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Local gardening wrap-up

24 Nov

Some of you may remember the gardening series I posted about this summer. There were going to be three posts, but life got in the way for both of us, so we are happy to bring you the final installment in the series today. Natasha’s first post is here.


Wow, this summer completely flew by!! Can you believe it’s already November?!? My summer didn’t exactly go as planned, so I didn’t update as much as I would have liked, but I wanted to share a few final thoughts from my little garden plot. Overall, it was a great success – we grew pounds and pounds of veggies, and I was still picking strawberries, carrots and green onions on thanksgiving weekend!

Once the garden was up and running, it was pretty easy to maintain. Whenever I stopped by to pick some veggies, I would also pull a few weeds and that seemed to keep everything in order. Easy peasy. Some days I also had to water, but it was rare that I worked at the garden for more than 30-45 min, about twice per week.

And for the little work we put in, we got LOADS of beans! If we had a bigger freezer I likely would have been more diligent in blanching and freezing them, but this year I just shared them all with family. I tried a new-to-me variety called Maxibel and highly recommend them. They will certainly become one of our garden staples. The beans are about 6-8” long, crisp, and very prolific. They’re not quite as sweet as Kentucky beans, but they’re still yummy enough to eat raw if you want.

The gourmet lettuce mix was a big producer too. I’m glad we had the blend so there were always different kinds of lettuce growing: green leaf, red leaf, red romaine, butter, and a few others I hadn’t tried before. There’s no doubt that we have the perfect climate for growing lettuce; I don’t think we’ve ever had a bad crop.

Another experimental crop was Goldana turnips. I only planted a few, but once they were ready for eating, I really wished I had planted more.  They were much sweeter than regular turnips and very tasty. Even my husband – who doesn’t care much for turnips – thinks I need to plant more of them next year.

We tried a “snack mix” of snap peas which I wasn’t so crazy about. Apparently, I’m picky about the tenderness of my pea pods and some of these were a bit too tough for my taste. I think I’d commit to just one variety next year, and possibly plant a less seeds. At one point we had so many that we were simply getting tired of picking and eating peas. Again, a bigger freezer would have been helpful!

For whatever reason, no one at the garden had much success with butternut squash. I think my seeds only put out a few tiny leaves and that was it. We have a good stock of spaghetti and hokkaido squash in our cupboards though! Six of one, and three of the other. Since I had planted only 6 seeds of each, I’m very than happy with the results!

While our cucumber fared better than the butternut squash, it was just barely. Technically we grew two of them, but they never got bigger than a couple inches long. I had tucked them behind the beans with a trellis, but the beans grew big and leafy so fast, that the poor cucumber plants hardly got any sun at all. Next year I’ll be planting them more on the south side of the garden, where they’ll get more sun and can hopefully help keep the lettuce cool.

My carrots didn’t do so well either, but I think that’s partly because of the soil in my plot. It was really hard and clay-like in spots. The carrots that matured well enough to pick were really short with weird bends and hitches… a sure sign they need softer soil. I’ll need to amend the soil with some sand next year before planting.

That being said, I still tried planting a late-season crop of carrots which are still out there weathering the rain. If they don’t mature, it’s not a huge loss, and if they do, bonus! There’s also a few beets on the go. They didn’t look so great the last time I stopped in, so I don’t have high hopes, but they’re not dead yet so I’ll let them do their thing.

Oh! I almost forgot! The home remedy I tried for the bugs eating my leafy-greens worked well. Basically, I took a spray bottle mostly filled with water, added a few drops of Dawn dish soap, a smidgen of light oil (i.e. canola or sunflower), plus a pinch of garlic and cayenne. The one for the powdery mildew didn’t work as well, but I also wasn’t very consistent with using it, so I’ll have to try it again next year. When I looked around at the neighbouring plots, it seems that everyone was struggling with powdery mildew, especially on squash plants, so I certainly don’t feel bad about the sad shape mine were in.

All in all, the community garden was great fun.  I loved chatting with the other gardeners, learning new tips, hearing new ideas, and being able to see how my produce fared in comparison to others.  I think seeing that others were battling some of the same challenges I was helped me just enjoy the process and not feel like I was doing anything detrimentally wrong.

You can find more of Natasha’s writing on her personal blog, My Front Stoop. Thanks, Natasha for sharing your gardening tips with us!

Metro Vancouver Feast of Fields 2012

11 Sep

This past weekend was the 18th Annual Feast of Fields event. It happens every year in September, and last year it was at Krause Berry Farms. This year it was held at Golden Ears Cheesecrafters in Maple Ridge, so it was a slightly longer commute for me this time. But boy, was it EVER worth it!

The weather wasn’t hot and sunny, but for the majority of the afternoon the rains held off. I noticed quite a few people begin to leave once it began pouring, but us die-hards who were prepared with jackets and umbrellas were going to stick it out until the bitter end (or until the food ran out).

This year there were 13 tents offering food and wine, which I think was an increase from last year. As we were standing in line for one of the food items, we were talking with a man behind us, and we were all lamenting the fact that the tents didn’t have numbers on them. The program we were given had a numbered map, but it would have been a little less confusing if the tents physically had their numbers on them.

We also overheard one girl exclaiming to her friend that “This is my favourite day beside Christmas! Actually, it’s BETTER than Christmas!” Haha. So awesome. And that was at 1:30pm, so the festival was just getting going at that point.

Well, without further ado, here are some pictures of some of the INCREDIBLE food we tasted. I think we tried just about everything that was listed in the program, except for a few places that ran out of food very early on, which was too bad.

Sapo Bravo 30 component dungeness crab “slaw” from Vancouver Club

Yarrow Meadows Duck Confit with cherry tomatoes on a blueberry cracker from Wild Rice

Ceviche: Fresh OceanWise seafood and citrus valencia orange with habanero pepper, stacked on organic blue corn tostada served with housemade guacamole & pickled chayote from Lolita’s “South of the Border” Cantina

This was my favourite dish from last year, and it was just as fabulous again this year!

AAA Hopcott premium grilled steak, roasted pepper, chorizo, and gouda on artisan ciabatta from Hopcott’s Premium Meats

Tempura bacon with a maple chive sour cream dip from Pearl Urban Bistro

WOW. There are no other words than WOW to describe how amazing this was!!

Wild Salmon Crudo, Fennel, Olives from Fishworks

Grand Marnier & Callebaut Mousse with Bremner’s Blueberries from Chef Ann Kirsebom’s Gourmet Sauces

Herbed buttermilk whole grain crackers with heirloom tomatoes, basil and goat cheese brûlé from Slow Food Vancouver

Grilled pizza topped with duck and sage sausage, local heirloom tomatoes, Goat’s Pride feta cheese, and a Skeeter farm arugula and local hazelnut pesto from Seasonal 56

Seasonal 56 is one of the best restaurants in the Langley area. I highly recommend trying them out sometime! Here’s my review from last summer.

Fennel and basil coleslaw with pippin-peach vinaigrette and pollen creme fraise on purple and savoy cabbage leaves from Aphrodite’s Organic Café

Qualicum Beach Scallop Ceviche from Rain City Grill

This dish was the favourite this year! We may or may not have gone back a few times to have more of these. SO delicious!!

HEE! I had to include this just for fun. This was at one of the wineries’ tables.

Albion Wild salmon ceviche from Whet Kitchen.Bar.Patio

Thyme and Birch Syrup infused watermelon from Pacific Institute of Culinary Arts

These watermelon bites were super refreshing. Even though it wasn’t a warm day, these little bites of freshness were very welcomed.

Sakura Farms braised pork belly, star anise sweet soy glaze, Barnston Island micros, sweet rice cake from Prestons Restaurant

Cured Pacific Provider salmon belly with Glorious Organics pickled beets from The Next Course @ The Listel Hotel

Windset Farms Symphony Heirloom Style Tomato Salad, Basil Pesto, Maestro Pepper Spicy Sorbetto from Yew Restaurant + Bar

This tomato dish was phenomenal! The pepper sorbetto really kicked it up an extra notch. Very impressive!

Artichoke Stacker from Choices Markets

Berry cream cake from Krause Berry Farms

There was so much more that I could have shared with you, but then this post would become a novel! Since I was the designated driver, I only had little sips of a few alcoholic drinks. My favourites were the Victoria Gin from Victoria Spirits (the flavours in this were unbelievable. I’m a fan!!), and the Pinot Gris from Gray Monk Estate Winery.

I’m so glad I was able to go to this event again. Last year I discovered it by (happy) accident, and it now has a permanent spot on my calendar.

The tickets are a bit on the pricier side ($85 per person) compared to other festivals in the area, but it is worth every penny and more.  Next year’s event will take place on Sunday, September 8th – location TBA.

Farmers’ Feast at Krause Berry Farm

15 Jul

Today was the 8th annual Farmers’ Feast out at Krause Berry Farm. I’ve written about the farm before here. I’ve never been to this event before, but based on what I saw today, I’ll definitely be adding this to my calendar for next year.

The event is a chance for local farms and vendors to get more exposure in the community, which is great. There were about 10 vendors set up in front of the market area, and most of them were giving out free samples of their cheese, chocolate, sausages, cake, wine and more. There was live music playing on their little stage in one of the eating areas, plus a man on violin who was wandering through the crowds, and lots of activities for kids. Despite the cloudy weather, the mood was festive and the place was hopping!


I made a fabulous new discovery with one of the samples – a Cranberry Melomel wine from Campbell’s Gold. I’d never tried a honey/fruit wine before, and was pleasantly surprised. It was so delicious and refreshing, and would be perfect for a hot summer evening. I’ll definitely be dropping by their store soon to pick up a few bottles.

I was at the farm at around 11am (when the event started), because I wanted to spend some time picking berries in their u-pick fields. The place was busy, but I managed to find a quiet section and picked to my heart’s content. It’s raspberry season right now, and I definitely suggest you come to Krause with your family to pick your own berries!

As I was leaving (after 12pm), I had to laugh at the amount of cars in the parking lot – the place was filled to overflowing, and people were parking on the side of the road for about a block near the farm. The event wasn’t even half over at that point, but the place was extremely busy. It made me grateful that I live within walking distance, so I don’t need to drive to the farm.

If you’re planning to go to the event next year, I definitely suggest getting there early, if you can, as parking will be VERY minimal as the afternoon goes on. I was surprised (and pleased) that so many people showed up despite the clouds and thunderstorms in the forecast. It’s a great event!

Growing your own produce – An Introduction

22 Jun

Sorry for the delay in getting this post up. Life has a funny way of happening, and time just flew by. Please enjoy this fabulous guest post, written by my friend Natasha. On a side note, Natasha was one of my biggest cheerleaders when I was thinking of starting up this website, and she helped to name the site as well.


Hi everyone! I’m trying something new this year, and my friend Sharon thought it could be an appropriate topic of conversation for her blog. I’ve never guest posted before, so I’m excited to “meet” a whole new group of people! I’ll share 2-3 posts over the summer, so you can see how things are progressing, and decide if you want to try it for yourself next year!

After living in an apartment condo for several years, I’ve been really missing having some dirt to play in. I can live without the flowers, but there’s nothing better than the taste of fresh garden veggies. After only a little bit of research, I learned that there’s a community garden not too far from my home. And as a special bonus, I could ever-so-easily make it on my way home from work too!

I had heard rumors that there’s sometimes a waiting list, but I managed to score myself a plot almost right away: a 15’x15′ piece of land that I could (almost) call my own, for the low price of only $25 per year! This is a HUGE garden for us! There’s only my husband and I in our home, and the last time we had a garden it was only 4’x8′!

When you sign up for a community garden plot, you basically get what you see. You can invest as much (or as little) money as you want to make your garden as pretty or functional as your heart’s desire. Some people in our community have built raised beds, trellises, compost bins, and other features to make it their own. One lady even brought in several concrete pavers and a lawn chair, so she can sit and read in the sunshine. Our garden organization will arrange deliveries of garden soil and manure, we just pay a small fee for whatever we use – usually just a few dollars per wheelbarrow.

Initially, our little plot wasn’t much to look at… the front edges are marked with the rocks, the back corner is right in front of that black compost bin (that belongs to my neighbour).

The family that used this plot last year only used one little corner, so I basically started from scratch… Though, starting from scratch here is still a lot easier than in a back yard, where I would have had to rip out a bunch of grass first!

After only 10-12 hours of work (and a couple weeks of growth), it was starting to look like something pretty special. What I like about gardening is that, while it’s pretty intensive work to get it up and running, the ongoing maintenance can be done in just an hour or two per week. It’s so easy and the reward can be so bountiful.

These community gardens are scattered throughout the Lower Mainland. Here’s a page, maintained by City Farmer, that provides a list of the gardens around the Lower Mainland, with pertinent contact info. Usually you’ll need to provide some kind of ID to prove you live in the general area.

The garden I’m a part of is on the lower end of the price range, but most aren’t much more than this. The part I really like is that my annual fee includes access to a fully stocked toolshed, with shovels, hoes, wheelbarrows and even a powered tiller.

The rules tend to be a little different from one garden to the next, so if you’re thinking of joining a garden, be sure to get a copy of the full membership agreement. For example, in my agreement we need to take all garbage home with us for disposal since the garden site doesn’t have a regular pick up. We also have to agree to 5 hours of general maintenance of the common areas of the garden. We have a rotation for who cleans the kitchenette and washroom, but there’s also a lot of weeding that needs to be done along the fenceline and aisles. But, if you think about it, 5 hrs of work over a 12-month membership year is hardly anything at all. They also schedule periodic work days where you can get a good chunk of your hours completed while also meeting lots of gardening friends.

I went to a work day (work morning, really) in early May and don’t regret it at all! The work wasn’t too hard, and a lovely lady gave me a bunch of strawberry plants that were starting to overtake her garden plot. There was also a huge box filled with all kinds of Mackenie seeds, free for the taking.

The season is still young, but we’ve already been able to enjoy countless radishes, and several batches of lettuce leaves. For lettuce, I tend to pick just the oldest leaves on each plant, rather than harvesting the whole head all at once. This allows for continued growth, and seems to work well here on the west coast, where the summers don’t typically get terribly hot.

In addition to radishes and lettuce, I’m growing nantes and spectrum carrots, broccoli (given to me from a lovely co-gardener!), marketmore cucumber, green and yellow summer squash, assorted snap peas, green and yellow bush beans, 3 kinds of winter squash (butternut, spaghetti & hokkaido), spinach, welsh bunching onions (green onions), beets and golden turnips.

We’ll see how it goes…

The yellow summer squash and cucumbers already seem to be fighting a case of powdery mildew, but I just learned that a mixture of 1 tsp baking soda, 2 tsp vegetable oil and 1 quart of water sprayed on the leaves every 10 days should help treat it.

I’ve also noticed several little critters are trying to eat my radishes, beets and turnips before I do. A lady told me she’s had good luck treating these buggers simply by watering the roots (not the leaves) with a diluted soap mixture… basically made with a mild dish soap. I’ll have to give that a try too.

I’ll keep you posted with how these easy home remedies work.

In the meantime, I’m praying for lots of bright, hot sunshine so that my big batch of strawberries can turn red and sweet!

A new series on produce

9 Jun

In the next week I’m going to begin an exciting new series here on Feast and Fare. I’ve wanted to spend some of my focus on local produce, but since I don’t have a garden of my own (and have quite the black thumb to boot), I didn’t know the best way of going about that. Thankfully my friend Natasha is going to step in and help me out. She’s recently started a community garden, and over the next few months she’s going to be guest posting here a few times to share her experiences with growing her own produce. I’m excited to share her experiences with you, and hopefully encourage more of you to begin a garden of your own.

Stay tuned for more next weekend!

Langley Farmers Market

25 May

Wednesday marked the start of the Langley Farmers Market season. The market is held in the courtyard area of Kwantlen’s Langley campus on the Langley Bypass and Glover Rd, and are every Wednesday afternoon from 2 to 6pm until October 3. Parking at the university is $2, but you can get that reimbursed at the Market Info tent. Some of the vendors accept major credit cards, but if you’re a dolt like me and forget to bring cash, apparently you can buy Market Bucks that can be used at any of the vendors’ booths.

I’d passed by the market many times in the past, but never bothered to stop in and check it out. I’m glad I gave it a chance this week! There were about 30 vendors selling veggies, plants, baked goods, beauty products, spices, jewelry and tons more. The variety is fabulous! Many of the vendors were also giving free samples of their stuff, so I got to try a few delicious things that I’ll for sure be purchasing in the future.

The weather had been pretty horrid for the few days leading up to it, so it was nice that the sun came out for the afternoon, even though it was pretty windy.

I highly recommend stopping by at some point over the next few months! I’m excited to see what will be available as more produce comes in season.

Berries berries berries!

23 Jul

I love berries.  Growing up, we had easy access to blackberries, which grow like weeds on the island where we lived.  Despite my easy access to those, I’d never picked any other type of berry before – until today.

I live about a 10 minute walk away from Krause Berry Farms, and since today was a gorgeously sunny day, I decided to visit.  It’s a fabulous place!  I went in the early afternoon, which probably wasn’t the wisest idea, given that it was the first sunny and warm Saturday in a LONG time, so the place was packed.  Thankfully I was in no hurry, so the lines and ridiculous amount of people there didn’t bother me.

Since I arrived at around lunch time, and hadn’t had anything to eat, I decided to check out their “Porch.”

I ordered a slice of their corn pizza, a raspberry lemonade, and an iced berry doughnut:

The pizza was so interesting – I’d never had anything like this before.  It had corn, peppers and artichokes, and was very flavourful.  The lemonade was delicious and refreshing, and the doughnut was light and perfect.  The prices are very reasonable.

Once I was finished eating, I picked up a bucket ($1 to buy one of theirs), as I didn’t know that you could bring your own, and headed out to the fields.

According to the guy directing people where to pick, the fields were very picked over, but I had no trouble finding plenty of ripe and juicy looking berries.

I didn’t pick a ton, even though they were very reasonably priced, but I don’t need truckloads of them.

It was a fabulous afternoon, and I picked up a few other goodies in their store.  I’ll for sure be back once the blackberries are ripe.

This is a great place for families – the kids near me seemed to be having a blast picking their berries.  There’s even a playground right by the restaurant, a petting zoo (admission is $2) and carriage rides on weekends ($2/person).

If you’re looking for a local place to get some fresh berries and other home-made goodies, definitely plan for a visit to Krause Berry Farms.