Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Guest Blog Post by Mollie.....Life at Tree and Twig

Life at Tree & Twig
This is what life is like at Tree & Twig - at my point of view!
When I wake up we have to walk the dogs. It take about an hour or two. Sometimes the walk is the highlight of my day! By the time I wake up the chores are usually done. We have to look after Joey ,our pigs ,
food! Then the chicken's and duck's food and water! We go over to the field and pick tomatoes some days! Others we stay and pick in our garden! My garden has just been weeded it was a big job! Now I'm finally producing tomatoes, yay!! That's life at Tree & twig!!!

By Mollie.

Monday, July 26, 2010

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

Okay, I am not going to admit I know how this is going to look.
I have set this date aside for a good 6 months, but now-eek-3 weeks to go!
My plan at this time is to keep it simple.
And so good people, if you are interested in trying some VERY good and different tomatoes, lots and lots of varieties, come visit me at Tree and Twig on August 22, 1pm-4pm.
I will have a great selection of tomatoes to taste, there will be a bit of food to snack on, and a little wine to drink. There may be music!
There will be other things to try too. Szechuan buttons maybe, hot peppers, mouse melons and more.
Veggies to buy, particularly tomatoes. Preserves. Some seed. I'm thinking baking too (tomato pies and cakes?) Some super special guests to discuss tomatoes and food with. You can bring your children, please watch them closely around my pond, gardens and sometimes ornery pig.
Perhaps a cooking demonstration!
A garden full of cool things to tour and taste. Comments on weeds are NOT allowed!
There will be a small charge to help me pay for things I must purchase-under $20 per adult, children free. Could be substantially under $20, but I'll go with the worst case scenario.
If folks are interested in coming please email me at Or call 905-386-7388.
If you just show up I won't turn you away, but an idea of numbers is good in terms of helping me with my (last minute-down to the wire) planning. I think 50 folks is my limit,so let me know at your earliest convenience!
Great way to decide what to plant next year and to meet fellow tomato lovers.
Hope to see you here!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Overwhelmed by zucchini, scared of chard?

My experience has been that a lot of folks are put off by chard and overwhelmed at the quantity (perhaps underwhelmed by the taste) of zucchini.
I will admit it. Chard is one of my all time favourite vegetables for so many reasons. Taste, nutrition and ease of growing, as well as the fact it is something I can grow the whole year round.
If you aren't sure, it really is worth trying again.
A simple way to prepare it is to saute it with a bit of olive oil and garlic till wilted. You can also use it in place of spinach in any recipe...great in quiches and frittatas, spaghetti sauces or simply steamed.
If you go back in my blog to a posting on June 30, 2009, you will see a great recipe-an all time favourite- for chard cheese pie. Simple, but very good!
Like many folks, I am having a pretty successful zucchini season to date. Heat and a bit of rain, what's for a zucchini not to love? And now that it is time to get the garlic up,this recipe just fits the bill.

Zucchini(or summer squash) puree

1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 plump moist garlic clove
1 lb zucchini, cut into coarse chunks
Fine sea salt

In a large skillet heat the olive oil over moderate heat until hot. Add garlic and zucchini and brown the zucchini 2-3 minutes. Reduce the heat to low and cook until very soft about 15 minutes more.
Transfer the zucchini and garlic to a food processor or a blender and puree. Taste for seasoning. Serve warm or at room temperature.

( from the book Vegetable Harvest by Patricia Wells)

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Ramblings of a she-farmer.

Being a farmer isn't always just being a farmer.
Sometimes it is being a woman too.
I am not sure what other women's experiences are, but for me it is a challenge.
My husband is not a farmer, despite what most folks think when they come here.
He is a successful businessman, and often a travelling one at that.
He works an hour- plus a bit- away from our home and spends a fair bit of time away for work.
But when he is here, I remain the woman of the house.....and farm.
Women's lib , I love the idea of you, but I think the reality is for most women that we still look after the house and children.
But for me, it is house and children, animals and gardens. I drive the tractor, make the meals and mostly grow the meals too.
It is further complicated I think, by the fact I work here and am my own boss. I don't get a vacation, because when I am on vacation, things don't carry on.
How do you find someone to come in and do what I do? I don't think (I don't mean I am superwoman here) I could afford them! And when you involve the animals, I really have a hard time leaving them.
My family resents the time I put in here a bit. I think it would be easier to be married to someone who did the very same thing as me. My mom and dad were like that. Both teachers by day, but farmers by night. My neighbours are like that. They both work the farm and do what has to be done....together.
Don't get me wrong. My husband is a wonderful man. And he is proud of what I do. But he and my family get a lot less of me because they are not farmers and don't love it the way I do. They like what the result is...but don't love what it takes to get there.
And it is hard work.
It has become what I know now and I don't think retirement the way other folks do.
This is my life.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Mollie makes pickles

My 9 year old daughter Mollie is pickle crazy.
As we drove through Dunnville today her little nose was sniffing the dill emanating from the Bicks plant. Yes, cucumber season is here!
So when we got home we picked a few "picklers" from the garden and Mollie began slicing them to make our own simple pickles.
This recipe was in The Mother Earth News this month. Can't wait to eat 'em.

Non-stop pickles

Slice thin rounds of cucumbers into a dish. Pour rice vinegar, rice wine vinegar or white wine vinegar over the slices until just submerged. Cover and refrigerate and begin eating the next day. Your pickles will increase in tanginess each day.
Add fresh cucumber slices as cucumbers become available, adding enough vinegar to cover each time.
You can also add your favourite seasonings- dill , garlic or hot peppers.
(we added dill and loads of garlic to ours)

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Beguiling Basil !

Wild Basil
Genovese-type "Emily"
Oriental Breeze
African Blue Basil

It seems basils season has hit its' stride.
Restaurants are ordering basil like crazy right now to make up lots of wonderful summery pesto for use later in the season. And that's good. I have lots.
I am growing 4 varieties this year. One is really not particularly edible- the Wild Basil. It's taste is more reminiscent of grass. But that's okay. The flowers are pretty.
The other 3 though, are yummy, each having some unique qualities. I must say, it is hard to determine what to grow. There are SO many fabulous basils out there. But I did whittle it down to 3.
I always like to have a large leaved Genovese type, which is great for pesto. I selected "Emily" for the simple reason it is my eldest daughters' name. It has proven itself, pumping out good large leaves for my own pesto.
Second I am growing for the first time a variety called Oriental Breeze. It is a Fleuroselect winner for its' showy flower heads, but does have a very strong wonderful taste and scent, and is a rapid grower. I would certainly grow it again. The only problem is we are eating and using it so much I haven't given the flower heads a chance to appear. Must do that.
Perhaps my favourite is African Blue. This variety is propagated by cuttings, and is one that I have overwintered successfully by bringing it in in the fall, and taking my cuttings off the mother plant in late winter.
It is stunning visually, with purple markings on the underside of the leaves and it has a very strong camphor taste. I love it! Certainly worth putting on your must-grow list.
And now a pesto recipe!

Basil Pesto

2 cups basil leaves
1/3 cup pine nuts or walnuts
3 medium size cloves of garlic
1/2 cup good quality olive oil
1/2 cup good quality parmesan cheese, grated

I use a Vitamix to grind and blend mine, but any kitchen machine will do.
Add all dry ingredients, drizzle in olive oil and blend well.
Add salt and pepper to taste.
Keeps in fridge for a week or so, or freeze for a winter treat.


Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Saturday morning market

Rat tailed radish
I hope people will decide to stop by sometime this summer, fall and even winter to see what is happening here at Tree and Twig.
And summer it is!
The produce you can expect to find if you come out this Saturday is truly starting to look like summer goodies.
Zucchini and summer squash, peppers, tons of salad mix, lots of greens like kales, chards and collards. I'm going to pull out some fresh garlic, there is lots of lovely different basils, dill, perhaps even a few tomatoes, peppers and eggplants. How about rat tailed radishes, beets too!
My sister will be producing my pies- fresh raspberry and blueberry as well as muffins. Really wonderful....we're all gaining a little bit of weight with all the desserts. But, life is short. Eat pie!
I have preserve -wise 2010 strawberry and strawberry -rhubarb jam, as well as freshly made raspberry jam. This is made from my own organic fruit. Also Bee Baron honey-from right around the corner.

If you wish , I can put together a Veg basket for you, reminiscent of my CSA days.
I'll have my own eggs as well. But if you want eggs, you have to come early. They always sell out...sorry. The girls need to lay a bit faster!
I'm also making multi grain bread. If you come early enough it will still be nice and warm from the oven....and Veggieville (my veg stand name) will smell delish!
Hope to see folks make the trek out. And because it's here, if I sell out of veggies, the garden is closeby. You can't get fresher than that!

Monday, July 12, 2010

One Healthy Weed

Times are tough here on the farm.

While Tiffany is dining at Tony de Luca's fab restaurants, attending Farm to Table events, and scarfing down some hoity toity pizza , I have been getting hungry.

City folk and country folk just don't live the same at all.

As I weeded the garden after the great rain we had on Friday, I spied it.


Purslane is a sign of a good, rich soil, but it also is a great edible... dare I say it... weed! You can buy seed for cultivated Purslanes, which I have grown.

There is a lovely golden one and the more standard green. The cultivated varieties do have larger leaves, but in reality, have nothing at all on the regular "weed."

Purslane is a succulent, full of the important Omega-3 fatty acid alpha linolenic. It is terrifically good for you. Also very easy to find. You certainly don't have to forage far.

Tree and Twig, for example, has a good supply.

Here is a recipe to enhance your find:

Purslane Salad

1 small onion, chopped. Soak in salt water.
2 cups chopped purslane
1 large chopped tomato
Drain onions and mix all ingredients together.
Dress with 1 tablespoon of oil, 2 tsp vinegar.
(recipe is from the fabulous book"Simply in Season," which is commissioned by the Mennonite Central Committee. I found my copy at Ten Thousand Villages.)

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Cool things in the garden

Well, it looks like a good year in the garden and I am happy. My husband says I never am happy with the garden . It is either too hot, to cold, too wet or too dry. There are too many bugs, weeds or mystery deaths. But this could be the year.
When the family deserted me today for their regular dose of retail therapy (not my cup of tea), I took a little stroll and yanked a few weeds.
The saltwort, pictured above is coming nicely. In another few weeks it will be the size of a little bush. It is the only veg I know that has a salty taste - goes well with fish and lemon my fish eating friends tell me. I like it in salad. it is a succulent so it adds a nice textural change.
Ahh, the "Filus Blue" pepper. So pretty and only mildly hot. I purchased seed for this because I thought it would be a nice ornamental and it sure is. But the colour lends itself very well to jazzing up certain dishes. I'm going to dig this up in the fall and bring it inside in a pot. I really like it
On to the Huckleberries. It won't be long now. It does look like a good crop coming along. This annual fruit is one my mom grew for as long as I can remember. I never liked it. But I do now!
It does make a nice pie and tart, also a pleasant fruit sauce. Mom knew best. Wow, I am so much like my mom now. That is a good thing.
Mouse melons are just such a funny little fruit. These tiny vines are climbing up a small trellis and have tiny little flowers right now. What those little flowers turn into is small 1" long fruit that look like tiny watermelons, and have a sourish, already pickled taste. Major cool.

This is the first day I realized I had melons developing already. This one is my favourite-Minnesota Midget. It is about 3-4 " in diameter, and really just perfect for a single serving. It has a sweet and yummy orange flesh and produces very well. There should be lots. I just love melons fresh from the garden. Imported melons should be outlawed.
And finally, to the Cape Gooseberries. These babies are native to Peru and do need a long growing season. Hey- Wellandport must be Canada's Peru, cause they seem to do well here. I start my seed indoors in March and in September the harvest is on.
I LOVE this fruit and when I pick them, I eat as many as drop into the basket. They are a larger, bright orange husk fruit, with a tangy tropical taste. I like ground cherries, well, just okay. These, in my mind are better.
Now to ripen all these wonderful fruits and veggies. Good eating is ahead!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Chef Mark Picone

When I first started selling my vegetables some 13 years ago in CSA fashion, I heard other growers I encounter talk about the difficulty of dealing with chefs. You know. The tempers, the egos, the...well....cheapness. They wouldn't pay, they wouldn't buy from you reliably, so you really couldn't make any money.
I thought that was really something I needed to avoid. After a career as a social worker dealing with difficult people, I just didn't need it. Been there and done that. I just wanted to feel the love.
I guess the thing is, no matter what you do, it isn't always right for everybody. I had people join the CSA and love it, and some didn't find it fit their needs or lifestyle.
What I have found out is that chefs are really not that horrible or difficult, and some of them are actually just darn nice people.
Pictured above inspecting the greens with students from Niagara College is Mark Picone. He is one darn nice guy.
We have things in common, he and I. He grew up in Dundas. I grew up not far from there, and went to high school in the Valley Town.
I often remember popping into his family's specialty food store in Dundas and buying some delectable treats. Amazing quality. It is still there.
Mark is always enthused when I talk to him. He is a professor at Niagara College in the Culinary Arts program, but also operates an exclusive culinary studio for intimate meals at his country home in Vineland.
He was for years the executive chef at Vineland Estates Winery in Niagara. Mark is an extremely talented and knowledgeable chef.
He often will send along an email asking if I know of a certain fruit, vegetable or even edible flower. So the search begins to find seed for it and see if I can grow it. Sometimes it works! To wit: this year I have Schezuan Buttons! But that, of course , is another story. (NOT what Mark expected, but a curiosity all the same).
He loves walking through the garden, tasting and commenting, always imaging how he can use whatever he finds that he enjoys. His enthusiasm for what he does stands out.
But really from my point of view, his respect for what I do honours me and humbles me. We learn from each other and it has become a relationship that I value greatly.
If you are in Niagara, or planning a visit soon, book a visit to Mark well in advance.
Be prepared for the meal of a lifetime. And an amazing education!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Things I have Learned this Year

This has really been a year of learning for me.
Some things I am learning about are not really things I have ever wanted to know, but by necessity I am learning.
I am, like everyone, really much more than what I do. Most people know me because of my garden and the things I grow.
And some of the things I have learned this year are garden related, whereas many are not.
So in the garden these are the things I believe to be true.
It seems to me that red chard, often called rhubarb chard , is much more susceptible to leaf miners.
I also know that despite what I have read to the contrary, my planting rows need to be filled with my best compost with seed sunk into them for them to germinate the best possible in my clay soil. Tomatoes should be watered very little. Potatoes planted after July 1 do well and have no potato bugs.
I know now and should have always known I have to stop beating myself up when the crops don't do well because of the weather. Things look good this year-but haven't always.
I know nothing is idiot proof or fool proof in the garden. Ever.
My friend whose main crop has always been potatoes is having the worst potato year ever. I just read a magazine title screaming about how anyone can grow potatoes. Always works. doesn't always. Do it enough years and it won't. Some things are beyond your control.

I've also learned in my other life as a parent, about Colitus and Crohns disease . I've learned about colonoscopies, about Prednisone and Prednisone tapering. I've now encountered for the first time in my life, a life threatening condition called Septicemia. I've held and hugged my 22 year old daughter more in the last two months as she has struggled through all these things. Things I wish she knew nothing of, but she does and she needs to carry on...she has goals she wants to achieve.
When I am in the garden, my head is full of all these things. I think about the kindness and competence of the people whom I have encountered. The friends, I didn't expect to be there, but are.
If you see me in the garden on a Saturday night, when no one is around, just quietly handweeding or watering, I am relaxing and thinking. That's how I know what I do is the right thing for me. I can still turn to it when I am feeling overwhelmed and it slows me down and calms me. There is peace in the garden, and I can find it there.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Top 10 ways I am different from you because I grow food for a living.

1) The weather really can make or break my day....or season.

2) I have a whole chest freezer devoted to wonderful vegetable seed storage. No food. Yet.

3) I work outside all day, pretty much everyday. I really love it.

4) The smaller an item, the more it seems I can sell it for. The bigger things...not so much.

5) I talk to really cool chefs every week. One of the perks of the job. Some are cute.

6) I eat my work. So does my family. This is the best part of the job.

7) I don't make minimum wage. But if I hire someone, they do.

8) I have a tractor. I know how to use it.

9) I don't dress up for work. My clothes are well used.

10) When I shower I am really dirty.