Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Tomato Selections and Heirloom Pumpkin Soup

   Yesterday afternoon was sunny and mild, getting up to 5 degrees.  I walked to the mailbox in short sleeves.  It felt heavenly.

   This past weekend, I processed the second of two Galeux D’Eysines squash I kept from my harvest last Fall.  This was the largest of the whole bunch.  I worried that it might have dried out, having been stored for 7 months, but it kept beautifully.  I ended up with 8-9 cups of puree from this one.  Pumpkin soup is in my near future.   This recipe looks good.  I wish I could wave a magic wand and teleport a steaming potful to Mom’s stovetop.  I think she would love this soup.  I might have to smuggle one of these suckers home the next time I visit.  In my carry-on, I think.  What fun, trying to keep a straight face while airport security clearly wondered what the hell it was as it traveled through the x-ray machine.  I realize liquids in any significant quantity are verboten.  Indeed, we live in an age where it is felt that the risk of kombucha and bottled breast milk being weaponized is sufficiently high that they, among other suspect beverages, must be banned on flights in the interest of public safety.  Might I assume it is lawful in Canada to schlep Cucurbita maxima in one’s luggage between provinces?  They have no sharp edges, after all...

   The leeks, marigolds, summer savoury, and parsley I started early in the month are all coming up well (especially the summer savoury.  I hope I can keep it alive until June!)    And a single rosemary seed has germinated.  Usually, these take at least 2 weeks, even on a heat mat and under a light.

Summer savoury

Leeks, parsley, marigolds

   I started soaking tomato seeds yesterday (wrapping them in damp paper towel and putting them in sandwich baggies to germinate).  Once they’ve germinated, into coir pellets and under the grow light they will go!  I am again hoping for a very warm May so I can transplant them outside mid-month.  This year's varieties are: 


Early Annie  (red, heirloom, 3-inch round, determinate, early DTM 65-70, canner/slicer)

Mazarini (pink, heirloom, heart-shaped, paste variety, few seeds, meaty flesh, wispy foliage, indeterminate, rare Russian tomato)

Black Krim (black/purple, beefsteak, indeterminate, Russian heirloom, juicy, rich flavour)

Russian Rose  (pink, heirloom, indeterminate, medium sized beefsteak, origin Russian, midseason DTM ~80, slicer)

Principe Borghese  (red, heirloom, determinate, small, dry, few seeds, good for sundried tomatoes,~ 75 DTM)

Amana Orange  (orange, heirloom, indeterminate, large beefsteak, midseason DTM ~80-85)


Scotia  (red, open-pollinated, determinate, medium fruit, origin Nova Scotia, early 60-70 DTM, prolific, slicer/canner)

Rutgers  (red, “commercial heirloom”, determinate, heavy yields, medium sized 6-8 oz round fruit, ~75 DTM, canner/slicer/general use)

Bush Beefsteak  (red, open-pollinated, determinate, medium sized 6-8 oz globed-shaped fruit, early 65 DTM, slicer)

Dwarf Roza Vetrov  (pink, open-pollinated, dwarf/determinate, small/salad fruit, round pointed fruit, origin Russian “Wind Rose”, early)

Work Release  (pink, heirloom, heart-shaped, paste, indeterminate, large, origin Italian, mid-season ~80 DTM)

Malakhitovaya Shkatulka  (green, heirloom, indeterminate, medium sized fruit, Russian origin “Malachite Box”, early – 70 DTM, slicer)

Golden Jubilee (orange, heirloom, indeterminate, round, medium sized fruit, 70-80 DTM, slicer)

   I only have two Amana Orange seeds, but am hoping to get solid plants from them so I can rebuild my seed stock. Amana Orange tomatoes are big and are a beautiful colour; they almost seem to glow from the inside.  The sauce made from them is a little jarring to see on pasta when you’re used to traditional red sauce, but the taste is fantastic.

   From here on, I will be referring to the Malakhitovaya Shkatulka tomatoes as “Malachite Box”, for obvious reasons!

   In case the link above ever fizzles out, here is the recipe for Heirloom Pumpkin Soup:

Heirloom Pumpkin Soup

Serves 10

  • 5 pounds edible pumpkin, Galeux D'Eysines
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 leeks, cleaned and sliced white parts
  • 1 medium-sized yellow onion, diced
  • 2 fresh sprigs rosemary, chopped
  • 3 sprigs fresh thyme, stemmed
  • 1 tablespoon fresh sage, chopped
  • 1/2 bunch fresh parsley, chopped
  • 8 cups chicken broth
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1 tablespoon sugar, optional
  • 1 pinch nutmeg
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/3 cup half and half

  1. First, get a sharp knife. Cut the pumpkin in half, scoop out seeds. Cut the halves into manageable chunks, then cut away the outer rind. Dice the flesh into 1-inch cubes. It's really not so hard if you have a good chef's knife.
  2. Heat the olive oil in a large stock pot, medium heat. Add the leeks, onion and herbs and sweat the aromatics until translucent, about 10 minutes. Add the pumpkin cubes and the chicken stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer, cover and let simmer until the pumpkin is tender, about 20-30 minutes.
  3. Puree using an immersion blender. Swirl in the butter and the half and half. Add the nutmeg, then taste and adjust the salt and pepper as needed. Use the sugar if you like a slight sweetness to your soups.

Monday, March 5, 2018

Bohemian Visitors and Starting Seeds

   Last week,  I had a wonderful surprise when I went out to shovel the step.  I heard them before I saw them: Bohemian Waxwings!  They appear in the area once or twice a year, eat the dried fruit from the otherwise bare trees, and move on.  I think they're pretty and I love the trilling sound they make.  We took some pictures, but due to light snow that day and the flitting about of feasting birds, they are not as clear as I had hoped. (Click to enlarge)

   March 1st, I started marigolds (Brocade Mix), 3 kinds of leeks (my usual Giant Musselburgh and two new ones, Mammoth Blanch and German Striesen), flat-leafed and curly parsley, rosemary, and summer savoury.  I read - after the fact - that summer savoury is best sown directly outdoors, as it doesn't respond well to having it's roots disturbed. Opps.  We'll see how that goes.   

   Thanks to R (the teens at his workplace drink a lot of milk), I have a good start on collecting plastic jugs for mini-greenhouses.  My sister-in-law is collecting them for me as well.  At this rate, I should be able to start enough kale and cabbage to feed a small army.

   I am having trouble narrowing down the kinds of tomatoes to grow this summer.  Memories of a harried-harvest-time-me remind me I should be practical and grow uniformly shaped, easy-to-process, meaty varieties. Reds, purples, or pinks, preferably determinates and preferably early varieties.  But that feels so limiting, when there is such a rainbow of types and such a range of sizes, shapes, and flavours!   I have a tentative list of 12 finalists, but that could change by the time I actually start the seeds later this month. 

Stay tuned!  *L* 

Saturday, February 3, 2018

A Good Day To Hibernate

The temperature has been holding steady at around -20 degrees for the last week or two.  Not bad, for this time of the year.

We've had snowfall almost daily for the last week.  I keep telling myself, "At least it's a light, dry snow".  Sometime late Wednesday night/early Thursday morning, it started snowing and didn't stop until the wee hours of this morning.  It is so deceptive as it falls - floating and fluffy and sparkly.  That can't be bad, can it?  The sparrows and starlings gather in the trees to chirp and play among the flakes.  I makes me think of the Snow Days we had when I was in school.  Nothing felt as good as hearing the radio announcer say that school in our district was closed due to the storm and then hopping back into my warm bed, spared at least one day - possibly more - of the mind-numbing, soul-smothering obligation that was school.

I took some pictures yesterday afternoon from the front step while it was still snowing: 

This morning, I went out at 7:50am to shovel, but didn't get far.  It has dropped to -30 degrees.  Shoveling can wait.  Especially when there are podcasts to listen to and Super Bowl commercials to watch and (unfortunately) dishes to be washed.  This is a good day to hibernate.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

I Got Mail

I participated again this year in the 7th Annual Canadian Autumn Seed Exchange, hosted by Nicky North in Ontario.  My return package arrived in yesterday's mail.  

Here are the goodies I found inside:

Basil “Persian”
Dill “Aroma”
Lemon Balm
Parsley “Curly Green”

Calendula “Candyman”
Dahlia “Rigoletto Mix”
Pansy “Springtime Cassis”
Poppy “Single Grape”
Poppy “Venus Salmon Rose”
Sunflower “Citrus”
Sunflower “Peach Passion”
Sunflower “Mammoth Russian”
Zinnia “Carousel”
Zinnia “Illumination”

Illumination Zinnia - rareseeds.com

Beans (bush)
Purple Dove
Thibodeau du Comte Beauce

Beans (pole)
Good Mother Stallard
Hidatsa Shield Figure
Lazy Housewife

Good Mother Stallard - seedsavers.org


Cabbage “Brunswick”
Celery “Tango”
Kale “Russian Red”
Lettuce “Galisse”
Lettuce “Grand Rapids”
Lettuce “Lolla Rossa”
Lettuce “Sherwood”
Spinach “Giant Winter”

Galisse Lettuce - adaptiveseeds.com

German Striesen
Monstrous Carentan

Desiree Blauschokker
Sugar Snap

Desiree Blauschokker - rareseeds.com

Cheyenne Bush

Sweet Dumpling
Zucchini “Benning Green Tint” and  “White Pattypan” mix
Zucchini “Prolific Straight Neck”

Sweet Dumpling Squash - rareseeds.com

Anna Russian
Big Green Dwarf
Black Plum Paste
Bush Beefsteak
Cherokee Green
Dotson’s Lebanese Heart
Dwarf Rosa Vetrov (“Wind Rose”)
Eva Purple Ball
Green Envy (hybrid)
Malakhitovaya Shkatulka  (“Malachite Box”)
Post Office Spoonful
Russian Rose
San Marzano
Tasmanian Chocolate
Work Release Paste
Yablonka Rossii (“Russian Apple Tree”)
Zena’s Gift

Malakhitovaya Shkatulka Tomato - rareseeds.com

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Pumpkin and Snow

Winter is here!  It seemed as though someone flicked a cosmic switch November 1st.  Temperatures dropped and the snow started to fall.  Fortunately, it has been mainly light, dry snow.  Only one big dump of heavy, wet stuff.  That bunch came in mid-October and had melted in a week's time.

Up until today, we had been shoveling it.  This morning, R. broke out the snowblower to clear the driveway and to create trails around the sides on the house.  With the trails around the house, we can access the compost bins and the cats have somewhere to walk when they venture out for their 2 minutes of cold, fresh air.

It is -15 this morning and there is a snowfall warning in effect for today.  According to the Environment Canada site, a snowfall warning is issued in this region "when 10 to 15 cm or more of snow falls within 12 hours or less"  It is good to have the heads-up, but even after almost 20 years here, it still makes me raise an eyebrow.  It hardly compares to the blizzards and freezing rain that were - and I assume still are - a given in the Maritimes during the winter months.  Then again, nothing gets shut down here (including the schools) when there is heavy snow or it is cold enough to freeze your eyebrows off, so I guess frequent weather warnings are appropriate.  Better safe than sorry.

Taken from the front step:

Around the side of the house:

This is our set-up on the front step for the stray cat who often comes by.  Heated water bowl, heated pad in the pink insulation shelter, and the little cedar house R. recently bought behind it.  The cat hasn't discovered the cedar house yet, but we'll move the heated pad into it once he does.

Earlier this month, I processed one of the Galeux D'Eysines squash (also called, "Peanut Pumpkin").  I washed and dried the seeds; there will be plenty to share and lots for me to grow next year.  

I roasted the pumpkin halves in the oven.  This worked well, but I was shocked at how much water came out of them!  

The resulting puree (done in a food processor) was sweet and smooth and was a beautiful, rich colour.  I should have measured how much puree that one pumpkin produced.  I know it was at least 7 cups.  

I used some to make a loaf called, "Downeast Maine Pumpkin Bread".  It smelled nice (I added cranberries to the recipe), but I won't partake.  White flour in baked goods - at least, homemade baked goods - leaves me feeling ill.  :(  So R. will eat what he wants of it, and the rest will be shared with the fellows at his gaming club.

  Next, French Pumpkin Soup!

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Autumn Memories

It has been one of the mildest Septembers in recent years.  Right now, it is 5:15pm and 23 degrees.  It looks as though the awful black flies/gnats that filled the air for the first three weeks of the month have either met their Maker or have moved on.  Thank goodness.  The quality of the light and the smell of the air today reminded me of the Fall afternoons Mom and I would take the truck to get water from the spring out of town, and family drives to the farmers markets in the Valley to stock up on fruit, squash, potatoes, apple cider, goodies, and decorative gourds.  Nice memories. :)

The last of our carrots were sliced and done in the dehydrator yesterday.  Hallelujah!  This morning, some cherry tomatoes and celery went in and should be dried by tomorrow.  Great to have on hand to make soups during the winter.

Heritage Mix beans, which includes Small White Navy, Green Hutterite, Swedish Brown, Purple Gnuttle Amish, and Mitla Black beans.  Originally purchased from Salt Spring Seeds several years ago.  They are described as early varieties that are great for soups.  Some of the varieties are definitely earlier than the others. Thankfully, I played it safe and put short bamboo stakes throughout the bed, as they all had runners!

Date sown:  May 29 (raised bed)
June 17 – Very good germination rate even though seeds were from 2013.
Most harvested between Sept 6-20.

Drying time - earliest to latest:
1) Swedish Brown (prolific, earliest)
2) Mitla Black (prolific, early)
3) Small White Navy (prolific, early.  Dried about the same time as the Mitla Black beans)
4) Purple Gnuttle Amish (pretty!)
5) Green Hutterite (quite late – most of the pods still firm/damp when I picked them in mid-September and several of the plants are still hanging to dry in the laundry room!)

Tiger Eye beans  - third year growing these.  Easy to grow, pretty to look at.

Painted Pony beans - second year growing these.  Prolific and early.  This year, though, I discovered that quite a number had sprouted in the pods due to the wet spell we had mid-month.

Cattle beans - second year growing these, if I recall correctly. Not the most exciting bean, but a very good producer and one of the earliest to dry, despite it's large size.

Pink Berkeley Tie Dye tomatoes

A few days ago, I brought some of the floating row cover inside, intending to fold it and box it for storage.  I plopped it on the floor, went into the kitchen to drop off some potatoes, and when I came back to fold the row cover, found this:

*The row cover is still there, being used regularly as a napping spot.*