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Hawthorn Jelly

Earlier this week I wrote a post about finding haws, the fruit of the hawthorn tree. The obvious next question is: Who eats these things?

Well, for one, native residents of Manitoulin Island do. As this post on Bill Casselman’s site and the wikipedia entry describe they are colloquially known as haweaters.  Folklore holds that the island’s early residents avoided scurvy by eating the vitamin C rich fruit.

In chattering about them on Twitter I had a bunch of people tell me that haws are available as a delicious candy in China.

They also make an excellent jelly. If you are careful to choose haws whose texture is firm, not mushy, they should have enough natural pectin to set without adding any extra.

I’ve never made jelly before, let alone from wild fruit, so I’m going to spread my impressions between this post and another on the grape-apple jelly I made. (more…)

Hunting Haws

If I knew where to find wild blueberries I don’t think I’d tell you. Choice wild mushrooms like morels or chanterelles? Definitely not. But haws? Haws are every where, my friends.

They grow abundantly in Asia, Europe, and here in North America. Sometimes planted as a windbreak for fields or as an ornamental for their showy flowers in the spring and bright red fruit in the fall. The fruit of the hawthorn, called haws, can have a strong flavour and they’re not very suited for eating out of hand but with their abundant natural pectin make an excellent jelly.

Now I know no one really reads disclaimers. I know this because I don’t read disclaimers. So, I’m throwing this one in the middle of the post here in hopes that you’ll actually be jarred into reading it. Don’t go around eating red berries off random bushes. Best-ish case scenario: You’ll spend a lot of time on the porcelain throne. You fill in the blank for the worst case. Get yourself a proper field guide to edible plants and take it with you. (more…)

Grapes in the Ground

Sow a seed, feed it, and water it and it will grow into a plant like the one it came from. That’s a no-brainer, at least on paper. A cool feature of nature is that a piece taken from an established planted can be put into the ground and eventually grow into a mature tree or bush.

Grapevines and serviceberry bushes are both good candidates for this process. Especially the latter case where the goal is usually to plant several vines for an arbor or even more so if they intended for later grafting for eating or wine grapes the cost savings of free rootstock is significant.

There is a sort of orthodoxy to the method for planting cuttings. They need to be cut in mid- to late-winter when the tree, bush, or vine is entirely dormant, stored in a cold (but not too cold) place, trimmed in a certain way, and then treated with rooting hormone. Or so we’re told.


Hockley Valley: Tomato Supports

If you haven’t looked over the fence into a neighbour’s backyard to see a neat system of cages and trellises for beans and tomatoes you may be the only Torontonian that doesn’t have a gardening Italian neighbour. In it’s native South America the tomato is a bit a hippie that sprawls across the ground and sends its vines in all different directions. Our “square” need for order and desire to concentrate as many as possible into our gardens lead to a variety of tomato systems.

Over the three summers that I’ve grown tomatoes at the cottage I’ve used all the usual suspects. In 2008 I called the pile of rusty, three-ring cages that were lying behind the old outhouse into service. The next year we replaced some of our most decrepit veterans with slightly sturdier versions. In 2010 I experimented with the system that puts the plants between two end-poles connected by twine that is woven between the vines as support. (more…)

Kitchen Gardener’s Handbook

Without an unseasonably warm March for inspiration I found myself a week behind schedule with my vegetable gardening. So, I was happy to get a bump in the right direction when Bonita from Thomas Allen & Son sent me The Kitchen Gardener’s Handbook: Design Plans, Seasonal Checklists, Fresh Recipes, Plant Profiles, Growing Tips, and Flowers for the Table by Jennifer R. Bartley to review.

The book is divided into four sections with one for each season. Each season is divided between crop information, recipes, and garden plans.

There is an aggravating social construct that demands of homeowners who want to grow fruit or vegetables for eating that they hide this shameful gardening away in their backyards and keep their front yards for monotonous swaths of grass and flowerbeds. So, right off the bat, I’m happy to see that The Kitchen Gardener’s Handbook offers four seasonal plans for an edible front yard that include a diverse palette of plants. (more…)