Gumboot Adventures

gowing and growing green

August 17, 2011

Pesto Pre-Presto

Pesto Pre-Presto

The garden is in full swing and we’re enjoying its goodness at least every day and often at every meal! One of the ubiquitous family favorites at our house is fresh pesto. When the bright flavours hit our pallet, we know that summer has really, truly arrived.

Our pesto recipe is simple and traditional, with a little health zing: kale! A handful of garden fresh kale disappears into the strong flavours of garlic and basil. Around here, only the grown ups actually enjoy kale but since it’s a super food – packed full of nutrients and vitamins – so we sneak it into the kids every chance we get.

Italien Soup w/ Pesto

Italien Soup w/ Pesto

Pesto is great as a pasta sauce. For a quick, healthy, kid-pleasing meal we like to sautee the pesto with cubed tofu for a few minutes, before adding cooked pasta, olives and cherry tomatoes. It’s also perfect dolluped on top of a tomato based vegetable soup like minestrone or Italian Bean soup. At snack time, try pesto spread on rye crackers with fresh sliced tomatoes.

Basil & Kale Pesto Recipe

Ingredients:

1 cup fresh basil (leaves, stems, flowers – it’s all good)
¾ cup of olive oil
¼ cup pine nuts (it’s nice to roast these in the pan with a little olive oil first)
1/3 cup parmesean cheese
2 large cloves of garlic
5 kale leaves, off the stem

Directions:
Strip the leafy greens off of the kale stem. Disgard the stem. If desired, pan-roast the pine nuts in a bit of olive oil for a nice nutty flavour.
Combine all ingredients in a food processor.

Puree. Eat. Enjoy.

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Picking and Pinching August 14, 2011

 

Tomatoes Ripening

Tomatoes Ripening

It’s the time of year when a lot of the work in the garden is either pinching or picking.  To increase production, plants need to be pinched. To maintain continuous production, other plants need to picked regularly. The practice of pinching sends the energy to the fruit, increasing the likelyhood of nice, big, ripe fruit and vegetables. Our tomatoes have been especially needy in the pinching department as they struggle to produce ripe fruit amidst a short growing season and the constant threat of blight.

PINCHING

Tomatoes  – Tomatoes can be pinched in a couple of ways. (1) Once flowering starts, pinch the tops to stunt growth and send energy to fruit production. (2) Especially in wet climates, pinch the lower leaves to prevent the onset of blight. (3) Once fruit production begins in earnest, thin out leaves to send energy to the fruit and to allow the sun to reach and ripen the fruit.

Squash & Pumpkins – If size matters, pinch all but a few flowers to get big, lovely pumpkins and other squashes. If space matters, trim back the vines, unless you’ve trained them up.  Squash flowers are edible and make a nice colourful addition to salad.

Strawberry – Trim back those runners! Strawberry plants should be replaced about every four years. Unless it’s replacement time, trim back the runners to direct the energy to the plant, and to allow enough space for the existing plants to produce well.

PICKING

Peas – Peas require continual picking to keep up their production. In August, the novelty of the peas can wear off as other vegetables come into season. Don’t let the peas become the neglected plant in the corner. Continued love will be rewarded with long lasting production and fresh peas for salad, stews and pesto well into the summer.

Brocoli – Quick, before it flowers! Any remaining brocoli needs to be picked now before it flowers. Leave the plants for a second set of heads ready for harvest later in the fall.

Leafy Greens – Picking a few leaves from each head of lettuce and from the kale, chard, and spinach is key to preventing to bolting and to enjoying fresh sweet salads all summer long.

 

The Best Salad Dressing July 28, 2011

The Best Salad Dressing in the World

The Best Salad Dressing in the World

We’ve been eating a lot of greens this cool summer.  Which is fine by us, we have the yummiest salad dressing in the “whole-entire world,” courtesy of the magazine Edible Vancouver and the incredible Hollyhock Institute.

Edible printed Hollyhock’s famous dressing in their almost-spring 2011 edition, and it’s been a game changer at our house.  Here it is.  The best salad dressing in the “Whole-Entire World”

Hollyhock Yeast Dressing

As printed in Edible, from Hollyhock Cooks, with Linda Solomon and Moreka Jolar.

Makes 2 1/2 cups.

1/2 cup (125 ml) nutritional yeast flakes

1/3 cup (75 ml) water

1/3 cup (75 ml) soy sauce or tamari

1/3 cup (75 ml) apple cider vinegar

2 Tbsp crushed garlic

1 1/2 cups (375 ml) Sunflower Oil

Combine the first 5 ing unredients in a blender until they are thoroughly mixed. While still mixing on high, pour the oil in a slow, steady stream. Add  all the oil or r when a desired consistency is achieved. (Honestly, we put everything in the glass mason jar we keep the dressing in, and shake. It’s delicious). When refrigerated, this keeps for 2 weeks.

 

Salad Greens July 25, 2011

Salad Greens

Salad Greens (and peas, dill & strawberries)

The salad is doing well this year. That’s because it’s late July and yesterday was the first day of “summer” here on the wet wet coast.  Now that it’s hot – and assuming the heat is planning to stick around, the salad will now bolt.  Which means it’s time to eat it all up. Fast.

Until this year, I’ve never had much luck producing sweet lettuce. The heat and dry of summer have always got the better of us and the spring lettuce has consistently bolted early in the year, quickly become woody and bitter. So for the long spring lettuce season, I give thanks.  The peas, brocolli and cabbage are also doing remarkably well with this odd season. To extend the growing of these spring crops in the summer heat, we need to get on top of watering now.  Until this week, we’ve been leaving the watering to the elements. Luckily, the rain barrels are full after a wet spring so we should be able to ward off bitter bolting greens a little bit longer.

It’s also time to sow another round of greens. We’ll plant in the partial shade of some of the bushier veggies to keep these a little cooler and eat them young and fresh during the hot summer, um, weeks.  Strangely, it’s almost time to sow winter greens too – more kale, spinach and crests to go into what will be a covered winter garden in a couple months.

 

Embrace Your (Garden’s) Shady Side June 22, 2009

Snap Peas - a good shade veggie

Snap Peas - a good shade veggie

With three to four hours of direct sunlight and not a lot of space, a friend emailed to ask what she could grow on her substantially shady apartment patio. The answer – plenty!

Traditional fruiting veggies like tomatoes and peppers are out the question, but the leafy greens & the brassica family thrive in the cooler weather a bit of shade provides.  These plants also have the advantage of smallish root systems – making them ideal container species.  The rule of thumb for most of the shade friendly plants is that they require 3.5-6 hours of sunlight.  A few greens (live Chevre) and herbs (lemon mint) will do well with less sunlight, but your options are really reduced after the 3 hour mark.

The following 10 vegetables are good shade choices:

  1. Salad Greens, such as leaf lettuce, arugula, endive, and cress.
  2. Broccoli
  3. Cauliflower
  4. Peas
  5. Beets
  6. Brussels Sprouts
  7. Radishes
  8. Swiss Chard
  9. Leafy Greens, such as collards, mustard greens, spinach, and kale
  10. Beans

There are further considerations to maximize your shady output.  In the bean and pea families, for example, the bush varieties generally do better in shady environments than their climbing cousins.  And across the board, you will want to look for varieties with quick maturity cycles.  The more shade you’ve got, the less time you have!

Swiss Chard Growing in a Shady Spot

Swiss Chard Growing in a Shady Spot

Moderatly shady garden patches can have distinct advantages when planting appropriate crops. In addition to holding the water better, and therefore requiring less regular watering, these patches have the potential of a longer growing season.  I, for example, planted a lovely and very complete bed of leafy greens in a sunny cold frame early on this season. We had leafy greens well before the masses, but despite opening the frame in May, my brocolli bolted as soon as the first hot spell hit.  The spinach wasn’t far behind.  And the lettuce brought up the back shortly after.  Now in late June, I’ve only a couple lettuces, swiss chard and kale left in that bed.  I’ve got second crops of some varieties planted in shady spots in the garden.  For example, swiss chard is popping up behind the potatoes.

I digress, this post is for shady gardeners looking to maximize their sun.  A little creativity will also help to liberate you from a “what you see is what you get” approach to the garden lot (or patio as the case may be).  In shady places, consider how best to utilize reflective surfaces in your garden space.  White walls help.  Mirrors or water can be utilized.  Some folks lay reflective plastic on the ground, which serves the dual purpose of maintaining ground temperature and reflecting light back to the plants.

Well nourished soil is also critical (and by critical, I mean helpful, but if you’re soil is poopers – plant anyway and stuff might grow).  This is especially true in patio plots where the same species are planted year after year in the same dirt.  Without a little forethought and a bit of soil maintenance, the nutrients in the soil will soon be depreciated. Compost and crop rotation are key.  And where true crop rotation isn’t possible –  like in container gardening or shady-spot gardening, where the soil will never get the benefit of deep rooted veggies pulling up hidden nutrients from the well that is the earth – compost becomes all the more important.

I can practically hear my friend – but I live in an apartment, how will I compost? You will vermi-compost! Here on the wet coast, worm composters are available from the City of Vancouver at a discounted rate of $25 (http://vancouver.ca/ENGSVCS/solidwaste/garbage/garbagetips.htm).  And while this isn’t the post to go into details on the many benefits of composting, it really is the a to good gardening and a pillar for sustainable living.  I’ll do a post on this in the near future – in the meantime, check out  Vancouver gardening gurus City Farmer’s how to video http://www.cityfarmer.info/harvesting-a-worm-bin-apartment-composting-video-2/.

 

 
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