Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Guest Post-Jo's Basket and Basil Bash!

The view from my front door!

The sign went up this week.  The one at the front of my house, on the edge of the residential property and the field.  It says http://www.maizex.com/products.html?product_id=137">"Maizex RR2 Impact".  That's a "Round Up Ready" industrial soybean product.  It's a commodity, not a food.  I might as well be living in the middle of an oil field or a copper mine.  Those are commodities too.

In the next field over, the "farmer" seems to be doing corn this year.  Not growing, but doing, as I don't think he has much to do with it at all once the seeds are in the ground.  So now I have a slightly different view than in years gone by: acres of industrial soybeans butting up against acres of industrial corn.

And on that note, I drove three kilometers due east to the Tree and Twig Heirloom Vegetable Farm for a change of scenery.  And to commune with a *real* farmer.  No quotation marks required.

I just got back from picking up this week's basket.  Colourful heirloom tomatos spilled out, along with yummy carrots, beets, chard and beans.  I set all the peppers aside for my sister (I'm allergic) but I marvelled at the colours.  I've got nothing against green, but all that genetically modified soybean next door that's been an unnatural shade of deep green throughout this summer's drought has got me craving colour.

This past weekend, my sister, Am, our friend Sarah and I went to the Basil Bash at the farm.  It was beyond delightful.  My friend from work, Terri, also showed up.  A couple more converts!  People KEEP asking me how they can get on this CSA bandwagon... I'm determined to get a Hamilton contingent going for the next growing season.  If indeed Linda is looking for more shareholders!  I think I should go into sales and marketing.  Although the product kind of sells itself.

The only disappointment of the bash was that the ducklings were not there (Maris had taken them home for the weekend) and Sarah was crushed.  I'd been raving about them for weeks (since they hatched) but we got to see the adult ducks and hang with the chickens and Joey the pig, which was lovely.  The garden tour kind of blew my mind.  One of the things that you frequently hear about CSAs and local farming is to "get to know your grower" and "see your food being grown".  I've gotten to know Linda, that much is true... but I don't think I'd seen the food being grown up until Sunday.  I'd sort of seen the patches in the distance, but getting to tour it was a marvel.  People in the crowd were asking about the soil quality, and Linda said it had taken her years to amend it to this point.  There was so much compost and hay, it looked like workable soil... not the clay I dealt with the year I tried a garden.  The same clay that my neighbour and I used to form pinch pots and kiln in the sun, giggling at just how horrible it was for gardening!

There was a burst of colour in the middle of it all -- candlelight peppers, and I actually sucked my breath in at the sight of it.  It looks like something someone would pay big bucks for as a centerpiece at an Oakville wedding.  HA!  Linda posted a picture of it a few blog posts back... it's even more vivid in real life.

The basil patch is enormous.  Dozens of varieties, and some local chefs (including Linda's daughter!) showed off some great basil recipes, including basil lemonade, basil butter, basil cupcakes and some painfully delicious bruschetta that I simply could not get enough of.  I'm a tomato junkie.

Okay, time to split up the basket and get my sister's half ready for her.  Speaking of which, she was so moved by the whole experience of trying Linda's wares, she's going to blog here from time to time too!  Stay tuned....

Summer CSA Baskets Week 6 :Basil Butter, Basil Lemonade and Soup!

Pavlov assists with the cabbage harvest-I see you!
It is with renewed enthusiasm that I added basil to the CSA baskets today. Pesto? Done that. Bruschetta? Done that!
My awesome basil shirt!
I held my little Basil Bash here on Sunday and scrambled to come up with innovative ways to use so many wonderful kinds of basil. Brownies, cupcakes, pinwheels, bruschetta, basil butter and basil lemonade were all part of the offerings.
Many, many thanks to my sister and friends who made wonderful basil creations, helped out and always do. Special thanks to "The Market Chef" Michelle Gatien for coming out and making it all that much more special.
My sweet daughter Emily was up till 3 am painting the above shirt. When you look at it closely you see it is like a piece of fine art. I can't tell you how much it means to me.   ( Yes girls, I'm weepy again!)

Baskets today contained basils, tomatoes peppers, cabbage, chard, carrots, garlic, beans, onions, and a few more items(some had summer squash, ground cherries, mousemelons).
The peppers are coming on strong now and I warn you don't let your kids eat them if you aren't sure if they are sweet or hot. HINT-small ones could very well be hot. But the sizzlers aren't there yet. When they come along they will be packaged separately.

Now the recipes. These are really, really good!

Mollie's Basil Butter
I don't know honestly where Mollie found this recipe. If it is yours, please take the credit!

1 1/2 cup basil (any type)
1/2 lb butter (or vegan sub)
1 tsp fresh lemon juice
1 tsp pepper
1/2 garlic salt

Mix together and enjoy!

Basil Lemonade
I made this with Genovese Basil, but also tried it with the Spice. Bet Thai would be superb too.

Juice from 5 lemons
several handfuls of basil-about a cup
cold water to fill up blender and sugar to taste

I whirred this together in my Vitamix until the basil was completely mixed in, and the resulting lemonade was greenish-yellow.
Pour over ice. This is very refreshing and yummy.

KP's Tuesday Soup
Thanks Kristin for sending me this recipe. It uses everything from the basket and sounds delish! This will be my Wednesday supper....

3 garlic cloves, crushed and chopped
1 shallot, finely chopped
2 sweet peppers, finely chopped
1 hot pepper, seeded and finely chopped
1 tsp basil florets
1 cup cut green beans
2 tbsp olive oil

Cook on high heat until peppers soften.

1 cup diced tomatoes
Shredded basil leaves
1 summer squash, mandolin lengthwise into noodles

Lower heat and cook until tomatoes soften.

Other seasoning to taste; today I included 2 tbsp each of peanut butter and coconut cream.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Guest Post-Maris the Amazing Farm Intern loves his Ducks

These are NOT Maris's hands!!

Hello everybody. I’ve got a few random things to mention this week, some of which you might already be aware of.
We’ve had several duck eggs in the incubator since I started my internship here. At first I thought it was a sure thing and was somewhat disappointed when there weren’t half a dozen ducks popping out of shells four weeks later. But now there are finally two little ducklings that have been bouncing around for two weeks (one was only born the previous Monday). I’m pretty sure most of you readers have already seen the all too precious pictures of the first guy hatching. They’re both quite different in appearance as their genes could include Indian Runner as well as Ruin traits, but they both get along quite well together in the same box. They’ve definitely got the ‘follow mama’ instinct (which I’m sure is vital to their survival) as they quickly scuttle close behind people walking. I was watching over them for the weekend back in Hamilton and actually brought them downtown with me so that my all-to-eager city friends (or tenderfoots) could be amazed. They followed me down the street and, needless to say, people were watching me from a distance with confused looks on their face until I approached. Then they were really confused. Anyway, these ducks seem to double in size every three days or so and have to be moved to an increasingly larger box. They’re large enough and mobile enough to have them outside now so I had them in the garden today while I was weeding. They did their part and ate every little bug in sight.
And I’m sure you’re all aware as well that Linda’s having her Basil Bash this Sunday. So if you’re planning on dropping by just give Linda a confirmation or some kind of a heads up. There’s going to be more basil varieties then most of you have heard of. This means a win for basil lovers as well as basil skeptics as you’ll have a chance to try a multitude of flavours.
A New Leaf Farm is doing swell as well. We’ve got a whole bunch of different beans ripening right now and some of the tomatoes have been ready as well. I also had my first sun berry which looks like a blueberry, but it tastes more like a sweet little tomato. We’re sending the first batch of Muscovy ducks to the chopping block tomorrow (sorry Linda and other vegetarians alike), but we’re going to be keeping the one that has developed really pretty, dark blue feathering. Linda’s old Indian Runner has been hanging out with the flock of Muscovies so I guess the two of them will be old veterans and lifelong pets at A New Leaf along with some of the other goofballs we keep around.
 Anyway, I hope to see some of you this Sunday at Tree and Twig and thanks for reading.

Guest Post-Jo's basket is a hit!

"Two converts, more to come"

By Jo Pavlov

A few neat things happened this week.

First off, I decided to give my sister, Anne Marie, half the contents of my basket.  She's nothing like me -- she's a hearty leafy-greens vegetarian from way back. She's never met a vegetable she didn't like, never mind fawn over.  You've never seen someone get so excited about a salad as her.  She's the one you see who takes a picture of her stuffed pepper and posts it on Facebook with the caption "YUMMMM".

I'd told her about my weekly basket, and she's been reading the blog and is signed up for the Basil Bash this weekend. But it wasn't until she opened up the container I sent home with our mom and she took a double take and called me immediately.

"JO!  This is ALL HEIRLOOM vegetables!!  The last time I saw any of this was in Vancouver!"

I said, "I know.  Linda's farm is called the Tree & Twig Heirloom Vegetable Farm."

Anne Marie (we call her "Am") said, "I know.  You told me that.  I guess I thought she just did heirloom tomatoes.  But I didn't think... I didn't think it was THIS.  I can't BELIEVE THIS.  This is HEAVEN."

She was cracking me up.  She was eating the leftover arugula with glee, "IT'S LIKE BUTTER" and trying the purslane "THIS IS HEAVEN" never mind the peppers and beans.  She put our mom on the phone and I could hear her in the background going "THIS IS CRAZY!  I DIDN'T KNOW IT WAS HEIRLOOM!!!  I'm going to fry up this summer squash RIGHT NOW!"

After much ballyhooing we settled down and she said she needed to get a piece of this pie.  I said I'd contact Linda and see about doubling my basket for the rest of the season, and we could continue to split it.  Sure enough, Linda was amenable (she always is!) and this week, I went to go pick up the "family" sized basket.

Most Wednesdays, I teach my 13 year old friend Desi how to sew.  I pick her up on my way home from work and at about 8, her mom comes by to pick her up from my place.  I've known her mom for years, since before Desi was born, and I love them both dearly.  She recently completed her grade eight grad dress, and it was beautiful.  I went to her grad -- she looked like a million bucks up on that stage.  Crinolines even!  Before that, she completed a quilt and today, a sundress for her little sister.

She's a very good kid.  Polite, well behaved.  Her worst quality is that when she comes to my house, all she wants to eat are three or four hot dogs in a row with no buns or condiments.  She's a typical kid.  We eat ice cream together, snacks.  I don't think I've ever offered her a salad.  Or if I did, she opted for the hot dogs.  (Which are only even in my freezer for when my mom comes to visit!!)

Since I pick up my CSA basket on Wednesdays, if Desi is with me, she comes along for the ride.  Today we got to hug the FAST-growing ducklings and Pavlov just snuggled up in my neck and decided to take a little nap then and there.  Maslow was full of beans and Desi had a hard time holding him.  It was like he wanted to... run.  Like the Indian runner he is.

But before that, on the way up to the front door, Desi asked me, "How much is it to buy your vegetables from here?"

I said, "It's $375 for the season, which is 15 weeks.  That's $25 a week for enough vegetables for me and my sister."

She looked a little perplexed and said innocently, "That's a lot.  Jo, why don't you just get a garden and grow your own vegetables?"

I blinked a few times and thought about how to answer that.  I said, "Linda works VERY hard for this money.  She plants, weeds, sows, transplants, waters...  I had a garden once, it's tons of work.  Never mind I only ever had tomatos and beans!  Plus, Linda's food is all organic."

Linda answered the door, and while we were standing cuddling the ducks and waiting for Linda to grab the basket, Desi asked me what 'organic' meant.  Loaded question in front of an organic farmer!  I said that Linda doesn't use chemical fertilizers, weed killers or pesticides and that she does A LOT of weeding by hand.  It was a full time job.  I said that factories can produce a LOT of food, but it's all kind of tasteless, there are a lot of chemicals involve, it's genetically modified and it takes X tanks of gas to transport it unripened 6000 km from California.  Kinda ridiculous when you can buy food from around the corner.

She asked me what "genetically modified" meant.  I started to answer, but we got sidetracked.  The basket arrived and she saw the beets.  Like a typical 13 year old, she said, "Ew. Beets."  We laughed.  

After yakking with Linda a bit, we got going.  On the way to the car, I asked her if she wanted a tomato. She looked a little thrown off, like I'd offered her a worm or something (instead of a processed hot dog) but she relented and said okay.

I handed her three tiny heirloom tomatoes.  One red, two yellow.  I held a green and yellow one in my hand.  She looked kind of stunned.  "Why are they so small???"

I said tomatoes come in all shapes and sizes.  The ones in the grocery stores are grown in factory-like conditions so that they all look the same but they taste kind of tasteless and waterlogged.

"Why is this yellow??"  she continued.

I said not all tomatoes are red.  Some are, but yellow ones are awesome, too.  Just try it.

She made a face but popped it in her mouth.  Her expression changed almost immediately.  "That's delicious!" she proclaimed, and ate the other two in short order.  "Can I have some more?"

I handed her the green one.  She looked VERY skeptical.  She popped it into her mouth.  She smiled.

"Jo?" she said.

"Yes, Des?" I replied.

"I love green tomatoes."

"Good." I said.

We drove along in silence for a bit, then she started digging through the basket some more.  "What's this?"

"I have no idea," I said.  "I think it might be a Gherkin if I read the blog correctly last night."

"A what?"

"A gherkin.  Like a pickle before it's a pickle."

She bit in and again, grinned from ear to ear.  "I like gherkins!" she announced.  Ate the rest in short order.

"Good," I replied.

That kid tried everything by the time we got home.  She declared yellow and green tomatoes are THE BEST, while gherkins were a close second.  Ground cherries were gross (I liked them!) and Mouse melons weren't all I'd made them out to be.  Raw cabbage is foul and lemongrass required an actual spit-out.

All this from kid who has eaten plain hot dogs, root beer and potato chips in my presence up until today.

Two converts, more to come.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Summer CSA Week 5 and That's the Way That the World Goes Round

Life in the garden, which is pretty much where I live right now is kind of how my life is in general. Ups and downs. How about yours?
Thanks for the inspiration, John Prine. I hum as I pull weeds....
"That's the way the world goes round,
Some days you're up, some days you're down
Half an inch of water and you think you're gonna drown,
That's the way that the world goes round"

It's been that kind of week. We've had the downs.
With incredible sadness, I will tell you that my chickens have been under siege this last week. Roger, who was a stinker, but I loved him anyways, disappeared last Friday night.
Gone. Vanished without a trace. No feathers to indicate a battle, apparently just carted away.
The next day a hen, killed in the chicken corral.

This is sickening stuff. Stuff I cry about and I did cry some quiet tears when I didn't hear Roger's crow on Saturday morning. It is just so sad.

The chickens are all in a smaller area now and safer in a spot that is more visible. I sure hope so anyways.

But it rained and that is good...the up side. The clouds came rolling in on Saturday afternoon as Mollie and I swam at the conservation area down the road. We raced home and beat the heavy drops which pounded down forming insta-puddles in the driveway. Good stuff, in fact a soaking rain.

Consequently things have popped up a bit more in the garden.
The baskets today were pretty summery, wouldn't you say?

West Indian Gherkin

Green beans (var-Empress), garlic, basils, leaf celery, Rat Tailed Radishes, some ground cherries and mouse melons, tomatoes just beginning, peppers (the dark purple are a test variety, Royal Black, and are HOT!!). Baskets then had some of the following..summer squash, zucchini, cucumbers, the horny-like West Indian Gherkins, eggplants, beets or carrots and chard. Likely a few more things too that I'm not thinking of right now.

Be prepared. There are lots of hot peppers to come. I mean LOTS. So pull out the hot sauce recipes because they'll be up soon.

What to do with all those green beans? You could steam, or stir fry, or add to salads (especially good in potato salad), or roast. This is a fabulous way to eat them...give it a try!

Roasted Green Beans with Garlic

1 quart green beans, topped.
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 cloves minced garlic

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Toss beans with oil, garlic and sea salt to taste and place on baking tray.

Roast for about 10 minutes, stirring as they roast. Transfer to bowl and enjoy!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The return of Maris, the Amazing Farm Intern!

Hello again. I’m going to start with apologies to all my avid readers (however few there are) for not posting my blog for a few weeks now. I’ve been leaving Tree and Twig on Thursdays now and I tend to forget to write the blog when I get home, which is followed by further procrastination and so on. So sorry, but I do still work, reside, learn, and type here at Tree and Twig.
                Well, pretty much everything is planted with a few exceptions such as replacing some of the guys that didn’t quite make it for one reason or another (mostly the lack of water). Now we’re weeding like crazy and mulching for a break. I can easily say I’ve torn out more weeds with my hands than I have lived days on this planet. Still, it’s a small price to pay instead of using herbicides on the food we intend to eat, and you what; you get quite a feeling of accomplishment when you look back on a whole row of veggies that’s clean and tidy thanks to some good ole fashioned elbow grease.
                Despite the ridiculously dry summer, a lot of the crops are still pulling through. Beans are ready, peppers are doing great, and the tomatoes are on their way. I had my first taste of in-season, farm-fresh tomato from both Tree and Twig and A New Leaf Farm. Oh man were they good. The moment you bite into that tomato reminds you why you wait for produce all year, and it really makes you wonder how the heck year-round grocery tomatoes (if you can even call them that) have become acceptable let alone the norm. The raspberries at Linda’s have also been ripe for a while now and we’ve been including them a few times with the CSA baskets. This brings me to my next anecdote.
                I was given raspberry duty a few weeks ago which means picking ripe raspberries from the big ole raspberry patch and filling up a whole bunch of containers (it takes quite a while to fill up even one quart by the way, hence the reason they usually cost so much). I thought the thorns on the canes would be the most hazardous part of job, but Linda forgot to mention the flock of murderous birds. Only twenty yards away from the raspberry patch is a tall birdhouse with a dozen or so purple martin swallows. These guys are quite the acrobats as they literally catch flying insects in their mouths as they fly about with astonishing agility. It turns out they’re also very nimble when it comes to dive-bombing (as Linda calls it) on cats and dogs that are in the open or too close to their home. Well, it also turns out that they aren’t afraid to dive-bomb me. They were swooping in from every direction and coming right by my head! They’d let out this little shriek every time they were an inch away from my hair and then soar back up in the air to plot their next attack. They were getting closer and closer, and I swear they were going to take out bits of hair any second so I actually started swinging my fist at them as they swooped in. They’d give up for a while when I was swinging frantically and looking like a psych ward patient (not to mention to any passing cars that must have seen me) and then regroup to plan their next offensive. They relaxed a little more every time I went back out to the patch, but I don’t know if I have. The only tips I have for purple martin swallow dive-bombs are: start swingin’ or they’ll never leave you alone, don’t wear a red t-shirt (it turns out that the avian eye has a heightened red-orange spectrum), and keep watching the skies.     

Guest Post-Jo, meet the baby ducks!

New addition Maslow on the left, with Pavlov 

Were you born yesterday?

By Jo Pavlov

I remember many many years ago having supper with my then-boyfriend and his three little kids.  Josh was about seven then, and was a good kid.  He would eat whatever was on his plate, and as I was a vegetarian, I would often have something different on mine.  He was a curious kid and once asked me why I ate differently than them.  I told him I didn't believe in killing and eating animals, but don't think I really knew that he didn't know meat was killed animals, or maybe I would have phrased it a little differently.  He didn't know pork used to be a pig, beef used to be a cow.  No one had ever really explained it to him.  He looked horrified.  I spared him the knowledge that veal was BABY cow and foie gras was FORCE fed goose, because that's a horror to learn when you are older.  From that point forward he always wanted to eat what I was eating, and even when his dad made him eat meat, he'd do so grudgingly and eat as little of it as possible.

I love all animals.  I really do.  Oh, except for possums, but maybe one day I'll learn to love them too.  Baby animals melt my heart.  I feel all at once overwhelmed and in awe of nature and I get the distinct sense that if we all acted a little more like nature intended us to, we'd all be better off.

I saw the pictures last week on Linda's blog of Pavlov, the duckling, hatching.  I had never seen anything like it, and I forwarded it to everyone I knew.  Imagine that, to be present at the moment of awakening like that.  Little Pavlov's head wasn't even out of the shell yet.  That was his first beam of sunlight.  I knew that wasn't Linda's hand (the fingernails were too clean) but it was her daughter's.  Imagine to be a child getting to witness that in your backyard.  Pardon me.  In your hand in your backyard.

Today when I went to pick up my CSA basket, Linda told me she had a new duckling.  I said, "Yes!  Pavlov!  My namesake!" She said, "No, another one!  It hatched on Monday!" 

Maris went inside and collected the hatchlings to show me.  He brought them out.  Pavlov, much larger than the baby, is about a week old.  The baby was born on Monday.  Seemingly forgetting it was Wednesday, I cuddled the baby close to my heart and murmured in baby talk, "Oh my dear are you ever new!  Were you born yesterday?  Huh?  Were you born yesterday?"  Linda kept saying, "No, he was born on Monday" but I wasn't listening.  I was too busy cooing and checking out those perfect little webbed feet and clean little nibbling bill.  His wings were little stubby nothings, and the down on him was soft as soft could be.  I couldn't stop snuggling that little hatchling.

Linda said that the duckling's mother was one of the Indian Runners that.... uh... run around the property.  She says they will drop eggs and ignore them completely, and how that breed manages to persist is anyone's guess.  The mothers have no maternal instinct and the fathers are just as bad.  I used to be a Peregrine Falcon watcher in downtown Hamilton back in the day, and one thing fascinating about that raptor is that the males and females mate for life and take turns warming the eggs and bringing the chicks dinner.  I couldn't stand watching feeding time as they are carnivorous birds of prey, but it warmed my feminist heart to watch Dad doing at least some of the dirty work of chick-rearing.

Pavlov and his as-yet unnamed sibling have humans doing that work at the moment.  But it won't be long before they start running off and diving in the pond.  Those webbed feet made me think of that old adage "...like a duck takes to water" and I hope I'm there to see one of their first swims... that would be delightful.  It was freaky enough watching them waddle around on the ground having been born what, yesterday?

This week also marks the first week that I could name almost ALL the contents of my basket without help!!!  I couldn't name heirloom varieties if I tried, but I know yummy TOMATOES when I see them, and I squealed with glee.  And shoved a couple in my mouth before I could even hand back the duckling.  They are flavourful delicious tomatoey tomatoes that taste the way tomatoes are supposed to taste.  I am so sick of genetically modified waterlogged grocery store tomato-like products.  I cannot WAIT for tomato season to kick into high gear.

There was also a nice big mittful of green beans, or what I like to call the candy of garden.  Half of those were gone by the time I walked the 20 steps to the car.  

Linda and Maris also hooked me up with a nice big bag of my new favourite... uh... weed?  green?  discovery?  What's the word I'm looking for here?  It's PURSLANE!  So far, out of all the new foods I've been introduced to through the CSA program, that's the one I've liked the best.  And the cherry on top of this week's batch:  MOUSE MELONS!  Google it.  They are amazing, and they pack a punch of cucumber-like deliciousness in a tiny gumball sized drop.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Summer CSA Week 4-Stupid Hot and Stinking Dry

Sometimes a title says it all. For me, this one does.
It was stupid hot today. Like some of the peppers I'm growing, like Death Valley, like walking into a  hot oven.

This weather makes me a bit queasy to work in. It also makes greens that could have been in the CSA baskets today remain in the garden until common sense prevails and the weather cools off a bit. The greens, cut and cooled, could not handle sitting on a shady porch for any period of time today. It would have been a complete waste.
All I can say is that I am very happy I got my old car's air conditioning fixed last Friday. Whew!
Baskets today contained smaller amounts of various veg. Beets, beans, basil, garlic, purslane, mouse melons, rat tailed radishes, and a few other things as well. Oh-is there a tomato in there? A few peppers?

Next week I think, if all goes according to plan and all the crops haven't burnt off, you will see increased quantities of veg in the baskets. The beans are coming on strong, as are a number of other crops.
That is, of course, as long as we keep the water to things. It is extremely dry. It is beyond my comprehension how people with a sandy soil are coping in this drought.  Have you got sandy soil-how is it for you?
In my clay it is tough even. I've never had a problem getting things to germinate in the summer, as I continue to plant through till September outside.
But I've had 3 failed salad planting and 2 failed parsnip plantings despite watering up to five times a day. Wow.
Potatoes are poor, peppers awesome, tomatoes okay and basil very good. I think I am downgrading this season from a good, to a "I hope okay".
I hope.
rat tailed radishes

Being weather dependent is not making me happy right now. But Maris and I plug away and remain optimistic. Why be anything else?
Thanks for your support everyone. We're working hard, praying for rain, weeding and watering and continuing to plant.
"We shall never surrender!"

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Guest Post-Jo's Back!

"It Tastes Like a Skunk Smells"

by Jo Pavlov

I arrived early to pick up my basket this week.  So early, in fact, Linda and Maris were out in the field just starting to pick for it.  I may not have been born with a ton of gifts, but patience was one, so I meandered around back and peeked in the hoop houses (holy toldedo, it's hot in there), pet Joey the pig and cuddled Cookie the kitty whilst I waited.  If you haven't been to Tree and Twig farm, you are missing out.  It's so serene.  It's so cool, especially for this Wellandportlandian, cursed with the same clay soil as Linda, to see up close and personal, what is POSSIBLE with that dirt with a bit of elbow grease and passion.

I love farm life.  I mean, hell, I'm no farmer, but I live in the country and the slow pace of life is deep in my soul now.  I couldn't be pressed for time if I tried.  And I mean, really:  If the twenty minutes you spend communing with the chickens and bunnies while your PERSONAL FARMER picks you GARDEN FRESH veggies isn't time well spent, then I don't know what is.

At one point, Cookie the wonder kitty saw me sitting down and made a beeline for my lap.  The ducks were quacking (quite incessantly, but it was charming) and Joey was snorting.  Maris wandered by and was busy with his hands pulling some leaves off something or other while we chatted.  

Have you read Maris' posts?  He's interning to learn how to run his own farm.  He told me about the family farm he grew up on, the one they are slowly reclaiming acre by acre to attempt to do family farming the old fashioned way, instead of leasing the land to some factory.  He's calm personified and I had forgotten there are people out there who aspire to this kind of life.  It's such and honourable life, yet such a hard life.  Hey, I had a 12x20' garden the first year I lived here, and the weeds scared me off.  Completely.  I hope to try again someday, but maybe something more manageable.  Maris and Linda think in acres, I think in square feet.  Maris and Linda think in terms of baskets and customers... I think in terms of salad bowls.

A yellow finch swooped by and Maris identified it for me.  He said there had been a Baltimore Oriole around a few days previous, and I asked him how he knew.  He said they are such a flaming shade of orange, you cannot mistake them for anything else.

I wasn't really paying attention to what he was doing, but when he was done, he put the leaves he'd been pulling into a bag, and handed them to me.  "Arugula" he said.  Linda walked over with a full basket for me, and I said quite innocently, "What's arugula?"

I know I know.  When I call myself green, I'm not kidding.  It's sad.  But part of the reason I blog here is to let any floating souls out there know ... it's OKAY to know nothing.  You can learn.  Hell, I'll be 40 in three short weeks, and I'm just learning.  Ate my first chard three short weeks ago, and I'm not ashamed to say so.

Linda said quite matter-of-factly, "Arugula is a salad green.  It's kind of a weed.  It kind of tastes like skunk smells."  Way to sell it!  

I don't know what possessed me to bite into it then and there, but I did.  Partly because I couldn't smell it, but as soon as I bit into it, I grinned from ear to ear.  YES!  That is exactly how it tastes!  But not in a bad way.  It's like how the smell of manure becomes somewhat tolerable and even comforting when you live in the country.  Arugula is a fascinating flavour that is not at all offensive, even though it can only best be described as "tasting like a skunk smells".  And it's oddly familiar.  If you've ever eaten a fancy weedy looking salad at an expensive restaurant, well you know arugula.

Linda showed me a few other items in the basket and when she got to the green beans, I couldn't help myself.  I just stuck my hand in and grabbed one and started chowing down.  Green beans fresh off the vine might well be my idea of a clean slice of heaven.  Throw in a lap cat, good conversation with like minded people and a new duckling named Pavlov, and you've pretty much made my day.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Summer CSA-Week 3 and Garden News

That seems to be how the year is going.
A dry winter, dry spring and dry summer.
I can't believe how dry. My clay is superb at holding the moisture, but there's not really any moisture to hold on to.

So we water. Right now too we are thick into the weeding  and assorted duck dilemmas.
Okay...so Pavlov seen above popping out of his egg is not a duck dilemma. By the way, no one is in agreement with the name I gave the little soul. I like it.  Isn't he (she) fabulous?
But my two big boy ducks can't seem to get along. One is always charging the other, head down, full speed ahead.
The girls are doing as Indian Runners do. Dropping their eggs here, there and everywhere. Some we find, some the racoons find. It is incredible to me that Indian Runner ducks still exist. They have no mothering instinct whatsoever. At least mine don't. I'd like to think I've been a fine role model too.
The ducks have been naughty too. Dang.
I went out tonight to do a bit of watering and my newest planting of chard has been mowed down.
Last week it was the soybeans for edamame. They appear to be coming back, but will it be just so they can be eaten prematurely again?
What's with those ducks? I've not had these problems before.
The baskets today had, amongst other things a good healthy dose of Sylvetta arugula-zesty and pungent. There was garlic, basils, lettuces, summer squash in some baskets, beets in others. Rat tailed radishes (lots more on the way), oregano-thyme mint, a greens mix (chard, chicory,brassica) and probably a few other things that I can't think of right now.
The summer harvest explosion is not upon us yet. But it will be.
Still to come are loads of tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, tomatillos, ground cherries, cukes and zukes, beans, brassica crops, sweet corn, lots more beets and carrots,...and on and on. Some pretty cool things too. I'm excited. Hope you are too!
Now-what to do with all that arugula?
I thought soup- a chilled soup. This recipe looks like it is worth playing around with. Give it a go! I sure am.

Chilled Arugula Soup with Preserved Lemon

I dig garlic

Monday, July 9, 2012

Anthony Sedlak's Heirloom Tomato Pasta Bake with Fresh Tomato Sauce

Thanks Nancy, for passing along this recipe which I am posting in honour of a young chef who passed away over the weekend. Anthony Sedlak  was well known for his show, The Main on the Food Network, and will be missed by many. His love of heirloom tomatoes was well known.

Rest in peace.

*Heirloom Tomato Pasta Bake with Fresh Tomato Sauce**

1/4 cup olive oil
2 cloves garlic, smashed
6 x basil leaves
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 cups chopped yellow or orange tomatoes
1/8 teaspoon dried oregano
1 x 500 gram bag rigatoni
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
1/4 cup black olives, finely chopped
1  heirloom tomatoes cut into wedges
1 cup fresh ricotta cheese (add a little dried oregano and freshly grated Parmesan cheese if you wish)
good quality extra virgin olive oil for drizzling
2  fresh basil leaves, torn

In a large wide sided pan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add garlic and cook until lightly golden, 2-3 minutes. Add basil and pepper, and let basil fry lightly in oil, about 1 minute.

Add tomatoes, and allow to cook down, 10-15 minutes, or until tomatoes start to break down. The oil and tomato juice will emulsify to make a sauce.

Crush tomatoes slightly, and season with salt. Remove from heat.

Meanwhile, cook pasta in a large pot of salted water, according to package directions. Remove from water when slightly undercooked, as the pasta will continue to cook when baked.

Add drained pasta to tomato sauce, stirring to combine. Add Parmesan cheese and half of the olives. Stir to combine. Transfer pasta mixture to a 9x13 casserole dish.

Alternate heirloom tomato wedges and dollops of ricotta evenly on pasta. Sprinkle with remaining black olives. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil.

Bake for 20-30 minutes or until golden and crusty on top. Remove from oven and sprinkle with fresh basil.

This recipe is pictured on  :

also at:   http://www.foodnetwork.ca/recipes/Salad/Tomatoes/recipe.html?dishid=9199

A Genetically Modified Apple?

The following is a CBAN alert I received today. I had no idea a GM apple was in the works, let alone close to be approved. One question:why? I'd rather live with an apple that browns. You?

GM Apple Closer to U.S. Approval: Farce of Canadian public consultation exposed

July 9, 2012. Ottawa - Today, the U.S. Department of Agriculture posted over 160 pages of data from Okanagan Specialty Fruits pertaining to their request for approval of a genetically engineered (genetically modified or GM) “non-browning” apple.(1) The U.S. public now has 60 days to comment before a final decision is made by U.S. regulators.

This public comment period in the U.S. comes just six days after the closing of a public comment period in Canada, July 3, 2012. However, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency’s comment process was based on two pages of bullet points describing the data submitted by the company – the data itself was not provided.

“The CFIA should be deeply embarrassed for wasting Canadian’s time on a false invitation to comment on the GM apple,” said Lucy Sharratt of the Canadian Biotechnology Action Network. “The CFIA public comment period was always a sham because it was based on no data but this farce is now completely exposed.”

“It was simply an insult to ask Canadians to guess what data was submitted by the company,” said Sharratt, “Its high time Canadians had some democracy on this question of genetically modified foods.” CBAN has sent a letter to the CFIA expressing frustration about the lack of transparency and asking for an immediate halt to review of the GM apple.(2)

The U.S. announcement comes just days after a consumer poll commissioned by BC and Quebec apple grower associations found that 69% of Canadians do not want the GM apple.(3)

“This GM apple is a useless waste of time from start to finish,” said Wendy Wright of the Okanagan Greens Society, “The only conclusion is to stop this GM apple right away before our markets are damaged.”

Before reaching a final decision on the GM apple the U.S. government will also prepare an environmental assessment document for public comment, though similar assessments of other GM crops have been challenged in U.S. courts as inadequate. The timeline for a decision in Canada is unknown.


For more: Lucy Sharratt, Coordinator, Canadian Biotechnology Action Network, 613 241 2267 ext. 25; Wendy Wright, Okanagan Greens Society, (cell) 250 469 1881.

NOTES: (1) The data released on the GE apple by the U.S government can be seen at http://www.aphis.usda.gov/brs/aphisdocs/10_16101p.pdf
(2) This letter from CBAN to the CFIA can be viewed at http://www.cban.ca/content/view/full/1302
(3) The BC Fruit Growers Association and the Quebec Apple Producers Association released the Leger poll on July 3, 2012. The poll can be found athttp://www.bcfga.com/files/file/Report%20on%20GE%20survey%20-%20July%203%202012.pdf

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Guest Post-Jo's Magic Mulligatawny Soup

Hey everyone!  It's me, Jo, the "green greens-eater", back for another guest blog posting.

I'm hot off the heels of one of my incapacitating stomachaches -- the ones I talked about briefly in my last post.  It's been a lifelong battle trying to figure out what triggers them.  Historically, it's been peppers (green, red, hot, etc), avacado, eggs, banana, kiwi, canteloupe... but also I have had run-ins with mango, berries, peaches, raisins... I hesitate to call them food allergies, because I'm not anaphylactic, and I occasionally CAN eat those foods (it's hit and miss), it's just that it sometimes results in severe pain that is 10/10 on my pain scale, narcotics don't touch it and the pain lasts 8-10 hours.  Needless to say, I TIPTOE AROUND FOODS.  My GI doctor diagnosed me with something called gastroparesis, and I medicate for that, but the meds don't always work.  So I tiptoe.

This week, I barely touched the contents of my basket.  I am like a little kid who bit into a lemon, made that face, and swore off lemons for life.  I need to get back on that horse and just try again, but it's scary after one of those stomachaches.  

I was thinking this week I was going to make soup.  There were a lot of little things in my CSA basket last week and this week.  Little beets, little carrots.  Leafy greens.  Some new things like purslane and sorrel.  I'd never heard of those before.  I'm pretty good around a pot of soup -- even in my Kraft-Dinner-eating early 20s, I always could throw together a pot of homemade vegetable soup.  And with the advent of the hand blender and a can of beans, I discovered you could make anything kind of look like a hearty bowl of goodness, so I'm rarely scared off soups.  Some years ago I happened upon a recipe for Mulligatawny soup that changed my life.  There were a kajillion ingredients (or so it seemed) and near the end I tasted it and thought it was magical.  Then I added the coconut milk and thought it doesn't get any more magical than that.  THEN I added the cilantro.  OHMYGOD you can't top this!!  THEN!!!  I added the lemon juice, and nearly fell of my chair.  It was around then that I realized it's really hard to screw up soup.

(I'll include the recipe at the bottom -- it's vegan/vegetarian and delightful)

I know it's 40something degrees out there, and I know the idea of a bowl of hot soup hardly appeals, never mind simmering something on the stove for an hour.  You can crockpot soups.  Or install an air conditioner in the kitchen, like I did.  It's the only AC in the house, but it motivates me to get in there and stay in there!  

Flash forward a day --

The heat broke and it's it's in the balmy 30s now.  Ahem.  I skipped the soup this week.  I went back to my old standby... sauted greens and tomatoes in with some curry and beans.  I substituted garam masala for the red curry I used last week and added a liberal amount of coriander.  I used "Great Northern Beans" this week, instead of my old standby, chick peas, and quickly realized there is a reason chick peas are my old standby. HA!  I much prefer them.  But I have never met a bean I didn't like at least a bit, so this pot will get eaten, for sure!  I'll include a picture (last week's picture didn't upload properly)

I've been eating the baby carrots straight up, and chowing down on the celery leaves (I forget what Linda called them).  On the whole, despite my minor setback, I'm still "doing greens" as I've taken to saying.  :)

I would love to get some recipes in the comments of what you guys are doing with your weekly baskets!  I'm still at the point where I don't know what a lot of the stuff is.  I'm sure I put some stuff in the saute today that didn't belong there (basil, maybe?), alas, it came out yummy!


Jo's Magic Mulligatawny Soup


(you will need a hand blender for this dish)

some olive oil
some butter (ghee) (optional for vegan recipe)
2 onions (chopped)
2 sticks of celery (chopped)
fresh garlic (optional)
1 tbsp coriander
1 tbsp curry
1 tsp black fresh ground pepper
2 tbsp garam masala
1 tsp cumin
3 tbsp flour
6 cups vegetarian soup broth
2 carrots (chopped)
2 potatoes (chopped)
2 tomatos (chopped)
half a can of lentils
half a can of coconut milk
juice of half a lemon

1. Heat the oil and the butter in a soup pot. Substitue all oil for butter
if you want this recipe to be vegan.
2. Brown the onions and the celery. Feel free to add some garlic, too, if
garlic is your thing.
3. Add all the powders (curry, coriander, garam masala, cumin, pepper and
flour to this mixture. Stir it to a paste. Add the 6 cups of soup base and
mix (before it burns!! HA)
4. Add the lentils, chopped carrots, diced potatos and diced tomatos. Simmer until veggies
soften. Stir periodically. Probably 20 minutes tops.
5. Take the pot off the stove, and use a hand blender to blend all
6. Simmer about 10 more minutes.
7. Remove from heat and add (in this order) the lemon juice (stir), the
coconut milk (stir) and the chopped cilantro. Serve with brown or wild rice.