Category Archives: Gardening

Gluten Free Swiss Chard Turkey Rolls with Goat Cheese

We’re growing Swiss chard again this year and it’s quickly becoming a star in my books. It grows fast and furious, and it’s incredibly versatile. Within about three weeks ours has grown large enough to start harvesting, and the long, broad leaves make it perfect for leafy rolls. You can use it instead of lettuce or spinach in most recipes. It has a peppery flavour, like lettuce with a kick.

I made a really tasty appetizer on the weekend that I just had to share. It’s quick, simple and it tastes great with a glass of chilled white wine.

Ingredients

12 leaves of Swiss chard
150 grams of goat cheese (flavoured or regular)
400 grams ground turkey breast
28 grams fresh basil
3 cloves garlic
1 shallot
40 grams parmesan cheese
handful of pine nuts
handful of assorted lettuce (mixed baby greens)

1. Wash the Swiss chard thoroughly and pat dry with a kitchen towel. Cut the leaves in half along the spine of the leaf, and removed the spine completely (the spine is too stiff to roll properly if you leave it connected).

2. Using a food processor add the garlic, parmesan and shallot while the processor blade is spinning. Run until mixture is thoroughly chopped.

3. Add basil, assorted lettuce and goat cheese to mix and pulse until smooth.

4. Sauté ground turkey in a frying pan until cooked. Strain any fat, then combine the cheese & herb mixture with the turkey and cook until the cheese begins to bubble and melt.

5. Stir in the pine nuts and allow the mixture to cool enough that you can carefully touch it without burning yourself.

6. Place the Swiss chard leaf underside up on a cutting board. Use a tablespoon to roughly measure the amount of filling you place in each chard leaf, then roll the leaf around the stuffing. Carefully place the rolls on a serving dish so that they won’t unroll accidentally. Serve warm and enjoy!

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Our First Broccoli Harvest

Only one week has passed since my first post about our budding broccoli plants, and already they’re ready to harvest. I’m always a little sad when it comes time to chop my plants up, but I was also really looking forward to finally sampling some homegrown green goodness.

For our first harvest we decided to cook a beef and broccoli stir fry, one of our favourites. We sliced off four of the heartiest crowns and accompanying side shoots and piled them out on the cutting board. I hadn’t really realized just how much darker this homegrown broccoli was until I looked at it under our kitchen lights. The plants, true to their name, had very dark purple crowns, nothing like what we traditionally bought at the vegetable stand.

The stalks of the florets were also much longer and thinner than all the store bought broccoli I’ve eaten. The crowns were not nearly as dense. Instead they felt light and delicate. After we extracted all the edible bits off of the massive crowns we had one big purple pile!

To accompany the broccoli we chopped up some carrots, mushrooms, and garlic and sliced two sirloin steaks as thin as we could manage. Since the broccoli florets were so much smaller and lighter than usual they cooked a lot faster. Once all the vegetables were cooked we added a cup of fresh bean sprouts, a cup of stir fry sauce and, voila! Our first home-grown broccoli feast was ready to eat.

It was delicious! And more than that, it was satisfying to eat something that we’d been growing since August.

Next up, what broccoli dish should we cook for our second harvest?

Broccoli – Signs of Life

Some might say it’s overly ambitious to attempt to grow broccoli on a balcony with only partial sun. Some might say this, but not me. Nuts to that.

I hatched this plan back in August after discovering the Purple Sprouting Red Spear Broccoli variety available through West Coast Seeds. The plant’s description got me excited:

These extremely cold-hardy biennial plants grow over the winter months ready for early spring harvest. Purple sprouting broccoli provide very small, sweet purple flowering shoots in the spring. Sow in late summer for February to March harvest.

It was already late summer. Why not give it a shot?

I began my mission by germinating and planting 10 seedling. Over the next months the plants grew taller and leafier and broader, and several of the stalks turned yellow and died. I have a habit of overcrowding all of my pots, so I figured this probably wasn’t a bad thing. This was nature weeding out the weaklings for me.

The plants got taller and broader still and by January my mind began to fill with questions: Had I started my seedlings too late? Or was it too cold, too dry, or too dark? Would these plants ever produce any real, edible broccoli?

Then came the snow.

One month later I spotted the very first semblance of a broccoli crown at the apex of the biggest plant. Exciting! Now that it’s almost April, I’m astounded by the plant’s progress every day.

Though I’ve yet to taste this home-grown vegetable, I’m satisfied that my experiment has been a success. My only remaining question is, how will I know when the plant is ready to harvest?

Our First Glimpse of Spring

I’m always excited for the first bulbs to sprout on our deck. Seeing that first flash of colour in amongst all the green fronds makes my heart beat just a little bit faster. Why? Because I know my efforts weren’t wasted, and soon enough I’ll have pots and pots of colourful crocuses, daffodils, and hyacinths to enjoy.

Spring is traditionally the most exciting time for gardening because of all the possibilities that fill up my imagination. It’s the time of the year when my gardening catalog arrives from West Coast Seeds and I go on and on to my husband about wanting more land so I could plant heaps and mounds of different vegetables, herbs and flowers.  When it’s sunny out I get giddy with gardener’s delight, but this year has felt a little different than before.

This year I didn’t stop gardening through the winter and I decided to do the winter vegetable thing to try something new. It’s been great fun so far, and even though not everything has gone according to plan, we’ll be dining on our winter veggies soon enough. First up will be our brussel sprouts and then, hopefully, some home-grown broccoli.

I’m still totally excited to begin another year of container gardening and all the possibilities at my fingertips, but this year I feel like I never stopped, and that feels satisfying in it’s own way too. It’s a bit too early to begin planting again, but for now I’m content to enjoy my spring bulbs as more open slowly day by day.

My Peculiar Little Pumpkins

Halloween came and went in a flash this year – we carved pumpkins, dressed up in costumes, ate too much candy and put on a grand old fireworks show while camping for one night in the woods outside of Squamish! It was an exciting weekend of festivities, but what, you may be asking yourself,  ever became of those pumpkins I was growing? Well…

…the pumpkins were officially a failure! I have a few theories about what went wrong here. The most crucial element is that I started the plants too late in the season. I’m the type of gardener that’s been known to say “just plant it in the ground… something will happen!” and usually sticking to that mantra works just fine. But in all other cases, I’m not growing something for a specific due date like Halloween. Whoops! Lesson learned for next year: plant earlier!

These peculiar little pumpkins, which ended up being roughly thumb-sized, were also semi-starved for light (we only get sun from sunrise until 1:30 pm in the height of the summer), and eventually they suffered from mold too. Add to this the miserable November weather picking up, and it seemed like a good time to put the pumpkins out of their misery.

Container gardening on a patio eight windy stories high doesn’t always work out exactly as planned… but that’s okay. It’s still fun to watch things grow, and my mantra wasn’t all wrong – something did happen. Life in the garden goes on, and now I can reclaim the flower pot for some spring bulbs instead!

The Freshest Salad I’ve Ever Eaten!

First, I have to admit that I’m not really a salad person. To my taste buds, salad is “okay,” but I never find it that exciting. Perhaps I’m being a bit extreme since there are a few types of salad that I like, but what I’m really not too jazzed about is lettuce. Blah.

For me, lettuce is one of those things I buy because I know it’s healthy. I put it in my shopping cart (often out of waistline guilt) because I know I should be eating salads more regularly than I do. But so often, once I’m finally ready to get down and use it, I find my lettuce old, wilted and rotten.

Rotten lettuce is anti-motivational, but I’ve found a way to restore my faith. I’m growing my own lettuce patch! Now, instead of buying lettuce only to have it waste away in my produce drawer, I pop out onto my deck, trim off a few leaves, and voila! It’s the freshest lettuce I’ve ever eaten.

The best parts about growing lettuce are that it’s super easy to do, it doesn’t take much space (I’ve got 6 heads in an 18″ x 13″ plastic pot), the lettuce is always perfectly fresh when you’re ready to use it, and the plants keep regenerating themselves. Each time you’re ready to eat some, just pluck off the larger, outer leaves and the lettuce head will keep growing for another meal. Somehow I stumbled into Sustainable Salad Eating 101, and the greatest part is, I’m actually excited about eating salads now!

I ordered a blend of Romaine & Baby Green lettuce seeds from West Coast Seeds, and I would definitely recommend them. They germinated quickly, and the leaves have a light, buttery taste.

Last night’s salad, the pinnacle of our home-grown goodness, also featured Swiss chard, carrots and cherry tomatoes grown by us. It was by far the freshest, most pride-inducing salad I’ve ever made. (Sure, we also added cucumbers, mushrooms and feta cheese, but a girl can’t be expected to grow everything!)

So, if you’re like me and you’re not too excited about salads, try growing your own lettuce instead. It’s fun, it tastes great, and you might be surprised at the results.

Homegrown Carrots

Roughly three months ago, my husband and I were wandering through Canadian Tire and we happened to pass a big seed display. We hadn’t put much thought into our summer flowers yet, so while he wandered the aisles looking for camping supplies, I started scanning the seed packets for plants that fit our growing conditions the best.

The flowers did have a certain visual appeal, but many of them required full sun, wouldn’t work well in small containers, or wouldn’t have enough time to fully mature and flower before the fall weather arrived. For a moment I considered whether I should just buy greenhouse-started plants like I’d done in previous years. But then, I discovered the back-side of the seed rack – the vegetable side.

Of course, being late May already, I’d pretty much missed the ideal time to plant most of the vegetables I was interested in growing. But then I discovered a packet of baby carrot seeds. Baby’s, hey? Perhaps they would grow to fruition faster than normal-sized carrots? Luckily, my initial assumption was correct. These “Little Finger” carrots would produce little orange stubs within 55-60 days!

I have to admit that it has taken a little bit longer than 60 days for these babies to mature, but it’s been worth it all the same. Our balcony is partially shaded by the balcony directly above us, so our plants are always a teeny bit starved for light. But I’m a firm believer that if you put seeds in the ground, something is going to happen. It’s just a matter of what.

I’ve now harvested two delicious crops of these baby balcony carrots, and I have to say that I’m very pleased with the results! Although they’re a little twisted, gnarly and oddly shaped, they pack a rich carroty flavour that I never taste in store-bought carrots, and their sweetness is balanced perfectly by their crunchy texture.

I will definitely try planting carrots again next year, and I’ve learned a few things to help me improve my crop. Mostly, next year I’ll start my seeds earlier, and stick more steadfastly to the planting instructions!

I did end up buying some flower seeds as well, but none of them were nearly as successful, or fun-to-grow, as the Little Finger carrots.