His name is Norman. He is the benevolent guardian of our vegetable garden. It is important one shares your garden with those of like minds. This growing of vegetables is a journey. The digging and turning of black, rich soil. Hoeing and raking again and again. The quiet contemplation as rows are staked and marked. The planting and nurturing of seedlings. This is the quiet joy. The happiness. This process. This is why we garden. Not just for the harvest but the simple doing of it.
Norman, gentleman scarecrow is elegantly dressed. Gloriously attired in a black blazer. His straw bow tie adorned with a diamond stick pin. Norman is thoughtfully and caring. Look closely you’ll see he is respectfully wearing a tiny orange poppy.
Obviously this is no ordinary run of the farm scarecrow. I have intriguing conversations with my garden sentinel. My discussions are are mostly about books. I sometimes bring a book out to the garden and read aloud. Norman tells me he hasn’t much of a brain but he does make gnomic comments about my choice of literature. And one day I heard him quote Lewis Carroll “the time has come”, the walrus said, “to talk of many things: of ships – and sealing wax – and cabbages and kings”.
I watch Norman from my kitchen window. There’s a gentle breeze blowing from the river. It is lifting the brim of his straw hat. There are beets and broccoli growing at his feet.
. Bright orange Calendula flowers have escaped from the butterfly-bee garden and are strolling through the the rows of onion. Nasturtiums are jealously trying to join them. Tomatoes, snug in their plastic palace, are reaching for the sky.
We live out in the country wedged between the mighty Fraser River a few minutes walk north of us and the Pacific Ocean a short drive to the west. This enviable location does come with a problem. A micro-climate with ground fog rolling across the farm lands and over my tomato plants.
There is a secret to growing tomatoes in this will-of-the-wisp summer. You plant them in big black plastic nursery pots. Then position these pots against a south wall preferably with a large overhanging roof. If you are fortunate this will give the tomatoes some protection from the heavy dew and ground fog.
The only supermarket tomatoes I buy are Campari tomatoes. Eight small tomatoes in a precious plastic box. They have real, honest-to- goodness tomato flavour. I harvested seeds from these tomatoes. Early spring I started them indoors and then transplanted the strongest into pots. I ended up with six rather straggly plants left over and no more pots. Off to the compost heap with them. Until my good husband rescued them and planted them in the garden. They grew. They grew, and grew and produced tomatoes. Better tomatoes then the plants coddled in protective pots.
The summer was unique. We had months and months of nothing but sun. The plants in the garden loved the heat. Not so the tomatoes planted in the pots. Day after day I would harvest the garden grown tomatoes. A couple of pounds of these dazzling red darlings filling my basket. The final one day harvesting of the Campari tomato plants netted over forty pounds. All from six spindly almost thrown-away plants!
This was the summer of enjoying tomatoes every day. Tomato, bacon and lettuce sandwiches (vegetables from the garden and our own bacon) – divine. Tomatoes baked in cream with thyme – sublime. And then tomato soup. Tomato soup so superb you’ll never go back to your old recipe. One big roasting pan filled with tomatoes, shallots, garlic, carrots, onion and the zinger – jalapeno chile. You roast it. Puree and then eat. FIERY ROASTED TOMATO SOUP – it just doesn’t get any better.
All through the long and glorious summer the garden rewarded us with glorious vegetables. I walk from the kitchen across the long stretch of grass and into the garden. It is another world of vegetables going quietly about their business of growing. Italian basil, Thai basil and parsley encircle the garden. No matter where I am in the garden I brush against these fragrant herbs as I harvest vegetables. My basket is filled with prickly zucchini and brilliant coloured rainbow Swiss chard. They will be the starring ingredients of the most delicious, refined and positively addictive vegetable gratin.
Zucchini and Swiss chard gratin takes the ubiquitous zucchini and the humble Swiss chard to new heights. Seasoned with onion, paprika and garlic. Enriched with Parmesan cheese, eggs and tart sour cream . Topped with buttery bread crumbs and fresh parsley this gratin is paradise in a dish. It was such a hit this summer that I made it over and over again. Served as the main course or as a side dish with roast chicken or pork it is summer perfection on a plate all year long.
My beautiful vegetable garden rewards me everyday with gorgeous fresh vegetables. This morning the vibrant rows of beets beckoned me. I searched among the rows for the beets that were growing a little too big for their own good. This recipe for Beet salad is wonderful refreshing, and even though it looks mayonnaisey it is lighter than it looks. Greek yogurt is the trick . This is wonderful with fresh beets roasted or boiled. You can even make this salad with canned beets. It’s the ying and the yang of the sweet beets and the sour yogurt gives this salad such an outstanding flavour. Click on BEETS GREEK STYLE and be prepared to be delighted!
Kale is the IT VEGETABLE. It’s bursting with vitamin C. It makes a wicked Caesar salad, brighten soups, and makes a good for you addictive snack. Walk past the the every enlarging selection of wicked potato chips and head for the vegetable counter, or if you are fortunate enough, to your vegetable garden. The best thing about kale – it just keeps on growing. Rewarding you for using them. Snip off the leaves and back they come. Where I live the kale grows all winter long. A big bonus for healthy eating.
This recipe couldn’t be simpler. Turn your kale leaves wrong side up and cut away the tough center rib. Tear the larger pieces into smaller ones. Toss the leaves with a good splash of extra virgin olive oil, sea salt and freshly ground pepper.
Roast the kale leaves in a 300F oven for twenty or so minutes. I originally roasted kale at a higher temperature but I find this lower temperature keeps the leaves intact and not so prone to shattering as you nibble away at them. If you have a large amount of kale leaves on your baking sheet toss the leaves so they roast evenly.
Roast at 300 F until all the leaves are crisp – turning them occasional so they bake evenly.
There’s a small clay pot of basil growing by my front door. It’s there so I can brush my hands over the leaves releasing its sweet fragrance each time I pass it by. Out in the big vegetable garden the basil grows thick and generous topped with tiny white flowers. I gather it by the basket full.
Basil is the taste of summer. This recipe for light basil sauce was created by one of my favorite cook book writers, Patricia Wells. It is a light sauce. I use it in place of the traditional basil sauce known as pistou. I put it on everything. I use it as a sauce for pasta, dab it on pizza, use it as a gentle glaze on poached fish, swirl it in a soup, and brush it on crusty artisan bread.
The recipe is simple. Into your food processor put 4 plump cloves of peeled garlic, a sprinkle of fine sea salt and 4 cups loosely packed fresh basil leaves and flowers. Process into a paste. With the machine running, slowly pour the oil through the tube and process again. Taste for seasoning. Stir again before serving.
Transfer to a small bowl and cover. It can be stored in the refrigerator for three days or frozen for up to six months. Bring to room temperature and stir again before serving. This makes 2/3 cup of sauce or twelve 1 tablespoon servings.
I’ve harvested my garlic. This was my first foray into planting garlic. The only mistake I made was not planting enough. In a few weeks it will be time to plant garlic again and this time there will be several rows. It’s about the easiest thing to plant and grow.
Slow roasting whole heads of garlic with a drizzle of oil concentrates the flavors and adds a caramelized note that enhances garlic’s natural sweetness. The flavor of the garlic becomes mellow and delicate. The cloves soften and are easy to squeeze from their skins. Store the garlic in an airtight container in the refrigerator. The roasted garlic will keep for a week.
“The TEN WONDERFUL THINGS TO DO WITH ROASTED GARLIC may be found on my food blog – Mrs. Butterfingers.
One potato, two potato, three potato four, five potato, six potato, seven potato more.
Early morning in the vegetable garden. The octopus zucchini tentacles taking over the potatoes. I dig up some potato plants to give it room. One potato than more. I dig some more. Four potato, five potato and a lot more. Tonight new Yukon Gold potatoes , fresh garden mint, and lots of butter. Bon Appetit indeed!