This really is a bitter sweet time of year when our beautiful, though never long enough, summer begins to slip away, leaves start to tarnish, sunrise is late, sunset too early … I could go on, but then I’d run the risk of not celebrating the joys of the harvest season! There’s a cornucopia of goodness just waiting to be harvested. Certainly this is the time of year when the garden determines the menu, and what a thrill to simply walk out the kitchen door and gather whatever’s needed.
Our favourite ever summer squash is the Costata Romanesca, which is an attractively striped, prominently ridged squash that has absolutely the best flavour, as far as I’m concerned. I like it best sauted, with lots of fresh basil and cherry tomatoes, finished with a sprinkling of feta cheese. If any proof was needed that hugel kulture beds keep on giving, the magnificent squash forest tumbling out of the hugel bed, which is now in it’s second year of production, goes good for that. The beets in this same bed, as well as the bush beans, are all equally prolific.
We’re also having a wonderful crop from the runner beans that were planted in nothing more than a glorified window box running along the side of a gravel path. I would have been quite satisfied if they’d simply produced enough of their bright red flowers to keep the humming birds happy, but they’re up about fourteen feet now and loaded with beans. This clearly demonstrates how a totally infertile niche can produce a mighty crop with just a little imagination.
We tried a few new-to-us crops this year and had far greater success with a couple of others that had been a disappointment last year.
The tomatillos for instance are magnificent and totally loaded with fruit, as are the ground cherries. Bees go gaga over the small yellow flowers of the tomatillos so that might be reason enough to plant them but there’s also Salsa Verde, which is really easy to make and a must for authentic Mexican food. We’re also discovering that tomatillos are more versatile than the dearth of recipes might suggest; really fun to experiment with. It’s essential to thoroughly wipe them to remove the sticky and very bitter coating that keeps their papery outer casing in place and has no doubt given them a undeservedly bad rap in the taste department.
All the new things we tried were not equally successful. The Aspargus Peas were a BIG disappointment! We found them to be fibrously tough and strangely tasteless despite the fact that they appear to look identical to the Chinese Winged Bean as seen in on line demos of delicious Thai recipes being prepared and sampled with great gusto. It turns out that there are two totally different plants bearing almost identical looking fruit. Identical in appearance that is, but not in texture or taste. I’m guessing that the vine type (winged Bean) plant which has lavender coloured flowers is the tastier of the two. Unfortunately we grew the other kind (Asparagus Peas), which grows similarly to typical pepper plant and has attractive, unusual red flowers which form fruit that looks intriguing but is unfortunately barely edible. Fortunately the cucumbers grew undeterred up their designated trellis so this space was not wasted.
The ground cherries are certainly living up to their name as they have sprawled all over the place with no regard to walkways or neighbouring plants. I don’t remember them being half so space-greedy last year. I suppose this, along with the fact that they are not the easiest things to harvest as they tend to hide under branches etc., could be a reason not to plant them, except they are so, so tasty and also very prolific once they get going. They’re just a nightly, delicious, nutritious treat and there’s something about unwrapping each fruit from its papery wrapper that makes them seem even more special, in my mind.
The day old chicks which were mentioned in the July post are now safely packed away in the freezer. We kept them for eleven weeks which is about optimum to have them dress out at between 7lbs to 9lbs. They need to be started under heat but as the weather warms and they grow feathers, which usually takes around four weeks, they can be moved outside. The young birds go into a large format chicken tractor which gets moved around to a different square each day.
The ‘transfer day’ is one of Juno’s favourite days! She bounds up and down and back and forth ecstatically, following every bird to its summer residence with intense interest. Even though she’s half Golden Retriever she has never attempted to mouth a bird and it’s great to have a dog that can be trusted completely around the livestock.
My super big news is that my new book, Permaculture for the Rest of Us ~ Abundant Living on Less Than an Acre, published by New Society Publishers, is hot off the press and will be in bookstores all across Canada and the United States any day now. Exciting! If life looks pretty good down here on Quackadoodle Farm, well yes, it is and my book gives a simple but comprehensive description of how simple it is to realign lifestyles to fit the Permaculture model, integrating with, rather than imposing on Mother Nature’s amazingly bountiful world.
Anyone in the Halifax area might want to check out the book launch on Saturday, October 10th. at 2.00 p.m Halifax Main Branch Library.
QuackaDoodle for now!