Saturday, August 30, 2008

Best cucumber

This has to be the best cuke I have ever grown. I usually end up with cukes looking more like the lower one in the picture - except for when I grow Armenian which are lovely (but are a little behind this year). This year I have had several long smooth skinned ones like the top one. They are delicious with very small seeds and not at all bitter. Now, if I can just remember what kind they were.

Turkish orange eggplant

This is a Turkish orange eggplant. I was given the seed by a friend and it grew into this lovely thing. The eggplants are so pretty that I am not quite sure how I will eat them. They are only a little bigger than a golfball.
Aren't they gorgeous, Mary-Sue? Thank you. (I had to post some pictures so that I would be sure that you would get to see them)

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Preserving stewed tomatoes

These last few days have been a flurry of preserving.
I can't say how pleased I am with the heirloom tomatoes this year. I think my favourite so far is the Franchi pear tomato...well, my favourite for canning, for eating my new favourite is the silvery fir.I got started on stocking up on stewed tomatoes. This is my favourite thing to have in the freezer and we simply cannot have enough of them. This year we have one large freezer which will be dedicated solely to stewed tomatoes. I use them in almost everything that I cook - soups, sauces, casseroles, etc. I cook up peppers, onions, garlic and zucchini from the garden while I skin the tomatoes. Add them together and cook for awhile. I usually add some parsley and salt to all and sometimes basil. If I was an organized sort of person I would mark some Italian and some Mexican and add the appropriate herbs - cilantro, basil, etc.- but, sadly, I'm not that sort of person. Although now that I've written that I am going to endeavor to be organized and do that because it sounds like a really good sort of idea.Here is the first batch ready for the freezer. They are frozen in plastic yogurt tubs. Last year in an anti-plastic fit I started off freezing them in glass jars and quickly realized that they take a lot more room that way so I went back to yogurt tubs. The other thing I learned was that with the glass jars I had to take them out ahead of time to thaw (like I said, I am not that organized, dinner time would often find me stabbing at the frozen contents of a jar trying to break chunks off to thaw more quickly) whereas with the plastic containers I can run them under hot water and pop the frozen lump into a pan. I also fill plastic freezer bags and then freeze them flat on a cookie sheet. That way I can stack loads of them in the freezer.

I really recommend doing this if you have the time. The taste of this garden ripe goodness is what makes our meals.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Things are just peachy

E and I were out picking peaches off of our tree the other day. We stopped to take some pictures because the colours of ripe peaches are just so beautiful; they make me think of sunrise and sunset.I asked him if he could think of a good, simple recipe that he could make for dessert. Of course he took this to mean that he should invent a recipe of his own.He immediately had an idea. We should take a peach, take the pit out, fill the pit hole with chocolate and then roast it until the chocolate melted (I think he had roasting over a fire in mind but since we had the oven going to cook our first squash of the season we just popped them in there for 10 minutes or so).

Well...what can I say? My son is brilliant. They were simple and delicious.Look out Jamie Oliver!

Friday, August 22, 2008

Salsa season

It is the beginning of salsa season here. We made the first little batch on Wednesday and it was delicious. Throughout the years of canning while I've had children they have mostly just gone and played out of the way so I could get on with it. I've had them help by bringing jars or lids to me; picking produce from the garden; transferring jars down to the coldroom and sorting and organizing the coldroom shelves but not much with the actual prep and canning.This year I asked W for more help. I admit to an ulterior motive or two. I want them to know how to preserve, partly for their own good (I consider it an important life skill) but also to be able to carry on certain recipes that I always make - my aunt's pickles, my mom's antipasto, my salsa. My other motive was that I recalled reading, in The Shelter of Each Other, that all family members used to gather in the kitchen to help with the yearly food preservation (out of necessity) and that some women found it a time when they really connected with their older sons. I had read that the monotony of the prep. work and the time it took could really bring out a space and the time for good conversation between mothers and their adolescent sons.W and I have always enjoyed an easy, open relationship but I often feel as he gets a bit older and has more of his own interests that we don't spend the same amount of time together and just don't have as much one-on-one time to really connect. It takes time to get to deeper conversations...and it takes time to prepare produce for canning. So, I got busy scalding tomatoes and peaches for the salsa and he prepped and chopped onions, peppers and garlic. And I waited...and he talked...and I listened. I love hearing about what is important to him and how he shares it.And I am so glad that we love salsa and that we will need to make lots more before the Summer is over.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Can't get enough of the fruit...

What is it in me that just can't resist a bargain? Yesterday we stopped at the packing house to get some new crop apples and possibly some more blueberries. We ended up getting a box of cherries, and two boxes of peaches as well. The peaches were at the back of the store and marked 29 cents a pound. I figured they were bruised, very ripe or damaged somehow and would make great peach butter so, for that price, I brought two boxes home with me. I have this weird thing where I don't like leaving "damaged" fruit or veg at the store - it's like I feel sorry for it. You'd think it was an abandoned puppy or something.This morning I opened up the boxes and had a look and found them barely marked. I've just talked to my husband to see if he can pick up some more. I keep looking out the kitchen window at my tree loaded with peaches and wondering why I feel I need more but I just can't resist.
I also can't help wondering why this fruit is priced so low. The orchardists must be losing money on these and there is really nothing wrong with them other than some small discolouration (hail damage??) on the skin that doesn't even go through to the flesh. I find it hard to believe that people would turn their noses up at these or even think that they shouldn't be paying full price for them. I wonder why our standard here for "perfect" fruit is the way it is. So, even though I am quite pleased to come by this fruit for such a good price I still find it very sad that it is this price.

Monday, August 18, 2008


I love this time of year so much. Our yard is just full of abundance...and my stomach is also very full of abundance. I feel as though we just feast all day. This is our Santa Rosa plum tree. We love these for fresh eating but I freeze some too as we usually can't eat them fast enough before they start falling off the tree. They make a great addition to winter smoothies.
I love the colours of them and think they're gorgeous, they are a little tart if you pick them early (which I do) but also incredible sweet and juicy.
And just when we are done feasting on those...these will be ripe. Peaches, peach crisp, peach pie, peaches on ice cream, peach smoothies, peach waffles...


I am just loving the variety of tomatoes I have this year, so many different heirloom types. This is a Franchi red pear tomato, I grew it from seeds that I bought at Sunshine Farms. I thought it would be more paste-type looking. It is very thick and not seedy so it seems like a paste-type, just not quite how I thought it would look.This is Andrea's long pointed tomato - no, I don't think you would find that name if you googled it. I was given the seeds by Andrea and Mary-Sue and now I understand why Andrea said that they grow so big you only need 2 or 3 to fill a quart jar. These are huge for a paste tomato. Delicious, too.Of course, I had to measure satisfy my own disbelief and (a little bit) because I like to tease Samantha about measurements of...well, anything really. So, here it is...all 6 plus inches of it. ;-)Of course I wanted to save the seeds of such a tomato but when I cut it open and looked for seeds this is all that I found.

What a fantastic tomato for canning and sauce making. I'd love to know the actual name if you ever remember, Andrea.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Favourite green bean recipe

Yesterday I picked a huge basket full of green beans. I'm so bad at keeping up with beans, I always end up letting some get too mature. Last night I made my favourite quick and easy recipe for green beans. Just steam or boil beans 'til tender crisp. While they are cooking I put a bit of butter and olive oil into a pan and toast some chopped almonds or walnuts for a few minutes. Add the drained beans and toss for a few minutes, then add a splash of lemon juice and some Parmesan or Romano cheese. Remove from heat and serve. So good!

Friday, August 15, 2008


Yesterday when we got home from the beach I starting grating up zucchini to freeze and to make Krista's recipe for zucchini brownies that I posted about. Oh my, are they ever good.
The only thing I did differently (besides using whole wheat flour) was the icing, mine is made from melting Rancho Vignola dark chocolate and mixing a little milk in to make an icing consistency.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Zucchini, zucchini and more zucchini

Last week at a BBQ a friend was telling me about her recipe for a zucchini polenta lasagna type dish; it sounded delicious and set my mouth to watering. The other day (after two days of this zucchini casserole) I decided to make something similar to her polenta recipe. I made polenta and let it set on a cookie sheet in the fridge. In the evening I covered it with some of last year's frozen pesto then, on top of that, I put some sliced zucchini that had been sauteed with onion and garlic.I added a few sun dried tomato strips, topped with mozzarella and baked it. It went down quite well around here, W proclaimed it "good stuff" and helped himself to a second slab. We have been eating zucchini in everything and now it is time to start putting some away for the winter.

This morning I came across a recipe for zucchini brownies on this blog. You know that I have to try it. We were just talking about zucchini recipes at our homelearner beach day yesterday and had talked about cookies and chocolate cake but I'd never thought of brownies with zucchini. Can't wait to taste them.
We also had our first taste of corn from a friend's garden. This is the stuff that we filled our freezer with last year and I think I can say it is the most delicious corn I have ever had. I am a serious corn on the cob lover. This cob is my "test cob", I am a firm believer that it is very important for the cook - that's me - to test the corn before serving it to others. I do this at each meal just to make sure that it is tasty enough for others. It is quite a sacrifice on my part but I am willing to do it for my family.

Of course I still have a cob with my meal as well. :-

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Onion braids

Yesterday I harvested our onions and let them dry in the sun for a bit while I went to a movie. I braided them in the evening, all the while singing tunes from Mamma Mia and, I'm sure, driving W crazy as he passed me onions. My boys don't share exactly the same taste as I do in music. My ABBA and Bee Gees CDs seem to disappear every once in a while and my favourite Queen CD has been missing from my car for months. I'm a little suspicious. Once, when we were in the car and I was listening to the BeeGees W asked me what BG stood for and I told him it was the brothers Gibb. Without missing a beat W said it sounded more like it should be sisters Gibb. I guess he doesn't appreciate how talented one must be to have such a range in voice. Hummph.
Back to the onions - my neighbour showed how to braid them years ago and I quite like having them hanging on the wall ready to be used. I take almost as much pleasure from it as I do from seeing the shelves full of preserves in my coldroom. My garlic stems were too dry to properly braid by the time I harvested them so I will have to satisfy myself with just onion braids this year.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Pruning tomatoes

This morning I asked the boys to help me get some work done in the garden. E's job was to collect all the bits of tomato plants that I pruned and load them in the wheelbarrow. He was quite distraught that I was pruning the tomatoes and even though I explained several times why I was doing it he was clearly not happy about it. At one point he found a stem I had cut off that had two teensy, tiny little tomatoes on it, he questioned me on it so I explained again that I was mostly pruning off excess stems and some flowers so that the fruit that was already set would grow more. I told him that I wanted the plant's energy to go towards growing and ripening the tomatoes that were already there instead of towards producing more stems and flowers. I could tell he was still not happy about it (to say the least) when he asked why I was "killing" the tomatoes. I explained one more time and then asked him to just pick up the pruning bits and trust me. A little later he took a bucket of plums to a neighbour and then came back to help me with some other chores. My neighbour came over later to bring me one of her Walla Walla onions and she also wanted to tell me about her visit with E. She had remarked to him that he didn't look very happy when he delivered the plums (they are good friends and she knows him well), he said that he had been helping me do chores and so she thought perhaps he was grumpy about that. He then said to her, "And do you know what mommy is doing?" She didn't. So he went on to tell her that I was cutting up all the tomato plants...and that I had even cut off two little tomatoes. She listened to his story, complete with hand gestures and lots of emotion. Then she asked him if he knew what she had done yesterday, he asked what and she told him that she, too, had pruned her tomato plants. And that seemed to satisfy him. I'm not sure why. Either he trusts her gardening judgement more than mine or he just doesn't care about her tomatoes as much. Anyway, I find it all very funny and love that he feels such concern for our tomato plants.And, at the end of the day, we all enjoyed a nice tomato, cuke and Walla Walla salad.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

A week away

The only downside that I can see to gardening is that so much of it goes on in the summer. I know, I know....duh! But this can be a problem for a person who likes to go away a lot in the summertime. The boys and I got home yesterday from just a week away and E called me to come look. His hands were full of his Brown Berry cherry tomatoes. (he loves them and already plans to save the seeds)I joined him in the garden and he showed me all the things that were ready for harvest. We started picking the zucchini, looked at the cucumber plants and then realized we would need a big basket to hold them all. While I was picking poles beans E was talking about what we would make with all this produce. What I love is that he said, "When the baskets are filled with all our treats..."I love that he thinks that beans, zucchini, tomatoes and cucumbers are "treats". I think just that alone makes for a very good reason for children to have a garden...because home-grown veggies really are a treat.
I could seriously use some new zucchini recipes though.