Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Nothing fresher than veg from the backyard

Without any doubt, the garden has been a success this year. Devoted readers will recall that I spent the winter developing elaborate companion planting maps and rationalizing the removal of a tree from the backyard.

I've learned a lot this year. There's a lot I learned during research and planning for the garden, but the greatest lessons have come from this season. Some things worked really well, others did not.

Plants that worked
As you can see, the Royal Purple Beans are beautiful. They're also tasty and have been producing really well. What else is working out?
  • Rainbow Chard - 8 plants give all the cooked greens we can eat
  • Radishes - fast, reliable results
  • Carrots - the first are coming out of the ground now. None of the purple ones yet, though
  • Buttercrunch Lettuce - mild flavour, grew well. Second planting coming in now.
  • Tomatoes - Sweet 100s and Roma are now full of fruit. Ate the first cherry toms last week
  • Autumn Joy Sunflowers - animals ate most, but the two survivors are big and beautiful
  • Nasturtiums - growing like Triffids. Flowers are sweet and peppery. Delicious.
  • Arugula - lovely, simply lovely
  • Mustard Greens - phenominal growth. Has a sharp, wasabi-like taste, great in stir fries. Will plant less next year and only the Giant Red variety, which looks better. Leaves are spiney when small, much nicer when they're bigger
  • Eggplant - low survival rate, but two plants are doing really well. The purple one looks great. Still too early to tell what yeild will be like

Plants that did not work
It's been a very cloudy, rainy summer here in Toronto. As a result, many plants are shorter than I'd expect or are not producing well. Here are some things that didn't work out.
  • Celery - For some reason, most of it didn't take
  • Oak Leaf Lettuce - One grew huge, most didn't germinate. Not a great texture
  • Peas - tried an heirloom and some older hybrid seeds. Germination rate poor, very small yeild. Partly to blame are the slugs, which almost ate my peas to death. Will try again next year
  • Broccoli - Squirrels ate it all. Every last stalk. A second planting is coming up now.
  • Cucumbers - six plants went into the ground, two survived to flower, but they remain an inch high
Mixed results
A few things did okay, but not fabulously.
  • Fava Beans - plants did well, couple hit by disease. Otherwise, great flavour and satisfyingly tall, early plants. But they're a low-yeild plant. Will probably include again
  • Beets - great for greens, high survival rate. Will not plant in the little peat pucks again, as they restrict bulb growth too much
  • Onions - not a fantastic survival rate (started from seed). Will try again, with same caveat as for beets
  • Zucchini - One plant is finally coming along, others dead. Move to sunnier location
  • Corn - grew well, but squirrels took down many stalks. First cobs will ripen this week. Planted Sunny Vee, which seems to only produce one cob per stalk. Try different variety

Red's Garden Stir-fry
When I ask my six-year-old what he wants for dinner, his answer frequently is "Stir-Fry!"

My stir-fry is made of whatever is ready to pick in the garden. Right now, that's mostly chard, purple beans, fava beans and mustard greens. I fill a large collander with veg until it's heaping. If you use cauliflower, broccoli or carrots, add them before the chard stalks.

  1. Thoroughly wash all vegetables. Separate stems from leaves on chard and mustard greens. Discard mustard green stem, chop chard stems into 1" pieces. Chop up leaves
  2. Cut of ends of purple beans and chop into 1" pieces. Remove fava beans from pods.
  3. Chop one onion and add it to hot pan or wok with 1/4 cup peanut oil. Clarify onions. Add a clove or two of garlic, chopped.
  4. Add chard stalks and cook for 2-3 minutes.
  5. Add all beans (and peas, if you have them) and cook for one minute
  6. Add chard and mustard green leaves, cook until wilted.
  7. Add extra-firm tofu (in 1" cubes) or gluten (I live in a Chinatown, so tins of duck- or chicken-flavoured gluten are readily available).
  8. Add sauce and one or two packages of udon noodles. Toss, heat and serve.
For a sauce, I mix together:
  • 1/4 cup sesame oil
  • 3 Tbsp dark soy sauce
  • 2Tbsp rice vinegar
  • A squirt or two of hot chili sauce
  • 2 Tbsp brown sugar
These measurements are approximate. It's not something I measure. Adjust it to your taste.

Do you have favourite recipes for your garden produce? Post them in the comments so I can try them out!


KarenInTo said...

Lovely, as you say -- just lovely!

I planted NOTHING this year. Last year the gooseberries were shaded by the rampant raspberry canes (I got 25 jars of raspberry jam) and grape vines (14 jars of jelly). This year I've picked about one cup of raspberries, but I see no grapes at all. Also the asparagus was not mulched or fertilized in the last two years, and is also too shady. I moved and split the rhubarb and gooseberries, so next year I might have some yield. My strawberries from two years ago, if I had watered them and protected them from critters, might have produced.

Geez, do you think I might need to do some work on those perennials??

David L. said...

Impressive! Our garden -- and by "our" I mean AJ's -- resulted in some tasty, tiny tomatoes, some decent green beans, maybe a "jumping pumpkin" (as AJ calls them) or two, and some of the ugliest, misshapen, albino carrots I've ever set eyes upon. I'll have to clip your post and save it for next year. AJ announced this spring that he wants to be a "red gardener". That makes two I know!