• 5 Steps for Growing the Ultimate Vegetable Garden

    Thanks Shutterstock.

    This story about how to grow a vegetable garden was originally written for Niagara Life magazine. 

    Seed companies have mailed their catalogues. Green thumbs have gathered at local seed exchanges in search of their next prize-winning squash to plant. And now grow lights are being turned on in homes to get the 2017 edition of backyard tomato crops started.

    They all mean one thing: gardening season is approaching. But if you’ve never grown anything more than a hosta — heck, if you’ve never grown anything at all — those pre-season gardening rituals can seem downright daunting.

    It’s true, gardening isn’t for the faint of heart, what with having to rely on Mother Nature and her temperamental ways.

    It can be incredibly rewarding, however. Few things are sweeter than that first homegrown cherry tomato we pluck off the vine. Garden rules dictate it must be eaten immediately.

    Gardening gets us outside and active, offering physical and emotional benefits. That connection to other living things can boost moods. It can help us relax and be in the moment. Even better, plants never judge. So don’t sweat it if your Wellies are a little skuffed or you mutter to yourself while plucking your mustard greens.

    Here are five steps for growing the ultimate vegetable garden and reaping many cherry tomato feasts to come. Continue reading

    Labels , , , , , ,
    Category In the Garden

    FacebookTwitterGoogle+Pinterest

  • Peach Tree
  • Sweet potato cinnamon rolls for Angela Merkel

    I have a friend who shared with me an idea she had for a series involving the Proust questionnaire.

    I think it’s brilliant, given the people she’d like to reveal more about themselves. The personality test is one she’d like to put to chefs, so often asked to talk about their influences in the kitchen and favourite ingredients. I’d love to know who Jamie Oliver would be if not himself. That’s way more telling than his thoughts on kale.

    When I get really self-indulgent, I pretend in my head that someone is asking me such questions. It usually happens when brushing my teeth and looking in the mirror. Something about reflecting, I guess.

    If someone were to ask me the Proust-esque question, who are your heroes in real life or what famous person would you most like to have tea with, I’d say without hesitation Angela Merkel.

    Continue reading

    Labels , , , , , , , , , , , ,
    Category Recipes

    FacebookTwitterGoogle+Pinterest

  • Peach Tree
  • From Niagara winery to Shawn & Ed Brewing Co.

    Ed Madronich of Shawn & Ed Brewing Co. in Dundas.

    My column, Eating Niagara, runs every second Wednesday in the St. Catharines Standard, Niagara Falls Review and Welland Tribune.

    The saying goes that it takes a lot of beer to make great wine.

    But one Niagara vintner is proving the opposite true.

    Ed Madronich, proprietor of Flat Rock Cellars in Jordan, is showing that it also takes top-notch tipple to turn out noteworthy suds.

    He’s doing it with The Shawn & Ed Brewing Co., the 10-month-old brewery that he opened in an old Dundas curling and skating rink with university buddy Shawn Till.

    The venture fulfils a nearly lifelong dream the two discovered they shared while shooting hoops for McMaster University’s basketball team some 25 years ago. And even though the beverage lineup at the brewery, known to locals as “the Shed,” is more hoppy than tannic, Niagara’s influence on this heady pursuit in a Hamilton suburb is undeniable.

    “I believe there’s lots of synergies between the wine business and the beer business,” Madronich said. “I’m leveraging both for this to be successful.”

    Madronich flouts all those old wives’ tales about never mixing beer and wine with a lager-heavy roster that shows the two to be a perfect pairing.

    Take the flagship Shawn & Ed brew, BarrelShed No. 1. This ruby-red beauty has sweet caramel notes and gets its body from aging in Flat Rock Cellars Pinot Noir barrels. Since batch No. 1, some of each BarrelShed brew has been set aside to use in the following ferment. The result is glorious — rich and layered.

    “I believe over time, it adds complexity,” Madronich said about the BarrelShed’s secret ingredient. “It has the complexity of wine. BarrelShed is our globally unique beer. There’s nothing like it in the world.”

    Read the rest of the story

    Labels , , , , , , , , , ,
    Category Beyond Niagara, Food Finds

    FacebookTwitterGoogle+Pinterest

  • Peach Tree
  • Get growing: Find a community garden in Niagara

    My column, Eating Niagara, runs every second Wednesday in the St. Catharines Standard, Niagara Falls Review and Welland Tribune.

    Call me a keener, but soon after the calendar changed to Jan. 1, I bought myself some squash seeds to grow in my garden this summer.

    I got a seed catalogue in the mail the week before, so I figured I had the all-clear to start planning what I’d like to do months from now with my tiny patch of earth.

    I won’t be planting those butternut or bush delicata seeds in my backyard, though. That’s the domain of a big, old silver maple casting shade over my postage stamp lot. It’s heavenly if you’re a human sitting outside on a hot July day, but not so much if you’re a tomato plant clamouring to catch some sun rays.

    Those squash, along with a handful of tomatoes, perhaps a melon, and most definitely some kale will take root in my own 10×20-foot plot behind Grantham Mennonite Church in St. Catharines instead. My tiny tract is part of a sunny swath behind the church that’s used as a community garden run by Links for Greener Learning.

    This will be my third summer as a community gardener with Links for Greener Learning, an non-profit dedicated to providing newcomers to Canada with experiential learning opportunities. Links is one of a handful of local groups running community gardens in the region. It’s currently taking applications from green thumbs who need a place to plant this year.

    Selfishly, Links fulfils my need to feel like a master gardener with every vegetable I successfully harvest. (I hoist each haul skyward like baby Simba from the Lion King and celebrate by snapping a pic.) But that community garden has given me more than fodder for Instagram and fishing hole-type stories about giant tomatoes I’ve grown.

    It’s given me one of my favourite ways to while away a lunch hour, take a break from writing or spend an evening outdoors. I get to be in the company of ambitious amateur horticulturalists who have a whole world of experience growing eggplant, tomatoes, sesame seeds, corn, herbs and leafy greens.

    It was the highlight of my summer last year to pull weeds around my peppers while my gardening neighbour from China tended to her sesame plants, the family from West Africa tied their prolific tomatoes, and a couple from the Middle East raked between fertile rows of inky black eggplant.

    We broke ground together in our fertile mosaic, and broke bread together at potlucks and other events Links held to celebrate the growing season.

    Read the rest of the story and find a community garden in Niagara.

    Labels , , , , , , , ,
    Category Food Security, In the Garden

    FacebookTwitterGoogle+Pinterest