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We have had an absolutely gorgeous fall here in Atlantic Canada.  Warm temperatures and sunny days  have meant the longest gardening season we have ever had. 

I am still harvesting the odd lettuces and spinach, many of the herbs are still growing, and some of the plants (like the celery) have been tricked into sending up new shoots! 

 

 

Despite this, we know that winter will soon be coming.  So while the weather is still warm, hubby and I spent the day putting the garden to bed for another year. 

We have been cleaning out plants here and there as they have finished their growing season, but when we began working our garden still looked like this:

 

By the time we were done, the garden looked like this:

 

We removed all of the annual plants completely, snipped off the spent perennial stems, and weeded all of the gardens.  We then piled leaves as mulch over some of the perennials, including the strawberries and newly planted Egyptian Onions.  Last year we bought straw to cover our strawberry plants and still lost them over the winter, so we’ll see if they are still around in the spring. 

We usually cover everything with a layer of compost/manure in the fall, but we missed the garden centre sale on these items this year, so will have to wait for spring.  (We make compost of our own, but not enough to cover all of the gardens!)

I have left the lettuces and spinach for now since we are still harvesting (although since we removed all of the deer netting I am not sure what will be left once they discover the “free buffet”), and we are still enjoying carrots and a new crop of green onions.  This late harvest almost made us want to build some cold frames to see how long we could extend the growing season, but I think that is going to be an experiment for another year.

And so another gardening season has come to a close.  Is anyone else still harvesting?  What do you do to prepare your garden for winter?

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I know I haven’t been writing here as much as usual.  Thanks to all of you who have stuck with me through this busy time and still read my posts.  You mean the world to me!

We have been extremely blessed this year with an abnormally mild fall.  Usually by this time my garden is frost-bitten and gone, except for carrots, but this year we are still harvesting lettuce, spinach, herbs and celery.  Oh the celery we grew this year!  Seriously, if you live anywhere close by and you would like to have your own bunch of fresh-from-the-garden celery, please let me know!  I am happy to share from our bounty.  I’m also considering sending all my friends bouquets of parsley and dill – what do you think?  🙂

This extended warm spell has also given me lots of time to harvest most of the herbs I grew this year (other than the basil, which faints at the first sign of cold, but luckily I already had most of that made into pesto weeks ago.)

I am pretty simple when it comes to preserving my herbs.

I pick them.

I brush off any dirt that might be sticking to them.

I freeze them in glass jars.  (We have a plethora of glass jars because they aren’t recyclable here, plastic bags would work too.)

I enjoy them all winter long.

That’s it. 

I make pesto with basil, and this year I tried to make a parsley paste of parsley and oil, which I froze in small clumps as I do with the pesto. 

I decided to try to do this with a mortar and pestle, because I heard that it is better for the colour of the herbs when you do it this way.  Next year I will go back to using my food processor.  The end result was not quite as “pasty” as I would have liked it, more like clumps of parsley suspended in oil.  However, when I’m tasting that fresh parsley flavour in our winter cooking I won’t be worrying about consistency.

Anyone else out there enjoying a mild fall?  How are you preserving your garden harvest?

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The nights are getting cooler, the leaves are starting to turn, and my garden is starting to look a lot more brown than green.

It is time for the fall harvest.

After another two frosty evenings in a row, some plants in the garden are finished for good.

I went out in the garden and harvested all of our tomatoes.

Red – Northern Delight and a few Beefsteak, destined for salsa, bruschetta, and BLT sandwiches (where the “B” stands for Basil – yum!)  I already canned the bulk of them as salsa and stewed tomatoes. 

Green – not even enough to make green tomato mincemeat!  I might try to half (or quarter!) the recipe and at least make a small batch for winter desserts.

I also harvested all of the Mystery Keeper tomatoes, which will keep us in garden-fresh tomatoes for at least the first few months of winter.

The green and yellow beans are finished, but I did manage to have a snack of fresh green peas while I was poking around the garden.  This is my absolute favourite way to eat peas, in fact, they rarely make it into the house (there’s local eating for you!)

Our soldier beans are not quite dry yet (and with the wet season we have had, many have rotted away), but I did collect a small bag of the first of the season.  These will be made into baked beans (Hubby’s favourite!) throughout the winter, as well as substituted for other varieties of beans in burritos, nachos, soups and stews. 

And what would a garden harvest be without a zucchini or two?  We almost missed out on these with our cucumber beetle attack, but one plant survived and I have been able to harvest enough for fresh eating on pizza, in omelettes, and stuffed, and have frozen some of the bigger specimens, pre-grated, ready to keep us in muffins (and more muffins!) for the next few months.   I also discovered a wonderful recipe for zucchini waffles which I made yesterday and loved!  Kind of like a waffle version of zucchini bread.  I added orange juice along with the milk in mine for extra flavour. 

I pulled out the pepper plants which are no longer producing, and harvested jalapenos for salsa and jalapeno cheese sauce.  I like to cut them in half, seed them, and then freeze them for later.

The carrots, squash, lettuce, spinach, chard, and potatoes are still growing nicely.  The onions are curing on our deck, although I must admit I have already started cooking with some of them, I just couldn’t resist!

Most of the herbs are still flourishing, except for the basil which I pulled out by the roots yesterday and incorporated every leaf  into making pesto, which I also freeze for later, some in ice cube trays and some in small glass jars.  I of course saved a few plants to go with the delicious tomatoes all over my counter, but their season is almost done. 

I must admit I have a certain satisfaction in knowing that our freezer and store room are starting to fill up with the food that will take us through the winter.  Food that started as just a tiny seed in the ground only a few months ago.  Growing your own food is a wonderful thing! 

What are you harvesting from your garden?

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We have had some hot weather here over the last few days.  And on a steamy hot day, what better for cooling and refreshing than a cold glass of water? 

But somehow, water can seem a little ordinary.  But add some cucumber and lemon and a handful of garden-fresh herbs, and you’ve got something a little special, but just as thirst-quenching.  Make it in a glass pitcher, and you’ve got something pretty to grace your picnic table.

Refreshing Cucumber and Lemon Herb-Infused Water

  • a piece of cucumber
  • a lemon
  • a handful of herbs (I like mint or lemonbalm or a combination of the two)

 

Slice the cucumber into rounds and place in the bottom of your pitcher.

Cut the lemon in quarters and gently squeeze to release the juice as you place it on top of the cucumber.

Finally, gently squish the herb leaves in the palm of your hand to release their fragrance and flavour and place in the pitcher.

Fill the pitcher with cold water and ice and let steep for at least an hour before serving.

We often fill our pitcher up with water a second time and leave it in the fridge for the next day with results that are just as refreshing.

Enjoy! 

How are you keeping cool on these hot summer days?

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The gardens are planted, the weeding is done (for now!) and it is time to enjoy the first of the garden’s harvest.  Fresh leaves of all kinds are poking up in my garden, perfect for pairing with radishes, asparagus, strawberries, and other early summer fruits and veggies.  To top it all off, here is a quick and easy yogurt-based salad dressing.

Yogurt & Herb Dressing

  • plain yogurt
  • fresh lemon juice
  • fresh herbs (I love this dressing with mint)

Pour some plain yogurt into a glass jar with a lid.  (You don’t really need to measure, think about the size of the salad you need to dress and then eyeball it.)  Add some freshly squeezed lemon juice, and some freshly chopped herbs.  Put the lid on and shake the bottle.  If the dressing is too thick, add a little more lemon juice.  If it’s too thin, add a little more yogurt.   

Toss it with your salad and enjoy!

What’s your favourite way to enjoy the first of the harvest?

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These 4 herbs are meant to be together.  “Are you going to Scarborough Fair….”  If you don’t know what I’m talking about, you can find the song here

These were the first herbs to be planted in our garden, and all but the parsley grace my kitchen in the winter. 

Parsley

In the Garden:  I grow parsley in my garden every year from seed, and have also transplanted garden centre seedlings into pots, which do well outside but tend to wither from lack of light indoors. (at least in my windows.)   The plants have always done well in full sun, and I still seem to have a good crop this year although planted in a partly shady section of the vegetable garden. 

In the Kitchen:  Parsley is an extremely versatile herb that can be put with almost anything.  It is wonderful in soups, salads, sauces, casseroles, omelettes, mixed with vegetables, or used as a garnish.   

Sage

In the Garden:  Sage is a perennial that grows very well in a sunny garden, or in pots.  I have also grown sage indoors and use the leaves all winter long. 

In the Kitchen:  I most often use sage to slip between the skin and meat of roast chicken, and it sometimes finds its way into sauces.  I’ve read that it can be very tasty in cheese sandwiches (!) and can also be brewed as a tea. 

Rosemary

In the Garden:  Rosemary can be a perennial, but it is definitely an annual around here.  It grows well in sun or part-shade in moist, but well-drained, soil.  I grow mine in a pot on our sunny deck, and keep it indoors on a windowsill for winter use.  I find it dries out quickly and requires regular watering. 

In the Kitchen:  I mostly use whole spears of rosemary for stuffing chicken, but also use the leaves in soups and sauces, and like many herbs, can also be made into a tea (although I haven’t tried this myself!)

Thyme

In the Garden:  Thyme is a hardy perennial that grows well in sun, part shade, in the garden, and in containers.  It also does well over the winter on a sunny windowsill.   There are many varieties of thyme, some which make beautiful garden plants, and others which are used for cooking.  Thymus Vulgaris, or culinary thyme, is the type I grow for kitchen use, although I recently picked up some lemon thyme and orange thyme to try as well.  Thyme can be very slow to grow from seed , so you might wish to purchase a mature plant from a garden centre instead.

In the Kitchen:  Thyme is a standard for stuffing, and it also finds its way into vegetable dishes and sauces.   It is often used in herb-infused vinegars and can also be brewed into tea. 

Do you grow or cook with any of these herbs?  As always, please share your tips in the comments.  And don’t forget our Facebook page!   I recently posted photos of my first garden harvest, as well as some updated garden pics.  I’d love to see your photos and links there, too!

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For the next few weeks, while the garden plants are settling in or sprouting, I thought I would feature the herbs that I grow in my garden.  Next to tomatoes, they are the garden plants I get asked about the most.

I decided to begin with three fairly standard herbs, and the ones that most often find their way into my kitchen.

Basil

In the garden: Basil comes in many different varieties, but for the past several years I have just grown the standard sweet basil, and lots of it!  It’s an annual, so it needs replanting each spring, and it grows well from seed in pots or right in a sunny garden, although you can also find basil plants at most garden centers.  I haven’t had any luck growing basil indoors, as its requirements for sun far outstrip what our sunniest windows can provide.

In the Kitchen  Where there are tomatoes, there can be basil.  Basil is beautiful in tomato sandwiches, in salads, mixed in bruschetta, cooked in pasta sauces, or made into pesto.  I grow many plants so that I can make pesto in the fall and then freeze it to last throughout the winter. 

Chives

In the GardenChives are an easy-to-grow perennial that come up year after year.  They are one of the first plants to appear in my garden in the spring and have pretty purple flowers.  When the plants get too big, you can simply dig some of it out and plant it somewhere else.  From a very small chive plant I had three years ago, I now have chives growing in three different spots in my garden.   Chives grow very well in pots and can be over-wintered indoors in a window and set outside again in the spring. 

In the Kitchen:  Besides the standard sour cream & chive baked potato topping, I think chives are wonderful chopped into salads, mixed into potato dishes of all kinds, or used as a garnish on creamy soups or cheese sauces.

Cilantro/Coriander

 

In the Garden:  This plant is refered to as cilantro when harvesting leaves, and coriander when harvesting the seeds.  It is a self-seeding plant that will come up year after year (if you don’t harvest all of the seeds, of course!)  Mine did well both in pots and in the garden, although you need a good-sized pot to get a decent harvest.  My garden plants grew to a much greater size and had many more leaves to harvest than my potted plants.  If you like the leaves (like I do) you will want to replant this herb all summer long to guarantee a continuous supply of thick leaves, as they tend to thin out as the plant grows taller. 

In the Kitchen:  Cilantro is a wonderful accompaniment to spicy foods, and I include it in salsas, guacamole, burritos, bean salads, quesadillas, nachos, and spicy tomato soup.  I did not collect the coriander seeds last year as I do not often use coriander in my kitchen – perhaps that will be something to try this year! 

What herbs do you grow in your garden?  If you have any tips or recipes to share, please let us know in the comments.  And don’t forget our Facebook page where you can link up your blog posts and share your garden photos!

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