Sunday, June 27, 2010

lovely legumes

We're harvesting sugar snap peas from the garden these days.

I plant my sugar snap peas sometime between February and March. I soak the seeds overnight to encourage them to germinate faster because the longer they sit in the soil, the more chance of mouse attack. Mice love peas and they seem to come out of all the forest nooks and crannies to feast on my pea seed. That's why I have to cover my pea beds with floating row cover to keep the mice discouraged. I have to make sure it is really secure by sealing it with compost all along the edges of the cover, making sure there's not one little area that isn't weighed down or they'll find it and get in under the cover. Sometimes they'll try to chew through the cover but they've always given up on that far. Many folks who garden here on Mayne Island have told me about how they've planted peas and none have come up....bad seed?....birds?....soil too wet?....I'll bet it's the mice. It's so much extra work, but try the row cover and come June, it'll all seem worth it.

It's safe to remove the row cover when the pea shoots are about this big. The mice and birds may still mess around with them a bit at first and that's why I plant them so thickly. This way, I'm guaranteed a good crop. Planting this thickly also gives lots of extra pea shoots to harvest for delicious and nutritious salads earlier in the season....

Here I'm putting the bamboo stakes into the ground and tying them together as I begin to build the pea trellis. When I have all the vertical pieces in, I then begin to tie in horizontal bamboo canes about 2 feet apart all the way up....I have this idea every year that I want to do some sort of bamboo sculpture/pea vine garden installation but altho' it works beautifully as a trellis I still haven't got the sculpture the way I want it....I'll keep trying....

The vines grow quickly and enthusiastically.....

The pea pods are beginning to fill out! Here you can see that I've planted 2 types of peas in this bed...mainly the sugar snaps with their white flowers and in front, some dwarf grey sugars (a snow pea) for their lovely pink and purple flowers that I add to the baskets and to our plates...just because they are a lovely edible flower. The dwarf grey sugars are also the type I use for my pea shoot production....a sweet juicy shoot.

Sugar snap peas are a cross between a snow pea and a shelling pea...their pod is edible, sweet and tender. They're ready to eat when they're plump and the peas inside are larger than a snow pea.
I read somewhere that a serving of sugar snap peas (about 1 cup) contains 90% of the RDA of Vitamin C. Sounds good. High in Vitamin A and rich in iron, magnesium and calcium too. wow.....healthy stuff.

I have always prepared the sugar snaps whole but this time, I wanted to try them cut, like I do with my runner beans and I love them this way too!
These have been sauteed in a little water for about 2-3 minutes....then tossed with a little butter and salt and steamed in the covered pot, off heat, so they're still a bit crispy and oh so sweet. Sometimes I'll add a chopped herb of my choice (mint and dill seem to be my favourites for the peas)....sometimes some lemon zest...oh so good!

Here they are on a bed of pea shoots with some of those lovely pink and purple pea flowers, some little Russian Blue potatoes and a bbq chicken breast, yum!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

fruits of my labour

Waiting for strawberries to ripen....

waiting, waiting.....hurrrrrry up....


YaaaaHOOOOO! Red strawberries at Summer Solstice.

This is my strawberry patch. Two boxes are June bearing varieties and the other two are Everbearing. When I first planted the strawberries, this spot was outside the garden fence where the deer roam. I didn't want to take up all this space inside the garden fence so I thought I could be clever and grow the strawberries in these boxes with wood and wire mesh frames placed on top of the boxes to protect from deer, raccoons, birds, mice, etc, etc. It kind of worked, for a while, but after a couple of years the deer began to stand on top of the frames and push the mesh in and eat the strawberry leaves. Then one day last year I saw a raccoon pulling the mesh back with her little hands to get at the berries inside.
This year, we expanded the fenced area to include this spot so now I get to take the wire mesh frames off the top of the boxes and good thing too since the berry plants really want to grow much taller than the top of the boxes.
Turns out I learned that these boxes are just not a very good idea.....mostly because the plants don't get enough light and sun from the sides and ideally, they should get more air circulation to discourage the mould (botrytis) that we are so susceptible to here on the coast.
This year, after the berries are all harvested, I'll be moving my strawberry beds to another area and taking these boxes out of here. These plants have been here for 4 years so it's time to renovate the beds anyway. I'll start new plants from the runners that they'll be sending out soon to plant somewhere else and this area will become 2 new 40' rows with low tunnels for winter greens growing and for getting some crops off to an earlier start in the spring....

more potatoes

Here's a simple idea for those potatoes and garlic scapes you're getting in the weekly basket or at Happy Tides.
Make some garlic scape pesto with the scapes. (see recipe in one of the previous posts) Cook the potatoes and toss them in a bowl with a little butter, chop up some of the dill from the basket and throw that in with the hot potatoes, let it steam a bit....add a couple dollops of pesto, stir and then crumble some feta cheese on top and lightly stir in....delicious! I love potatoes.

Above, 3 colours of potatoes prepared this way....and below three colours just harvested: Seiglinde, Russian Blue and Chieftain

Friday, June 18, 2010

pretty pink peonies

The peony plants that I planted 3 years ago flowered enthusiastically this year! They really made me wait and finally my patience has been rewarded with amazing blooms to use in my arrangements. I made this one yesterday for an island business. What a treat!

a variety of pink peonies, hydrangea branches with young flowers, black bugbane leaves, lady's mantle, golden hops vine and grape vine, an assortment of grasses.....
Can't seem to get enough of this one :-) Time to plant more peonies this fall!!

...and just because I think the cabbages are as beautiful as the peonies right now...look at these beauties!

Monday, June 14, 2010

this week's basket

In the garden harvest basket this week:
salad greens: peashoots with beautiful pink and purple pea shoot flowers and other edible flowers: nasturtiums and calendula petals.....
sunflower shoots and/or purple radish shoots
new potatoes
garlic scapes
baby dill and chives

If you're receiving the baskets at your doorstep please do remember to let me know if you'd like to switch to the light canvas cloth bags for your salad greens...I think it's a good idea to cut down on all the plastic bags we use. The greens keep really well in the fridge in them too.....

See a couple posts below for a garlic scape pesto recipe.

And here's one of my favourite peashoot salad ideas:
crumble some feta cheese in a medium size bowl, mix with a little olive oil and some garlic scape pesto, a squeeze of half a lemon and a little black pepper....toss the pea shoots with this mixture.....SO good...and good for ya too....don't forget to add some flowers, orange and yellow nasturtiums are really pretty and delicious too! Enjoy!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

the new potatoes are ready for harvesting!

I love growing potatoes in pots. I've already posted once about this and here I go again. I first tried it a few years ago and for the last couple of years, I've experimented with many different ideas, constantly learning how to make it work better. I think potatoes are such a gratifying crop to grow. This week, I began harvesting the first containers of the season.
They were planted late February/early March and the pots were kept in my new hoophouse (first time I've done this!) By May the hoophouse was getting way too hot for the potatoes so they were brought outside....(part of the plan) this time, the green growth was well established and the pots had been filled up to the top with soil and grass clippings.
The straw mulch I put around the black pots mid-May is insulating them from the hot sun, keeping the soil in the pots cool and moist.
This year I'm trying a couple varieties I haven't grown before to see which ones produce the highest yield in the pots and this one, "Chieftain" has amazed me! So many lovely nuggets in one little container!
A lot of people have asked me how I grow spuds in pots like this so here's what I do: (see also November 2009 posting, "potatoes in containers" for a slightly different version of what I's always changing!) I use SeaSoil potting mix. I start with 3 seed potatoes in about 4-6 inches of soil. As the plants grow up, I add more soil and do this 'til the pot is about half this time, I'm cutting grass and I have grass clippings to fill the pot up to the top (another new thing this year that seems to be working very well) You could use soil all the way up to the top if you rather (which I've also done).....keep the soil moist and cool (afternoon shade or straw mulch around the pots) and once the plants have flowered, there will be potatoes to harvest.
This year, I'm dumping the pot into a wheelbarrow to harvest and even tho' the general rule of thumb is to not re-use soil, I am reusing this soil because it's still beautiful potting soil. I mix a bit of complete organic fertilizer into it and use it to grow micro-greens and shoots in trays. It works fabulously. After the trays are harvested, I dump the soil into new growing beds that I'm building in my could just put it into your compost.
As these potato pots get harvested, they're replanted with more seed potatoes for another harvest in September.
I wanted to find out what the yield of one pot was but I couldn't fit them all on my scale....over 5 lbs! more like 6 pounds. I think I'll have to grow Cheiftain in larger pots next year.
These potatoes will all go to the weekly basket customers and Happy Tides.....but we get some too! "Seiglinde" and "Chieftain" for our dinner. With baby dill and garlic scape pesto. The taste of early summer. Jewels.

Friday, June 11, 2010

garlic scapes!

Summer must be here because the scapes are ready for picking. On a garlic plant the scape is the flower stalk that the plant develops in early June. Most garlic growers remove the scape when it starts to curl because they believe that when it's removed the energy of the plant will be directed into making a nice big garlic bulb rather than the flower and seed head. Lots of folks just throw them in the compost but some of us love them as a special early summer-time treat....garlic pesto is yummy!

Below, some scapes bagged up for one of my customers with a simple garlic scape pesto recipe attached. Let's go make some!!......
Take 7 or 8 scapes and put them in a blender with about 1/2 cup of olive oil, puree. Mix in some parmesan cheese, about 1 cup and 3 or 4 tablespoons of lemon or lime juice...salt to taste. I like to dollop this on potatoes, or anything, really. yum.