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Polka Dot Hen Produce

It can be hard these days to find food you can trust. 

We are all looking for food that will best nourish our bodies while least harming the environment. Food that hasn’t been sitting on a truck for days on end while its nutrients diminish to nothing.

We had the same difficulty finding the delicious fresh vegetables that we grew up eating, so we started growing our own. 

Summer squash Bird's Nest Garden Farm
Summer squash thriving in the no-till garden at Bird’s Nest Garden Farm

 

We are entering our 28th year of growing vegetables from seed to plate, proudly entering our fifth year of selling those vegetables to our local community. 

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This year we will be selling produce in a different way. Here’s how 2020 is shaping up.

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Seasonal Eating – Spring

Close-up of pear tree blossoms
Pear tree blossoms are a welcome sign that spring is has arrived and lots of delicious seasonal flavours await.

 

I used our last homegrown carrots last weekend. They were purple carrots–a variety called Starburst–that I dug out of the garden in January. I put them into a curry that got slammed into the oven so I could get back to transplanting Swiss chard. Hours later, those carrots were still pretty tasty, as was the curry.

Starburst carrots dug in winter from the garden
Carrots dug from the garden January 22, 2017. Deliciously sweet!

 

Seasonal eating has been on trend for a while now. It’s something we are encouraged to explore to benefit our health, and the health of the planet. Growing most of our own vegetables here means we’ve really embraced seasonal eating. Maybe we are embracing it just a little too much, according to certain family members.

Continue reading “Seasonal Eating – Spring”

Peppered with Seedlings

Garden centres are getting better at providing more variety when it comes to vegetable seedlings. Last year I found a surprisingly nice selection of hot peppers at a nursery in Owen Sound. Still, I prefer to grow vegetable varieties that have the characteristics that are most important to me; whether that’s days to maturity, colour or disease resistance. I’m a bit of a control freak that way.

This year my priority is buying organically grown seed. I’m still using up seed from previous years, but most new seed I purchased this year had to be organic. One exception was a package of  blight resistant tomatoes – ’cause who knows when blight is going to strike and wipe out your entire crop. Better safe than sorry.

 

seeding peppers in a tray
The first seeds to be started around here are peppers. I’m still amazed that this little tiny dry speck grows into a lush tropical plant that provides food for us.

 

This is only my second year to grow pepper plants from seed, so I have a lot to learn. Last year it took the seeds almost a month to germinate in our less-than-tropical house. The sweet pepper seedlings I put in the ground were embarrassingly small compared to those hotties from the garden centre.

This year, I did some research into pepper growing so I had a few germination tricks up my sleeve. First, I started the seeds two weeks earlier than last year. Then, whenever I watered, I used warm water instead of cold. Finally, I set the black tray near the patio door on sunny days to heat up the soil.

All was going well until one sunny day about a week after I seeded the peppers. Continue reading “Peppered with Seedlings”

Variety is the Spice of Life

Heirloom tomato bounty at Polka Dot Hen Produce
The variety of tomatoes grown in our hoop house this year

So, maybe having a hoop house went to my head.

When it came time to order the tomato seeds last winter, I really didn’t think I was going overboard. Just enough variety so I could sell small baskets of multicoloured fruit. A sampler of REAL tomatoes for people who only have eaten those pasty cardboard varieties in the supermarket. That’s what I envisioned.

And that’s what we got. Seventeen varieties, all different shapes and sizes, grown on our property this summer. On St.Patrick’s Day, my daughter recorded them in the notebook as we seeded them: Alicante, Black Krim, Camp Joy, Garden Peach, Jaune Flamme, Longkeeper, Matt’s Red Cherry, OSU Blue, Red Speckled Roman, Red Zebra, Stupice, St.Pierre, Thai Pink Egg and Yellow Pear. Later additions were: Coeur de Boeuf, Sugary and Black Cherry.

Jaune Flamme heirloom tomatoes
Delicious Jaune Flamme heirloom tomatoes were an instant new favourite

At this point in the season, we’ve had a chance to observe, pick and taste all the varied fruits of our labour. Some old friends like Stupice and St. Pierre didn’t disappoint, even in the new environment. We discovered some new favourites like orange-hued Jaune Flamme and near perfectly formed red Alicante, an heirloom greenhouse variety. Continue reading “Variety is the Spice of Life”

Greens on my plate

Spinach starting to come to life
Spinach starting to come to life after a long winter

There is a time in late February when a little switch in my head clicks over and I am no longer content with the cabbage slaws that have gotten me though the winter. I want greens: vibrant, lively greens, on my plate and they better be fresh.

Nothing in the local grocery can satisfy my craving. Occasionally, I try the hermetically sealed packs of salad greens and spinach from California. Green, yes. Lifeless, also yes.

Last week, the spinach that overwintered in our raised bed under cover finally was of a size that we could pick it. Also, five of last year’s red oak leaf lettuces were shooting new growth. I gingerly picked the largest leaves from both, thinning where I could. I brought the pickings into the house like the Holy Grail. A quick rinse and we had a proper salad featuring our own hard cooked eggs. It was heavenly.

There is nothing  that can compare with freshly picked salad greens given a quick rinse and tossed with your favourite dressing.  At some point though, I do look for another way to prepare spinach. One of my favourite ways is to lightly blanch it and toss with a sesame and soy sauce dressing. This is also a favourite of my daughter who has become my dressing chef. See the recipe here.

The spinach that survives the winter is ready to bolt as soon as the weather warms up, which could be any day now. It will be several weeks until the new spinach seedlings are of a size that we can start picking. We will enjoy this abundance while we have it.

A tasty picking from the garden over the weekend
A tasty picking of spinach from the garden over the weekend. Look at the size of those leaves!