Garden 2013

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:

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Sunchokes and onions peeking through.
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The front garden has been planted with tomatoes of different kinds among other things.IMG_3335

A new addition in the front are these two cedar boxes that I have stuffed with tomatillos and cucumbers.IMG_3331

Purple artichokes with leaves that look like they’ve outlived the dinosaurs.IMG_3325

The green zucchini is in full bloomIMG_3322

Our giant oregano bush survived the winter and is now trying to take over the garden.IMG_3320 IMG_3313

Bleeding hearts in bloomIMG_3309

The Purple columbine is back for the third time.
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Strawberries ripening.IMG_3305

New crop for this year – Fava beans with their huge leaves.IMG_3300

Giant garlic that was planted in the fall and some sugar peas peeking up behind them.IMG_3292 IMG_3288

Yellow plum tomatoes that we bought pre-grown from the garden centre in order to have some early tomatoes.IMG_3287 IMG_3284

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Borscht with a tomato twist

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 :).

Living in tomato wonderland

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

Just waiting for them to turn a tad darker, their flavour is amazing!

Purple calabash tomatoes

Still not turning red or purple, but there are tons of them, and their ruffled shapes make me laugh :)

Oaxacan 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

Our first taste of the tomato harvest, and with a nice balance of sweet and sour.

Garden update!

Front garden has really taken off in the heat!

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.

The tomatoes have almost outgrown their bamboo cages!

Tomato stems thicker than my thumbs

Shy tomatoes hiding from the blazing sun

Nasturtiums

Our potatoes have grown enormous!

Gorgeous deep red nasturtiums finding shade under their own umbrellas

These are invasive weeds but still oh so pretty…

Little cherry tomatoes on their way.

Fussy tomatoes

The tomatoes are finally starting to take off. We’ve had crazy rains over the last week, and as soon as the sun started peeking though it felt like the tomato plants grew an inch just over the day. Now they’re all thick stemmed and fussy, full of buds and some of the first flowers. Since the different varieties kind of got a little bit mixed up in the transplanting business it’s with great curiosity I’m following what kind of flowers that pop up on the different plants. Check out these ones and try to guess yourselves (see the options in this old post):Since it’s been kind of stormy and rainy here I decided to make little cages for the tomatoes to make sure they had something to lean on when the wind hits them.All you need is some bamboo sticks and rope (and some scout-skills of making tripods).

When I started growing tomatoes, everyone told me about how tomato plants are really fussy, you have to baby them before you put them out, give them lots of water and nutrients etc., but I found that mine did pretty well at surviving by themselves even though it took them a a little time to catch up in size and robustness. For a while I was feeling a little bit like Seymore:

“I’ve given you sunshine
I’ve given you dirt.
You’ve given me nothing
But heartache and hurt.
I’m beggin’ you sweetly.
I’m down on my knees.
Oh, please-grow for me!”

Tomatomania…

I showed some pictures of my baby tomato plants earlier, and  can report that they’re still growing strong. Since I have never grown tomatoes before I think I got a little carried away in my planting, so we’ll see how many of the 37 that actually ends up going in the ground :). Anyways, here’s a list of the varieties that we are growing:

Purple Calabash tomato

Heirloom variety that supposedly has a very special rich flavour. I’ll quote from one of the sites selling seeds of it:

“Purple Calabash dates back to the Aztecs of pre-Columbian Mexico, who mixed it with hot chiles and and ground squash seeds to make a special salsa for fish and meat. Its flavor is rich and concentrated like a simmered sauce. Fantastic fresh, it really comes through in sauces and pastes.”

Black russian tomato

Another dark variety with rich flavour that we bought seeds for from Sunshine farm – an organic farm in Kelowna.

Oaxacan tomato

A ribbed red tomato with yellow shoulders. This is a Mexican variety, also bought from Sunshine farms.

Sweetie cherry tomato

A small organic cherry tomato with berry-sized sweet tasting fruits.

My food-garden

Already when I was a little kid I loved growing things in the garden. I had my own planterbox full of radishes and planted peas and carrots in my sandbox when I lost interrest in making sand cakes. Last year was the first time I lived somewhere I could plant my own garden, and even though it got started quite late in the spring (we moved in April) we managed to get a decent harvest of peas, beets, potatoes, onions a few tomatoes and a huge amount of green beans. We were harvesting buckets of beans every week from just this little small plot you can see in the picture below.

I saved and dried both peas and beans from last year’s harvest that I just poked into the ground today, but this year we’re going all in with the tomatoes since Kelowna is supposed to be a really good climate for them. I will update later about which kinds we’re growing, but as you can see in the pictures, they’re already growing 37 plants strong :). I started by planting the seeds in old paper egg cartons and made little greenhouses from plastic egg cartons that I placed them inside. When it was time to transfer them to larger pots I simply broke off pieces of the egg carton and covered up with soil in the new pot. Great cheap way to nurse your plants!

I grew the tomatoes in little greenhouses made from plastic and paper egg cartons

All the little baby tomatoes transplanted & hanging out in the sun.

Ratatouille with red lentils

Since we were leaving for Toronto over the holidays it was time to empty the fridge. In the bottom drawers I found leftovers from my fall-stash of root veggies and gourds, so I decided to cook up a big veggie-stew to put in the freezer before we take off.
This is what I found:

    • ½ a sweet potato
    • 3 small red potatoes
    • 2 yellow onions
    • 1 zucchini
    • a chunk of butternut squash

This is what I added:

  • 2 cans of tomato (one paste and one diced)
  • fill up one of the empty tomato cans half way with water & add that
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • salt
  • pepper
  • vegetable broth
  • paprika
  • cumin
  • Sambal Oelek
  • a chunk of fresh garlic
  • juice from 1 lemon
  • 2 cups of red lentils
  • cilantro

Cook the hard and heavy items first and remember to let the lentils boil in the tomato sauce until they’re soft.

This is how delishious it looked once it was done: