Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Garden favourites

I think this year I have enjoyed the garden most of any year I've spent time growing food and tending the soil.  Maybe it's because our daughter is now 6, a little more independent, and also has become a very eager learner with her own little garden plot where she can work alongside (she loves her "Painted Pony" beans, rainbow chard, purple carrots, brightly coloured zinnias, and her calendula and lavender - I am so happy to have a budding herbalist in the family!).  I have just a little bit more time this year to tend to the weeds, keep up with harvesting the beans, chard, tomatoes and zucchin, and even just linger.  This lingering is lovely and new to me.  This year, with time for more garden reflection, we've started a family garden journal with notes on what each of us loved to grow, cook and eat; what we absolutely need to grow again; what we tried and failed (and want to try again).  Here is a list of some of some of our garden favourites that we hope to include in next season's garden - not that this one is over yet.

A few Garden Favourites from 2014
Lemon Cucumbers - sweet, prolific, easy to grow, delicious
English Telegraph Cucumbers - huge, delicious, satisfying
Jaune Flamme Tomatoes - lovely colour, sweet, bountiful yield
Taxi Tomato (one of the new hybrid tomatoes we have this year but well worth it) - delicious, brilliant colour
Black Cherry Tomatoes - my personal favourite
Red Zebra - first time we grew it this year, it's beautiful in salads along with Green Zebra
Matt's Wild Cherry Tomatoes - tiny and takes effort to pick, but so sweet and bountiful
Blue Podded Peas - gorgeous colour, so unique
Mammoth Melting Sugar Peas - such a huge yield this year!  so sweet, great to eat off the vine
Dino/Lacinato Kale - love it, can't get enough - great for salads, juicing, kale chips, steamed, soups, etc
Rainbow Chard - always a staple here
Lemon Zucchini - yummy small golden zucchini, prolific production, easy to grow
Braising Mustard Greens - we love the mix from High Mowing - delicious spicy flavour
Calendula - high resin variety - we never grow enough!  I love this annual herb/flower
Zinnias - we like the tiny variety and the giants of California blend - brilliant colours, great for cut flowers
Sunflowers - lemon sorbet, or small red varieties for bouquets
Fennel - both bulb variety and the fronds - a new favourite for cooking, and saving seeds for teas/eating
Cilantro - we can always plant more - such a delicious herb
Blue Potatoes & Fingerling Potatoes - great heirloom varieties, beautiful, tender, delicious
Shallots - we had great luck this year, super for roasting
Garlic - more garlic, and try lots of heirloom varieties!  We grew 100 bulbs this year but it won't be nearly enough to get us through the winter
Long Red Cayenne - we have our own saved version adapted to our property by now, a staple every year
Dragon's Tongue Beans - huge yield, huge beans, brightly speckled pattern that's beautiful
Strike Beans - a first for us this year, but had a huge yield and very easy to grow, delicious
French Filet Beans - always a favourite
Nasturtiums, marigolds (tall yellow), more flowers!
Tulsi Basil - sacred basil is a must for every gardener who loves herbs

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Calendula harvest

This seems to be an abundant flower year.  I have never had such a bountiful crop of calendula blossoms, that we keep harvesting over and over, and they just keep on blooming.  And what a good thing to have so much, since I never seem to have enough calendula for all the winter months where we use it in salves, soaps and tea.  If I was to pick a list of top ten valuable medicinal herbs to grow in a home garden, calendula would be at the top of the list (right next to lavender, peppermint, red clover, plantain, comfrey - oh, it's so hard to choose!)  Did I mention, the bees love calendula too? 

To harvest and dry calendula - pick flowers fresh on a sunny day when they are fully opened, after the morning dew has evaporated but before flowers are wilted by the heat of mid-day.  To harvest continuously keep picking fresh flower heads before they start to form seed heads, and your plants will continue to blossom.  I like to let some calendula go to seed early on in the season so that I ensure a good supply of seeds to self-seed in the garden when they fall, and also to harvest and keep for next year's planting.  Dry calendula on open screens or in wicker baskets, with good air circulation but out of direct light.  They should be fully dried before storing, and can be stored in clean dry glass mason jars with tight-fitting lids, kept in a dark dry cupboard.