Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Week 3 Spring CSA basket..more mustards!


  • Ha, ha. 
  • Madame Weather has done it again. Last week we sweltered in the unusual heat, last night it froze.
  • I mean really froze. 
  • Surprisingly, there was even frost damage to some tender young growth in the hoop houses. 
  • What can you do?
  • Ha. 
  • Ha.
It changes a few things for sure, but on we go.

In the CSA baskets today, again find a good dose of mustard greens in many forms. 
Want to know a bit more about them?  I wrote a post a while back if you'd like some background info...read here

  • Green Wave mustard, Giant Red mustard, purple mizuna, mispoona, sylvetta arugula, garlic greens,green onions, chard,sorrel,thyme, and a nip of catnip (for cat or tea) rounds out the baskets.
  • I was happy to find this soup recipe, which I've adapted somewhat to fit the contents of your basket. It's yummy.
  • And it's soup weather again!

  • Chard, Mustard Green and Potato Soup

  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cups onions, greens and all
  • 2 pounds potatoes, peeled, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 8 cups water
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper

  • 1/2 cup garlic greens
  • 1 bunch mustard greens (about 12 ounces), stems trimmed, leaves coarsely chopped
  • 1 bunch chard

  • Sour cream

Heat 2 tablespoons oil in heavy large pot over medium heat. Add onion and sauté until tender and golden, about 8 minutes. Add potatoes; sauté 3 minutes. Add 8 cups water and crushed red pepper. Bring to boil. Reduce heat. Simmer until potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat remaining 2 tablespoons oil in another heavy large pot over medium heat. Add garlic greens; sauté until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add mustard greens and chard leaves; sauté until wilted, about 3 minutes.
Add sautéed greens to potato mixture. Working in batches, purée soup in blender until smooth. (Can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cool. Cover and refrigerate.) Return soup to pot. Bring to simmer, thinning with more water, if desired. Season soup to taste with salt and pepper.
Cut remaining 1 cup spinach leaves into 1/3-inch-wide slices. Ladle soup into bowls. Add dollop of sour cream to each bowl

Adapted by me! from- http://www.epicurious.com:80/recipes/food/views/Spinach-Mustard-Green-and-Potato-Soup-5883#ixzz1qLei75Tw

Darwin navigates to the big city drop off.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Seeding tomatoes

Seeds are designed by nature to grow.

Inside each seed is a plant in embryo form, whose purpose is to grow and produce more seed to continue the story of that particular plant species.

Amazing isn't it? I love seeds. Little packages of miracles.

Now the weather has turned back from being summer-like to much more March-like, it makes me realize that instead of panicking because I'm late with things, I'm actually right on time.

End of March and early April is tomato seeding time.

I actually started some of mine far earlier, so I will have nice large plants to put in my hoop house in April. June tomatoes are my goal and with the lovely Czechoslovakian heirloom variety "Stupice" this is within my reach. Stupice is typically 50-60 days days to maturity from transplanting.

Regardless of when I plant my tomatoes, I do them all the same way.

In this part of Southern Ontario, we are able to get tender warm weather crops into the ground around the long weekend in May. The goal is to  get tomatoes into the ground when they are 6-8 week on in growth.

So, counting back 6-8 weeks from May 24th puts us at ....now!

You can mix your own seeding medium, and include such materials as perlite, vermiculite, compost, peat moss and perhaps even a little nutrient addition. This is what I'll do when I "retire", and garden as a hobby only.
As for now I purchase a nice light soil-less mix, designed specifically for seeding. Heavy mixes, or garden soil, when watered don't allow sufficient oxygen to get to the roots.

I put my seeding medium into a large bucket, add hot water to moisten and loosely mound the medium into my planting containers. Why hot water? Well, I find it mixes better, my hands like it better because it's warm, but most importantly I think the seeds prefer  being placed in warm soil, instead of being plunged into an icy mix.  Especially tomatoes, and other heat loving seeds like peppers and eggplants.

What containers to use? I use and reuse my plastic cell trays. I use trays with 200 cells, because I plant so many varieties, but any plastic container will do, including yogourt tubs, or whatever you have. Just put holes in the bottom to ensure good drainage. And don't pack the soil in, keep it loose and light.

With your finger, make a slight impression in the soil. The general rule for planting seeds is to plant at a depth that is 2-3 times a seeds width.

Pop a seed or two in each impression, and pull the soil up over the seed, giving it a light pat to ensure good soil to seed contact. Use a spray bottle to moisten your seed plantings, again using warm water. But don't saturate it!

The seeds you have planted have sufficient nutrients contained within to get safely to germination, so there is no need to fertilize at this stage.

Cover the container with a humidity dome, or a home fashioned one. Put your planting container in a clear plastic bag, placing popsicle sticks in your planted container to prop up the plastic.
I put these seeded flats and pots under my grow lights, as close to the lights as they can be.
You can get away with south facing windows, but your plants will reach for the lights, and if you are not careful, will become tall and spindly.

Watch closely- germination should take about 3-7 days. If there are any signs of fungal growth, get the bag or humidity dome off right away, and rub the fungus out with your fingers. Remove the plastic for good when you see that the majority of your seeds have sprouted.
The first set of leaves you see are the cotyledons. Any time after you see the first true set of leaves, that is those appearing after the cotyledons, you can think about transplanting. I usually wait until there is even more growth, a good 3 weeks later.

I again fill the pot I intend to put the tomato seedling into with a nice warm soil-less mix, the same mix I've used for seeding. The pot is loosely filled, and I gently nip off all the lower leaves of the plants between my fingernails. I make a deep hole in the soil in my pot, and put the tomato in deep, so that only the top of the plant is above the soil. I pack the soil carefully around the plant and water with a good diluted kelp solution. I like Mr Kelpman.

Cha, cha cha...you're a tomato seeding super star!

Stay tuned for thoughts on getting your tomatoes in the ground in the coming weeks!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

(It's really) Spring CSA-week 2

Must be spring-the crocuses are out.

It's officially spring!

I love spring. But today was a tad bit more summer-like than spring like.

I should have been cozy and comfy in my corduroy pants while picking your greens in the hoop house.
But I was hot. Sweaty, stinky and frizzy- haired hot.

Weird weather we're having.

It is most definitely affecting the crops. I must say I am enchanted by the delightful smell in the hoop houses. Perfume-y. What's that, you say?
It is in fact the sweet smell of crops flowering and going to seed.

About a month ahead of time.

Some of todays offerings-a sea of green!
It's hard to say how much longer some of the winter crops can hold on. Happily though, some spring ones are coming up right behind them.

In todays baskets there were many greens. Are you turning green yet?

Several varieties of arugula, escarole, many varieties of mustard greens, chinese greens and garlic greens.

If you bite into the garlic thinking it's scallions, you'll be in for a wee surprise.
If I had left these immature garlic plants, they would turn into a good solid head of garlic, each and every one.
But we need the garlic flavour as long in the season as possible. So for now, it's fresh green garlic, then it will just be the greens, sans the bulb, then the scapes, then the garlic bulbs themselves.
Garlic. The plant that keeps on giving!

You'll notice several varieties of the mustards have tiny broccoli like heads.
Well, I guess we all have heads, some of us bigger than others.
The broccoli you see in the store is quite simply a seed head which, if left on the plant, will produce flowers, then seeds.
Other plants follow this cycle as well.
So years ago, it made sense to me to harvest these plants in the same manner. Chinese greens are superb for this purpose, with a nice thick crunchy stem, and small tight seed head.
This is how I have harvested the Ching Chang Choy that is in your baskets.
Delish in a stir fry!

Here's a good recipe for using up the tangy arugula....enjoy!

(from Simply Recipes Website)

Arugula Pesto Recipe


  • 2 cups of packed arugula leaves, stems removed
  • 1/2 cup of shelled walnuts
  • 1/2 cup fresh Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 6 garlic cloves, unpeeled
  • 1/2 garlic clove peeled and minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt


1 Brown 6 garlic cloves with their peels on in a skillet over medium high heat until the garlic is lightly browned in places, about 10 minutes. Remove the garlic from the pan, cool, and remove the skins.
2 Toast the nuts in a pan over medium heat until lightly brown, or heat in a microwave on high heat for a minute or two until you get that roasted flavor. In our microwave it takes 2 minutes.
3a Food processor method (the fast way): Combine the arugula, salt, walnuts, roasted and raw garlic into a food processor. Pulse while drizzling the olive oil into the processor. Remove the mixture from the processor and put it into a bowl. Stir in the Parmesan cheese.
3b Mortar and pestle method: Combine the nuts, salt and garlic in a mortar. With the pestle, grind until smooth. Add the cheese and olive oil, grind again until smooth. Finely chop the arugula and add it to the mortar. Grind up with the other ingredients until smooth.
Because the pesto is so dependent on the individual ingredients, and the strength of the ingredients depends on the season or variety, test it and add more of the ingredients to taste.
Serve with pasta, over freshly roasted potatoes, or as a sauce for pizza.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Summer in March, and what to plant?

Wow, wow and wow. 

It's hard to know what to be doing these days.

One day I'm stoking my fire to fight off a damp chill in my house, the next I'm throwing open all the doors and windows and welcoming a warm summer-like breeze into the house to revive my spirits.

As a grower, I'm trying to juggle a whole bunch of seasons at once. 

Winter crops are fading

There are beautiful little dry-enough patches of land that are all set for planting. But indoors, it's time to get the tomatoes (ad infinitum) seeded.  Hundreds of tomato varieties, categorized by colour, then planted within their category in alphabetical order. Somewhat of a logistical nightmare I tell folks. And it's true.
"Tomato Days" cometh
But it never fails to be exciting. I have some amazing "new to me" varieties this year, from all over the place with the most wonderful stories. Can't wait to see them...and taste them!

Hot peppers can take lots longer to germinate than sweet!
The eggplants and peppers are done, and up nicely for the most part, with some of the super hots lagging behind in germination as they are prone to do.

But outside, what can be planted now?

I have no doubt there will be some return to the chill of spring and continuing temperature fluctuations.

So it needs to be cool weather crops all the way.

I've planted my first peas this week, and a number of varieties of radishes. I've got lots of lettuces seeded in the hoop houses, but it can most definitely go outside as well. I've started a zillion different brassicas and chards that are ready for transplanting now, as well as head lettuce. 
So kales, chards, greens of every sort can get into the ground. 

But I won't plant any mustard greens or arugula now. The flea beetles have returned, and that is a most certain guarantee of little hole-filled leaves of these plants. So not till the fall for them.

I'm going to soak some beet seeds to plant, but I'll divide up my planting methods. Some I'll direct seed in the garden, but others I'll sow in either soil blocks or 200 cell trays and grow them on in the hoop house, until they are large enough to plant out. 
A race to the finish..which ones will grow best? That's the fun of gardening-we'll see!

I'll also get in some nice little Paris Market carrots, the cute little rolly-poly ones. 
Scallions too, although my Walking onions are shooting up their lovely greens now, and there is no onion shortage at all. 
How the heck did they get themselves planted throughout my flower gardens? And for that matter, why is there garlic everywhere too?
Strange things are happening.

And the growing season? Who knows-but it sure appears to be starting early!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Our food is disappearing-do you know?

Heirlooms may be trendy, but they are so much more than that. Read a superb article that appeared in The National Geographic in July 2011 here about the importance of heirlooms and the tragic story of varieties of food lost forever.

CSA baskets for March 13

I suppose it does seem a little odd starting a CSA season in March.
What actually is growing right now?

Well if you received a CSA basket from me today it is clearly a buffet of greens!

Some of these crops were planted last year...last September and October to be a tiny bit more precise, whereas others were planted in what should have been the deep chill of winter in January.

These are winter crops that are finishing up in the hoop houses, and will be replaced within a month's time by some other spring crops like radishes, onions and summer crops such as the early tomatoes.

The weather being unseasonably mild may make me reconsider any more spring crops being planted in the hoop houses though. They may just hit the soil outside if we get a continuation of the balmy weather we're seeing this week.

When I planted these crops, I counted about 36 different greens.

In your baskets today there are cute little pac choy, many varieties of mustard (Giant Red, mizuna, Purple Mizuna, Indian Mustard, etc) and collard greens.

Some of these greens have tender broccoli-like buds, which are delicious stir fried, with a bit of the onion and garlic greens.

My Mollie is addicted to these greens chopped up and served as salad with a simple vinagrette...bowl after bowl she eats. And of course that makes mama happy!

These greens will fill your baskets for the next several weeks, and there will be a few other surprises you'll see in your baskets as well.

Then I anticipate a break in the season, until some of the new crops I have planted mature. Hopefully a short break.

Here's another delicious idea for your greens, adapted from Mark Bittman's "How To Cook Everything Vegetarian " Fab-fab-fabulous book!

Beans and Greens

8 oz dried chickpeas, soaked
1 med onion, unpeeled
1 bay leaf
1 clove
salt and pepper to taste
1 bunch greens-1 lb
1 TBSP minced garlic
1 Tbsp plus 1 tsp good olive oil
1/2 cup fried bread crumbs to garnish

Put beans in large pot and bring to a boil
Cut a slit in the onion and insert clove and bay leaf, and add to the bean pot. Turn the heat down to med-low so the mixture bubbles gently, cover partially and stir occasionally.
When the beans begin to soften (30-60 mins), sprinkle with salt and pepper. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the beans are tender but still intact. Add more water if necessary.
Add the greens to the pot and continue to cook until tender, 10 minutes or so, depending on the thickness of the stems.
Remove the onion, taste and adjust seasoning. About 3 minutes before serving, add the garlic and olive oil and stir. Spoon the mixture into individual serving dishes and garnish with the bread crumbs. Serve immediately!

(Fried Bread Crumbs-Heat 1/4 cup olive oil in a large skillet and add the bread crumbs. Cook, stirring occasionally until light brown, about 5 minutes. Season with salt, and drain on paper towels.)

Thursday, March 8, 2012

March is time to seed!

Busy yet?

Right now on the farm things are heating up.

Winter harvesting in the hoop houses continues, but will be coming to an end quite soon. 
Most of the plants are taking their cue from Mother Nature. Longer days and warmer temperatures encourage the plants to do what they are designed to do and that is reproduce. 
They are sending up their delicious and tender little seed stalks, flowers are appearing and then in a matter of weeks, it's over for another winter's harvest.

And that can only mean one thing. 


But before winter officially signs off, a good deal of seeding is being done indoors and under lights in preparation for the busiest season of the year.

What have you seeded ?

My onions and leeks went into their pots in February. These ones need a bit of a haircut, so they will refocus their energy into their root system. In the ideal world, they'll go into the gardens in April, as long as my clay soil has died sufficiently. My favourite onion? Has to be Long Red Florence!

Then there are the brassicas, which went in a week ago. 9 different kales, early broccoli varieties, cauliflowers and cabbages. The thrill for me has been seeing fabulous germination from a very cool variety of kale I had tucked away in my freezer. It was ten years old, and germinated particularly well. The tiny seedling leaves are tinged with yellow, this should disappear as they grow. 

 These tangled little plants will be transplanted into cell packs next week. In my ideal world.

Pretty chards went in last week as well. This funky tray is Wild Garden Seeds "Better Beta Mix."
Pretty, n'est ce pas?

All these cool weather crops will hit my gardens as early as possible. There will be lots left over for sales and I'll start selling these plants mid-April.

Early March is also time to get the eggplants and peppers all seeded before the rush that is tomato seeding. Weeks and weeks of tomato seeding.

I always try to get the hot peppers in first. They generally take longer to germinate than the sweet varieties, and the super hots, like Trinidadian Scorpion and Bhut Jolokia, can take weeks. 

 I have an amazing collection of hot peppers this year. I'm pretty excited.

Last year I swore I wouldn't start as many eggplants. But I have. (Or I should say, my friend Holly, who was helping me has!)  But I encouraged it.
If they weren't so unique and beautiful it would be easy. But they are so lovely and it's hard not be to be swayed but the mauves and whites, purples, greens, yellows, oranges, reds and beautiful stripes. And the shapes. You see how it goes.

Then March 15th I begin seeding the tomatoes...hundreds of cool varieties and thousands of plants.
My 884 lbs of soil-less mix arrived today, and I stacked the bales in the driving cool rain. All okay.
I'm thinking about the tomatoes that will grow in it, the taste of them when they ripen. 

                                                       March is when it all begins.

Friday, March 2, 2012

CBAN news-Monsanto Wins Dismissal of Organic Growers

In a very disappointing decision, a U.S. judge has ruled against farmers and sided with Monsanto..read on....

Unfortunately a US judge has ruled against US and Canadian farmers in their suit to protect themselves from being sued by Monsanto. The growers claimed that Monsanto "aggressively asserted" its patent claims against hundreds of U.S. farmers and sought a ruling that the patents for genetically engineered seeds are invalid because they are "injurious." The lawyer says they will appeal.

Monsanto Wins Dismissal of Organic Growers

Monsanto has won the dismissal of a lawsuit by growers of organic crops seeking to have its patents for genetically altered seeds invalidated. U.S. District Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald in Manhattan threw out the organic growers‚ lawsuit in a ruling dated Feb. 24, saying it represented no controversy and that she had no jurisdiction over the suit. Organic farmers, seed companies and food safety groups sued St. Louis-based Monsanto in March 2011 seeking court protection against possible lawsuits by the company for patent infringement if genetically modified crops were mistakenly found among their yields. "There is no evidence that plaintiffs are infringing defendants‚ patents, nor have plaintiffs suggested when, if ever, such infringement will occur," Buchwald wrote in her opinion. Monsanto's general counsel, David Snively, said, "The ruling makes it clear that there was neither a history of behavior nor a reasonable likelihood that Monsanto would pursue patent infringement matters against farmers who have no interest in using the company‚s patented seed products." 

From Press Release: Organic Seed Growers and Trade Associations (OSGATA)

Plaintiff lead attorney Daniel Ravicher said, "While I have great respect for Judge Buchwald, her decision to deny farmers the right to seek legal protection from one of the world's foremost patent bullies is gravely disappointing. Her belief that farmers are acting unreasonable when they stop growing certain crops to avoid being sued by Monsanto for patent infringement should their crops become contaminated maligns the intelligence and integrity of those farmers. Her failure to address the purpose of the Declaratory Judgment Act and her characterization of binding Supreme Court precedent that supports the farmers‚ standing as Œwholly inapposite‚ constitute legal error. In sum, her opinion is flawed on both the facts and the law. Thankfully, the plaintiffs have the right to appeal to the Court of Appeals, which will review the matter without deference to her findings."

Monsanto's history of aggressive investigations and lawsuits brought against farmers in America have been a source of concern for organic and non-GMO farmers since Monsanto's first lawsuit brought against a farmer in the mid-90's. Since then, 144 farmers have had lawsuits brought against them by Monsanto for alleged violations of  their patented seed technology. Monsanto has brought charges against more than 700 additional farmers who have settled out-of-court rather than face Monsanto's belligerent litigious actions. Many of these farmers claim to not have had the intention to grow or save seeds that contain Monsanto's patented genes. Seed drift and pollen drift from genetically engineered crops often contaminate neighboring fields. If Monsanto's seed technology is found on a farmer's land without contract they can be found liable for patent infringement.

"Family farmers need the protection of the court," said Maine organic seed farmer Jim Gerritsen, President of lead plaintiff OSGATA. "We reject as naïve and undefendable the judge's assertion that Monsanto's vague public relations commitment‚ should be a source of comfort‚ to plaintiffs. The truth is we are under threat and we do not believe Monsanto. The truth is that American farmers and the American people do not believe Monsanto. Family farmers deserve our day in court and this flawed ruling will not deter us from continuing to seek justice."

The case is Organic Seed Growers & Trade Association v. Monsanto Co., 11-02163, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).


Lucy Sharratt, Coordinator 
Canadian Biotechnology Action Network (CBAN) 
Collaborative Campaigning for Food Sovereignty and Environmental Justice
Suite 206, 180 Metcalfe Street
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, K2P 1P5 
Phone: 613 241 2267 ext. 25
Fax: 613 241 2506 

Watch and share the new animated video on GM alfalfa <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tlbtIEVF77Q&context=C3090217ADOEgsToPDskI_xd8jb68LZMVT7MM80895>