Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Roots and Shoots Farm - 6th Week of CSA Food 2013

Week 6 pick-up just passed and I received my 3rd CSA basket for the season.  You won't have trouble agreeing with me that this is Roots and Shoots Farm's best basket yet.  It wins on colour alone!

5 peppers
5 zucchinis
2 cucumbers
pint of tomatoes
head of lettuce
Swiss chard
bunch of onions

basil and garlic - you guessed it. I made pesto.
carrots - ate them raw as snacks
lettuce - in three different salads
tomatoes - in salads
garlic and one cucumber - tzatziki

Zucchini, peppers and some of the onions are going into Mediterranean Zucchini Salad in Pita Pockets.

Swiss chard is undecided but a friend of mine tried this recipe.

Eggplant is headed to baba ghanoush. I have my eye on this recipe. It will be hard to let him go.  He's so good-looking.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Roots and Shoots Farm - 4th Week of CSA Food 2013

As a half share participant, my second CSA basket from Roots and Shoots Farm had more hits of colour.  A sign that the season is moving along.

This particular week's share included:
4 cucumbers
a bunch of red onions
head of lettuce
mixed greens
2 zucchini
garlic scapes
hakurei turnips

I bought a chicken from Roots and Shoots Farm and they were delivered frozen with our share this week.  I chose a smaller one.  It is 3.89 lbs. Quite the charmer.  Regular readers know I like to name my chickens before they hit the oven.  Unless I get a better offer, this one will be called Charles William George Esquire.

Kelsey is working at Roots and Shoots Farm for the summer.  With the pick-up being extra busy with chickens, she was on hand to help Danny ensure things went smoothly.  Kelsey says she is having a great summer.

SPECIAL TRICK FOR STORING BASIL: One of my best experiences of this share was my basil.  It kept beautifully. My trick this time was to cut the stems just before placing the bunch in a mini vase.  I then put a bag loosely around them but fully covering the plant right to the base of the vase.  Then into the fridge.  I picked up my share on Thursday and made my pesto on the Monday.  It looked like it had just been picked.  No brown spots.  A fluke? I don't know. But I am going to try that again. When I get basil, I do try to use it right away as it is one of the more delicate herbs.

UPDATE ON BASIL STORAGE (July 0, 2013):  I just came across this post on The Kitchn regarding storing basil. It seems Emily Ho is also a 'bagger'. As you will read in the comments, opinions are varied.  I stored mine in the fridge.  I will try the counter next time.  I think the trick is to keep moisture off the leaves whatever technique you use.

BEST THING THAT IS HAPPENING IN THE KITCHEN THIS SEASON: I am using the tops on my beets and Hakurei turnips.  My favourite way to use them is to wilt them into my pasta dishes.  If you don't think you will use them right away, wash them up, dry them and then store them in the freezer in a ziplock bag with the air removed.

We used the salad and mixed greens right away over the first two days.  The mister said repeated after each bite how fresh the head of lettuce tasted.  He was right.  It was noticeably different than what we can normally get in the store. 

I ate one of the cucumbers as a snack and the other 3 went into a Danish Cucumber Salad that I brought to a potluck.  I was thrilled to have 4 cucumbers in the share.

The onions were used for grilling and also in a pasta dish.  That pasta dish also included scapes, beet tops and my basil, which was turned into a pesto (using more scapes).

The zucchinis were grilled as well.

My scapes have contributed to pasta dishes and anytime I've needed garlic, like when I made pesto.

Do you want to try kale in a salad?  I love the kale salad at Supply and Demand on Wellington Avenue.  It will remind you of a Caesar Salad.  They have been kind to share the recipe.

Stuck for what to do with hakurei turnips? This tasty appetizer works well for happy hour snacks.

What are you making with your CSA basket?

Monday, July 22, 2013

Urban Tomato Gardening Involves Prayer and Good Luck

How emotionally involved can one person be over a row of tomato plants? On one hand, it is so easy. Nature just takes care of it all, right?  On the other hand, we try our darnedest to control the agenda and to set them up for success.

Urban gardening can become a sophisticated algorithm in how to use your land. It seems my neighbour has a PhD in vertical gardening, with an ample variety of verdure growing towards the heavens. We are keeping it pretty simple here.

Urban gardening is tricky business as it requires a careful match of sun time to plant choice when allocating spaces. With so many mature trees of mid-century age around us, ours is the land of hostas and impatiens.  Because our sunny real estate is extremely limited, I just stick to my favourite - tomato plants.

Thankfully my grow-up'r friend happily converts her large dining room each spring to giving life to trays and trays of seeds in the 24/7 glow of fluorescent lighting.  I don't know how many seedlings she birthed, but I was lucky to have four come my way. One of each - Roma, Pomodoro, Beefsteak and Sweet 100.

That was May 15.

Right away these delicate, petite, fragile darlings were given names. Everything gets a name around here. Kate (Sweet 100) in blue, Tiberius (Roma) in brown, Tiger (Pomodoro) in grey and Angus (Beefsteak) in the tomato can! (Foreshadowing, perhaps.)

Tomato plants on May 15.

I was reasonably good about putting them out each day for a bit of exposure to the surly spring weather. But the cold and wet made me timid about committing them to the earth.

Finally, my hand was forced because of travel plans.  The creatures went into the front garden a month later, on June 12.  A far cry from the enthusiastic crowd that love to plant on the May Two-Four weekend.  The mister-come-tomato-farmer actually looked after the task as I wanted to distance myself from assured failure.

They were planted with a small portion of tomato plant feed mixed in water. Then carefully caged.

Totally unattached, I said my good-byes and headed out of town.

Imagine my delight to find them flourishing when we returned a week and half later.

Beefsteak tomato plant on June 23.

Sadly, Kate (Sweet 100) died in late June. May she rest in peace. Cause of death - squirrel terror. As a result, we decided to stake the remaining three since things were seeming so optimistic for them.

We've had some harsh rainstorms and the swells of water crash out of the eaves trough overhead and pour into this bed. So far, so good.

Pomodoro tomato plant on July 10.

The fruit is now starting to form. Finally.  Everything is so healthy and lush.

I know they need more aggressive pruning to remove the fast growing suckers and to take off the lower branches that can make the plant susceptible to blight.  The fruit coming on also needs it's best exposure to the bright, hot sun.

Ahead are still further dangers.

Cut worms can also damage a more mature plant by eating away at the leaves and weakening it.

Squirrels with fickle tastes are wasteful. It just burns me how they snack on the tomatoes and then after one bite toss it aside. Only to forget and try again the next day. Bastards.

Another biter who can ruin the fruit is the tomato hornworm.

Too much rain means inconsistent watering and the fruit can split.

For now though I am enjoying specimens near perfection as they push forth their beautiful fruit. I am fantasizing about all that canning I will be doing in September and the big, warm, sun-soaked tomatoes sliced and laid out across our sandwiches.

As July becomes August and August becomes September, my three offspring will make their way into full on parenthood. Weary but strong, fruit-laden branches bursting full of colour. Giving and giving.

My farming past tells me that this can all change in a heartbeat. So much really is out of my control.  There is just so much uncertainty.  I hope for the best and wish for good luck.

So now I ask, fellow tomato lovers. As extra reassurance. Could you? Would you? Just say a little 'tomato best wishes' prayer for my precious Tiberius, Tiger and Angus.

Beefsteak tomato plant on July 21.
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