July Garden Tour

We’ve been having nearly 100 degree heat the past week or so and the garden is love love loving it. Here’s a little tour! It’s amazing how much has changed since my June 1 garden tour.

Tomatoes loving the heat.

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Broccoli. Wishing I got it in earlier because this heat’s not doing it any favours.

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The first few roma VF tomatoes.

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Pepper experiment is looking awesome! They are also loving the heat. So far I’d say no differences between the pepper sizes, however they are about to that size where the competition within a pot of multiple peppers might be starting to matter. Soon we’ll have peppers coming out our ears!

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The first bell pepper.

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The first jalapeno.

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More tomatoes. I am really making an effort to prune this year and keep them better guided into their cages than in previous years. I think it’s going well.

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The whole yard. I think I do pretty well with the little space I have 🙂

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Pretty purple pole beans.

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Climb climb climb.

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More tomatoes, basil, and calendula.

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The chaos of a calendula, tomatoes that grew from seed on their own, and some dill that also grew on it’s own.

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Brandywine tomato.

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Carrots and cucs.

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The cucumbers are also loving this heat. I planted the exact same cucumbers as the last two years, like from the same exact seed packet, and the leaves of these plants are HUGE compared to last year. It’s going to be a gooooood cuc year.

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Massive zuch!

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Beets that really need to be eaten.

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Indigo rose tomatoes.

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Peas are dying, so I’m going to pull them shortly and plant some more beans. I’m definitely doing a better jobs at succession planting this year too.

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And that’s all folks! Having a good garden year?

Beeeeets – some fun facts and two recipes

I feel like beets are one of those things where either you love ’em or you hate ’em, and I definitely love ’em. So today I’d like to try and help you board the beet train; convince you to at least give the beets a chance! I think one reason that people are beetophobic is that they don’t know how to prepare them well. But never fear, the botanist is here! I have two favourite recipes I use when I make beets, and think you should try at least one of them before you write beets off for good. But first – some fun facts about beets!

When I think of beets I think of the red root vegetable pictured below, from my garden. The beet plant, Beta vulgaris, however, comes in a few other forms too. Golden beets, and sugar beets, are different cultivars of the same species, as is chard. Sugar beets are grown to make sugar (hence the name), just as sugar cane is, because they contain a high concentration of sucrose.

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Beets are awesome for a number of reasons. For one, they do well in most climates because they like cool weather, but will also still grow in the summer. I never seem to get them in the garden as soon as I could, and should have been able to harvest way more by now, because they can actually be seeded a month before the last expected frost date for your area. Then you can also get in another crop in the fall or grow them through the winter if you live far enough south.

Beets are also very versatile in how they can be prepared, and are highly nutritious. The website the world’s healthiest foods (click it for link) has some great nutritional info, so I’ll just send you there rather than plagiarize it. I love that both the root and the leaves of the plant are edible, and you can harvest up to a third of a beet’s greens without harming the root, if you want to harvest greens and leave the root to grow larger. Beetroot is delicious on salads, just shredded raw into thin strips, or the roots can also be cooked, which is how I usually eat them. When eating beets (or feeding them to others) it’s also important to remember that they can affect you, ahem… the next day. “Beeturia,” a reddening of the urine, is estimated to occur in 10-15% of people, according to that world’s healthiest foods site, although I think this is probably higher. And I think it reddens something else even more though… so I like to warn people who have never eaten beets before, because even for me who eats them all the time it can be a little startling when you get up in the morning to do your business and are still half asleep. No, you are probably not bleeding internally, you just ate beets yesterday!

OK, so now let’s talk now about my two favourite ways to prepare beets. Yep, going to do it right after the bathroom talk. Sorry, it was either discuss it before or after the recipe, so I went for before. Beets can be steamed or boiled, but my favorite method is to roast them, either in the oven, or most of the time I do it on the barbecue. Oh and don’t forget, they can also be pickled!

Step one for both these recipes is to rince the beets, cut off the tops and roots and peel them.

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For recipe number 1, which we’ll call “Beet Treats,” because I think they taste like candy, I like to cube the beets. Then place them either on aluminum foil if you plan to grill them, or in an oven dish if you plan to do them in the oven. All I add is oil, vinegar and spices. For 2-3 medium beets I add a couple tablespoons of coconut oil (olive is great too) and a couple tablespoons of vinegar (I like balsamic or red wine vinegar). Then add salt, pepper, garlic powder, rosemary and oregano to taste. I usually also add a couple tablespoons of water too because the liquid can boil off. So watch them so they don’t burn and rotate them around a bit if they are more than a layer deep. Close the aluminum foil around them to keep the liquid in, and cover the pan with foil if you make this is the oven.

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They take about a half hour or so on the grill to soften to perfection. Sometimes a little longer if they are multiple layers deep and larger pieces.

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Recipe number 2 was inspired by The Flavor Bible, a book recently acquired by Kiki as a wedding present. We were purusing the bible for an unrelated topic, and were in the B section looking for an interesting flavour combination we could do for blueberry jam, when we stopped upon beets. Cheese was listed as an excellent flavour pairing for beets, something I don’t think I ever would have thought to try. So the next day I harvested some beets and tried them out with Parmesan cheese, and thus this recipe for “Beet Parmesan” was born. Oh. My. God. is this ever good. And I think it’s fitting to use the lord’s name here, as the bible helped me create this recipe. You could even call it divine. 

So here it is! For this recipe I think it’s best to cut the beets into coins, thinly-ish but not too thin.

Drizzle aluminum foil with olive oil and place the beet coins on in a single layer. Sprinkle a little more oil on top, along with salt, pepper and garlic powder.

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Roast the beets for 10 or so minutes, depending on how thin you cut them, and then flip. You can test for doneness by stabbing them careflly with a fork.

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Roast them a few more minutes, and then when they are almost done, sprinkle on the Parmesan cheese. Close the lid of the grill and roast just long enough to melt the cheese.

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Remove from the heat and gobble them up! Now to get across how delcious this recipe is, and how much you need to try it, here’s a little story of the aftermath of feeding these beets to the boy. Now he’s been complaining ever since I found my love for beets. I think the third time I ever served them, he said ” beets AGAIN,” but with this recipe the tides shifted. After dinner, he told me we needed to have a talk, and the talk was really a confession, a confession that he had enjoyed the beets! He was almost ashamed to admit it, being a classic beet hater, but as I looked at his plate I could see that while even a small piece of steak remained, every last beet was gone. So let this be a lesson to all you beet haters out there, give the beets another chance!

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Master Food Preserver Class – Week 4

Week 4 of Master Food Preserver class was all about pickling!

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What is pickling anyway? Well Janice, our awesome instructor, had a funny quote up on the board: “A pickle is a cucumber soured by a jarring experience.” HA! Well, I was entertained at least. But this is not entirely true; A pickle doesn’t need to be a cucumber, and it doesn’t always need to be jarred either! In fact, there wasn’t one cucumber in class, we did all sorts of other types of pickles instead. Pickling is basically the process of adding a high concentration of acid to a food to prevent the growth of microorganisms.

There are 4 basic types of pickles – you can pickle a lot more things than just cucumbers!
– Fresh pack or quick pickles
– Brined of fermented pickles
– Fruit pickles
– Relishes and Chutneys

Quick pickles are made when you combine the ingredients and immediately process, versus a fermented pickle that sits for a few weeks and ferments, producing its own acids. Fermentation in vegetables and fruits is the anaerobic breakdown of sugars into acid. In veggies, naturally present bacteria breaks down the sugars, and in fruits, it is yeast that converts the sugar first to alcohol, then to acid. The acid formed is lactic acid, as opposed to the acetic acid from vinegar which we use in quick pickles.

Relishes are seasoned sauces made from chopped fruits or veggies, and chutneys are fruit relishes with fruits and/or veggies and nuts. They are a sweet and sour blend of vinegar and spices.

The first thing we did in class was asparagus pickles. This is a fresh pack or quick pickle, because what we did was combine the asparagus with spices, water, vinegar and salt, put it into jars, and immediately process it in a boiling water bath canner.

Asparagus ready to be pickled.

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Mmmm. Now we wait a few weeks for them to absorb that vinegary deliciousness.

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We then split into four groups and each made a different pickled product. One group was in charge of this mango chutney.

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Chutneys are a little weird to me. I haven’t actually tried it yet, but I will let you know if I find an amazing use for my jar of this.

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All prepared and in the jars.

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Another group made this corn relish.

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I was on team beet pickle. If you know me you know I love me some beets.


It looks like a bit of a murder scene when you cut up beets. Especially precooked ones.

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I would definitely recommend gloves, unless you love having red hands. It doesn’t really bother me, but it does stain quite nicely. Helps you understand the term “beet red” 😉


I would not recommend doing this in half pints. This was simply so that the whole class got a jar to take home. Go pints or even quarts for sure. If you are looking for a recipe, I actually posted one a little while ago here.

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And finally, we pickled some onions.

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They made for a pretty attractive pickle.

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Pretty good haul! I never really used to be a big fan of pickles, but they sure are growing on me.

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OK now that you’ve enjoyed the picture show, we’ll finish with some pickling rules:
– Always use at least a 1:1 ratio of water to vinegar making quick pickles. It’s not safe to use less vinegar or more water. If it’s too tart for your taste, add a teeny bit of sugar
– Use vinegar with 5% acidity, there are some tricky brands out there that are only 4%
– When making fermented pickles, don’t reduce the salt. And if you want to can it, don’t do so until they have a sour flavour.
– Always use pickling/canning salt rather than regular table salt
– You can swap the type of vinegar, as long as it is 5% acidity. Some people prefer the milder flavour of cider vinegar, go for it!
– The spices can be changed to taste. Adding more garlic or dill to your pickles is a-ok. This is one thing that is not a safety issue.

The last thing we did on pickling day was make flavoured vinegar. And this is a nice way to end, because as Janice said – there are no rules. When you make flavoured vinegar, it’s basically safe to chuck in whatever you like. Buy some cheap white wine vinegar in bulk and flavour it yourself by filling a jar with whatever spices you like and cover with vinegar. We tried some delicious berry ones as well, and I am super excited to make some this summer for some delicious vinaigrette. These are fine stored at room temperature. Once they have steeped to your satisfaction, they can also be processed in a boiling water bath canner if you really want to.

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My white wine vinegar, full of herbs, and a chive flower.

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Pickled Beets

Remember those beets I talked about a while back that were in the pressure canner when the power went out? Well here is finally that follow up post on what I did with them. I thought they would turn to mush if I pressure canned them, so here is a recipe for pickled beets! I needed the help of my dear friends Kiki to battle the task of reprocessing these, so I went to her place for a canning extravaganza. This night, we also made the cranberry jam I posted earlier, and pickled carrots (coming soon to a blog near you). The recipe I used is the basic one from the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving, but you can feel free to modify the spices to your preference. This recipe makes about 6 pints.

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Beets (about 10 cups prepared)
1 cup water
2.5 cups white vinegar (5%)
1 cup sugar (optional in my opinion)
3 tbsp pickling spice

Here’s what we did:

First you want to cook the beets a little to soften them. Mine were pre-pressure canned (grrrr), but what you will want to do is cook them for a little while to soften them up a bit. Wash them well and boil for 20 or so minutes. Rinse with cold water, peel and cut off the roots and stems. Chop to the size you would like.

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Combine the vinegar, water and sugar in a large pot. Honestly, I have no recollection of putting sugar in, so either we forgot it or I just forget, but people who have eaten them so far loved them but did agree they were less sweet than usual. Anyways, I leave it up to you, add it, don’t add it, half it, I don’t care. Just don’t mess with the vinegar to water ratio.

Next, grab your monkey and fill him with spices. OK, you won’t all have an adorable monkey tea infuser, but if you do you can use it, or make a spice bag. Use your favourite mix of pickling spices, either a homemade combo or store bought, whichever flavours you like. We used a combination of cinnamon, bay leaves, allspice, mustard seeds, coriander seeds, black pepper, ginger, dill seeds, and cloves. I think that was it. Place your monkey in the vinegar pot, and bring to a boil over medium high heat. Meanwhile, prepare the canner, jars and lids.

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I decided my monkey was too small and I wanted more spice, so tried making an improvised spice bag, which quickly busted. Oh well, all in a day. If some get in the jar its not a big deal. Reduce heat and boil the spices for about 15 minutes. Then discard your spice bag and add the beets. Return to a boil.


Use a slotted spoon to scoop the hot beets into the hot jars, then fill with the vinegar liquid. Leave a half inch head space. Be sure to remove any bubbles from between the beets with a plastic debubbler. Wipe the rims, place the lids on the jars, and tighten finger tip tight.


Place the jars in the canner, making sure they are covered by at least 1-2 inches of water. Bring to a boil and process for 30 minutes.


After 30 minutes, remove canner lid , wait 5 minutes, and remove jars. Cool for 12-24 hours, check seals, remove bands, label jars and store. Share delicious beets with all your beet loving friends (I know you all have lots!)


Pressure Canned Beets

Holy guacamole, I haven’t blogged in a month and now canning season is basically over! Although there are still things that can be done over the winter and ways to keep that canning fire burning. And I have a backlog of a couple other recipes I want to let you in on. But anyways, today’s post is about beets and a slight trauma I had while canning which shall be my excuse for this slight hiatus I took.

So! Pressure canning beets is a teensy bit time consuming, but I love beets so I thought I would give it a whirl. Step 1 is to select your beets and wash them. Now everyone will tell you to select the small beets because large ones can be fibrous, and don’t select the ones over 3 inches in diameter. Well, the farm stand near me was having an end of season blowout sale so you take what you can get. And I don’t discriminate, I love beets off all sizes, so don’t be a “beetist.” But I digress again, let’s can some beets.


Step 2 is to trim the beets then boil them for 15-20 minutes “until the skins slip off easily.” Personally, I think step 2 is a sham. Trying to handle hot beets and slip their skins off turned my kitchen into what looked like a murder scene. I wish I had taken a photo for you. I guess they were a bit easier to peel, but I feel as though next time I’d prefer to peel and chop and then heat them even though everyone does the boiling whole. But I digress again. The moral of the story is you want your beets heated, pealed, and chopped in pieces. If you would like to change the order I feel like you should be allowed to do so.

While they are boiling it’s a good time to prepare the canner, jars, and lids. Add 3 quarts of water to your pressure canner and start heating it. Canning in quarts would be my recommendation, not a lot fit in a pint. In fact, I had pints prepared, and at the last second realized how little fit in them and swapped them out, but anyways…


Chopped beets! The idea is you want a hot pack. So whichever order you did you want those beets still hot. Boil some clean water (i.e. not the water you boiled the beets in) to use to pack them in.


Pack them into the jars, and cover with the boiling water. Leave an inch head space and be sure to remove the air bubbles between the beets. Wipe the rims, apply the lids, and tighten finger tip tight. Place the jars in the canner. Secure the canner lid, vent the canner for 10 minutes, then place the weight on the vent. Bring to 11 pounds of pressure and process 30 minutes for pints or 35 for quarts.


Now it was at this point for me that tragedy struck! About 15 minutes into my canning time THE POWER WENT OUT! I was so upset. I may be canning to prepare for the apocalypse but it’s not supposed to come WHILE I am canning. OK I jest, maybe, but still I was very upset. So I lit some candles and angrily listened to the canner depressurize. It’s usually a lovely sound “yay they’re done,” but when you know they are not done it is a maddening sound! OK rant complete. So assuming your power did not also go out (it returned at 3am by the way, too little too late) you will turn off the heat after 35 minutes, let the pressure drop on its own, and remove the weight once the pressure is all the way down and the do-dad drops. Wait 5 more minutes, remove the lid and remove your beets to a hot pad or towel. Listen to the ping ping ping. After 12-24 hours when they have cooled, check the seals, remove the bands, label and store.

As a side note, below are my successful jars, done with different beets a few days later. Tune in for the next post for what I did with the failed pressure canned beets. As an additional side note, yes I put some in pints, I wanted to see how cute they’d look in blue jars. Meh, not as cute as expected but OK.