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Posts Tagged ‘food’

It has been an amazing season so far for the garden. Everything is growing so well and we’ve been enjoying full-sized tomatoes for over a month, which is the earliest we’ve ever managed.

We’re also getting lots more than is typical since the late blight usually cuts into the peak production. Not only are the large amounts of tomato, the tomatoes themselves are really big! This one is our personal record for size and was 2 pounds, 8 ounces! It’s also the third one we’ve had over 2 pounds so a remarkable harvest. There are so many we’re actually doing some canning but this one will be carved up for dinner!

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The black raspberries have mostly settled in so I thought it was time to talk a bit about the findings so far.

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I put in a number of plants in early 2016 and was given another group last spring so we have a mix of 1 and 2 year olds. Last fall was busy so we didn’t do much in the way of care or clean-up on them either. They are planted in bed that has partial shade to almost full sun. It was were the neighbours hooked up to the sewer system so while it was well dug earth, it wasn’t really improved.

This variety fruits on the second year canes so there was only a very light crop last year. This year was a different story!

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We’ve been getting an average of 1-2 cups a day for most of the past couple of weeks. There are still some left to ripen but most are finished now. I expect we’ll only get another 6-8 cups.

While they are very productive, getting the fruit is a bit harder than picking the fall reds. The branches are very high, so some easily rise above 5′ to 6′ high in beautiful arcs, and all are equipped with vicious thorns. The light picking last year left my hands and arms really scratched up so this year I made some armour. A pair of older leather gloves had their fingertips cut off and a bit of brown faux leather was used to make a pair of bracers. They may not be pretty but they work. I’m still getting a few scratches around my elbows and some clothing snags, but am otherwise unscathed. To be clear, this isn’t me being overly sensitive, some sort of protection is a requirement. Even the birds have left them alone.

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The fruit itself has a surprising, unique flavour that is significantly different from the red. I’d always wondered why “blue raspberry” flavour had no bearing on any raspberry I’d ever tried but it’s clear it was based on fresh black ones. While they are pleasant fresh, they are, in our opinion, best used as a cooking berry. They cook up with solid, yet juicy texture and a deeper, richer “raspberry” flavour. The colour is also lovely. The red ones tend to both get a bit mushy and their red colour can also end up looking grey when cooked and mixed with other things. With the blacks, they cook to a rich purple with deep reddish juice. The smaller, drier fruits also hold together better and they work more like a blueberry in terms of being easy to be mixed in and still hold on to their shapes. They make a lovely pie.

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Overall, the black raspberries have made a well timed addition to the fruit collection. They are a great cooking berry and their timing has fallen in a fairly empty period. The strawberries are done and the blueberries are just starting so it gave us a nice bit of small fruit coverage. The plants seem low maintenance. We’ll need to remove this years fruiting canes in the fall and intend to do a deep leaf cover again. While they are extremely well armed, it is possible to pick around them and they have fended off both birds and other berry thieves.

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Last year, I’d taken the pruned bits from my hardy kiwis and potted them up. All the surviving pots were buried in one of the beds for the winter.

This past week I pulled them out and moved all the living ones to new, single pots. They all had good sized root balls so I’m optimistic about the process. I have 12 plants with 11 being female and one male. That ratio isn’t ideal, but the males seem more fragile.

We took pretty heavy damage on the older ones from bunnies this winter. They had been fine the 2 years before but this winter saw 3 eaten back to smaller than they were when I first planted them. A couple more lost 20% to 40% of their branches. One had the bark cleared off the top of most of it’s base but it seems to doing alright so far. The smaller of my 2 males got the worst, but he’s still alive. I don’t know if was due to how cold this past winter was, but clearly, I’ve got to come up with some form of bunny guard, going forward.

The plan now is to keep the babies in their new pots for at least another year then I’ll look at putting them in the ground. It’s still a bit early for me to take a new round of pruning, so I don’t know what this years crop of newborns will be. At the rate things are going, it’ll be a few more years before I’ll have extras to share.

 

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Curiosity got the better of me and I set aside the nuts from the black walnuts I’d husked in the ink making process. While I know the nutmeats of the black walnut are edible, I’d never tried them. Considering how expensive all nuts are getting, it seemed worthwhile to see if they any good since they are easy to get for free. (or at least for the time you have to put into getting the actual nuts) I had already collected and stripped them, for the ink, so a chunk of the work was already finished.wanuts1

While the husks were soaking, the stripped nuts were laid out on cardboard to dry and cure. They sat for a bit over a month and then I spent some time each day over the next week or so cracking them and collecting the nutmeats.

It is not a fast process and the larger ones were much easier to get the meat out of than the smaller but I ended up with a total of about 4 cups. blkwalnutmeats1.jpg

While I read that you can do a light brine soak to soften their flavour, I decided to go ahead and use them in their natural state. Since the idea was to see if we liked the taste, it only made sense to experience it in it’s unaltered state.

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I used a Southern recipe for a Black Walnut cake and went with cream cheese icing. It turned out well but it also turns out that we don’t like the taste of black walnuts! Even my father, who can always be depended on to eat even the worst of my baking failures, wasn’t much interested. My mother almost spit out the one bit she did try and said the taste reminded her of gasoline. I…have to agree with her somewhat. There is a happy ending however since the friend who gave me the walnuts to begin with did like it and was happy to take away free cake.

 

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The raspberries have continued to come in so I’ve rl3 been working through some baking options. Considering how happy we were with the apple fritter loaf recipe from Tess, I thought it was worthwhile to see if it could be adapted to use the raspberries. Since I didn’t want to kill their flavour with the cinnamon, we decided to go with chocolate. Once they are cooked raspberries can be a bit more bitter than apples so I also needed to increase the sugar just a little. What I went with was around a tablespoon of hot chocolate powder and a bit of the ground vanilla in addition to listed sugar. That seemed to give us the chocolate accent we wanted as well as balancing the sweetness a bit better. I also added a teaspoon of corn starch too. The berries were a bit more liquid than apples and the cornstarch thickens them just enough. (sugar, cornstarch and chocolate were mixed together, then added to the fruit) We cooked it around 10 minutes longer and that made sure it was fully done, all the way through. (the parchment paper liner is also pretty necessary) The raspberry flavour came through strong and clear, but they weren’t bitter or overpowering and were a good balance to the vanilla cake that makes up the bulk of the loaf. I did go a bit overboard with the amount of raspberries on the first attempt and had a catastrophic structural failure. (4 cups was too many) At least it tasted good, but staying around or under, 2 cups of the raspberry mixture is needed if you want a loaf instead of a baked pudding. We like lots of raspberry, but sticking to 1 to 11/2 cups of fruit would make the chocolate more noticeable and the loaf much more solid. I also stuck with the vanilla cream glaze, but you could drizzle the top with melted chocolate to increase the chocolate aspect.

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It’s been a good year for quite a number of fruits and a local friend fritloaf let us pick a bunch of apples from their feral tree. The tree is huge and probably in the 100 to 150 year range. The apples, while small and with the typical deformations of untreated fruit, are clearly Macintosh’s, or closely related. I chopped up a few for a trial run with them and made this apple fritter loaf. It was a quick and easy recipe and does satisfy the fall apple fritter cravings. I didn’t do much modifying for this, the first attempt, but did add some vanilla bean powder to both the loaf fritslice and the glaze and was happy with the depth it gave to the flavour. I also went with a parchment paper liner and I think it helped the crust as well as making sure the whole thing came cleanly out of the pan. I’d like try it again with a higher quality cinnamon, since I just used the generic stuff we have on hand.

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While the fall supply of raspberries is always a thrill, rasp we have been a bit frustrated the last couple of years with the pest problems associated with them. Last year there were huge numbers of ladybugs that we had to fight with over them. This year the picnic beetles were just being awful. We’ve always had a few of them around but this year, even with my going for a complete no tolerance policy on them, (any that are found are killed, not just brushed off) they were still causing a lot of damage but seem to have stopped almost completely as soon as the temperature dropped. Even better, they didn’t reappear during the warm stretch! Now we’re just losing a few to the earwigs and birds but we’ve still got quite a bit coming in. It does look like we should get our biggest haul yet. With the warm weather this past week it’s been close to 2-4 cups a day! There are enough that mother is even letting some get used in baked goods, but not many. I’m amused by how many fresh raspberries she can manage to consume!

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