Category Archives: Growing Berry Crops

Savoring The First Strawberries

Although nothing beats eating sun-warm strawberries straight from the garden, these enticing fruits lend themselves to a wide range of treatments, from sweet to savory. After eating a few day’s worth of naked berries, I’m ready for a few classics. For many years, my family has celebrated the start of local strawberry season by enjoying strawberry shortcake for dinner. There are, of course, many versions to try, but after a fair amount of playful experimentation, I’ve plumped for these light, flaky, slimmed down shortcakes, which gain flavor, fragrance, and a tender crumb from whole wheat pastry flour.

Perfect Strawberry Shortcake

Berries:
6 cups strawberries, hulled & quartered
1-2 tablespoons brown sugar or maple syrup

Combine in a bowl and set aside to macerate for at least 15 minutes.

Cream:
1 cup organic heavy whipping cream
1-2 teaspoons sugar or maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon real vanilla extract

Whip cream to soft peaks, add sugar and vanilla and whip for 10-15 seconds more. Set aside.

Shortcakes:
2 cups whole wheat (or any) pastry flour
1/4 teaspoon cardamom or nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
2 tablespoons unsalted butter OR coconut oil
3/4 cup milk (almond if not cow)

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Combine dry ingredients in a food processor and blend for 5 seconds. Add butter and process for 10 seconds or until evenly distributed. Transfer to a bowl and stir in milk, starting with 1/2 cup, adding just enough for the dough to form a ball (not too sticky). Pat into four rounds 1/2 inch high and bake at 450 until golden (12-15 minutes). Cool for 5 minutes, then split in half like a bun, using a fork, and fill with berries and cream. Serves at least one. Continue reading

Posted in Early Crops, Easy Care Perennials, Gardening With Children, Growing Berry Crops, Planting & Transplanting, preserving food, Recipes, Sustainable Gardening, Sustainable Living, Vegan Recipes | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

When Bees Ignore Blossoms

As a rule, bees will snub flowers that are low in nectar and pollen. Even favored blossoms like cherries can be lacking and the bees are evidently able to detect (nobody quite knows how) blossoms with low levels of these important substances. Sometimes this is because other bees have already been there and done that. There is some evidence that foraging bees leave behind a scent marker that other bees can sense. A study done at Humboldt State University in Arcata, California found that when bees approached flowers, then flew away without foraging, the rejected blossoms had about half the nectar of an average bloom.

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Posted in composting, Early Crops, Easy Care Perennials, Growing Berry Crops, Pollinators, Soil, Sustainable Gardening, Sustainable Living, Weed Control | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

New Plants To Lust After

Last summer I got to try out a new sauce tomato called ‘Saucy Lady’, a cuore di bue type that “melts” into robust sauces when cooked, skins and all. The flavor is just about perfect for a sauce tomato; full bodied and rich with just enough tartness to keep it tasting lively even when cooked and canned. A rather amazing tomato called ‘Get Stuffed!’ has no guts; the stippled red-and-tawny-gold skin covers a sturdy, cup-shaped container for your favorite stuffing mixtures. Slice the top off, fill ‘em up with what have you and bake them until bubbly, or stuff them with salad (pasta or chickpea) for a very pretty brunch dish. As an ardent gardener with very little space these days, I’m especially intrigued by a new category of tomato, the 3-4 foot dwarf indeterminates. Any of this new Super Dwarf series will thrive even in large containers and as we saw last year, they really do continue fruiting well into autumn. Continue reading

Posted in Annual Color, Early Crops, Easy Care Perennials, fall/winter crops, Growing Berry Crops, Pollinators, Sustainable Gardening, Sustainable Living, Tomatoes | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Backyard Permaculture

One important consideration for all who are thinking about creating a more natural garden where insects and critters are welcome is the fact that all critters need water, food and shelter. Unless we have natural ponds or streams, we may need to provide shallow bathing bowls and keep them clean and full of fresh water. Food will be abundant wherever we offer a diversity of plants but providing food and shelter means allowing some visible “damage” to plants we may hold dear. It also means leaving much of the garden undisturbed in winter, when butterflies, frogs, toads and other creatures are hibernating. If you tend toward neatness over the natural, this may be painfully difficult, so one way to ease into a new way of caring for your garden might be to allow sweet disorder to reign in areas you don’t have to look at every day. Keep you entry and walkway as neat as you please and comfort your tidy self with the knowledge that letting go of a little control now will pay a dividend of flourishing garden life in the future Continue reading

Posted in composting, Garden Prep, Growing Berry Crops, Health & Wellbeing, Nutrition, pests and pesticides, Pollinators, Soil, Sustainable Gardening, Sustainable Living | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment