Thursday, 14 June 2012

Eat what you Grow/Grow what you Eat - June edition

I am one month in, officially, to my Eat what you Grow / Grow what you eat challenge.

I think I should explain my situation a bit to those who are new here.  I don't live on a homestead.  I live in the city.  Our entire property is 75' x 125' ( 9375 square feet).  On that, we have our house, a garage, a shed, a firepit, a seating area, and a driveway.  We have a large maple tree that shades out a section of the back yard, and our neighbours have a HUGE maple tree that also shades out an area of the back yard (hence the firepit and shed).  Half of our front yard is shade because of the city's maple tree planted on the boulevard.  And, our house is on the north side of the street, which means that our house and garage actually shade a portion of the back yard.  So, in the space that is left, maybe around 5000 square feet, I am endeavoring to grow enough food to eat something that I grew every day for a year.

Edited:  it would be about 5000square feet if I was able to use every single bit of it.  So far, I have not been able to dig up the boulevard, so that is maybe 800 or 900 square feet.  Some of it is unusable as there are too many tree roots to dig around (so I planted a meadow there) and some is planted with "landscaping shrubs" around the fit in with the neighbours.  So really, it is less than 4000 square feet.  I think I will measure for next month to see what it is exactly.
I am going to record what we ate from the yard in the last month.  This is more for my records than anything else (you know, to keep me honest, but also so that I can look back next year and see what I need to change) so feel free to skip ahead if you want.

What we are eating:
Keep in mind here that it is the beginning of the season (our last frost date is May 24), so the pickin's were slim in May.
May 15 - sorrel on our burgers
May 16 - made some parsley pesto and spread it on our subs.
May 17 - fresh rhubarb dipped in sugar
May 18 - some more fresh rhubarb dipped in sugar
May 19 - fresh mint tea
May 20 - mint iced tea and a handful of thyme, basil, and oregano in our spaghetti sauce
May 21 - salad greens and pea shoots mixed in with some romaine from the market
May 22 - a bowl full of pak choy to go with our home made sushi night I need to plant more pak choy / bok choy next year as all that I planted got used up in one meal.
May 23 - mint and lemon balm iced tea in the lunches
May 24 - salad greens with pea shoots and also some parsley pesto on noodles I need to plant a wider variety of salad greens next year as the same two over and over gets a little redundant.
May 25 - some more salad greens and parsley pesto noodles packed with my lunch
May 26 - mint iced tea popsicles made by N
May 27 - herbs in our spaghetti sauce
May 28 -salad green, green onions and salsa made from last year's garden in our tacos, mint tea popsicles and exactly 7 strawberries
May 29 - onions and green onions mixed into the stir fry
May 30 - a huge batch of kale and also some of last year's frozen strawberries mixed into some rice pudding
May 31 - rhubarb strawberry compote I will be making more of this next year as it was super delicious!  I have already planted more rhubarb.  

Strawberry Rhubarb Compote:  I used equal parts strawberries and rhubarb, a bit of sugar to taste, a little water in the bottom of the pot to stop it from burning before it cooks down.  Cook it gently until it is soft enough to mash up with a vegetable masher, mash, then simmer it until it is the desired consistency.  This is good plain, with yogourt, or with ice cream too.
June 1 - lettuce on our sandwiches and more delicious strawberry rhubarb compote
June 2 - last year's frozen raspberries in pancakes and last year's salsa with nachos
June 3 - salad - 2 kinds of lettuce, pea shoots and strawberries
June 4 - herbs in the spaghetti and strawberries for dessert
June 5 - salsa with nachos again
June 6 - strawberries for dessert and more mint iced tea
June 7 - a huge heap of kale and chard and also strawberries in the school lunches.  This is the first time I have ever had chard.  Plant more next year.
June 8 - strawberries in lunches and herbs, onions and lettuce in our dinner
June 9 - strawberry shortcake
June 10 - herbs in our pasta salad
June 11 - salad with radishes, peas, 2 lettuces and also strawberries
June 12 - strawberries in lunches and also some more salsa
June 13 - you guessed it...strawberries, but also a handful of the first raspberries of the season and a whole bowl of peas with supper
June 14 - strawberries in the lunches.
I have to say that strawberries is what I have the most of at this time of year.  I have the ever bearing kind so I get a large colander full, about every 2 days for weeks, rather than a whole bunch all at once.  
The other item in abundance is the mint, specifically, but also other herbs.  I didn't actually list it all the time, but I would say we are having mint iced tea more often than we are NOT having it.  It has cut down on the amount of frozen juice concentrate that we buy, which also has cut down on the garbage as only 2 kinds are recyclable.

What we are preserving:
To help me get through the winter on this challenge, so far I have:
-dried plenty of mint, oregano, thyme, sage, parsley (I hang them in my dining room until they are dry, and then I will pack them into mason jars)
-I have 2 milk sleeves packed with strawberries in the freezer with which I plan to make jam, once I have assured myself that we will have enough frozen strawberries for a couple of dinners
-I have pulled out my electric dehydrator and have tried drying a few things I have never done before: green onions that I think will be great in soups, herbs in the dehydrator (usually I just hang them to dry) and I sliced up a couple of strawberries to dehydrate but they shrank away to almost nothing so I think I will try again with some bigger pieces.
-I have 2 half-pint jars of pickled spring onions
-I have made a small jar of chive blossom vinegar which I intend to use in the winter for salad dressing
-I have enough frozen parsley pesto to make one more side dish of pesto pasta.
-I am freezing the red and black currents (I am getting a handful or so a day) until I have enough to make some current juice for sore throats this winter.
These are the pickled onions, the dehydrated green onions and the mint that went through the dehydrator.

What I need to do for next year:
-Plant a wider variety of lettuces and spring greens.  I did try to plant a few things out under row covers but the seeds didn't take.  I think they were eaten by critters.  I want to try to start them indoors early next year, and plant them out in row covers when they are a little more established.
-Hopefully, next year, I will have a little more preserved to get me through the month of May.
-Make sure I have dried a variety of herbs to make tea blends.

How others are getting involved:
Even though I set this challenge for my own self, I encourage others to try to grow a little something too.
My dear sister who lives in the big T.O. (Toronto Ontario) has planted out her whole balcony with edibles this year and has been kind enough to forward me some pictures of her new plantings:
Her significant other built the planters from reclaimed wood from houses he has worked on and the planters that are plastic are made from recycled material, as are the glass lanterns.  These pictures were taken when everything was newly planted, so next month, when I update mine, maybe I can share her progress.  I keep saying that I live in the city, but really, my sister lives in The City!  So you see, you can grow a little something anywhere!

I really do hope some of you will share what you have been eating and growing.  Either leave a comment with a link to a post, or just leave a comment with a list or a tip or whatever you wish to help encourage others along.  Any little bit, right?

Gonna link this one up to barn hop #66 at Homestead Revival.


  1. I love your whole list! It is very similar here, not a whole lot growing. Although, I think my bok choy is about ready to be picked...maybe another week. We are on the cusp of a lot of peas...although those usually get eaten by my daughter right from the garden before I get a chance. I am so happy to hear you are eating rhubarb dipped in sugar, it was one of my favorite ways to eat it growing up...although I do have a thing for rhubarb custard pie, yum! My mustard greens are getting close to cutting size, my spinach went to seed before I could even get to it, and my swiss chard is about the size of my 4 year old's hand...not ready yet. Soon though! In the meantime, I have been eating fresh herbs on everything :-)

  2. This list is amazing! I hope to be producing like this in a year or two! We've been get a handful of black raspberries every few days, and I've been delighting in watching my one year old eat them like candy!

  3. Did I read that right? With all of that shade, you still have 5000 sq ft of garden space?

    My garden is on the order of 400 sq ft. We have room for a lot more, but we're working on some other things first, then have to work out irrigation plans.

    I'm impressed with how well you've done on eating homegrown. My cherries are starting to turn red and we have some tomato flowers... but we're still a ways from eating anything homegrown here.

    1. Sorry, I meant 5000 sq ft of YARD. Most of it has been turned into garden, but some of it hasn't yet. Thanks for pointing that out...I have gone back to edit. I actually wrote the post over a couple of days and forgot to go back to reread. Eventually I hope it will all be garden but it is a work in progress and I find I can only expand a certain amount each year and still be able to keep up with it.

    2. Oh, haha. Yea, I do that a lot. :-) I was going to be really envious of your garden space. ;-)

      I ate one of my cherries today... they will be good in another week or so, but today it was VERY sour.

  4. hello natalie, many good veggies and fruits ,that is amazing! i like rhubarb-strawberrie compote too.i freeze a lot of rhubarb for the winter.i grow tomatoes and eggplant in bucket,a bit salad,kohlrabi,beans in boxes.
    wish you a wonderful weekend,
    blessings regina

  5. Psst Natalie, on June 9th you (read we!!) also had a few peas straight from the garden as we relaxed on the muskoka chairs while the kids played on the rope swing...Just Sayin'.

  6. What a great idea to journal what you're growing & eating! I'll bet we often think we didn't get to add as much homegrown food to our diets as we actually did... what a wonderful way to really count your blessings :)

  7. Hi... So glad you stopped by my blog so that I found yours..
    Your post is so interesting.. We try to grow, preserve and put by too.. Glad to meet another Canadian...

  8. Thanks for stopping my blog! I enjoyed reading this post and I love the shelf you have your herbs hanging on to dry. Hope to see you again soon.