Tuesday, August 30, 2016

CSA Week 12 and Summer Tomato Panzanella

This summer has had it's highs and lows, like every other season, every other year.

But some lows have been very low.

One such very sad event has been the passing earlier this month of long time seed saver and gardener Brian Calvert. If you have attended the Seedy Saturdays I organize over the years, you may remember Brian quite well.

Brian managed my seed exchange table for me at Seedy Saturday and perhaps you remember a conversation with him. He came well supplied with seed he had saved from his garden, all labelled and ready to share, and he eagerly told the story of the seed.

Brian was also an avid naturalist, animal rights defender and could tell stories with the best of them. A retired math professor from Brock, he kept his days busy and was known by many.  I think of the many conversations we had, and the many, many events we attended because of common interests.

You will be missed Brian.  I am sure your garden overfloweth.

It is nice to have had a bit of rain lately, but some of it, it seems, is localized to my area.
Good thing too.
I've just planted beans, a long shot I know. Why not though? I've heard two versions of the fall weather, the first being extra mild weather for September and October, and the other that we should brace for snow in early October. So, I choose to go with the first, and have planted 2 types of beans that are supposed to mature in 43 days. Will I be picking beans in October? I doubt it, but why not try?
The other things I have planted are turnips, kohlrabi, and arugula. I expect them to do something. Lettuce too of course, but it seems to have trouble sprouting because yes, the ground is still very dry.

The tomatoes keep coming, yes they do. Todays shares included 3 quarts, lots of different sizes, shapes and colours. Beans of some sort (lima, edamame or cowpea), summer squash, peppers hot and sweet, swiss chard, lettuce, garlic, beets (some of them monster sugar beets) and a smattering of herbs.

What to do with all those tomatoes? My paper, The Hamilton Spectator provide a great recipe tonight, so as originally printed in The Washington Post, this recipe is by Tim Carmen.

Summer Tomato Panzanella

3 cups torn sourdough bread-8 ox loaf
1/4 cup olive oil
2 1/4 lbs heirloom tomatoes, bite sized pieces
1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp garlic
1 Tbsp minced shallot
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
freshly cracked black pepper
10 fresh basil leaves

Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Arrange bread on baking sheet, drizzle with half of the oil, toss to coat.
Bake for 15 minutes, until bread is dried, but not browned.
Place tomatoes in colander, sprinkle with salt and let them sit for 20 minutes, tossing gently every few minutes
Transfer the tomatoes to a serving bowl, along with bread. toss.Reserve the tomato juices in their bowl, add garlic, shallots and vinegar to the juices and whisk in remaining tbsp of oil. Season with salt and pepper and pour over tomato bread mixture. Scatter basil over salad and serve immediately.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

CSA Week 11 and Life on the Farm

A bit of rain came, a few weeds grew and I enjoyed my company immensely the last few weeks. Now Sherry has returned to BC, and Izabell to New Brunswick and I realize that I have to buckle down a bit, do a bit of weeding and seeding and pick all those tomatoes by myself.
When in Niagara....

It has been so nice the last few evenings, with the temperature dropping down and finally a bit of relief from the scorching temperatures and the intense humidity.

My sweet boy Bandit cooling off

Indeed when I think back on this summer, I certainly will remember it as the driest I have experienced in the garden, and one of the hottest to work in.

In a nutshell, it has been a lot of hard work to keep things alive and growing. It certainly has been the talk of growers; the drought, the failures and the exhaustion.

In most cases I have succeeded, but not in all.  But there has been a lot of food, and there still is lots in the garden, although some fall crops have not done as well as they should have.

The ground has some nice moisture in it now from our recent rains, and I will be planting more lettuce mix, turnips, fall radishes with coloured flesh, arugula and mustards this week, and hopefully harvesting them in a month or so.

I really enjoyed having my CSA people out last week! Thanks to those of you who came out, and thanks to those of you who responded to my invite. It was great to show people the gardens, and what I have been working on since-wow- as early as January, when I seeded some of the ultra hot peppers. What a great group of people, and I really enjoyed chatting with you.

Percy has the crowd under control

Today's baskets included: tomatoes, sweet and hot peppers, onions, garlic, beans of some sort-either fresh or shelling, carrots, radishes, ground cherries, NZ spinach, zucchini or summer squash and a whole bunch of herbs. Rosemary, thyme, basil, broadleaf thyme, mint (mojito), parsley. There might be something else I can't think of right now.

Yes, my friends...the tomatoes will keep on coming for the foreseeable future and it appears most of you are good with that, some of you even picking up extra ones at my CSA night here.

On the weekend, I made freezer salsa with some of my tomatoes. You can find the recipe I used here, but I did modify it to exclude the sugar and coriander, and I used the apple cider version. It is superb, but mine was very hot, and I had the unfortunate experience of splashing some in my eye while I was stirring it while it simmered. Advisable not to do this.

Or try this, from Smitten Kitchen
Scalloped Tomatoes with Croutons

3 tablespoons olive oil 
2 cups bread from a French boule, in a 1/2-inch dice, crusts removed 
2 1/2 pounds  whatever good tomatoes you’ve got, cut into 1/2-inch dice
3 cloves garlic, minced (about 1 tablespoon)
2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons Kosher salt 
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup thinly slivered basil leaves, lightly packed
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese or vegan alternative
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Heat olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high. Add the bread cubes and stir so that they are evenly coated with oil. Cook cubes, tossing frequently, until toasty on all sides, about 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, combine tomatoes, garlic, sugar, salt and pepper in a large bowl. When the bread cubes are toasted, add the tomato mixture and cook them together, stirring frequently, for 5 minutes. Remove from heat, and stir in the basil. Pour into a shallow (6 to 8 cup) baking dish and top with Parmesan cheese. Bake 35 to 40 minutes until the top is browned and the tomatoes are bubbly. Serve hot or warm with a big green salad, a bean salad and/or a poached egg from a happy chicken.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Guest Post -- Week 2 -- Epic Reunion

Well, it is week two of a reunion of three old friends.  East and west meeting in the centre (pretty much).  We have spent the last 10 days or so laughing, talking, catching up on things that have happened in our lives.  It's been 38 years since we have been together in the same room, so some of the details might have been left out.  We have also been picking vegetables, weeding and gaining some insight into what life is like on a farm.  It's a lot of hard work.  Especially when the summer has been as dry as this year summer has been.

The best part of these two weeks of reuniting - besides just hanging out with dear friends - is the experience of eating what we pick.  Fresh greens, fresh tomatoes (of course), beets, peppers, onions - you name it, we're pretty much eating it.  For me, a meat-eater, eating "vegan" has been a new experience.  And surprisingly, a very nice experience and one I hope to incorporate into part of my meal routine when I get back home.

Linda has a number of CSA customers and part of what we have done this week and last, is help her  prepare the CSA baskets.  This week's bounty included: tomatoes, hot & sweet peppers, edamame beans, carrots/okra, Malabar & New Zealand spinach, garlic, summer squash, radishes, basil, parsley, sage, celery and ground cherries.  A veritable feast for the taste buds.

Last evening she hosted a garden tour for her customers. The long-awaited rain came and went.  (It wasn't nearly enough.)  The sun came out and we were treated to a sunny, lovely evening.  Afterwards, we gathered to chat and snack on dips and crackers.

Below are three of my recipes, two from last evening and one, a family favourite, which also happens to be a Hungarian recipe.

Basil Lemonade                                    

1/2 cup rinsed, lightly packed fresh basil
3 TBSP sugar
4 cups water
Juice of one lemon
Lemon slices

Combine basil and sugar in a small dish.  With a wooden spoon, crush the leaves with the sugar until "bruised" or pasty.
Mix lemon juice and water in a pitcher, add the basil-sugar mixture.  Stir well.  Let sit to fully infuse. Pour through a strainer into glass or another pitcher.
You may wish to add lemon slices to the pitcher or glasses while serving.  Serve chilled.


This is a tried and true family favourite in our house and I am sure in the houses of many Hungarian families.  It is versatile as you na service it over rice, mashed potatoes, or mixed with eggs as part of a breakfast meal.  You can service it without meat, with bacon or with tofu as we have been having this week.  (A spicy, firm tofu works best if that is the route you choose.)

Tomatoes, sliced / diced (which ever is easiest)
Sweet peppers (pale yellow ones works best)  sliced length-wise, seeds removed
Onions, sliced lengthwise
Hungarian paprika (Sweet, smoked or hot - whichever you prefer)
1 TBSP Olive Oil

Saute the onions in oil.  Throw in the tomatoes and peppers, saute until slightly softened.

That's it.

If you choose it for  breakfast meal, you can break and egg or two into it just before it is done.

Beet Hummus

2 cups of cooked chickpeas, drained
1 cup of cooked, diced beets (white), drained
lime juice & lemon juice (about 1/4 cup of each)
1/2 tsp cumin
1 tsp dijon mustard (or honey mustard
2 tsp tahini (or to taste)
sea salt & pepper to taste

Put all ingredients into a blender and process until the texture is smooth.

This hummus has only a mild beet flavour and was well-received by those who tried it.

** This recipe was modified because we didn't have all the ingredients the recipe called for, so you'll want to season to your own taste.


Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Quick Tomato Basil Pasta

While your organic pasta is boiling, whip several cups of tomatoes with four garlic cloves, fresh basil, cayenne, salt & pepper in a high powered blender until mixed but still chunky. Taste to ensure the right balance. Pour into a sauce pan and heat to encourage thickening. Add tin of drained organic cannellini or garbanzo beans. Drain pasta and toss with olive oil, crushed garlic, salt & pepper. Coat with sauce. Grate fresh parmigiana or nutritional yeast and enjoy! (I think this took me 20 minutes from start to finish!!) Side salad and some bruschetta completed this meal. 

Guest post:Roasted Broccoli & Cheese Quinoa Salad

Thanks to Trish who is in my CSA for the following recipe.

 Organic broccoli, washed and rough cut
Avocado oil
Himalayan salt
Fresh black pepper

Lightly drizzle broccoli with oil and toss with salt & pepper. Roast at 325 until still slightly crisp. Cool. 

1 cup organic quinoa, rinsed
2 cups water
1/2 vegan stock cube

Boil covered until cooked. Cool and add broccoli. Chop 2-3 mild green onions and add them. 

Cashew cheese sauce:

Soak raw cashews (about 1/2 cup) in fresh water for a minimum of 4 hours, drain*
Nutritional yeast (about 1/2 cup but be generous as this makes the cheesy flavour)
Fresh lemon juice (1 tblsp)
Garlic cloves (2-3) 
Himalayan salt to taste
Cayenne (6 shakes) 
Turmeric (5 shakes)

Mix cheese ingredients in a high powered blender with a little water until smooth. Taste and adjust accordingly.  Pour enough over broccoli & quinoa to coat. Make final taste adjustments, chill and enjoy! 

*Soaking the cashews makes a smoother sauce but I've also whipped up this quick salad without soaking and loved every mouthful. 

Guest Post: A Reunion

Thirty eight years ago, three young women, Linda, Izabel and Sherry met during their first year of university. Facebook helped us reconnect about five years ago, and we soon started talking about a reunion. A few years of dreaming became reality yesterday as Izabel from New Brunswick and I from BC arrived at Twig and Tree farm. We're here for two weeks to help Linda pick whatever is ripe and battle the weeds. And talk.

When you're talking about disco dancing, and professors you remember, and pub crawls you went on, and the fun you're going to have together in the coming weeks, picking 100 lbs of tomatoes goes by before you know it.

Linda is a vegan, and Izabel and I are not. But we came prepared to cook for the family, armed with our own favourite recipes that also happen to be vegan. One of my favourite meals is Mutter Paneer, a northern Indian dish traditionally made with green peas and a firm mild cheese called paneer. Tomatoes, onions and a few spices are simmered into a wonderfully rich gravy. Substitute tofu for paneer and the dish becomes vegan. Use chick peas if you don't like tofu. This dish is very mildly spicy, but if you don't like heat, omit the chili pepper and/or cayenne. If you've never tried cooking Indian food, this is a fast, easy place to start.

Prep time: 15 mins
Cook time: 15 mins
Serves: 4 (easy to double)

The recipe has two steps: making a paste of tomatoes onions and spices, then simmering it for 15 minutes. In step two, you add a few more spices and the peas and tofu or cheese. Then you're done.

Step 1: Make the paste

3 medium sized ripe tomatoes, roughly chopped
1 medium to large onion, roughly chopped
1 or 2 small green chilies, chopped (jalapeño or serrano work well)
1/2 inch fresh ginger, chopped
2-3 garlic cloves, chopped
2 tbsp roughly chopped coriander (omit if you don't like this)
10 to 12 whole cashews
5 black peppercorns
2 cloves
1/2 inch cinnamon stick
1 tsp coriander seeds

Blend all these ingredients until smooth.

Step 2:

Assemble the rest of your ingredients

250 to 300 grams paneer or tofu
1 cup green peas
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1/4 tsp turmeric
1/4 tsp cayenne
1/4 tsp garam masala
1/2 tsp sugar, if needed
a few coriander leave for garnish
salt, to your taste

Heat about 1 tbsp oil in a frying pan over medium high heat. Add the 1/2 tsp cumin seeds and saute until they splutter.

Lower the heat to medium low and add the tomato/onion paste. Simmer for 10-12 minutes until the oil separates from the paste. The paste will sputter while you're cooking, so have a lid handy to partially cover the pan if it sputters too much. Don't fully cover the pan or you'll have watery sauce. Medium thick is what you're aiming for.

Add all the dry spice powders - turmeric, cayenne & garam masala. Stir well.

If your sauce is too thick, add a little water, and the amount of salt you like. Taste and decide if you want to add the sugar. Add the peas, paneer or tofu and simmer until warmed through.

Boom, you're done. Serve over rice, or with Naan bread. Garnish with a little fresh cilantro, if you like it. So good. Enjoy.

Now the important part of this post is done (food!) please enjoy a few photos taken over the last few days from this beautiful farm.

Ruby, who just wants to eat cat food.

A warm welcome.  That's me under all the blankets and Ellie waiting for me to get up


Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Guest post Recipe for Red Curry Vegetables

Thanks to Dina for sending along this yummy sounding recipe to use up some of that zucchini that is floating around out there!

Red Curry Vegetables

1 tablespoon red Thai curry paste, plus more if needed
3 tablespoons extra-virgin coconut oil or extra-virgin olive oil
1 large onion, chopped 
4-5 small yellow summer squash or zucchini, cut into 3/4-inch chunks
2 large russet potatoes, peeled, cut into tiny cubes
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 cup lightly flavored vegetable broth
1 can coconut milk
Fine-grain sea salt, to taste

-Mash the curry paste into the coconut oil until the paste is well-incorporated.  Heat this paste in a large skillet over medium heat until fragrant, about 1 minute
-Stir in the onions and a couple of pinches of salt and sauté until tender, 5 minutes
-Add garlic, cook another minute
-Stir in the squash, zucchini and potatoes and cook until the squash starts to get tender, a few minutes
-Add the broth and coconut milk. Bring just to a boil, then lower the heat to a gentle simmer, stirring occasionally, until the potatoes are tender, about 15 minutes. 
-Taste and adjust the seasoning, adding more salt or curry paste, if needed. Serve over rice.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

CSA Week 8 and Life on the Farm

Hot and dry, hot and dry.
That pretty much sums it up.
This time of year I would usually be planting new seeds as soon as I have harvested in a certain area. But I have hesitated this year because getting seeds to pop has been it's own challenge. So the area I dug the garlic from sits and waits, until the forecast looks pretty clear about rain, then I will put in more seed.
Some I will hold off on until the month of September rolls around though. That's when I like to plant arugula as the flea beetles will hopefully have vacated, watermelon radishes and turnips. They grow much better in the cooler weather and I hope by then we are having regular rains.
In the meantime, the garden is producing reasonably well. The tomatoes are coming on, which always makes me happy and the hot dry weather is making them super sweet.
Here are a few veg and garden pictures:

One of my new favourites-Mount Vesuvius
Yup..it's growing.
The malabar spinach is loving the heat
One of the Darbys-Darby Striped Yellow Green
Poona Kheera Cucumber
Ruby checking things out
The baskets were pretty full today. There are many more varieties of tomatoes ripening, a quart was in the shares today, as well as cut lettuce, basils, kale or chard, peppers, beans (if you like them), golden beets, zucchini or summer squash, cucumbers and ground cherries. There may have been more as well.
Although there was no malabar spinach in the shares today, it will reappear. I would like to share a recipe idea that a shareholder sent along to me for when you see it again. The recipe is for a curry using the spinach and you can find it here
Happy eating y'all.