Apple-Mint Jelly

 

Apple Jelly

I grew up eating my mother’s homemade apple jelly, and nothing tastes better on toast as far as I’m concerned. This year I was able to get a bag of fresh apples from my sister-in-law’s tree in Manitoba (yeah, I had to drive there, pick them and drive back, but it was worth it). I decided today that I would make some apple jelly, but I wanted to add a twist: mint. Many things go well with apples – ginger, lemon, cloves – so use your imagination when creating your own designer jelly.

Apple-Mint Jelly

I am not an expert jelly-maker, and this should not be taken as the definitive recipe for apple jelly. Use with caution.

This recipe can be adjusted for the amount of apples you have. For every 2 1/2 cups of strained juice, add 1 lb of sugar.

Wash and cut up the apples. Place them in a large stock pot and just cover with water. Add the juice of two lemons. Place several stems of mint in a muslin bag and tie, then add this to pot.

Bring the apples to a boil and simmer for an hour. Strain the juice using a jelly bag, but do not press the fruit. Test for pectin content (more information here ) and add more pectin of necessary. I added two packages to my juice.

Mix the juice and white sugar (in my case I had 15 cups of juice so I added 6 lbs of sugar) in a clean stock pot and bring to a boil. Boil rapidly until the set point is reached (more information here ), then remove the pot from the stove and skim the jelly if necessary.

Pour the jelly into sterile hot jars and cover. If the jars do not seal properly or if you are not using sealers, you can pour wax on top of the jelly once it has set.

Edible Garden Tour 2010

Ron Berezan Talks to the Tour Participants

This year’s Edible Garden Tour, hosted by Ron Berezan AKA The Urban Farmer, was held on August 14th. Meeting at Giovanni Caboto Park on a cloudy Saturday morning, fifty enthusiastic gardeners split into two groups and proceeded to visit ten amazing gardens distributed about the Edmonton area. Some of those taking part in the tour already had enviable gardens of their own, while others were planning for the day when they might.

The tour featured everything from backyard orchards to front yard vegetable gardens, and was brimming with inspiring ideas for both experienced and novice gardeners.

Each home on the circuit incorporated aspects of permaculture gardening; landscapes that work with nature to provide food, medicinal plants, and animal products and in a sustainable way. Permaculturists create a sustainable, productive environment through recycling, composting, reducing water needs and using microclimates to their advantage.

The forest garden is one example permaculture in action. Berezan’s own backyard is a testament to multi-layer design with stacking of canopy trees over shrubs and herbaceous plants followed by root and cover crops. Each layer in this polyculture interacts, creating a complex yet fundamental ecosystem.

A visit to the Mustard Seed Community Garden, aptly named “Peas Be With You”, demonstrated what can be done when a small plot of land is transformed into a neighbourhood garden space. Shared by both local residents and the homeless, the Mustard Seed garden produces food that is prepared and eaten by the green thumbs that participate.

We saw some amazing private gardens throughout the city as well. The fruit of years of grafting and nurturing were apparent in one homeowner’s apple orchard which featured trees drooping under the weight of as many as four different species of apple.

A Glenora area homeowner encourages people to slow down and smell the roses – literally. She has incorporated rest stops in her front garden and a nearby public access area with signs which invite people to stop and explore.

We met Roy Berkenbosch, winner of this year’s Front Gardens in Bloom (Edible Garden Category). Roy and his wife have transformed their front yard into an edible landscape full of beans, beets, and other culinary treats, while maintaining an attractive aesthetic.

I personally enjoyed our visit to a backyard apiary, although I have to admit I was worried that the bees might be able to smell my discomfort. As many as 50,000 bees inhabit this backyard beehive and it has already produced over 40 lbs of honey for the amateur beekeepers.

The 2010 Edible Garden Tour was an amazing private view into the yards of ordinary Edmontonians with extraordinary vision. I’m always inspired by touring other gardens, and this year was no exception.

I’m already working on plans to build a solar food dryer, rebuild my square foot raised beds to be more efficient, and I’ve dug my mom’s old canner out of storage so that I can experiment with canning more varieties of vegetables this fall.

Thanks to the Urban Farmer for hosting the tour. Here’s hoping that after Ron departs for warmer B.C. climes the tours continue. Permaculture is increasingly popular among those of us who enjoy the feel of dirt under our nails, and we can all use a little inspiration now and again.

Blooming Bargains for the Budget Conscious Gardener

Rudbeckia gloriosa

Rudbekia gloriosa (gloriosa daisy), Rudbeckia hirta (black-eyed-Susan), and all of their cousins are fantastic heat-tolerant cold resistant proliferative self-seeding wonders. Their colourful blooms begin in July and last into the fall, long after summer’s less enduring flowers have gone to seed.

The family Asteraceae, also known as the daisy, sunflower or aster family, is home to the  genii Rudbeckia, Echinacea (cone flowers) and Gaillardia (blanket flowers).

Echinacea purpurea (purple coneflower), is a fantastic garden flower grown for both its beauty and its medicinal qualities. It’s hardy to zone 3, making it a valuable plant in the Canadian prairie garden. A spiny central cone is characteristic of the genus; Echinacea is derived from the Greek word echinos, meaning hedgehog.

Another of my favourites in the heat-tolerant category are Gaillardia aristata (common blanket flower). Seeds can be planted directly outdoors in the late fall or early spring. Blanket flower plants may not appear until June, but they grow vigorously and bloom throughout July and August.

I enjoy the colourful yellows that these flowers bring to the late summer and fall garden, and they are definitely a great bang for the buck. Be sure to save some seed for next year if you’re truly a budget-conscious gardener.

May 2010

August 2010

Update: Upside-Down Tomato Planters

Tumbler Tomatoes

This year I made three hanging planters and tried the “Topsy Turvy” method of growing tomatoes. Topsy Turvy is a brand name which has become associated with this type of planter, but there are other brands and numerous self-made models on the web, including my design in my April 2010 blog post.

See April 2010 Making an Upside Tomato Planter

Down Having done some research on cultivars to use, I opted for the Tumbler tomato because of its suitability to growing in containers. In my raised beds I planted a Tumbler among my regular Roma tomatoes to use as a comparison.

Two of the three plants in my upside down planters have done remarkably well; the third has suffered from poor rooting from day one. I suspect that I didn’t plant it deep enough initially, as it has never thrived. It has produced a number of tomatoes despite it lack of vitality, but it’s hanging on (literally) by a straggly thread.

A clear disadvantage to the reverse planter is that it requires a significant amount of watering as compared to the traditional method. This would be expected given that the water can run out and/or evaporate from the bottom of the planter with relative ease. I’m sure much of the water consumption could be attributed to the voracious thirst of the wave petunia I placed in the top of each planter; the petunias have grown to produce a massive display of colorful blooms.

On the positive side, I’ve had no problem with any of the typical disease and pests that affect the plants grown in the ground. My traditionally-grown plant is similar in size but spotted with a mild case of blight.

I’ve been feeding my tomatoes on a regular “Fertilizer Friday” schedule, despite having used a high quality planting soil with fertilizer incorporated. Tomatoes can be fairly heavy feeders, particularly while they are producing.

Overall I’ve been happy with the outcome. I’ve been plucking fruit on a daily basis since late June and there appears to be no end in sight to the flowering. My Romas won’t be ready for several more weeks, so having the bite-size Tumblers to munch on is a treat.

May 2010

June 2010

July 2010

July 2010

These planters were filled in May with one wave petunia

These wave petunias have been outstanding