Saturday, February 15, 2020

Mountain ash fruits

We’ve been admiring the mountain ash trees, in full fruit, outside our living room window and elsewhere.

I think we’ll be heading south before the various birds that eat the fruits arrive, from robins to cedar waxwings, to many others, according to Wikepedia’s account.

They’re tannic-rich fruit, like hollies, so are much more palatable after winter and freeze-thaw cycles, apparently.  Interesting.

Friday, February 14, 2020

A follow-up from yesterday.

My gardening companion shared two great photos that are excellent follow-ups to my post yesterday.

Here’s a photo of me, about to enjoy crepes.

And a close-up photo of the ice fishing village.  He skied closer to it than I did.

Thinking about gardening and creativity

My first volunteer program in March is a 10 am-4 pm workshop about Tapping into the Creative Side of Gardening at the North Carolina Arboretum.

Inspired many years ago by Fran Sorin’s book, Digging Deep: Unearthing your Creative Roots through Gardening, I’ve enjoyed encouraging folks using her approach.  It’s a brilliant one and really brought me back to realizing my own creativity, with gardening and beyond.

A search on creativity in previous posts brought up a number of them, well worth revisiting as I prepare my workshop to come.  It’s a workshop/class that I’ve done before, but here in a snowy winter, it’s been fun to think about gardening to come and what creativity in the garden looks like.

I highly recommend her book; gardening is a creative activity, after all.  She has wonderful suggestions for ways to inspire others (as well as yourself).

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Gardening zones in Canada

Having fun looking at Canadian seed catalogs (based online), I was bemused by the revised map of Canada’s zones posted by Vesey Seed Company.

That dark green area on the lower left third of the sweep towards the Gaspe Peninsula is Rimouski, our nearby big city.  Much to my surprise, supposedly the last frost dates are Oct. 11-20.

That’s just weird.  As a scientist, I’m just figuring that it’s a bit of an anomaly of weather data that created this odd result.

Obviously, the weather is warming here, as it is everywhere, as I’m quite sure Oct. 1-10 weren’t historic last frost dates, for the surrounding region, just like our older USDA temperature predictions are similar.

In the mountains of Western North Carolina, we went from USDA Zone 6a to 6b, probably pushing upwards at lower elevations.

We met a lovely woman out skiing this morning who was so happy to meet us and practice her English.  She grew up in the Eastern Townships, and had moved to Rimouski 6-7 years ago.  She commented that one reason she moved (in addition to having her son and his family in Rimouski), was that the snow simply hadn’t been reliable over the last 15 years in the Sutton area, where she had lived. And she loves skiing.  She was chugging along faster than me on her cross-country skies, even though clearly older than I am.


Sunday, February 9, 2020

Foodways in Quebec

I just posted this in Places of the Spirit, but perhaps it really belonged here, as it had to do with foodways and vegetables.

I’m writing about parsnips and fingerling potatoes grown in Quebec.

Thursday, February 6, 2020

Thinking about vegetables (and baby butternut squash musings)

One of the new staff members at the English library where I volunteer here in the winter in Quebec is a keen (relatively new) vegetable gardener.  A young mom, in Rimouski since 2012, coming here as a post-doc in microbiology, I think, she has a community garden plot near where we sometimes start skiing (in the winter) or biking (in the summer) along the Sentier le Littoral.

I don't know that community garden, so I'm glad to learn about it and will look forward to seeing it next summer.  She reports that there are about 40 small community garden plots there (with a waiting list) and they have a nice community feel.  Lovely.

She described some pests that I'd never heard of -- a leek moth that attacks garlic, for example.  In my experience, I've never had any trouble with garlic.  But, there are a LOT more leeks in the markets here than back in North Carolina, so that may be the explanation. She described what sounded like cutworms taking out sugar snap pea and spinach seedlings, too.

I'm going to share some of my baby Honeynut Squash seeds with her -- she starts seeds in April and hopefully, she'll share a couple of the transplants with me when I return to Quebec in late May. 

We're not here in spring, of course, to start transplants, and even though I can bring seeds across the border from the U.S. to Canada (not vice versa), transplants in potting mix, well, I'm quite sure that wouldn't happen.

What I mentioned to her is how delicious immature baby butternut squash are, in addition to their delightfully small size.

a green baby honeynut squash (YUM!)
I started growing them as they were great on trellises and resistant to squash vine borers.  Dan Barber, who encouraged their development via a Cornell vegetable breeder, was looking for taste and small size.  They have both.

But basically they're delicious as a young green squash, much better than Tromboncino squash, which is also resistant.  They have a delightful mild butternut squash flavor as a young squash.

Thursday, January 30, 2020

Skiing again

It was a lovely day for x-c skiing in Parc National du Bic.

Sunny, no wind, and I was actually feeling quite robust, as my technique has improved and my muscles are stronger.  Yikes, x-c skiing is good (and challenging) exercise, even as I thought very long walks and going to the gym would suffice as preparation.  Ha!  Next year, I’ll be doing a lot more.

Obviously, I need to step up my workouts back in NC as well as keep it up here, but adding recovery days, too.

The snow is lovely at the moment, and as long as I can stay in good x-c technique mode, I glide and kick quite decently, without the slipping and shoulder strains from suddenly having to grasp my ski poles.

My hubby heading down the trail

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Summer fruits

I cooked up my last bag of unpitted cherries this evening. After trying to fish out all the pits (I’m definitely pitting them all before freezing next summer,  if we have a good crop), I added some frozen apples from one of our trees or perhaps they were from the feral (but delicious) apples from our neighbor (also cooked and frozen).

I then added some rhubarb-strawberry jam from last summer, too, so it’s quite the summer memory now concentrating in the microwave.  Yum.

A bowl of concentrated summer fruits. A summer treat in winter

I just wish I could easily take some back with me to North Carolina, but the regulations about home-cooked jams are rather nebulous, and in some cases rather strictly prohibit home-canned jams and fruits.

Monday, January 27, 2020

Greenhouse-grown strawberries

It’s not unusual to see grapes, strawberries, blackberries, blueberries, and raspberries off-season at the supermarket.  What were once seasonal favorites (in the parts of the world that they were grown) are now frequently encountered in supermarkets around the world almost year-found, shipped from their points of production.  (Of course, vegetables are shipped across and between continents, too, but it was the fruits that I noticed today.)

In North America, patterns vary, but seasonal fruits (and ones that can be stored) are available both in and out of season (for example, citrus fruits, apples, and pears)  Strawberries grown in Florida and Southern California start appearing in early February, in our markets in the Southeastern U.S.  In the meantime, shipments of warm-season fruits come from South America.  Some more tolerant of cooler temperatures (blackberries and raspberries) come from Mexico. 

This is true in our part of Quebec, too, as I bought some organic berries from Mexico today.  I don't normally buy out-of-season fresh berries (opting for frozen instead), but this was a special treat.  (Hmm, and I also have a freezer full of cherries and apples from last summer to use!)

But, I was surprised to see greenhouse-grown strawberries from Canada at a large market in our nearby city this afternoon.  Greenhouse-grown strawberries?  Really?  Strawberries, as a perennial crop, seemed an unlikely, but potentially extremely profitable crop, so I was intrigued.  These certainly looked attractive compared to their imported counterparts.

Photo from Mucci Farms, a greenhouse grower
Returning home, I was fascinated to learn via Google that this is a successful, relatively new enterprise, taken up by long-standing greenhouse growers in the Kingston, Ontario region, adding strawberries to their tomato, pepper, and cucumber production rotations.  Strawberries are a light-demanding crop, so conversion of these greenhouses to be more energy-efficient, using natural gas to produce electricity with heat as a by-product was part of one grower's strategy.

Remarkable to have ripe (and apparently) delicious strawberries (much sweeter than imported) in mid-winter.

Special greenhouse varieties of strawberries (day-length neutral), bred for taste, rather than shipping hardiness, is also part of the story. 

These long-term Canadian nursery growers now grow greenhouse varieties of strawberry nursery plants to support this growing industry.  Fascinating.

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Lettuce grown in Canada

I like to grow greens.  Lettuce, kale, collards, spinach, creasy greens - well, whatever I can grow in my now shorter seasons of growing in Western North Carolina in spring and fall.

In Quebec, well, I could grow greens down in the basement under lights, but I hate to introduce moisture and extra fungal spores to the basement.  Beside, there’s skiing to do!

My summer garden here in Quebec is just fine.

So I was interested to see in my favorite small market in Rimouski (our nearby city), these hydroponically grown Boston butterhead lettuces grown in Quebec.

lettuce grown hydroponically in Quebec

They're lovely heads of lettuce and the company, based on their website, seems like an excellent one.  They don't say where the energy for their hydroponic production is coming from, but otherwise seem quite transparent about their production technique.

It struck me as better than buying lettuce grown in Mexico, although this is also the first time I've bought lettuce here in quite a while (last summer, my lettuce, in the cool summers here, just went on and on).

Monday, January 6, 2020

Greens and spinach

I cooked a last harvest of mustard greens, Swiss chard, and a bit of Tuscan kale this evening -- the rest of my hardy greens will be on their own this winter.  Perhaps our nice neighbors and HomeExchange folks here while we're gone, will be able to harvest more as the days lengthen, and they start growing again in earnest.

The mild winter so far hasn't presented much of a stress, aside from an unusual mid-October plummet into the teens.  There are signs of "early spring" all over here in our mountain town -- quite unusual, although my hubbie claims that we regularly have temperatures in the 50° F range as highs this time of year.  Maybe so, but there are plants that are starting to flower now that shouldn't:  camellias, yellow jasmine, Ozark witch hazel, etc.

I won't be covering up my delightful spinach seedlings (we'll be gone too long for that), but perhaps the mild winter will continue and they'll welcome us back.  Whatever.  They're delightful now, as we head north to a MUCH colder place.

young spinach in early January

Saturday, January 4, 2020

Seed ordering time

I'm juggling two vegetable garden seasons now, not all that compatible, although I'll be leaving lovely winter greens and developing spinach for our neighbors (and perhaps for us, when we return from our snowy adventure).

Catching up on old magazines, to recycle, preparing for the folks who will be staying in our house while we're gone, I came across a mention to a seed company that I didn't know -- a new one, founded by a collaboration between Dan Barber, a Cornell University vegetable breeder, and a seedsman.

Well, I was familiar with the wonderful baby honeynut squash that was the genesis of this;   it IS wonderful, eaten young or mature.

So I was delighted to visit Row 7 Seed Company and check out their offerings.  I love their focus on tastier version of some favorite vegetables (and they're just starting out!)

I ordered their beet, mixed pea shoot, and experimental squash offering, but am particularly keen on their tromboncino squash, which I also ordered. 

It's been a favorite of mine for many years, as it's resistant to squash vine borers, but the flavor (eaten as a green squash) has been quite bland.  So an improved version -tastier- will be welcome.

A robust tromboncino squash
I don't know if I'll have enough growing days in Quebec to fully try it out, but people successfully grow zucchini and yellow squash in our part of Quebec (all based on what the temperatures are in that particular summer) so why not give it a try.

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Snowy times

I’m thinking about snow.  I just wrote a post on my sister blog to this one about it.   I’m really looking forward to our time there now, after revisiting photos from last January and February.

Not much gardening to do, aside from pruning elderberries, which want to take after the solarium/porch side of the house.

Snow is a special thing. Neither of us had experienced snowy winters before, but embracing the cold, x-c skiing, and the winter light — that was magic.

We’re heading back up to Quebec late next week.  It will be fun.

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