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Posts Tagged ‘slow food’

In spring here, one of the first things up is a herb garden MVP, lovage. It’s an older, perennial herb that I’ve found many people haven’t heard about. That surprises me a little because it has a number of different uses and is SUPER easy to grow but it seems to have fallen out of common knowledge. It’s so hard to kill that it actually borders on being a weed, but, on the positive side of that issue, isn’t very invasive. (Well, it is invasive, just very, very slowly. My chunk came out of what had been kept from an abandoned garden plot. In 10-15 years, the lovage had become a solid block in about half of it’s 10’x20′ bricked bed. While it will slowly hulk out, it also can be dug out fairly easily, just make sure you get most of the big carrot-like taproots)lovage1

Fully grown it looks like a giant celery. (Flower heads can top out over 7′ !) They are related but lovage is much more pungent. That is it’s most common use for us. We’ll use a few finely chopped leaves to replace celery in soups, stews and other savoury dishes. It can easily be overpowering when fresh so you have to be careful with amounts but it mellows greatly when cooked. It’s so much easier to just clip some from garden than have to keep buying fresh celery for the few stalks we would use.

We’re not big cocktail drinkers but I’ve heard it can be a useful mixer from friends. (and the hollow stems can become Bloody Mary straws) You can also use the leaves under fish that is being roasted or steamed to infuse the scent. I haven’t done it myself, but this year I’m going to harvest the seeds since they can also be used and they’ll be handy to have over the winter! You can even roast the roots, but again, I haven’t tried it myself.

Overall, it’s something that I recommend adding to any herb bed and a little chunk will grow as big as you let it with no care and in questionable ground. It grows tightly packed enough that you don’t even have to weed it. The biggest drawback (aside from the Triffid tendencies) is the strength of it’s scent. Some people REALLY dislike it and any handling leaves you perfumed!

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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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We’ve been continuing to add to the garden, even if I haven’t been all that good about posting the details. One of the major additions was a group of hardy kiwi plants two years ago. They are gendered so we have six females and two males. (one male can pollinate over ten females) All have settled in and are growing, with several doing better than others. They flower and fruit on the second year wood, so we did see a small number of flowers and the berries set in late May. kiwi1

The only problem was that we had no idea when they would ripen or what they would look like when they did. As a result, I spent nearly four months doing regular squeeze checks for ripeness until they turned in mid-September. They were well worth the wait and were sweet and delicious. Easily the best kiwi I’ve ever had.kiwi1kiwi2

They are shade tolerant so we’ve given them the west run of the south fence. The thing with the kiwis is that they are quite vigorous growers and you have to be pretty severe with the pruning, if you want them to maintain a shape. I’d like that fence to be as covered as possible so we attached some support grids to the fence and have been attempting to espalier them along it. It’s going well, but each year I’ve ended up with a chunk of pruned off twigs. Last year, I discovered that the trimmed bits are capable of rooting so this year I made a serious attempt at propagation. I’ve got around 10 survivors in gender marked pots. The plan right now is for me to bury the pots for the winter and we’ll see if any make it. If it works, we’ll finish the west fence and probably add them along the east run as well since the fruits are so tasty. I’m also hoping to be able to share with friends and family.

I’ve added an update on the kiwi journeyin spring 2020.

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