kitchen garden

pumpkin harvest

squash patch

It’s that time of year – the squash and pumpkin vines are starting to die back and reveal the hidden goodies underneath! Looks like most of what I planted was pumpkins. The yellow ones are spaghetti squash, very tasty with a white sauce made of macadamia butter. If you look closely you can also see some butternut squash hiding in there too. It was pretty exciting this year: I lost all the labels on my squashes, so I wasn’t quite sure what I was planting, and how much of each I would get. One of my problems/issues/quirks is that I always plant way more seeds than I need. So I had a whole tray of seedlings, mixed kinds and amounts, and only space in the garden for about 20 of them (out of around 60). I randomly chose a bunch and put them in, and this is the result! I’ll take it. I like pumpkin. And spaghetti squash. And butternut squash. There’s also a grey-blue-green pumpkin:

green pumpkin

These have dark orange flesh and are very tasty.

I recommend this approach if you have a sense of adventure and like surprises. Grow more than you need, and choose randomly from  your tray. It’s loads of fun.

Alternatively, if you are not the type to appreciate surprises like this, I would recommend labeling your trays really well.

What’s your favourite squash? Any good recipes out there?

overwintering hot peppers

chili pepper in a pot

Before the downpour this morning, while it was still just sprinkling, I was out feeding my chickens and noticed that one of my chili pepper plants was looking particularly full of flower buds. It’s now halfway through September, so in order to take advantage of all these blooms I potted it up and put it in the greenhouse. Eventually even the greenhouse will be too cold, so I’ll bring it in the house for the coldest parts of winter. I’ll keep it near the heater vent, both for heat and for air movement – this will help a bit with pollination, but I will probably also take a soft paint brush to all the flowers too – just gently brushing each one every other day or so when they’re open.

This is something I learned from my grandpa – he has successfully overwintered hot pepper plants and kept them alive for 5 or more years, still producing hot peppers all through the seasons. I’ve had some luck myself; in the picture below is a jalapeno pepper plant that I overwintered for one winter. Unfortunately it didn’t make it through the second – I’m not sure what the problem was – but I’m going to try again with the chili pepper plant.

potted jalapeno

See all the flowers? It was a very prolific plant!

If you want to try this yourself, be sure to use potting soil mixed with some composted manure to fill in the extra space around your plant roots. It’s ok to have a bit of garden soil in there, like what’s holding the roots of the plant, but potting soil is best for pots because it allows the roots to breathe a little better than garden soil does. Three things a plant needs from soil: Air, Water, and Nutrients. Too much or too little of any of these can cause problems.

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Thanks Erin for commenting on yesterday’s post – I’ll contact you about getting you the Lemon Basil seeds!

surprise me beans

surprise me beans

I can’t imagine a garden without beans. It’s unthinkable. My favourite vegetable – green beans when they’re still thinner than a pencil – so yummy. This year, and in previous years, we’ve grown three colours of snap bean: purple, green, and yellow. We like to mix the colours. The purple ones turn green when cooked, but it’s a darker shade of green than the green beans, so there’s still this variegated sort of look to the pile of beans on the dinner plate.

The purple beans also serve a useful function when freezing beans. Blanching them first is a required step; usually they’re boiled for a minute or two to halt the enzymatic processes within the beans so they last longer in the freezer. If you have a few purple beans in the pot, you will know when they’ve been blanched long enough because the purple ones turn green. Handy dandy.

Because I like my green beans skinny, it’s easy to miss the perfect picking stage. But the beans don’t go to waste. If they get too big, I let them keep going until they are big and bulgy – and from there they will dry out and become the dry bean seeds that you see in the photo at the top. My girls helped me shell these from their dry flaky pods, and the cat decided the old dry pods make great pounce toys. It was a family event, saving these seeds. And next year it will most likely be a family event planting them again in the garden.

We planted all three bean colours, which means that the seeds from them will not necessarily produce according to their parent types due to cross-pollination. In previous years after planting the mix, I’ve gotten green beans with purple flecks! Fun. We call them ‘surprise me beans’ because you never know what you’re going to get. Normally I could tell you that the black and brown mottled seeds will produce green beans, and the pale violet-coloured seeds will produce purple beans. However, since they’re not true seeds, they could be any one of purple, green, or yellow – or maybe something else. Like violet. We had those one year too!

babies

baby basil

There’s something about seedlings that compels me to take care of them. I’ve loved starting seeds for as long as I can remember, and I’m thrilled to be starting a business that features organically-grown seedlings at its core. The sowing of seeds, the watering and waiting, the joy of surprise when checking on them one morning and finding that they have sprouted overnight – I’m addicted! What better way to feed the addiction, than share it with everyone else who wants to play too.

The photo of the basil seedlings was taken this spring, when I was growing seedlings for myself and for the Seedling Sale at Little City Farm, and for Bailey’s Local Foods, a food buying club. I had so much fun – it was hard work, but I enjoyed it – and I’m hoping to expand the operation to grow A LOT MORE. I will be opening my home greenhouse on Saturdays in May and June to sell seedlings and garden packages. I will be promoting myself more (see facebook page at right). I will be growing waaaaayyyyyyyy more seedlings (hooray! They’re so cute when they’re babies). In the coming months I will be pestering everyone I know, because I want to know what people want to grow in their gardens.

If you have suggestions, please make them heard!

garlic

garlic

I want to grow garlic next year. Garlic that actually forms big bulbs, that I can cure and store in the basement hanging in braids. So I went to Ontario Seed Company in Waterloo and purchased some ‘seed garlic’. Now is the time to buy it – it gets planted October/November, when it’s so cold you don’t really want to be outside with your hands in the dirt. At least that’s what I’m getting from other people who’ve done it before.

In the pic above is the garlic I bought – it’s a hard-neck variety, the best for braiding because the stems will hold. Soft-neck garlic (usually the stuff in the grocery store from China, but not always) won’t really hold up for braiding. But I think I might head over to the grocery store and buy some to plant anyway, just for comparison. You can tell hard-neck vs. soft-neck fairly easily – see the hard stems coming out the top of the garlic in the pic? Yep. Hard-neck. Soft-neck garlic usually looks like it’s falling apart, with no sturdy stem in the middle. Maybe a little tuft that used to be a stem, but definitely not the woody stick that the hard-neck has.

These will sit on my desk as vampire repellents and conversation pieces until I plant them in the colder weather.

great grandma’s grapes

grandma and grapes

For about 40 years, my grandma (on the left) has been tending these grapevines in her backyard. They are concord grapes, that make the best jelly ever, and they are growing wildly out of control. On the left, out of the picture, is a large maple tree that is supporting the wire from one end of the grape trellis. You can see grapevines that look like they’re hanging in the air – they’re climbing the wire to the tree. I jokingly told my grandma that next year they’ll be up the tree, but it might actually happen, given how prolific these vines are.

 

This tree holds many memories for me – I used to spend hours and hours up in the top of it, daydreaming and carving sweet nothings in the bark. Grandma would come out and talk to me and the neighbors thought she was a crazy old lady talking to herself. Well, she may be crazy but she’s not old – only 87 this year!! – still going strong, with 4 great-grandchildren.

 

Grandma planted the grapevines herself, and used to make all her own jelly. Unfortunately she doesn’t do that anymore, but she will call me and my sister to come and pick them so we can make jelly – so all is not lost. On this trip, my sister and I weeded them and then tied up the vines that were dragging on the ground. This will keep the fruit safe from moisture that might cause it to rot, and from the lawnmower of the person who cuts Grandma’s lawn.

 

The fruit has set:

concord grapes

Now it just needs to ripen!

 

And here is what a 40-year old grapevine ‘trunk’ looks like:

grape trunk

Thanks to my favourite sister who took the pic of Grandma and me.