Monday, September 16, 2013

Harvest Time

Jody complained the other day that our kitchen really needs to be renovated.  There's no space in there he says, I can't find a counter to work on, something needs to be done....

Now I don't totally disagree.  A kitchen renovation has been in the works since we bought this place. Newer and more spacious cupboards, an extra sink, dishwasher - yes to all the above.  But the thing is, our current problem has nothing to do with the kitchen as it stands.  My dear husband seems to have overlooked the fact that the real issue is that every single inch of counter space has been overtaken by produce.

A sample of the summer produce this year
From where I'm sitting now I can see on the kitchen island a pumpkin, beans, several sweet and hot peppers, several plastic containers full of wee cherry tomatoes, as well as a container of roasted tomatoes.  On the kitchen counter there is a salad spinner full of parsley, several cucumbers, and two extra large bowls of tomatoes in various stages of ripeness.  The kitchen window sill is serving as stage one of ripening for all the green tomatoes.  On the stove there is a stockpot full of tomato soup.  Even the bathroom has been overtaken - the sink is currently stuffed full of basil resting in cold water.  And let us not forget the food that is actually in the fridge.

What the heck are we going to do with this all this bounty?  It's a question that I struggle with each year.  How to preserve, process and cook the unending supply of food that the garden throws at me on a daily basis.  I'm sure there's a few other gardeners out there struggling with this issue right now so I thought I'd share a few ideas.

Step one - get yourself a massive stockpot.

Step two - make copious amounts of soup.  I like tomato soup as it uses large quantities of tomatoes but another favourite is a Spicy Chicken soup which uses both tomatoes and fresh made salsa (the salsa gets rid of uses up tomatoes, carrots, peppers, garlic, cilantro and onions. bonus).  Carrot soup, and pumpkin soup are staples as well.

A girl can only make so much soup so my second line of defense is a vacuum sealer.  Chop up fresh tomatoes, cook down your pumpkin, blanch your spinach and seal it all in the vacuum bags.  Easy as pie.  Actually easier than pie really.  I haven't even started baking pies yet.

As you might be noticing, kitchen tools feature heavily at this time of year.  We just invested in this fancy Cuisinart blender to help get us through the preserving season. 

Loving this for fresh made salsa and pesto.  We eat the salsa on the spot but the pesto freezes really well for use in the winter.  If pesto feels too complicated just zip through some basil and olive oil.  Once processed spoon it into an ice cube tray and freeze.  These little basil cubes are perfect for throwing into a pasta sauce later on.

Not everything needs to involve expensive tools though.  A quick and easy way to preserve parsley is simply stuffing it in a ziploc bag and freezing it.

Reach in the freezer and break off a piece as you need it.  (Thanks to Brenda for this tip!)

Drying is another simple and effective way to preserve food.  Garlic, onions and herbs all benefit from this.  I grew onions for the first time ever this year.  Proper onions.  Not marble sized rocks that smell like onions.

These babies are big, and tasty.  But they need to dry in order to store for the winter.  So I've hung them from the rafters in the garage to air out for a couple weeks.

After that all hard work the best thing to do is make cake.  Who doesn't like cake?  Chocolate zucchini cake and carrot cake go over pretty well this time of year.

and finally, my last resort.  Give it away.  Inevitably I get overwhelmed and co-workers like this time of year because they get a never ending supply of cucumbers, zucchini, basil, beans, and tomatoes. 

Recently I discovered something new though, the PEI Food Exchange.  This group is finding ways of distributing excess produce from farms and gardeners.  Whether it's a trade or giving it away to people in need they can use your garden excess.  There's never a reason for food to go to waste and this is a perfect way to make sure it gets to those who want it.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Garden Tour Finale

My apologies for taking so darn long to get these photos posted.  August slipped right past without me even noticing.  Let's take a look at those last two gardens shall we?

A group of volunteers and garden owners did a pre-tour a couple nights before the big day.  We scurried as fast as we could but by the time we got to the last garden we were losing the light.  I apologize for the slightly fuzzy photos of this garden.  The place was magnificent but my camera wanted more sun.  We parked up on the road and took a long walk down the drive.

An impressive start.

I don't think anyone was disapointed when we finally got down to the main house and gardens.

This garden was nothing short of spectacular.

Several acres located right at the seashore and perfectly tended.  Exploding with trees, shrubs and plants of all shapes and sizes.

Photo by Gina Beeley
I wish I had written down some of the names of the plants as this garden had an amazing collection of trees that you don't often see.  The owner is a bit of a collector.

This beautiful gate led into a charming flower garden loaded with annual flowers and lots of shade loving perennials.

Everything, and I mean every square inch of this place, was perfectly tended.

I have never seen such an exquisite vegetable garden.  Most impressive of all is that this garden is lovingly tended by just two people.  Every bit of lawn mowing, weeding and mulching is cared by a pair of gardeners who obviously LOVE what they do.

My only complaint - MORE TIME!!  I could have easily spent a whole afternoon checking out each and every tree.  I saw a Dawn Redwood, some sort of Japanese Pine and what I'm pretty sure was a Stewartia but I didn't have near enough time to check out each individual tree that caught my eye.  Next year perhaps? 

The final stop on the big tour was the tea party.

Photo by Gina Beeley
Yes, a real tea party.  Fine china and everything.

Live music.

Photo by Gina Beeley
 Who doesn't want to be serenaded in a beautiful garden while sipping tea and eating cookies?

Wouldn't you like to take a seat?

Not to mention the view

This garden sits on a hill overlooking our beloved Canoe Cove.  An amazing way to wrap up a fantastic tour.  

I'm so glad to say I got to be a part of this tour.  I was really impressed with how the gardeners went out of their way to make everything perfect for visitors.  No detail went undone.  The gardens were beautiful, porches were decorated, there were containers of flowers everywhere.  It was such an impressive display and I think everyone enjoyed it.  The best news of all is that we managed to raise over $3,000 for Hospice PEI

Gardeners and volunteers - Photo by Gina Beeley