Monday, October 5, 2020

A Time to Give Thanks

I have so much to be Thankful for ... Denman Island is a safe and caring community, I can grow our own food 12 months of the year, what I don't grow I can buy from local organic farms, we have a beautiful spacious property with stunning ocean/mountain/island views. I'm thankful for the warm dry home that we built, wonderful neighbors we can rely on, a year 'round abundant water supply, four-legged friends who enrich our lives, provide companionship and entertainment ... we have each other for love and support, and between us skills in; cooking, baking, sewing, gardening, hair cutting, dog grooming, building, massage therapy ... to name only a few!

Garden and greenhouse harvest October 5th, 2020
We have remained safe through the Covid-19 pandemic and are happy to stay at home. I am thankful that although our Island is small we have a Medical Clinic, doctors including TCM, a fire department, first responders, paramedics and home support workers. I am thankful for our General Store, Post Office, Hardware Store and the Farmer's Market. Last but not least, I'm thankful for my family, dear friends, clients and neighbors.

As we all prepare for a different Thanksgiving weekend this year, I wish you thankful thoughts, good health ... and a beautiful celebration dinner. From our home to yours we wish you a happy, safe Thanksgiving ...

Until next time ... Bon Appétit

Photo by Sally Rae
Produce grown by Sally Rae

Sunday, September 27, 2020

Storm Season and Garden Clean Up

Mercury cukes and Borghese tomato  

After a rainy, cold June... the hot, dry September produced some bountiful harvests. My tomatoes are slow to ripen because I had to restart seeds after losing 2 trays of seedlings to damping off. The outside tomato plants are struggling and probably won't produce much... but in the greenhouse some are starting to ripen and they are beauties! Also the Mercury cucumbers in the greenhouse are going to be hard to live without in the coming weeks of cooler weather.

Sally's Outdoor Salsa 1lb. 13oz.
Last week I picked the first and largest of my 'Sally's Outdoor Salsa' tomatoes, weighing in at 1 lb. 13oz. Not a record breaker compared to last years ginormous specimen that tipped the scale at my record of 2 lb. 5 3/4oz. I couldn't wait to slice into this beauty, the photo below, a single  'slice' dwarfs a Portofino Brioche Hamburger bun cut in half! For sure I saved seeds from this one! I had too many cabbages to use and left two of the early Taiwan Cabbage out in the garden. When the rain started I didn't want them to split so I picked them. 

A slice compared to open hamburger bun
Of course the slugs and earwigs had a good time with them in the garden that long. Also under each, about 4-6 little cabbages had started to grow at the base. They looked like big Brussels Sprouts!

Taiwan Cabbage
This past week we had the first big wind and rain storms come through our area. There is still so much to get done with garden clean up. Next week we are predicted to have sun and more sun with temperatures up to 8 degrees C. above normal. What a crazy year in many ways!!
September Seascape Strawberries
 The strawberries are still producing... this plate of berries were picked on September 19th, and today I ate a few while working. With the warm, sunny days next week, I expect to pick another small bowl of beauties! 

2 lb. Earlichamp melon

Today in the greenhouse, the last 'Earlichamp' melon released from the vine... a beauty at 2 pounds! The sweet aroma is incredible. If you noticed, I'm struggling a bit with the new Blogger format. I will eventually figure it out but there are a few glitches in this post, sorry, this could be a steep learning curve for me!!

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

Photos by Sally Rae

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

September ... Already?

I'm still trying to wrap my head around flipping the calendar to September! It seems the years fly by quickly anyways but so far 2020 has been a bit weird, learning to live with and through Covid-19! A certain amount of isolation is normal for most Denmanites, many of us have been very happy to just stay home. We are very fortunate to have 12 acres to roam, distance from our neighbors and quiet roads to walk. Even more fortunate to grow most of our own food. 
Tomato and melon side of the greenhouse 'jungle'

I made good use of the greenhouse this year... with 5 varieties of tomatoes (Celebrity, Radiator Charlie's Mortgage Lifter, Aunt Ruby's German Green, Yellow Hawaiian and Borghese), 3 varieties of small salad cucumbers (Mercury, Diva and Patio Snacker), a Partenon zucchini (that I rescued from the garden slugs in May),  Earlichamp cantaloupe, Cream of Saskatchewan watermelon and between all that, lots of flowers to bring in the pollinators. Into a small, sunny corner on August 9th, I added Little Gem Romaine lettuce and Celtuce from Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Co. for winter harvest.
First small cantaloupe - September 1st.
I found the first 'Earlichamp' melon had released itself from the vine yesterday. It fits into the palm of my hand and smells amazing! Unfortunately the Cream of Saskatchewan Watermelon had a rough start and by the time it germinated and got going, it was a bit late so I doubt there will be any fruit to sample this year. 
The cucumbers have been incredibly prolific, between 10-17 small cukes every week! I pulled out the 'Patio Snacker' quite early on because it was my first time growing that variety and I was not fond of the spiny skin nor the flavor. The Mercury and Diva are my long time favorites and are more than enough for me to keep up with!

All my tomato starts were late because I lost 2 trays of seedlings to damping off when I transplanted them. The Borghese is from a friend and are mainly used for sun-dried tomatoes. They are small, meaty, oval shaped and grow like a cluster of grapes. In my household these will make a perfect addition to 'Roasted Tomato Sauce'. In mid August I did a severe pruning of the tomatoes... removed leaves for air flow, cut off all the smaller fruit, any new blossoms and shoots. I still have hope that I will get a crop from the greenhouse but the ones outside, in the garden are looking pretty sad. 

Huge Seascape Strawberries
The winter lettuce crop is looking good and is a first time experiment for me. Also for winter harvest I've recently put more cabbage plant starts in the garden... 2 Lennox (110 day) cabbage that will be used in January for my sauerkraut and this year I'm trying 4 Tiara Cabbage for fall harvest. I plant Tiara as an early (45 day) cabbage. They are so delicate, sweet and crunchy it will be hard to live without them on the menu, so this year I'm trying a second, later crop. 

The Seascape Strawberries are in full swing of their second crop and if the weather stays dry, they will continue to produce and ripen into late October. They never disappoint ... huge, juicy and sweet!

Thai Double Blue Butterfly Pea
Another new and unusual seed from Baker Creek was the 'Thai Double Blue Butterfly Pea' ... it was a bit fussy to germinate and an expensive, rare seed. I have seen this flower used to make a blue colored tea that when an acid (lemon juice) is added, it turns to pink. The tea is said to 'refresh the brain and boost its activity and function'. It is also used to color rice and desserts, so I was really excited to find and try to grow this plant! I have it in a pot on the deck, near the door so I can keep a close eye on it. I have been saving the flowers to use later. It is hardy in Zones 10 and 11 so I'll try to overwinter it in my sun-room.

It's time to start planning your garlic bed for this winter. If not already done, sort your seed and get a bed ready for mid October planting. The long weekend weather looks to be sunny and warm here on the Island, so I'm going to take advantage of the great outdoors and start on some garden clean up for fall. I've said it before and I'll say it again, one of my big 'beefs' is hauling huge, unruly, slimy squash plants out of the garden once the weather turns to fall. I'm ready to do that with the summer squash now ... in the sunshine! With the Partenon zucchini in the greenhouse I'll have fresh zucchini for a while into fall I'm sure!

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

Photos by Sally Rae

Sunday, August 9, 2020

Summer Spiral Slaw

Second crop of Seascape Strawberries
Hot summer days just scream fresh salads! The temperature in our house is bearable with the cross breeze from the ocean, but most evenings I really don't want to turn on the stove or oven. Right now the garden is producing lots of summer squash (multi-colored patty pans and several varieties of zucchini), cucumbers (Mercury and Diva in the greenhouse and Corentine in the garden for fermented dill pickles), early cabbage (Taiwan and Tiara), huge 'Easter Egg' radishes (that are surprisingly mild and not fibrous), scallions, 3 colors of bush beans, broccoli, figs (Desert King), fresh herbs (lovage, dillweed, oregano, rosemary), red romaine lettuce, Uncle Robert's purple potatoes, the end of the snap peas and the second crop of Seascape strawberries are starting. The garlic is cured, cleaned and cut with seed set aside for October planting. A busy time!
Garlic ~ cured, cleaned and trimmed
Taiwan Early Cabbage

I've given away a few of the fresh, early cabbage heads and one friend commented... "cabbage was on my shopping list, coleslaw is my favorite salad." Hmmm, that got me thinking because coleslaw is not a favorite of mine... BUT ...the early cabbage I grow is so sweet, delicate and tender that I snack on it while cutting or preparing it... so why not try a slaw with a twist (sorry, couldn't resist the pun!) 

Summer Spiral Slaw
With my favorite little spiralizer machine I 'zoodled' some yellow patty pans that got a bit big, a big radish, a seedless cucumber and a few carrots for texture and more color. I broke the vegetable noodles into  4-6" long pieces, tossed in some thinly sliced scallions and thinly sliced Taiwan early cabbage. 
Put the vegetable mixture into a bowl and poured over a recipe of my 'Paleo Vegetable Salad Marinade' posted last December. Let it sit for a few days and OMG, delicious!! Great as a side dish but I also drained some and used it instead of relish on a turkey burger, outstanding!! 
Instead of getting bored with the same old marinated vegetables, I gave this salad a summer twist with cabbage instead of cauliflower and spiralized all the other vegetables  that would have normally gone into the marinade (carrots, zucchini, cucumber, plus the addition of radish). Voila! ...a fun summer make over!

Until next time... Bon Appétit and have fun reinventing your salads!
Please stay healthy, be safe, wear a face mask and take good care...

Photos by Sally Rae
Recipes by Sally Rae 

Thursday, August 6, 2020

Paleo Caesar Salad Dressing

Anyone who has dined out with me knows how much I love Caesar Salad Dressing ... I order a 'dressed Caesar Salad with extra dressing on the side'. I joke by saying 'bring me a soup bowl of dressing with a few leaves of Romaine.'

Joking aside, when my diet changed to Paleo, most commercial and homemade salad dressings are not allowed due to; the type of oils used, sulfites and other ingredients that are not Paleo compliant. 
Expensive and lacks zing
The store bought version of Paleo Caesar Dressing from Primal Kitchen costs about $10 for a 237ml bottle. It is soy and canola free, dairy free, made with apple cider vinegar, avocado oil and is Paleo friendly... BUT ... disappointing. To me it doesn't taste like the Caesar Dressing I crave. It is expensive and lacks the zing of garlic and tang of what I'm looking for. 

After being so disappointed with the cost and flavor of commercial versions of Paleo salad dressings, in particular Caesar, I started to experiment on a homemade version. I feel this one has been perfected to my liking. Certainly not the 'original Caesar Dressing', but for me a great step above the commercial version I've tried! It is garlicky, tangy with fresh lemon juice and so thick it has to be spooned out of a jar! It does thin down at room temperature but who wants to wait that long to devour your salad! I always make the 'Double Batch' in the **Chef's Notes below and it never stays in my fridge to the 3 week 'Best Before' date! Give it a try and let me know what you think in the Comments below. 

SALLY'S PALEO CAESAR SALAD DRESSING       Yield: about 1-1/2 cups
This thick, garlicky, tangy dressing has hit the spot for my Caesar Salad cravings, it is Paleo and dairy-free. 

2/3 cup organic extra virgin olive oil (or use half avocado oil)
1/3 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice (about 2 lemons) *NO substitute!!
2 Tbsp. nutritional yeast
1 Tbsp. capers, well drained (or they will thin down the dressing)
1¼ tsp. (1-2 cloves) minced garlic
1 Tbsp. anchovy paste  
1½ tsp. Paleo friendly Dijon mustard (I use Maison Orphee brand)
Fresh ground black pepper
Sea salt, optional 

Place all ingredients in a blender and blend on low for 10-20 seconds until emulsified and thick. Taste and adjust the seasoning to your liking with more salt, pepper, oil or citrus juice. Store in an airtight glass jar, (not a bottle), in the fridge for up to 3 weeks. Label and date the jar of dressing with the 'Best Before' 3 week date.
Sally's Paleo Caesar Dressing - thick, garlicky, tangy

**Chef's Notes:

  • Try the dressing first without added salt, the capers and anchovies might be salty  enough for your taste buds.
  • Drain the capers well for a thicker dressing.
  • Once refrigerated this dressing will be thick enough to spoon out of a jar. It will thin at room temperature.
  • To make a Double Batch: into a blender, measure 2/3 cup avocado oil and double the amount of all other ingredients.  Blend on medium speed, then reduce to low and slowly drizzle in 2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil. Increase speed to medium and blend until emulsified and thick.  
Until next time... Bon Appétit!
Please stay healthy, be safe, wear a face mask and take good care...

Recipe by Sally Rae
Photos by Sally Rae

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