046

The Garden in September

September is a funny time of year for gardening in Ottawa. August is usually full of rain, cool weather and cloudy skies. In September, the weather warms up and feels more like summer than fall. Then it’s cold. Then it’s hot. Cold. Hot. Cold. Hot.

This month is flip-flopping between beautiful warm evenings and bloody freezing days. I just don’t know what to leave in the ground or what to salvage, because who knows when the cold days will decide to stick around for good.

020

Most of my tomatoes are still green. I left them in the ground for as long as I could. When a coworker mentioned that we’d be getting frost one night, I picked them all.

Now that I have picked them, it’s nice outside again but oh well, better safe than sorry.

004

I’m leaving them in the kitchen to ripen. Not sure what I’ll do with them then. Maybe I’ll make a ton of pasta sauce and freeze part of it.

The cherry tomatoes on my balcony are more sheltered from the weather and I’m able to check on them every day, so I’m leaving them up for now.

001

There are still some green ones growing. Once those are ready, I will turn them into sun-dried tomatoes.

Next up are the carrots.

 

012

They are doing well. I pulled up a few to check on them.

047

They are still small, so I’m leaving them to grow some more.  Thankfully they taste sweeter after a frost, according to a gardening magazine I read.

Okay, so I’ve got tons of swiss chard. They are gigantic!! I may have let them grow for too long – pretty sure I read somewhere that the leaves become more bitter the longer you leave them unharvested. Oops.

017

They are taking up a cozy corner of the garden plot. The ones on my balcony aren’t growing so large, but the leaves are small and tender, so I guess that’s okay.

Chard is supposed to be cold resistant, so I am harvesting it in batches. I took most of the outside leaves this week and left the middle leaves to continue growing. We’ll see how much more I can get before it gets too cold.

043

I didn’t know what to do with it all, so I made a stirfry with the chard and the beet tops. I might blanch and freeze the rest. Then I’ll have frozen chard that can then be added to soups or to smoothies over the winter.

Now for the experimental watermelon plant. Despite planting it late, I was able to grow it to an okay size and even get a flower to bloom. However, last time I checked, the flower was dead, no fruits forthcoming – as expected.

022 024

At least now I have an idea of what to expect next summer when I try watermelon again. It trails along the ground and takes up a fair bit of space. It’s easy to trample, so I’ll probably fence off part of the plot to protect it from animals and from my own feet.

Okay, beets! I’m pleased with how they turned out. Not many of the seeds germinated, but that’s my own fault for not watering regularly.

018

I have probably mentioned this before, but I’ll say it again. Beets are related to swiss chard, so that’s why the tops look so familiar.

As you can see, these are protuding above the ground and are more than ready to harvest!!

039

040

041

045

046

Look at how big that one beet is! The ones at the store are puny by comparison. Haha! I don’t know if the size will compromise the taste, but oh well. It feels pretty cool to have grown a giant beet.

010

Last but not least, the malabar spinach. I planted it way too late in the plot. It was doing okay at the time I took this photo, but last time I checked it hadn’t grown at all. It doesn’t like the chilly weather.

However, it is doing just fine on the balcony.

074

It’s so pretty that I don’t want to eat it! I brought the pot inside last night in the hopes that I can keep it alive over the winter.

That’s it for now! I have transplanted some of the herbs into smaller pots to bring inside.

The kale seems to be doing better now that it has grown colder. Being a cold-hardy plant, I am planning to take advantage of that by planting more kale seeds. I know they can survive winter when grown in the ground and mulched, but I’m not sure how it will fare in pots.

I guess we will see!

How’s your garden handling fall?

K.

hugebasil

3 Tips for Growing a Humongous Basil Plant

Fresh basil is awesome in the summer. You can add it to bruschetta toppings, pasta sauces, or make pesto from scratch. It smells great – way better than that dried stuff in the shaker jar.

It can be expensive to buy fresh, but with a pot of dirt, a basil plant or seeds, and some elbow grease, you can grow as much as you like for yourself for far cheaper. It’s also more convenient to step outside than it is to run to the store!

Basil can grow as large two feet tall.  I did this entirely by accident during my first year of apartment gardening; I grew a plant so large that it dwarfed the container I had planted it in.

hugebasil

 

As you can see, I’ve got a large basil and a smaller plant. The large basil is one of the more common varieties, Sweet Genovese. I’m not sure what the smaller basil is, but it’s the type with leaves that are small and light green. Whatever it is, I don’t recommend it.  I’ve never had much luck with it.

Anyway, I’ve managed to duplicate the giant basil each year by following three basic guidelines.

1) Cut the leaves to stimulate growth

This may sound counter-intuitive, but cutting the leaves stimulate growth. For each leaf you cut off, two more will grow in its place.

The Bountiful Container by McGee and Stuckey’s recommends pinching off an inch of the growing tips in order to stimulate the growth of side branches. When the plant starts to flower, they recommend cutting back the main stem to where there are four leaves left.

That last step might sound extreme, but I tried it one year and it worked.

2) Use a deep container: minimum 8 inches. BONUS if it’s self-watering

If you’re going to grow it big, you’re going to need room for root growth. That may sound like a no-brainer, but I see so many homes with teeny little pots with cute little basils growing in them. They look cute, and small pots are fine for the casual basil user, but monster plants need large containers.

It should be at least 8 inches deep with good drainage. I recommend a pot that’s at least 12 inches wide simply because the plant tips over easily once it reaches a certain height and level of bushiness. The container should be stable enough to stay upright once this happens.

If you are willing to buy or make a self-watering container, that’s a bonus. The point of a self-watering container is two-fold. One, you don’t need to worry about watering your plants every single day. Two, it forces the plant to grow deeper and stronger roots as it reaches for the water in the bottom layer of the container.

I myself use a Rubbermaid storage container that I built to be self-watering. It is 22 inches wide with a soil depth of 10 inches. Beneath the layer of soil are several inches of empty space, which makes up the water reservoir.

In case anyone is wondering, I got the instructions for a DIY container from Fresh Food from Small Spaces by R.J. Ruppenthal.

You can also buy them. I haven’t tried any, but I’ve heard good things about Earth Boxes.

3) Fertilizer: high nitrogen!!

If you are using a fresh bag of soil with a “slow release” fertilizer formula, you should be okay your first year. However, if you’re using a lower quality soil or re-using soil from a previous year, fertilizer will help.

Leafy growth needs nitrogen (N). Flowering and fruiting tends to use more phosphorus (P) and potassium (K). For this reason, fertilizers come in different ratios.

When choosing fertilizer, look at the N:P:K ratio listed on the package and choose something that is either higher in N or completely balanced such as an 8:8:8 ratio. I use 8:7:6 for my basil plants, and 5:8:10 for tomato plants.

That pretty much covers it. Another tip is to start the plant early, since it can take a while to get going.

Have you grown anything gigantic? Basil, pumpkins, carrots, or something else?

006resized

Product Review: Kiss Me Organics Matcha Green Tea Powder

Kiss Me Organics recently asked me to review their product Matcha Green Tea Powder. I am not much of a tea fan, but I know that antioxidants are good for you so I gave it a try, out of curiosity.

006resized

My main purpose in trying this product is to include more antioxidants in my diet.

What are antioxidants and why are they good for us?

In a nutshell, they reduce the likelihood of certain illnesses occurring, such as cancer and atherosclerosis. This is because antioxidants (just as their name suggests) reduce oxidation. Oxidation is harmful because it can damage important parts of the body such as proteins and DNA; DNA damage can lead to cancer. Basically, antioxidants help to stabilize molecules (free radicals) that would otherwise lead to health problems.

Green tea is currently being studied for its possible ability to lower the risk of cancer. Of particular interest is the antioxidant found in green tea, EGCG (epigallocatechin gallate). It may be referred to as a catechin, flavonoid, or phytochemical; all three terms are correct. Catechins are a subclass of flavonoids, which are a subclass of phytochemicals.

Anyway, the studies conducted so far have mixed results, so I’m not entirely sold on the idea that it will help me. However, it hasn’t been shown to cause any harm either. The Matcha Tea Powder contains a higher level of antioxidants than you would find in a regular cup of tea, so I figure why not try it.

005

A smoothie seems the easiest way to incorporate the tea powder into my diet. I like to use a mixture of frozen fruits and berries, banana, almond milk and water for my smoothie. On occasion I’ll add some spinach or flaxseed oil or whatever else I’m in the mood for. Today I added 1 tsp of tea powder, and it tasted pretty good. The flavour was subtle enough that you knew it was there, but it didn’t ruin the taste of my smoothie.

007

Mixed Fruit Smoothie with Green Tea Extract

1/2 cup almond milk
1/2 cup water
1 banana
1 cup of frozen fruit (a good combo is raspberries, mango, and peaches)
1 tsp matcha green tea powder

Blend and serve.

As a vegetarian, my only concern is that catechins interfere with the absorption of non-heme (plant-based) iron. I will use the tea-powder again, but only as a snack, not as part of a main meal.

I should mention that Vitamin C and Vitamin E also act as antioxidants. An antioxidant rich smoothie containing something like orange juice, tea powder, spinach, bananas and frozen fruit might taste good too.

Katrina.

Truffles

Homemade Truffles with Variations (Vegan!)

Truffles

These truffles are rich and creamy and perfect for the holidays. The secret ingredient: cashews blended with water to serve as a cream substitute. I got the basic recipe from the Food.com website, then grabbed flavouring ideas from another website and put it all together.

When making several flavours, I like to make a big batch at once and pour the plain chocolate into separate containers before adding the extracts. It saves time and effort in the long run. Feel free to experiment with different extracts, alcohols, nuts and other goodies. Just keep in mind that too much extra liquid will interfere with how the chocolate sets.

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup of raw, unsalted cashews
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1 lb bittersweet chocolate
  • cocoa powder or any of the following: coloured sugar, sprinkles, icing sugar, chopped nuts
  • flavourings (optional: see below recipe)

Instructions

  1. Add the water and cashews in a blender, and blend at high speed for about 2 minutes. We want a thick and smooth mixture that resembles heavy cream. Scrape down the sides of the blender as needed.
  2. Meanwhile, heat the chocolate in a double-boiler. If you don’t have a double boiler, add water to a large pan and fit a smaller pan inside it. We’ll use the smaller pot to melt the chocolate. If we heat it directly, it will burn.
  3. Let the chocolate cool until it seems easy to work with. Slowly fold in the cashew cream.
  4. If making flavoured truffles, add the extract, alcohol or chopped nuts/fruit now.
  5. Add the mixture to a container and allow the chocolate to set in the fridge, a minimum of two hours.
  6. Once the chocolate has set, remove from the fridge and roll into balls. Roll each ball in the cocoa powder, sprinkles or whatever else you’re using. Repeat until finished.
  7. Store in the fridge or freezer.

Possible Variations

  • Chocolate mint: Add 2 tsp peppermind extract. Roll in crushed candy canes or icing sugar.
  • Chocolate rum: Add 2 tbsp. rum. Roll in chocolate sprinkles
  • Tropical Cherry: Add 2 tsp cherry extract, 1/2 cup chopped glace cherries plus 1/2 cup shredded coconut. Roll in shredded coconut.
  • Double chocolate: Melt some white chocolate or milk chocolate in a pan and dip half the truffle into it. Top with a cherry, coffee bean, or nut.

Additional ideas

 To add to chocolate:

  • 2 tsp oils/extracts such as orange, peppermint, chilli oil, coconut, banana
  • 2 tbsp alcohol  such as amaretto, rum, coconut liqueur, cherry liqueur
  • 2 tbsp espresso
  • 1/2 cup chopped nuts, such as pistachio, almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts
  • 1/2 cup chopped fruit

To roll chocolate in:

  • coloured sugar
  • chocolate or coloured sprinkles
  • chopped nuts, any kind
  • powders: cocoa powder, icing sugar, espresso powder, hot chocolate powder
  • crushed candycane
  • crushed cookies: oreos might be interesting
  • grated orange zest or chopped peel
  • shredded coconut
  • grated chocolate

I receive compliments every time I make these. I love the flexibility of the recipe. It can be time consuming and messy to make several flavours at once; however, it’s totally worth it.

What kind of truffles do you like?

Katrina.

My new blog: Right Brain Creation

Hi all,

So it’s been a while since I’ve updated this blog. I am taking a break from it while I focus on some other stuff in my life. Learning to practice creativity in my everyday life is very important to me, and this is where my attention is focused right now. You can see how that’s going by visiting my newest blog Right Brain Creation

Don’t worry, I haven’t abandoned this blog completely! There are a few projects on the back burner that I’d like to post about in the future. By the time I come back to Bohemian Kitchen, I’ll have a few more tricks under my sleeve that will allow me bring you better posts.

Thanks for following me this far!

Until next time,

Kat.

Vegetable Spring Rolls

So this weekend I decided to make my own spring rolls. I’ve been looking for something that would be easy to make a huge batch of then freeze. This would solve my problem of being too lazy to cook certain days but not wanting to spend $10 for a frozen pizza. I figured spring rolls must be fun and easy!

002

 

Continue reading

002

DIY: How to Make an Indoor Greenhouse

In a previous post, I complained that certain plants weren’t growing well. These were tropical plants grown from grocery store seeds, suffering in my Canadian apartment that receives very little light all winter. Not wanting to stop my experiments, I figured that I should build an indoor greenhouse. It seemed like an easy enough project that could solve my problem, so I put one together.

006

Continue reading

Cupcakes/Muffins #12, 13, 14, 15

So I’ve decided to cheat with my 52 Cupcakes goal by letting muffins qualify. They’re pretty much the same thing except less sugary. I’ve been trying to eat breakfast everyday but the only way that happens is if I can grab something on the way out the door and eat it while waiting for the elevator (or perhaps while running down the street). Yeah, I’m not a morning person.

Continue reading

007

Photos from the summer garden plot and balcony garden!

Okay, I realize it’s late in the year to be posting an update about my garden. It’s snowing outside, and the ground has frozen too hard to dig up the earth. The season is over. It’s too late to even plant bulbs. I’ve been procrastinating the whole uploading photos and posting an update thing because I feel disappointed with the results of my gardening efforts this year. I didn’t want to come to you guys with a bunch of sad and pathetic photos of shriveled up plants and ridiculously small tomatoes. My plants yielded very little this year.

However, I’m happy with the lessons that I’ve learned and I’m proud of myself for putting so much work into this personal project.In addition to the usual balcony garden, I maintained a garden plot all summer.

Continue reading

%d bloggers like this: