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Preserving Recipes/ Spring

Crème Fraiche

Creme Fresh

Fermentation is one of the main forms of food preservation and one of the oldest. Crème Fraiche is an example of a simple dairy ferment. It is also one of the most useful items to have in your fridge.

Crème Fraiche is a fermented cream as opposed to yogurt which is a fermented milk. It originated in Normandy, France, a northern region known for grazing cows, beautiful butters, and cream products. Crème Fraiche is so precious to the French, that in 1986 the French government instituted the status of “Appellation D’origine Controlee” which regulates that Crème Fraiche must only be made by traditional methods. This action was taken to avoid commercial manufacturing additions of stabilizers and thickeners which are allowed in North America.  Common additives to Crème Fraiche and sour cream in North America include corn starch, cellulose gel, carrageenan cellulose gum and more. So why not choose the pure and simple path and make your own Crème Fraiche?

As a simple ferment, Crème Fraiche is easy to make at home. It is simply heavy cream cultured with buttermilk. When left at room temperature, it becomes a thick, creamy substance that is excellent in both savoury and sweet dishes. It is not tangy like sour cream but has a smooth, almost lightly nutty flavour. Because of the high butter fat content, Crème Fraiche will not separate when added to hot or acidic foods which is a huge bonus for the home chef.

Add a dollop of Crème Fraiche to soups or stews. Add to a tomato sauce to make it creamy. Serve on baked eggs or with mashed or baked potatoes. Make an instant Mexican crema by adding grated lime zest and a healthy squeeze of lime juice to the Crème Fraiche. Perfect for the fish tacos.

Crème Fraiche is also wonderful on the sweet side of things. Use it in baking such as with sweet breads, scones, or tea biscuits. Top a fruit tart. Serve with a slice of pie or cake. Since you will have left-over buttermilk, how about lightly sweetening crème fraiche with a small amount of sugar, honey, or maple syrup. Think about how you enjoy your whipped cream. Some like it very sweet and others like just a hint of sweetness. Treat the crème fraiche the same way. For Easter morning, how about buttermilk pancakes or waffles topped with sweetened crème fraiche and fruit?

Crème Fraiche is delicious, simple to make and far superior to anything you can buy in the grocery store labelled as “crème fraiche” or “sour cream”. Become a fermenter and try it!

For information:

preservingwithmartha@gmail.com

Crème Fraiche

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Ingredients

  • 1 cup heavy cream (35%)
  • 3 TBSP butter milk

Instructions

1

Combine in a bowl. Cover with a cotton lint-free tea towel and place on the counter for 24 to 36 hours. If your house is cool, the fermentation takes a bit longer. You will know it’s done when it is a thick, creamy substance that smells sweetish. Easy! It will last in the fridge for about 10 days.

 

Preserving Recipes/ Spring

Clear Out the Freezer Chutney

Chutney Recipe

It’s been a strange non-winter to be sure. I noticed my daffodils and hyacinths up by at least two inches! The only thing I can say is that this warm weather has got the spring-cleaning bug stirring in me. Last season, my rhubarb seemed to continue forever! I had frozen a lot of it. The spring-cleaning bug got me thinking about how to use the rhubarb now.

I searched my preserving books and found a Bernardin recipe for Orange-Rhubarb Chutney. I made the chutney yesterday. My husband exclaimed “that smells so good” and the taste test went equally well. It’s interesting how a culinary tradition, in this case chutney throughout east Asia, found it’s way to many cultures around the world, each customizing it to local flavours. The origin of the term chutney is attributed to the Hindi language to the word “chatni” meaning a complex mixture of spices and flavours. The Bernardin recipe delivers on complex flavours and a tang that is brought forward from the vinegar and citrus. It would be excellent with meat, but I paired it with goat cheese. The tangy condiment beside creamy got cheese was divine.

As spring approaches, it’s time to use up the fruits and vegetables you froze for winter. If you are like me, you still have rhubarb in the freezer, and this is an excellent way to use it.

For more information:

preservingwithmartha@gmail.com

Orange-Rhubarb Chutney

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Yield: 6 250ml Jars

Ingredients

  • Spice bag made with cheesecloth: 10 whole peppercorns, 1 TBSP mustard seed, 1 TBSP pickling spice. Set aside.
  • 4 TBSP orange zest and 2/3 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 6 cups rhubarb, fresh or frozen
  • 5 cups lightly packed brown sugar
  • 3.5 cups cider vinegar
  • 3 cups chopped onions
  • 1.5 cups raisins
  • 2 TBSP finely chopped or grated garlic
  • 2 TBSP grated ginger root
  • 1 TBSP curry powder
  • 1 tsp ground allspice

Instructions

1

In a large Dutch oven, combine orange zest, juice, rhubarb, brown sugar, vinegar, onions, raisins, garlic, and ginger. Bring to a boil over medium heat stirring regularly. Reduce heat and gently boil, stirring occasionally, for 45 minutes. Add curry powder, allspice and spice bag to the mix and cook an additional 30 minutes. Note: I had to increase the cooking time by 40 minutes to evaporate the liquid enough to get a consistency that mounds on a spoon.

2

Remove spice bag. Ladle into hot jars. Remove air bubbles. Ensure a ½ inch headspace. Wipe the rims clean. Adhere lids and rings so that screw-bands are tightened to “finger-tip tight”.

3

Process in a water bath or atmospheric steam canner for 10 minutes adjusting for altitude. Rest jars for 5 additional minutes before removing to a heat-proof surface to cool.

4

This chutney will be enhanced by a couple of weeks to allow all the flavours to marry. But if you can’t wait, go for it. It is excellent straight out of the pot!

 

 

Preserving Recipes/ Spring

Chili Sauce, Eh?!

Chili Sauce

The mere mention of chili sauce in the last article sparked a lively conversation about our favorite condiment. Last summer I was scouring my preserving cookbooks and noticed there were no chili sauce recipes in any of my American books. I took to the internet and again found no recipes. Turns out, chili sauce as we know it, is as Canadian as poutine, back bacon, and Caesars.

References to chili sauce often refer to sauce made with hot chilies, something we call hot sauce, which has been around for 9 thousand years and embraced by most cultures around the world. But the chili sauce we mean has a quiet almost illusive history. The Culinary Historians of Canada published an article in 2010 titled “Ode to Chili Sauce”. After reviewing many North American cookbooks, the author concluded that chili sauce is indeed a Canadian phenomenon. I did find one reference to chili sauce in Maryland during the mid 19th century, likely being exported from Canada. It was introduced to “jazz up the winter menus of Yankees” (Maryland Food History News). Still chili sauce never made its way into celebrated American cookbooks.

For we Canadians, chili sauce refers to a condiment made of chopped tomatoes with vegetables like onions, celery, and peppers, sweetened with brown or white sugar, given a tang with white or apple cider vinegar and slow-cooked and infused with spices. Whether you like it sweet, or hot, In the end, all chili sauce is amazing with meat or slathered on eggs.

I have made many recipes for chili sauce but last summer I used Bernardin’s recipe. It is bright in taste and not too sweet with just the right heat. It is possible to use tinned tomatoes, fresh and blanched tomatoes or frozen (no blanching required as the skins pop off after freezing). These options mean you can make chili sauce the whole year through!

Thanks for sharing your chili sauce stories!

preservingwithmartha@gmail.com

Chili Sauce Yield 7 x 250ml jars

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Ingredients

  • 12 cups chopped, seeded, cored tomatoes (2.7 kg); drain away excess liquid and then measure
  • 2 cups each chopped onions and green peppers
  • 1 cup chopped red peppers
  • 2 TBSP jalapeno peppers minced
  • 1.5 cups white vinegar
  • 1.5 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp pickling salt
  • Spice bag made of: 4 inch piece cinnamon, one bay leaf, 2 tsp mustard seed, 1 tsp celery seed, ½ tsp each of whole cloves, black peppercorns
  • 2 garlic cloves minced
  • ½ tsp ground ginger and ground nutmeg

Instructions

1

Combine tomatoes, peppers, onions, vinegar, sugar, and salt in large pan. Prepare spice bag using cheesecloth and tied with string. Place in tomato mixture securing the string to the side of the pan. Bring to a boil, stirring regularly. Boil for about 2 hours until reduced by about half. Stir in garlic, ginger, and nutmeg during last 15 minutes of cooking.

2

Ladle into hot jars, removing air bubbles and leaving a ½ inch headspace. Wipe jar rim clean and affix lids and rings tightening to “finger-tip” tight. Process in boiling water bath or atmospheric steam canner for 15 minutes adjusting for altitude. Let rest 5 minutes in canner. Remove jars to heat proof surface and allow them to cool for 24 hours.

 

 

Preserving Know-how/ Spring

Ode to Spring: Asparagus on Mother’s Day

When tulips bloom, Mother’s Day approaches, and asparagus pops its head up, we know it’s spring.  Asparagus is the first real ‘crop’ of the season. This vegetable is filled with high levels of Vitamin C and A is high in folacin. In contrast with some European countries, we grow only four acres of white asparagus which is grown underground to prevent chlorophyll from turning it green. No complaints here. I love green asparagus.      

To store fresh asparagus, snip the ends, and place spears in a Mason jar filled with about an inch of water. Loosely cover with a plastic bag. Alternatively, snip the ends, cover ends with a damp towel and wrap in plastic wrap. They will hold for about 4 days.

 Asparagus is a low acid vegetable which means the only way to preserve it is through pressure canning. However, asparagus doesn’t hold up well to high prolonged heat so it is better to preserve by freezing or pickling.

 Freezing asparagus is simple and effective. It requires blanching the vegetable in boiling water or steam for about 3 minutes and then sending the spears into an ice-water bath for 2 minutes. Blanching is critical to the process as it prevents an enzymatic action that is responsible to turning the vegetable brownish and diminishing its flavour and texture.

 Pickled asparagus is a great snack or addition to a salad throughout the year. I pickled in 500 ml wide-mouth Mason-style jars. The spears need to be cut to about 4 inches to fit in the jars. That means there is always a little left. I pickle those little bites as well as is shown in the photo. Waste not, want not as the adage goes!

When it comes to cooking asparagus, it starts with prepping the vegetable. Asparagus produces lignin that causes the woody stem end. When you snap off the woody end, it naturally snaps to the tender part of the vegetable. So, snap the asparagus just before cooking. To retain the green (chlorophyll), texture and taste, cook quickly in a steam basket or boiling water for about 2 – 3 minutes. I often do this in advance of a meal and then give them a quick sauté in butter just before serving. Cold asparagus is also great for a summer meal or buffet.

Since it’s Mother’s Day, why not spoil a mother you know and love with eggs Benedict and steamed asparagus. Make a quick and simple, no-fail Hollandaise sauce in the microwave! Really, it works beautifully. Serve on an English muffin, toast, crumpet, scone or O’Dough’s gluten-free bagel.

Let’s celebrate spring with beautiful asparagus. Happy Mother’s Day to all.

preservingwithmartha@gmail.com

Quickie Hollandaise Sauce

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Ingredients

  • ½ cup butter softened
  • 3 large egg yolks (freeze the whites for a future meringue)
  • 1.5 TBSP fresh lemon juice
  • S&P to taste

Instructions

1

In a microwave safe bowl, put softened butter. In a separate bowl mix together lemon juice and egg yolks. Let them rest together for a minute or so. Add to the butter and mix. Put the mixture in the microwave and ‘cook’ on high for 15 second bursts. Stir between bursts. It took 4 bursts of 15 seconds to produce a perfect Hollandaise. Add salt and pepper and fresh garden chives.

 

Preserving Know-how/ Preserving Recipes/ Spring

Spring Greens and Dressing

With the unusually warm weather we’ve had, the greens are peeking up heralding the delights of spring salads, lighter meals, and herb-infused dressings. There’s nothing like the taste of spring greens in a simple dressage. They are bright, fresh, full of taste and texture and make a super meal as the days warm.

If you got a jump-start on planting by starting seeds indoors, you might already have arugula and spinach. If not, you will soon will as the garden grows. Or stop by the Kimberley General Store or Sideroad Farm for fantastic spring greens. Soon asparagus will be out too, according to Farmer Morris in Barrie. And who can say no to ramps, young Dandelion leaves, purslane, colourful violets and the myriad herbs shooting up. We’ve got the makings of a great salad!

So that brings us to the question of vinaigrettes. What dressing suits the beautiful fresh spring salad? Many say, “keep it simple”. The taste is really in the greens so don’t cover it with big bold flavour. According to many chefs, a good vinaigrette is all about balance: acid to oil, sweetness to salt, an emulsifier and seasoning to taste. In general terms, the ratio of acid to oil is one to three. It isn’t essential to add an emulsifier like mustard, but it does help to make a creamier dressing. For sweet balance, go easy: just a dash of honey, maple syrup, a small teaspoon of home-made jam, jelly, or conserve, or even honey-mustard can do the trick. If you want to add minced shallots, or wild leeks, chopped herbs or zest of citrus, go for it.  I make herb vinegars like tarragon or chive blossom which adds a subtle flavour to the vinaigrette, but you can use white wine vinegar, white balsamic, apple cider, red wine, rice wine, balsamic, sherry or champagne vinegar. There are no doubt great recipes around, but here’s mine to go with a young spring salad.

preservingwithmartha@gmail.com

Spring Salad Dressing

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Ingredients

  • 1 TBSP herb vinegar (choose what you have)
  • 3 TBSP cold pressed olive oil
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard (or use honey-mustard for sweetness)
  • ¼ tsp honey (or switch up the sweet addition – whatever moves you)
  • Salt and pepper to taste.

Instructions

1

Sometimes I add more Dijon for a more mustardy dressing like you might find in a French bistro. If you increase mustard, remember it is salty so adjust the S&P at the end just before serving.

2

Whisk the dressing in the salad bowl for 30 seconds before adding the greens. Gently toss the greens with your hands. Season.

3

For the greens, collect or purchase young spring greens. Add Dandelion leaves and chopped wild leek leaves if you have them. Colour is important so adding violets (unsprayed of course), Dandelion petals or chive blossoms is a great idea. Make it a meal? Sure, add steamed or grilled asparagus, goat cheese, shaved parmesan, hard boiled eggs quartered, toasted nuts, good quality tuna in oil, or add grilled fish or meat on the side. And voila’, a salad to celebrate Spring.

 

Preserving Know-how/ Spring

Putting the Maple into Conserves

It is time for the first harvest of the year! Yes, maple syrup is running and folks are busy in their sugar shacks preparing the liquid gold. Canada produces 85% of the world’s maple syrup and production is growing. 2022 was the largest production year in history with 211 million pounds of syrup generating 1.1 billion dollars for the Canadian economy. I guess we should all give thanks to the maple forests and to all the producers, large and small, for adding to our culinary delights as well as our economy.

If you watched the Netflix series called “dirty money” you will have seen an episode on the great Canadian maple syrup heist! Over the course of a few months in 2011-12, 9,571 barrels of maple syrup were stolen from a large Quebec storage facility. The take was estimated to be valued at $18 million dollars. The perpetrators were eventually discovered, fined, put on probation, or jailed.  Not quite the Great Train Robbery of Great Britain, but still a good story for the Canadian history books. It’s certain this caper underscores how valuable maple syrup is.

There are so many wonderful ways to use maple syrup in cooking, it’s difficult to choose one focus. I think of maple syrup as rich in taste and texture. To me, it has a natural affinity with the richness of conserves.

Conserves are jams kicked up a notch or two. They generally have the addition of dried fruit and/or nuts. Sometimes citrus or spices are added. They can be either sweet or savoury. The sweet ones are excellent with scones or cheeses. Savoury ones are good accompaniments to meats or charcuterie.

Recently I’ve made a couple of great conserves with maple syrup. One combined maple syrup and blueberries with walnuts. It was so good my friend said she simply ate it by the spoonful. This week I made a very nice recipe published by Foodland Ontario for Maple Walnut Pear Conserve (slightly adapted below). Winter pears like Anjou, Bartlett or Bosc are available and can sometimes be found at reasonable prices. Bake up some biscuits or scones and enjoy this winter preserve.

Maple syrup on pancakes or ice cream, thrown in the snow to make maple-sicles, added to a recipe in lieu of brown sugar or profiled in a lovely winter conserve, maple syrup can’t be beat as one of nature’s great gifts.

preservingwithmartha@gmail.com

Maple Walnut Pear Conserve

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Ingredients

  • Yield 6 cups
  • 4 cups chopped peeled winter pears
  • 1 TBSP lemon juice
  • 1 package regular pectin crystals
  • 3.5 cups sugar
  • ¾ cup maple syrup
  • ½ cup chopped walnuts toasted (option: omit nuts and add ½ cup dried cranberries, raisins, or cherries)

Instructions

1

In a pot, mix pears with lemon juice. Stir in pectin with ¼ cup of the measured sugar. Bring to a boil stirring constantly. Add remaining sugar and return to the boil. Boil hard 1 minute. Remove from heat, stir in maple syrup and nuts. Ladle into hot 250 ml jars leaving ¼ headspace. Clean rims of the jars and attach lids and rings to “finger-tip” tight. Process in a water bath or atmospheric steam canner for 10 minutes adjusting for altitude. Turn off heat, remove canner lid and let jars rest in the canner for 5 additional minutes. Remove jars to a heat proof surface and let rest for 24 hours. Check the seal. Label and store.

 

Preserving Know-how/ Spring

Spring Into Gardening: Plan A Tea Garden

I have been a keen vegetable gardener for years, but during the pandemic I turned my attention to creating a tea garden. My interest has continued because herbal teas (technically called tisanes) are super tasty, have healing powers, are easy to grow and create a sort of Zen feeling when growing, foraging, preserving, and enjoying.

Tea gardens and even “bartenders’ gardens” are currently on-trend. I started my tea garden with some basics but this year I am eager to learn more and expand. I got in touch with my friend and neighbour Ben Caesar who owns Fiddlehead Nursery outside of Kimberley. His expertise is perennial edibles. While talking with Ben I thought about three ways to approach the tea garden: foraging, perennials, and annuals.

Some of Ben’s picks and suggestions: Common perennial herbs enjoyed for tea include Bee Balm (bergamot), lemon balm, angelica, camomile, anise hyssop, sweet and bronze fennel, sweet Sicily, lavender, and the various mint varieties. Ben loves chocolate mint. I also have spearmint and peppermint which I enjoy in combination as a tea or used for mint jelly. Mint is a vigorous spreader as I’m sure you know, so it is best to create barriers to prevent their spread. I used old paper planting pots buried in the garden. Ben uses aluminum flashing buried vertically to 1 inch above the ground which works very well. Other perennials and annuals such as rosemary, thyme, sage, lemon verbena and coriander are also great additions to teas. And let’s not forget flowers! Rugosa roses are used both for petals and hips, echinacea flowers boost the immune system, cooked Elderberry flowers made into syrup are good as a cold tonic, marvelous blue mallow magically changes to pink with the addition of lemon juice.

From the natural environment, there are many easily found herbs and plants that are used for teas. Dandelion leaves, dried roots and flowers are more than a garden weed! Don’t spray! Dandelion is good for you! Stinging nettle is a tasty edible and immune system booster. Common sumac (not poisonous sumac) makes a pretty pink healthy tea. The basswood flower and wild mint (also called corn mint, river mint) are also good for tea. Wild blackberry or raspberry leaves and fruit add sweetness to tea, and many other plants can be foraged using a reputable foraging guide.

Use fresh herbs and plants or dry for later use. Your basic brew is 1 TBSP fresh chopped herbs or 1 tsp dried to 1 cup of boiling water stepped for 10 minutes.

Why not expand your tea garden with annuals, and perennials and add to the harvest some foraged herbs and plants. To find out more check out:

www.fiddleheadnursery.ca  How to create an edible, perennial landscaping

www.richters.com Extensive information about medicinal and culinary herbs

www.ontarioculinary.com Ten things to Forage in Ontario: An edible timeline

If you already grow a tea garden, share your top picks with us! If you’re new to gardening, try a tea garden in a pot, on a terrace or in your veggie or flower garden. Plan ahead so when the spirt moves, you can put the kettle on and enjoy a wholesome and tasty brew.

Note: Remember that most herbs have medicinal effects and may have contraindications like avoiding catnip during pregnancy or avoiding specific herbs when taking certain medications. Check with a pharmacist or herbalist.

preservingwithmartha@gmail.com

 

 

Preserving Recipes/ Spring

Asparagus

Asparagus is a sure sign of spring. This perennial plant produces flavourful spears that are high in folate, fiber, and Vitamins A, C and K. The spears that are harvested are immature ferns. At the height of the season, spears can grow two inches per day! In addition to its nutritional value, asparagus is one of the “15 Clean List” of fruits and vegetables that are very low in pesticides according to the Environmental Working Group in the US. Numerous international studies have indicated that asparagus has an enzyme that helps breakdown malathion which is pesticide often used to control beetles. Even when pesticides were used on asparagus, when analyzed the vegetable showed only 2% residue. To further reduce pesticide exposure, remove 2 inches from the base of spear. If you grow your own, buy organic or buy locally when in season, asparagus is a healthy and delicious vegetable.

Asparagus can be preserved in several ways. If you are using it within a few days, wrap the vegetable in a damp towel and place in a breathable bag away from meat, poultry and fish. To freeze, blanche the washed and trimmed stalks for 2 to 4 minutes depending on the size of the stalks. Blanching is necessary to preserve colour and texture. Place the drained vegetable in a freezer container or bag and label. Asparagus can also be dehydrated after blanching at 125 until completely dried and crisp. For long-term storage, asparagus may be pressure canned or pickled. I especially like to have pickled asparagus on hand for snacking or to add to a charcuterie board or antipasto plate.

Time to enjoy spring’s gift of asparagus any way you want. Fresh or preserved, asparagus is a healthy addition to the kitchen and pantry.

For further information:

preservingwithmartha@gmail.com

Pickled Asparagus

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Ingredients

  • 7 lb asparagus, washed, trimmed and cut into 4-inch lengths to fit into a wide-mouth canning jar. Bernardin recommends placing the asparagus in a pan and covering with ice water for 1 hour to help maintain the crispness of the vegetable. Drain.
  • 12 sprigs fresh dill
  • 6 cloves of garlic peeled
  • 2 tsp pickling spice
  • 4 tsp crushed dried hot pepper
  • ½ cup pickling salt
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 5 cups white vinegar (5%)
  • 1 litre water
  • Note: Ball suggests it is optional to add 1/8 tsp “Pickle Crisp” to each jar if desired.

Instructions

1

Make the brine: Combine vinegar, water, sugar, pickling salt, hot pepper and pickling spice in a large pot and bring to a boil stirring to dissolve salt and sugar.

2

Into 6 hot, 500ml mason jars, add 2 dill sprigs and one garlic clove. Tightly pack asparagus into the jars. Ladle brine into jars. Remove air bubbles and adjust brine leaving a ½ headspace. Wipe the rims, place lids on and secure the rings to “finger-tip tight”. Process jars for 10 minutes in a water-bath or steam canner. Let rest for 5 minutes. Remove and let jars cool.

 

 

Spring

The Potager Garden

The Potager Garden

During the depths of the pandemic, I needed something to lift my spirits. I decided to embrace ideas from the beautiful French potager gardens. I am not alone in thinking about and spending more time in the garden. In a recent 2021 study published in the Journal “Sustainability”, 51% of surveyed Canadians reported growing at least one vegetable or fruit at home, and 17% began home food gardening because of the pandemic.  The newcomers were young millennials.  While ramping up our home food production, why not make the gardens as beautiful as possible in the French style.

‘Potager’ is a thick vegetable soup, so the original potager garden was designed to produce all the vegetables needed for the soup. In early monasteries the potager gardens were designed in four-quadrants representing the Cross. They were simple and utilitarian. But, during the 16th century, the potager gardens became decorative with highly structured and elaborate forms as is illustrated in the map (pictured above) showing the planting organization of one segment of the Villandry potager gardens in the Loire Valley.  While gloriously elaborate potager gardens continue in France, modern approaches are far less formal and are basically a romantic confluence of flowers, vegetables, herbs and fruit. Pathways, borders; order and chaos, as well as vertical elements are hallmarks of the potager garden.

On my journey to introduce elements of the potager garden into my own vegetable gardens, I decided to start with some selected vertical elements and edible flowers. The vertical elements include simple bamboo tripods, obelisks, and lattice, but other options are arbours, statues or artistic design features. For culinary flowers, the options are numerous. I love the gorgeous flowers of nasturtium, calendula, borage, scarlet runner pole beans, lavender, bergamot, anise hyssop, squash and unsprayed flowers like pansies, viola, and geranium. The moral of the story is to think about how beauty meets function in the home food garden.

It is said that in France the home based potager garden was inspired by “vive en autarcie” or long live self-sufficiency. It appears that we Canadians are also embracing the value of self-sufficiency along with our desire to have good wholesome food and to make a lighter environmental footprint. Adding some culinary flowers or even ornamentals to the vegetable garden, some pathways and vertical elements will bring enhanced beauty to home food production.

Preservingwithmartha@gmail.com

Spring

The Spring Garden

The Spring Garden

There is no doubt that a productive, lush garden is key to great fresh and preserved foods. And spring is the time to plan. Almost everyone can grow some food whether on a sunny window, a balcony, in a pot on a deck or in gardens. Also, there is the option of participating in community gardening around our region. There are so many reasons to grow food. It’s fresher, chemical free, it’s good for the environment, it’s satisfying, and it connects us to the earth and rhythms of nature. With skyrocketing food prices, growing food just makes sense.

I am no expert when it comes to gardens. I’m a ‘learn-as-you-go’ kind of gardener. I have 9 raised beds of 3 x 12ft which my husband and I made. I know there are pros and cons to raised beds, but for me there are two reasons I like them. First, the dense clay of my property is tough to deal with so raised beds are simpler to manage. And, I’m not a spring chicken, so raised beds are easier on the body. There are prefabricated raised beds, ‘veggie pods’ that are popular or rustically built beds like the one in the picture taken on a working hacienda outside of the Mexican city of Merida. It’s branch design with a burlap liner is perfect for the cilantro that is growing inside. Large pots, cattle troughs or barrels are also forms of raised beds. Whether your ambitions are large or small, it all starts with a sunny location, good soil, and a plan.

I have been rethinking my growing practices. I have shifted my perspective about where my food should be grown. It’s not just in the raised beds, but every garden on the property can be interspersed with edibles. Rainbow chard, kale, mustard, anise hyssop and herbs are beautiful next to flowers. A pot on the deck filled with tumbling tomatoes and basil looks just as nice as a pot of flowers. In addition to annuals, edible perennial landscaping is taking hold as a smart way to build home food production. Instead of planting an ornamental bush, plant a fruit bearing bush. Add a dwarf fruit tree. For ideas about perennial edibles, visit the Fiddlehead Nursery on Grey Rd 13 north of Kimberley.

There is always debate (aka family squabbles) about when to plant! If you are an eager beaver, you probably have started some seeds in a sunny window or under a grow light. Seeds can be started indoors 6 weeks before the last frost date. By the end of April, it’s good to direct sow the cold-loving vegetables like spinach, arugula, chard, cabbage, and beets. I found a great planting website for this year. You can insert your location and get a printable copy of what and when to plant. End of squabbles! Here’s the link: https://www.almanac.com/gardening/planting-calendar/on/Collingwood

For we who love growing and preserving food, this time of year is so exciting. Imaging the future garden and sharing your production with friends, family, food banks, meal programs or the Second Harvest is very rewarding not to mention helpful to the community. Grab your gloves, hoe, trowel, and plans, and get outside.

Preservingwithmartha@gmail.com