Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Carrots in Clay and CSA Week 23

Despite the date on the calendar, you cannot convince me that winter has not set in. It is all a bit earlier than I would have liked.

Remaining in the garden right now are some of the winter radishes, sugar beets, a few idling greens and...carrots!
The carrots are at their best right now,  having remained in the ground for a good number of frosts and freeze-ups. These cold temperatures make them very sweet, starches converting to sugars.
This is the year the carrots haven't stop coming.  I'm glad about that. It's isn't a given in any year that if I plant them, they will grow and do well.
Carrots like a light soil and my clay is anything but.
I could grow carrots that don't reach down far into the depths of the soil, like Paris Market or the wonderful Oxheart which grows a chubby stubby carrot that can weigh up to a pound.
My preference though is the longer carrots, Scarlet Nantes in particular and in clay soil that takes a bit more work.

I grew some very interesting carrots this year. Red Elephant, White Belgium, Dragon, Yaya, Paris Market, Jaune du Doubs, Snow White, Purple Haze and of course Scarlet Nantes. There were more too.
Some were from seed I had saved myself, so the process of getting these carrots was more than a year in the making.
To prepare my soil, I pulled my hoe across freshly tilled soil, making a trench a good 6-8 inches in depth. This year it was many long rows.
I filled each row with compost and hand seeded my carrots. It took several days. I then lightly pulled some compost over the seed, and watered many times per day with a light mist, until a week later the seeds germinated.
Alas, as the carrot seeds germinated, so did the weeds.
There were many days of hand weeding, keeping up with the watering, and now the digging.
I've spent hours digging and there are more, many more to go. With the temperatures being as cold as they are, and my poor old fingers numbing up after about an hour, it's a slow process.
I dig, then come in and warm my hands, then out I go to dig again. I've dug more than 1000 lbs of carrots so far I would venture to guess.
Some of the carrots I have dug are stored in barrels layered in straw. At this time they are outside under a tarp. But once I can get all the dried beans moved inside that are in the garage, the carrots will be moved in. This weekend. Of course that's what I always say.
I know the way I do things makes me a bit of a dinosaur.  I'm at the stage of my life now though that I don't want to have a bigger, busier business. In fact that was never it for me.
I received information today on an upcoming conference which is a "must attend" for growers and those interested in local food. New ways of marketing, processing and all sorts of networking opportunities.
I've lost my desire to scramble, compete and connect so it doesn't hold much interest to me.
I just want to grow now. Enjoy the garden, marvel over the size of some of the beets in the garden, the horseradish that showed up out of nowhere and try some of the amazing heirlooms I have yet to discover.
Every time I scoop up another shovelful of carrots I marvel at their size, their colours and I understand when I eat them, why I did the work I did. This is the way I'll keep doing it.
The CSA baskets that went out today are clearly not as full as they were in the earlier months of summer. Carrots, jerusalem artichokes, beets, dried beans, greens and jam or jelly of some sort-basil, tomato or grape.
There are two weeks left now of this 25 week season and I am starting to get some people asking about the 2015 CSA. Although I haven't decided how many shares I will do, or the length of the season or seasons, let me know soon if you are interested as I am developing a bit of a waiting list. It won't be a large CSA, this I know. But I always do like to change something up every year, so don't expect an exact replica of this year.
I'll have the new info up on my website in January, and I thank you for your continued support and interest.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

CSA Week 22 and Carrot soup

Three weeks left of my CSA for 2014. Yes, we are getting close to the end.

The last few days in the garden have reminded why in recent years I have chosen not to do a complete winter CSA.
Folks, I tell you, it isn't that much fun. My body can tolerate the cold, with the exception of my hands.
Today getting the carrots out of the freezing water, picking some outdoors kale and chard and digging out the leeks had them tingling.

The older I get, the less I appreciate the cold.
My daughters tease me because I have been researching good places to retire. Panama it seems is a good choice, and who knows...
But for now here I am. I'm starting to get excited about 2015, am shelling my beans like mad to package up for seed, have finally ordered a small scale to weigh up my seeds instead of counting them, have ordered my Seed Savers Exchange seed to sell, and am organizing yet another Seedy Saturday. (Mark the date-Feb 14th here in Wellandport!)

It's hard to move on from 2014 though when some things still niggle away at me.
I've been trying for months now to get some people and businesses to pay up. Christmas is coming, the produce has long been made into overpriced dishes sold for a good dollar. My calls, my emails are not returned and people, I tell you, you are being duped.
You are made to feel that the farmer and the chef are buddies as they stroll through the fields of produce. They chuckle and pat each other on the back for a job well done. Sometimes it's true and I've had relationships like that.
But there are chefs who are just a bit too good for you and I. They've let the fact they can cook go to their head. They speak well of you when it serves their purpose, but when it doesn't and no one is looking, they just don't care.
Marketing. Local food is a marketing tool the same way that VISA tries to warm your heart with their commercials, banks try to make you believe they care, and the flipping pink ribbon on everything makes you believe you are helping people with cancer.
And you know what the bottom line is? In any line of work there are people who are difficult to deal with. Period. Just because people are farmers, chefs or even radio hosts, it doesn't mean that they are good people. Over the years my motto has become to only deal with nice people. Sound silly? No, it is the only thing that makes any sense. Life is too short.
End of rant.
The CSA baskets today were heavy, although without question the variety is diminishing. Pennsylvania Dutch Crookneck squash, a very good lot of carrots, potatoes, leeks, herbs and winter greens.
I put the potatoes in the baskets with the leeks thinking potato leek soup, but for supper I ended up making carrot soup with those same ingredients and more.
This recipe is adapted from "Laurel's Kitchen" one of my favourite ever cookbooks.

5 large carrots, cut in 1" pieces
1 large potato cut into pieces
2 leeks chopped
2 tbsp olive oil
2 cups veg stock
2 cups non dairy milk
1 tbsp dried herb or fresh-thyme, tarragon or rosemary

Cook the carrots and potatoes in enough water just to cover them.
Saute leeks in the oil, add herbs.
Add both the veg and onion to a blender, blend till smooth.
Return to pot, add veg stock and milk.
Season with salt and pepper and serve hot.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

CSA Week 20

Sorry for my absence from this place as of late. I just needed a little break from blog writing. The creative juices have not been flowing and I was even boring myself.

Today pictures, because the pictures say it all.

November 11 and tomatoes (from the hoophouse). Also hot peppers, eggplants or tomatillos, carrots, jerusalem artichokes, jelly melons, watermelon radishes, greens(mustards, arugula, chard, kale, sorrel), savoury mint and leaf celery

Have a wonderful evening, my friends.

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,

..my 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!

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

CSA Week 14 in Pictures

Long Black Spanish radish

Blue radishes 

Jerusalem Artichokes

...still tomatoes

Fish hot pepper

Aji Limo pepper

Joey trying to hide

Harvest help!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Welcome Fall!

This blog post won't be one of my longer ones because I've been hooked by a book, "Sycamore Row" by John Grisham and it is calling me.
I love reading. If you find a good book it is such a pleasure.  I used to read gardening books all the time and have a complete library of them, but discovered I guess that I liked figuring things out myself in the garden, and that some things that people talked about in those books just didn't turn out that way for me.
Maybe too it's  the need to get involved in things beyond vegetables and my garden. I'm not young anymore and as much as I love what I do, I recognize there's more to life. I think a lot about what I'll do when I "retire". I wonder how I'll mange not working so hard, having more time and what I'll do with that time.
A lot of interests of mine have sort of fallen by the wayside over the years, because the veg business has taken so much time and effort. Sadly, some friendships which I should have nurtured have too.
In my life now, it's time to get ready for slower days....make some phone calls, play with my dogs, knit a bit and enjoy. Make wine with my grapes, drink that wine with friends and enjoy the next whole bunch of years. And read that book!

Fall is a busy time though in the garden, no question about it. I'll finish up seeding the hoophouses for winter tomorrow, but over the coming weeks I have dozens of varieties of bean seeds to harvest, some of which I hope will be enjoyed as dried beans in my CSA baskets. And lots of other seeds to process as well.

It doesn't look like frost is imminent, but no matter, it's on my mind. I have lots of peppers to pick and dry, herbs as well, and tons of tomatoes still to deal with. It's a great time of year, an abundant time of year. I love the fall.
Today's baskets had a good hit of summer still and a good hit of heat in the form of hot peppers. Tomatillos, sweet peppers, summer squash or melon, kale or chard, parsley, leaf celery, heirloom tomatoes, edamame, a handful of ground cherries and a branch of thorny Morelle de Balbis. Be careful with those!

Here's a recipe for those tomatillos. In this cooler weather remember too, they make a great soup.

Tomatillo Salsa (from Practical Paleo)
Yield: aprox 1 cup
  • 2C tomatillos, outer skin peeled and fruit quartered
  • 1 tsp jalapeno pepper minced
  • ½ tsp garlic minced or grated
  • 1-2 tsp fresh horseradish minced or grated (to taste- using more will yield a spicier sauce)
  • 1 T apple cider vinegar or distilled vinegar
  • 1 T extra virgin olive oil
Combine all ingredients in a food processor and pulse until smooth.  Serve chilled.
For a less spicy version leave the jalapeno out and adjust the horse radish