Thursday, July 9, 2020

Garlic Harvest 2020

We have moved on from Juneuary into Japril ... unpredictable, drizzly weather, cool evenings with lots of happy slugs and weeds ... Groan!! 

Burlap suspended on hoops to protect pulled garlic from sun
Since around June 26th, every week I have been pulling a few heads of garlic. The purpose is to count how many skin wrappers remain covering the cloves. When five remain, it's time to harvest, this process was explained with photos in my July 2015 Garlic Harvest post

The difficulty with our recent on and off again drizzly weather, is that the garlic bed wasn't drying out enough to harvest and the last 2 garlic heads I pulled were ready with 5 skin wrappers. Last week it rained overnight and I covered the garlic bed with a tarp in desperation to keep it dry. Once the tarp was removed the next morning, I also removed the straw mulch. It was a hassle but it paid off because we had several days of sun and warmer temperatures following the tarp episode. 
2019/20 ~ my largest planting and harvest
Because of other commitments, I had a very small window of opportunity on July 6th to get the garlic pulled, haul it up to the garage and lay it out undercover on screens with fans. After the garlic was pulled, it was left in the garden for about six hours. The sun came out and I didn't want it to get sunburned so burlap was suspended over hoops to provide shade and protection from the sun, but still allow air circulation. All my planning and work paid off when the next morning the rain came and has stayed on and off every day since! I did the happy dance with a sigh of relief that the garlic harvest was in, dry and under cover. 

Last October when planting the garlic, I wanted a higher yield from the same space, so I put in the regular amount of rows and then staggered more in between, hoping that if I fed them enough, the size of each head would not be sacrificed. So many variables determine the outcome, but the size of the heads are a bit smaller than in years past. Whether that is due to this years more crowded planting method, not enough fertilizer, cooler weather, all the rain?? I'm not sure. What I do know is I've got LOTS of garlic this year!!

October 2019 was the largest planting and July 2020 my largest harvest on Denman; 150 Porcelain and 60 Rocambole garlic heads! The pick of the crop will be set aside for seed, the rest will be used in the kitchen and shared with family and friends. I'm on a 'Paleo Caesar Salad Dressing' obsession these days, so watch for that recipe coming soon! 

Three elevated screens of garlic, drying undercover, with fans
For the first time ever, I had to add a third screen for drying in the garage and the large garlic harvest still looks crowded in comparison to the photos in 2015

Let it rain for the rest of the gardens! I now have room to plant more winter vegetables... and I'm still doing a happy dance with the garlic harvest looking good and progressing to the next phase!

Until next time... 
Please stay healthy, be safe, take good care...  
Happy Gardening and Bon Appétit!

Photos by Sally Rae

Thursday, June 18, 2020

'Juneuary' Slug Fest

Groan... with the cold, wet weather we've had lately, the slugs are having a feast on everything in my garden. I have been using 'Safer's Slug Bait', another trick is beer traps which I've tried in the past and maybe my containers weren't deep enough because the slugs came in for a drink and none were drowned in the brew!! 
Broccoli plants under slug attack
Even though my garden is tucked in and covered with ProtekNet many of my plants are being wiped out by slugs and I'm not alone!! I knew that the ProtekNet would keep out any flying insects but what ever... who ever ... is living in the soil is now the problem, and a big one so far!!

Years ago I got a roll of 'Copper Blocker' from Lee Valley Tools and had great success with it to control damage from slugs and snails. It comes in a roll, I cut a piece about 6" then insert thumbs and pull so it rolls out like a tube sock.
Pet and wildlife friendly options
The photos on Lee Valley's link are a bit more descriptive. This stuff works!! I didn't put it on the broccoli starts that I planted in the garden and many of them have suffered because of that. Afterwards, I used some of the old copper rings from years past and immediately the problem stopped. It loses its copper shine once exposed to the elements but I have re-used the faded copper rings for years after and they are still as effective as when shiny and new!

Garlic Scape Pesto, portioned and frozen
Another task in the garden right now is to remove the garlic scapes. If you have never heard of these, check out my Featured Post. If you don't have garlic in your garden, some Farmer's Markets have opened with social distancing and Covid19 protocols. Besides eating fresh, local vegetables, you support the local farmer's and for sure, garlic scapes will be available at the Markets. The season is short so don't delay!
Sunflowers are struggling under slug attack

I made a double recipe of my 'Garlic Scape Pesto' without the Parmesan Cheese, portioned 1/2 cup into each snack bag then froze them flat on bake sheets. Once frozen, move them to a large freezer bag. To use, defrost and add grated Parmesan Cheese if desired.

Until next time... 
Please stay healthy, be safe, take good care...  
Happy Gardening and Bon Appétit!

Photos by Sally Rae

Monday, June 1, 2020

Garden Under Cover

Started planting with ProtekNet covers
With the Covid19 pandemic, quarantine, physical distancing, sanitation protocols, wearing a mask in public etc ... our 'new normal' will be something to get used to. Even my garden in the woods is masked and undercover this year!

This Spring I was prepared with a 7' x 100' package of ProtekNet from William Dam Seeds and eager to try it out. I'm really excited at how easy it is to use, almost stretchy and fabric-like. Insects can still lay eggs on leaves if touching the netting, so it must be supported by hoops to keep it elevated off of the vegetables.
Black mesh plant trays for shade on the broccoli plants
So far under cover are; 3 varieties of cabbage (Tiara, Taiwan & Lennox), 2 types broccoli (Sibsey Artwork & Calabrese), onions (Patterson, Rosa di Milano, Ailsa Craig, Apache), leeks (Bandit), cylindrical beets, carrots (Bolero), radish (Easter Egg), purple potatoes (seed originally from my Uncle Robert, many years ago!), pickling cucumbers (Corentine), dill weed and nasturtiums.
Since the photos above, I've planted the 2 beds on the far right, one bed with winter squash (Sunshine and Butternut) and the other with summer squash (Partenon and Cassia Zucchini and assorted Patty Pans). 
Burlap over cucumber bed at night

Our weather is still up and down with day to night temperature fluctuations. Daytime, direct sun on the new transplants is reduced in intensity by using the black mesh plant trays. I have used numerous methods for shade in past years. In the evenings I add burlap over the Corentine cucumber bed, removed in the daytime. The garlic is looking great! Compare this photo to 2 months ago...
Garlic planted October 2019

I got the bird netting over the strawberry bed a week early this year. I lost quite a few Seascape plants over winter, so will fill in the gaps with runners later. The robins strategically place their nests near the garden. I find their beautiful blue egg shells on the ground and have seen them chasing the owls away from their nests day and evening! The robins can destroy the ripening strawberries just before they are ripe enough for me to pick, so I'm happy to be ahead of the game this year!
Sheila's Perfume Rose
I just acquired another highly scented rose to my collection. This 'Sheila's Perfume' rose is a stunning beauty and has a delicious scent! I was in the right place at the right time and received this as a generous gift from the incredible man who illustrated my cookbook, For the Love of Food. From what I have heard, this is a difficult rose to get your hands on, so I am thrilled ... thank you Peter! 

Until next time... 
Please stay healthy, be safe...  
Happy gardening and Bon Appétit!

Photos by Sally Rae

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

A Home Garden for Food Security

Cheery Crocus and Narcissus
With the explosion of Covid-19 and a World Health Emergency, we must learn to live a new normal. I've heard from numerous friends who are ramping up their food production this year. In Linda Gilkesons latest letter, she mentioned receiving many emails from first time gardeners wanting to grow food in this year of the pandemic.

We are so grateful to live on Denman Island where much of our small population lives isolated on a normal day. For many of us, growing food is part of our life here and for me, a big part of my heritage that started with my grandparents in 1919.
Garlic Bed; excess mulch removed & watered~Mar. 21, 2020

We are already experiencing climate change. Extremes of hot, dry summers then cold and snow in winter. Hmm, I moved here to get away from that!! The past few years I've noticed how dry it is in March. Last year I didn't notice it until the garlic was limp and leaf tips were turning yellow. We have had a stretch of cold nights lately, so I haven't checked the garden since the carrot harvest. Several days ago I removed the top maple leaf mulch from the strawberry and garlic beds and hooked up the water system. The strawberries, garlic, kale and rosemary were all in need of water on March 21st.
Strawberry Bed; maple leaf top mulch removed
The strawberries have a good start already, even though they were under the maple leaf mulch. Notice in the foreground where the leaf mulch has been removed from covering the plants. Compared to the top right of the photo where the plants are still totally covered with winter mulch. At this point it's really easy to also pull up the little maple trees that have started. A small price to pay for the benefit of the winter mulch! Maple leaves are free, with a bit of raking and bagging they provide a fluffy mulch for the winter rain and snow. I keep extra bags on hand for when the weather gets too cold or if snow is predicted. In that case, an extra layer is piled on the beds and also used to cover the carrot and beet tops. If the mulch gets packed down, another layer of fluffy leaves gives added cold weather protection.

Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds
Before all the Covid-19 restrictions and our plunging Canadian Dollar, I ordered some unusual seeds from a very interesting company called Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Co. I placed my order on March 5th 2020, shipping was free and the parcel arrived 11 days later. I was impressed! Their catalogue is huge and colorful with the most incredible photography, I was salivating after looking through the melon and fruit pages!! I put in a small order of some unusual vegetables; 'Taiwan Yard-Long Beans', 'Little Gem Lettuce' and 'Thai Double Blue Butterfly Pea' ... and a few new winter varieties to try; 'Green Mountain Winter Celtuce' and 'Kyoto Red Carrots'. Every order is sent with a free packet of seed and I got 'Rouge D'Hiver Lettuce', a French Heirloom red romaine winter lettuce. A few of the unusual edible flowers I wanted were already sold out. If you're into heirloom, non-GMO, unusual or rare seeds, take a look through their website. Unfortunately now is probably not a good time to order, but it is entertaining and exciting to browse their collection of seeds.
Bald Eagle down feathers

On my walk near the Eagle nest I found what I think is Bald Eagle down feathers. The most amazing, soft, wispy yet strong strands. To show size, the down is on the finger tip of my black wool glove. The Eagles have been very loud with the female in the nest, hopefully on eggs and the male hanging out in the perch tree. It is exciting entertainment!

Our household has been under self isolation since March 17th 2020. I can't think of a better place to be. We are saddened and shocked with the daily News. We live in such peace and beauty, it's hard to fathom the suffering and loss in the world right now. It is a strange and uncertain time living in the Covid-19 pandemic ... please, take physical distancing as a serious matter, stay home unless it's absolutely essential, keep two meters away from the next person and avoid groups ... all to slow the spread of the Covid-19 virus and ease the burden on our health care workers. Continue to follow regular, thorough hand washing and do not touch your eyes, nose or mouth. There are vulnerable people everywhere and we want to do our part to protect everyone.  

Until next time... Please stay healthy and be safe... Bon Appétit!
Photos by Sally Rae

Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Signs of Spring ... and Winter Carrot Harvest

Snowdrop, Narcissus and Crocus buds
We've just flipped the calendar to March ... frogs are singing in the marsh, the first flower buds are an uplifting sight and the air is filled with raucous eagle chatter. A pair of Bald Eagles have been building a nest within our view and it looks like they're back to mate this Spring! We are incredibly blessed and excited to watch this magnificent spectacle of nature from the comfort of our living room!
Bald Eagles and their nest on our property

In the garden, it's time to get those winter carrots out of the ground! I checked some of the first crop, planted May/June 2019. It was a small test plot planted in a narrow, 1-foot wide raised bed, covered with remay since planting to keep the carrot rust fly out. It worked, the carrots were clean!! I planted a larger bed on June 29th, 2019 for winter harvest, mulched then fully covered with remay from the time of planting to the beginning of November. Once the remay was removed, all of the winter vegetables were heavily mulched again with straw. Later the carrot tops were totally covered over with maple leaves to protect the crop from cold temperatures and our January snow. Yes, we got about 22" of snow although it didn't stay on the ground for long.
Carrot harvest March 1st, 2020 ~ planted June 29th, 2019

Cleaned for use and storage
A few days ago ... March 1st 2020, I pulled back the mulch and checked the carrots. They were not yet going 'hairy' which is when they start to grow small roots in warmer spring temperatures. There were lots of active worms in the soil so I decided to pull the remaining winter crop while the weather was still cool. Needless to say I am really impressed and thrilled with my 15+ pound harvest! 

From the June 29th, 2019 planting there are some really good sized roots with great color and so sweet! There were very few carrots with insect damage, the majority being from slugs at the green ends that are cut and composted anyways.

When properly cleaned and stored, this harvest will keep in the fridge for a few months... if they last that long! The carrots are first rinsed to remove any heavy soil, see the first photo in a stainless steel bowl. 
The tips removed, any insect damage removed and the carrot is lightly scrubbed with a surgical scrub brush. (Also called 'The World's Kindest Nail Brush' through Lee Valley Tools.) This little nylon brush is gentle and very effective ... compare the 2 photos; before and after cleaning for use and storage.
Ready for the fridge

Once the carrots are cleaned and sorted into sizes, pack into large zip type bags that have a paper towel liner to absorb any excess moisture. This prevents them from going slimy from being in contact with the plastic and keeps the carrots crisp. The bags are marked with the harvest date and stored in the crisper/vegetable section of the fridge. I previously used this method with great success for years. Every few weeks, check the stored carrots for any signs of spoiling. Remove any culprits and use immediately or discard.

Growing winter carrots takes a fair amount of attention and work ... but have you ever eaten a fresh carrot from the garden between December and March? It is worth the effort and time growing this incredible winter crop in our West Coast climate!

Until next time... Happy Spring, enjoy those carrots ... and Bon Appétit!
Photos by Sally Rae

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Winter Garden Harvest

This was my third year growing Lennox Organic Cabbage, needless to say I'm thrilled with the quality of this variety and would highly recommend it. I start seedlings for both summer and winter cabbage harvest and this is the second year that I've made my Garlic and Dill Pickle Sauerkraut in January before the weather turns cold. For the full story and process check out my post from January 2019, 'January Harvest and Sauerkraut Hack'.  
Second day of snow ~ Jan. 16th, 2020
This year our crazy cold snap and 22" of snow came early. I didn't mind the first few days with -8C temps, the snow was fluffy and light. By the third day we were looking at clearing heavy, wet, BC snow that was about a foot deep!! I picked my winter cabbage on the 12th of January and unfortunately the core was already frozen. 
Frozen core and cabbage tip burn
I also found a new problem called 'cabbage tip burn'. This is new to me and my research shows it is the result of mineral uptake, watering and high temperatures. Which explains why the cabbage isn't fully affected, it seems only on the summer growth. A whole new learning curve for me... Interesting, the smaller cabbages were not affected.

Lennox Cabbage harvest ~ January 12th, 2020
I had 23 pounds of cabbage to start with, and all the waste and trim was left out for the hungry resident deer. It was a very time consuming process to clean the cabbage and remove as much of the black tips as possible. It isn't harmful, I just did not want it to affect my kraut fermentation and storage in any way!

When all was said and done, I had over 6 quarts for the first ferment with dill weed and minced garlic added. After 8 days I dumped all the kraut into a very large, sterilized stainless steel bowl and mixed in 2 quarts of thinly sliced, fermented dill pickles I made last summer. Then the mixture was packed again into jars and topped up with a new brine ... a mixture of the original kraut brine and dill pickle brine. 
These jars were then left to ferment
8 Quarts of finished Garlic & Dill Pickle Kraut
for another 4-5 days. After that time the flavor and texture were right, so the fermenting lids removed, storage lids put on and the jars stored in the fridge.
I had just finished eating last years batch so timing was good. This is a long and time consuming process but always worth the effort.
1st winter carrot harvest ~ January 25th, 2020
The cabbage was brought in before the snowfall and cold temps. The rest of the garden (kale, carrots, beets, strawberries and garlic) were covered with straw and maple leaf mulch to protect from the cold and snow. 
Just 3 days ago I removed the mulch from a small section of the first planted carrot bed and pulled the first winter carrots ... amazing!! Not sure if you recall, I had stopped growing carrots and parsnips because of the problems with carrot rust fly. Last summer I was determined to experiment and go through the arduous process of keeping the carrot beds covered with remay until late October. I'm thrilled to announce it worked! The carrots are clean, insect free, sweet, juicy, crunchy goodness!

After growing up in Alberta, I'm always so amazed and grateful for the food we can grow and harvest 12 months of the year here on the West Coast. The kale is small but so sweet after the cold weather and the garlic has poked through the mulch with shoots about 3" tall now. I've still got lots of carrots and some beets in another bed that were planted the end of June 2019. If the weather warms up too much, they will start to get 'hairy' and tough so they'll have to be pulled, washed and stored in the fridge. Not a problem, these carrots are worth the effort ... I love my winter garden harvest!

Until next time... Happy Winter Gardening and Bon Appétit!

Photos by Sally Rae
Garlic and Dill Pickle Sauerkraut by Sally Rae 

Saturday, January 18, 2020

'Grain-no-la' Bark

Translation ... "Grain-no-la" is my grain-free, nut based granola that after baking can be broken into chunks like bark or crumbled to resemble traditional granola. 

Avoiding grain can be a difficult task. Most people try to replace or reinvent their favorite grain based recipes with huge disappointment and usually costly experiments. I'm thrilled to report, this grain-free granola got high marks from both Paleo and non-Paleo diet friends and family! I used to like my granola chunky so either way this recipe fits the bill!
Activated nuts and seeds for 'Grain-no-la' recipe
Why use Activated Nuts and Seeds?
Nuts and seeds contain 'phytic acid' and enzyme inhibitors which forces the human digestive system to work overtime causing indigestion and a heavy, bloated feeling in the gut.

The way to reduce phytic acid and enzyme inhibitors is to soak, sprout and/or ferment the nut or seed. Sprouting is the basis of all plant life, concentrating nutrients and unlocking the germ of the seed to reveal its inner life. Soaking and dehydrating nuts and seeds at low temperatures provides superior nutrition and digestibility. 
This bark is a bit delicate, any chunks that crumble can be set aside to have with fruit and yogurt or just eat it out of the bag!!

'GRAIN-NO-LA' BARK   ~(Grain free, Gluten free, Paleo)   Yield: 2 trays bark
This recipe gives instructions to split the mixture into 2 small batches, then once chopped, mix them thoroughly together in a large bowl. You may need to split the mixture into more small batches, depending on the size of your food processor.

Allow to cool completely on the parchment lined pan
1 egg white, lightly beaten
2 Tbsp. water
2 cups activated walnuts
1 cup activated cashews
1 cup activated almonds
1 cup activated pumpkin seeds, pepitas
1 cup activated sunflower seeds
1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
3 Tbsp. melted coconut oil, cooled
1/2 cup organic pure maple syrup 
1-1/2 Tbsp. pure vanilla extract
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. fine Celtic sea salt 

  1. Preheat the oven to 300F and line 2 half sheet (13"x18") bake pans with parchment paper.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together the egg white with water until bubbly and slightly foamy. Add the cooled melted coconut oil, maple syrup and vanilla. Stir to combine.
  3. Into a large bowl, measure 2 cups walnuts, 1 cup cashews, 1 cup almonds, 1/2 cup pumpkin seeds, 1/2 cup sunflower seeds, 1 cup coconut, cinnamon and salt. Mix and put half of the nut and seed mixture plus half of the liquid into a food processor. Pulse until well chopped and combined, but leave the mixture nice and chunky. Dump into a large bowl. Repeat with the other half of the nut and seed mixture and liquid mixture, pulse until chunky. Add to the already processed mixture in large bowl.
  4. To this mixture add the remaining 1/2 cup each whole pumpkin and sunflower seeds. Mix thoroughly using a wooden spoon or your hands with disposable gloves. 
  5. Divide the mixture on the parchment lined bake sheets, spread into an even layer and bake for 20-30 minutes or until golden brown and crispy. Keep an eye on it while baking as it can go from done to burned quickly.
  6.  Remove pans from the oven and allow to sit at least 20 minutes to cool completely. DO NOT stir or break it up until completely cooled.
  7. Use your hands to gently break the bark into chunks
  8. When completely cool, gently break into chunks
  9. Once cool, store the Grain-no-la Bark in a zip type bag in the fridge for up to 2 weeks... if it lasts that long!! 
If you try this recipe, please share your comments below ... Thank you!
Until next time ... Bon Appétit!

Recipe by Sally Rae
Photos by Sally Rae