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!

In the garden: pleasant surprises.

I finally finished my garden clean up this past weekend.  I don’t have perennial beds at our new home; my new garden space is a combination of containers on the balcony and a plot at the nearby community garden. Clean up was easy: I had no issues with diseases with my container plants so all the soil was dumped into a large covered tote and left on the balcony for use next season, and the pots were all scrubbed and put into indoor storage so they don’t freeze and crack.  Clean up at the community garden was also a cinch: our garden committee encourages members to leave plants in place and chop and drop them in the spring.  (I am a huge fan of this! Keeping the dried plants in place over winter helps prevent a bit of soil crusting, as the garden is fully exposed during chinook winds and freeze and thaw cycles. The plants may also provide a safe haven for beneficial insects such as ladybugs, and the sunflowers in some of the other plots may be useful for hungry birds).  I did pull the pumpkin and zucchini plants, as they were beset with a vicious case of powdery mildew.

My garlic is planted at the community garden and mulched and hopefully snug for the winter, and I sunk a large container of alpine strawberries into the raised bed there in the hopes that they might survive. (I don’t have any in-ground spaces like I used to).  I’ll winter sow some more strawberry seeds outside in early March as insurance.

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I haven’t had a lot of time to review this year’s gardening season.  It was a challenging one, as far as the weather was concerned. Spring wasn’t gradual and wet; instead, we were blasted out of the gate with mid-summer-like heat and no rain.  Some direct-sown seeds refused to germinate, even with supplemental irrigation. Our summer was hot and filled with forest fire smoke, and we had a couple of severe hailstorms that handily trashed plants in mere seconds.  Many gardeners I talked to fought multiple insect infestations, but aside from the cutworms early in the season, I was fortunate in that regard. And then, just as everyone was still hoping their pumpkins would ripen on the vine and they would get some tomatoes that were a colour other than green, we were hit with two weeks of snowfall and bitter cold in September.

One pleasant surprise in my garden (besides these) were the ‘Le Puy’ lentils I grew for the first time.  The plants are pretty, resembling some of our common vetches so much that I thought perhaps I’d get in trouble for harbouring weeds.  The deer find them attractive, as well, which definitely reduced the quantity I was able to harvest.  Compared to some of my other plants, the lentils didn’t seem to require much care – a regular watering schedule was the most important thing, and they made it through the heat better than my sweet peas and sugar peas.

I quickly realized that the timing of harvest is critical with lentils.   The pods must be picked when they are dry, but if you wait too long (a scant few minutes, it seems!), they shatter, blasting the seeds across the soil or the entire garden or into the parking lot in the street adjacent.  I swear I could hear them pinging off the streetlights before I got to them.  😉  I still managed to collect enough to enjoy a decent snack (this recipe is easy to prepare and delicious!).

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Were there any pleasant surprises in your garden this growing season? What about any old favourites that were once again reliable?

Tuesday tidbits.

First things, well…yeah.  Let’s smile together.  Maybe even guffaw together.  Click here to see the finalists for this year’s Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards.  And then tell me which one is your favourite pic in the comments.  (I am indecisive; torn between “Have a Headache” and “Crouching Tiger, Peeking Moose”).

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Calgary cookbook author Julie Van Rosendaal’s Out of the Orchard: Recipes for Fresh Fruit from the Sunny Okanagan (2016, TouchWood Editions, Canada) is perfect for this time of year. Although the sweet, juicy B.C. peaches are finished (no worries! – I have a bunch stashed in the freezer for any and all occasions), the apples are still rolling in and on for extremely budget-friendly prices.  If you look around, you’ll still find the plums, as well, and of course, the pears are just coming on.  I seriously would like one of everything in this cookbook – I have no idea where to begin.  Weeeeellll, maybe I do.  Page 43, “Peach and Pumpkin Muffins.” Happening this week, in my kitchen.  And for supper tomorrow night: “Roasted Carrot Soup with Apples and Sage.”  Or…how about…”Curried Sweet Potato, Carrot, and Red Lentil Soup with Ginger and Pear.” That’s for Thursday night.  I’m gonna be busy….  If your bookstore or library carries this cookbook, I’d highly recommend tracking down a copy – it will quickly become a favourite!

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I meant to write about this much earlier this year but things sort of got away from me (they always do!). Alberta author Diane Mae Robinson has accomplished the impossible: she has made English grammar both accessible and adorable for children of all ages with The Dragon Grammar Book: Grammar for Kids, Dragons, and the Whole Kingdom. Using examples from her previously penned Pen Pieyu Adventures (ho boy, I’m in for it with that sentence!), this is a cute, useful, and educational book.  While the major appeal is for kids, I think it may actually serve adult ESL students as well, especially if they enjoy fantasy stories.  This is a fantastic resource (and if you want to own a copy, you can get the e-book free for your Kindle on Amazon.ca right now.  If you don’t live in Canada, I think the freebie is also offered up by Amazon in other countries, so just search for the book or the author on your respective site).

Even if you don’t garden in the United States, this is a delectable treat: the American Horticultural Society has digitally archived all of its issues of The American Gardener magazine from 1920 to 2016.  You can peruse them all here.  The opportunity to access documents like these is one of the best, most positive things about the Internet!

And, from the “Yes, I Published Another Article and Yes, You Are Stuck Hearing About It” Department, I…um…recently had another article published. Well, four more articles, actually.  We’ve got “How To: Mulch 101” and “Plants for Fall Colour” in the Fall 2018 issue of The Gardener for Canadian Climates, “Check Your Pulses” in the autumn issue of Archive, and “Wabi-Sabi Garden Design” in Herb Quarterly (Winter 2018).  This may be why I blog so irregularly and somehow forget to reply to all your wonderful comments until two months (or occasionally six) after you’ve written them and then you get the WordPress notification and you’re, like, huh? what is she talking about, anyway? – and then you do a search and realize this was thirteen blog entries ago!

Wow.  Someone is clearly in need of The Dragon Grammar Book. Or less caffeine, more sleep.  😉

Tuesday tidbits: food and other assorted ramblings.

I have realized the benefits of carrying around a couple of folded brown paper bags in my book bag. (I don’t usually carry a purse. You can’t fit enough books in the ones I own so they’re pretty much useless to me. And if you’re going to carry around a ginormous purse, you may as well lug a sizeable, sturdy book bag, right?).  You never know when you might be strolling around and see seeds that need collecting or just enough ripe rose hips for a cup of tea or a leaf that needs identifying or pressing….  I’m certain my neighbours just shake their heads when they see me toodling around. At least I’m entertaining to others!  Do you forage in your neighbourhood as well?

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The apple trees on the property where I live have produced like mad this year so I’ve been picking and processing over the past few weeks.  I’ve made a bunch of unsweetened applesauce, a carrot/applesauce blend, some jars of apple jelly, and infused a few slices with whole cinnamon, allspice, and anise in vodka in preparation for the winter warm-ups that will certainly be required within the next few months.  (Perhaps sooner: we have snow in the forecast for this week!).  I wanted to make this apple jam but it will have to wait until next year; sadly, I cannot hog all the apples to myself.

Juicy, sweet freestone peaches from our neighbouring province, British Columbia, have been so inexpensive this year – I suspect they had a bumper crop over there!  I mixed up a bunch as pie filling and froze them for use later in pastry or over top of ice cream, breakfast oatmeal, etc..  But I also made this peach barbecue sauce, which was fantastic!

And…I made blueberry soup.  I didn’t know that was a thing, but apparently, it’s a common dish in Sweden.  You can eat it either chilled or warm (we opted for the latter).  If I had enough blueberries in the freezer, I could see eating this every day – it’s so delicious!  The recipe I used isn’t quite traditional – I was eager to try this one because it has maple syrup and cardamom in it.  If you’re nervous about fruit soups, don’t be – this is a great breakfast meal and not too sweet. Actually, it sort of makes your tummy smile. Which is weird, but comforting. And comfortable, at the same time.

If you remember this entry I posted I about the non-book items our public library carries, you’ll recall that I mused aloud-ish about trying out a musical instrument.  True to my word, I carted this splendid item home on the train late last week:

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Now to find some good beginner keyboard tutorials on You Tube!  Or, I’ll just have some fun and mash all the buttons for the “crazy noises” feature that the machine sports (those are the librarian’s words, not mine, but it’s the description I would have used as well). My neighbours will be elated with my efforts to learn new skills. I can already hear the knocking on the door, the broomstick tapping on the ceiling. If I can just get them to time it to my playing, we’ll have a band and we can go on tour tomorrow.

And, in the “Endlessly Bragging” Department, I have not one, but two, articles in the Fall 2018 issue of Herb Quarterly magazine: “Rock Your Garden!” and “Dooryard Garden Design.” The magazine is out on newsstands all across North America.

Share any new recipes you’ve tried recently or let me know what new ideas or fun things you’re working on this week!