Friday, September 26, 2014

Heirloom Tomato Bliss

Yellow Hawaiian~
Ripe Heirloom Tomatoes
I love the intense color and flavor of heirloom tomatoes. I have saved seed from my three favorites for the past 10-25 years; Yellow Hawaiian, Aunt Ruby's German Green and Outdoor Salsa. To save seed, carefully select seed from the best fruit and plants season after season. You can define 'best' to be the characteristic you are after. To prevent cross pollination either isolate each variety by a large distance or hand pollinate and place a cloth bag over the cluster of flowers. Mark this cluster for seed saving with a ribbon or tag.

An example of selecting a specific characteristic is my 'Outdoor Salsa'...for 15 years I have saved seed from only 'meaty' specimens with minimal to no seeds and very large, heavy fruits.
This year I broke my previous years weight record with a huge Outdoor Salsa tomato weighing in at 1 lb. 10-1/4 oz.... Unfortunately I was so excited when I served it with burgers for supper, that I forgot to take a photo of it sliced. The ginormous tomato slice totally concealed the Quinoa Burger Patty underneath and extended beyond all edges of the burger bun! Delicious!

Now for an unfortunate twist...
Outdoor Salsa Tomato ~ 1 lb. 10-1/4 oz.
Three years ago I was informed that one of the major problems attributed to nightshades is arthritis. If you are not familiar with the term nightshades, it is a plant group that includes tomatoes, potatoes, all types of peppers and eggplant. 
If you want to know if nightshades negatively affect you, take a minimum 1 month challenge, (most suggest 3 months). Avoid all nightshades for 1-3 months. Be careful to note the complete nightshade list (you can find it on the web) and become a label reader. You may be surprised that many prescription drugs, homeopathics, over the counter drugs as well as many processed foods contain nightshades. 
After 1-3 months, reintroduce one nightshade at a time. Take note of any aches, pains, stiffness, loss of energy, headaches or any other symptoms. You may find as I have, the quality of your daily health dramatically improve after eliminating nightshades from your diet.   
*This is not meant to be medical advise, please consult your doctor regarding health symptoms.*
As a Chef I truly miss using nightshades in my daily meals but I have found substitutes. I am cautious about adding nightshades to my diet. When I do, I pay the price with arthritic symptoms. My most difficult time of year is when the Heirloom tomatoes are at their peak. So why do I continue to grow something I should not eat? To save their precious seed and sustain these beautiful varieties for future generations.
Till next week, enjoy this recipe with the bounty of your harvest.

Panzanella ~ Rustic Tomato-Bread Salad    
             ~From 'For the Love of Food' by Sally Rae~
This is a visually stunning salad when made with the colors of Heirloom tomatoes and a fabulous addition to a potluck dinner because it does not need refrigeration.
6 medium to large fresh ripe tomatoes, diced into 1/2-inch pieces
1/2 large red onion, sliced thin
1/4 cup thinly sliced (or torn) fresh basil
4 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp. sea salt
1 tsp. granulated sugar
6 cups day old, dense, crusty bread, cut into 1-inch cubes

Combine all ingredients except bread in a large bowl; let stand for the flavors to develop, about 10 minutes. Add bread, toss well to coat. If the bread seems dry, sprinkle with a tablespoon or two of water.
Salad will hold several hours at room temperature before serving.

Bon Appetit! 

Photos of Heirloom Tomatoes from my garden and greenhouse 2014 ~ by Sally Rae

Sunday, September 21, 2014

A Little Bit of Everything

Summer is coming to a close; evenings and mornings are cool and damp, leaving dew on the ground and encouraging powder mildew in the garden. The alder and maple leaves are falling, there are plenty of grasshoppers in the parched clearings and the breeze is cool... although today the thermometer topped 25C. A trip to the garden still brings in a little bit of everything; tiny cucumbers, broccoli, tomatoes, strawberries, summer squash, sugar snap peas, scarlet runner beans and kale. A lovely selection to feed a small household and still usually more than we can eat immediately. 
This is the time of year that I make notes of what worked, what didn't and lists of seeds needed for next year, so I am not caught off guard when the seed catalogs show up in the mailbox.
2009 Winter Squash Harvest

 I grew the 'Cool Breeze Cucumbers' (see previous post September 7th, 2014 ~'In a Pickle') next to a fence this year so they would be on a trellis and easier to pick. That may work in cooler years but with our high temperatures and summer drought, I had many dried up, dead little fruits and minimal to harvest. I stopped watering and was going to pull the plants last month but decided to remove the stakes and let them grow on the ground. Today they are thriving even through my neglect... the new growth is green and the six remaining plants produced enough for a small jar of pickles. 
The broccoli I grow is called 'Packman'. Once the main head is harvested the plants continue to produce side shoots well into the early fall. Today's harvest had a few larger shoots, a welcome surprise. The winter squash is not quite ready to bring in but they are looking great with very large, heavy fruits. This year I grew only two varieties; Sunshine and Butternut. 
The tomatoes have produced well so far, nice large fruit. I grew 5 varieties this year; Big Beef, Sweet Million and three Heirlooms; Yellow Hawaiian, Aunt Ruby's German Green and Outdoor Salsa. I will discuss more about my Heirloom varieties next week.
Big Beef greenhouse tomatoes

The Seascape strawberries (see my previous post August 1, 2014 ~'Man, Look at Those Strawberries!) are still producing a small harvest but many of the ripe berries are laying on the straw, half eaten by the time I get to the patch. Hmmm, not wasps, maybe slugs? Anybody else having the same problem? 
I have a lovely fresh assortment of veggies to accompany supper tonight. Time to hit the kitchen. Till next week,
Bon Appetit!

Photos from my garden and greenhouse ~ by Sally Rae

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Food Recall Warning

Voluntary Recall on Product
I just received a letter from Costco stating there is a Voluntary Recall on 'MaraNatha Almond Butter', sold in a 737g jar, Costco #616049. This recall is due to the possible presence of salmonella in the product. The affected best before dates range from 2014DE08 to 2015JN20.
The letter reads, "If you have a recalled product, do not consume it. Those who have the affected item should return the product to Costco Wholesale for a full refund. 
For more information, please contact nSPIRED Natural Foods, Inc., at 1-800-716-8962 (9am-9pm ET, Mon-Fri)." 

Since sharing this info with friends and family, an interesting website was brought to my attention... the CFIA - Canadian Food Inspection Agency. The link below will take you to their page of Food Recall Warnings. You can 'Subscribe to e-mail notifications' of  high-risk food recall warnings and classes of warnings for allergens.

The person who sent me this information received a warning through the CFIA by e-mail almost a week before I received my letter from Costco. In the case of severe allergies this could be a life saving link!

Photo by Sally Rae 

Sunday, September 7, 2014

In a Pickle

I have grown numerous varieties of pickling cucumbers over the years and have finally found one that I absolutely LOVE! 
Cool Breeze Cukes ~ one days harvest from 8 plants
 'Cool Breeze' is an exciting French cornichon type of pickling and salad cucumber that sets fruits 4-5 inches long without cross pollination. The hybrid plants thrive in cool or warm temperatures and can be grown on the ground. To save garden space grow in a cage or on a trellis, allowing one foot between plants. They produce high yields of dark green, crunchy-sweet, small-spined, seedless fruit. Keep them well watered and pick the fruits promptly. 

I harvest the fruits when they reach the size of my baby finger, then pickle them in small jars with fresh dill weed and garlic. These tiny gems are then used as hostess gifts or Christmas stocking stuffers for my family. 

For my small batch 'Quick Dill Pickle ' instructions and a variety of three different 'Dill Pickle Brines' see my cookbook, 'For the Love of Food' page 228.

Happy gardening~Bon Appetit!  

Photos from my garden and kitchen ~ by Sally Rae