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Wild Pickled Turnips

The purple-hued pickles are at about the halfway point when this was taken.

The purple-hued pickles are at about the halfway point when this was taken.

I’m fascinated by the idea of preserving food by wild fermentation so I decided to give pickled turnips a shot.  Most natural pickling calendars start in early August when the cucumbers come in and then really pick up steam through September when the rush is on to make kimchi and sauerkraut from the year’s cabbage and radish crop.

(The quick review: vegetables–whole or cut–are submerged in a salty brine and kept at room temperature. Over the course of days to a few weeks the lactobacilli from the air, water in the brine, or the vegetables themselves consume the sugar in the vegetables and convert it to lactic acid. The salt in the brine and the this acid both protect the vegetables from spoiling and make them much more delicious.) (more…)

Gardening in April

In Southern Ontario we have had a very warm spring this year.  No snow in Toronto in March (though a bit in April) and temperatures over 20°C on more than a couple days.  This is what May is meant to feel like–in good years.  Last year we had accumulated snow on the ground in the second week of April and I wrote a useful (I think) post discussing the concept of degree growing days.

Garden dug, compost spread, and surface raked: A blank garden canvas

From a vegetable gardening perspective the warm weather has caused a strong desire to start planting.  The Old Farmer’s Almanac site puts the average last frost date for Barrie–the city closest to our garden at the cottage–at May 26.  In my three years of vegetable gardening I have not experienced a frost this late and I’m willing to gamble that all the heat and sunshine we have has warmed the water and soil enough to protect hardier seedlings from any freak May frosts. (more…)

Gardening 2009

Last view of the garden covered in frost in October

Winter has finally taken hold in full force here in Toronto.  There has been snow on the ground for several weeks and overnight temperatures are regularly in the double-digit negatives but I’m thinking about gardening.  Last year I had started seeds (parsley and  lettuce) by Valentine’s Day and while I don’t know if I’ll be quite as ambitious this year it is definitely the right time to start planning the garden.  But first I need to do a final wrap-up post for last year’s garden.  I hope this will at least provide a green reminder that the ground isn’t always frozen and white.

Peas dried and saved from the 2008 garden

Peas: After a pretty successful crop in 2008 I saved some peas and planted them this spring.  This first experiment for me in seed-saving had very mixed results.  I’m confident that the peas were properly dried and stored because they germinated in the ground and produced healthy shoots.  I was surprised and frustrated to return to the cottage one late-June weekend to find that all of the shoots (along with their handful of nascent flowers) had disappeared.  I strongly suspect that birds who managed to foil the pea defenses that I improvised from bent sticks (a la Jamie Oliver) ate the tasty shoots.  I haven’t yet seen a bird in (or even near) our garden but vigilance is definitely not constant at a weekend, cottage garden in the spring.

Peas are a contender for garden space in 2010.  Working both for and against them is the fact that they make such a delicious in-garden snack–I eat my fair share and it makes it easier to recruit weeding helpers but it cuts into crop size. (more…)

August Garden Update

Yesterday’s post focused on the food that is available growing wild at this time of year.  Today, I’m going to take a look at what the garden has to offer as August draws to a close.

Pollock tomatoes ripening

Pollock tomatoes ripening

I have complained just as much as everyone else about the lack of sun and heat this summer.  This should have been a particularly bad year for tomatoes because they depend on these too variables and there are stories that farmers in New England have had their crops attacked by blight that flourishes in wet weather.  Last year the tomato plants went into the garden on 31st of May and the first ripe tomatoes were ready around the 26th of August.  This year I transplanted them a week earlier and we were eating ripe tomatoes by the 22nd.  Canabec Rose and Pollock varieties have both been good about being the first to ripen. (more…)

July Garden Update

Southern Ontario has had a wet and not very sunny June and July this year.  This is a bit of challenge to gardeners.  Our garden at the cottage is, for the most part, doing surprisingly well.  I thought I’d produce a mainly photos post updated its progress