Monday, June 28, 2010

Harvest Monday - summer surfeit

It's not quite the ratatouille season but the garden is overflowing with greens, flowers and seedpods. The early crops are coming of age and I've collected lots of seed already so if anyone wants some Good King Henry, let me know (email under profile).

The kids helped me harvest some daylily - among my favourite salad ingrediant, mustard seedpods and red currants.

My big harvest today was immature mustard seedpods - some for salad, others for stirfry and the rest I am going to try to pickle as a sort of 'green' mustard. I'll let you know how it goes. Speaking of under used vegetables, after being enamoured once again with squash blossom, it got me looking up unusual parts of vegetables to munch such as squash leaves with peanut sauce and sprinkling corn silks onto salad. If you have anything else to add, I'd love to hear it and perhaps try it out.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Are Vegetables Underused?

As I was enjoying some squash blossom tempura yesterday, I started to wonder what other parts of common vegetables do we ignore?


Eat and Grow your...
Squash blossoms & Watermelon seeds

Squash - winter and summer

All commonly grown species of Cucuribita including C. pepo, C. mixta and C. moschata have edible flowers, seeds and would you believe greens? The fruit of all varieties from zucchini to pumpkin can be eaten at both the mature and immature stage though breeding has made some more desireable for one or the other use.

Squash blossoms - The abundant male flowers (those with skinny stems and no immature fruit at the bottoms) are a great bonus harvest. Just don't harvest them all when there are female fruit around to make sure that you will have pollination. They are commonly eaten as tempura or stuffed.

A halloween treat around our house is roasted and salted pumpkin seeds. We eaten them unshelled though they are better without the white fibrous coat. Varieties like Lady Godiva have been selected for their hulless seed. You can also press the seed for oil. According to Plants for a Future, sprouted squash seed contain a toxin in the embryo though if you google, it seems lots of people eat them (or at least they eat pumpkin seed 'soaks')


Don't just spit all those watermelon seeds on the ground, you can eat them just like your mother said. If you don't crunch them raw while you enjoy the sweet watery flesh, you can roast them and use them as a flour adulterant. Oh and according to pfaf, the juice is high in pectin: the possibilities. Watermelon rinds, especially from citron, are used to make perserves.

Cucumber and Melon

Small cucumber seeds are also edible but would be a pain to deshell. Thankfully you can also press them for oil that is said to be reminiscent of olive oil. If this is true, then I will be searching for some very seedy cucumber varieties. Most links about the oil, however, take you to information about beauty products.

Melon seeds are on the menu too.

Eat and Grow Your...
Broccoli leaves & Kale Broccolini

If you have any issue growing Brassicas because of pest and disease problems, then you already know what a great food source they are. The bugs find them delectable too.

Most commonly grown Brassica can be eaten from leaf to seed, and sometimes root. I encourage double checking of all facts but here's what I've eaten. Cauliflower, kholrabi and broccoli leaves all have a tough texture but are perfectly acceptible. Mustard, rocket and kale flowers are mildly flavoured and plentiful. I suspect that most flowers from this family are edible but verify before you try. Broccolini flowerbuds from kale, choy and mustard are all tasty. Immature seedpods from mustards, kale and especially rattail radish - bred for this purpose. Of course, seeds of mustards, cabbage, and broccoli are commonly used in sprouting. I always have an over abundance of mustard seed to mix with vinegar for mustard sauce but I suspect you could use other edible brassica seed as a substitute.

Eat and Grow your...
Onions greens & Garlic Scapes

You have probably heard about eating the immature flowering stem of garlic known as its scapes, this is also true of other alliums if they flower. Making allium greens from garlic or onion is a great way of producing a winter crop or producing a quick cache crop with some late planted seed onions or garlic cloves. You can also grow greens, scapes and seed by replanting the bottoms of green onions or leeks.

If you have too many seeds on hand, sprout them.

Eat and Grow your...
Runner Bean flowers & Bean Leaves

I commonly grow extra pea seeds for their young shoots and tendrils that taste like a cross between spinach and peas. This is another easy indoor winter harvest but also makes a great quick crop for an empty place in the garden. Many common legume flowers are edible such as pea, fava bean and runner bean (Phaseolus coccineus) flowers but I haven't found mention of regular old beans (Phaseolus vulgaris) so I'm not sure about those.

Eat and Grow your...
Corn Pollen & Silks & Stem

This was a fun surprise. I had no idea that you could put Zea mays pollen in soups, eat the silks and use the pith of the stem in a way similar to sugar cane. Well, now I have more incentive to try to grow the stuff! If you have had experiences using corn this way, I'd be interested in hearing more.

More uses of corn by Two-Lane Livin'

This is only the start of the alternative uses for common vegetables, there are also the well known beet greens, sweet potato greens and chicory flowers so do your research and just because your broccoli buttoned, your corn didn't form kernels and your squash aborted its fruit shouldn't mean that you didn't get anything to eat!


Stuffed squash blossoms

Pumpkin leaves in peanut sauce

Watermelon rind pickles

Roasted watermelon seeds

Rattail radish

Mustard recipes

Sprout people on Leek Sprouts (and much more)

Whole page on pea shoots with recipes (marketing page for Sainsbury but good info)

Monday, June 21, 2010

Happy Summer Solstice Harvest Day

This harvest sun medley includes Evans sweet/sour cherry, Red Lake current, a garlic scape, the first zuke of the year, some mint, a couple gooseberries, a josta berry and Long Red cayenne pepper.

Happy longest day of the year everyone!

My harvest today consists of lots of berries which is surprising if you know that my children are nicknamed 'Worse than the Birds.' Thankfully, my hubby asked them not to eat ALL the cherries before I returned from my trip, anticipating that I'd like to capture the moment. The strawberries were not so lucky or perhaps I should say are adding their antioxidant goodness to my children's bodies. Currants and gooseberries are going as fast as they ripen. Actually, they go a smidgen before they are completely ripe which is perhaps why the birds miss out.

The Cayenne peppers are mostly from last winter's flowers but there were a couple fruits that started in early spring. This plant, I am happy to report, is 5 years old! It is not large but it keeps pumping out the peppers like a trooper.

Summer Solstice Sowing

Just as there is a tradition of wintersowing on the winter solstice, you can make do a little sowing on the longest day of the year too. It is a good time to start long season fall garden crops like Brussel Sprouts, fall cabbage, cauliflower and some peas. You may want to start your brassicas in pots or a nursery bed to avoid slug leveling. Some roots such as carrots and beets can also be started now for a sizeable crop to cellar. As for greens, kale, chard, even quick maturing leeks and other biennials can go in the ground now but I would avoid annuals that bolt in hot weather until later in the season. Some of you may be removing your spring greens or peas if you are not waiting for the seeds, so replace those crops with something that matures best in the cool weather of fall.

Unlike spring, the temperatures may be soaring and the ground drier, so make sure to keep the ground moist. Some tricks include, planting seeds in the shade of another plant such as in polycropping*, using a germination board, or planting in hollows or furrows. Consider a sunken seed bed and mulch well when the seedlings are up and growing.

The ideal time for planting your fall garden depends on the plant with some needing to go in the ground around the beginning of June and some not until near the end of August. Take the amount of time that the crop generally takes to mature in your garden and add a couple weeks to compensate for lowered amount of sun and cooler weather. Then remember that every year is a series of weather surprises so don't take schedules too seriously except as I say when it comes to the longest maturing crops and bolting annuals. Experiment, have fun, sow seeds.

* There weren't any straight forward links to the definition of polycropping but it is quite simply the opposite of moncropping - ie, planting more than one crop together. For example, I have read of interplanting beets, beans and corn - a variation on the three sisters. The plants are given adequate space that they can all thrive with beans climbing the corn and the slightly shaded beets poking out between.


For more info on when I usually plant vegetables

Mother Earth News on Grow Your Best Fall Garden

Animation of Summer Solstice

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Tomato Tuesday on Vacation

I would have posted Harvest Monday from my Mom's Gulf Island Paradise but I didn't have time because half way to BC from Ottawa, our plane experienced turbulence which broke the wing a teeny bit - a flap was stuck up. We were informed we would have to return to Toronto so that we could be transferred to - and I quote - a "fully serviceable airplane." Good, and here I had just assumed that we were currently already in one of those.

This towering allium resonated beautifully with the tall 'stemmed' spruce behind it.

So now, I am many hours late to Gabriola where the dolphins frolic in the deep emerald sea and the evergreen forests rise like candles topping a rocky birthday cake. Not that I'd like to take a bite out of that stone but because its party time in the land without biting flies, nary a moisquito, deer so tiny they can't leap over a six foot fence, and people remarking that it is freezing when it is 0 degrees Celcius which technically is true... Oh gentle nature.

Smack dab in the middle are green tomatoes a starting. I had assumed these were Arctic Queen but now I'm wondering if there are some of the cherries that I had also started with this method.

In other news, it's Tomato Tuesday and check what my indoor/outdoor starts have done. They've made fruit. I'm hoping to see red when I get back.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Native Plant Sale

Plants getting thin as they are bought up quickly. I was told that there were lots of early birds this year.

I have never missed the Native Plant Sale at the Fletcher Wildlife Garden and have never gone home without a couple of plants. This year, I picked up Silverweed -Argentina anserina, which is said to have edible 'parsnip' tasting roots and edible leaves. I agree with the author that I have linked to about this comment: parsnip=chicken in the root world. I also came home with some Golden Alexanders - Zizia aurea. As a food source, it is a marginal, being listed as having edible flowers and maybe flowerbuds according to some sources. I planted it more as food for the black swallowtail butterfly - that is if they get sick gorging themselves on the fields of parsnip, lovage and parsley sticking out from every crack in the pavement around this house. Heck, who am I kidding, I just like potentially edible* AND native plants. That's why I bought it.

In a very small space, only slightly larger than the average backyard and certainly about the size of most urban lots, is a wonderful garden of native plants.

The turnout was good despite the drizzly weather. After a trip round the stalls, I wandered to have a look at their demonstration urban garden. They have a pond, rock garden and various wide, well planned perennial beds that sparkled in the mist. You can find this garden, along with the butterfly field and a pond (complete with a beaver dam this year) right across the street from the main entrance to the Museum of Agriculture, and beside the Arboretum. After spending some time in the pleasant walking trails, you too may be inspired to attend the sale next year and go native.

* Zizia aurea is occasionally listed as mildly toxic and certainly its root may be so. It is also mentioned in lots of edible flower lists but as it is a member of the Apiaceae family, I'd use caution.

E-scaping Harvest Day

The leek moth has been at 'em but left enough for a nice pesto.

Lovely curving scape from a hard neck garlic.

One that contains a teeny tiny invader - unfortunatley, it's hard to see this guy as s/he's white on white. You can tell more from the damage of frass near a borer hole.

Last year, I believe that most of my scapes were moth eaten but this year, perhaps because the garlic is hidden in a pile of seeding mache, only about 50% were hit (so far).


Leek Moth from the Canadian Ministry of Agriculture