Wednesday 27 January 2016

Ordering Seeds: Step 2 - What Do I Really Want?

As soon as I receive a seed catalogue in the mail, I immediately flip through it and circle all of the veggies I want to buy.  And it is usually a lot as there are always so many new varieties!  So I need to restrain myself by considering previous results in the garden and what do I really want to grow.  The obvious criteria for my “wants” include:

-          What do I like?
-          What will I be successful with?
-          What crops have a better yield?

      Unfortunately, what I choose may not meet all criteria with yield being the most challenging.  I LOVE dried beans, pretty much any kind, but they take up a lot of space – especially because I prefer bush style as I find them less fussy than pole style beans to grow.  But I like them, so I’ll grow them.

I’m totally with Dave (Our HappyAcres) and his mission “to grow and eat as many different varieties of beans as possible”.  In fact, I was going to follow his lead and order from Rancho Gordo but then I found a Canadian source (Heritage Harvest) that has some very interesting varieties.  I prefer to stick with Canadian sources because (1) they are more likely to be suited to my climate and (2) the Canadian dollar pretty much sucks right now so I’m avoiding any U.S. purchases.

As for “what do I like”, I tried some new varieties in 2015 that I wasn’t thrilled about.  Like Bloomsdale spinach.  I just didn’t like the texture or taste.  So I went back in my posts to find the spinach I grew in 2013 and will go back to that one.  And I really loved Jimmy Nardello sweet peppers so I’ll look for those.

And then there is the success aspect and whether I can even grow what I want.  A good example is cucurbits (squash, pumpkin, zucchini, etc.).   I want to grow every kind I can find.  I want to grow watermelons and cantaloupe and all sorts of summer squash.  But … I have failed to grow melons every year that I’ve tried and I’ve decided to give up.  I do actually have some seeds left from last year so I might as well use them up but I’m not buying any more (I might have more success in the greenhouse but I have limited space).

And more so, I had a terrible time last year with squash bugs and cucumber beetles.  So even though I “want” to grow all sorts of zucchini, there is no point if I can’t successfully grow them.  For summer squash I will be buying only tromboncino – I’ve read that this type is a vigorous grower and, although no plants are actually immune, these may be strong enough at an early stage that they won’t as easily die off.  As for winter squash, I have read repeatedly that c. moschata types (including butternut) are more likely to stave off a bug attack so I’ll focus on those (note: tromboncino is also a c. moschata).

After my initial flurry of circling everything I want in every catalogue I can find, I simply go through the catalogues again bearing in mind the criteria (I also try to consider overall space but, really, I can just add more gardens or put things in containers if needed).

And so I’m off to the final review of the seed catalogues. 

Do you have any fun, new varieties you WANT to try this year?

Saturday 16 January 2016

Spicy Miso-Glazed Acorn Squash

My official new favourite way of eating squash!!  This was really delicious and I will definitely be making it again.  BUT ... I can't believe how hard it is to cut squash into slices.  I've never done that before - I usually bake winter squash in halves or big chunks.  If there is some special trick to making it easier, please let me know.  I just found it really hard to cut 1/2 inch slices with such tough skin.

But the flavours were so good!  After slicing up the squash, I tossed it with a combination something like this (it was a bit loosey-goosey): 2 Tbsp white miso paste, 2 Tbsp hot sauce, 1 Tbsp maple syrup and 3 Tbsp olive oil.  No salt required as the miso is enough.  Then bake at 400 degrees F for 20-25 minutes, flipping halfway through.  What little sauce was left from the original toss was spread over the squash at the midway point.

I used my homemade hot sauce in this recipe (not much left now).  I really wish I could remember the recipe because it is awesome.  And hot.  But not as hot as the hot sauce I made with the hinklehatz peppers.  Whew, that is used in spare amounts, for sure.

I served it with baked trout that also had a miso glaze, but more of an Asian style (soy sauce, ginger, rice vinegar, sesame oil and the miso paste).

A great way to use one of my harvests.  I have two squash left in the cold room - a spaghetti squash and a marina di chioggia. I'll be surfing the net to decide what to do with these two in the coming weeks (unless someone has a really good idea for me to try??!).

Monday 11 January 2016

Ordering Seeds: Step 1 - What Do I Already Have?!

I thought I'd already written a post on this subject but couldn't find anything.  I was likely thinking about this post which is the process I follow when I've already ordered seeds and I'm figuring out when to plant what.  But that comes later.

First things first ... pull out the boxes, containers or cans of those leftover seed packets from last year (I keep my seeds in the basement between seasons).  And whew, do I ever have a lot!  I've been trying a lot of different varieties trying to figure out what I like to grow or not.  The 2016 season is probably the first in which I'm planning to grow less varieties than the year before as I start to focus on what I like to grow best (but hopefully as much or more in quantity!).

I store my seeds in boxes based on type of crop (or other strange combinations that make sense to me - not really sure why I have beans with root veggies).  Most of the boxes are from Loose Button Luxe Box orders (I spoil myself with these personalized beauty boxes each year from a Canadian company and the boxes are perfect for storage).

But as you'll notice in the main photo, I also have some seeds in old nut cannisters or gift boxes - and, oops, that basket of seed packets got left in the basement as is.

And then I go through every box and make notes of what I have.  And that becomes the first two columns of my seed order prep sheets as you can see in an example below.

Sometimes the next two columns come easy ... like the list below of brassicas.  I've decided to not buy any more as I'm struggling too much with even mild success.  But I'll likely use some of the seeds that I already have.

Or here where I probably have most of what I need.

But then this is also a good example of the benefits of going through the seed catalogues - I don't have any parsley seeds so completely forgot to add it on the list (parsley is definitely a "Need").  Oh, and I don't want to grow many brassicas, but I forgot about kohlrabi - again, no seeds left so out of sight, out of mind.

So the next step is flipping through seed catalogues thinking fantasizing about the amazing vegetables I am going to grow this year ("What I Want").  I'll catch you up when I'm done with that step.

Any good tips you'd like to share in the comments section for how you organize your seeds or prepare for your annual order?  Happy Gardening!

Monday 4 January 2016

Harvest Monday: January 4, 2016

My harvests have come to an end with the most recent snowfall, but I thought I'd share how I've been using some of my harvests.  I hosted a brunch this past weekend and almost all of the dishes had an ingredient that came from my garden.

I made some lemon and rosemary roasted potatoes.  I potted up two of my rosemary plants which I'm keeping in the house over winter so nice to have the fresh herbs to toss with the few remaining fingerling potatoes that I had stored in my cold room.

This sausage and egg bake was made with apple and sage sausages that I bought at the "Seed to Sausage" store in Ottawa - their original store in Sharbot Lake was not far from my old place in Lanark county, so I was very pleased to see their new location here.  The casserole was based on my Spaghetti Squash and Swiss Chard Casserole.  I replaced the chard with kale from my last harvest and added the sausage and extra eggs to the ricotta mixture.  Yummy!

I made this Chilaquile casserole for the first time and loved it!! It's basically like breakfast nachos!  I had never actually tasted scarlet runner beans and had read that many people don't like the taste of them.  I wanted to make sure mine went to good use so I thought this would be a good recipe to eat them with - the enchilada sauce with my homemade tomato sauce had a lot of strong flavours.  So the cooked beans and sauce mixed together were layered with broken up taco chips and some cheese.

I did have one dish with nothing from my garden - phyllo pastry wrapped around a minted lamb mixture and feta.  One of my guests was my friend whom I buy my lamb from.

And I made carrot cake cupcakes from the last of my rainbow mix carrots.  I still have plenty of Nantes carrots in the crisper.

For condiments, I had some salsa (recipe here) and some homemade hot sauce (it's hot and delicious but I can't remember how I made it).

And now I'll pop over to Seed to Table as Michelle is hosting Harvest Monday for the month of January.  I look forward to seeing what other gardeners have on the go this week.