Sunday, November 28, 2010

Mulled Wine

We had our 'Open House' at the greenhouse yesterday.... a fun day with all of our Christmas items displayed for sale. There was Christmas cake (thanx to Gudie), shortbreads, peanut butter fudge (thanx to Andrea and Paige) and mulled wine. There were many requests for the mulled wine recipe so here it is....

Mulled Wine or Negus in Quantity (from The Joy of Cooking)

Make a syrup by boiling for 5 minutes:
2.5 cups sugar
1 1/4 cups water
4 dozen whole cloves
6 cinnamon sticks
3 crushed nutmegs (I used a heaping tsp ground)
Grated rind of 3 lemons and 2 oranges
Strain syrup. Add to it:
4 cups hot lemon or lime juice
Heat well, but do not boil, and add:
4 bottles red wineor Madeira, port or sherry (I used red wine)
Serve hot with slices of lemon and pineapple
Enjoy! Please keep your consumption to a minimum if you are driving.

Thank you to all who came out to join us yesterday. We do appreciate your business more than you can know.

Ooops. I forgot to say that I added a couple of heaping teaspoons of honey to the wine to sweeten it. It was pretty tart before that.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Fa la la la la, la la la la

Christmas is coming, the goose is getting fat, won't you put a penny in the old man's hat.

This is the time of year when the greenhouse turns from gardening to wreath making. There is a tremendous amount of work to be done in a very short time. Cherie, Paige, Gudie and I are in the midst of making wreaths, swags, kissing balls (not sure why they call them that), advent wreaths, hanging baskets and outdoor containers. The greenhouse is filled with balsam fir and the fragrance of Christmas is dizzying. Next Saturday (November 27th) we have our 'Open House' when all of these items will be on display. Paige and Andrea will be selling their bee products and Newfoundland and Labrador Art will have a display as well. We will be serving mulled wine and Ginger Peach Christmas cake. The fire will be crackling in the stove and Christmas will be in the air. Join us.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Turkey Poop

Last year we started carrying a new fertilizer at 'The Greenhouse'. It is made from the droppings of free range turkeys. I did not find the opportunity to try it out last year (it sold too quickly) but I gave it a try this summer. I have attached a photo of my onions. The ones on the left were turkey pooped, the ones on the right did not receive any supplements. You be the judge. Every one of our customers who used it came back raving about the results. I'm hooked!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Autumn Interest

Flowering Crabs are probably our best seller next to Crimson King Maples. I have never understood the rationale of the purchaser, tho. People always look for the one with the pretty bubble gum pink flowers. Undoubtedly it is stunning when it is in bloom but it is a bit of a dud when it comes to autumn colour. My favorite flowering crabs are the ones with the beautiful, brightly coloured apples that stay on throughout the winter. The Harvest Gold is probably my favorite. The leaves are golden in colour and the apples are yellow at first, turning to a cherry red. The red against the gold is exquisite. Birds looking for food visit these trees all winter long. At some point in late winter, if you are lucky, you will see one of these trees loaded with Cedar Wax Wings. They show up one day and pick the tree clean in no time.

The 'Grace' smoke bush is another of my favorites. The leaves turn a neon pink in early October. They stand out for miles. Many customers come looking for burning bushes at this time of year, but when they see the outstanding colour of this underutilized shrub, they cannot resist it.

Kiwi vines are another stunner. Most people point out to me that kiwis will not grow in Newfoundland. Not only do they grow, but they are prolific. Do not expect the apple sized kiwi that we buy from New Zealand. These vines produce a fruit the size of a grape tomato that may be eaten skin and all. These vines turn a brilliant yellow in the fall. On a sunny day they make the garden glow.

The moral of the story is to plan your garden for four seasons of interest. A true gardener will consider Spring, Fall and Winter with the same passion that they do their summer garden.

Monday, October 11, 2010


A friend and I recently chatted about saying Grace in school. Her daughter has just started her first year in the school system and is expected to say Grace before eating. Seems it is still done in some schools in Newfoundland. We talked about how the implementation of a non denominational system has not taken religion from the educational system entirely. There are strong arguments on both sides of this debate and its difficult to take a stand on one side or the other. BUT... at least we can.

I thought about it quite a bit after that conversation. I had a different concern when my son was in kindergarten. There was a little girl who was Jehovah Witness in his class and because of this there were no Christmas trees made from colourful construction paper to adorn the walls and windows of that classroom that year. My son, Zack, though it was quite unfair that the majority was over ruled to accommodate one child. Perhaps the teacher should have researched both pagan and non-pagan celebrations and taught a balanced message of true tolerance and an appreciation for the diversity of opinion; whether they be religious or not.

Tolerance is a BIG word. What we have to remember is that it works both ways.

Today I am giving thanks. In a world full of terrifying images and realities, we are truly lucky to be born on this soil of Canada. Whether I choose to follow a book to guide my way or touch the soil of my garden to feel truly connected to 'something', it is not important. I am not a particularly religious person but it does not stop me from being thankful. Be it God, Allah, Ganesha or Mother Earth, I have a full belly and a pantry lined with colorful bottles of preserves to get me thru the winter. Grace is in humanity not in words or books.

I am thankful.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Buying stuff

Sean and I are away at a buying show. I don't usually enjoy going to these things because I am not a typical consumer and tend to order things for resale that I like. I avoid the ceramic flower containers shaped like a dog bed with puppies hanging out over them. The way I look at it, the flowers put in the container will cover the dog, so what is the point? My colleagues in the same business tell me they sell like hot cakes. I just cannot go there.

Instead, I head for the booth with the cedar greenhouse. It is covered with a baffled poly carbonate that helps retain heat. It has a solar panel which charges a lithium battery that powers a thermostat which will open and close the roof to ventilate on hot days. One of the benches inside has a flooding tray that floods to bottom water your plants. It cycles twice a day so you can put your plants and baskets in it, go away for the weekend and not have to bother your neighbors to water your plants or open the door of your greenhouse when it is hot. It is completely off the grid. I fell in love with it. I wish I were retired so that I could putter with this in my own back yard.

I'll post some more products later... We are heading to the restaurant Jesse (my daughter) works at... The Nectar Social House in Dartmouth. It's all about the food now isn't it?!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Fall Bulbs.... When Bigger is Better

Well... Bulbs. What makes a good bulb? Isn't any bulb good enough? Actually... No. We fight (Not really) the urge to buy low cost bulbs to compete with the box stores but thankfully we will stick to quality and the price, when compared to price per gram, is a bargain. Check out the picture... Sean bought a bag of tulips and a bag of daffodils from a local box store to compare. The difference is evident... almost twice to three times the size.

The following was written by one of our suppliers, Halifax Seed Company and frankly, I couldn't have wrote it any better myself...

Fall Bulbs are available from September to Novemeber. When buying Tulips and Daffodils for spring blooming, remember purchase the biggest bulb you can afford. In this instance the bigger the bulb the better the show. Look for top-size or jumbos in the Tulips, “Double or Triple nose” in Narcissi or Daffodils for best blooms. Small bulbs are used for naturalizing areas.

Inspect the bulbs as you choose them. Look for bulbs that are heavy and solid, soft bulbs won’t grow as well (some varieties and colours of Tulips differ in their weight - i.e. white Tulips can be very heavy where as some bi-colour Tulips are light weight - this is not uncommon and should be taken into consideration at the time of choice). Loose skin (tunics) and nicks do not affect the growth of the bulb. For best results, obtain Tulips with either partial or complete tunics.

Bulbs should not show signs of rot or mold. Powdery mildew is a sign the bulbs have gotten damp in storage or been in poorly ventilated areas. Basal rot shows a brownish stain at the bottom of the bulb.

In The Maritime Provinces, the best time for planting fall bulbs is after Thanksgiving, Mid October onward. Tulips can be planted very late in the year i.e. November/December and will perform wonderfully. Buy your bulbs early for best selection but hold them until the appropriate planting time. Keep the bulbs cool but in a dry area and a paper bag will provide air circulation, do not store in plastic bags.

When purchasing fall flowering Crocus, please note these particular bulbs are planted now, however, the leaves will grow but the Crocus will not produce blooms until the following September.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Ripening Uncooperative Peppers and Tomatoes

Looks like frost tonite. I would imagine that there are a number of gardeners outside as I type trying to rescue their vegetables from impending doom . What to do, what to do... those darn green tomatoes. Do not despair. You can have garden tomatoes ripening till Christmas if you are careful and if you do not mind having a box full of veggies under your bed.
-Inspect all tomatoes for nicks and dings. Any wounds will promote mold that will go thru the whole batch.
- As you are inspecting, wipe each tomato dry.
- Place in a box trying to keep each one separated from its neighbor. If they touch it will encourage mold.
- Place a layer of newspaper over the top.
- Store in a dark, dry spot (under the bed is a great place).
- If you own cats make sure you put a cover on the box... cat lovers understand about boxes and cats.
- Check your crop a couple of times a week to make sure that one has not started to fester. If you are not diligent in this area you could lose the works. Mold spreads like wildfire.
- For faster ripening put some green tomatoes in a bag with a ripe apple. The ethylene gas given off by the apple will promote faster ripening.
- When all else fails, fry up your green tomatoes for a delicious treat. There are tons of recipes on the internet (or in church cookbooks) for using green tomatoes.

So what about peppers and ripening? It depends on the type of peppers you are growing. First of all, ALL PEPPERS MAY BE EATEN GREEN. If you are lucky enough to have your red, yellow or orange pepper ripen on the plant, consider yourself blessed. After all, this is Newfoundland.
- Pick your pepper as soon as it reaches full size to encourage the set of more fruit.
- If your pepper plants are in the garden, harvest once the weather turns cool and there is a danger of frost.
- If you have planted your peppers in pots you can take them indoors and put them in a bright window for another two or three months after the garden has succumbed. This will give your peppers lots of time to turn colour. If you do this, make sure that you isolate your plant before putting it in a room with other plants... it may be harbouring insects. I would give it a spray with insecticidal soap at three day intervals for the first two weeks after it is brought inside. Make sure you spray the undersides of the leaves... that is where the little buggers hide.

If you are determined to get another two or three weeks growth outside, you can use frost blankets over your crop. These work wonders as long as we do not have a heavy frost. The 'Harvest Moon' is called that for a reason, tho, and at this time of year we should be allowing our gardens a well deserved rest.

Thanx, Niki, for the suggestion for this blog. I hope it helps. If anybody else has queries or suggestions I would be happy to consider them.

No recipe tonite... we had home made tomato soup, made with yellow tomatoes. The colour makes it look a bit like barf and it did not really appeal to the photographer instinct.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

I had a BIG day in the garden today. The flower beds at 'The Greenhouse' do not get much attention all summer as we are busy with all of the other aspects of running a business. This time of year things slow down and a day like today is a gift. I spent the best part of the day weeding and pruning. At least a small piece of the garden looks like it is loved. Hopefully there will be a lot more days like this before the snow flies.

Sean is away for the evening so I fought the temptation to have a boiled egg and slice of toast and decided to grill a few eggplant stacks. Now, before you turn up your nose at the 'eggplant', these are deadly. Smothered in enough basil and olive oil, you can disguise the taste of anything.

Exquisite Eggplant

- 1 cup loosely packed fresh basil leaves
- 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 medium eggplants
- 1 large tomato
- 3 oz. feta (about 3/4 cup)
- finely shredded basil leaves for garnish

Blend basil with the olive oil and 1/2 tsp salt in blended or food processor till the basil is finely chopped. Prepare grill for cooking over medium hot coals. This may also be done using a lightly oiled pan over moderately high heat. While the grill heats, cut off bottoms of eggplants, then cut 1/2 " thick crosswise rounds. Slice the tomato about the same thickness. Lightly brush the eggplant slices with the basil oil and grill, covered, until the eggplant is very tender, 6 to 10 minutes. I turn once and brush the other side of the eggplant slice with more basil oil. Leave the grill on.

To make stacks: on baking pan, arrange 4 eggplant rounds side by side and spread each with a generous amount of basil oil, then top each with a slice of tomato. Season the tomato with salt and pepper and top each with about 1 TBSP feta. Repeat process and finish with an eggplant slice. Drizzle with more of the oil and set the baking pan on the grill with cover closed until heated thru, about 3 minutes. Transfer to serving plate and drizzle with more oil and top with finely shredded basil leaves.

This sounds like a lot of work but it is not. It is an easy meal or appetizer. The eggplant, tomato and basil all came from the greenhouse and were picked just before I came home. Mmmmmmmmmm! Eat your heart out, Jesse.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Tantalizing Tartar Sauce

We grow a large variety of herbs at 'The Greenhouse' and I love to use them when I cook. Our customers often comment that they wish they knew how to use them. For the next few weeks I will try to post some easy peasy recipes that readers can try. All recipes will be using FRESH herbs. The salsa recipe from yesterday used a bunch of fresh cilantro from my garden that I feel gave the salsa the delicious flavour.

Today we are having pan fried cod for supper. It is the 59th wedding anniversary of my parents so they are coming for supper along with my sister, Donna. Wish you were here, Chris.

Cod must be accompanied by freshly made Tartar Sauce. The commercial variety will never see your kitchen again once you have tried this.

- 1 cup real mayonaise
- 1 tsp Djion mustard
- 1 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley
- 1 tsp minced shallots or green onion
- 1 Tbsp chopped green olives
- 1 Tbsp chopped drained capers
- optional - a drop of lemon juice

Stir together and chill. Delicious with cod or halibut.

Tonight I used a grating of fresh horseradish. It gave it an extra bite. As you can see, I used more than a Tbsp of parsley, too.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Excellent Salsa Recipe - Medium Spicy

When the occasional 'imperfect' vegetable shows up at the Greenhouse, we put them aside for preserves.

Here I am dealing with the rejects!

The resulting salsa was well worth it!

Sensational Salsa !
    • 30 tomatoes peeled and chopped,
    • 2 green bell peppers,
    • 2 red bell peppers,
    • 10 cups chopped onions,
    • 10 gloves garlic,
    • 1 cup of chopped jalapeno peppers (1 jar of strained pickled will also do the job),
    • 1/2 - 3/4 cup of sugar,
    • 2 cups of vinegar,
    • 8 teaspoons pickling salt,
    • 2 teaspoons black pepper,
    • 2 large cans of tomato paste.

    Simmer 1 1/2 hr, stirring often, at the end of cooking add 1/2 bunch of cilantro if desired. Jar and process - 35 minutes for pint jars and 45 minutes for quart jars. Makes 17 pints.