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May 29, 2012

The Occasion is Lavender

I only bake when it’s a special occasion, but the problem is that I seem to unearth occasions daily. Today it’s that the lavender in the front garden is in glorious bloom. We snipped twelve sprigs, and then I set to bake lavender cupcakes, which I’ve always wanted to bake, so that’s another life goal accomplished. I used the recipe from Nigella Lawson’s How to Be a Domestic Goddess, which has proven a very poor instruction manual in my experience. All the measurements are in imperial and I don’t own a kitchen scale, so I have to guess the measurements and so I’ve never had a recipe from that book come out right. Though these lavender cupcakes turned out to be pretty damn acceptable. The flower is absolutely delicious. And though Harriet claims that she doesn’t like them, we’ll try her again tomorrow.

June 29, 2011

Jiggety Jig

Some of you who’ve been reading awhile know about the summer of 2007 when I read Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal Vegetable Miracle, and grew a gorgeous backyard garden (peppers! tomatoes! cucumber! when a raccoon ate our cantaloupe, and I cried, and watermelon!). We were off to a wonderful start as urban farmers, except the next spring we lost our garden plot when we moved to a new house, our attempts at a pot garden were thwarted by squirrels and shade, we learned we’d had less green thumbs than great soil thanks to the Portuguese gardeners who’d been working away at it for years in our neighbourhood. Anyway,  ever since,  I’ve pretty much only grown impatiens.

What that summer did, however, is turn me onto fresh food like serious. I realized the difference in taste between local food and food trucked in is worth every penny extra. And especially since I’m now feeding a little person, and trying to teach her to appreciate the marvelous flavours the world offers, I make a point of buying the freshest, best-tasting fruit and vegetables available. And this time of year, there is plenty of stuff available. Becuase the season of abundant abundance has begun (and oh my, to imagine August– bursting peaches, corn on the cob, tomatoes, necterines, and blueberries…), and our local market offered up plenty of delicious this week.

We got garlic scapes (so good roasted on the bbq, with a bit of olive oil), hamburger patties, zucchini, strawberries, raspberries, rainbow chard, basil, cheese, and heirloom cherry tomatoes. Also a strawberry rhubarb pie in the freezer made with fruit that I bought last week.

So many wonderful ways to eat the sunshine…

June 21, 2010

Harriet gardening

You probably shouldn’t let your baby dig in soil with a spoon. Because while spoons are good digging implements, they’re also good for delivering items to the mouth, and though Harriet’s spoon/mouth coordination is not always right on track, it certainly was the time she ate a giant spoonful of soil… So it was kind of a milestone, times two if eating dirt is also a milestone. Is it?

May 15, 2009

Bad Gardener

Bad mother, bad schmother– what I am is a bad gardener. I didn’t used to think this. I used to even imagine that I had a green thumb, but turns out I just lived in a house whose backyard had very fertile soil (as a result of probably 40+ years of being a Portuguese man’s backyard before it became ours). When we moved last year, we set up a pot garden on our deck, and it was a disaster. I think we got three cherry tomatoes and a bean from the whole lot, in addition to a crop of thyme we never managed to harvest. I will try again with a pot vegetable garden another time, but not this year, when I’ll be too consumed with another little seedling. But seeing as our deck might be as far out into the world as I venture some (most?) days, I wanted something to be growing there. We went to the garden centre last weekend and bought a bunch of annuals that should take off without a great deal of work on our part. Though not if the squirrels have anything to do with it, bruddy squirrels, those vandals. It would be one thing if they ate the plants, or if their nuts were actually buried there– but there are no nuts, they have no interest in the flowers but to unearth them. The squirrels just dig until the pot is sufficiently ransacked, then go about their merry way. Or as merry as a way can be for vermin. If I were a different type of person, I’d be gedding out my shotgun…

July 24, 2008

Abundant abundance

We’re entering that wonderful time of abundant abundance, and our aubergine/eggplants are blossoming purple. I didn’t even know that eggplants blossomed in purple, which is only one of the thousands of things I don’t about the food that I eat. As well, lots was blooming at the market today– we got blackberries, tomatoes, and cantaloupe in particular. And also purple dragon carrots, which are fabulous.

In other news concerning marvelous creation, may I please introduce you to our cousin site, Create Me This. It is the homegrown initiative of my talented husband, with a little help from me.

June 26, 2008

Poem in the Post

Kawaii. Today in the post was a “Hello Kitty Everywhere! Haiku Postcard” from my sister. Haiku as follows:

Peeking through the soil,
The flowers shyly emerge.
I am their first friend.

June 17, 2008


Spotted today was pea-pods in the garden, which this year is pots up a fire escape more than a garden, but it certainly makes for easy weeding. The pea-pods are a miracle! The lettuce and chard are also ripe for harvest, the herb garden getting bigger every day, and we’re avidly following the progress of the heirloom tomatoes we’ve grown from seed. Inside the house is lots of plants too, which is strange because in our old apartment we didn’t have a single living thing (except the mice). Something about this space just wants green things to be growing.

Also exciting is strawberry season. There was a whole bunch of perfect berries at the market last week. I am sorry that I won’t be able to make it this Wednesday, but hopefully Saturday will make up for it, when I am going strawberry picking. Which means strawberry jam in my near future (though probably just freezer jam, as I’m not sure I’m ready to take on real preserves), as well as a few strawberry pies (frozen, to last throughout the year, once fresh fruit is behind us).

May 25, 2008

The Wait is Over

“The earliest recipes for this vegetable are about 2500 years old, written in ancient Greek and Egyptian hieroglyphics, suggesting Mediterranean as the plant’s homeland. The Caesars took their asparagus passion to extravagant lengths, chartering ships to scour the empire for the best spears and bring them back to Rome. Asparagus even inspired the earliest frozen food industry, in the first century, when Roman charioteers would hustle fresh asparagus from the Tiber River Valley up into the Alps and keep it buried there in snow for six months, so it could be served with a big ta-daa at the autumnal Feast of Epicurus. So we are not the first to go to ridiculous lengths to eat foods out of season.” — Barbara Kingsolver, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle

Last summer it was well-documented when three events coincided to change our lives. The first was the garden, our first, and through some miracle it grew, bearing melons, tomatoes, lettuce and cucumber. Second was our local farmer’s market, which we started attending at the end of July, and these visits brought us yellow tomatoes, blue potatoes, abundant squash and extraordinary cheese. And third was that we both read Animal Vegetable Miracle, an extraordinary story, from which we learned about seasons, how we’re connected to them and to the earth through the variety of things we eat. Because we’d really had no idea before, and coming to understand was the most amazing (and delicious) education. I’d missed twenty-seven asparagus seasons by that point, and so I swore I’d never miss another.

Ontario asparagus appeared in our grocery store last week, and we’ve been eating it by the bundle. Looking especially forward to the local farmers market here in our new neighbourhood starting up in less than two weeks, so we’ll be able to catch the end of the asparagus crop there.
And then we’ll follow the culinary season, as we’re learning to do, feasting on the vegitannual. I’m rereading Animal Vegetable Miracle too, but taking it slow, following its seasons as they mirror our own. We’ve also got a garden here at our new house, albeit in pots–the plants of which some failed to survive a run-in with squirrelly types sometime last night. Such are the challenges though, and how pleased we are to face them. Here at our house we’re looking forward to a delicious summer ahead.

Below, check out the pie I baked last weekend, made with the localest of rhubarbs. And do note that we’re going to see Barbara Kingsolver on Tuesday, reading at This is Not a Reading Series. I think that tickets are still available.

May 5, 2008

It isn't Saturday

This weekend was one highlight after another. To meet my beloved Bronwyn, and realize we live in the same city again after more than five years– she and Alex came around Friday night and we went out for dinner and it was so nice to welcome them home. On Saturday we went to the ROM to see the dinosaurs, the early typewriter exhibit, and then the Darwin: The Evolution Revolution, which was absolutely extraordinary. So fascinating, inspiring, exciting, beautiful and educational– simultaneously. If you get the chance to go, you’d be crazy to miss it. Speaking of crazy, we spent last night watching EastEnders omnibuses my mum-in-law had sent to us– that Bianca! And also eating Dairy Milks she’d enclosed in the package. Also baked were tiny pies, whose We Help Mommy allusion was not considered until later. Today we went to the garden centre, and bought pots and pots of flowers and veg for our urban deck garden. And then Erin came for dinner, and we sat drinking wine as the sun went down. Commenting that the only problem with today was that it wasn’t Saturday.

October 31, 2007

Until asparagus is in bloom…

Once again I’ve got a reason to declare summer officially gone, and I think this time I mean it. Tonight was the final Trinity Bellwoods Farmers’ Market, which we’ve been dutifully attending since July when Barbara Kingsolver changed our lives with Animal Vegetable Miracle. And what a summer it has been: blueberries to blackberries, cucumbers to squash, blue potatoes and black tomatoes. We’ve learned how to cook swiss chard and kale, beetroot and pumpkin. Grilled veg on the barbeque became roasted vegetables alongside chicken dinners as the nights grew cooler. Yum organic sheep’s cheddar, and beef, and lamb. We’ve been so lucky, and beyond as we also reaped our own harvest this year, our garden providing us with lettuce, tomatoes, melon, peppers, and cucumber. This summer we’ve been quite successful at purchasing local produce, and it’s sad to contemplate giving all that up now that the season is over. Our goal for the winter is to confine our fruit and veg to the continent, which is a bit lame I realize, but it’s still going to be a challenge. We’ve got some frozen tomatoes and strawberries in the freezer for the depths of February, to remind us what freshness tastes like. And in the meantime, of course, we’ll be longing for spring. For asparagus season, which, can you believe, I’ve lived through 27 of already, but never knew enough to appreciate.

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