Garden to Table – Summer Inspired!

Salads, salads and more salads! This is what immediately comes to mind when thinking of summer eating – it’s all about light, crisp and fresh.

Quick and simple is this refreshing looking Minty, Cucumber, Watermelon Salad

Looking for something unique and creative? Who doesn’t love ICE CREAM and what better places to get inspiration than from your garden. Strawberry, Lavender Ice Cream or Tarragon Ice. What about flower power mini cupcakes, Marigold Sipper or Minted Strawberries and White Wine.  These are only a few of the recipes listed by Better Homes and Gardens.

Eat are a few other suggestions from Eat Boutique including Honey Lemon Balm Spritzer and Tomato Basil Jam.

A great suggestion to deal with the zucchini sitting on your counter is to make it into pasta noodles.  You can do this with a vegetable grater or you can buy a vegetable spiraler at a local kitchen shop.  I often mix these with one of my garden inspired pestos, some tomatoes, and some capers or green pickled coriander seeds.  I just came across this recipe from Jenny Shea Rawn that I’m going to try out later this week!

Let’s not forget about everyone’s favourite either the sweet tomato.  From Oven Roasted Summer Tomatoes to something more simple like warming some cherry tomatoes up until they are soft enough to crush and then mixing with olive oil and fresh basil to be enjoyed with bread or crackers and a bit of goat cheese.

Essentially have fun and get creative with your garden ingredients you never know when you will discover your next family favourite this way.

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Let’s Compost!

During yesterday’s monthly work party at Cedar Grove Garden I was assigned the tasks of cleaning out the compost boxes.  This sounds way worse than it actually was and I learned a lot in the process.

Why Compost: improve soil structure, increase nutrient content, use less water, ward off plant diseases. Learn More

What to compost: Vegetable scraps (excluding tomatoes & rhubarb), tea leaves, coffee grounds. Be sure if you are using scraps from home that the vegatables or fruits are pesticide free.

What not to compost: anything too woody (it will take too long to breakdown), metal, glass, meat products, dairy, anything invassive like horsetail, morning glory and other weeds, tomatoes (there is a lot of debate about tomatoes some say no to prevent spread of diseases and to prevent tomatoe plants coming up everywhere) rhubarb, diseased plants.  

How to Compost: Here are a couple of resources to start composting in your garden. The basics are however to have a good mix of nitrogen and carbon, keep it moist but not soggy and turn it over.

Grow Compost

How to Grow Compost

Composting at Cedar Grove Organic Garden: The garden has four compost boxes for communal use by all the gardeners. Since this is used by all of us its our responsibility to ensure that it is kept free of weeds, invasive species and other composting no go’s. The two wooden boxes on the east side are good compost soil and ready to be added to your plot as needed – but dont add any new clippings to the pile! The two smaller boxes on the west side are still in the process of being broken down so if you are walking by and notice someone has dropped some weeds in be sure to remove them right away! There is a large weed pile at the back of the garden in the southwest corner near the woods for these undesirables. It is these two west side boxes where you should place your compostable items that have come from your garden.

Reflections on the Changing Garden

Over the years the Cedar Grove Organic Garden has continued to grow and change both in small and big ways.  Now with more and more people interested in local, independent or organic in a sort of modern variation of back to basics.  It is completly understandable to us that already have a love of gardening that our much beloved activity is once again something ‘cool’ for those in all age groups to participate in.

Here are some reflections from our board on the current status of this garden located in North Surrey.

“When I first joined the garden, there were at least 10 empty plots that had to be taken care of by volunteers.  Over the past 5 years, with an increase in interest in organic practices and more media coverage, we (the Board) have been able to keep the plots filled by having a waiting list and by having thr Parks Department refer people to use. We pestered the Parks Department to install a perimeter fence as we were the second oldest organic garden in Surrey and the only one with out one; we finally got one two years ago.

We hold orientation meetings for new gardeners so we all know what is required to be a good member.  Before most gardeners were over 40 years of age.  Now we are seeing a lot of young people joining us who have some great ideas and a lot of enthusiasm (we are a garden of diverse ethnic members).  There are several families who bring their children out to watch or help at the garden.  We have group work party days which help add a great sense of community to the garden.  Our work parties are now ‘catered’ and the gardeners get to eat snacks and share gardening tips and experiences.  We not only want to grow healthy food, but we take pride in making our community garden look pretty. 

So great to hear about such positive observations and a strong sense of community at Cedar Grove Organic Garden.

Looking to learn more about the changing urban food landscape be sure to check out The Urban Food Revolution by local author and former Vancouver City councillor, Peter Ladner.

For those of you who are garden members looking forward to seeing you this Saturday at our July work party!

Preserving the harvest!

Now is the time to start thinking about how you are going to use up all your garden goodies.  A little advanced planning allows you to ensure you have all the tools and supplies you need so there is no last minute panic as you seek to stretch out the window you can enjoy your harvest into the late fall and winter.  This can be by drying, freezing, canning, pickling or even using some in your beauty routines.

There are many resources out there from books to google that can give you unlimited creative ideas. A few such resources I have come across include all the books by Gayla Trail. Her books, and information on her website are specifically towards urbsn small space gardeners. This is where I discovered garlic scapes, borage, lemon balm, nasturiums and whst to do with corriander seeds, hibiscus punch, herbals salts, chive blossom vinegar and much more and were the first gardening books I bought.

Since then I always have at least one ice cube tray in my freezer full of pesto (this make grest single use portions that can be tossed on top of some pasta while still hot to melt). Garlic Scape Pesto and Lemon Balm Pesto are two of my favourites but I’ve also made regular basil pesto, beet green pesto and have heard of oregano pesto but have never made this one.

Then I was introduced to the book Power Plants by Frankie Flowers and Bryce Wylde. This lead me to make my own oreagano oil, rosemary tea, and toner using thyme from the garden and witchhazel. My kitchen and bathroom are now full of jars and contianers containing these types of garden projects. I also have the urge to grow wheatgrass but havnet gotten to it yet.

Another great resource is to subscribe to the newsletter or podcast of A way to Garden. So much great info and interviews with garden experts that you may not have heard of before.

A few recipies I’ve had Success with!

Crisp Pickled Green Beans

Sweet and Spicy, Honey, Zucchini Relish

Preserving & Canning Books

Canning for a New Generation

Food in Jars – Preserving in small batches year round

Why Garden? The MANY Benefits

We all have different reasons or paths that brought us to love gardening. And in return gardening offers us an abundance of benefits that keep us coming back. There is the obvious ones like the freezer packed with enough Kale to last the winter, a plump ripe tomatoe from the vine and enjoying things only gardeners usually can like garlic scapes, chive blossum vinegar, and pickled green coriander seeds.

However, there are other less talked about benefits that have just as much impact on your well being as eating fresh local organic goodies from your garden do. As soon as I enter the garden there is a sense of peace that comes over me no matter what else is happening in my life. After a long day at work the sounds of the birds, the sight of all the lush gardens with bees, ladybugs and other critters going to and from never fails to instantly bring my stress level down.

I’ve heard about the concept of earthing but never thought too much about it until I saw this article in Alive Magazine (Canadian Wellness Magazine that I highly reccommend). Although I’m not a fan of shoes and go barefoot often and have always as a child as well so likely have received these benefits without even realizing if the studies are true. As a gardener getting up and close with the soil is a given so you have a better chance of benefiting from earthing that many others. According to Earthing Canada ‘the act of earthing refers to a physical connection between the electrical frequeincies of the human body with that of the Earth’s – think barefoot in grass or at a beach. I’m not expert so cant say if the benefits are as good as some research suggests but I like the concept regardless.

This article covers 6 unexpected benefits of gardening . Love the idea in one of the comments a reader left that their home office waiting room is in the garden!

1. Stress Release & Self Esteem
2. Hearth Health & Stroke Risk
3. Hand Strength & Dexterity
4. Brain Health & Alzheimer’s Risk
5. Immune Regulation
6. Depression and Mental Health

Two additionzl benefits are the educational espect and the most important its just a lot of FUN!! I could talk about plants, soil, and bugs for a duration that would have never happened had I not been introduced to gardening.

Summer is here – Let’s Explore!

The rain has left and this goregeous sunshine is forcasted to stick around. The City of Surrey offers a wide range of events and activities when not soaking up the sun in your community garden plot.  On a gardening side note get those cucumbers, peppers, squash, and tomatoes plants into the ground.

What better way to spend a leisurely Sunday morning than The Cloverdale Market (Fleamarket) in search of hidden treasures. From plants, flowers, and produce to garden art, home decor and much much more. Happens weekly at the Cloverdale Fairgrounds.

Looking for a date night activity or some family fun stroll through through the nearly 200 food and merchandise vendors at the Surrey Night Market. With free parking, $2 admission, international foodstalls, pedicures, cosmetics, jewlery, clothing, toys, and handbags this is a must see for this summer. Located at The Cloverdale Fairgrounds every Friday, Saturday, & Sunday from 6pm to 11pm, May 29 to September 20.

Starting on June 29th you can enjoy the Sounds of Summer Music Series which are held at various locations throught Surrey from 6:30pm. What better way to spend a summer evening than enjoying beautiful music in a stunning setting.

Enjoy some family friendly fun at the Newton Wave Pool on June 27th with the 20th annual Newton Community Festival

Next Week: June in the Garden

Garden to Table – More Spring Inspiration

With all this beautiful sunshine we have been having its time to start using some of the  bounty from our spring gardens.

With an abundance of chamomile in my community garden plot I’ve been thinking about ways to use it other than as straight tea.  Speaking to a fellow gardener who mentioned that she loves the combination of chamomile and peach together…I immediately wanted to try this even though peaches aren’t currently in season.  Here are a few recipes that I came across that I will have to try as soon as I am able to get a hold of some frozen peaches.  Since I have an obsession with smoothies this one is on the top of the list Chamomile, Peach, & Ginger Smoothie, a refreshing drink for a warm spring (or summer) day Chamomile & Peach Iced Tea.  Wondering why you should use Chamomile for more than enjoying how beautiful it look in your garden – Uses & Benefits of Chamomile.

A quick and simple Butter and Sage Sauce can make a fresh garden inspired sauce added to pasta for a light dinner.  Use a pasta made with quinoa or red lentils which are packed full of protein and skip the addition of meat for an even quicker meal.  Learn about the Uses & Benefits of Sage.

I took some fresh cilantro over to friend’s house for dinner last night to add to taco salad and it made the dish giving it just the right pop of flavour.  Another great use for cilantro can be found with this recipe Spiced Peas with Cilantro & Lime.  And of course let’s not forget the spring salad which offers so many possibilities including Spring Lettuces with Avocado and Pistachios or Snap Pea and Radicchio Slaw.

The list of spring treats also includes artichokes, leeks, potatoes and much more.  Happy gardening and happy eating!

Next Week: Learning about garden critters!

Get Inspired by these TED Talks – Food Education, Guerrilla Gardening and more.

Last week was the second TED event hosted by the nearby city of Vancouver so what better time to look at some of the great talks old and new that relate to gardening and food security.

A great inspiration to me is well-known activist and chef Jamie Oliver. Jamie has been a huge advocate for food education his food foundation does everything from encouraging garden projects in schools to encouraging and teaching others to cook from scratch with his Ministry of Food program. I first heard of Jamie Oliver through his Food Revolution television show and got hooked almost immediately because of his passion on this subject.

I just learned about Ron Finely a week ago but had to include this because he is such a great speaker and is sending a powerful message. This gentleman is a guerrilla gardener who simply wanted to improve his neighbourhood, give them an option for healthy eating and teach them about food. I’m sure all of us can relate to his comment about just because the city decided to change the name of his neighbourhood from South Central to South Los Angeles doesn’t change anything in context to Whalley being re-branded as Central City. It takes more than that to change the community.

I mentioned in the gardens first post of the year about a seed library at Kwantlan Polytechnic University and here is a talk by Jonathan Drori about what The Millennium Seed Bank is trying to achieve. This is the largest seed bank in the world. Best sure to also check out Jonathan Drori’s other Ted Talks such as the Beautiful Tricks of Flowers.

In this talk by Louie Schwartzberg the real reward is in the last half of the talk with the amazing time lapse video ‘Wings of Life’ on the beauty of pollinators.

Next week: Soil Health