Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Garden Pictures June 25, 2013

CSA Week Three and Using Bitter Lettuce

I planted a whole lot of lettuce this year.
The problem with planting a whole lot of lettuce at once is that some of it gets bitter before it can be used or sold. 
How do you know when your lettuce is bitter? Well, there is the obvious harsher taste, but also the leaves lose their glossy shine and when you cut it there is lots of sticky white milk oozing from the cut. It's also tough. It doesn't have that beautiful crunch that good lettuce should have.
Some lettuce going too far is just fine with me. I left some plants of my favourite variety, Bronze Arrowhead, in the garden to grow on for seed. 
Any day now the seed stalk will shoot up, it will develop small yellow dandelion-like flowers and then the whole stem will dry up, the flowers developing into seed.
Without a doubt, some will drop when I snip off the stems to collect the seed and I'll have more lettuce growing in that spot soon.

I don't want to save more than one variety at a time though, so what to do with the rest of that "too far gone" lettuce?

As I thought about this, it made sense to me that cooked, this bitter lettuce was probably pretty good. People like escarole and endive, typically pretty bitter greens. You see, cooking eliminates a lot of the bitterness. So why not lettuce?
So I cut some off my bitter lettuces, snapped off some garlic scapes and I was ready to go.
I used a good olive oil, heating it in a pan before adding my minced garlic scapes and the chopped lettuce. Quite a bit of lettuce in fact because I knew it would shrink down quite a bit, which it did.
After a brief saute, I tossed on a bit of sea salt and some hot pepper flakes...and voila!

Pretty darn good!
Sorry chickens and Joey...mama got those lettuces instead of you!

The baskets today did not have bitter lettuces in them. But by all means if you are in my CSA and you want bitter lettuce, I'll throw it in next week. Just say the word.

We're on the second big planting of lettuce now and one kind-Amish Deer Tongue dominated in the baskets today. It's a nice little personal size lettuce, with a nice crunchy sweet stalk.
Baskets also had more garlic scapes, peas, herbs, with multiple basils, a bunch of greens (chards, sorrel, mustards), onions, some walnuts from last fall and some dried hot chilis. 
There is also a neat little cluster of onions (pictured below) that you can use in a few ways. You can eat them...but I wouldn't! If you have a little spot in a garden, or a big pot, carefully separate them out and plant them. These are "walking onions" and will grow beautiful onions for you, developing the same bulbils on the tops that you see in your baskets. They are called "walking" because the weight of the bulbils will bend the onions over and they will root in the ground...and grow even more onions!

My thought certainly was that there would have been zucchini and tomatoes from the front hoophouse, but alas, that will be on next week's menu.
It's hard to know what to think of this weather. The rain earlier this spring has made it pretty tough on my clay soil. Despite years of amending, ultimately it is still clay. We're not completely dried up yet, so I am really hoping that the forecasted rain doesn't arrive.
I've replanted carrots, beans and beets that were lost, and will do a whole bunch more planting of these for the fall. The large hoophouse at the back was pressed into action last week, with more eggplants, tomatoes, summer squash and peppers going in.
Are you tired of hearing the saying "it is what it is?" Maybe...but that's what it is.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

CSA Week Two and Pasta with Garlic and Herbs

It's easy to tell what time of year it is because my blog posts are few and far between.
There has been so much rain over the past few weeks that I can't just go out to the garden and get everything done though.

Sparrows hiding out from the rain

Some things are at a standstill.
I can't plant certain areas yet because they are just too waterlogged. Working wet clay is a big, big mistake. So some areas are just sitting. Waiting. Drying.
I've been pretty happy that the rain of the last 3 days didn't materialize.
Yesterday I managed to get out and hoe a few weeds out. But only in certain areas.

On the weekend, we got one of the big hoop houses cleared out so I could plant it. Better late than never I figured, so in I went yesterday. I planted a whole bunch more eggplants, some spare peppers I found, and then today got some summer squash, cucumbers, and a few tomatoes in.
A massive zucchini plant had already established itself and in the shade of it, I found a nice big garter snake resting. Clearly watching the zucchini growing.

Tomorrow I'll finish up the planting. More tomatoes will be going in, some of the unsold stragglers in the driveway.

The small hoop house at the front is going gangbusters. The 30 Stupice tomato plants are loaded with tomatoes. Everyday I hope I'll find a red one, but not yet. The eggplants are huge and peppers are forming on the sweet peppers. My Dragon Tongue beans have their beautiful lilac coloured blossoms and I suspect there will be zucchini in next weeks CSA baskets.

Next year I may just work smarter, not harder. I may just grow in the hoop houses as I begin my descent into retirement. Honestly, the variables are getting the best of me, none more so than the weather.

It's pretty discouraging to work so hard and see some of the crops you have planted fail.
As I always say-dry I can do something with as I have lots of water, but I can't do anything about the rain. In the hoop houses, it is all under my control and I think I like the sound of that.

Today's basket were spring baskets to be sure. A few varieties of lettuces, green peas, garlic scapes, basils and rosemary, ginger mint, stevia, green onions, rat tailed radishes, sorrel and some mustard greens.

Here's a recipe I made this week that's pretty simple. Good too.

Pasta with Garlic and Herbs

1 lb pasta (I used whole grain spaghetti, much to my daughter's chagrin)
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
minced garlic scapes
cup full of mixed fresh herbs
dried chiles to taste
salt to taste

Cook pasta.
At the same time, heat oil in skillet and add garlic scapes-cook on low, until tender. Add herbs, peppers and cook briefly.
Toss with pasta, salt as desired.

Guest Post-Green Peas.

Green Peas
By Guest Blogger, Jo Pavlov

They say the sense of smell is the one most closely related to memory, and that a smell can bring back a time and place faster than anything.  My sister and I both agree that the horrid smell of cooked canned peas brings us right back to our childhood kitchen and our near-lifelong distaste for the vegetable.  Or should I say the canned, cooked version of the thing.
My father would heat them up in a pot on the stove, and I vividly remember them being there most days.  The smell bowled me over.  We couldn't understand how he liked them.  We never even tried them, not once.

We weren't unlike those kids you see on that Jamie Oliver show set in West Virginia... the one where the kids fail to identify the most basic vegetables because they've never seen them before.  We grew up in an Eastern European immigrant family where boiled cabbage, pickled beets and roasted potatoes were pretty much the only veggies we ever saw, and we hated them all.  If you recall my blog postings from last summer, I learned to LOVE raw cabbage and properly baked beets, and realized that the old country way of boiling a food within an inch of its life and until all flavour is gone was only one way of dealing with veggies.
I picked up my first basket of the season last week and was DELIGHTED to find the Crackerjack prize at the bottom of the basket... peas.  And I'll be honest... I don't know if they are snap peas?  Snow peas?  Green peas?  All I know is that they only come around for a brief period at the end of spring, and like green beans, I gobble them up raw until they are gone.  I get giddy when I see them and my second reaction is one of dread... that they won't last long and I'll have to wait a full year until I see them again.  Must be how fiddlehead fans feel.  I try and savour the moment and just enjoy each delicious bite but it's hard when I know they are fleeting.
I honestly didn't know they came in that shade of green.  Crisp.  Light.  New.  Sprout-like.  My childhood memories of that dark green-brown mushy slop in the pot are fading fast...

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

CBAN Alert-GM Alfalfa Registered

GM Alfalfa Registered: Email your MP instantly from http://www.cban.ca/alfalfaMPletter
Our government is siding with multinational companies against the best interests of farmers and our food system. I do not accept this. Do you?

Action Update on GM Alfalfa, June 11 2013:

The Canadian Biotechnology Action Network (CBAN) has uncovered that the Canadian Food Inspection Agency has recently approved one variety of genetically engineered alfalfa: a herbicide tolerant (Roundup Ready) alfalfa from Monsanto/Forage Genetics International. This means that one variety of GM alfalfa is now legal to sell in Canada. There could be more varieties approved over the summer (the process is completely secret). 

However, GM alfalfa seeds are not yet on the market in Canada. Email your MP today: "Will you stand up to stop GM alfalfa from being released and contaminating our fields and food?" http://www.cban.ca/alfalfaMPletter

After the Day of Action to Stop GM Alfalfa on April 9 2013, the company Forage Genetics International stated that it would not put any GM alfalfa seeds on the market this spring. The company could, however, release GM alfalfa whenever it decides. CBAN is closely monitoring this situation.

The Minister of Agriculture, Gerry Ritz, chose not to intervene to stop the registration of this GM alfalfa. The Minister received almost 8000 email letters asking him to stop the release GM alfalfa and on April 9 people rallied in 38 communities across Canada. Most of these community actions took place outside local constituency offices of federal Members of Parliament and many petitions were delivered to MPs that they have now presented  in the House of Commons. Your outreach to your Members of Parliament has been very influential. As CBAN continues to implement various strategic work with you to stop the release of GM alfalfa, we ask you to continue your communication with your Member of Parliament. The Day of Action showed us that many MPs understand your concerns.

The recent discovery of contamination from unapproved GM wheat in the US clearly shows why stopping the introduction of GM crops like GM alfalfa is the only way to stop contamination. 

The Canadian Biotechnology Action Network is committed to protecting family farms and our food system from GM contamination. Together, farmers, consumers and scientists in Canada stopped Monsanto's Bovine Growth Hormone from being approved. We need to remember that this important victory took ten years of persistent campaigning. Last year, your actions with CBAN stopped the GM pig called "Enviropig". In 2004, Monsanto withdrew its applications for approval of GM wheat in Canada and the US because of our protests. Through all these years, and many more victories, more people have become aware of this issue and more people have taken action. We are at a crossroads, and your action will help us turn in the right direction.

Please join us as we press forward. Thank you for your continued action and support.

Best regards, Lucy Sharratt, Coordinator

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

Please donate today to support the campaigns! www.cban.ca/donate

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

2013 Summer CSA Week One

I don't get out much. It's true.
Especially at this time of year.
I had a great opportunity to go away last weekend though and I pounced.

Beautiful isn't it?

The reality was that if I had stayed home I wouldn't have been able to do much anyways. Maybe I could have watched plants slowly being smothered in the muck and water, but beyond that it was a waiting game. You know. Waiting for the rains to cease, the sun to shine and everything to be just all right.

When I came home, there had been more rain. And then of course there was tons of rain yesterday and again last night.
Too much rain. Way too much for my clay soil.

So I did what I usually do when Mother Nature decides not to cooperate with my plans for growing.
I look at new homes on the computer. Yes, by golly, I'm moving. Anywhere. Anywhere at all as long as it is drier and not so darn labour intensive as my small farm. The grass is always greener you know.... although the rain has ensured mine is pretty green too.

Today was week one of my summer CSA.

Zlata radishes

Rat tailed radishes

My favourite-Bronze Arrowhead lettuce

greenhouse zucchini is coming

Stupice tomatoes coming to!

In the baskets is a lot of green. Heirloom lettuces, green onions, sorrel, garlic scapes, a bunch of mustard greens/chard, some thyme, rosemary and a sprig of Korean licorice mint and a taste of rat tailed radishes.

If you need ideas about what to do with some of these veggies, check  HERE for a recipe for "Garlic Scape Pesto" and HERE for a good recipe for a simple vinaigrette.  Time to round up these old familiar recipes, it is that time of year.

Sorrel tends to stump a lot of people. It is a nice taste addition to salads, but I remember my mom always making sorrel soup with it, a French classic.

This recipe is from Julia Child's "Mastering The Art of French Cooking"

Sorrel Soup, French Style

Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
  • 1/2 cup chopped green onions
  • 4-6 cups (packed) of chopped sorrel
  • Salt
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 1 quart vegetable stock
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup cream
  1. Melt 3 tablespoons butter in a soup pot over medium heat. Add the green onions and turn the heat to medium-low. Cover the pot and cook for 10 minutes.
  2. While the onions are cooking, pour the stock into another pot and bring to a simmer.
  3. Turn the heat up, add the sorrel leaves and a healthy pinch of salt and stir well. When the sorrel is mostly wilted, turn the heat back to medium-low, cover and cook 10 minutes. Stir occasionally. Mix in the flour and cook over medium heat for 3 minutes.
  4. Whisk in the hot stock, stirring constantly. Bring this to a simmer.
  5. To finish the soup, whisk together the egg yolks and cream. Temper the mixture by ladling a little soup into it with one hand, while you whisk the egg-cream mix with the other. Repeat this three times. (You are doing this to prevent the eggs from scrambling) Now start whisking the soup. Pour the hot egg-cream-soup mixture into the pot with the soup, whisking all the way. Let this cook — below a simmer — for 5 minutes. Do not let it boil or the soup will break. Serve at once.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

CBAN Update-Some Good News!

Dear CBAN News Subscribers, Please read below some amazing news as Monsanto accepts defeat in Europe and the first ever state law for mandatory labelling is passed in the US. This is happening at the same time that the US government is scrambling to limit economic damage from the discovery of contamination from unapproved genetically engineered wheat (there is no GE wheat approved or grown anywhere in the world). CBAN continues to monitor, research and bring attention to these and other important events as we build and implement strategic campaigns to stop dangerous genetically engineered crops and animals. Best regards, Lucy Sharratt, Coordinator

Monsanto Leaves Europe:

Monsanto has pulled out of GM crop research in Europe and is not planning to request approval for new GM seeds in Europe. Currently Monsanto sells GM corn only in Spain, Portugal and Czech republic. http://www.ir-d.dk/gmo-lose-europe-victory-for-environmental-organisations/ Monsanto confirmed abandoning GM crop efforts in Europe to Danish reporters: "We have plenty of other things to sell...We will sell it where people want it", said Brandon Mitchener, Public Affairs Lead for Monsanto Europe, "We made a strategic decision in 2011 to focus on entirely on hybrid or conventional, normal crops." http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=9QbJ_qzHHq8 Monsanto's confirmation follows a similar decision from German biotech company BASF as well as Bayer CropScience and Syngenta who have also largely moved out of Europe.
Connecticut First US State to Pass Law for GE Food Labelling:

On June 3, Connecticut became the first US state to pass mandatory labelling legislation for genetically engineered food ingredients! The compromise law requires that four other states pass similar legislation in order to “trigger” Connecticut’s labeling requirement. One of the states must share a border with Connecticut and their combined population must equal at least 20 million people. http://www.ctnewsjunkie.com/ctnj.php/archives/entry/ct_first_in_the_nation_to_pass_gmo_labeling_bill

Philippines Court Stops GE Eggplant Field Trials:

A court in the Philippines has ordered the government to stop field trials of genetically engineered (Bt) eggplant. Groups challenged that the trials violated the people’s constitutional right to a balanced and healthful ecology - the court agreed. http://www.businessmirror.com.ph/index.php/business/agri-commodities/13830-ca-bt-eggplant-field-trials-unsafe-for-humans-environment

GE Wheat Contamination Update:

On May 29, the US government confirmed that unapproved GE wheat was discovered in a field in Oregon. GE wheat is not approved or grown anywhere in the world. http://www.cban.ca/content/view/full/1725 The US government has increased its investigation but has still not been able to identify the source of contamination. Meanwhile, a Kansas wheat farmer has filed a civil lawsuit against Monsanto, seeking compensation for damages caused by the discovery which sent wheat export futures prices spiralling downward. “Consider the liability issues. Why is a biotech company such as Monsanto allowed to get away with setting loose their unapproved genetic material via experimental field tests and yet pay none of the consequences when it escapes? The market impacts of contamination are always borne by farmers who had no say in whether, how, or where these field tests took place. This is an injustice and it is not acceptable.” said Glenn Tait of the National Farmers Union Canada.http://www.nfu.ca/story/unapproved-ge-wheat-found-oregon-farm-raises-contamination-concerns

Asian and European markets are now testing US shipments for contamination - no contamination has yet been found in US exports and no contamination has been found in Canada. 

Monsanto stocks declined, the biggest drop since Oct. 31, 2011.  http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-05-31/monsanto-resumed-field-trials-of-roundup-ready-wheat.html

In addition to our press release, CBAN has posted some basic background information at http://www.cban.ca/content/view/full/1727 and for more information you can also see http://www.cban.ca/wheat

Arrests as People Protest GE Trees (US): 

Groups and participants from the Campaign to STOP GE Trees rallied and marched in the May 25 March Against Monsanto in Asheville, North Carolina US, which drew over 1000 people. Anti-GE tree demonstrators converged in Asheville to confront the 2013 Tree Biotechnology conference. ArborGen, one of the sponsors of the conference, wants to commercially sell millions of GE eucalyptus trees in seven southern states from South Carolina to Texas.

Two residents of Asheville, North Carolina were arrested on the opening day of the conference after disrupting a major presentation by tree engineer Wout Boerjan (Belgium) entitled, “Engineering trees for the biorefinery”. “We took dignified action today to directly confront the growing corporate control over our seeds, forests, and communities." The talk was disrupted for 20 minutes. http://climate-connections.org/2013/05/27/breaking-protestors-arrested-at-genetically-engineered-tree-conference/ 

Three demonstrators were also arrested on May 30 at the conference. They attempted to use GMO caution tape to wrap a bus full of conference participants headed for an upscale dinner. Dozens more groaning zombie "franken-tree" protesters were present in protest: "We're blocking the buses because these conference attendees are on their way to dinner at the Biltmore Estate. Built by the Vanderbilts, the Biltmore is a symbol of the wealthy and powerful, and one of the birthplaces of industrial forestry in the US, which wiped out forests from coast to coast. The tree biotechnology industry is continuing this destructive legacy. They plan to cut down native forests and replace them with GE tree plantations grown solely for the profit of the elite at the expense of local communities and biodiversity," said Will Bennington, one of those arrested.http://climate-connections.org/2013/05/30/photo-essay-three-brutally-arrested-protesting-ge-trees-at-industry-conference/  

CBAN is a founding Steering Committee member of the Campaign to STOP GE Trees.

New Study Finds GE Salmon Can Cross-breed with Wild Fish:

Scientists from Canada have found that transgenic (genetically engineered) Atlantic salmon can cross-breed with brown trout, a closely related species. The fish, which have been engineered to grow faster, pass the trait to the hybrid offspring and the new fish out-competed other fish in lab experiments. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-22694239 The US could approve the first GE fish - the fast-growing GE Atlantic Salmon - any day.

CBC Report on Failure of GM Insect-Resistant Crops:

Genetically engineered insect resistant (Bt) crops are  failing as insects become resistant - just as predicted. There was actually never any dispute that this would happen, it was just a matter of time...and now is the time. You can listen to the discussion of this problem on CBC's The Current:  http://www.cbc.ca/thecurrent/episode/2013/05/29/gm-resistant-rootworms-and-the-future-of-farming/

Act Before June 7 to Stop Reckless Release of Synthetic Biology:

The Genome Compiler Corporation is promising to send 100 seeds produced through synthetic biology to anyone who backs their project with $40. They already have 7, 700+ such backers; that's 770, 000 synthetically engineered seeds that will be released! The seeds would be the viable and reproducing products of ‘Synthetic Biology’ - a field that has never had a deliberate release into the environment before. The company claims that the US Government had agreed not to regulate, assess or monitor this widespread random and nation-wide release of synthetic organisms. Sign today to stop crowdsourcing site Kickstarter from assisting in this environmental disaster. http://www.avaaz.org/en/petition/Tell_Kickstarter_not_to_allow_bioengineered_organisms More information: http://www.etcgroup.org/kickstopper

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

Donate today to support the campaigns! www.cban.ca/donate

Today On My Small Farm

It was a sad day for Joey my delightful pig today as the vet made her annual visit.
Sadder yet because our old large animal vet has retired, and Dr Scott was so good with Joey.
Today's visit was far from smooth. Joey needed a hoof and tusk trim and his rabies and mange shot.
Squealing, vomiting and as alarmed as I've never seen him before- it was tough, tough, tough. There has to be a better way, as even once a year is too often for this traumatizing a visit. I'm not sure what the answer is. But I am thinking.

It was a weird day in other ways.
A California company tried to Fedex me some grafted heirlooms to try, but of course they couldn't get through customs and now are going to be destroyed. I've heard about grafted heirlooms for years and attempted grafting some of my own, just for fun, a few years ago

Essentially, heirloom tomatoes are grafted onto strong and disease resistant root stocks, creating stronger and more disease resistant plants.  I believe they are available in some larger nurseries in Toronto, but you'll pay. Oh, how you'll pay.

The planting carried on today too.
Lots of people at VegFest on Sunday, and folks who are coming out to the farm to buy plants ask the same question:"is it too late?"

Some things, possibly. Spinach, peas and traditional radishes, but not the rat tailed, that are grown for the tasty seed pod. But with most other things, the time is now and for many things it will be the right time for months.

Cukes, zucchini, squash and melons can still be seeded.

Beets, carrots, lettuces, chards, brassicas, corn and potatoes can go in for a good long time yet, as can many other crops.

I find this year the flea beetle damage is horrendous, so there are some things I'll just hold off on.
If you don't know flea beetles, they are the shiny and tiny little beetles who drill holes through your arugula, eggplants, kales, radish leaves and more. They love turnip and rutabaga leaves too, so mine are on hold.

Today some cool stuff went in the garden. The ground cherries, cape gooseberries, Morelle de Balbis, tomatillos, New Zealand spinach, okra, lots of carrots and my favourite 3 Root Grex beets, Blue Ribbon beans, a few more peppers I had forgotten and Rose de Chine eggplants. Huckleberries finished off the day and finished me off too.

I'm tired.

Tomorrow may be a different day, one out of the garden, if we get the rain they are predicting. I don't need it, or particularly want it. At all.  My clay is saturated and things will suffer if we get a dose of rain.  Why doesn't it rain when I need it and they predict it, but when I don't want it the forecasts are always right?

As for me and Joey, we'll sleep well tonight and I will hope I don't hear the sound of rain on my roof.
Joey I bet, hears nothing at all.