Thursday, May 23, 2013

Fiddleheads...the best spring green!

One of the best things about springtime is the bounty you can find if you just know where to look. 
If you ever get in the car and drive the back roads once in a while you'll seem them throughout the summer.  Big green batches of fluffy ferns under a canopy of maples. 
Usually found near some swamps areas lining the forest scape.

While its not the first spring green...I feel like it's the heartiest.
Crunchy like a green bean or a steamed asparagus.

Its wonderful to behold...but it drove my husband crazy last year. 
He tries to remember where all of these treasure troves are, so that the coming spring we can check them out for fiddleheads. 
You have to time it just right, because if you miss the start of these green lovelies....they will have already turned into a plant!

We used to live in a different house in Verona, one that backed onto the swampy end of Rock Lake. 
It was a wonderful place to raise a young Noah.  (Owen not yet born.)
My step son, my husband and I spent many a spring weekend
gathering up fiddleheads on the border to our neighbour's property.

We have some ferns lining our front beds and frog pond area. 
Over the course of a few days I decided to document their you would know what to look for.

First, be sure you are looking at the right fern!
Ostrich Fern - Matteuccia struthiopteris - is what you want!!!
Husband and I once tried to eat a related fern and the results were not very tasty...

Fiddleheads have such humble beginnings.
They look like a pile of brownish, papery poo.

But if you know where you are can spot the wee plants start to unfurl.

Like waking up from a long winter's sleep...

You can get a couple of curls per plant...if you are gentle.

You'll want to catch them before the get much taller than this.
I find they are more tender.

We will leave our front ferns...and try to start ferns in the back yard for picking...

Below is one of the savoury ways to serve your fiddleheads:

Fiddlehead Soup

1 cup milk
1 cup trimmed fiddleheads
2 cups chicken or veg stock
dash fresh ground or powdered nutmeg
S & P to taste
1 cup trimmed fiddleheads for topping

(My husband picked these fiddleheads while her was wild leeks picking...a tad early)

I made an excellent batch of this soup and took one helluva picture...

then I sent my camera through the wash in my jacket...

I will try to get a new camera ASAP...

(And just before gardening season begins!!!)

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Preparing the beds...

Super excited for springtime right now!

Last year we moved into our new home in the middle of May...
So we missed the time of year when you would normally prepare your gardening beds for planting.

This year, however, we are GOOD TO GO!
(I'm clearly very excited about it)

We have several large beds in the front yard as well as our main garden bed in the backyard.
This post will focus on the front beds only.

There were several things that had to be done in the front.
The beds themselves are part of our brickwork in the front I didn't have to reconfigure them.

We started turning up the existing topsoil in the see what we were dealing with.

Turns out...there was FAR too much topsoil in the beds, so I had to remove the bricks surrounding the beds and replace them with large rocks found all over our property.

Next I shovelled out over 18 wheelbarrows full of excellent topsoil for use in other areas of our property.
This act made it possible to mix the remaining soil with other things that would help new plants proliferate.

Pure topsoil is great, but after a season of watering and weeding, tends to harden up pretty fast.
Good gardening soil needs a variety of moisture grabbing peat moss and nutrient rich compost.
I use a 3-in-1 topsoil mix and a peat moss mixed together and added to the existing topsoil.

(our sad empty frog pond)

The original owners used driftwood to decorate their beds.
We decided to make things simpler and remove the driftwood so the focus would be on the greenery.

The above shot shows a bed that we didn't do anything with...mainly because it had a lot of ostrich ferns already growing there!  We're leaving it for this year to see how many ferns and their locations.

The above bed is where we are going to plant ever bearing strawberries!
Husband purchased them for a school fundraiser and we are both seriously excited about the ever bearing species.  Having already grown normal strawberries...this should be interesting.

This was a bed long forgotten.
Last year, I started placing rocks around the outside edges.
There is an old metal pipe sticking out of the middle.
Turns out it is from the old one day, when I get a solar water pump system...I'll be set!

I thought this would make a great spot for pumpkins or other melon-type veggies.

I started this bed for cooking herbs...but it turned into my son's play area.
I still plan on planting herbs here...but I thought it wise to make a pathway for little feet.

Why fight it when you can roll with it?

Once I dug out the surplus top soil from the beds, I set out to add the good stuff.
I purchased 4 bags of 3-in-1 landscaping soil and a big cube of peat moss.
I mix them together in a big half barrel, making sure I break up big clumps.
Next I dump the mixed soil into the beds and rake it out,
careful to make the ground level and break up any resistant clumps.

Nice work!

I was given some seeds this year to plant for a church I added some of my own selections.
(some seeds were saved from our garden 2 years ago!  We'll have to see if they are still viable)

Edible Plants:

Borage, Purple Cornflower (Echinacea)


Thyme, Basil, Rosemary, Lavender, Dill, Summer Savoury, Chives, Garlic Chives, Lemon Basil, Catnip, Coriander/Cilantro

Another really good buy (a long while back)  was a pack of craft popsicle sticks from Michael's.

I normally try NOT to buy stuff, preferring to make it myself or reuse/repurpose existing stuff.
The popsicle sticks are an amazing time/space saver!
I highly recommend them for marking purposes...mainly for little feet...until the plants start to grow and he can see where not to step.
(I've been using the same bag of sticks for years now...well worth it)

So the herb beds are all planted and waiting for rain...

Check back on my facebook pages to see their progress!

What have you planted already?

Friday, May 10, 2013

Savour the Flavour

When it comes to cooking...I like it simple.

I've said it before....I don't consider myself a cook.
When I cook meals, I have a tendancy to err on the simpler side.

One of the biggest issues I have is spices and sauces.
I try not to indulge in sauces too much...preferring the original flavour to be maintained.
Plus all that added salt and sugar sauces usually contain.

If a sauce if required in a recipe, I endeavour to make it myself from real ingredients.
Again...I get to control the salt and sugar content of my dishes.

Spices are a whole other story though.

Personally, I have a very basic spice repetoire:
-chili flakes

That's pretty much it...
If it's not on that list, I have to ask my husband what it tastes like and/or what is its main use.

So on a whim...I decided to check our spice cupboard....
because our family has so many takes up a whole cupboard.

Lo and behold!  I found several baggies full of different rubs or marinades gifted to my husband over the last few years.  I try not to hold onto spices for too long as they lose their potency over time (especially if not stored properly)

I grabbed 3 promising baggies...and dressed 3 thawed steaks with the following rubs:

-Cajun blackened spice rub (side left)
-Grilled vegetable marinade (bottom right)
-Perfect Spice steak spice (top right)

Cooked each steak until medium rare, removed from pan and sliced.

I served a couple of slices of each steak along with a piece of johnny cake (sweet cornbread), fried onions and a spinach salad with home made balsamic dressing.  (More iron than you could ask for!)

This exercise was a great way to try out some rubs and marinades.
It also pushed me out of my comfort zone...which is always nice for a change.

In case you were wondering, my personal favorite was the grilled vegetable marinade....