Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Guest post- Jo's Basket!

Guest blog by Jo Pavlov

Well hello there Twiggers! Jo here, a fellow Wellandportlandian (?) and new customer of Linda's.  I moved to Wellandport from Hamilton's downtown core a couple of years ago, and was just googling the town name when I happened upon her blog.  One thing led to another and I found myself a CSA share recipient this year, and an eager new chef of all green things new-to-me.  The summer has only just begun, but I already feel like something new is afoot.  I can feel the winds changing for me.

As a 20+ year vegetarian recently diagnosed with sadly low iron and high cholesterol, I was on the hunt to introduce more leafy greens into my diet.  I'm the first one to admit I'm not a very good vegetarian.  Not bad as in "I fall off the wagon and eat meat", but as in when I'm hungry, I reach for bread and butter or chocolate or granola bars.  It's been hard for me to enjoy greens over the years.  I have a stomach/digestion condition that makes me frequently tiptoe around new foods, and I obsess a lot over the prevalence of frankenfood and genetically modified food in this culture.  I tend to stick to the tried and true.  And for me, that's not always been the healthier choice.

Over the years, I've tried to eat more greens.  The summer I moved into an inlaw suite in a farmhouse on Canborough Rd., I would gleefully tell the old Hamilton crowd that I lived smack in the middle of a soybean field amidst dreams of unlimited fresh edamame! ... Only to discover later that summer when the signs went up, that indeed, that was Monsanto soybean, and not fit for human consumption.

So after humming and hawing about signing up with a CSA, this year I just did it.  Tree and Twig Farm is about five minutes down the road from me, and the thought of local, organic and steady supply appealed.  I have meds for my stomach condition and a Facebook full of vegetarian foodie friends who are dying to share recipes with me.  I have a weekly CSA basket that was lovingly planted, cultivated and sown by a grower that I meet face-to-face each week at pick-up.  I was determined not let this food go to waste.  The challenge was on.

Last week, I got my first CSA basket.  Linda named each item for me and told me briefly how each could be prepared.  I felt like she was speaking a different language.  Garlic what?  Chard what?  It was scrambling in my head, and forgotten by the time I got home.

I emptied the basket and laid everything out.  I took a picture and posted it on Facebook along with the caption, "Okay foodies, help me out.  What is this stuff??"

Ruth responded quickly, "Oh the top row, middle, is garlic snapes."  Two seconds later, the typo correction "Oops, I meant garlic SCAPES" but the damage was done.  I can only think of them as 'Severus Snapes' from now on.  Alas, Harry Potter geek, I am.  Ruth told me to treat them like garlic, just chop up and put in a stir fry like I would regular garlic.  Hayley piped up with the chard identification, and several people participated in the radish pod ID.  It was like a green xmas, where each veggie was a gift, and each gift demanded a recipe or suggestion.

I cut up the chard and removed the thick spines like the Wikipedia page told me to do.  I sauted some garlic snapes, OOPS I mean scapes in some oil.  I added half a teaspoon of my favourite sweet curry and dumped in all that chard.  "Here goes nothing" I thought to myself.  I cut up a tomato purchased from a Port Davidson Rd. fruit stand, and added that. 

Leafy greens shrink quite a bit when you saute them in oil.  I'd known this from my light experimentation with spinach -- the grocery store green I always did enjoy.  I also am of the long held belief that a can of chick peas makes everything better, so that's exactly what I did.  Rinsed and drained and dumped the whole mess in.  The chick peas started to go pink from the red curry and the whole pan was sizzling and smelling delightful.  A generous squirt of lemon juice on top, and voila.  My first garden-fresh curry. 

The whole thing was beyond delightful.  There is tangible joy in preparing food that you know
was grown lovingly.  Each forkful was heaven.  I have always felt a complete disconnect between myself and the genetically modified foods in my fridge, that for all intents and purposes SHOULD be rotting, but are not.  I like knowing that the food in my basket has to be eaten up in a timely fashion, for one, because it's not genetically modified and decomposes in a timely fashion like all normal living things do... but also I know that another big fresh bunch will be waiting for me next week, so waste not, want not!

I look forward to each weekly basket like a kid waits for Santa.  Let's see what next week's holds...


Tree and Twig Summer CSA -Week One

When I began delivering veggies for my CSA baskets some 15 odd years ago, my daughter Emily was 9 years old and a regular rider on the veggie route.
In my old turquoise blue Astro van, aptly named "Happy" we bopped along to the ever so cool tunes of N'Sync.
Who didn't love them?
It was nice today to have Emily, now a beautiful young woman accompany me today. No N'Sync this time. Just mom music- Q107! No Happy van, just my old Honda Civic which can carry 15 flats of tomatoes or 30 baskets of veggies. Amazing.
Today's baskets contained salad mix, radish microgreens, raspberries, lots of various basils and a head of fresh (not cured) garlic to make pesto, chard/kale, baby carrots or beets and a little bit of lemon grass and lemon catnip.
The summer season is just beginning!
In the garden it seems to me like it will be the year of the peppers and basils. These plants are all looking especially good, and the peppers have quite a few good looking fruit on them.
I have more than 100 varieties of peppers and 53 or so varieties of basil. Lots of hot peppers, so get yourselves ready for that.
Some of the basils are quite distinct-particularly the lime, lemon, cinnamon and spice. All basils are NOT created equal.
Try making a beautiful basil flavoured vinegar with them, or, or course take advantge of the ultra pungent fresh garlic head, and make a batch of pesto.
So good!

(from Canadian Living)



In food processor, finely chop together basil, Parmesan cheese, pine nuts, salt and pepper. With motor running, add 1/3 cup (75 mL) of the oil in thin steady stream. Stir in garlic.
Divide among four 4-oz (125 mL) airtight jars; top with remaining oil. (Make-ahead: Refrigerate for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 6 months.)

Thursday, June 21, 2012

The Garden on Thursday night, June 21

A baby praying mantis

See it? It's a fig on my fig tree!

Jolly Jester Marigold

Chard is gorgeous

I love to water at night

Parsley-for tea!

Some of the basil patch. It's lots of basil!

Maris the Amazing Farm Intern Sweats it Out

So this week was hot. It was reeeally hot and humid. I’ve had outdoors jobs before and this is that weather where every minute is an ounce of sweat lost and every breeze is like a Nestea plunge. This is also the weather where some of the ‘inside’ workers like to gripe about the heat and humidity on their way from one building to a car to another building. Well, to put it nicely, they know diddly squat about heat and humidity. Despite the rainforest temperatures, we’re still getting a lot done.  We planted potatoes, more beans, huckleberries, and the last of the tomatoes. We’re finally finished planting for the time being and now we’re focused on weeding, mulching, and pest killing. Almost everything that we’ve put in the ground is thriving, but unfortunately so are the weeds. Linda kept telling me “you’re going to be really amazed at how much the plants spring up in the next few days” and “the weeds are going to be growin’ like crazy soon”. She was certainly right about the former, but oh man was she right about the latter. Lambsquarters, pigweed, purslane, and even self-seeded tomatillos have created a sea of green all over the fields and beds. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still gung-ho about the whole farming biz. Extreme heat, intense humidity, army of weeds... bring it on.
Planting and mulching potatoes

Sunday, June 17, 2012

The Week It Was

It's barefoot gardening weather

This is the week it was.
There were tractor surprises. The PTO gave out again and off went my ancient John Deere to the shop last Saturday morning. Again.
I've had a hard time getting my soil tilled this year because the tractor has been so inconsistent. It's been back from the shop a few times, and shortly thereafter chosen to, as I say with love, "crap out" again.
I eagerly awaited it's return because...well, it's late. Some tomatoes are in but not all. At all.
I need it to till my ploughed field so I can get in the rest. 
Back it came Wednesday morning. There was excitement in the air! YES! 
No. Within 5 minutes the PTO had quite again and the tiller wasn't tilling.
There's no point getting upset, that's just how it is.
Away it went again, but not before I was told that the tractor is probably tired. Repairs would be very expensive this time, in all likelihood. Something newer and bigger in my future?

Back it came without the expensive repairs and it was, I hope anyway just a small thing like they said and repaired. Tomorrow will tell the tale.

The tomatoes won't all be planted though. I reconciled myself to that and it's okay.
This is an interesting year, to be sure.

Isn't this cool? Stick tomato

In the garden things are pretty good. Lots of things are way ahead of themselves. Small tomatoes are blossoming and fruiting, peppers have surged ahead, but the eggplants nearly appear dormant. Grow, please!

Purple Peacock Broccoli

Where are the imported cabbage loopers? My broccoli, cauliflower and the rest of the family are untouched. This never happens.

The flea beetle presence is strongly felt, with funky little holes drilled in my eggplants. The squash bugs too, and I'm flipping over the squash leaves on my trap crop to find the little triangles of the metallic coloured eggs. Squish. Sorry. Not.

Root Chicory for Balzacs Coffee Roasters

I've just got a small space left in the garden to plant, and just way too many seeds that could go there. It's decision time. This is the tough part...I'm glad there's next year.

I did get in the Hmong Sticky rice, sesame seeds and the "Hairy Balls." Really.

I've met some interesting people this week, as a few people still stop by to pick up a plants. One never knows who will be encountered in the course of tomato sales. 

A very interesting gentleman questioned me about how to germinate marijuana seeds...he has his license and would be using the crop for medicinal purposes. Hmm...well, I've never tried. He wondered if I would be interested in getting my license. I'll dwell on that one.

And today. I can't tell you how touched I was when a fellow whom I've known for years and whom I've shared quite a few plants with when he was down on his luck, came by to pick up more of the poor shrivelled up beauties. He pushed far too much money in my hand, and thanked me for helping him out before. "It's your living, Linda...I can do this now." 

Thanks Ken. You don't know how much that meant to me, and I'm glad things are working out for you.

Tractors, tomatoes and great people. It's all good!

Hairy Balls-can't wait!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Maris the Amazing Farm Intern is Still Digging!

Hello again. I’ve got similar stories this week about my farming experiences (sorry, nothing epic or mind-blowing), but I’m still having a great time and enjoying the field of work (pun intended). Surprise, surprise we’ve been planting all week. There have been a few odds and ends, but it’s been almost entirely tomato plants. We’re running out of places to plant so we’ve been sticking the plants in a variety of soils from spongy and too wet to rock solid like we’re hollowing out big clay pots in the ground. I think we’re getting close to the end of planting (emphasis on think) and as if on cue the weeds are invading every square inch of unoccupied dirt. So we’ve been weeding as well, during which Linda has shown me a bunch of edible weeds and leaves that grow in most gardens including purslane, lambsquarters (or wild spinach), and nasturtiums.
Besides the weeds doing well, most of the other plants that are planted intentionally at Tree and Twig are doing great. The tomatoes, cabbage, and peppers are doing particularly well with fruits already appearing on lots of plants. Linda showed me a little pepper that had an amazing shade of purple and she said “this is a hot pepper but it’s still mild because it’s so small. Wanna try it?” I love trying things in the garden so I grabbed it and popped it into my mouth meanwhile I’m sure Linda was trying to hold back a grin because this tiny little guy was creating an inferno in my mouth within seconds. Linda continued on pointing out some more things in the garden but the only thing I could focus on was the numbing of the right side of my mouth and the tears swelling up in my eyes. I like ‘em hot but this guy (a filus blue pepper) really took me off guard and apparently it actually does get hotter as it matures, and it was only a fraction of the heat in comparison to peppers like the bhut jolokia or the Trinidadian scorpion (the hottest pepper at Tree and Twig as well as, oh yeah, the world).
  So no luck with any of those first duck eggs, but we’ve got another one on the go in the incubator. I brought three quail eggs from New Leaf and added them to the incubator so we’re hoping those guys are fertilized and will hatch someday too. We also caught one of the Indian runners and he’s been back at New Leaf for the past week with plenty of other ducks, chickens, and goats. We got another miniature goat there last week as well to keep Billy the kid (the first mini goat) company, although I really don’t think she was too lonely with all the other goofballs running around and sleeping all over her.
Ummm.... that’s it. Thanks

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Silent Sunday Stroll

Hot peppers-already!

A pod radish crop exploding!

Painted Hills Multi Colored Sweet Corn is up

Tomato waiting to be planted

Milk Thistle

Peppers in the clay are happy!

I love walking onions

Look what I found in the garlic patch!

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Maris the Amazing Farm Intern Digs in Deeper

STILL to plant!

Finally the weather is in our favour. It’s been raining on and off since last Thursday and the weather this week in particular seems to be set in accordance to our work schedule as dark clouds seem to roll in as we’re getting ready to head in for supper. It’ll be no surprise, but we’ve been planting all week. We’ve nearly finished with all the non-tomato planting and seeding with just a few stragglers waiting their turn. We also put a significant dent in the tomato plants. By dent I mean hundreds upon hundreds of plants. Have you read or seen Holes? Well it’s been kind of like that, but we fill all the holes in after digging them up. Apparently there`s some estimation and math to all of this because Linda keeps asking how many holes are in a row at which point I have to go back and count, and then I see from the end of the row that my row lines are as crooked as a drunkard`s stagger. Oh well, they`ll still grow.

No luck with any of the eggs I was incubating in case you were wondering. That`s the ways she goes sometimes on the farm.  I`m incubating a new one so we`ll see how that goes, and we`re getting a bunch more Muscovy ducks at New Leaf anyway. I`m also adopting one of Linda`s ducks as the three boys have been incessantly battling and, as opposed to one of my previous blogs which suggested ducks don`t have the means to seriously harm each other, two of them have become bloodied and cleaved from this ongoing war. I`m sure he`ll fit right in with all the other goofballs at New Leaf.

Despite the fact that the sun is setting later and later, I`m going to bed earlier and earlier so that`s it, that`s all. Goodnight folks.
It's coming!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Guest Post-Leslie's Green Garlic Pesto

We certainly have been having some very strange weather. Spring came in with record high temperatures then Mother Nature decided to change things up and have the extreme frost make an appearance. This will have a huge impact on many of the fruit trees in Ontario, but the one constant despite the weather seems to be garlic. 
For anyone who participates in a Spring CSA program they are sure to find green garlic as one the first items in their baskets. Last year, my spring addiction was garlic scape pesto. I couldn’t make it fast enough never mind eat it fast enough. I did manage to freeze some to last me over the winter, allowing me to instantly feel like spring was just around the corner. Needless to say as spring arrived so did my excitement for yet another season of making and eating garlic scape pesto. That is until I discovered green garlic pesto! This is a pesto made just like any other, only the star ingredient is the green garlic. The young shoots of garlic, commonly called green garlic, is easy to turn into a flavourful spring pesto.  It produces a mild, almost sweet garlicky flavoured pesto. Unlike the garlic scape pesto which does have a more pungent flavour, the green garlic pesto is the milder sibling. 
Here is a quick and easy recipe for green garlic pesto! Enjoy! 
Green Garlic Pesto
  • 1/2 pound green garlic
  • 1 Tbsp. vegetable oil  
  • 1/2 tsp. salt, plus more to taste 
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts or pistachios 
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil 
  • 1/4 cup freshly shredded Pecorino cheese or other hard, flavorful grating cheese  ( I used parmesan) 
  1. Trim and discard root ends of green garlic. 
  2. Finely chop green garlic, rinse and pat or spin dry. 
  3. In a large frying pan over medium heat, cook vegetable oil, green garlic and ½ tsp salt until garlic is soft, about 3 minutes. Let cool to warm room temperature. 
  4. In a blender or food processor, pulse pine nuts or pistachios to chop. Set aside. Add green garlic and process, scraping down sides as necessary, until smooth. 
  5. With motor running, drizzle in olive oil. 
  6. Pulse in reserved nuts and cheese. 
  7. Taste and add more salt and olive oil if you like. 
Makes enough Green Garlic Pesto to coat 1 pound of linguine. This pesto keeps very well, covered and chilled up to 3 days or frozen. 

Friday, June 1, 2012

That's the Way the World Goes Round

Every season has it's challenges and I do mean that without exception. The longer I do this growing food thing, the more I realize that no longer does the perfect season exist.  I remind myself of an old boyfriend who worked at Stelco in Hamilton in it's heyday, and I quote "it's too hot, it's too cold-when's payday?"

It's true that the conditions are never just right, but unlike the union workers at Stelco, my payday might critically be affected by the weather .  Too hot, too cold, too wet, too dry-no payday.

The reality is for me this year anyway that things aren't too bad. Dry I can handle. Wet conditions are another story.

Weird weather to be sure. Never have I worked up the soil and had it come up so dry. Holy mole. I've been one dusty chiquita tilling the soil on my now happily working John Deere tractor. Dust in every crevice, crook and cranny of my body. Some spots in the fields I didn't get to earlier are resisting the tiller. It bounces along the surface barely making a dent in my hard clay.

The rain today will change all that.

That's the way the world goes round (...thanks for the inspiration John Prine.) You do what you can with what you're given. And then things just happen. Who knows why.

I no longer find myself panicking because Mother Nature doesn't do precisely what I would like her to. I know we have not done precisely or even remotely what I suspect she would have liked us to do. So here we are.  Wacky weather, doing the best we can to grow food and eke out a living.

This week was a whirlwind of planting. Loads of basils, far, far too many hot and scorching peppers, sweet peppers, tomatillos, ground cherries, brassicas of every type. Organic Gardening magazine test garden is in-check! Eggplants, cotton (for fun!), some beans, root chicory for a local coffee roaster, chards, Tiffany and Suzanne's fav celery, a major funky multi-coloured sweet corn, some of the hard to find Chersonskaya winter squash. And more to be sure.  Beets, carrots, salad....

This weekend I need to go through my seeds and make sure I don't forget anything I really want to get in this year, like the rice, farro and wax gourds. I know I can't possibly get everything in, but there's always next year, right? That's the way the world goes round..

Next week is the tomato planting blitz. If you bought plants from me, you probably got yours in. It definitely isn't too late. Think you'll be bored next week and want to try your hand at planting? Come on out-it's free!

I still have some nice plants available for your garden too. There are some great tomatoes, peppers, eggplants and basils left. Deals may be had!

Dang that Maris..I think his rows are crooked!