Category Archives: Gardening

Impromptu Soup

Even with the snow and frost we’ve had, the kale in my garden seems to have come through it all unscathed. Several times I’ve used the leaves to make soup and I find that I really like it a lot.

I brought this bunch in from the garden just today, and happened to pass by some parsley and rosemary on my way.

We happened to have some elk short ribs in the freezer,  and I’ve found that these make a wonderful addition to the soup, both as stock and bits of meat.  You could use beef or any other meat too, but you may have to cut off some of the fat. Chicken drumsticks make a great soup too. Once they have simmered for a while, the meat falls off the bones and can be cut into pieces small enough to fit onto a soup spoon.

To make the soup, I sautee onions, garlic, and whatever else I am in the mood for. I’ve added chopped ginger root when I wanted something with a bit of zip. I can’t tell you what I use for herbs and spices because it’s different each time. If I want an interesting taste, I might put in some cardamom, cumin, and coriander seeds, or I might just do the herbs de provence kind of flavouring (Simon and Garfunkel soup – parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme). Or if I feel adventurous I’ll dabble with both.

The kale is washed and chopped quite finely before adding to the onion mixture. Let it cook a bit so it’s wilted and mixed well with the onions.

Usually I sprinkle a bit of flour into the sauteed kale, onions, and spices, and then stir to coat the onions and kale so there won’t be any lumps when I add the liquid.

I use the stock from simmering the ribs. Stir it around and check for flavouring. Add what you feel is missing. Notice I haven’t mentioned salt or pepper? Sometimes I’ve used a dash of steak spice and although it adds a wonderful flavour, it has plenty of salt. I’ve ruined a dinner once before I learned that. So I always wait until the end to add salt if needed. Same with pepper. Taste it first before you add salt or pepper!

Don’t forget to add the chopped up meat to the soup.

Finally, before serving I like to add a half cup or so of cream (half and half, or coffee cream – whatever you call it), or you can add a couple of tablespoons of sour cream to give it more zip.

I didn’t tell you how much of anything to put in the soup, because it’s one that you make up as you go along. Do whatever you feel like doing. It can’t fail to please on a wintery day.

 

Seedy Saturday

I have been saving seeds for over 35 years. I always looked forward to seeing the descendants of my plants growing. The long line of repeated generations became like old friends. Recently I found out that there is a whole cult of seed saving going on out there.

What a great discovery! Besides planting my own saved seeds this year, I will plant seeds from other seed saving gardeners.

Just look at the crowd of gardeners looking for something special at Seedy Saturday in Qualicum on Vancouver Island.

Seed companies offer their time-proven seeds each at their tables set up in the big hall, but off in a smaller room are the seeds that other seed savers (local gardeners) have packaged up for sale. At 50 cents a package, it is a bargain.

On my wish list, were two plants that I wanted to find seeds for, but I really didn’t get my hopes up too high. I knew the chances were slim. I was looking for seeds of poblano peppers. These dark green medium hot peppers are  popular in Mexico but outrageously expensive to buy here.

I was also looking for seeds of a dark-skinned (black) tomato like the ones I had eaten for the first time last summer after a friend gave me some as a gift.

 

I was thrilled to see that the first two packages of seeds I came across were poblano peppers and black-skinned tomatoes. What are the chances?!

Then a local gardener gave a talk, and although I had been gardening for many years, I was happy to learn several new gardening tips.

I also learned of a new (to me) type of potato (Sieglinde) that I will try this year, along with my tried and true Norgolds, Kennebecs, and red Pontiacs.

Here is my happy stash of purchases all for a grand total of $10. I’m a cheap date!

Now where is that warm weather?

Lily

Did you know there are many varieties of lilies?  A friend brought this lily to my garden last year just before it was about to bloom. Somehow the conditions weren’t right for the bloom to last very long so I have been waiting anxiously for it to bloom again this year, so I could take its picture for posterity. The  long-hoped-for rain  arrived the day the lily tried to bloom. Would I be lucky enough to see the flowers this year? Not only did it bloom, but it graced my garden with three blossoms. I see that the first to bloom is already a little “rough around the edges” but the other two are still fresh. Notice the dark pollen on the stamens? Then please read the poem below the photo and tell me if this has ever happened to you.

Dainty lily blooms a while,

When she does it makes you smile.

But if you invade her space

Staring right into her face,

In her bloom your nose you poke,

Be prepared for Lily’s  joke.

Those who sniff her sometimes pay.

Pollen on their nose will stay.

Orchid Goes to Town

Another orchid is waking up. The first bud is squinting with one eye to have a look around. She’s not sure she wants to come out completely. It looks a bit gray out there. Where is summer?

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She waits a day or two and soon reinforcements come along. In the company of her sisters, she feels brave enough to face the world. But what faces they have!

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One of the things I love about orchids (besides their long blooming time) is that each type has such unique characteristics. It seems that the colours and designs are infinite. DSCN8532

 

What beetle with its bleeding feet

Has marked my orchid, once so neat?

Or maybe she’s not feeling well

And has the measles, I can’t tell.

I know! She’s going into town

To sport her polka-dotted gown.

Wild and Crazy

 

Spring didn’t really happen this year. It was winter right up until nearly summer. I’m way behind in my weeding, but the poppies are telling me, “Don’t worry. We’ll put on a show to distract any critical eyes.”

“Order, Order!” shouts the judge.

“Bring this yard to order, please.”

But the gardener’s brain is sludge,

Toes and fingers start to freeze.

 

Weeds are shouting everywhere,

“We’re part of winter’s doom and gloom.

Come and pull us if you dare.

But wait, what’s this? The poppies bloom?”

 

Poppies growing where they like,

Squeezing into any place.

What a pretty pose they strike,

Wild and crazy wins the race.

 

Community Garden

On Protection Island, near Nanaimo, BC, my visit continued with my friend acting as tour guide. Here is a community garden where residents can maintain a raised bed or contribute in other ways to the island’s garden project.

Can you see the glimpse of ocean through the trees? Now imagine that fresh sea air warmed by the sun. The garden is surrounded by trees that keep the humidity  hovering over the fruit and vegetables grown here.

Two special things got my attention:

  1. The potato plants in the two boxes at the front of the picture. In the ample loose soil in those boxes, the roots of the plants are able to produce more potatoes.
  2. The huge cage to the left is like a bird cage in reverse. It it meant to keep the birds out and the raspberries and strawberries in. What a great idea! So much better than netting that can tangle the birds’ feet.
    The garden is well looked after and is producing abundantly already. Outside the garden is a “Help Yourself” table where gardeners can share produce. Sometimes a person can only eat so many tomatoes or whatever vegetable has suddenly become prolific. It’s great to share.

Buttercup Squash

Last year I couldn’t wait to plant the  seeds I had saved from squash given to us by a friend in Montana.  I should have waited a few weeks. The seedlings were ready to transplant into the garden way before it was warm enough. I managed to baby them until I dared to plant them outside and luck was on my side. I ended up with a great crop of squashes.

This year, I thought I’d be smarter. I waited until it was closer to spring and warmer weather. I planted the seeds of the crop from last year and so many popped up I was quite pleased with myself. Until … they grew so well they started stretching for the light too much and were getting gangly.

It was supposed to be getting much warmer by now! Where was that warm April weather? I was STILL too early. Now I’ll put these eager plants into individual little pots, give them a pat, and tell them, “Slow down. It’s not as warm as it should be. You’ll have to rein in your enthusiasm.”

Here is one of last year’s squashes. I hope to have many happy plants this year too.

When I look at this young beauty, I’m encouraged to work at getting a good crop of these buttercup squashes growing again this year. They are one of the tastiest, sweet squashes I know. Great keepers and delicious to eat. If I remember, I’ll share a recipe later this summer.