Friday, August 31, 2012

Tomatoes, potatoes and apples

We've kept busy trying to keep up with the garden these past few days. Jess made tomato soup the other day (uses 8 tomatoes, which put a nice dent in the ripe tomatoes on the windowsill). THis was also not a bad tomato sauce recipe if I seeded the tomatoes first.

We've made what I think will be my last batch of apple sauce (left) and apple butter (right). I love it but at some point we have enough and I need to move on.

This weekend we'll likely give crab apple jelly (maybe with some mint in one batch) a go; the neighbours have quite a large tree we can likely pick. I see also that the high-bush cranberries are starting to ripen. We'll wait until there is a touch of frost to get some of there.

The potato patch continues to amaze. While the russet potatoes are normal sized, the blue caribe are enormous and plentiful. The one potato fed us all last night (about 750ml in volume). I'm going to have to dig out some potato recipes as well as some bags for storage.

Now back to dealing with the tomatoes and staying up on the bean harvest.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012


The tomatoes have started to ripen and the window sills are starting to fill with quasi-ripe ones I have saved from the slugs. So this means tomato salads, sandwiches and (if I get my act together and lunch) tomato soup.

I love this part of the year where a whole meal can come from the backyard. Last night we had baked potatoes (dug Sunday), tomato salad (with tomatoes, onions and basil from the yard) and cucumbers with dip. And a bit of bread from a local bakery (too hot to bake).

I expect we'll be harvesting carrots and potatoes this weekend. The beans are also starting to dry on the plants and we've shelled our first batch. And I have a bunch of apples from an operation fruit rescue pick to deal with tonight. More apple sauce and butter, I expect.

Sunday, August 26, 2012


With potato plants starting to die back, we started digging up spuds today. Jess had planted a purple variety (purple caribe? blue caribe?) in her garden and we got a huge haul from a single plant. We also pulled up three russet plants out back.

Some of the purple potatoes were huge (biggest I've ever seen--size of two of my fists). Most were good but two had significant inside rot (insect penetration maybe). Alas, it was not dry rot. Laughter as I cut them open and a brie-like goo surged out quickly turned to alarm with cries of "oh God, what is that smell?" (hmmm... I can't think of anything that just happened that would cause a bad smell... now get me a freaking cloth to wipe this up!!!!).

Crisis contained and the rest went into a potato salad. A lot of the colour left the skins when we boiled them. But they taste good. The rest went into the fridge for eating this week. A bit of a scab issue on one of the russet plants so I'll jot down "no potatoes until 2016" on that bed.

When we were digging up the purple potatoes, I noticed that one of them had fruit (two in fact) hanging where the blossom had been. It looked like an immature tomato and, when opened up, it contained seeds and tasted like a green tomato. Same family so maybe potato seeds? I've never seen this before.

The dry beans are starting to be ready and I picked a few pods today which we had fun opening. Tonight I'll make some apple sauce that I'll turn into apple butter tomorrow.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Operation Fruit Rescue Edmonton apple pick and jamming

I organized my first apple pick for Operation Fruit Rescue Edmonton last night. Four volunteers and myself picked about 250lbs of apples until height and good sense brought things to an end. We ended up donating about 130lbs of fruit, with the rest to the very generous grower and the volunteers. The baking apples were huge (about 20% larger than the grannysmith we can get in the store).

I ended up with a small bag of delicious baking apples and baked three pies (two for the freezer) and a crisp tonight. Over the weekend, I jammed a bunch of strawberries and saskatoon berries. The mixture looked right and was sheeting but then didn't set up all that well. So I guess I made syrup (which is delicious).

We had crazy hail this afternoon and a lot of rain. This scuttled my second apple pick so we'll try again Sunday. The three trees we have planned look a big more manageable in terms of height. The garden seems to have survived mostly intact but the green beans took quite a beating and may be done for the season.

In the meantime, I will see what can be jammed this weekend if I have time to free up some more freezer space.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Beginning of the harvest

Jessica and I went out and lunch today to see what needed our attention this weekend in the garden. There is a linger raised bed rebuild on the side but we're also entering the harvest season. One of our surprises was that the zucchini plants were quietly producing monstrous zucchini. We found three like the one Jess is holding. I think we'll be baking a winter's worth of zucchini loaf this weekend!

We also pulled in some carrots (late season thinning), the last of the green beans, some early tomatoes, some cucumbers and some onions. A good chunk of this we walked down to our neighbour who let us pick his Saskatoon bush earlier in the year. What a nice way to get rid of excessive vegetables!

I expect we'll be able to eat our way through this stuff over the weekend but I also expect we'll have to start freezing some carrots, which means making some jam so there is room in the freezer for the carrots. Some of the potato plants are also starting to finish up so we may dig some of those next week when we run low in the cupboard. And next week I have two apple picks organized for operation fruit rescue edmonton so I'll likely have a few apples to bake with.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Apple saucing

After spending Saturday morning making sour cherry jam, I whipped over to our friend's house to pick some of the apples that were causing their tree to droop to the ground. These made lovely apple sauce last year so I hauled out the half-litres jars and started cutting.

The saucing itself goes quickly, but the endless peeling, slicing and coring was quite a chore. In the end, we made 24 jars (12 litres) of sauce. I also donated about 10 pounds to Ronald McDonald house when I took over the Operation Fruit Rescue Edmonton (OFRE) cherries.

I'm done saucing for now (out of jars!) and the top shelves of the kitchen cupboards are starting to look pleasantly full of jams and apples sauce. The tomatoes are starting to ripen in the backyard and I;m hoping to set up an OFRE apple pick next week so I expect to be back at canning shortly. There is also a fair bunch of berries occupying freezer space that need to be jammed.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Operation Fruit Rescue Edmonton: Cherries

I organized my first pick as a fruit captain for Operation Fruit Rescue Edmonton last night. I picked a small place (one evans cherry tree) that we could do as a family so I could see how one of these works start to finish before organizing a multi-picker event.

In about 45 minutes we managed to get 16 litres (about 28 pounds) of cherries. As the ants, wasps and birds had been at them for awhile, we sorted out the bad and ended up with 12 litres of usable fruit at the cost of one wasp bite. The grower didn't want her share, so four litres goes to OFRE and four litres to a charity (likely Ronald McDonald House).

I was up early this morning pitting. I'll make a cherry pie and a batch of jam tonight. We also put enough cherries in the freezer for four more pies this winter. That is enough cherries for me so I'll see what other fruit is available for picking next week. Today, friends have offered me a go at their their apple tree and tomorrow I'm going raspberry picking so I expect I'll be busy in the kitchen this week.

Our own garden is also starting to bear. I have been pretty good about staying on top of the zucchini but ended up with a bunch of big ones this week. Most we shredded or cut up and froze for stews and loafs this winter (10 cups).

We also ended up with another 8 cups of yellow and green beans. I froze some, we ate some and I gave half away. I'm glad the beans are slowing down a bit. I managed to also give away a bunch more irises and finished (mostly) recovering some more room for vegetables in the garden next year.

The dirt in behind the beans will get amended this fall and the raised bed taken apart and dug in. I expect we'll do beans here next year while potatoes will fill the foreground. Now off to compost a buttload of rotten cherries and pits.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Mid-summer update and renovations

The August long weekend usually marks the beginning of a significant harvest in our garden. We've been eating bits and pieces all along but now the root vegetables are ready. Jessica pulled out some Nantes and Yellowstone carrots (the yellow ones) to thin out her plot and they were tasty.

I also started a couple of "next year" projects. I shoveled all of the dirt out of one of the older raised beds and put it into the two new raised beds/cold frames I built last week. I seeded these with some late lettuce and some Swiss chard. Hopefully we can eat fresh food into November this way. I then disassembled the wood from the old bed and set it aside to build to new cold frames that better fit the glass I have on hand. Maybe this week--we'll see how the rest of the garden shapes up.

I then decided to move all of the irises out of the back bed to make room for more vegetables for next year. This has meant moving over 100 iris plants. Some were donated to a friend, some I guerilla gardened into a bed at the local school, some were shoe-horned into my front and side yard. I still have about 20 plants to go before all of the spiky foliage in the picture above is cleared. Then I'll dig the bed and weed it for the rest of the summer. My arms are really feeling this work but the last day of my vacation has been motivating.

Around the back of the house, things are progressing nicely. This is basically useless space that we've put five raised beds into. In the foreground, Jess is having a bumper crop of beets, lettuce, carrots, tomatoes, potatoes and flowers. A bit further back, beans and peas are doing really well and there are some potatoes in the far bed. The only disappointment here was the loss of the onion crop.

The painted lady beans are now carrying huge pods. The one above is about seven inches long and you can see the beans forming. I'm just water these and then leaving them to dry on the vine.

On the backyard, the carrot bed (4x16) is really filling in. There are a few tomato plants stuck in here as well. Unpictured in the huge potato bed, which seems to be doing fine. Im keen for a big harvest there. In the meantime, I continue to put up and eat green beans. So far, a good summer!

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Jam and new cold frames

The weather was cool this morning so I decided to tackle some long over-due jam making. We made about 4 litres of jam today, 8 jars of raspberry and another 8 jars of raspberry-strawberry-saskatoon berry mix. That puts us about half way to my goal for the year (which is 52 jars).

We then ventured outside and started work on two new cold frames/raised beds. I have a rather difficult spot in the garden that gets lots of light in the winter but gets shaded in the summer. The soil is also terrible and not redeemable. Nothing grows there except some irises and day lilies.

We dropped in on a salvage place yesterday and picked up two old single-pane storm windows that are roughly 3x3. Then I grabbed some wood last night and today we're driving screws. I went with thinner slats and corner posts to keep the weight and cost down. The corner posts also give the glass something to rest on as the sit, quasi-recessed in the frame. Jess was very helpful, astutely intuiting what my grunts and swearing meant.

I've set these roughly in place in the garden. I will carve out about three inches of the existing "dirt" and replace it with something better and then add about three more inches inside the frame. This should give us enough room to grow spinach and kale in the autumn and spring. And perhaps some shallow beets.

Each of the frames cane be accessed from opposite sides--I'll drop in some stepping stones. The rest of the garden I will just leave to grow around them.

In a fit of homemaking, I also made risotto and baked a peach pie tonight. Now to go put my feet up!