Monday, May 28, 2007

The garden that ate Tokyo

My weekend was wrapped around all things green and growing. Much of my winter garden managed to survive the winter and is growing strong. Not wanting to pull out the wonderful greens, I decided to expand to provide room for my warm weather veggies. I pulled up a good chunk of sod (lawn isn’t good eats), and expanded the garden to accommodate my growing green thumb daydreams.
So far, here's what's in the garden. From the winter garden, the kale, chard, spinach, garlic, gai lan and parsley are going strong. In the beginning of spring, I threw in sugar peas, black edamame (soybeans), orca beans, bok choy and more gai lan seeds. This past weekend, I planted in some eggplant, honeydew, winter squash and herbs seedlings.
I also repotted an army of tomatoes and various herbs (mint, basil, oregano, marjoram, cilantro, thyme and chives) into larger pots. I’m planning to grow them on the porch, off of the kitchen. I opted to grow them in containers partly because some, like mint, are invasive and are better contained. I also like them in pots so I can bring them in once it starts getting too cold. Hardier herbs like rosemary and oregano overwinter just fine outside.

My indoor Eden filled with tomato plants, veggie seedlings herbs and general gardening mayhem.

The tomatoes I prefer to grow in containers and keep them on the porch. Five gallon pots are fine for most varieties. It makes it easier to keep them from getting weird garden cooties and if it does turn out to be a summer of monsoons, I can pull them under the awning so they don’t get too wet. It also leaves me space in the veggie garden for other edible delights.

Having them in pots also allows me the option of bringing them in at the end of summer if it cools down more than usual. I have been able to keep some tomato plants well in to January. With a good warm, sunny location and a bit of care, they kept just kept fruiting!

Bok Choy

Spinach that has survived the winter and has shot back

Ooooo...the promise a many a sweet garden jems

On Saturday, I attended a food/farm forum hosted by local food advocates, Dr. Kathy Gemmel and Jenny MacLeod at Nanoose Place. The place was filled with farmers, members of the NDP, Liberal and Green Party, local press, various organizations, Malaspina University and the public. The event was started off with Nick Versteeg, food documentary filmmaker and co-leader of the Vancouver Island Slow Food Movement and clips from his documentary, “The Edible Schoolyard”, a project that brings farmers, chef and kids together to create a working vegetable garden in local schoolyards. Nick is planning to give a copy of the DVD to every school in BC for free. For more info, check out Nick’s film site, DV Cuisine.

Sunday started off with me shaken wide awake by dawn’s insistent light despite my wanting to sleep in for once. Why, oh why, must my body declare mutiny at such ungodly hours?!? To rub it in, DH was snoring like a hibernating bear, completely oblivious to my wide eyed plight. It took much willpower and compassion to not ‘accidentally’ bump him awake.

Instead I scampered downstairs and shared my morning with my tomato plants and watched as the day cracked open with blustering winds and alternating fistfuls of clouds and blue sky. I puttered a bit in the garden and decided that even MORE sod should be removed. This would allow me to plant even more veggies. However, my sleep deprived body was not able to bring itself to wield a shovel at that moment and I headed back inside for some garden scheming.

In my 100 Mile Diet quest, I’ve opted to not only eat food grown within 100 miles but to also do my best to create a garden from seeds and plants grown within a 100 mile radius. Luckily for us, we live in an area that has a parade of Seedy Saturdays/Sundays in the beginning of spring where local seed grower sell their wonderful and overwhelming array of organic, heirloom and specialty seeds.
We also have a number of local nurseries that grow their own plants from seeds right there on the premises, like the Green Thumb nursery, Christex Nursery (north end of Jinglepot and Monroe Roads). You can reach them at . Farmer's markets are another source for locally grown seedlings for flower and food gardens. Another source for locally grown garden plants and veggies is The Community Gardens on 271 Pine Street. They run an organic plant sale every Saturday and Sunday.

It makes more sense to be buying locally grown plants and seeds for many of the same reasons as it does to buy locally grown produce. Locally grown plants are less likely to be stressed unnecessarily. They are not forced to bloom or artificially enhanced to grow faster for mass production. Many plants and seedlings imported in for big box retail stores have been forced to mature at a rate that is unhealthy for the plant. This leaves the plant weak and susceptible to diseases. They’re also not able to deal with the natural stressors. This is the botanical equivalent of forcing an infant straight into puberty in a matter of weeks.

One of the big problems that come from big box stores pushing their garden wares is that they’re pushing plants, flowers and veggie seedlings way too early in the season. This is a big problem especially with the cooler than normal temperatures that we’ve been having for this spring. Plants grown in this climate and allowed the time to grow at a healthy and normal rate are more like to continue growing successfully and bear better fruit. Christex Nursery won’t even release their tomato plants until June 1st, which is the start date for bringing your tomato plants outside. In fact, with this cooler than average weather, I’ll probably be bringing in the tomatoes at night for the first few weeks until the overnight temperatures get in the double digits.

I popped by the Community Gardens’ organic plant sale Sunday morning. They have a wide array of flowers, veggies, fruit and herb plants. At $2 each, 3 for $5 or 10 for $15, for the 4 inch container plants, they’re one of the best deals in town.

BTW, The Community Gardens is looking for donations of 4 inch seedling containers, plastic bags, cardboard/plastic flats and vertical blinds. You can drop them off at the plant sale.

At the plant sale, I ran into a fellow 100 Miler and we headed off to the Cedar Farmer’s Market (Crow and Gate Pub, 2313 Yellowpoint Rd) for some grocery shopping. The market was bustling with vendors and patrons. This has become one of my favorite farmer’s markets. There was everything from locally grown pepperoni, veggies, plants, cheese, chicken, eggs and veggie seedlings. There’s also locally made pet supplies & treats, artisan bread, jewellery and even a massage booth.

With my newly expanded garden already stuffed to the gills, it took much willpower to not buy more seedlings. But my 100 Miler companions bought up some gorgeous chard seedlings and plants for the flower garden. Between the two of us, we filled up our backpacks with locally grown groceries and headed back home. Here’s a list of the local farmer’s markets that are open now.

After a weekend of working in the garden, I thought it best to celebrate with a good, old roasted chicken Sunday dinner. With a Shady Mile chicken, locally grown spaghetti squash, roasted local turnips and onions, organic wheat berries from the Peach River district and a parsley pesto made with parsley from the garden, we finished the weekend with a long, satisfying locally grown meal.

Dessert was baked rhubarb and cranberries topped with a drizzle of honey, all island grown, of course.

Parsley pesto is a great springtime sauce that goes well with fish and chicken and veggies and, well, pretty much anything that basil pesto goes with. You could also use other greens like arugula or cilantro. Parsley does fine in the garden over winter and I have a healthy crop of parsley to use in this pesto. Just in time since I’m down to my last bit of local basil pesto that I made last summer. To make it more 100 mile diet worthy, I substituted local hazelnuts for pine nuts and local cheese for parma. I keep the harden knobs and wedges of cheese in the freezer for grating or for flavouring into soups.

Here’s my recipe for 100 Mile Diet Pesto:

2 cups of basil, pesto, arugula, cilantro

1 handful of local hazelnuts, shelled and toasted

½ cup grated hardened cheese (I like Natural Pastures Boerenkaas, Amsterdammer and Hilary’s St. Clair)

a couple cloves of garlic

a couple glugs of olive oil.

salt and pepper to taste.

Blend ingredient all together into thick consistency. Great with grilled meats & veggies or tossed with some pasta. I also throw this in with some Marley Farms kiwi vinegar for a great vinegrette for a salad dressing. It's also a instant flavour booster for soups or a sandwich spread. I've even used as a crudite dip.

Have a great week!


Nanaimo's 100 Mile Diet Challenge

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