Friday, 2 December 2016

Finally, A Final Garden Report


I think this is the latest we have ever finished up in the garden. Partly because we were so behind, what with Mr. Ferdzy being out of commission for 6 weeks after mid-August followed by a 2 week trip to Nova Scotia, and partly because the weather has permitted or even required it.

However, 2 days ago we dug a bunch of leeks, carrots, shallots, and rutabaga for storage and cut the last of the cabbages (possibly a mistake - now what do we do with them?)

All the beds are reasonably clean for the winter except for the quadrant where Mr. Ferdzy is standing.


We grew 4 kinds of leeks this year. The top right quadrant shows Portage, a new variety from New Zealand which I received in a trade with the breeder. He would like some of my leek genetics, and he is curious about how this variety will overwinter in Ontario, since New Zealand winters are much milder than ours. I am hopeful that it will do well - it is the second bluest leaved of the varieties, and that's usually a sign of cold tolerance.

The bluest variety is Bandit, a traditional Dutch variety, and the top left quadrant is Verdonnet, a traditional Swiss variety. The bottom right is Inegol, from Turkey. An international leek selection!

Portage and Verdonnet were about the same size; Inegol was the largest by a bit and the Bandit were noticeably smaller than any of the others. There are lots of all the varieties left in the bed to overwinter.


With the long, mild fall we were able to get one of our 2 disastrous beds cleaned up. That just leaves one of them, and the path to one side plus the leg down to the lawn to be gravelled. I have not been able to keep the paths trimmed and they are a big source of weeds in nearby beds. We really hope to get them cleaned up next spring.


Mr Ferdzy demonstrates how he goes through so many pairs of reading glasses, and also digs leeks. From front to back it's Inegol, Bandit, Verdonnet, and Portage.

Slightly off in the distance you can see a bed of spinach covered for the winter. We planted a second bed but did not bother to cover it as germination was so bad. Actually, I don't think germination was bad so much as it was infested with slugs and snails who ate it as fast as it germinated. Why one bed and not the other? No idea. We'll just plant it again in early spring at this point though.

I am hoping to have some lettuce from the garden for Christmas. It would not be the first time, but it is a somewhat unusual occurrence. Right now all the lettuce is self-sown from plants that went to seed earlier. Some of it is in the gravel paths; lettuce seems to like them just fine for growing. I don't mind it; I just keep an eye on them and pick them first, before they can really send down long tap roots and wreck the underlying cloth.

Usually we get a break between end of gardening and the start of Christmas planning; this year no luck. That's the downside of Christmas lettuce.

Next year we plan to downsize the garden somewhat. Now that we can see how much a well maintained and fertilized garden can produce, we don't need so much space and it's too much work to keep it all going, especially as our remaining parents plainly have no intention of doing anything but get older. We're both creaking a little more ourselves these days too. Plus maybe we would like to do some other things besides garden... but that will be another post. Possibly another blog.

Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Turkey Tourtière

This is actually mixed turkey and chicken tourtière, but I could not resist the alliteration, and you could replace the chicken with a piece of turkey, if you can get it.

It is sometimes said that tourtière is named for the passenger pigeons (known in French as tourtes) which once were very common in Canada. More realistically, it may be named for the dish in which it was baked and is related, linguistically at least, to tortes and tarts. Still, it seems very likely that the first tourtières of New France would have been made with tourtes more often than with pork or beef. I have read about early settlers (in Ontario) complaining about the ubiquity of passenger pigeon at the table; they were so numerous that people turned to them as food the way I turn to a bowl of spaghetti when other foods seem too complicated or time consuming.

Be that as it may, pork or a pork and beef combination is now the nearly universal filling for tourtières. I thought I would do something different though, and I can say I was very pleased with the results.

2 hours - 1 hour prep time
6 to 12 servings

Turkey Tourtière

Make the Pastry:
2 1/4 cups soft unbleached and/or whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup lard or shortening
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
2 to 4 tablespoons water
1 large egg white
1 teaspoon cream

Measure the flour into a mixing bowl. I used half whole wheat and half unbleached flour. Add the salt and mix it in well, then add the lard and butter cut into thin slices or chunks. Use a pastry cutter to cut the fats in, until they are the size of a pea or smaller throughout. Break in the whole egg, and add the yolk from the second egg, keeping the second white aside in a small bowl.  Work the egg into the dough with a fork. Add the water, a tablespoon at a time, until the dough is moist enough to come together as a ball. I find myself abandoning the fork at some point, and working it with my hands. Gently though; it should not be over-mixed and certainly not kneaded. Use as little water as you can.

When the dough has formed a ball, cover it with a tea towel (leave it in the mixing bowl) and set it aside in a cool place until wanted. Add the cream to the egg white, blend well, and set it aside too.

Make the Filling & Finish the Tourtière:
2 or 3 medium potatoes (300 grams; 10 ounces)
500 grams (1 pound) skin-on but boneless chicken thighs
1 medium onion
2 stalks celery
2 or 3 cloves of garlic
4 teaspoons poultry seasoning, salt omitted
3/4 teaspoon allspice berries, ground
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
500 grams (1 pound) lean ground turkey
2/3 cup fine bread crumbs

Wash the potatoes, trim them - indeed, peel them if you are so inclined - and cut them into small cubes. Put them in a pot with water to cover them well, and bring them to a boil. Boil them for 5 or 6 minutes then drain them and rinse them in cool water. Drain well and set aside.

Meanwhile, cut the skin and fat from the chicken, and chop it roughly. Put it in a large skillet and let it render over medium heat while you chop the chicken into pieces about the size of a teaspoon. Peel and chop the onion finely, and wash, trim, and chop the celery finely. Peel and mince the garlic.

When 2 to 4 tablespoons of fat have been rendered from the skins, remove the solids and discard them. Add the onion, celery, and drained potatoes to the pan and cook, stirring regularly, for about 10 minutes, until softened and very slightly browned. Add the chicken pieces and cook until white throughout. Sprinkle with the seasonings and the garlic, and cook for a minute or 2 more. Remove from the heat and let cool.

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

While the filling cools, roll out about 60% of the dough on a sheet of parchment paper, sprinkled with a little flour. Fit it into a 9" pie plate, and peel off the paper.

Mix the ground turkey and bread crumbs into the filling, and place it into the prepared crust. Roll out the remaining pastry on the parchment and flip it onto the top of the tourtière. Pinch it sealed all around, and cut vent holes at intervals in the top crust. Brush it thoroughly with the reserved egg white and cream.

Bake the tourtière for 50 minutes until a deep golden colour. Best to do this on a tray; the pastry is very rich and may spatter grease. Let rest for 10 minutes before serving, although it is equally good warm or cold.




Last year at this time I made Squash Polenta.

Monday, 28 November 2016

Leek Mushroom & Dried Tomato Soup

We always have more dried tomatoes than I know what to do with. In fact, we end up drying some every year because we plant too many tomatoes, but the dried tomatoes I am presently using are from 3 summers ago now. This tasty, easy soup was useful in getting rid of a few of them anyway. Who knows, I may be able to start on last years dried tomatoes before the new season even starts. I guess that would be progress. 

4 to 6 servings
40 minutes prep time

Leek Mushroom & Dried Tomato Soup

1 large leek
1 large stalk celery
225 grams (1/2 pound) button mushrooms
1/2 cup chopped dried tomatoes
1/4 cup unsalted butter
2 tablespoons flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
3 cups unsalted chicken stock

Wash, trim, finely chop, and rinse the leek again. Drain well. Wash, trim and finely chop the celery. Wash, trim, and chop the mushrooms. Chop the dried tomatoes.

Heat the butter over medium-high heat in a large, heavy-bottomed pot. Add the leek, celery, and mushrooms, and cook, stirring frequently, for about 10 minutes, until everything has softened and reduced without letting it brown. Add the chopped tomatoes, flour, salt, and pepper and mix well; cook for a few minutes more. Mix in the chicken stock and cook for another 10 to 15 minutes. Let rest 5 minutes before serving.

Friday, 25 November 2016

Acorn Squash with Sausage Stuffing

This is a simple little dish - really not too much in there - but it was very tasty and satisfying nevertheless. Easy to make, although the long baking time for the squash does make it a little slow.

Anyone who can count, even with the aid of fingers, will soon note I used 3 little Gill's Golden Pippin acorn squash. They really are little though, and for most other varieties the quantity of stuffing made by this will be sufficient for 2 squash, or perhaps if you had a particularly large specimen you could mound it all into just one. I don't think I recommend that though. You'd have to bake them longer, and cut them into serving portions, because half this recipe is going to be too much for almost everybody. Two halves of the little Golden Pippins were enough for us, and if there had been much else on the plate 1 would have sufficed.

When you make the poultry seasoning - which you should do before you start this recipe, along with cubing the bread - omit the salt. Most sausage is pretty salty, and should supply enough. You can taste the mixture before you put it into the squash shells, and add a little more at that point if you think it needs it. If you can't get a plain/breakfast type sausage, then you may need to adjust the seasonings to the sausage you have. If I could only have gotten Italian sausage for instance, I would have replaced the poultry seasoning with some ground fennel seed, hot pepper flakes, and oregano.

If you like the idea and think you can squeeze it in, a cored, chopped apple added to the pan with the garlic may be a good addition. 

3 to 6 servings
1 hour 45 minutes - 30 minutes prep time

Acorn Squash with Sausage Stuffing

2 or 3 acorn squash - see notes above
- approximate total of 750 grams (1 1/2 pounds)
a little mild vegetable oil for roasting them, etc
1 stalk celery
1 medium onion
2 or 3 cloves of garlic
300 grams (10 ounces) plain raw sausage
2 cups finely diced stale bread
2 teaspoons poultry seasoning, salt omitted

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Cut the squash in half, and scrape out the seeds and pulp. Rub the cut sides lightly with oil, and bake them for 1 hour until just tender.

Meanwhile, wash, trim, and chop the celery. Peel and chop the onion. Peel and mince the garlic.

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Chop or crumble the sausage, and begin to cook it to brown the crumbles. As soon as it produces a little fat, add the celery and onion - if your sausage is very lean, it may be necessary to add a little oil to get things going.

Cook the sausage, celery, and onion until the sausage is lightly browned through and the celery and onion are soft; stir regularly. Add the garlic and cook a minute or two more. Add the finely diced bread cubes and poultry seasoning, and mix them gently in; cook, stirring carefully for another few minutes until the crumbs are mostly fairly dry and toasted in spots. Set the pan aside to cool somewhat until the squash is ready.

Remove the cooked squash from the oven and reduce the heat to 350°F. Gently scoop the cooked flesh from the shells of the squash onto a plate, leaving the squash shells whole and as unbroken as possible. Mash the squash with a fork. Blend the squash in with the pan of sausage and crumbs, etc. I found it best to use a cutting a folding motion for this. When everything is well and evenly amalgamated, divide the filling into sections equalling the number of squash shells you have. Fill the squash shells with the sausage mixture, mounding it up as necessary. Return the squash to the oven (in the original baking pan) and bake for another half an hour until lightly brown and crispy on top, and very hot through.




Last year at this time I made Beets à la Marmalade.

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Pear Panna Cotta with Berry Sauce

My love affair with pears this fall continues!

You do need good, flavourful, ripe pears for this; ripe enough to mash easily with a fork. The resulting panna cotta has a tender, melting texture, but with a bit of grit from the pears. They will never be as smooth as some fruits but that's why we love them.

I recently bought some hazelnut extract which is a hard thing to find. You could use almond extract instead, or I wonder about using a hazelnut liqueur instead of the sherry (or rum). If anyone tries it, please let me know!

4 servings
1 hour prep time - plus 3 hours to overnight chill time

Pear Panna Cotta with Berry Sauce

Make the Panna Cotta:
3 tablespoons sherry or rum
1/8 teaspoon almond or hazelnut extract
3 teaspoons gelatine
1 1/4 cups bosc or Bartlett pear purée
3/4 cup cream
1/4 cup honey
1 extra large egg
a pinch of salt
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
a good scrape of nutmeg

Put the sherry or rum in a small bowl with the extract and sprinkle the gelatine over it. Set it aside until needed.

To make the pear purée, peel, core and chop the pears. They need to be quite ripe and soft but do make sure they are not bland or mushy. Press them through a sieve, scraping the back to collect then measure the purée. I started with about 2 cups of chopped pears and got a cup and and a quarter from them.  Discard any tough or stringy bits that won't go through the sieve.

Put the purée in the top of a double boiler, and mix in the cream, honey, egg, salt, ginger, and nutmeg. Mix well, then turn on the heat and cook, stirring frequently until it begins to thicken; stir constantly towards the end. Once it has thickened slightly and is steaming hot, remove it from the heat. Mix in the soaked gelatine until it is thoroughly dissolved and blended in, then pour it into a prepared 3 cup mold, or 4 individual serving dishes.

Chill until set; about 3 hours. To unmold, dip the mold in hot (tap) water without getting any on the surface of the panna cotta for a few seconds until loosened, then flip it onto the serving plate. Return to the fridge to let it reset. Serve with the berry sauce.

Make the Berry Sauce:
3/4 cup raspberries, blueberries, or cranberries
1 to 2 tablespoons honey
3/4 cup water
1 teaspoon arrowroot or cornstarch (optional)

Put the berries, honey, and water into a small pot and bring to a boil. Boil, covered, for 5 or so minutes until the fruit is all burst and cooked through. Press it through a sieve, discarding any seeds, skins, etc.

Cranberries will make a sauce thick enough to be used without thickening; if you use other berries and think them too thin, return the sauce to the pot with a teaspoon of arrowroot or cornstarch dissolved into 2 teaspoons of cold water, then bring it back up to a boil and cook until thickened, stirring constantly. Put it into its serving dish and chill before serving.




Last year at this time I made Cream of Leek Soup.

Monday, 21 November 2016

"Chicken Soup" Pasta

Everybody loves chicken soup, but sometimes it's just not enough to be a meal. This on the other hand, is plenty. (Maybe too much - I have to say I'm calling for the same amount of pasta for 2 servings that I've always called for, but the reality is that we are now eating half that amount, and half that amount is what I put into this. I've always operated on the assumption that if I say a pasta dish makes "2 servings" that you are going to adjust the quantity of pasta called for to the amount you actually eat, rather than cook what I say, and have too much/not enough*.)

Anyhoo. It's quick, it's simple, it's pasta with the flavours of chicken soup. Sounds like a plan. Of course, if there are other seasonings that are your idea of what it takes to make chicken soup be chicken soup, then those are the seasonings you should use.  I used orecchiette, because they were there, but I can certainly see egg noodles being a good choice for this dish.

You could make this with raw chicken, which is what I did, in which case like me you are likely to need to use vegetable oil to cook the chicken and veggies, or you can use leftover cooked chicken, in which case you may also have some chicken fat. If you've got it, you should definitely use it - it will do nothing but good things for the flavour.

2 to 4 servings
30 minutes prep time

Pasta with the Flavours of Chicken Soup

225 to 250 grams stubby pasta

1 or 2 stalks of celery
1 large carrot
1 large leek
225 grams (1/2 pound) mushrooms
300 grams (10 ounces) skinless, boneless chicken, raw or cooked
2 tablespoons chicken fat or mild vegetable oil
salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 teaspoon sweet Hungarian paprika
1 teaspoon rubbed savory
2 tablespoons flour
1 1/2 cups chicken stock
generous chopped parsley to garnish

Wash, trim, and chop the celery. Peel and coarsely grate the carrot.

Put a pot of salted water on to boil for the pasta. Put the fat or oil in a large skillet and heat it over medium-high heat. Add the celery and cook for a few minutes, stirring occasionally, then add the carrots and continue cooking and stirring.

Meanwhile, clean, trim, and coarsely chop the mushroom. Clean the leek, trim off the tough dark green parts and root, then cut it through lengthwise. Cut in slices of about 1 cm. Chop the chicken into bite sized pieces.

When the water comes to a boil, add the pasta and cook for the time suggested on the package, stirring occasionally (I am assuming 10 to 12 minutes) and add the leeks, mushrooms, and the chicken - if it is raw - to the pan. Continue to cook and stir for about 5 or 6 minutes. If the chicken is already cooked, it should be added at the end of this 5 or 6 minutes of cooking.

Season the pan of chicken and vegetables with the seasonings, then sprinkle over the flour. Mix in until it is well absorbed with no signs of whiteness left. Mix in the chicken stock, and continue simmering until the pasta is ready to be drained. This is a good time to get the parsley washed, trimmed, and chopped.

Drain the pasta and add it to the pan of sauce. Mix well, and serve.




*Now I tell you.
Last year at this time I made Cornmeal Waffles.

Friday, 18 November 2016

Pumpkin French Toast

Pumpkin for breakfast! This is a bit faster and easier than the pumpkin waffles from not too long ago. And even possible if you don't have a waffle maker. I got 6 slices, but perhaps they were a little on the large/thick side so you might get one or two more. I was thinking I might freeze leftovers for heating up in the toaster but you know how that went...

My pumpkin came out of the freezer from last year (I know, I know) and was a little on the thin side, even after I cooked it down in a pan. You may need to thin the mixture with a little more milk or cream, or even another egg if yours is as thick as tinned pumpkin. Which it would be, if you used tinned, and in that case would surely give you 8 slices.

6 to 8 slices
40 minutes prep time

Pumpkin French Toast

1 cup cooked, puréed pumpkin or squash
2 large eggs
1/4 cup whole milk OR light cream
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon ground ginger
2-3 allspice berries, ground
a grating of nutmeg
6 to 8 slices sandwich bread
4 or so tablespoons mild vegetable oil

Measure all the ingredients except the bread and oil into a shallow mixing bowl. Dip the bread slices into the mixture, turning to cover. This is thicker than the usual French toast coating, so you will need to almost be spreading it around. Lay each piece as it is coated on a plate, and stack them up. You may need to scrape off a little bit from the first dipped pieces to get the last dipped pieces coated. Let them sit on the plate for 5 or 10 minutes to absorb the mixture - put the least coated pieces in between better coated pieces.

Heat about 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Cook the slices of toast until nicely browned on each side, adding a little more oil as needed to prevent sticking and create that nice brown finish. You will need to do them in 2 or 3 batches; keep them warm on a plate in the oven at 200°F until they are all done.

Serve with butter and honey or maple syrup. 




Last year at this time I made Beef with Brussels Sprouts.

Wednesday, 16 November 2016

Kohlrabies au Gratin

Suddenly kohlrabi seems to be quite trendy and I am seeing it around, even in our local grocery store which is not exactly adventurous. This is a delicious way to serve them; admittedly a bit rich so pair it with simply cooked chicken or fish.

Kohlrabi does take a bit of cooking to get it tender. You must also be careful to peel it sufficiently. I start by slicing off about 1/4" at the base, then peeling my way up. Likely a good 1/4" will need to come off as you start, but the skin gets thinner as you get closer to the top and you can peel off less as you go. Fortunately, it's pretty easy to tell where you should be peeling, as there is a bit of a line between the tough outer skin and the inner, tender pith.

4 to 6 servings
1 hour 30 minutes - 30 minutes prep time

Kohlrabies au Gratin

4-6 medium kohlrabies (1 bunch)
1 1/2 cups unsalted chicken stock
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/2 teaspoon sweet Hungarian paprika
1 teaspoon rubbed savory or thyme
1/3 cup 10% cream
150 grams (5 to 6 ounces) soft goat cheese
1/2 cup bread crumbs
1/3 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese

Peel the kohlrabies and slice them thinly; 8 to 10 slices each. Put them in a pot with the chicken stock and bring to a boil; boil for 15 to 20 minutes until tender.

Meanwhile, mix the butter, flour, and seasonings in a small bowl. 

Lift the kohlrabies out of the broth, draining them well, and put them in a shallow 2-quart baking pan. A small lasagne pan would work. Reduce the heat under the chicken stock to very low.

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Add the seasoned butter and flour mixture to the pot of chicken stock, and mix in well. Once it is completely blended, return the heat to medium-high, and add the cream and the goat cheese. Mix well, and continue stirring until the mixture simmers and thickens slightly. Remove from the heat at once. Pour it over the kohlrabies, and mix them gently so that each slice is coated in the sauce.

Mix the bread crumbs and grated Parmesan, and sprinkle it evenly over the casserole. Bake for 45 minutes, until lightly browned and bubbling. Let rest 5 minutes before serving.




Last year at this time I made Intruglia

Monday, 14 November 2016

Roasted Beets & Pears

We are getting some large and fabulous beets out of the garden this year. Ours are perhaps a bit pale as we let several varieties cross, including golden beets, but they achieved a great size and flavour. The one downside was that every time the deer broke into the garden they headed straight for the beet greens. Fortunately this didn't seem to set them back too far.

For some reason I've been in the mood for pears this year, so here are some again. The spices enhanced the natural sweetness of the 2 main ingredients, as did the roasting of them. We ate this with some baked chicken thighs but I can really see it going with pork or turkey. 

4 servings
1 hour 30 minutes - 20 minutes prep time


Roasted Beets & Pears

4 medium beets
1 tablespoon mild vegetable oil
2-3 pods of green cardamom, ground
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds, ground
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 medium pears

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Peel the beets and cut them into chunks. Put them in a roasting pan with the oil. Crush the cardamom pods and remove the papery green husks, then grind them with the fennel seeds. Add them to the beets. Peel and grate the ginger and add to the beets. Season with salt and pepper, and toss the beets to coat them in oil and distribute the seasonings throughout them.

Roast for 30 to 40 minutes. Just before that time is up, peel the pears, slice, and core them. Add them to the pan, toss to combine, and roast for another 30 minutes.

Friday, 11 November 2016

The Watermelon Projects

Long-time blog readers will know that we are working on 2 watermelon breeding projects. Now that the season is over, it's time to assess how they are doing.

This was a terrific year for growing watermelon. It was a long, hot summer, in fact too dry throughout the middle although as the watermelons were beginning to be harvested it started to rain regularly, and I got to see how they stood up to the pressure to split in the face of a sudden influx of water. On the whole, they didn't do badly.

 In spite of the great conditions and the fact that we got excellent quantities of watermelon, I was a little disappointed with the results of this years grow-out, right from the beginning. It is not so bad that we need to give up, but there is going to be more work and more years going into these projects than I had hoped.


I'll start with the Golden-Rind project, as I guess I am now calling it. I am trying to create an improved version of Golden Midget, which turns yellow when ripe and is extremely early, but which also has enormous seeds, is very small, and the flavour tends to be a bit uneven.

Right from the start we had a hard time getting the seeds of our amazing lucky cross to germinate. Eventually, we had enough plants to fill the allotted bed but some of them went in quite late. The late ones were also late to produce fruit, even in such a marvellous year as this, which makes us reluctant to use them for future grow-outs. The late ones were also either green skinned or the size of golf balls. In spite of the earliness of Golden Midget, none of these were any earlier than our other, much larger, melons.

We did get 7 yellow skinned melons of edible size, ranging from 820 grams to 90 grams. (Yeah; 3 ounces to you. I'm taking a very generous view of what constitutes edible size.) The first 2 to ripen are shown in the above photo (GR001-0825 and GR002-0825). They were also the 2 largest yellow ripeners; the 820 gram one and a 600 gram one.


We still have to decide whether we will plant seeds only from the best couple next year or if we will plant from a larger selection. Right now I am leaning towards a larger selection including up to 3 of the ones that didn't turn yellow when ripe. We know they carry the yellow ripening gene on one side, so the odds that they will produce yellow ripening offspring are 50%, provided that they cross with one of the offspring of the yellow watermelons.

The above watermelon (GR007-0906) was interesting; it didn't turn yellow but it did have quite a large spot that did turn yellow. Partial expression of the yellow ripening gene? Or is it another different gene? I don't know, but still if I use a green-rinded watermelon in next years grow-out, this is a candidate. It was a decent size at 735 grams, had excellent texture and good flavour. (Flavour on the whole was weaker than I wanted by a fair bit, so that is a consideration.) On the down side, the seeds were a very nice small black, but more numerous than seemed reasonable to me.



The largest melon (GR010-0918, not shown) was 1.37 kilos, with nice light and dark green stripes, excellent texture, and good if a little mild flavour. Seeds were small, black and relatively few. Other than the fact that not even a spot turned yellow, the only negative point was that the colour was a little weak. I do think this one might make it into next years line-up.

Another candidate is GR004-0906 (above), which was a very decent 990 grams, also with a yellow spot when ripe. It was one of the best for good colour and flavour, but the texture was a little soft and the seeds, while black, were larger and more numerous than I wanted.

One interesting thing about this set of melons was that while the melons were extremely small upon the whole, so were the vines. You could have planted any three of these melons in a half-barrel planter and grown them quite nicely with a minimum of trellising. That may make them very good for many home gardeners.


The Orangeglo-Sweet Siberian project was also not as successful as we had hoped. We got lots of good melons, all grown from last years fabulous PJ09-0923, but none of them was as terrific as mom for flavour, and there were some definite issues with texture and storage qualities.

Interestingly, the vines of all the plants were surprisingly compact; normally they grow all over and we are picking them up and trying to send them back into the bed, or else we let them grow into the lawn and try to avoid mowing them. This year it was easy to keep them corralled. I do regard this as a good feature.

The above melon is PJ001-0822 and it was, in retrospect, one of the best. Very early, very sweet,  good texture, with small fairly dark seeds in reasonably low numbers. At 8 to 10 pounds it was a desirable size. The only negatives were its rather pale colouring and slightly too mild flavour. I guess I also thought the rind was a bit thick, but that's something I'm prepared to tolerate if everything else is good. This was the earliest and best of this phenotype, but it was a common type in the patch this year.


Here was a complete surprise. SU001-0829 was a melon that came up in last years mass cross bed, from a tiny handful seeds that survived the winter to sprout. This was the sturdiest and the only one we let grow. From the outside it looked a lot like a large Small Shining Light, but it turned out to be quite a bright yellow inside. It was also in the 8 to 10 pound range. The texture was very good, and it was probably the best tasting melon of the year! It lasted in the fridge for a long time.

We don't quite know what to do with it. We can't start growing out a 3rd set of watermelons; we haven't the room. Growing some elsewhere didn't pan out. We might fold it in with the Orangeglo-Sweet Siberian project; the colour is right, although it will almost certainly be carrying recessive red genes. That may not be a bad thing given that I thought too many of this years melons were too pale. Or we may be weeding out red watermelons for years to come.

Watermelon colour inheritance is very complex, with a number of possible genes that interact in different ways, sometimes within a single fruit. I do know that canary yellow is the most dominant colour; other yellows and oranges are less dominant. It seems fairly clear that this melon got its colour from the canary yellow gene, which surprises me. We were not growing any canary yellow fleshed melons, so if it is that dominant, how could it have been hidden? My guess is that it comes out of one of the orange fleshed melons, where the fact that it was a dominant source of colour was masked by the presence of another gene. 


In the above melon (PJ003-0901) you can see some of the problems we were having with texture this year - it's plainly loose and spongy. The colour is attractive and while the weight was only 4 pounds, that's really quite a desirable size. Alas, it was possibly overripe, and definitely a bit bland and quite mushy. Not a candidate for growing on.

This isn't it, but we did get one watermelon that had plainly crossed with something red fleshed. It was good and early ripening, but not good enough for me to contemplate keeping it in the herd. This seems to be a fairly typical rate of crossing between the 2 different projects, and as before I find it a tolerable level (like I have a choice).


PJ004-0902 (above) on the other hand had a super colour, and at just over 5.5 pounds a very nice size. The flavour was a little mild but good, and the texture was acceptable. Like its Orangeglo parent often does, it developed a fairly significant internal crack. The seeds were relatively few, small and black, and in spite of a slightly soft texture it held very well for several days in the fridge. I don't think the texture/cracking problems are sufficiently bad to disqualify it from growing on.


This one (PJ006-0906) was in many ways the best of the year. At 10.5 pounds, it was perhaps a shade on the large side - not the worst problem ever - but it had excellent colour, the best flavour of any from this project, very decent texture, and held up well in the fridge. It was big enough that I think it was in the fridge for close to 2 weeks before we ate it all, so it held up really very well. The only thing I didn't like about it was the seeds - they were pale and spotted like the Orangeglo parent's seeds, and fairly large and more abundant than I like to see.

It seems clear that for the Golden Rind project we will be selecting 6 to 10 melons to grow on. The Orangeglo-Sweet Siberian project is less clear. I don't know whether we will just grow on the one best melon (it will have been fertilized by other melons, after all) or if we should select a few others as well, and if so how many. At any rate, there's lots of time for the way to become clear by planting time.

Wednesday, 9 November 2016

Pumpkin Waffles

Mmm, very nice!

Your pumpkin (or squash) should be on the dry side; it does help to cook it down a bit in a pan before making the waffles. (As I describe in this recipe for Pumpkin Loaf.) Otherwise, these are as easy and straightforward as any other waffles, and like all the waffles I've made so far they freeze well and re-heat in the toaster for a very quick and tasty breakfast.

As a brief digression, I was interested to note how my attitudes and techniques have changed over time. In the Pumpkin Loaf recipe I call canned pumpkin inexpensive, but I have to say I haven't seen any recently that I would describe that way - the price seems to have gone up a lot! Also I am not so sure any of it would be local any more. Of course, I grow my own squash pretty exclusively now, and even if I didn't I think I would be inclined to stock up on squash while they are in peak season, cook, mash, and freeze. Lastly, note that I'm now talking about "squash" rather than "pumpkins". I'm more inclined to use butternut squash rather than (pepo varieties of) pumpkin for baking (and everything else pretty much).  

12 to 15 waffles
1 hour 15 minutes prep time

Pumpkin Waffles

Mix the dry Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups soft unbleached flour
1 teaspoon salt
4 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon finely grated nutmeg

Measure the flour in a 2 cup measuring cup, and add the remaining dry ingredients. Give it a stir.

Finish the Waffles:
1/4 cup mild vegetable oil
1 tablespoon molasses
1/4 cup sugar
2 large eggs
2 cups puréed cooked squash or pumpkin
1 cup milk OR buttermilk
more oil to brush the waffle iron; about 2 tablespoons

Heat the waffle iron.

Whisk together the oil, molasses, sugar, and eggs in a mixing bowl. Mix in the squash or pumpkin until thoroughly blended. Mix in the dry ingredients, alternately with the milk.

Brush the hot waffle iron with a little oil, and cook the batter in batches until the waffles are golden-brown and release easily from the iron, brushing with more oil between batches as required.

The waffles can be kept hot in a 200°F oven, or put on a rack to cool. They freeze and toast very well.




Last year at this time I made Sautéed Brussels Sprouts & Leeks.

Monday, 7 November 2016

White Beans with Celery & Cream

I found the original for this recipe in "Good Things" by the eminent British food author of the 1970s, Jane Grigson. She describes it as "A delicious example of the elegance of French vegetable cookery". Certainly, it's quite different from the kinds of things that tend to occur to me to do with beans. Nutmeg? Cream? Beans? Well, okay then.

Naturally, I meddled. She served the celery quickly sautéed in butter and scattered over the top rather then cooked in with the beans. Usually I like my vegetables crunchy, but I am not a fan of the combination of very soft and very firm textures right next to each other so I stewed mine in with the beans. There should be about the same volume of celery as beans. I also used about half the amount of butter that she called for, and a lower fat cream. I still think this is plenty rich. A parsley garnish adds colour and flavour, but is not absolutely required.

I would be very inclined to mash and thin any leftovers with a little broth and serve it as soup. You could also make this all winter and into the spring once celery is gone by replacing it with celeriac.

4 servings
45 minutes prep time, not including pre-cooking the beans

White Beans with Celery & Cream

Cook the Beans:
1 cup (225 grams; 1/2 pound) white beans
2 litres water
1 teaspoon salt

Pick over the beans and put them in a fairly large pot with the water. Bring to a boil, then turn off the heat and let them soak for several hours. Change the water if you like, add the salt, and bring them back to a boil. Simmer for about an hour, until tender but still fairly firm.

This can be done a day in advance.

Finish the Beans:
3 or 4 stalks of celery
1/4 cup butter
a good scrape of nutmeg
freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 or 3 tablespoons lemon juice OR balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup 10% cream
a little chopped parsley to garnish

Wash, trim and chop the celery. Heat the butter in a large skillet, and gently cook the celery in it for about 10 minutes.

Add the beans, along with about half a cup of the cooking water. Cook for another 5 or 10 minutes, until the cooking water has reduced to the point of almost being gone. Repeat with more cooking water another 2 times, letting it reduce until you are left with a fairly thick sauce each time.

Season with a scrape of nutmeg - don't over-do it - and some pepper. Add a little more salt if you feel the beans need it. Add the lemon juice, and mix in well, then add the cream. Continue to simmer very gently until the sauce has thickened once more. You can leave it creamy enough to require a spoon, but I cooked it until it was thick enough to be eaten with a fork.