Sunday, June 26, 2011

Surprise! Surprise!

Just a quick follow-up to my last post as I've since noticed two more surprises growing in my back yard!

Here's the first:

Not sure if you can quite make out what that little nubbin' is, but in a few months, it's going to be a pear! We planted the pear tree when my oldest turned 1 and five years later it bore its first fruit. Last year it produced nothing and we were kinda bummed about that but we had heard that pear trees only bear fruit every two years. When we saw this little fruit we were so excited to see it! There were so many flowers in bloom on this tree, it's hard to believe only one pear is growing but we'll take it!

My second son was born in the winter so when the soil was ready in the spring, we planted a cherry tree. That was 5 years ago and this is the first year I looked up and saw these:

I counted 20 cherries! I've since gone back and noticed a few pits on the ground, I think the birds may have gotten to them. I'll have to figure out a way to protect them if I want to harvest them for my family!

Monday, June 13, 2011

What's Growing 2011

I had been wanting to write this post for a while now but due to circumstances outside of my control - my son dropped the laptop, the hard drive crashed, sent it in for restore... - so 3 weeks later, here it is! 

I wanted to share what's growing in my garden this year. The returning champions are: asparagus, chives, parsley, thyme, cilantro, sage, kale, onions, lettuce, leeks, Jerusalem artichokes and dill. Oh. The. D-i-l-l! Last summer when it went to seed, I cut off the tops and tossed them back in the garden. When spring came around and I was watching the first little greens pop out of the frozen ground, I noticed what seemed to be dill covering half my garden. Sure enough, it's dill. It's dill carpeting! Unless someone can share their dill inspired dish, I will be pulling dill for the rest of the season.

Planted once again this year: tomatoes, marigolds, basil, rosemary, oregano, parsley, zucchini, peas, red lettuce, radishes and beets. These are so simple to maintain, aside from spreading some eggshells  and coffee grinds around the bottom of the tomatoes and the copper wiring around the lettuce to keep the slugs out. Oh! and giving the peas a little climbing structure or else they'll grab on to whatever they can, like the onions! The only finicky ones are the basil plants, they need a lot of water and their flowers need to be snapped off to keep the leaves growing. I planted the marigolds to keep the bugs away from the tomatoes. This really works. I bought this book to learn more about companion planting: Carrots Love Tomatoes.  I used it to select different plants for the garden this year including: savory, potatoes, echinacea, pumpkins, lovage, borage and sunflowers. 

Around the side of the house we have mint, raspberries and rhubarb, all growing together and left to battle it out for space. The raspberries actually popped out from under the wall barrier and are now growing in the grass! We've pretty much eaten all the rhubarb already, I've made quite a few compotes. After I harvested the rhubarb, I couldn't help but admire the colour. Wouldn't you love to have a dress that starts in light green and finished in a deep shimmery reddish-pink?

I also have lavender growing in the front garden and I've planted chamomile and calendula  to accompany the lavender in my bath salts and bath fizzy production this year. The borage should be a fun addition as well. 

So. That's what's growing in my garden in 2011. I was trying to keep it simple this year since I have my CSA baskets that will continue to be delivered. Believe it or not, it's less than what was planted in 2010, more focus on flowering plants to bring beneficial bugs to the garden. There is a huge bumble bee that visits daily and we've already seen a beautiful yellow and black butterfly. I'll try to snap a picture if I can but there's never any guarantees with the wildlife. I'd love to know what's growing in your garden!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Mangel Mystery

Well, well, well... What do we have here?

Turnips? Nope. Beets? Nope. What ever could they be? I receive these little mysteries in my latest CSA delivery. I quickly checked the farm's website but none of the pictures resembled what I received. So off I go to Twitter to send the picture around and hope that one of the many foodies can help me out. No one guessed it right but many were very curious. Then I turned to Facebook for help. I posted the picture but still, no correct guesses. Well, the only way I could get an answer was to email the farm and of course, I got my answer. They are mangels! Mangels? Yup. Also known as sweet beets.

I'm told they're to be cooked like beets. I'm always nervous to try beet-related recipes since my beet and chocolate ice cream epic failure this past winter. I peeled them, chopped them up into little cubes, tossed them with olive oil, salt, pepper and herbes de Provence. I wrapped them in foil and placed them on the BBQ on low heat. The verdict? Good stuff! I left them on the grill too long and the undersides burnt so I had to cut off the bits before serving but I don't think it impacted the taste at all. So what did the taste like? While it's true that they're kind of like beets, they're more watery, more sweet and less pasty in texture.

Curious to know if anyone else has ever tried mangels and if you have any interesting recipes!