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.

Ingredients:
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 

Instructions
  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

Sunday, December 29, 2019

Thank You and Happy New Year!

I would like to personally thank you for spending time with me here every month. Your kind words, comments, support and feedback encourage me to continue sharing my lifetime food journey and gardening experience.

From our household to yours, I wish you a Happy New Year as we enter a new decade ... with all the best 2020 will bring!

Billie and Portia 2019

So, until next year ... Happy New Year, Joyful Cooking and Bon Appétit!
... Sally Rae

Photo by Sally Rae

Saturday, December 21, 2019

Last Denman Market of the Year

The sun came out this morning for a crisp, beautiful day at the final Denman Island Farmer's Market of 2019. I was in search of fresh, organic vegetables, both for meals and to stock my freezer with soups. I came home beaming, with so much more than I imagined!!

I have written previous posts about our incredible Denman Island Market and the dedicated local Farmers. Through sunshine, rain and yes... even snow, the tents and tables are set up, ready to 'feed Denman'! We do live in a very special place on Earth!

The Denman Island Market ~ December 21st, 2019
Naomi of Orkney Farms had some crazy huge parsnips that are destined for an amazing Curried Parsnip soup for the freezer. Also from Naomi, a package of Orkney Farms ground beef and a small, perfect red cabbage. The next stop was to visit Kate at Denman Island Heritage Apples for her Traditional and Blackberry infused Apple Cider Vinegar. I'm going to compare them both separately in my previous recipe for Marinated Vegetable Salad
Paleo Veg Marinade 
 with Blackberry infused
Apple Cider Vinegar
Then moving on... to stand in the (always long) line for Two Roads Farm. According to Sam, the last of the carrots and the Farm Stand will be open until Christmas Eve, then closed for the season. Also from Sam; fresh Brussels sprouts, a rutabaga, a few small white onions (I only grew red this year), a bunch of each red and golden beets. Jenny was there with beautiful jars of ready to heat-and-eat soups, her assortment of pepper condiments and soaps too.
Incredible Denman Market shopping spree in December! 
Tracy from Ruby Slipper Ranch had fresh turkey parts again. I'm not a fan of white meat and a turkey is just too big for two. Last year we really enjoyed the fresh turkey legs, so this Christmas we'll have that again... cooked in the Romertopf clay baker in the oven. Fresh eggs came from Pat of Corlan Vineyard and Farm... and don't forget to try her warm baked blueberry coffee cake and fabulous coffee to warm you up!! Cheryl was also at the Market with her organic chocolate delights, unfortunately the 'turtles' were no where in sight... long sold out! 
Fluorite, Rose Quartz and Black Tourmaline

I have brought home rocks, stones and pretty pebbles since I was a kid. I couldn't resist browsing the table of beautiful colored rocks and amethyst geodes. Yup, I came home with two incredible specimens to add to my collection and adorn my window sills. The 'Fluorite' slice, with its multi colored layers almost looks edible! The photo does not do it justice... When I picked up the chunk of 'Black Tourmaline' it just felt right in my hand, and the beautiful 'Rose Quartz' is eye candy. 

To top off the shopping, it was a relaxed, social day of visiting and chatting with friends and clients. I'm sorry for anyone who missed this amazing day at the Market on Denman. Mark your calendars for next year, it is an event you won't want to miss! We are so fortunate to have the incredible variety of fresh, local, organic food available into December! 

I extend deep gratitude and a huge Thank You to all the vendors and farmers today ... thank you for your hard work, long hours and dedication to feeding Denman throughout the year, allowing us to shop local and eat fresh!!

Until next time... Season's Greetings, Happy Holidays and Bon Appétit!
Happy Winter Solstice, Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy New Year ...

Photos by Sally Rae

Monday, December 16, 2019

Paleo Marinade for Vegetables

A basic guideline for Paleo style, clean eating is ... "eat whole foods, organic as much as possible and avoid processed foods ... if it looks like it was made in a factory, don't eat it!" 

Before changing to the Paleo diet, a bottle of my 'Bean Salad Marinade' (from For the Love of Food, page 156) was a staple in my fridge. Any leftover vegetables from meals became a quick marinated salad for the next day... whether it was stir fried zucchini, mushrooms and onions, roasted asparagus or steamed broccoli, carrots, even Brussels sprouts were tossed in a bowl with some thinly sliced fresh onion and the marinade.

Most of the Bean Salad Marinade ingredients from my original recipe are no longer allowed on my diet so I have been searching for a Paleo version. Last month I found a recipe that I have been adapting to my taste. I have used this marinade on raw vegetables, steamed vegetables and even with cooked sweet potatoes!
Fast and simple ~ Mixed Vegetables or Sweet Potato Salad

It is fast, simple and has numerous flavor variations. Warning this is addictive ... and healthy!! I use red onions because I love the color, but after marinating for 2 days it will turn the cauliflower pink. If that's a game changer for you, add the red onions just hours before serving or use sweet white onions instead. 
This is a make ahead salad. For the best flavor, allow the salad to marinate at least overnight, stirring occasionally... I let it marinade for two days before serving. You can use any variety of vegetables.

Here are a few suggestions for variety and whether to pre-cook or use them raw...
 ~raw florets of broccoli and cauliflower
 ~raw celery, sliced on the diagonal
 ~raw small zucchini, cut into coins
 ~raw red or sweet white onions, julienne, sliced thin 
 ~raw Sugar Snap peas, tips removed and cut diagonally into 2-3 pieces
 ~raw bell peppers in every color **only if you can tolerate nightshades
 ~raw or lightly steamed carrot slices
 ~steamed Brussels sprouts, cut in halves or quarters
 ~roasted asparagus, cut into bite sized pieces
 ~cooked golden beets, skin removed and diced 

Remember, always try to eat in season and choose organic when possible. Your local Farmer's Market is the ideal place to shop!


PALEO VEGETABLE SALAD MARINADE        Yield: about 2 cups
Marinated Raw Mixed Vegetables
    Keep a bottle of this basic marinade as a staple in your fridge!
The Basic Marinade:
1 cup apple cider vinegar
1/3 cup honey
1/2 cup avocado oil
1 tsp. granulated garlic
1 tsp. onion powder
1 tsp. Celtic Sea Salt
Flavor Options:
**Season the above Basic Marinade with your choice of the following;
   1 Tbsp. finely minced fresh dill weed 
   or 1/2 Tbsp. dried dill weed
   or 2 tsp. crushed dried thyme + 1 tsp. crushed dried sweet marjoram
   or 2 Tbsp. sulfate free grainy mustard + 1 tsp. dried dill weed 

In a 2 cup jar or shaker bottle, measure and add all the 'Basic Marinade' ingredients. Add your desired 'Flavor Options', shake well, label with the date and store in the fridge. 

For a 'Marinated Vegetable Salad': prepare 8-10 cups of vegetables and toss with a full recipe of Marinade. Serves 8-10

For a 'Sweet Potato Salad': Cook, cool, peel and dice 2 jumbo, orange sweet potatoes. Finely dice 1/4 cup each celery and red onions. Gently mix sweet potatoes, onion and celery with 1/2 cup or more of the Marinade. **Note: the grainy mustard option is fabulous with this one! Serves 6-8 

For a 'Red Beet Salad': Cook, cool, peel and julienne or slice red beets, toss with red or green thinly sliced cabbage and thinly sliced red onions. This one is messy but delicious!!

Any of these salad ideas are a welcome addition to a potluck any time of the year. With the busy holiday season approaching, take advantage of a make ahead, healthy dish to share with friends and family. 

Until next time... Happy Holidays and Bon Appétit! 

Recipe Ideas by Sally Rae
Photos by Sally Rae
Inspiration from Lichen Paleo, Loving AIP