Sunday, August 29, 2010

Guest Post-Kris Moretti

Tree & Twig - A Tomato Tour

Isn't it great when you fit in with strangers?

Last Sunday, my husband and I drove out to Wellandport to visit Tree & Twig Heirloom Vegetable Farm for a Tomato Tour. That's right... a TOMATO TOUR! Imagine my bliss. It seems I'm not the only one enraptured with the charms of the tomato, because the farm was packed with like-minded folks, smiling, sipping wine and chatting despite the grim weather.

The afternoon began with a walk through the gardens of our gracious host and inspirational farmer, Linda. Donning an 'I heart Tomatoes' tee (which I now passionately covet) and ankle-deep in the sticky clay of her land, Linda guided us along, providing candid stories of her growing season and her favourite (and less-than-favourite) varieties. Here are a few highlights from the garden...

Linda in her element.
Fantastic peppers! Gorgeous!
Blooming eggplant.
Cool pepper! I'm sorry, I can't remember any variety names!
Amazing marigolds (above) and zinnias (below) from Linda's 'Organic Gardening' magazine trial gardens.
Beautiful basil.

We escaped the mud, and stomped back into the grassy yard to start the main event - time to taste the tomatoes! I was shocked at the depth of variety - with so many types and sizes and colours to taste, it was impossible to choose where to begin. I decided that my best bet was to work systematically and try them all. After all, it's a unique experience to have so many beautiful flavours together at once!

Just 1 of 2 tasting tables. Wow!
Linda talking tomatoes.
Some of these beauties came home with me.
The culinary delights didn't stop at the tomato tasting. The group was also treated to some seriously creative and unexpected treats. Delectable tomato cake, savoury tomato muffins and, if you can imagine it, tomato-basil-mascarpone ice cream were available for sampling too. Mmmmmm!
Tomato, basil & mascarpone combine to make a creamy, dreamy treat.

Local Chef Mark Picone created sweet, fresh sips of delight using tomatoes, watermelon, honey, sunberries and basil that danced over our tongues with a bouquet of summer flavours.

Chef Mark Picone
Tomato shooters. So delish!
With soaked clothes and arms laden with quarts of purchased tomato favourites, we said farewell to the farm for the day. I've seldom been so inspired and satisfied while so wretchedly uncomfortable!

Thanks for the great afternoon, Linda. We'll definitely be back!

Thanks for this post Kris-beautiful pictures, except those of me :)
To check out Kris's blog go to

Friday, August 27, 2010

The Power of Seed

The pretty and very happy looking little flower in the picture is one that I will never look at again in the same way after this week.

It has taken on new meaning for me, as I hope it does for many people who may plant its' seeds next spring.

It will make them think of someone. Hopefully bring back memories, many of which will be good. It may make them smile.

Let me tell you about this week.

I received a phone call on Wednesday evening from a woman I didn't know at all. She gave me her name and then explained to me that her nephew had leukemia and was not expected to live more than a few days longer.

She had found my website. Quite honestly, I'm not sure what directed her to me. I really am more the vegetable type. But she did call and she was looking for marigold seeds, her nephews' favourite flower.

They wanted to give a packet of seeds out to the guests at his funeral, which they were in the process of planning. He was only 19 years old. Could I help her?

I only really grow one variety of marigold consistently, and I have grown it for more than 10 years. I got the original seed from Seeds of Change in New Mexico, and I save seed from it faithfully every year and offer it in the seed exchanges. I just like it. It is simple, colourful and it makes me happy to see it every year. It's name is Pinwheel, or it is also known as Jolly Jester.

I explained this to the caller and that as much as I would like to help her out, I wasn't sure I would have enough seed at this point in the season, as it was early to collect seed.
She gave me her email address and I promised to email her after I walked outside to check the flowers for seed.

The seed was expedited to her this morning.

400 packets of seed. The garden provided what we needed, and I am grateful for that.

Seed is to be shared, and I am so glad I could do that.

This happy little flower when it blooms next summer will make family think of their son, their nephew and maybe their grandson. It will make others think of a friend, a university mate or maybe even a co- worker. Flowers are good for that. They make us slow down and look at them. Appreciate their uniqueness and simple beauty.

Maybe some people will save the seed and pass it on. And for those recipients too, it might develop meaning and provide beauty.

I feel so terribly honoured that I could do this very small little thing. Such a difficult time.

Strangers connected through seed.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Well, that was fun!

And it was!

I realize clomping around someone's farm on a rainy day might not be everyone's idea of fun.

In fact if it wasn't for all the great people that came out here on Sunday for my Tomato Time and Tour, I might not have enjoyed clomping around here in the rain.

So thanks all for making it fun!

After the tour of the garden, my boots heavy with wet clay, we enjoyed tomato treats, courtesy of some very clever people. First and foremost, my sister, who has worked so hard with me here this summer making the flower beds in front so pretty. AND she bakes! Thanks, Susanne. For everything.

She made the cute little tomato muffins that people were happily popping in their mouths. And my friend Tiffany made a most delish tomato cake, Joel and Jen Labute a very cool and tasty tomato caramel ice cream, and Mark Picone a neat and refreshing tomato shooter.

I have had requests for these recipes, and I'll get them up on my blog as soon as I get all the recipes together.

Thanks to my buddies Emily, Helen and Lisa for all your help.

We suspect there were 50 or so people here, which is pretty great considering the rain. Old and young it was a delight to have you all here. Tomatoes, I guess, bring out the best in people!

People enjoyed trying the different tomatoes, and it seems to me that Candy Stripe was one of the favourites. People also commented on the lovely sweet flavour of Elfin, which I like a lot this year too.

I'm so grateful it has been a good year in the garden. It is really satisfying to work hard and see it pay off. It doesn't always go that way. Last year, alas, with the dreadful weather , there was no garden tour.

So thanks, everyone for coming out. We'll pray for good weather next year and do it again!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Tree and twig Tomato Time and Tour-August 22!!

We're on for Sunday!
I'm sorry to say it is supposed to rain.
No, make that storm.
But we are still on.
If you plan on coming bring your umbrella and rain coat because you will get wet.
I will have tomatoes set up for tasting under shelters, my guest chefs will serve under shelters, and there will be wine under shelters. But if everyone comes, there isn't enough room under the shelters! We'll all be wet.
But on the bright side, the garden sure does need the rain and the tomatoes are outstanding and plentiful. There will be lots of tomatoes to sample and purchase. Good things to eat and drink.
We'll go ahead with the garden tour, unless of course lightening is in the vicinity.
I think it will be fun....and as usual, I look forward to talking tomatoes. (Let me say in advance I'm lovin' the green tomatoes this year.)
Cost is $10 or donation, and all proceeds in excess of my costs will be donated to Seed Savers Exchange.
See you Sunday!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

We're all experts.

I went to a very cool farm-chef event last week in St Catharines, and was intrigued when the host farmer , a man I have a lot of respect for, called me a bit of an agriculture activist when he introduced me.
Well, I don't think of my self that way. But like most farmers (and people), I do have opinions.
And I feel another one coming on.
Over the last week, I have had lots of reasons to think about this.
And my thought is that we live in a world of experts.
I don't know about you, but I'm tired of them all...that is the pseudo experts.
If you have a doctorate and have made what you are an expert in your life's work, i'll accept what you say.
Eliot Coleman-he is a gardening expert. But even he says not following the rules often works.
Mark Picone-yes, expert chef. He could certainly teach me a thing or two.
But honestly. I have been on the internet lately looking at what people are writing about gardening. That is, gardening experts.
Don't spot fertilize. I do.
Follow a rotation. I don't always.
Water tomatoes regularly. I don't.
I know for absolute sure that if you are a gardener YOU are the expert in your garden. You can get ideas from other people, but no one knows your land, your conditions like you do. The longer you do it, the better you become. Like so many other things.
I like to talk to older farmers. My dad's buddies, both in their eighties, have incredible insight. They aren't experts, and sure wouldn't want to see themselves that way. But the years have taught them lots of things.
I don't mean to be negative, but so many gardening events, especially organic, seem to be about being seen and projecting a certain image. Letting people know what YOU'VE done.
And some of "the experts?" Unclear to me how they are experts.. I heard a lot of bad advice being bandied around like the gospel.
I never want to be an expert. I just want to be a farmer, a grower. If people ask for advice, I'm glad to give it to them, but it is my experience only. They will have their own at some point.
And what I wonder about too, is people who have made it their mission to educate other people about- well say farming and local food.
Too many of them are not farming or producing local food..just buying it like everybody else.
Some are making money as middlemen doing this. Some are promoting themselves as local food heroes. Have some shame I say.
This is the stuff that makes me head out to the garden and pull weeds. Great therapy.
Nearly as great as talking to all the folks that head out here to chat, who have no agenda-other than buying good food and eating it. You know-the expert eaters!

Friday, August 13, 2010

It's August-it's harvest!

This is August done right.
Last year, August saw farmers scowling and wondering why they worked so hard, only to have the weather mess it up. Again.
I'm grateful this year to see my farm producing oodles.
But also REALLY glad for the farmers whose corn is way over everybody's head, whose peaches are the best ever and whose vineyards hold huge potential for a fabulous vino.
Is it true that if you believe hard enough and keep repeating it over and over, it will come true?
I kept telling folks this was going to be the best year ever. Yeah-wish I had that kind of influence over things.
Regardless,there is so much going on in the garden right now.
I am lovin' my clay because we're starting to get pretty dry now. I had the sprinklers going today for the first time. But I know that water will be in the soil for a while doing good things.
The power of clay to hold onto moisture. Although it is well accepted that is not always a good thing.
Right now the challenge is keeping up with the harvesting. Some of the weeds are making a reappearance, but now it is harvest.
There are tons-literally- of heirloom tomatoes to pick. The peppers are starting to turn colour, the eggplants are pumping out slim purple, greens and white, round, rippled and striped.
Ground cherries, tomatillos, huckleberries, unheard of berries,chards, New Zealand Spinach and agretti.
Beans. Oh my. Just starting to come on strong. Yellow, purple, red and green. Green with purple stripes. Yellow with purple stripe, curled. There are LOTS of beans, many of which I really need to focus saving seeds from.
Melons, mouse melons, watermelons. Winter radishes. SO many beets, (I love beets). Funky heirloom carrots.
Lots of physalis types- a great family to check out. Potatoes. Many different kales, broccolis, and collards. And lots more too.
I have been happy to have some new regular veg basket purchasers this year. I love the enthusiasm. And glad to have my regulars coming out to my market here on Saturday mornings.
And the restaurants I deal with are having a busy season....lots of weddings and tourists and that works for me too. Keep getting married people- help a farmer!
It is great to be involved in some neat events too. Last night I attended the "Outstanding in the Field" dinner at Whitty Farms as one of the producing farmers and had a chance to talk to people about my farm and my veggies. What a terrific event and a fantastic meal by Stephen Treadwell. There was so much support there for
Next is my little event here-my Tomato tasting and farm tour, August 22, then August 29th a Tomato inspired event at Treadwell farm to table.
September 11, I am at Hillebrand hosting a farm to table dinner with Frank Dodd.
It is time to consider doing a bit more planting- my cover crops need to go in the empty spaces, and I need to plan winter crops for the hoophouses. They'll be going in in September.
It is a busy time now-but it is a good time. I'll rest up in the cold season.
Enjoy your gardens and harvests!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Update-Tree and Twig Tomato Time and Tour-August 22

I received an email today from a fellow who believed I was charging admission to the farm so folks could buy my tomatoes!

Not really my style.

It is all starting to take shape a bit more clearly now, so here is what we are looking at.

The event will begin here at the farm at 1 pm. When folks have gathered we will do a bit of a walking tour of the gardens, stopping to chat and taste some interesting things along the way.

This will likely take about 45 minutes to an hour.

Once back in civilization everyone can sample all the tomato varieties that will be prepared for tasting, and I am most certainly going to ask people to jot down the names of the tomatoes that they liked the best. There will be hot peppers too for any brave souls that are interested.

You may have to sign a waiver first.

We will then be treated to a cooking demo by Mark Picone as he creates one or more tomato dishes for us, and an additional cooking demo will follow, chef tba.

There will be lots of foods to sample, and your admission price also includes 2 glasses of wine to compliment the tomato dishes.

I will have kid friendly drinks and snacks too.
Children are welcome, but please watch them carefully.

The cost will be no more than $20. This simply helps me cover my costs. Kids are free.

Please notify me by email or phone of your intention to attend. or 905-386-7388.
Let's enjoy the harvest!

Zucchini Basil Soup

The basil this year is unbelieveble. It just keep growing and growing.
Pesto is made, lots of basil sold- but still there is so much.
And zucchini....well, I'll say no more.
Thanks to Leslie for sending along this recipe. Everyone, even Mollie, ate it and had compliments for it!

2 lb zucchini-cut into chunks
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 cup (or more) chopped onion.
1/4 cup olive oil
4 cups veg stock
1/3-1/2 cup basil leaves
Salt to taste

Cook zucchini in olive oil over medium heat in large saucepan,until soft, 5 minutes or so. Add onions and garlic, and stir so garlic doesn't brown, another 5 minutes, till soft.
Add veg stock, cook until all vegetables are nice and tender, 15 minutes or so. Add salt to taste.
Puree in blender, adding basil as you puree. Works best to do half a batch at a time. Be careful pureeing hot liquid!
Enjoy! Could be good warm or cool too I think.
Variation-Use dill instead of basil to change it into something completely different.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Sunday morning garden stroll

I am really tired.
I am taking the day off today.
I harvested more than 100lbs of heirloom tomatoes this week, which is fantastic for this early in the season. I harvested lots of other wonderful veggies and fruits too.
I weeded. I seeded. And did all the other things I do.
Yup, I'm tired.
But I still love to look at the garden, even if I'm not working in it.
So coffee in hand, I strolled.
Cool things to see everyday.
The huckleberries are ripening and loaded.

The hottest pepper in the world (they say), is present and accounted for.
Meet Naga Jolokia.
I bet Adam from peapod cuisine is willing to try it!

Beautiful eggplants are showing.
This is Thai White Ribbed.

This one I call Salinas Valley Market, which is where I bought the parent fruit. This was several years ago when went to California to Check out Tomatofest in Carmel. Huge fruit!

And this guy.
He kept flying off then landing back in the same place.
Over and over.
The glistening gold sparkles on his wings aren't done justice by this picture.

It is great to take a day off and look. I know there is work to do, but I'm not seeing it today.
I like what I'm seeing. Tomorrow I'll see the weeds!