Wednesday, October 22, 2014

CSA Week 17 and Sugar Beet Latkes

My house has turned into a jungle over the past few days.
About 2 weeks ago I dug up 3 African Blue basil plants, a number of peppers, rosemary,House tomatoes, sweet marjoram, a geranium, Amish Cockscomb and a few more that I couldn't bear the thought of parting with via the sure death that is frost.

They lived in my garage for a while as they adjusted to the pots and the lower light levels, and as of last night, they came all the way in.
Some are under lights, some are in the front window and I'm hoping that my cats will be gentle on everything.
The chickens enjoyed having the plants in the garage, scratching at the dirt, pecking at my sad little impatiens as though they were the only plants in the world.
Of course they had everything, absolutely everything available to them to peck, but my treasured little plants were their focus.
I'm hoping I can keep them all safe indoors with my cat crew.

Some of them will be starter plants for a new crop next year.
In a few months I'll start taking cuttings from the rosemary and basil, and begin all kinds of new plants, some for my garden, maybe some for yours. One season leads into another and I'm already thinking of 2015.
There are also a few more gaping holes in the garden too.
My little mustards, arugula, salads and chards that I seeded are growing nicely in my greenhouse for winter crops.  Last year I successfully dug up a number of kale plants very carefully from outside and moved them in the hoophouse, and I've done the same this year too. I dug deep and left lots of my lovely clay attached to their roots, waiting for overcast days for a successful move.
It's been pretty successful. There have been no droopy leaves, no apparent transplant shock at all.
Instant gratification.
Todays baskets were pretty root oriented, with a continuing hit of summer....and heat.

Still a taste of tomatoes in the baskets, a good helping of peppers which survived outside because I have been careful to cover them, carrots, winter radishes, kale, thyme, rosemary, leaf celery and a sugar beet which is pretty large.
If you want to experiment with making your own sweetener with it, be my guest. You will find instructions HERE Essentially you are boiling the beets and using the sweetened water.
But sugar beets are very tasty and obviously very sweet which is why I grow them. If you boil them to eat, then use the sweet cooking water as a sweetener as a side benefit. They are also good roasted, and the greens are fully edible as well.

This recipe is adapted from "Modern Farmer"

Sugar Beet Latkes

4 cups shredded sugar beet
11/2 tsp kosher salt
pinch of cardamom or fresh herbs if preferred
3/4 cup unbleached all purpose flour
3 egg whites
olive oil for frying

Stir the shredded beets with the salt and allow to stand for 15 minutes. Squeeze out excess liquid.
Combine the cardamon and flour, then stir in egg whites, and the beets.
Form into patties and fry until golden brown.

Monday, October 13, 2014


Repeated from several years ago, things have changed since this post, but remained very much the same. Pickle is gone, but not ever forgotten. No one lays eggs anymore, they are beyond that. But they remain awesome, especially Ruby with her stellar personality. New family members have come on board, notably "the kittens" ,Basil Rathbone (BR) and Stella, and also Edina, Esmerelda, Alice and Charlotte, my hens who needed a new home. Love 'em all.
Happy Thanksgiving!

...for wonderful memories,

... my girls, friends who need me (and I need them!)

Well, yes.  For Pickle

...for someone to cuddle.

...for small miracles,

...for diversity,

 and for the chance to do what I love.

Of course, for tomatoes....

...for beauty and...

the opportunity to carry on.
There's so much to be grateful for.

I am.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Jo's Roasted Carrots

Yesterday morning, I had to actually scrape frost off the windshield.  Whenever I wake up and see frost on the ground, the FIRST person I think of is Linda.  Maybe it's becuase I live about five minutes from her, but I know my frost is her frost, and there are still So MANY unreaped crops in those fields, I can't stand the thought of them dying due to Mother Nature.

But it's that time of year, isn't it?

Thanksgiving is nearly upon us, and although I tend not to celebrate Hallmark holidays, I do tend to find myself visiting my parents this time of year, and usually (because my sister and I are longtime vegetarians) my mom usually makes potato skins or grilled cheese sandwiches.  It's kind of funny!  Potato skins are our best tradition.

This morning I found myself wondering what to do with two week's worth of heirloom carrots from my CSA basket.  I love carrots and eat them raw or dip them in hummus, but there were just so many.  I wanted to find a signature dish, and maybe something to share with my family.  Carrot cake, maybe?  I can't say I like carrot cake.  Google was failing me so I turned to my Fountain-Of-All-Knowledge... my friendslist on Facebook.  "Lots of colourful heirloom carrots.  Recipe ideas please!" turned into many many suggestions for roasting, with one suggesting the Jamie Oliver tactic of parboiling first and another suggestion for roasting-with-feta.

Mmmm.  Feta.  A couple of years ago, I did a blog post here for roasted beets and feta, and I'd almost forgotten how delightful it is with sweet root vegetables.  It's a bang-on combo of flavours.

My friend Jacqui actually suggested cilantro and feta, but I didn't have any cilantro in the house (oh the humanity!).  What I did have was lots of Linda's stellar parsley.  She knows I'm a parsley junkie, so tops me up most weeks.  This is the BEST part of "knowing your farmer".  I thought it was a marketing ploy when I first joined the CSA, but it's actually a magical way of being so in touch with community and your food and your body and your farmer.  It's hard to even articulate how wonderful this is.  Linda knows I'm allergic to bell peppers, so despite her bumper crops, I never get them in my basket.  She knows I make gallons of apple butter at a time, so frequently I'll get apples when no one else does.

I decided to roast those carrots up.  I had lots of potatoes, too, so roasted root vegetable day it was.  Nice chilly morning to heat up the kitchen with the oven on for 45 minutes too. I think this is the first time I've had the oven on since spring!

So I took the last heirloom onion I had floating around and plunked it in my brand new handy slicer-dicer-chopper-processor ($10 at the soon to be bankrupt XS Cargo!  Why didn't I own one of these things years ago??)  I put in all the parsley and a bit of garlic and some of Linda's rosemary too.  A nice blend of minced green mixed with some melted butter and olive oil, and I tossed in the parboiled carrots and potatoes.  Added a few generous shakes of a spice blend called "21 Spice Salute" but I'm sure a Mrs. Dash would be just fine too.

Roasted for about 40 minutes at 400F and they were delightful.  I will say that I made two trays -- one "less crowded" as per Jamie Oliver's instructions, and they almost all blackened.  The tray that I crowded steamed a little more, and came out perfect.

Top with feta, and Voila.  My new signature carrot dish.

Recipe (no measurements, as I honestly have no idea LOL):


carrots cut into bite sized pieces
small potatoes cut into bite sized pieces

parsley, minced
one small onion, minced
two or three cloves of garlic, minced
one teaspoon of rosemary
seasoning (I used Trader Joe's 21 Spice Salute, but Mrs. Dash or something like that would work fine, too)
salt and pepper to taste
butter or oil


Cut veggies into bite sized pieces and parboil in water at a rolling boil for about five minutes.  
Drain and toss in the colander to roughen the edges of the veggies.
In the pot, melt some butter or add a few tablespoons of oil and add the minced parsley, onion, garlic, rosemary and seasonings.  Mix well.
Add back the vegetables, toss and coat well, making sure all pieces are coated.
Place in single layer in a roasting pan and bake at 400F uncovered for about 30-40 minutes or until all pieces are soft when you put a fork in it.  If you like them blackened, cook longer or spread them out amongst several pans so they are less crowded.


Thursday, October 9, 2014

Confessions of a pepper hoarder

By Suzanne Taylor, Tree and Twig’s Grimsby correspondent, who really should get out more.

I do not, by and large, watch TV.

I never quite believe anyone who tells me that, as it seems what they mean is that they only watch what they’ve put on their PVR, or Netflix, but for me it’s true. I don’t hate TV, I’m not a snob who eschews such pastimes. I’m just a lady who is on her ninth year of having two jobs, and whose free time is very limited, and had to choose between having time to read and to cook, or to watch TV, and the choice was obvious. 

I suppose I could have eaten Blue Menu frozen dinners for the last five years and caught up on Breaking Bad, but then I wouldn’t have much to write about here. 

However, I haven’t entirely been a hermit in the intervening period.  I’ve seen a little Big Bang Theory, I watched a few old episodes of the X-Files when it came onto Netflix, which I used to love. 

I also watched a bit of Hoarders, although not with any sort of reality TV freak show satisfaction. I watched, sadly, because I had a friend who was a hoarder, and I was trying to understand and see if I could help. Alas, Hoarders only showed me that reality TV stinks and that the price of getting help for your psychiatric disorder that impairs your quality of life is your dignity. To hell with that. 

But, I do have a hoarding problem of my own to tell you about, dear readers. Mine is limited to one specific item, but it is a genuine case of hoarding. 

I hoard…..wait for it…..pimiento peppers. 

I am being serious. 

See, I love peppers, hot and sweet, small and large, thick walled and thin. I grew a lot of them in my garden this year. I even overwintered some in my house last year, and plan to do it again this year since many are still persistently fruiting and flowering on this rainy mid-October night as I write this. I saved seeds from each kind, and I gleefully burned my tongue time and again this summer trying hot ones. We just made another batch of homemade hot sauce which will sit until the deep winter and ferment, get cooked into the best hot sauce you ever had, tangy and rich and roasted.  

But pimiento peppers are the best part of my vegetable year, without question. I don’t think they get a lot of love on the whole; everyone associates them with olives and pimento cheese spread, and that dreadful Paula Deen’s ‘caviar of the south’. But I adore them. They are everything a watery tasteless hydroponic red bell pepper is not; deep and rich and meaty, juicy, perfect for roasting, oozing sweet oily juices when you peel away the skins, and you can even eat the bottoms. They are everything a sweet red pepper really should be; their association as spreads and stuffings obscures their peppery grandeur.  Thankfully many Niagara farmers still grow them anyhow, and I am their most loyal customer. 

Since they only appear in late September/early October for a few weeks at the farmer’s markets, I hoard them like the Hoarders show people hoard unworn jewellery, or newspapers, or expired dairy products. (Or dead cats, for that matter.)

Every week from late August onward, my husband, who tends to do our market runs, asks what I want at market, and he is instructed that he must look for pimiento peppers. As they appear in the market stalls, he brings me home a basket every week, rolling his eyes about how there is no room in the fridge, and how many peppers can I eat, and so on. And I steadfastly ignore him and pat my vegetable drawers, happy that I am awash in pimientos once again. 

(Linda Crago does grow pimientos, in case you were wondering, but I don’t think she realizes quite yet what a lunatic I am on the subject and I was trying to avoid telling her so she doesn’t feel pressured to be my pimiento dealer. I guess my secret’s out now.)

Of course there comes a time where they must be eaten, or all is for naught. I dole them out slowly, added to an omelet here, sliced and eaten raw there, a roasted one or two along the way. But now it’s mid-October, and it’s the last week for the Grimsby market next week, and there are suddenly squash everywhere, and it’s time to savour my peppers so I can remember them the rest of the year without them being crowded out by all of the attention-hogging fall vegetables. 

This recipe for sweet pepper panzanella is perfection for this time of year; to use up these red jewels, as well as your fall tomatoes, your kale (which has, if yours is anything like mine, just recovered from the caterpillar onslaught), your basil which is starting to go seedy. It’s not a typical summertime Caprese-type salad when you add these peppers; with the dark green dinosaur kale that I favour, the slightly less tangy and deeper taste of fall tomatoes, the more licoricey basil, it is the perfect recipe for that in between season, for when you aren’t ready to give up summer, but can’t ignore the fact that the dog slept under the covers all night and that it’s really too cold for sandals in the mornings. It has a depth of flavour and a true late summer/early fall hardiness when you use my beloved pimientos.  It is the perfect dish to guide you into the change of seasons, provided you’re smart like me and hoard your peppers until your fridge bursts.

It may be too late for you to find any pimientos for this year, and I’m sure as hell not giving you any of mine. I’ll have a fall version of this recipe next time I appear on Linda Crago’s blog that will be sadly pimientoless. But maybe, just maybe, if you’re smart and hit the market stalls this Thanksgiving weekend, you can find some, and resurrect summer for a little while with your CSA tomatoes and kale helping you out.  I think that’s a fine way to spend Thanksgiving, myself.

Sweet Pepper Panzanella (based on the Love and Lemons recipe)

  • 4-5 pimiento peppers.
  • olive oil
  • balsamic vinegar
  • pinch of smoked paprika
  • toasted stale bread, rubbed w/ olive oil & garlic
  • 1 cup sliced small tomatoes
  • 1-2 leaves of kale, torn
  • 1/2 cup little mozzarella balls
  • 1/4 cup chunky pickled onions (see below)
  • handful of torn basil
  • salt & pepper

Pickled onions:
  • 1 small red onion, sliced into thick strips
  • white wine vinegar (enough to fill the jar of onions)
  • a few pinches of cane sugar and salt
  1. For the pickled onions: (make in advance) pickle your onions by shaking all ingredients together in a jar. Chill until for at least an hour, or up to days (or weeks, really) in advance.
  2. Slice tomatoes and toss them with a splash of olive oil, a splash of balsamic vinegar, salt, pepper.
  3. Drizzle olive oil on your stale bread and toast (or grill) it until golden. While it's still warm, rub it with a sliced clove of garlic, then slice it into bite sized pieces.
  4. De-seed and slice your peppers into thick strips. Either put your peppers under a broiler until the skins blacken, or put them on the grill.  Remove from heat and allow to cool to touch, remove skins, and then drizzle with balsamic and a pinch of smoked paprika if you wish. 
  5. Toss all salad ingredients together so that the juices from the tomatoes and the peppers create a light dressing. Drizzle with a little more olive oil. Taste, and add more salt and pepper to your liking. Let it sit for at least 10 minutes or so for the bread to soak up the juices. Serve at room temperature.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

CSA Week 15 in pictures

Fall weather is upon us. Some of the summer crops are still hanging on though. No frost is great news! Pictured above are Lemon summer squash and Bennings Green Tint patty pans. One of these, or more was in your basket today.

With Thanksgiving being this weekend, I had to put winter squash in the baskets. Above are Pennsylvania Dutch Crookneck and Thelma Saunder's Sweet Potato.

The garlic crop this year wasn't big. Not the heads of garlic, or the quantity. But it sure is good. Enjoy!
Still some tomatillos too, but I suspect this is the end.

I planted so many carrots this year and they have done so well. The Dragon (purple), Snow White (white) and Scarlet Nantes (orange) are wonderful and there are lots more to come.

The hot peppers have been late in coming, but they have arrived. The brilliant yellow peppers are Aji Limo. Love 'em with that hit of citrus.

Yes, it is sugar beets. Sweet and good to use as you would regular beets. Unless you want to investigate how to make sugar!

Leaf celery makes an appearance again. It's a very strong celery taste that's just great in soups and stews.

 Morelle de Balbis is one of two prickly things in your basket this week. Just eat them as is. But be careful.

Thanksgiving calls for potatoes too. Notice the berries in the picture? They are potato berries, which contain true potato seed. I'll start them next year right around the time I get the tomatoes going.

Jelly melons aka Kiwano melon, or African Horned melon. Yes, this is the other thorny thing. Slice it in half and scoop out the brilliant chartreuse flesh. It's an interesting flavour..a bit of cuke, a bit of....banana?

Bless the tomatoes for carrying on. I imagine I'll have them for several more weeks. The ones in the field are on their way out, but the ones in the hoop houses are happy as can be.

...and mint! This is a different sort of mint, oregano thyme.

Eat your veggies!