Monthly Archives: July 2014

Strawberries

Recipe: Vanilla Strawberry Jam

Yesterday afternoon the first baskets of strawberries arrived at the store.  I’m not sure about you, but strawberries are possibly my favourite fruit of the summer! Every year the kids and I go strawberry picking, and we usually end up bringing home more than one basket from the here too! For years, I usually froze most of them to use in smoothies through the winter.  I still freeze a bunch, but have also added a few more ways to enjoy them as well.

http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/jamie-oliver/creamy-rice-pudding-with-the-quickest-strawberry-jam-recipe.html

(this picture is an actual picture of the pie made by a friend; mine didn’t look nearly this perfect :))
http://www.anyrecipe.net/dessert/recipes/fresh_strawberry_pie.html

My favourite of last winter was this recipe for jam.  I found it was too liquid-y for use on toast or sandwiches, but as a syrup on yogurt or ice cream, it was HEAVENLY!

Ingredients:

1 vanilla bean pod
4 pints strawberries, hulled; larger fruits halved
3 scant cups sugar
Juice of 3 small lemons

1.  Split the vanilla bean lengthwise into four pieces and place in a bowl with the strawberries, tucking the bean pieces in amongst the fruit.  Cover with the sugar, and leave for 12 hours or overnight.

2.  Pour the fruit, vanilla bean, and juice into a preserving pan and add the lemon juice.  Cook over low heat until the sugar has dissolved, stirring only now and then so that the fruit stays intact.  Turn up the heat and boil rapidly to reach setting point.  Skim if necessary.

3.  Remove the vanilla bean pieces, scrape the seeds from them, and add the seeds to the jam. Stir through the jam.

4.  Pour the jam into hot sterilized jars and seal.

Of course it is fun to dream about all the strawberry recipes to make, but the best way to enjoy the freshest strawberries: just eat them!!

Q & A for New Gardeners

I’ve planted my first garden, but am not sure if I’m watering too much, or not enough. Should I be fertilizing every time I water?

How much to water depends very much on a wide variety of factors, not the least of which is the weather! Obviously, gardens, planters and lawns will not need watering after two or three days of rain. Short showers probably aren’t sufficient to maintain new plantings; especially as rain can be blocked by decks, fences and eaves.

For new plantings of trees and shrubs, I usually make sure that I water them thoroughly a few times a week.  For a tree I usually fill my 8L watering can, and use the whole thing on each new tree.  For shrubs, I generally do about half of that.  For perennials and annuals planted in the ground my method is a little less precise; I usually just water until it seems like the ground isn’t absorbing any more, and the water is running away from the plant.

Container gardening requires more frequent watering; generally I water my containers every day. When we recommend a potting soil for customers planting in containers, what we actually recommend is a soil-less mix.  This mix is wonderful for the plants root growth, and health, but doesn’t contain any nutrients, and does not retain water in the same way that garden soil does. My method for determining how much to water a container is the same as how I tell in the garden; when it seems like the soil isn’t absorbing the water as thirstily, that’s generally enough.  Depending on the size of container and planting, it could be anywhere from ½ to 1½ L. A good rule of thumb would be to use a finger; if you poke a finger into the soil, and the top two inches of soil are dry, it is time to water!

As for fertilizing, we usually fertilize our annuals each week, according to the directions on the package.  The only caution I would add is that if you’ve planted with Myke (a micorhizae product we highly recommend to promote root growth), make sure that you’re using a low-phosphorous fertilizer.  All of the fertilizers we currently have for sale are sufficiently low in phosphorus.