves and store them for the winter in the garage. I can usually keep them nice and firm for the entire winter, just pulling some out when I need them. Beets and carrots and you are on your way to self sufficiency!

I love fresh salads, but choosing only one lettuce to plant is a challenge. There are so many gorgeous and tasty ones to choose from-green, red, speckled, frilly, romaine, and on and on.
But for me one has always been a standout. For appearance, it's ability to hold well in the garden, and it's lovely flavour and crunch, I would choose Bronze Arrowhead. It is a very pretty purplish- oakleaf type. If you haven't tried it, perhaps you should.

So few vegetables give you as much bang for your buck as swiss chard. I love it! I consider it's taste better than spinach, although I know some folks wouldn't agree with that.
Plant it in the spring and you can continuously pick leaves all season, even well after a frost.
I just seeded more in my unheated hoophouse yesterday, knowing that it will grow and produce all winter too.

As with most other veggies, there are lots of very nice varieties of chard as well-how to choose?
Well, I guess go for looks as well as functionality, the heirloom Five Colour Silverbeet, also sold as Bright Lights. The colours of its' stems are unparalleled in the garden. Brilliant reds, yellows, oranges and more.

And three more veggies to go. Let me think about be continued!

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Ten things for my garden-the tomato.

As I walked the puppies today I felt a bit tired. They sure didn't but then I've got a few years on them.
Yup, I'm getting older, and it has been a busy year.
I'm sure my whole life I'll garden and I don't plan on giving up my farming career just yet. At least not as long as there is still university tuition to pay.
But it got me thinking. If I could only manage a small garden, what would I grow?
What are the best tasting crops, the workhorses and the performers?
This year has been ideal really for growing, but what has done well, year in year out, in good weather and bad?
If it had to be one tomato, one pepper, one bean....what would they be?
Tomatoes is a good place to start.
I have grown lots of varieties of tomatoes over the years. Lots.
If it came down to one, it would have to be Stupice (stoo-peach-ka)-that brave little Czech heirloom, that troops on through good and bad. My first to produce and my last to kick out fruit, it is a tasty workhorse. It is a simple small red tomato, but when I sent a number of tomatoes to Harrowsmith magazine a few years back so they could conduct a taste test, it came out on top.
It is just always pop- in- your- mouth good, with an appealing sweet taste.
I have had it produce fruit in as little as 50 days from transplant. I always seed some indoors in Februrary, and then plant them out in the hoophouse, with added ag fabric for protection, in early to mid-April.. And by June, yes-we're eating tomatoes.
And those first fruit of the year are the best.
I have many customers who would likely agree with this assessment too. I always sell out of both seeds and transplants in the spring.
If you are growing this tomato, just be aware when it comes to saving seeds from it that it is a potato-leaf type, which makes it more likely to cross with other tomato varieties. Of course if it is the only one you grow there is no issue.
If you do have other varieties it is best to keep it separated or create a barrier to keep your seed pure.