Tuesday 13 August 2019

Vine ripened, dried tomatoes

I guess they not sun dried, but were ripened in the sun. I found myself with a sudden glut of tomatoes. Two bowels this size that were so ripe they would not last more than a couple days. Some bordering on being past how I like them.

So I picked them and took out the small cherry tomatoes. These I simply washed, put into a freezer bags and stored in the freezer. (Deep freeze for those that need translation) This I have done for years. I find that I eat a lot of bean, kale and leek based stews in fall, and a bag of frozen vine ripe tomatoes makes that meal.

For the larger tomatoes. I sliced then up and put them in my dehydrator I bought last year. It takes a  fair amount of closet space, but it was a great buy. In fact, I bought a cheap one, not being sure I would really use it. I now regret that, and should have gone for a more commercial quality with stainless steel racks etc. I am also considering a smoker to use as a dryer (more storage)

The multiple colours and ribbing on heirloom tomatoes is simply beautiful, fresh and dried. The smell in the house, amazing! After about 24 hours, the tomatoes seemed dry. 2 trays stuffed a 500ml Mason jar with dried tomatoes and I ended up with 6 bottles worth from my harvest. I decided to try take it a bit further for a few bottles. 3 I put into the oven for 30 min (at a bit too high a temp) and "roasted them" both to be double sure they were dry and to create a vacuum. These burnt a little on the outside, but have a smokey flavour now. Perhaps at a much lower temp next time, although these are going to be good in stew!

I dried some basil and sage as well and will cut some lovage and parsley as well to dry. Now I am thinking paprika!!! The Kurtovska Kapija peppers I bought in Croatia last year are all ripe and are not sweat (so maybe I got some other seed??? its was commercial packaging or did I ix up labels and this is Espelette?) as I thought, but have a mild  bit of heat. I think I am going to use this dehydrator a lot more.

Tuesday 23 July 2019

French Grey Shallot

I first got my French Grey shallots from a local farmers market in 2013 after an extensive search. A couple years ago, I nearly lost them, when I accidentally threw out my seed shallots while cleaning the fridge bottom draw. Yes Mom, I clean out the fridge occasionally. Luckily a few sprang up from the previous season that I had missed in harvest

I planted them all last year to try increase my stock and this year my harvest was much more respectable. The larger (since none of these can really be called large) I put onto a tray to dry a bit, the smaller are for planting. Yes, unlike garlic, the theory I have read is that you plant the smaller shallots as seed shallots. I have not tested this theory. but then returns have not being bad. I usually plant in October, a few weeks before garlic, although I am wanting to see if a sustainable patch can be created. Simply leaving them in an area and harvesting only as needed.

These are still the most amazing flavoured onion, almost rivalling garlic for potency, but with an amazing rich and complex onion flavour. Not for salad, for that I love walla walla for sweat juiciness. In gravy, stuffing and other baked or cooked dishes, they are simply awesome, although they can be a bit of work to prepare due to their diminutive size and tough skin. Still value per square foot, these are high on my list of favourites for small gourmet garden that simply difficult to find in store.

Tomatoes, Cucumbers, Beans and Garlic

Well, with the last 2 weeks hot weather, I have eventually got some ripe tomatoes. Usually I get these the first week of July, so we are a full 2-3 weeks late this year. The cucumbers and beans are also kicking in. I forgot to add a zucchini and the green chillies (Raja) I picked. I also harvested the first of the garlic... sorry neighbours I reek.

With sheep's milk cheese, some mustard greens and a bit of cucumber, a ciabatta roll and a steak, summer fare all done on the bbq - my typical summer fare.  Yummy

Thursday 20 June 2019

Garlic & Onions

This cool wet spring has my garlic is looking really good and the scapes have been part of my meals now for about two weeks and nearing the end.
Garlic 20 June 2019 - a few scapes left

I love the scapes just wrapped in tinfoil with salt and oil on the BBQ or lightly fried and sure I can be smelt from at least 100m currently. My main garlic crop I think is called "music". I bought a few types of garlic online and had various degrees of luck growing it. Then one day at a farmers market, I asked the farmer about some great looking garlic he was selling. He said he did not know what type it was, but the family had been growing it for 20 years on a nearby (now organic) farm. I bought about 10 h

If you don't remove the scapes, you will get bulbils. The head also tends to be a bit smaller. I have not tried growing and eating from bulbils, but have experimented with a wild garlic patch. I simply leave a small patch of garlic, without harvesting or removing scapes and it is has done well, looking much like grass.

This season I have about a dozen plants for a second type of garlic planted. It's also a hardneck and very red, bought at an organic food store. It has smaller cloves with perhaps 10-12 per head. It's growing rather well, and I will try to remember to give an update on the harvest and tasting. Will this become my second variety???

French grey Shallots, with topset onions behind
My french grey shallots and topset bunching onions are also doing well this year.

I am still growing. I plant about 80 cloves every year in early November and land up with about 70 head of garlic, each with only 4 or 5 cloves. The remaining is used till early spring and I never buy it from the store anymore. The taste of my grown garlic is much stronger and far more to my liking store garlic. The shallots are grown much the same as garlic, except that the smallest shallots are replanted each year while the largest cloves are.


I remember when I was about 20 years old, someone I knew discovered mustard and turned half their garden into a mustard farm. I discovered it about 8 years ago and now grow about 6 types.
different mustards going to flower this year

This year's non-typical spring it has flourished but gone to flower already. I usually leave a few plants to go to seed vs buying seed and eat the leaves still as it turns to seed. Like lettuce, its best to just keep planting some fresh seeds. The warmer the weather, the hotter the mustard and I have had some leaves that have had a wasabi overdose effect when eating them. No salad for myself does not have some mustard in it and little is better on a hamburger. In early spring, before peppers and tomatoes, it is my main flavouring garnish. Garnish is a key phrase here, with only 10% to 20% of a salad being mustard or it can become overbearing. I have not cooked it much, preferring to eat it raw, but many cultures consider it like spinach as something usually cooked. I also eat them as greens, and dont use the seed, which seems smaller than typical mustard seed you buy for making mustard.

The two favourites are Japanese Giant Red Mustard Greens and Indian Mustard Amsoi Greens. The frilly ones are great for less impact and the wasabi mustard is a bit more unique flavoured. Although not as cold hardy as kale, they grow here till temperatures drop below -10, extending their season considerably.


My Lovage plant after about 5 years
I read that during the middle ages, most gardens had a lovage plant. Yet somehow this plant fell out of favour. It may not be quiet as refined as celery.

It's a stunning easy personal here in Toronto though. It dies down to the ground each year and springs back like rhubarb early in the spring. A massive plant after a few years, I hardly seem to be able to use enough to be noticed. Mine is currently over 7 feet tall and just starting to get a flower. The flowers are yellow and are great attractors. The seeds are apparently used in it Europe as a condiment as well, although I have not as of yet tried them. There are a number of medical uses for the plant and it is even used in making perfumes.
and perhaps the availability of pepper had something to do with its decline. The flavour though is a strong mix of celery and pepper. I usually don't add it to salad,  preferring celery, but have added it to stews and casseroles, where it adds great flavour. I have not yet tried eating the roots.


This years sage in the garden
Sage is a relatively new plant for me to grow, and it has rapidly become a favourite. As usual, I grew it from seed, but showed my lack of experience. Sage is a perennial in Zone 6 here in Toronto and I found I have a ton of unused seed.

My sage patch you can see last years plant in full flower and tiny this year plants getting established.

Sage has a unique strong flavour. In a spicy salad (one of my favourites) with lots of mustard, arugula (rocket), onion and radishes etc, I like to add a couple of young leaves along with oregano, dill, rosemary and thyme. Small amounts are great giving herby yet strong taste to the salad. In stuffing, stews, and casseroles, it adds a great distinctive flavour, I have really come to enjoy. Last year I dried 2 500ml mason jars of sage to use over winter.
The matt colour off leaves and the stunning blue flowers make it an extremely attractive plant, and a great attractor.

All this and it's a perennial!!!!

Monday 20 May 2019

Late start

This year is particularly late. With a flower moon this weekend, the cherry and plum and pear trees are in full flower - some 3 weeks after they normally are. With the forcast looking up, I hope to see a significant change over the next 2 weeks as eating from the greenhouse still is not the abundance I am use to.