The potatoes are making a bid for freedom….

What a strange growing season we’re having! Our spring was so cold and wet that I direct sowed my veggies almost two weeks later than usual – a huge difference when you consider that we have, on average, 117 frost-free days in the city.  (I didn’t start anything indoors this year or do any winter sowing).  June was pretty much a blur of rain – I’m not certain we actually saw sunlight for the entire month.  To this date, July has been considerably more moderate as far as temperature and drying are concerned…and my potatoes are kind of blissed out at the moment. I’ve got foliage going on like nobody’s business – I just hope there are a few tubers forming under there.  A gardener in the Alberta Gardening Facebook group recently remarked that her potato plants were over five feet tall and those that commented echoed her claim – this is clearly the year of giant potato plants in our province!

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And yes, those are hula hoops forming the tunnel in my raised bed…you can see how I set that all up here.  I’m a big fan of the hula hoops – they’re cheap, sturdy, and they liven up a public space with their colours!  (I’m not sure what our community garden leader thinks of them, but she hasn’t sent me a cease and desist letter so I’m guessing they don’t offend too many sensibilities).   Instead of row cover fabric this year, I put up fibreglass screen. Its purpose is two-fold: we have deer that like to jump the fence of the community garden and nibble, so this saves my beans; as well – and more importantly – we are plagued by frequent hailstorms in this part of the world, and this keeps most of the icy stones from shredding my squash.  I could combine this set-up with row cover fabric in future years – a good idea if I decide to plant cabbages and want to thwart flea beetles, or if I get seeds into the soil early and need a bit of protection against the cold – but for this year, the screen without the poly has been a satisfactory choice.

Did you plant potatoes this year?  And do you use hoop tunnels in your raised or in-ground beds?  

And…just for fun – what is your favourite way to make potato salad?  

Floral notes: June.

And without further ado…wait, there was ado?

Harvest time is now virtually over for this early season crop, but a few weeks ago, my hubby and I headed out to Edgar Farms (near the town of Innisfail in central Alberta) for their annual Asparagus Festival.  The celebration is held over three weekends in May and June, and features a farm tour, lots of yummy food, and artisans selling their locally-made wares.  The star of the show is, of course, asparagus, which isn’t cultivated very much as a commercial crop here in the province – the family-run Edgar Farms is one of the only producers that I am aware of.  Interpretive signs near the asparagus fields offer fun facts about this fascinating perennial veggie,  tips to successfully grow it, and a history of the farm and its owners. (You can also take a guided wagon tour if you’d rather not walk the property; we chose to walk because I always find you see more if you’re on foot).  One of the highlights of the festival is the opportunity to go out into the asparagus fields to break a spear fresh out of the soil and pop it in your mouth.  And, of  course, all the freshly-harvested asparagus you can bring home from the marketplace…YUM! It’s going to be difficult to wait another whole year for such a delicacy!

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Purple cultivars of asparagus taste a bit sweeter than green ones, and wow! that colour!  Spectacular! (Just like many purple bean cultivars, purple asparagus spears turn green when you cook them, and actually, if you slice open a raw spear, the interior is green).

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A man with more literary awards than you can shake a stick at (as well as a little bauble called the Order of Canada!), renowned Canadian science fiction writer Robert J. Sawyer was recently in Calgary acting as the visiting writer-in-residence at the Calgary Public Library.  My hubby and I managed to squish in Mr. Sawyer’s highly entertaining lecture “Why Everyone Should Read Science Fiction” on June 2.  In addition to defending his position on Star Trek’s superiority over Star Wars (I’d say the room was divided on that one!), we were treated to an educational and fascinating discussion of the history of science fiction writing  and its focus on social issues.

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Speaking of science fiction, I’ve published writer Geoff Hart’s flash fiction work “Fly Fishing” over at Paper Butterfly.  It’s a story you’ll fall for hook, line, and sinker…guaranteed. Head over there and enjoy!♥

 

 

 

 

Don’t worry, bean happy.

Delectable, sugary jelly beans or ‘Blue Lake’ pole beans ready for sowing?  😉

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The bean experiment continues.  I was disappointed with ‘Kentucky Wonder’ last year, but I think I can blame our extremely hot, dry weather (as well as that vicious hailstorm in July) for their poor performance.  I am trying them again this year, alongside these pink beauties.

Do you grow beans (of any kind)?  Which ones are your favourites?

The 2019 Prairie Garden: Growing Food.

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One of my favourite times of the year is when the new issue of The Prairie Garden arrives in my mailbox!  This themed, annual digest has been in publication for a whopping 63 years and I am delighted to have been a contributing writer since 2011 (although I missed 2015 and 2017). This year, the theme is Growing Food and it includes my article “Integrated Pest Management.”  Check out The Prairie Garden‘s website for more information about the book and the other featured writers, as well as for details on how to order both the new book and available back issues.  (The book is also available for purchase in select bookstores, garden centres, and nurseries in Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Alberta).

Tuesday tidbits.

A couple of sweet treats for the start of the week!

A crazy beautiful cookbook:

You could acquire Marit Hovland’s Bakeland: Nordic Treats Inspired by Nature and actually make the recipes – I would highly encourage it!  But, really, this cookbook is the most deliriously glorious eye candy you’ll have the pleasure of perusing in absolute ever, so you should spend some quality time simply ogling.  A celebration of baking, organized seasonally and inspired by Scandinavian ingredients and design, Bakeland is so pretty you’ll drool.  I have no decorating skills so I’m going to stick to the Spice Cake with Cinnamon Almonds.  Because chocolate icing is possible for people like me.

If you want a preview of some of the book’s insanely gorgeous food photos, click here. (2018, Greystone Books, Vancouver)

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Eat some berries:

If you’re cleaning out the freezer and you find a package of frozen raspberries, make this sauce.  I reduced the sugar by a smidge (which is, of course, a completely technical cooking term). Then eat it out of the saucepan (ahem!) and pretend it’s summer already. Do. It.

Do you have any tidbits to share? – for example, projects you’re working on, new things you’ve learned, delicious or interesting new foods you’ve tried, delightful books or TV shows or movies, or a piece of music or art you’ve created or enjoyed?  

 

 

Gift ideas for gardeners.

I periodically write online content for Farmers’ Almanac and recently did a story that may help out with last minute shopping for the gardeners on your Christmas list (or any time of the year, really!).

One idea I should include is the valuable (and valued!) gift of time – helping someone weed their overgrown beds, turning compost, mowing the lawn, pruning a tree and so on.

Do you have anything to add?  What gardening-related gifts would you like to give or receive?  This doesn’t have to be small stuff – dream big if you like! 

 

 

 

Recipe: Cocoa-Chili Roasted Pumpkin/Winter Squash Seeds.

As I speak, there is a roasted butternut squash-parsnip-carrot-sweet potato soup going on in my house.  (My take on this recipe, in which the OP probably didn’t spatter hot soup all over the backsplash and the outside of the front door and the neighbour’s Hallowe’en decorations even though she was really, really careful and wore an apron and a welder’s helmet and everything).

The point of this? (Besides the fact that there is soup happening and it’s perfect for these chilly evenings when snow is threatening).  The squash seeds!  Don’t throw them away.  Grow them in your garden next year or roast them.  I did the latter, and decided I’d use a familiar flavour combination in a new-ish way:

Cocoa-Chili Roasted Pumpkin/Winter Squash Seeds

Do this first: preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (150 degrees Celsius).

Then throw the raw seeds that you just scooped out of your squash (ew, that sounds a tad impolite – my apologies) into a small saucepan.  Add 1/2 teaspoon salt. Cover with water and bring to a boil over high heat.  Turn the heat down and simmer for about 15 minutes. Drain the water from the seeds and pat the seeds dry with a paper towel.

Lay the seeds in a single layer on a baking sheet covered in parchment paper.  Now comes the tricky part – adjusting the measurements that I sort of winged in the first place.

For 1/2 cup seeds, add:

1 teaspoon butter or ghee or coconut oil, melted

1//8 to 1/4 teaspoon baking cocoa powder

1/8 teaspoon chili powder

1/8 teaspoon salt*

Stir everything together on the baking sheet and pop in the preheated oven.  Roast for 10 minutes then take the pan out and stir the seeds.  Place them back into the oven for another 10 minutes, then remove.  Cool completely and then dig in.  You may need to make a few batches of these until you get the heat that you want (or just add more spice during or at the end of roasting). I’m a wimp, so this is sufficient on the pepper scale for me.  I think more than one person might consider that the addition of a bit of ground cayenne might kick things up nicely as well….

If you don’t like chocolate (difficult to believe but I’m told it’s true for some folks), I have a lime and chili roasted pumpkin/winter squash seed recipe that you may enjoy – check it out here.

*There are metric conversion tables available here. 

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Enjoy!