After the big rains in June, temperatures have now reached an average of 33 degrees, and the garden is exploding! We’re still waiting for the tomatos but starting to cash in both giant garlics, plenty of zucchini as well as carrots and herbs.
I haven’t been updating about all our garden preparations this year, but we have big plans, tons of seeds and things are already growing out there! Here’s a little summary of what the garden looks like at the moment:
I was happily surprised to discover that my photo of vegetables grown in our front yard won a shared firts place in the people’s choice -best fall fair vegetable category of the “6th Annual Blooming Hall of Fame Photo Contest” at the Greenery garden center here in Kelowna.
I’m so excited to get to receive a $25 Gift Certificate and a Gardener’s Delight Gift Basket in the spring!
Check out the other winners here.
And here’s the winning photo I submitted :)
Summer heat is gone, and it’s time to enjoy the last few dinners on the patio. I love to make some hearty soup at this time of year, and since I’m a huge fan of beats, the traditional borscht is a natural choice to make. This time though, I thought I should include some of our enormous tomato harvest in it, and what would fit better than some tomatoes of the variety “Black russians”.
Here’s what I put in the soup:
- Pulp from ~20 black russian tomatoes
- 2 large beets
- 2 onions
- 2 carrots
- 3 cloves of garlic
- a chunk of red cabbage
- two spoons of vegetable stock mix
- 2 bayleafs
- ground black pepper
- hungarian paprika powder
- fresh cilantro (parsley works good too)
- olive oil
- 500 ml water
- sour cream
I started by chopping onions, carrots and garlic finely and frying them in some olive oil in a large pot. To avoid getting the tomato peels in the soup, I grilled them in the oven for about 10 min and then pressed them through a sieve into the pot and threw out the peels. To make the beets cook faster, I peeled and grated them before putting them into the soup. Depending on how much juice you got out of the tomatoes, add water (I added another 500 ml). Add spices and let simmer until the beets and carrots are soft. Add some chopped cabbage and cilantro last to keep some crunch in the cabbage and the flavour of the cilantro.
Serve with a spoon of sour cream, some fresh ciabatta and fried chantarelles (if you have some :).
All jam-making normally starts with a nice little adventure of fruit picking. Here in Kelowna, BC, we harvest apricots from an abandoned tree by the university (if we get to them before the wasps) and heaps of raspberries from our backyard. Blueberries don’t really grow in the dry forests around here, but you can buy them for cheap from some farmers that cultivate them.
Once you’ve got the berries all you need is two large pots, some old jars and a bunch of sugar (and spices if you want to mix things up a bit).
The amount of sugar you need to add depends on if the fruit is sour or sweet. I normally just fill up with sugar so that it looks like the fruit/berries are somewhat covered. In most cases you don’t need to add water, the sugar will dissolve the fruit into nice a juicy jam.
When the jam is boiling (on low heat so that it doesn’t burn) foam will form on the surface. Remove the foam by scooping it off with a spoon since you don’t want it to end up in the jars.
Once the jam has boiled for a while and reached a nice consistency (it will be rinnier hot than once it’s cooled down), put the empty jars and their lids in a boiling water bath to kill potential pathogens and then while the jam and the jars are still hot, fill the jars with jam and seal the lids. Let the jars rest until they cool down, then the lids will pop down and seal. A lot of people buy new jars or lids, but I’ve always just used old olive jars or jam jars with their lids and it has worked just fine, as long as you make sure to boil everything.
The end result might look something like this:
Here are some of the flavour-mixes for this year’s harvest:
From the left: Apricot-ginger-cinnamon (made with fresh chopped ginger and cinnamon sticks), Raspberry-lime and Blueberry-vanilla (made with a dried vanilla pod that I cut open).
My favourite out of the bunch is the blueberry-vanilla one. It has a perfectly balanced sweetness and the hint of vanilla coats your mouth in a smooth and comforting way. I actually got the idea to combine bluberry and vanilla from a jam I got from my friend Amanda that she had bought in a cheese store in Umeå where they make cheese and jam pairings. It is considered a good complement to soft cheeses like a brie or a cambozola and I can guarantee that it sure is!
We’re just harvesting more and more from our little garden. Here’s a taste of what we have to cook with right now:
- Rainbow carrots (unfortunately we got very few red ones…)
- Yellow zucchini
- Green beans
- Dry pinto beans
- Yellow onions
- Cherry tomatoes
- Oaxacan tomatoes (the first ones are just starting to ripen)
- Black russian tomatoes (awsome deep tomato flavour)
- Oregano (that has started to flower in pink)
When we first moved to Kelowna, people kept telling us what a paradise for tomoato growers this place was, but I still remained a bit sceptic that I would be able to grow tomatoes like weeds. I have been disproven. As I write, probably about a hundered of tomatoes are ripening in the 35 degrees burning sun in our front yard. Small ones, big ones, smooth ones, ruffled ones, red ones, black ones, purple ones! so far we’ve just tasted some of the cherry tomatoes and a black russian, but oh boy, are we in for some more…
Here’s a little update on the different varieties we’re growing:
Black russian tomatoes
Purple calabash tomatoes
These are supposed to turn red with yellow ridges, so it might take a while longer before that happens. In the beginning the flowers just kept falling off so I was worried that it wouldn’t produce, but as soon as it got warmer, magic happened and now it’s overwhelming.
Sweetie cherry tomatoes
Both David and I love to add pesto to some pasta, a nice sandwich, a chickpea salad, homemade pizza or pretty much anything. Of course we got excited when we heard that you can make your own pesto from Nasturtium leaves (which happen to grow in the size of bushes in our garden).
Pesto normally contains pine nuts, but since Kelowna (and our laundry room) is full of walnuts, it seemed like a natural substitution. On top of that I also had a bunch of onion stems left from harvesting all of our yellow onions earlier in the day that I decided to throw in for some extra flavour.
Here’s the whole list of ingredients that was inspired by this nice recipe:
- A large bowl full of Nasturtium leaves and flowers
- 2 cups of walnuts
- 2 cups of green onion
- Juice and peel from 1 lemon
- 3 cups of olive oil
- 1 tsp paprika powder
- 8 cloves of garlic
- salt & pepper
I simply mixed it all together into a smooth paste and then filled up a jar for immediate use and little boxes to save in the freezer for later.
After the rain came sunshine, and it’s been blazing hot here in the Okanagan the last week. Just what all the tomatoes needed! Things are growing like crazy, but it’s not until I look back at old pictures that I realize what a difference it is in just a week or so. Right now we just started harvesting green beans and carrots should be ready to get pulled up soon too.