Sunday, August 28, 2016

Say Goodbye To Summer

With record breaking temperatures in the mid +30C range just days ago, it was as if Mother Nature flipped the switch today. With wind, rain and temperatures cooler than our gorgeous, warm evenings just last week, it seems summer has come to an end.
Yellow Shoulder on Oxheart Tomatoes

I must admit, watering by hand was becoming a chore, so I am happy to start pulling and pruning plants. Several weeks ago the tomatoes were pruned, removing small fruit that would never ripen. The hot weather wreaked havoc with all my tomato varieties. Our unusually hot spring caused low pollination, now I am struggling with green and yellow shoulder. Although it is safe to eat the 'good part' of the tomato, both problems are weather related.
Sweet Potato vine in bloom

This year I have 3 sweet potato vines in the greenhouse. It is my first attempt at growing them, so there will be more info about them when I harvest. In the meantime, both the flowers and vine are beautiful!
Sunshine Squash
I cut back the winter squash vines, leaving two or three leaves past the good sized squash on each vine. Like pruning the tomatoes, I would rather the plant put its energy into the larger fruits rather than struggle trying to produce more this late in the season. Near the bottom left corner of the photo; notice the brown, shriveled vine where it was cut several weeks ago... three leaves past the maturing squash.  

Seascape Strawberries ripening
The June crop of Seascape Strawberries was minimal with small berries, and half of the new bed planted last year had died over winter. Concerned that the plants were too small and weak, I gave each a third cup of the fertilizer mix I discussed last Spring. As expected, August brought the second crop in abundance and some huge specimens I'm sure due to the extra boost of food. If the weather remains dry, the crop will continue through the end of September.

Kale transplants with shade trays
'Volunteer' kale plants were moved to a winter bed location and shaded with perforated trays in the heat. Heavily mulched with straw and watered daily, they have survived the heat. With the overcast, cool, damp weather it is safe to remove the shade trays.

Dessert King Figs
My Dessert King fig produced its largest crop to date. Pinching some of the buds in the spring increased the yield to 74 figs on my small tree. It is amazing to look back three months when the fruit were just tiny nibs. I will continue this method in future years as it has been very successful. I still check the tree when passing by, longing for more of the luscious, ripe fruit.   

Corentine Pickling Cucumbers
The Corentine pickling cucumber plants were fabulous, a new favorite and I would highly recommend them. With daily watering in the heat, seven plants produced easily over a pound every 5 days. Most were brine pickled in the Perfect Pickler, single batch, jar fermenting process. The few that got missed under a leaf and grew to a small monster were still sweet and crunchy for sandwiches, salad or sliced and eaten fresh. 
Tree Frogs in the greenhouse

It is bitter sweet to say goodbye to another summer in paradise. With the next few weeks of forecast lower temperatures and rain, it is time to put the garden and greenhouse to bed until next spring.

Till next time... stay dry and Bon Appétit!

Photos by Sally Rae

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Zucchini Rant

It is a known fact on Denman Island to never leave the windows of your unattended vehicle down during zucchini season; you will have bags of them left on the seat when you return!   *Excerpt from 'Zucchini Madness' in my cookbook, 'For the Love of Food' 

Every year I hear complaints from home gardeners about growing zucchini; 'there is just too much', 'what to do with the monster found lurking', 'they have no flavor' .... 'I can't even give them away!!' And every year I try to educate folks about how to harvest and truly enjoy these delicious, tender gems. 

Sam and Emily of 'Two Roads Farm' harvest zucchini at their gourmet prime. They harvest and sell baskets of tiny, assorted summer squash at the Denman Island Saturday Market. I overheard a woman at their tent exclaim that "all these years she was growing them wrong". In fact, she was probably growing them right... just harvesting them wrong!
The secret... pick them young! The 'big' yellow zucchini above is 4" long!
The very best zucchinis to eat are 3-4 inches long. Being young, tender and crisp, you can do almost anything with them. All gardeners know by the end of the season, or during late summer clean up, inevitably the frighteningly out-sized, monster zucchini will appear. Many simply compost these specimens, others bravely soldier on with zucchini loaf, zucchini pickles, zucchini chocolate cake and heaven knows what other concoctions. My favorite options; cut them in half and place them outside the garden gate for the deer... chickens also love them this way. 

Summer squash cooked fresh from the garden are sweeter and more delicious than those found in grocery stores. They can be quickly rinsed to get rid of soil or dust but must never see water again. Picked in their infancy, they need only be tossed with some butter in a fry pan for several minutes over a medium heat to bring out their best. For the BBQ you will need to pick them a little larger, about 6-8" long, to slice in half or thirds.

This is a favorite of mine; try it at your next cook out. 

6 Tbsp. (1½ -2 lemons) fresh squeezed lemon juice 
6 Tbsp. olive oil 
2 Tbsp. finely minced white onion 
2 cloves garlic, minced 
1 Tbsp. fresh thyme leaves, minced 
½ tsp. sea salt 
½ tsp. black pepper 
Several dashes of Tabasco Sauce 
6 small zucchini (6-8 inches long) halved lengthwise 

Shake the marinade ingredients together in a jar. Let sit 20 minutes. In a shallow pan, arrange the zucchini in a single layer and cover with the marinade. Allow to sit for 2 hours, turn and baste occasionally with the marinade. 
Prior to lighting the barbecue, brush or spray the grill with a light coat of vegetable oil. Preheat the barbecue to medium-high. Grill zucchini cut-side down for 4 minutes. Flip over and baste with remaining marinade. Continue to grill until tender, about 10-12 minutes total.  

Till next time, Happy Gardening and Bon Appétit!

Photo by Sally Rae ~ Baby Zucchini and Patty Pan from Sally Rae's garden
Recipe from 'For the Love of Food' by Sally Rae

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Big Bowls of Beautiful Berries!

Big, sweet and juicy ... Seascape Strawberries
 from Windhover Farm
In celebration of summer, I set out for my annual ritual of strawberry picking, at Windhover Farm on Dove Creek Road.
It's always a pleasure to catch up with Andrea and it never feels that a year has passed us by!

Today was an impromptu trip. Waking up to an overcast sky, a slight breeze and cooler temperatures ... perfect weather for a few hours in the field. These beauties will be enjoyed fresh for a few days and the rest frozen for winter; destined for breakfast smoothies and possibly a batch of Strawberry/Blackberry Jam.
This is my third year picking summer strawberries at Windhover Farm. For some reason the June berries come and go, and I miss the window every year. Not to worry, the Seascape plants in my garden produce a far more impressive crop in the summer and early fall. The Burch Family farm grows my favorite variety, Seascape, along with Tristar and a few others. The blueberries and raspberries are all but finished but the strawberries are getting their second wind, are plentiful and easy to pick. Enough chatter... I have 18 pounds of strawberries waiting for me!!
Thanks Andrea, Happy gardening and see you next year!

Till next time... Bon Appetit!

Photo and strawberry picking by Sally Rae