Steam it on the Grill

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It’s hot outside. That makes it hot inside too, and other than going out for dinner, that makes cooking outside pretty much the only option. The idea of turning on the oven is scary, and who wants to turn their kitchen into a Turkish sauna by steaming vegetables on the stovetop?

Cooking our meat and vegetables on the grill is your best bet in the dog days of summer, but not everyone is a fan of grilled vegetables. It’s true, there are those that don’t care for the blackened edges and charred taste of red peppers, portabello mushrooms and onions, and certainly the idea of grilling carrots or green beans or snow peas seems destined to failure. This leaves us with an altogether healthy, delicious and simple solution; steam your veggies on the grill. Continue »



A Strawberry Shortcake Summer

 

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This post is a guilty pleasure, short, and sweet, like the subject line, and it is all about one of summer’s most iconic and beloved desserts. When local strawberries are in season the world becomes a happier and more delicious place. We put them in spinach salads, we eat them with cheese, we eat them with a goat, we eat them in a boat. And for those who like to work a little for their reward, picking fresh fruit can be a fun way to spend a few hours, and introduce the kids to the land and its bounty, and put themselves in the shoes of a farmer. Here is a really cool interactive guide that lets you select the fruits and vegetables you want; you can check for organic or conventional, and it lets you know when and where to pick them! Continue »



Have A Berry Happy Canada Day!

 

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Serviceberries

 

In Ontario we are well into berry season. Mulberries are decorating our leafy streets, local strawberries are perfuming market stalls and shoring up shortcakes and cherries are just coming in. And there is one other amazing fruit tree that is no less prolific, flying under the radar in backyards and parks and growing like gangbusters in the wild, where they are prized by fauna like deer and rabbits; the serviceberry. Continue »



Question: “Why does the car smell like dinner?”

Tuft of rosemary on olive cutting board

What’s the best way to dry herbs? Hanging upside down on strings is the traditional way. Some people use an oven, but many modern ovens don’t have the low temperatures that herb drying needs. One of the most ingenious and unorthodox ways I’ve heard is to dry herbs using your car as a dehydrator. This tip was gleaned from the excellent edible gardening and growing food podcast called Living HomeGrown with Theresa Loe. With this unusual method you take a bunch of herbs, bundle them, and tie the stems together with a rubber band. (A rubber band works better than string because as the stems shrink the rubber band still holds them tightly.) Don’t make your bunches too big; a bunch of stems about an inch or less across is a good size. Then simply place your herbs around your car. You can use a tray to be tidy, but even placing them on a tea towel would do.

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Summertime: and the Lavender’s Blooming

Lavender, in profusion brings the bees to the yard.

Lavender, in profusion, brings the bees to the yard.

Lavender, a mainstay perennial of mid summer, is at its best in full sun, but fear not, it will grow in partial shade. (Not deep shade!) I grew a big patch of lavender in a partly shady rock garden for many years. When a cpuple of bad winters killed it off, but I replaced it with a new plant as I wouldn’t want a garden without lavender.

The lavender we grow in our perennial gardens is mostly Lavandula angustifolia, English lavender. Two good varieties are Munstead (short, 18″ tall) and Hidcote (dark, purple flowers, strong scent, tall 24″.)

 

Note: English lavender isn’t from England. It picked up its common name because it’s the kind of lavender that grows best in that country’s climate. The plant is actually from the Mediterranean.

It’s an edible herb, and flowers can be added many recipes. Lavender’s delicate aroma can flavour ice cream, shortbread cookies, lemonade, cocktails and many savoury dishes. How about lavender roast potatoes?

You can also cut a few sprigs of lavender to use in a bouquet.It’s elegant on its own or can be mixed with other flowers and herbs.

There are many different kinds of lavender, (list kinds) but all have blueish purple flowers in clusters on upright stalks. In full day sun, it makes a tight mound of flowers, and in partial shade will have a slightly more open effect, with fewer blooms. Still pretty though.

It’s also one of the mainstays of a scented garden. One of the delights of summer when the lavender blooms is crushing a few flower stalks in your fingers as you walk by. Walk-by aromatherapy.

Lavender can be used fresh or dried.  You can’t grow lavender in deep shade but a little bit of shade for part of the day is fine.

It’s also very drought tolerant. Like many drought-tolerant flowers and plants its stems and leaves are slightly fuzzy. These tiny hairs shade the plant, protecting it from drying out.

Lavender is not fussy, having no pests or maintenance to speak of. It even thrives in soil that is on the lean side: sandy, well-drained soil is perfect. It won’t tolerate soggy soil.

Lavender,like many perennials, looks its absolute best planted in mass. Five or seven plants together will always look better than just one.