Alright folks, the Russian Kale and the Lacinato Kale are both ready, and the garlic scapes are in too. For those who ain’t in the know, garlic scapes are the “flower” formation that garlic plants produce right before they start to produce a bulb. One picks them when they’re still immature–they’ll turn into what looks reminiscent of s miniature garlic bulb. They’re excellent for sauteing, barbecuing, and–for the garlic lovers amongst us–eating straight. Use them exactly like you’d use garlic. The only difference is that this stuff is prettier and it’s not dried. They’re pretty pungent, so if you want to have something to tide you over before the garlic comes out of the ground in about a month this is the stuff. Will post pictures soonish.
As my neighbours can attest, I love making the neighbourhood smell like a fish processing plant. It’s one more thing that I do to show my love. But it goes beyond that, in our climate (with all the rain we get) nitrogen and boron–among other macro/micronutrients–get washed out of the soil. I’ve found that using rotten fish on my trees, blueberries, grapes, and garlic provides the difference between not having all that much abundance and having a huge yield. This is especially the case with blueberries, while in grapes it makes for nicer quality. Being a horticulture geek, I’m a bit of a sucker for novel fertilizers.
I decided to use the stuff on the garlic this year as a soil drench and inadvertently got it all over the tops, too. This was because for a big bulb you want to have the biggest and strongest tops you can get. Now the stuff is creeping past the three foot tall mark under relatively adverse conditions. I didn’t bother trying to wash it off the tops due to the brevity of time I had at my disposal and I was a bit concerned that perhaps the dilution would be too strong for the foliage to handle. Fast forward a month and there’s not a speck of rust on my garlic while I’ve noticed that my neighbours’ plants are close to dying from rust. Here’s what I’m talking about:
It ain’t at all pretty and it inhibits the plants from being able to photosynthesize properly. There’s also no recommended organic remedies other than crying about it once it gets to this stage in a field. Last year I had a huge problem with it and when I phoned the Ministry of Plenty (Agriculture) and asked for an extension agent I got told after being on hold for an hour “oh, she’s on vacation till September.” Keep in mind that it was July at the time…
But this year there’s zip, nada in terms of rust on my garlic which sent me into head scratching contemplation. We had plenty of wet horrible weather in late May (and so far early June, too) which is VERY conductive to the disease taking over. But then this morning I picked up the last issue of Acres USA, my favourite magazine, I started reading in the current issues section that they’re doing a trial in Georgia on the use of foliar fish fertilizer on blueberries as they’ve been noticing that it inhibits them form getting a variety of pathogens. Maybe it’s the same case with garlic?
Years ago Milo apparently told a customer that he used fish fertilizer and kelp on the tomatoes to inhibit blight which I thought was a bunch of nonsense at the time, but now I’m not so sure. Perhaps the properties of what dad calls “the worst smelling poontang this side of the Mississippi” is intolerable to fungus, too.
It’s been a while since the last update–things have been busy here at the farm. Since last time, the trees have all been pruned, the field has been ploughed and almost all the crops planted. All that’s left to plant are the the eggplants. So far we’ve got in the carrots, green onions, peppers, cucumbers, butternut squash, beets, romaine lettuce, golden and green zucchini, Early Girl and Juliet tomatoes, summer cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, Italian Dandelion, Dill, Russian and Lacinato kale, Warba potatoes, shelling and snap peas, green beans, Romano beans, and fennel. As a trial I also stuck in a small amount of pac choi and boc choi to see if I can successfully grow it!
To Hal Taylor, they pickling onions will be in the ground sooner than later!! I promise.
Otherwise, the cherries are looking like they’re going to be on time–the first week of July. The blueberries are looking excellent, as are the apples and the plums. Really great pollination that we had with that two week stretch of summer-like weather we had a week or so ago. The rains were also welcomed with open arms as everything grew an extra inch, rain beats irrigation when it comes to benefits for almost all crops. Next time I manage to get out and take a few shots I’ll post them, but yesterday I uploaded some shots from early May before I got everything in–take a look-see in the gallery, they should be on the last 2 pages.
Hey everybody, it’s been a little while since I’ve done an update so I figured I might as well start yakin’ a tad more. I’ll start off with some of the changes that are going to be going on on the farm for next year.
-We’ll finally have eggs all the time, as the hens are now settled in and we’re predicting an output of about 9-10 dozen per day. Oh yeah, and they won’t have any Grey Poupon them (har-har), either.
-I’m going to be collaborating with a few other farmers from around Richmond and Vancouver so from here on in there shouldn’t be any more shortages of cucumbers right in the middle of the summer because of a crop failure. The basic idea behind our collaboration is that none of us have enough space to grow everything we’d like to and have consistent supplies, and even if we did, there’d be hardly enough quantity and the efficiency end of things would be lacking. Further we’re all following the same sort of growing practices, and the stuff hasn’t been sitting on a shelf for weeks.
-We’re finally going to renovate the shop. This time I mean it! I’ll take some pictures when I start working on it.
-Right now I’m building some raised boxes outside of the shop that are modeled on the British coldframe idea, except with some amendments. The idea here is that the stuff that customers like freshly cut is right there (like parsley, basil, cilantro, etc.) can be done without walking through the field and back, and that they can see the product before they buy it. Depending on how much time I have to spare before planting starts, I might build quite a few of them and have some for arugula and kale, too.
-Also, there’s a few new things that we’re going to start growing.
This winter I have discovered (largely out of thiftiness to a fault–hey, I am my grandfather’s grandson after all) a love for parsnips, and so we’ll start growing an old variety called Harris Model that was bred in Steveston about a hundred years ago. They’re interesting because they aren’t supposed to be as huge at the top as standard store-bought parsnips, but rather more carrot shaped, and a tad smaller. This lends to them being a better option for customers who only want to make a small pot of soup.
Also, we’ll try out a new vegetable that’s a cross between brussel sprouts and kale. I’ll plant some by the door that everyone can behold, as they’re a cool looking little plant.
Lastly out of popular demand we’ll start growing parsley root. You Nort’ Amerikanaks have probably never seen ’em, but they’re used in soups and they add a really nice flavour to chicken noodle soups and such. In Belgrade farmer’s markets they sell them with a small parsnip, and a large carrot or two wrapped in an elastic rather than sifting through several different bins.
Strange as it may be, I’m already starting to want the hot weather to come back so that I can get out into the field and molly-coddle my tomato plants! The rainy winters here leave me to spend quite a few hours every winter pouring through every catalog and every website in search of the next best tomato. This past season I tried out a Amish heirloom in the greenhouse, a beefsteak called “Rose.”
In my greenhouse I plant the plants in a raise soil bed that has excellent drainage so that I can plant in March. I get my fix of decent tomatoes a touch earlier so that I can retain my sanity in a world of tasteless hydroponic tomatoes. Usually I’d do a crop of Early Girls to get a fast, reasonable tasting crop for spaghetti sauce. Anyway. Having read that numerous people have called “Rose” the best tasting tomato in the world, I thought I’d fill my greenhouse with them. Bad mistake. The things put on HUGE amounts of growth and didn’t produce any flowers till they were 6 feet tall and tangled in the grape vines! Finally I got one in the third week of August. I was totally awestruck. It was B-e-a-ah-utiful! It had the classic heirloom look–big with pronounced ridges, a nice scar on the bottom, and a gorgeous pink colouration. But here’s the catch: it didn’t end up tasting any better than a tomato from any of your average no-name B.C. greenhouses, and it started producing later than my crop of field tomatoes that faced the least ideal weather conditions we’ve seen in maybe a decade.
But there’s two tomatoes that my neighbour grew that turned out quite nicely in his backyard greenhouse–both black, really black–that I’ll do instead next year after I get the garlic greens out in May. I have to figure out what they were. I threw them maybe several dozen different varieties that I wanted them to trial in their greenhouse, and my favourite one was probably “Kosovo.” I think that Victory Seeds should carry them. They’re handful sized, maybe in the 16 oz. range, have a pronounced teat on the bottom, and are fairly meaty. The only problem with them was a slightly less than ideal disease resistance package which resulted in a higher likelihood of fusarium wilt, but then again they’ve been growing tomatoes in the same spot for a few years and I grow early potatoes next to their property on a 2-3 year rotation.
So for all you tomato affectionados out there: go to Victory Seeds. They’re got a really decent selection of tomatoes, the best in fact, and they’re generally pretty spiffy seeds. None of this $5/10 seed packet nonsense, either. I think that they’re located in Oregon so the varieties that they carry will generally do okay in Vancouver if you have an unhealthy obsession with tomatoes (like I do) to the point that your worst nightmares consist of 3 feet of snow and 200km winds hitting your newly blossoming tomatoes. I literally wake up in a cold sweat 2-3 times every year with a wild look in my eyes to that dream. To boot, my old history teacher Alex Popovich (a fellow Serb and tomato fiend) prefaced my introduction to the class as “[the guy] with the nicest, healthiest looking tomato plants this side of the Mississippi.” That’s the most flattering comment I’ve ever got.
Another thing that I’ve been wanting to put up is a decent squash soup recipe, so here we go. I made it last night for some friends who came over to carve pumpkins and served it with some baked pumpkin seeds. The glory of pumpkin seeds is that the salty-buttery goodness when served with beer can make some of the cheapest beers palatable. However–If you have more money at your disposal, I’d suggest pairing it with a Czech Lager like Czechvar. This is my first ever attempt at posting a recipe so bear with me!
-1 medium sized Butternut Squash
-2-3 Van Der Pol Red Apples (or another tart variety)
-1 cup of vegetable or chicken broth
-Couple tablespoons of butter
-1 Pint water
-Salt and pepper
Start off by hacking up a butternut squash in half, scoop the seeds, peel the rinds off, and cut into one inch pieces. Once you’ve got a nice amount, toss them into a salad bowl with a liberal amount of olive oil and stir them so that they get completely covered. Before you throw them into the oven dust em with salt and pepper. Now… turn the oven to about 375 F and pop the tray of squash into the oven for about 30-45 minutes and flip them over about 20 minutes into the cooking time so that they don’t burn. About five minutes before you take them out of the oven drizzle a bit of honey on top.
All the meanwhile grab a few Van Der Pol Red apples and skin them and core them and cut them up into bits and start making an apple sauce in a dutch oven type pot. For those not in the know: turn the dial about halfway up, melt a bit of butter to lubricate the pot (wait till it’s hot before adding apples), and add enough water to cover the apples, probably a bit more than a pint, and cook them till they’re tender. Once they get to this point you add the squash into the pot with the apples, and if you want to maybe a cup of chicken or vegetable stock.
Okay, at this point we’re going to spice the soup up. Standard course spicing in the Smart household for squash and pumpkin soup is ground ginger, cinnamon, and coriander. You could also use cloves, too, if you are so inclined. After you mix all that in bring the soup to a boil and then after boiling for a few minutes bring it down to a simmer and let it cook for another 40 minutes.
When you serve it make sure that you pour a bit of half-and-half cream into the centre of the bowl ontop of the squash and then with a large spoon do a twisting motion for an interesting effect.
Baked Pumpkin Seeds:
-2 cups of fresh pumpkin seeds
-Half cup of butter
Oven: 375 F. It should still be hot from the baked squash.
While you’re waiting for the soup you need not clean off the baking pan because the remnant squash imparts a good taste on the seeds. So, clean your pumpkin seeds after scooping them out in warm water through a colander, give em a quick shake and throw em onto the baking tray. Now, melt say a half cup of butter in a sauce pan and drizzle it overtop the seeds in the tray. Get los manos out and mix together the seeds with the butter and apply a generous amount of salt to the seeds. Pop the concoction into the oven and let it sit for about 20-30 minutes. Make sure you keep an eye on them and prevent them from getting burnt as they will do so quite readily.
I’m cooped up inside–again–and to stave off boredom I thought I’d do another update! Horay!
I created a recipe section and over the next couple days I’m going to figure out how to create sub-pages so that I can list off a few goodies. I’m not sure how I’m going to organize it yet… so I figure there’s going to be more than a few revisions. The most sensible thing I can think of would be to initially list off recipes by featured ingredient, and say under Zucchini you’d have stuff like Mücver (Turkish zucchini pancakes), Italian zucchini loaf, et cetera. But I do think it would be cool if, instead of having to scroll down through a million different recipes, for there to be a device where you’d say (A) have a list of different geographical regions that you could select, and then (B) insert the featured ingredient, and then-viola!- there’s a neat list of recommended recipes to choose from. On the other hand, I could always keep it simpler still and have different lists of recipes listed by who I obtained them from, i.e. by restaurant (assuming they’d be game), dad, grandma, and of course recipes that I butcher (think tandoori chicken on white bread with Swiss cheese and mayo). We’ll see what happens, but It’ll be solid so I hope no one gets too worried!
The first few things I’m going to post will probably include: Mucver, plum dumplings, plum cake, prebranac, podvarac, kačamak, saurkraut, tomato soup, spaghetti sauce, zucchini loaf, a variety of different things one can do with kale and squash, and how to make chicken noodle soup from scratch. It’s really surprising how few people actually know how to make chicken noodle soup without even the addition of bottled vegetable broth. I might throw in a good schnitzel recipe, too, if I come across one that turns out like the one that they serve at the Black Forest Restaurant in Harrison Hotsprings. Since a great number of you guys are vegetarian I’ll try my best to include good vegetarian mains and sides as vegetarian options in Vancouver are limited to The Foundation, and… well The Foundation, and cooking at home.
Sidenote: I was going to harass them when I went there the other day, but I was with friends and they probably wouldn’t have greatly appreciate the vegetable hawker spiel. Another time, another day.
That’s it. It’s done. It’s decided. Next year I’m going to do a mirco-green salad mix. For those who haven’t the slightest clue what the heck I’m talking about, it’s a combination of various greens planted at super high density and picked when they’re about 3 inches tall.
Today my friend Allan from Urban Edibles hooked me up with a small bag of greens. Fantastico. I’d take a picture, but the aforementioned camera batteries are yet to be charged, and I’m yet to appropriate a cable from an unsuspecting victim. I’m pretty sure it was the Provencal Mesclun Mix. Next year you’ll all be able to enjoy it. Take a peek at West Coast Seeds description of it!