Tag Archives: state of the garden

Recipe: Green Tomato Chutney 2015

So, it dropped down to -5C last night, and we got a solid frost over everything. My neighbour’s glorious squash vines are no more, and our various tomato plants are done for.
I spent a good chunk of today out harvesting the hard green marbles that are unripened cherry tomatoes (plus a slim few roma tomatoes that were larger than the cherries, but there were only a dozen or so of those). What I got was somewhere between two and three litres of unripe tomatoes, plus a litre or two of ripe and ripe-ish ones (the latter are going to be dumped into the crushed tomatoes that I’ll be cooking up in the next 24 hours or so).
 
What do you do with un-ripe tomatoes?
Some folks would slice them thin, dip them in flour, beaten egg, and cracker crumbs (or corn meal, or crushed potato chips), and fry them up as per the classic dish.
Me?
I turn them into chutney.
 
Unripe tomatoes are more acidic than ripe ones, and this recipe includes a fair amount of sugar, vinegar, apple juice, and diced apples, which also all contribute to the acidity of the preserve. The end result is a tangy mixture that works gorgeously as the main vegetable content in a pork shoulder braise, or slopped over pork chops, chicken thighs, or fish fillets (think pollack or tillapia, rather than salmon) to bake. You can also use it as a side dish or dipping sauce for fish- or chicken- fingers, samosas, or felafal, if you’re so inclined. I suspect it would work well as a chunky spread for a turkey- or ham- on rye sandwich, too.
 
Here’s the recipe:
 
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Green Tomato Chutney 2015
 
INGREDIENTS
 
12 C rough-diced green tomatoes
8 large garlic cloves, minced
1 red onion, diced
5 apples, diced
4 pieces of candied ginger, minced
 
1 C cider/balsamic vinegar (I used mostly balsamic)
1 C apple juice
2½ C white sugar
 
2-3 tbsp prepared mustard
2 tbsp salt
1 tbsp nutmeg
2 tsp ground cumin
20 grinds of black pepper (maybe 1 tsp?)
 
 
DIRECTIONS
 
Combine everything in a big pot, and stir so that it’s all well-integrated.
Allow to cook down, half-covered, for a couple of hours (you can do this in a slow-cooker, too, if you want to).
Sterilize some jars in the oven at 225F for 20 minutes (you still have to boil the lids and rings).
Once the chutney is bubbling and thick and smelling delicious, ladel it into the hot, sterilized jars.
Cap and process in a boiling water bath for a good 20-30 minutes (especially if you’re using pint jars or larger).
Allow to cool, listening for the “plunk” that tells you the jars have sealed propperly.
Makes about 8 cups.
 
 
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So there you go. Green tomato chutney 2015.
Unlike my 2011 green tomato chutney recipe, this one doesn’t contain any peppers (meaning bell/chili peppers, or chili-spices like cayenne or paprika). It has mustard, nutmeg, ginger, cumin, and ground black pepper corns to provide a little heat and a lot of savouriness, though.

New Moon – Rose Moon / Strawberry Moon Begins

The roses are bursting into florid bloom righ tnow. (And, okay, have been for a while). The strawberry plants are setting fruit (so’s almost everything else, but the strawberries and serviceberries are the ones most likley to be ripe in the next two weeks, so…)
I have been harvesting actual food frmmy actual garden for a few weeks now, putting some of it up in the freezer and eating a lot of it fresh, too.
The pole beans are starting to need something to climb (besides each other and the fava bean stalks), the peas and favas (and rappini – woops) are blooming and the bees are visiting my garden. The trellis has yet to be built, but it’s getting towards the point where it won’t wait any longer. we may be able to score some free lumber from up the street (some friends have extra left over froma project) which would definitely help.
The heat has hit, and the humidity with it. The Mystery Greens have turned out to be mustard – prickly leaves which I need to harvest and start cooking. I was thinking of doing something like sag masala or something with them.
 
This is the beginning of “Much Too Much” season, as Tamar at Starving Off The Land would put it, the wanton bride that is Summer. My bioregion is a good 6-12 weeks behind the South-English one where the Wiccan year-wheel was devised. You don’t even have scilla and snowdrops around here at Spring Equinox, not typically, let alone daffodils. So it feels strange to be calling Summer Solstice “midsummer” as if it had been sunny, steamy, and fruitful for two months already rather than just barely into the hot and heady.
 
None the less, energetically speaking, things are taking off. (Maybe that’s just Mercury being out of retrograde, I dunno). Our Archivist has a little bit of interim work and a lead on a longer-term paid contract, which is great news. My wife is ever-so-slightly drowning in army boots and army hats and othe army stuff that needs repairing before tourist season really gets going. Even some of my projects are starting to bear fruit (by which I mean “generate money” or otherwise see results). My chapbook made it off the press, for example, and a few people have picked up copies already.
 
Magically speaking, I’m feeling a push towards a certain kind of glamour – which I’ll probably be blogging about in a little bit, so just bear with me – and have been working a lot of candle magic lately – mostly for other people, though I should aim some to my immediate household as well, and sooner rather than later.
 
I have a ham thawing in the fridge, which I probably won’t get to cook until Friday night (good timing), when I’ll put it with the last of my carrots, my very last apple, one of my numerous cooking onions, and as massive a kale-and-fresh-herbs salad as I can manage. (It’s funny. I’m not sick of greens by any stretch of the imagination – we eat those all year here, thanks to the chest freezer – but I’d really, really like to have something else – snow peas, or shelled fava beans, for example – to add to the salads and stir-fries and such-like. That’s still a few weeks away, though. 😉
 
Anyway. Moving right along.
 
 
TTFN,
Meliad the Birch Maiden.

Clearly You Need To Know What I Ate Tonight

So today was a day of sending out job applications and returning library goodies. But I made the time, once the rain had let up (for now – I’m hoping pretty strongly that we get a little more rain overnight) to get all of my glorious, gifted plants into the ground – mostly into the front yard, where the card-board weed-smothering boxes are rotting nicely and doing their job, but are also soft enough to dig through and get to the (mostly clay, rocks, and broken glass) pre-existing soil underneath. Thank you, days of rain, for helping that along! 😀 Into the back yard went garlic chives and apple mint, and I took a few minutes (okay, a good half-hour) to spread the sauce tomatoes out just a little bit and give them some trellises to lean against.
That’s part of why I want the rain. I want the tomatoes to be happy. (Mainly, I admit, so that they produce a tonne of fruit, but hey. Benign self-interest?)
 
But my final garden task for the day – with the possible exception of taking a bucket of water out back and giving the tomatoes a drink – was to trim the rappini (which, given that we’re pushing Summer Solstice around these parts, is definitely starting to bolt) of its flower stalks (AKA “sprouting broccoli” or “broccolini”) and to cut a few bunches of fresh herbs, as well.
 
As you may have guessed, I’m really excited to be eating regularly (maybe even frequently – like: several times per week, so far) from the garden.
I’m also, in an entirely different way, kind of excited – or at least proud of my self – for cooking legumes from for-real scratch. As in: not just lentils, but the kind of (Great Northern, in this case) beans that you have to pre-soak, and that will give you about 3C beans for the price of one, by the time you’re done with them.
 
Partly for Year of the Pig reasons, partly for financial reasons, and partly for various health-related reasons, I’m trying to incorporate more beans-and-grains dishes into what we eat. Sometimes this means that the grain in “served on a bed of _________” becomes a mix of grain and short-cooking legumes (usually black lentils and pot barley, sometimes quinoa or white basmatic rice + red lentils) done in bone-stock, and that lets me “get away with” using half a cup of left-over roast rabbit/chicken/pork for the “meat” part of the dish without scrimping on the protein in a dish for 3+ people. Other times it’s less about being “sneaky” and more about just doing a vegetarian (ish – I do tend to cook my grains in bone stock, so…) dish for the sake of expedience and/or keeping the heat out of the house.
This was the case with tonight’s dinner.
 
Ingredients from the garden:
Sprouting Broccoli / Rappini
Greek Oregano
Sage (lots)
Basil
Winter Savory
Vietnamese Garlic greens
 
The rest:
A few stalks of asparagus (foodland Ontario for the win – I still have about half a pound of the stuff in the fridge)
Red quinoa (from somewhere south of the equator, I’m sure) + Great Northern Beans (from Saskatchewan) cooked in home-made bone-stock a couple of days ago
Black “beluga” lentils (likewise from Saskatchewan)
Dried cranberries (from California, no doubt)
Black pepper, prepared Dijon mustard, pinch of salt, balsamic vinegar, soy sauce, a hint of maple syrup, and a pinch of nutmeg
 
 
I steamed the garden stuff while the lentils cooked (meaning: during the last 10 minutes of the lentils cooking), then tossed everything together in a bowl and mixed it until I couldn’t see any streaks of mustard anywhere.
It made enough for two adults plus one lunch, but we managed to get it to stretch to three (slightly smaller) adult-sized meals (plus one lunch) with the addition of a little more raw asparagus. If I’d really wanted to, I could have thrown in some of my (few) remaining walnuts and/or a few raw pumpkin seeds as well. That might have been a good idea. I find myself craving toast or some other munchable thing to fill in the gaps.
 
The salad came out tasty, just piquant enough (for someone who likes piquant – roughly 1/3 of the green stuff was fresh herbs, plus the mustard and balsamic are heavy hitters in the flavour department as far as I’m concerned) and was enjoyed by all. Had I known that I was going to be feeding three people tonight (woops), I would have cut an extra handful of rappini and made extra black lentils (I started with ¼ C raw black beluga lentils and, in retrospect, would have been better going with upwards of a ½ C of same).
All that being said: Not bad, for a dish that combines “what needs using up” with “what needs pruning”. 🙂
 
 
TTFN,
Meliad the Birch Maiden.

The Year of the Pig – Part 1: The Garden Accompaniment and Some Formal Disclosure

So, in addition to having half a pig – Francis – in the freezer (minus two pounds of bacon – we sent one with our archivist when she moved, as you do), we also have a back yard garden. Which I’ve been yammering about pretty-much endlessly since we put the raised beds together and got the soil trucked in.
See, the other part of this year-long (or however long Francis lasts) adventure in local critter is local veggies. And, yes, we’ve been doing the “eat local, ideally” bit for quite a few years now. I seem to recall blogging about Give Cabbage a Chance back in, what, 2011? And now here I am growing it. Or, rather, growing its relatives: Red Russian Kale, Rappini and, if my guess about the Mystery Greens is correct, either Mustard Greens or Collards (not sure which, don’t entirely care).
In addition to finding out just how much pork my family of rotating adults can eat in one year without getting desperately sick of shoulder roasts, I’m also trying to find out how much food I can produce (and preserve), in my lackadaisical manner, over the course of one growing season.
 
Now, this is not Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, the Blogging Version. Although, I kind of hope I wind up with something like that by the end of this. 😉 We’re not growing the vast majority of our (vegetative) food in two cubic yards of trucked-in garden soil. But I do want to see what I can produce in that two cubic yards, both in terms of how long I can stretch the harvest of those cool-weather leafy greens (currently the only harvestable veggies in the garden) and also how much I can produce, primarily through trellising, in the way of winter squash, pole beans, cucumbers, and zucchini (and tomatoes – but that’s a whole other story).
 
I’ve harvested rappini three times, so far, and snipped the greens off some (perennial) Vietnamese garlic maybe twice. This means we’ve had rappini in dinner three times, and Vietnamese garlic in dinner twice. But it also means I have five cups of blanched rappini already frozen for winter use. It doesn’t sound like much. In reality, it’s not much. But it feels like a really good start.
I’m also – because this is the way of things – trying to use up the last of my 2014 preserves. Having spent the winter feeding our Archivist (who has some food allergies), it’s not surprising that what I’ve got lingering just happens to be stuff she can’t eat without getting sick. Now that she’s off and moved, I’m trying to remember to include things like tomato sauce and salsa in our regular meals (her allergy is not to tomatoes, thank goodness, but it’s going to mean some recipe tweaking in a few places).
 
I want to point out – “for the record”, I guess – that I have a fair number of privileges that let me run this kind of experiment. The main one being that I have a tonne of time on my hands. I work casual hours as a model (think 30-40 hrs/month, rather than per week) and otherwise mostly do freelance work from home. A significant part of my “job” is keeping us fed, by hook or by crook, and being able to do so from a pre-paid stockpile of animal protein plus a vegetable garden that’s been set up in good, clean (trucked in) garden-dirt, rather than from dandelion greens and wild grape leaves growing in the lead-contaminated soil of our freeway-adjacent neighbourhood, is kind of a load off my mind. I get that most people – most people who work one or more day-jobs outside their homes, most people who have a bundle of little kids or sick parents or other family members to look after – don’t have that kind of time. And a great many of us, particularly in urban neighbourhoods, don’t have that kind of space, either. It’s all well and good to talk about window-boxes and making sprouts in a jar on your kitchen counter, but there is a massive difference in what you can grow – without a lot of know-how or bags of Miracle Grow – in two cubic yards of soil versus in pots that are small enough to fit on a balcony. Having done both, the difference is already staggering, and I’ve only harvested cooking greens so far.
 
So that’s my bit of personal disclosure, in relation to what I’m hoping to learn/grow/create/discover (how many more inspirational words can I tack onto this plan?) over the course of the coming year: I have tonnes of time on my hands. Let’s see if I can’t parlay that into having tonnes of (almost free[1]) food on my hands thanks to growing a garden and preserving what I grow.
 
And, with any luck, the food that I grow will go very nicely with the food that I bought, in the form of Francis (and also a monthly bunny from our Rabbit Lady), not so long ago.
That’s the third part of this experiment. Can I (continue to) use a set collection of fairly specific ingredients – pork, rabbit, broad beans, snap beans, snap peas, various cooking greens, various summer and winter squash-type-creatures, tomatoes, and various herbs – to keep a couple of adults in meals without us going bonkers due to lack of variety?
Only time will tell (but I’ve been pretty good at it, so far).
 
 
TTFN,
Meliad the Birch Maiden.
 
 
[1] If, by “almost free”, I recognize that I’ve dropped probably $50 in seed-starts and seeds, and considerably more than that on garden soil. I’m aware that, for the next year or three, I’m probably making up in “free” food what I lost by diverting hundreds of dollars of grocery money to the Dirt Fund. Like I probably harvested $6-$8 worth of rappini today. Bringing the total up to about $20 of “free food” that we’ve eaten or preserved from the garden so far. That is less than 10% of the cost of the soil in my garden beds. But if I can keep harvesting rappini – and kale, and chard, and tomatoes and zucchini and winter squash – from my garden, and pull 50 harvests of about that size? I’ll have “paid off” my garden start-up costs in one season.

Update on the Garden (Planting All the Tomatoes)

So, by and large, I’ve planted my garden. Depending on how things turn out, I may or may not add one or two Chinese eggplant starts (from the Kowloon Market, up the street, which usually has them) and/or a few Ground Cherry starts (for the perennial bed), but those will have to wait until the beginning of June because I need to see which seeds are taking off and where I may (or may not) have space for a few more plants.
 
That’s how I do this. I intentionally (foolishly, or otherwise) overcrowd my plants to help prevent weedy things (aka: things I can’t eat AND/OR things I can totally eat, but which will take over fast and which don’t taste nearly as good as the other things I can eat that I planted on purpose) from gaining too much of a foothold. So I have a small forest of roma/sauce tomatoes in the middle of Raised Bed Number One and have planted my pole beans in clusters where (hopefully) they’ll do a good job of both (a) feeding my leafy greens LOTS of leaf-encouraging nitrogen, while also (b) providing those same (cold-hardy, heat-bolting) leafy greens with a little bit of shade during the hotter months of the summer.
 
Click on the Cut Tag to Find Out What I’ve Got

Beltane Virtual Garden Tour – Pictures of What’s Been Growing in the Yard

Hey!
So I declared, upon the twitter, that my rappini is starting to look like rappini (unless, of course, it’s starting to look like Red Russian Kale but… I’m pretty sure I planted that elsewhere, so… we’re going with Rappini for now!) and Miss Sugar was all “I want pictures!” and I’m nothing if not willing to show off my garden SO here we go:
Lots of Pics Behind the Cut

Full Moon – Leaf Moon Crests

Beltane and the full Leaf Moon have happened over the same weekend. We slept with the bedroom window open (a bit) last night, and the furnace is officially off. The garden is planted with red russian kale, various rainbow chards, fava beans, cilantro, and a couple of kinds of peas. It’s warm enough that I’m inclined to push a few squash seeds into the soil and see if they’ll wake up along with everybody else (although I think it would be wise to hold off on that for at least a week, so that the leafy greens and so-on have a head start on the Butternuts and Pumpkins that can, and will, eat every available patch of earth aforded them).
I’m excited about growing my own food, in (hopefully!) actual significant quantities, again! I’m hopeful about being able to can tomatoes and freeze greens from my own garden (as well as from the farmer’s market, but still).
I also (finally, after years of intending to do so) placed an order for half a pig. I opted for half a pig instead of the equivalent in pounds-of-meat (but including beef and chicken as well) because, frankly, it’s about $400 less expensive which, in and of itself, will make doing this again next year a LOT more possible. It still only works out to about 1.5lbs of meat (not including stuff like bones and leaf lard) per week, and I’ll be suplementing that with not-nearly-so-ethical stuff like Traditionally Raised and/or Free From goodies from the grocery store, or definitely ethical stuff like the meat at Seed To Sausage (which is actually a lot more expensive than my half-pig price per pound, but whatever – ther apple-and-sage AND their red-wine-and-garlic sausages are both outstanding, so).
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So that’s where things are at on the food front.
 
The magnolias bloomed on Beltane. I cna’t tell you how happy this makes me. 😉
And both the lilacs and serviceberries are getting ready to go any day now. Apples, I suspect, will take a little bit longer. I have tiny flowers in my front yard (which is shady most of the day, otherwise I might have tulips blooming by now, too) and other bulbs coming up and getting (slowly) ready to bloom. I have PLANS to add morning glories, flax, phlox, columbines, and campanels, and other shade-friendly/tollerant/loving flowers – and a lot of fancy garden soil for top-dressing – to the front yard as well. 🙂 That may be an activity for this afternoon. 😉
 
I’m looking at attending this event this year. I’m a little nervous, as I’ve never done this kind of a ritual before, but it also sounds pretty far up my alley. It doesn’t quite have copies of my house keys, but it could, if you know what I’m saying. So, provided I can find transportation, I’m going to get myself registered and give this a whirl. O.O
 
Anyway. There’s bread to make, candles to (finally, eugh) light, seeds to plant, and garden beds to water (although possibly not until after 6pm on that last one – don’t need it all to evaporate on me, right?) so I’m going to skedaddle.
 
Roll on, Summer! 😀
 
 
TTFN,
Melaid the Birch Maiden.