Monday, August 26, 2013

Monday Harvest - Aug 19th-26th

This week was a great week in the garden.  The tomatoes finally started to turn red!  We continued to harvest as needed for meals - thats mostly what our garden is indended for, so you wont see the same large harvest that other have posted over at Daphne's Dandelions but its exciting non the less.

Below you see one of our large mishapen cuks, this cucumber was against the fence and so it turned half way through growing.  The tomatoes are grape tomatoes which we have been harvesting all summer, and health kick tomatoes which we have been waiting for all summer.  Health kick are a roma variety although ours were not shaped much like a roma.  The special thing about health kick are they have tons of lycopene which makes them extra bright,  and tasty.  Many health claims have been made about lycopene as well but all are still theoretical.  All I know is they taste delicious and look amazing on a plate.  Many of my health kick have been cracking though as you can see in the picture.  Have you had cracking on your tomatoes before?  If so what was the cause?  I have read that cracking could be due to many sources - drastically changing temperatures (and therefore growing rates), too much water, too little water, poor nutrients in the soil, etc.  Please let me know what your experience has been with tomato cracking in the comments below.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

The cat came back!

This is kneesa.  She is an outdoor cat that is not ours.  2 summers ago she wandered into our yard and our hearts.  That summer she showed up in late august but returned a couple times a week.  Last year she came back in late June and visited almost daily.  She is the most adorable cat ever, very friendly, loves being petted and playing.  When I went outside last summer she was either already sleeping on our deck or close enough to come when called.  She was over so often that we were worried she did not have an owner.  We built her a makeshift cat house with a rubbermaid container and some hay.  She would cuddle in there when it was raining.  Some days I would spend a couple hours outside relaxing with her taking a nap on my lap.  When the weather started to cool she was still coming.  In order to find out if she had a home we bought a collar and put a note on it.  A nice older lady called and said she did indeed have a home but she loved being outdoors.  Her house was two blocks away so she must really like us to be coming back every day.  I fell in love with her, I bought her toys to play with and treats to give her.  One of the toys I bought was a little ball with a bell in it.  She never wanted to play with it when I was around, but in the middle of the night I could hear her out in the back yard chasing it around the deck :).  Her favourite thing to play with is the hay though, you drag it around the deck and she chases it.  When it got really cold she did stop coming around and we waited till spring hoping to see her again.  Sadly June, July and most of August went by without her coming around again.  We thought for sure her owner had moved away and given up all hope to see her again.  But then yesterday when I was outside BBQing there was movement under the patio table which startled me at first.  Then I noticed it was our kneesa cat!  I was soooo happy.  I quickly called GMF to come outside and he found some treats and the brush we bought for her and we spend an hour outside with her.  She was as adorable as ever.  Yes, as you can see from the picture she does follow us inside the house from time to time, and she wanders and explores.  I hope she keeps coming back again.  

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Steak & Potato to the max!

Friday night I grilled what turned out to be one of my favourite meals of the summer!!  I bought a whole beef tenderloin at the super store and GMF carved into 9 individual steaks, 1 larger portion for an asian beef dish, 2 roasts and we used the tip for fajitas.  The fajitas were AMAZING!!  Next time I make them I'll do a post about them.  We marinated all the steaks in Perfect Steak Marinade.  We get ours at Canadian Tire and it is our favourite steak marinade.  Thanks to my parents for pointing us in the direction of this marinade.  All the steaks we weren't eating soon we marinaded in freezer bags and threw in the freezer.  We freeze everything in marinade, not only does it give the food a fantastic depth of flavour, but it also prevents freezer burn.  On to the dinner:  It consisted of steak, potatoes, onion, cherry bomb peppers, carrots and micro greens.  The cut up new potatoes where tossed in paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, sage, salt and pepper, and a little oil.  They were then placed on the grill at medium-high heat with small whole onions and whole cherry bomb peppers.  They were grilled for about 40 minutes turning regularly to develop a crispy outsides and a deep flavour.  The carrots were tossed in a little oil and grilled whole for about 20 minutes on medium-low heat.  When It was time to put the steaks on the grill I added sprigs of rosemary to the potatoes.  Crispy rosemary is delicious and surprisingly sweet.  The steaks were grilled on high heat to sear then heat was reduced to medium.  Steaks were turned every minute to keep the juices moving.  We like our steaks rare so they were taken off the grill to rest in tin foil for about 10 minutes at around 115-120 degrees.  At this time I crushed about 5 garlic cloves over the potatoes on the grill allowed them to sauté.  I also whipped up some chili-lime sauce for the greens and carrots.  And voila: here's a pic of my meal below.  I was amazed at how good the potatoes were - they may have been my favourite part (I know what your thinking all that delicious beef and potatoes were your favourite? but its true.  The beef was amazing though and the cherry bomb pepper was so spicy and sweet once it was roasted.  wow).

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Garden Update

The colours in the garden are changing from greens to reds!  Hot peppers and tomatoes are all ripening.  Our eggplant plants are overrun with fruit.  The brussel sprouts are starting for form on their stalks.   We have taken out all but one broccoli plant removed all the lettuces and planted some new lettuces for the fall from seed.  I've also planted some kohl rabi (not sure if they are going to have enough time, but we'll see).  Fall radishes and beets have also been planted in some spaces in between.  

  Here are the tomatoes:  finally the larger ones are turning red!  We have grape (which have been ripening continuously all summer), Health kick (these are loaded with lycopene - they taste delicious) and Ultra sweet (this is a beefsteak variety- they are so large and taste yummy and sweet).

The eggplants are really ramping up their game, GMF has been enjoying them in eggplant parmesan.  

 We planted some fall beets and lettuces and they have all started coming up now.

 Our last broccoli plant is still producing.

I can barely keep up with the cucumber.  They are a slicing variety (can't remember exactly what they were called).  I'm not a fan of pickles so I don't do that, I just eat the cucumbers fresh and in salads.

The hot peppers are literally ripening in hours.  I look at them in the morning and their green and I get home from work and they are bright red.  I am so excited to make hot sauces soon.  I've got cajun bell, cherry bomb, habenero and TONS of cayenne.

Here are the brussel spouts.  They look so neat growing on the stalk.  I'm not a big fan of brussel sprouts but GMF will love them.

For this post I'm linking up with An Oregon Cottage's Garden Party series.  Check out what other people have going on in their gardens.

Harvest (not monday) - Aug 12th-19th

Ok so I've been behind on blogging this week, but I'm gonna post a couple today.  Summer is coming to an end and I went back to work this week.  In our school board we run an orientation program for incoming grade 9's.  I teach that program and it ran mon-thur this week.  I enjoy doing it because I get to meet the students a head of time.  I teach 4 classes of grade 9's this year.

Alrighty on to the garden stuff!!!  So this past week I had a pretty good harvest with a variety of crops.  I picked more beets, which I need to pickle and can ASAP.  They were a very nice size.  I still have a small row growing for fall harvest.  There was a continuous flow of grape tomatoes, but still no larger ones (soon though).  I harvested some basil for making salads.  I also was excited to harvest the first of my onions.  They are not that big because I didn't get them thinned out.  I will also plant them in rows parallel to the fence and bed next year instead of perpendicular to it like this year.  Because they were perpendicular the greens were reaching for the sun and leaning on each other which caused them to flop over early.  Live and Learn!  That is kinda my slogan for this year as I planted lots of different things to see what would work best.

 This is a runt of a cajun bell pepper. Not sure why this little guys didn't grow big but he was tasty!
 I also harvested a couple small groups of rainbow carrots.  I will definitely plant more of these next year.  I also did a saturday spotlight post on these last weekend.  Look at how beautiful the colours are!

This is part of a series of posts that called Harvest Monday over at Daphne's Dandelions.  Check out what other people harvested this past week as well.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Saturday Spotlight: Rainbow Carrots

This is my first Saturday Spotlight. The spotlight is a series hosted by Suburban Tomato where different garden bloggers write posts about one specific crop that they are growing. I have chosen to write my first spotlight on my rainbow carrots because as I am posting my harvest pics many people are commenting on how good my carrots are looking.

This is the first year I am growing rainbow carrots, but I have been cooking with them for years - whenever I can find them. They make any plate look beautiful - whether they are roasted slowly with balsamic and herbs or simply cut on a plate. The colours are so vibrant it will put a smile on everyones face.  I planted the rainbow mix from: OSC Seeds in Waterloo Ontario.  Here is there description of them:

"A Kaleidoscope of colourful carrots. Atomic Red, Bambino, Cosmic Purple, Lunar White and Solar Yellow. Sweet and crunchy; great for salads! An excellent all purpose carrot. We expect market gardeners will be especially pleased as this unusual colour combination is hard to find!"

Here is my latest harvest of these carrots.  They could be larger but I wanted to eat them!  I am picking them as needed and leaving some in the ground to keep growing.  

 As you can see in the next picture that the carrots with the red skin also have red stalks near the top of the carrot, so you can pick out the red ones while still in the ground.  You'll also notice that there are no white ones in this harvest.  Seems the white ones are still very thin, they must take longer to grow so they are being left in the ground.

Here are the carrots simply sliced in half.  I think It looks like flames from a fire, beautiful bright oranges, and yellows.  The red ones when cut open are not red in the middle, they are either a dark orange or a bright yellow.  The red with bright yellow in the middle are my favourites, they both look the prettiest with their gradient of colour and they seem to taste a little sweeter.

 Here you can see the outside compared to the inside of each carrot.  The halves are matched vertically.

I only planted 2 small rows of these carrots this year.  This if my first year with my new raised beds so we did a variety of crops to get an idea of what grows well and what we like.  We will definitely plant these again next year but in greater numbers!  They are planted in a 1 foot deep raised bed with regular garden soil fertilized with some miracle grow vegetable food before planting.  Here are the two rows as they started to sprout.

Here is the growing description from OSC Seeds:

Carrots will grow well in any open, wellcultivated, deep garden soil. As the seed is quite small, mix it with some sand when sowing. Once soil temperature rises above 7.5 C (45F), sow seed about 7-15 mm (1/4-1/2") deep in rows spaced 45-60 cm (18- 24") apart. Stagger several sowings over the next few weeks. Keep the seedbed evenly moist during the 3 week germination period. Thin the seedlings during the early stages of growth until they are 5 cm (2") apart. Keep the plants evenly watered, weed free and avoid high nitrogen fertilizers. Harvest any time after the carrot roots develop good colour.

As I continue to harvest I will post some of my favourite ways to prepare these rainbow carrots.

Tonight I just ate them sliced with some radishes, broccoli and cucumber with a little freshly ground salt.

Here's the rainbow carrots grilled whole then sliced, topped with micro greens and chili lime sauce.

Have you ever tried rainbow carrots?  Which colour is your favourite?  What is your favourite way to prepare these beauties?  Share your experiences in the comments below.

Also be sure to follow Live in the Yard for more ideas on how to serve these carrots and other delicious veg harvested from your garden!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Tomato & Cucumber Salad

As promised in this weeks harvest post here is the recipe for my very simple tomato and cucumber salad.  I made this to take to my brothers house this past weekend.  This is a great pot luck idea as it soaks up more flavour over time (keep cool though or the veg will lose their crunch).  Below are the ingredients.  This can be changed up as well.  Add some fresh mozzarella cheese if you like (I don't eat cheese - i know weird).  You can use any type of vinegar and I switch it up depending on what's on hand.   

Chop up all the veg and drizzle with vinegar (it's really good if you make it about an hour in advance and put it in a ziploc in the fridge to suck up all the flavours), add dried herbs and fresh basil.  Yummy!

On a side note: While at my brothers I got to see his veggie garden.  This is his first year growing veggies and he's started with pepper and tomatoes in pots.  They are looking good!  Way to go bro, can't wait to see you build a raised bed next year - you're hooked now.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Hot Peppers & Cross Pollination. I'm linking up with Tuesday Garden Party at An Oregon Cottage.  This series has people post on a variety of garden topics including what's growing/blooming, tips, ideas, progress, harvests, recipes, before/afters or how-tos.  I  love connecting with other gardeners and seeing what is happening.  I find it very motivational.  You should check some of the posts in the series this week. (click on the button to the left).
On to the POST:  

Ok so I will be the first to admit that I over planted hot peppers this year.  We are getting tons of hot peppers coming off all the plants though!  Can't wait to make my own hot sauce!  They are definitely too close together.  But I have read that to avoid cross pollination different plants need to be 100's of feet apart.  So I guess I should just get used to this because I don't have that much space and I want to keep planting different kinds of peppers.  This year I planted 6 cayenne plants, 2 habanero plants, 1 cherry bomb, 1 cajun bell and 2 banana pepper plants.  I know that's a lot of plants in a small area (as you can see below).
The first to produce fruit were the cherry bomb then the cajun bell and the banana peppers, then the cayenne peppers and finally the habanero.  We noticed a couple weeks ago that one of the cayenne pepper plants is growing 2 distinctly different shaped peppers.  The normal long skinny sometimes curled cayenne pepper (B), and what looks very much like a jalapeño pepper (A).  We think the cayenne has cross pollinated with the cherry bomb creating a hybrid shape.

Here is a picture of the cherry bomb, as you can see it is short and wide with a darker skin colour than the cayenne.  We think this is the best candidate for what has cross pollinated.  In the background you can see the cajun bell plant.
 We also have a very short and stumpy cajun bell on our hands.  Seen in the centre of the photo below. It started to turn colour fairly quickly and was actually eaten yesterday bright red (this photo was taken about a week ago).  The stumpy pepper tasted like a cajun bell.   We are not sure this one is result of cross pollination or just a runt of the plant?  Any ideas?

The last issue we are having with our peppers is curling leaves on the habaneros.  It's just the top leaves and I'm not sure why this is happening.  There was one week where the weather fluctuated quite a bit from really hot to very mild.  This could be the cause but we are not sure.  The plants are still flowering and fruiting so were not overly worried but just curious.  

Has anyone else had interesting cross pollination in their garden?  
Have you had curling leaves on pepper plants, and what do you think the cause is?

Monday, August 12, 2013

Monday Harvest - Week of Aug 5th-11th

This week I am linking up with a series called Monday Harvest over at Daphnes Dandelions.  Each week she hosts this series where Gardeners from all over the world post their weekly harvests.  It is great to see what everyone is getting out of their gardens.  Beautiful little community!  Head over to check it out.

This week saw me in Edmonton as GMF was collaborating with colleagues from the University of Alberta.  It was a nice relaxing getaway for me.  As they worked during the week I wandered the city casually looking in neat shops and taking in peaceful walks along the rivers.  If you are ever in Edmonton I highly recommend eating at Tres Carnales.  This mexican restaurant was definitely a highlight of the trip.

While I was away I was lucky to have a friend watching our garden.  I told her she could harvest some things but she did not take advantage of this.  Which left us with some huge flowering broccoli and bitter lettuce when we arrived home but her harvesting would not have helped the lettuce it needs to come out and new lettuce sown.  I am so appreciative of the great job my friend did watering the garden diligently.  All my herbs and veg were in excellent shape when I got home!

But alas I will move on to the more productive harvest that took place when we arrived home on friday.  We were going to my brothers house for the saturday night for our Nephews birthday and my parents anniversary brunch sunday morning at the amazing Ancaster Mill.  There were some things in the garden that could not wait till sunday to be picked though.  Because the cucumber plant had not been harvested there were 6 very large cucumbers.  And the radishes were also ready and getting over sized. One was so large it was the width of the cucumbers and almost 2 inched high.  The texture of these radishes was quite woodsy, they were definitely left to long.  I am still looking for a great radish variety. I love radishes but I'm looking for a milder variety.  Anyone have a great radish they could recommend?  I also picked the last couple broccoli side shoots before removing a couple of the broccoli plants as they were starting to rot :(.  

Since I harvest so many cucumbers I decided to make a yummy cucumber and tomato salad to take to my brothers.  So I harvested a bunch of grape tomatoes that were ready as well as some basil.  I'll write a post on this salad this week.  
The carrots were also looking like they were close to ready so I harvested on just to see the size of them.  As you can see they are still a little skinny so I think I'll leave them a bit longer.  But this one had a great shape.  I planted a rainbow mix with orange, white, yellow and purple carrots.  This yellow one looked beautiful cut in half and tasted sweet and delicious as a snack.

We also harvested one of the eggplants for GMF to make eggplant parmesan for his dinner.  I need to grab some pictures of him creating this meal.  He has been eating it often as we have lots of eggplant.  I unfortunately do not eat cheese so this is a meal all for him.  Which is ok because it reheats really well.

Thanks for reading about my harvest this week.  I look forward to what is to come.  I think I will start to have some larger varieties of tomatoes soon.  

Help me find a great radish:  What type of radish do you grow?  How would you describe that type?