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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Rose Petal Love August 15, 2011

Rose

Rose

Yesterday the kids spontaneously started collecting the fallen rose petals.  They were freshly fallen and pretty much perfect, so I suggested we bring them in for a rose bath. They added a few sprigs of lavender and had a spa treatment soak at home.  What fun! The whole bathroom was filled with intoxicating rose aromas and the kids relished the indulgence.

So often I think of our garden as a source of food production – I find beauty in its usefullness, in its ability to provide for us. As such, I view the flowers as a means to an end. They attract the bees and the butterflies.  Sometimes they ward off the pests. They dot the garden with bits of colour and some of them can be eaten.  But I have long neglected to enjoy the flowers to their fullest.

That’s changing. For whatever reason, this year I’m taking absolute joy in the delicious uselessness of beauty for the sake of beauty. I’ve begun cutting fresh flowers for a vase that now lives on our table. The kids and I have plans to dry flowers next week. And now this, a rose bath.  The change may be attributed in part to the housebound state I’m currently living in as a sort-of-stay-at-home-works-every-possible-opportunity-never-finds-time-to-relax mom or maybe it’s because after a year of renovations, I’m craving the beauty.

Thank you kids, for reminding me to enjoy the pretty petals.

 

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.

 

Seaweed for the Garden August 6, 2011

Seaweed from the Beach

Seaweed from the Beach

We spent last weekend camping near a beach covered with washed up seaweed. Seaweed is full of nutrients – reputed to be as good as fresh manure for the earth – so before leaving, we collected a rubbermaid full of seaweed for the garden. The kids collected (and returned) a bucket full of fish from the tidepools.

Chasing Fish in the Tide Pool

Chasing Fish in the Tide Pool

We live on the West Coast, so mulching with seaweed seems like a given, but the opportunity hadn’t presented itself until now.

Seaweed can be applied directly to the garden as a layer of mulch or it can be added to the compost. A tonic can also be made by filling a barrel half way with the seaweed and adding water. After sitting three months, this is similar to the commercially available seaweed fertilizer formulas.

Impatience and lack of organization negate the possibility of making tonic right now. And as much as I’d love to mulch, I’m not going to for two reasons:

  1. We didn’t rinse the salt from the seaweed with freshwater.  The salt can be harmful to the garden and can kill the worms. In the rainy winter months, the effect is negligible, but during the summer months adding a lot of salt to the garden isn’t a great idea. That said, that’s way too much work for this busy mama!
  2. Apparently seaweed is rich in growth hormone and shouldn’t be applied late in the growing season.  We might mulch with seaweed in the early fall, when the winter garden is just starting and the other beds are replenishing.

So the seaweed is going into the compost. I’ll let you know how that turns out…

Collecting Seaweed

Collecting Seaweed

Collecting seaweed is as easy as anything. The variety of seaweed is inconsequential and many types varieties can be found on most beaches.  The one and only steadfast rule is respect. Seaweed is an important part of the aquaculture and removing it can be harmful to the natural balance of the environment. So,

    • NEVER take live seaweed. ONLY take seaweed from the beach.
    • RINSE the seaweed gently in the ocean to release aquatic organisms back into the water.
    • LEAVE plenty of seaweed on the beach.  Dried seaweed is a home and harbor to many creatures, if you take it all they are left without cover.
 

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.

 

Kid-Painted Herb Pots for Housewarming June 30, 2011

kid painted herb potters

kid painted herb potters

Friends recently bought a house and took possession – in late June.  It’s a great place with established flowers, but no vegetable garden, no herb garden and no time to plant annuals. So for a housewarming, we brought them two terra cotta planters full of herbs. 

A few of the herbs were transplants from our garden, others were purchased from a local nursery where “compact” versions of some of our favorites were available.

The kids painted the potters.  When they were dry we filled them with a layer of gravel, then potting soil and finally herbs and marigolds.

Ta-da!

For more on natural family living, check out my series Growing Up Green at http://www.thriftyandgreen.com/content/growing-up-green.

 

Hey Kids, We’re Growing Kiwis May 27, 2011

Hey Kids – we’re growing Kiwis!

Really? Where?

Growing What?

When I showed them the vines, planted happily in our West Coast garden, the excitement set in.

Kiwis are Good!

I have to admit that despite the fact that our Kiwi plants are currently little stubs with a few leaves, I share completely in their euphoria. The very idea of growing kiwi fruit in our cool West Coast climate is boggling and beautiful. I had planned on apple trees, plum trees, blueberries, raspberries, maybe even grapes – but I had no idea that we could have productive Kiwis. Apparently we can. And here’s the skinny:

Kiwi plants are aggressive woody vines that grow to be about 20 ft. They require strong support and like all fruit, good soil along with love and attention, including regular applications of fertilizer. (Remember, you’re going to eat the fruit, so keep it organic). Kiwi plants on the West Coast are reputed to be productive as early as their second year – though this is variety dependent.

Kiwi plants are dioecious – both a male and female plant is required for fruit production. For the patient guru male flowers have stamens, and the female ones have carpels. For the rest of us, plants without flowers look identical save one distinguishing feature –

Kiwi Plant - Male

The tag. You’ll need one male and one female. And obviously, you need bees and butterflies to make sure that those flowers come in contact with one and other. If not, the plant will need your assistance. And honestly – whose got time for that! I’ve planted our kiwis near a flowering plants that the bees love so fingers are crossed for nature doing what it does best.

I’ll keep you posted!

 

 
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