Sunday, August 22, 2010

Harvest Monday - Got Grapes

I think these are Concord.

Last year, I nearly pulled up the grape vine because it had never produced when I noticed my daughter pulling small purple balls from near the bottom of the vine. This was surprising as they were supposed to be some sort of light rose coloured grape but colour mismatch aside, the grape death sentence was stayed.

To thank me, the grape vine is dripping with fruit this year. They are sweet but seedy. Not bad for eating, but probably better for processing into grape jelly or juice. I think that this variety is the graft stock and everything above suffered some calamity such as winter kill or rabbit nibbling.


Washed by the rain, harvested grapes in a colander.

What to do with grapes?

1. Eat them
2. Juice - you know squish and strain.
3. Freeze as popsicles
4. Jelly
- Jelly without pectin
6. Grape Butter
6. Stuffed Grape Leaves
- Lots more on the wiki page: Dolma
7. Dehydrate seedless varieties for raisons
8. Make Fruit Leather
9. Wild Grape Wine
10. Wild Grape Yeast Starter

Cold Hardy Grapes Supplier and Info:
Green Barn
Cornhill Nursery in New Brunswick
Manitoba Agriculture Site with suppliers and surival tests

Native Grapes

You may have a small mountain of these vines growing around your place or you may be looking for a really easy plant to grow... below is a list of some of the wild grapes that you might find nearby. Their mouth appeal varies between species and plant to plant. Many improve in flavour after frost or with plenty of sweetener.

Vitis riparia - River grape
Vitis labrusca - Fox grape
Vitis aestivalis - Summer grape (good link!)
Vitis vulpina - Frost grape (yes, it really is different from V. riparia)

If you go foraging make sure you don't sample moonseed by mistake.

What do you do with your grapes?

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Overwintering peppers
The Interview

Fruiting Scotch Bonnet hot pepper started from seed, saved out of a grocery store pepper, two years ago.

***Curtains open***

I am delighted to see that you have so fully recovered from what must have been a difficult winter.

"The aphids were bad. Sometimes I didn't think I'd make it."

You and me both. I didn't think the occasional soap lather and random aphid squishing was going to be sufficient to lower their populations.

"Sometimes it felt like you were giving up on me."

Oh, you mean sticking you in the north facing window? I had to quarantine you from the other peppers. And there was that time that I transplanted that ladybug onto your stem.

"The cat ate it."

Well, you were a sorry sight but I never did the dreaded pot dump.

"Please, I can't even think of it."

Instead I refreshed your soil with a bit of compost.

"Sometimes you didn't water me for more than a week."

I was trying to dehydrate the aphids...


Aphid ridden pepper.

Well, that's all water under the bridge now. Look at you, flush with gorgeous green leaves and ripening fruit. All that in 4 hours of sun. I'm impressed.

"The other hot peppers are in full sun."

I didn't want to burn your shade grown leaves. Besides, I was curious about how well you would perform and this way. It will be less of a shock when I bring you in for the winter.

"You're keeping me?"

Are you kidding? Look at you.

"So you only keep the good looking ones."

You are a plant. An experiment at that. How would I know that a grocery store bought Scotch Bonnet would produce such a wonderful specimen, tolerant to shade, drought and aphid pressure.

"I don't want to answer."

My point is just Thank you. I'll be enjoying the fruits of your labour and saving more seed.

"At least my children will live on."

This year you will have the honour of sitting in the south facing window. You earned it.

"Those other peppers are a bit spotty. I think I'll stick to my quarantine."

You know, you're right. Maybe it's time I do some thinning.


That's a large watering can for scale.

Read more on Overwintering Hot Peppers or skim the quicky version below:

1. Put in pot of enriched soil at the end of summer and reverse harden off - soften off?
2. Clean off any aphids or other bugs
3. Take in before first frost.
4. Keep in a sunny window and water only when needed.
5. Control soft bodied pests with a diluted soap solution. Or squish
6. They will often die back as days shorten but should recover as days lengthen
7. Repot or replant after last frost.
8. Repeat.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Harvest Monday -
Putting the worm back in the apple

Really Eve? I can only presume that the garden of Eden had not the pests of modern apples. These fruit don't scream out 'Tempting!' Plums plucked before brown rot took over, and windfall apples.

Organic gardening has improved the health of our water, soil and air. Limiting death-icides and encouraging diversity has allowed the ecosystem to regain its natural balance. It means that you can plunge your fingers into the wormy, gruby, fungal filled soil without concern for toxic residue though perhaps you might grab something squishy. It also means that very probably your apples don't resemble those you see in the grocery store.

Geneva crab apple cut in half - a good deal more tempting looking.

Apples are beloved fruit by not only ourselves but by a host of other organisms - get it, host! Anyhow, many a wormy, mishapen apple falls from my two completely unsprayed trees. One is a traditional Macintosh that I bought before I knew about disease resistant varieties and the other is a Liberty. Both get coddling moth. I don't worry overly about this because I have other things on my mind but when harvest comes around I pick half from the ground and the other half tenaciously clinging still to the tree. All have cores bored brown by a light pink grub. Isn't it cute?

The rosebud pink larva of a coddling moth coaxed out of its apple core home.

The explosion in the earwig population this year meant that many of my windfalls no longer contained their wormy resident but did have several spike tailed substitutes. Had the coddling moths already crawled off or were they consumed?

"Windfall: A sudden, unexpected piece of good fortune or personal gain"

When given wormy apples, there is only one thing to do: make sauce (or fruit leather or cider). The plums which made it past June drop (courtesy of plum curculio) and not yet hit by brown rot (new this year!), were added with the bits of apple that were unblemished.

"What do you think sis? Is it edible?" Plum-apple pops and yes, they were yummy!


Disease resistant apple varities
Organic Control of Coddling Moth by Green Harvest
Info on Coddling Moth by City Fruit

Friday, August 13, 2010

Polar Bear Parsley Seed

Parsley seeds ripe for the picking.

Year 1 - I started my parsley. Its germination was slow and erratic because of growth inhibitors in the seed coat. Carefully, I transplanted the delicate taproot into my coldframe. They grew well but I should have planted more. As if to compensate, those first few plants hunkered down as the snow fell providing me with a sparse harvest most of the winter.

Year 2 - I didn't think to start more. After an abundant flush of leaves in the spring, these biennials switched gears and put their energy into tall, waving flowerheads. The beneficials were grateful but it was the end of any substantial parsley harvest for me.

parsley in coldframe
Chilled parsley in coldframe

Year 3 - I started even more seeds than the first year but was shocked to discover that I didn't have to. Nearby the flowerheads of last year's plants was a field of volunteers. Neighbours began to find bags of bunched parsley plants on their doorknobs. I thinned them back to the boundaries of my garden.

Year 4 - More volunteers appeared and the two year old plants began to flower. I cut back most of them to prolong leaf production and to minimize thinning (my neighbours got eggplants that year).

Yearling revealing its crown in the bright sun.

Year n - Ever after, I have had plentiful parsley. In the spring, the two year old plants put on a flush of early growth. That year's seedlings take over leaf production in the summer, fall and a good part of the winter. I also dig some roots to force in winter on the window sill.

My parsley harvest may have had a slow start but there is no end in sight. If you would like to hop on the polar bear parsley express, send me an email (at right, under profile) and I'll pass along some of this year's seeds.


Fun and informative article from the West Virginia State University Extension Service -
That Devilish Parsley

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Urban Foraging

Apples and pears laying unharvested on the ground, maple syrup rising untapped in the spring and urban meadows bursting with goat's beard, dandelion and nettle.

I know right, what a tree! Those apples are near full sized but the label (yes I was in the arboretum. No, I was not pilfering from NCC land. I happened to be walking there and figured it was worth a pic-ture) as the crab apple variety Geneva.

My friends have been passing around my book on urban foraging for some time now so I don't have it in front of me to give you the title but it encourages us to eye that giant crabapple, the black walnut and bird started sunflowers with a little more hunger. Of course, some might be concerned because of the unknown growing conditions of this food or whether or not a tree overhanging an alley is ripe for the picking.

I admit to contemplating running to the hawthornes in our local park, basket in hand, but something has always held me back. Maybe because, with the exception of some clambakes and blackberry bonanzas, all my food has been traded for currency. Seed donation (my seed list in side bar) has been a nice departure from money for food. In fact, one thing I do harvest frequently from the urban jungle are seeds.

Edible times three,: mallows, cattails and sumac. I always worry about waterway pollution.

Once I grow the plant, I don't have to worry about whether it was sprayed (Ontario has banned 'cosmetic' death-icides) or is growing in lead contaminated soil. I never take many, just a few from a wide population of plants. If it is a tree / plant that overhangs public property but originates in a private residence, I ask and after giving me a weird look they generally say, "go for it."

Of course, you can chat with your neighbours who seem to be neglecting to make sorbus jelly * or choke cherry wine and ask if they would mind sharing. You could offer in exchange to take care of cleaning up windfalls and prune in the spring if needed. Or how about have an urban sugar bush next year? Our block is lined with gorgeous, well grown sugar maples. Someone could build a boiling vat in their backyard. At the end, everyone gets maple syrup taffy. Sounds better than the usual block garage sale.

So tell me, what have you plucked from the concrete maze?

* The author of the linked article speaks mediocre about the taste of sorbus/rowan berries but my kids like them after a couple weeks of hard frost when they sweeten considerably.


Urban Orchards - I would post a link but I couldn't find one. There are rumours about a group in Ottawa who offer to take care of your fruit trees for a percentage of the produce. However, I have never met these ghost people. Are you there? Can you hear me? Knock twice... I'm waiting for a message. I suspect that, at the very least, it is going on in an informal way. If anyone knows contact detail, I'd love to pass it along.

Instead, here is the Hamilton Fruit Tree Project
Some other fruit tree projects in BC cities

Guerilla Gardening Ottawa - break the rules and plant something. This is another mysterious entity in that there seems to be a loosely connected group of people who do some dig and dash gardening but they don't appear to be well organized?? Go on, correct me with details!

Monday, August 2, 2010

Harvest Monday - The Gateway Veggie

Cue the music...

Ah beautiful - a ripe tomato. This is not the first fruit but it is the first picture I managed to get this year as the kids (okay and myself) keep popping these earlies into our mouths.

Many people will recognize this gem of a fruit as the reason they got so hooked on backyard vegetables. On my favourite plant forum, Homegrown Goodness, in a post about garden related songs, was a youtube link to Homegrown Tomatoes by John Denver. You MUST listen.

"All winter without 'em is a culinary bummer"