Apricots galore!

It’s apricot season and I’ve been picking lots! It’s unusual to get apricots here in Santa Fe (about every 7 years for me) as usually a late freeze comes in spring and freezes all the blossoms, but not this year!

I have a wonderful apricot jam recipe that has St. Germain’s liquor in it. St Germain’s is a liquor made out of elderberries and is delicious by itself but when added to apricot jam while cooking, it gives a wonderful floral nuance to the jam that is delicious. So I am excited to make more this year as I’m down to my last jar of apricot jam. The recipe can be found here.

Wow, what a fruit season it’s been so far-first mega strawberries, then thousands of cherries, now apricots and my neighbor has salmonberries now and coming up right behind will be raspberries and blackberries in another month and then apples in the fall.

AND we haven’t even gotten to the veggies being produced right now but that’s for another post!

 

STRAWBERRIES-a bumper crop this year!

My strawberries are going nuts this year. This is the biggest crop I’ve ever had in 25 years! I think we’ve harvested about 6 GALLONS of them so far and still more to go. I think it’s because of all the moisture we had this winter and spring AND the Azomite mineral supplement I gave them last year. I’ve taken them to parties, given them to friends who froze some, and I’m am going to make some galettes and strawberry-balsamic jam with some of them and trading Bob’s cherries for some as well (I hope-are you listening Bob?)

Perennial fruit care in spring

Strawberries grew unbelievably with the addition of Azomite last year

As far as perennial fruit goes, I already cut back the new raspberry plants a few days ago. They are a fall variety called Polana from Norse nursery online. They were fantastic last year with us harvesting lots of raspberries in their first year. So this is their first trimming. I trimmed them back within an inch or two of the ground and they are all still alive. I wasn’t sure as I forgot to water them last fall for a few months but with all the precipitation we got this winter, they are fine.

I also cut back the new blackberry plants called Triple Crown, and saw lots of new start-ups that rooted that I will move. Now I won’t have to buy some to finish up the blackberry row. Hopefully I will get blackberries in their second year.

Today I pulled away all the dead leaves around the rhubarb (Victoria) and they are starting to come up too. A very hardy perennial plant.

I checked the strawberries and pulled all the dead borage plants that grow up in the strawberry patch each year from dropped seeds. Borage is a good companion plant for strawberries and the bees love them. The strawberries need a haircut too-but not too short. The strawberries did fantastic last year.

The verdict is out on the artichoke. It came back last year in its second year but I don’t see any signs of life yet this year. They actually are not supposed to be grown here as a perennial because we are in a colder zone than they like, so we will see if it makes it or not.

Next up is to prune back the grapes and the apple trees and other fruit trees. I’m late on the apple trees but they need to be desperately thinned and pruned now before they come back to life. Last year I put Azomite, a mineral supplement, in my veggie garden which really helped the crops and I have some leftover which I will sprinkle around the fruit trees this year.

Strawberry Beds-Spring Cleanup

strawberry bed in spring with row cover ready to cover when it freezes

strawberry bed in spring with row cover ready to cover when it freezes

Yesterday I raked out all the old leaves from my strawberry bed and sprinkled some fertilizer (I use yum-yum mix) and a fine layer of compost over the bed. This is the first year I’ve done anything for it in about 3 years and I noticed last year my strawberries were smaller so hopefully this will help.

The patch looks pretty rough and dry, dry dry so I watered heavily for about 1 hour after adding the amendments to give it a good drink. I did water it 2x during the winter but we didn’t get any appreciable snow this year so I hope it rebounds. I’ll also need to put the row cover back on tonight as it is supposed to get down to 29-28°F the next two nights as a few plants are already flowering—the cold will kill them if I don’t cover them.

You Little Tart!!

Lately I’ve been into making fruit tarts with our fruit harvest. The latest are these little strawberry-rhubarb tarts. The strawberries are over so I had to buy them but the rhubarb is kicking it and I’m looking for different ways to use it. A fiend of mine, Kathleen, asked for the tart recipe so here is the basic recipe for making tarts (from Julia Childs and Jacques Pepin) I like the tart pastry from Jacques Pepin better as I thought it was flakier than Julia’s so I put it in for the pastry. Get a tart pan if you don’t have one. I have both a big tart pan and little tart pans for individual servings.

 TART PASTRY (Jacques Pepin)

1 ¾ cups all purpose flour

1 1/3 sticks unsalted butter (5 1/3 oz)

3 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar

1 egg yolk

1-2 tablespoons water

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Combine flour, butter and sugar and mix till butter is crumbly like the size of peas using a pastry blender or food processor.  Don’t overblend. You don’t want it completely smooth as the butter pieces gives it it’s flakiness. In a small bowl, mix together egg yolk and water and add to flour mixture. Knead lightly until dough is smooth-do not over knead or dough will be tough. Form it into a ball and put in plastic wrap and refrigerate it if not ready to make. Then when ready, put it between 2 pieces of plastic wrap and roll out till about 14 inches round. Peel off one side of the wrap and put in tart pan and then peel off the other side of the plastic wrap. Then I roll my rolling pin over the edges to cut off the dough. Prick bottom and sides with a fork and put in oven. Cook from 15-20+ minutes till lightly brown. Your oven may be different so check it a lot. The recipe originally said 30 minutes but that is way too long at this altitude. If the edges get browner before the center, put some foil over the edges to keep from burning. This can be done up to 12 hours ahead. Leave out-no need to refrigerate.

CRÈME PATISSIERE (Julia Child) This filling makes a lot so you may want to cut it in half or even into fourths because you want a thin amount of filling to put the fruit on. I had a ton left over making the full recipe.

6 egg yolks

heavy saucepan

½ cup granulated sugar

½ cup all-purpose flour

2 cups hot milk

2 tablespoons butter

1 teaspoon vanilla extract or 1 tablespoon brandy

Separate egg yolks and blend with a wire whip in a heavy saucepan (cooks more evenly). Gradually beat in sugar until it is smooth. Add flour and whip in. GRADUALLY add hot milk stirring with the wire whip until smooth. Continue stirring CONSTANTLY with the whip till mixture is thick. As it turns lumpy whip harder till lumps are out.  Lower heat and cook a few more minutes till thickened stirring CONSTANTLY. Have I said that word enough-‘constantly’? Remove from heat and stir in butter and flavoring. Put plastic wrap right on top to keep it from getting thicker at the top and refrigerate. Leftover mixture can also be frozen for later use.

ASSEMBLING THE TARTS

Several hours before serving, put a thin layer of filling on bottom of pastry. The fruit is the main star in this recipe not the filling. Put fresh fruit like apricots, berries, kiwi or strawberries neatly on top of filling. Make a glaze using apricot or currant jam. Heat up the jam and add a few drops of warm water till it is the consistency of a glaze-spoon warm glaze over fruit).

In this picture I cooked the rhubarb with lots of sugar (to taste) in saucepan and then added some cornstarch as a thickening agent. Mix about 1 tablespoon cornstarch first with a little cold water so it won’t lump up and stir in and heat till thick.  You could do this with any fruit (take some of the fruit, add sugar then cook down and add cornstarch) if you want to make a glaze instead of buying jam.

Strawberries and rhubarb galore!

Oh yea-my June-bearing strawberries are ripening and the rhubarb is kicking it.  I love both of these perennials in the garden. They are easy and productive without much trouble and they come back year after year. They are also some of the first crops to produce which is great in June while we wait for the rest of the crops to come in.

Here are some strawberries we harvested during one picking session. There are tons on the plants this year as compared to last year when we got zero because of that super cold winter which almost killed them. I cover the strawberries with row cover after they flower but before the berries are red to keep the birds off them. Works like a charm. After the strawberries are finished I will take the row cover off them for the rest of the year. Sorry birds!

Here is the rhubarb we harvested. My variety is Victoria which is a very prolific green variety with a slight red blush instead of the red varieties that are available. There is no difference in taste with either red or green. Be sure to cut off the leaves which are poisonous. The leaves have high amounts of oxalic acid (the same as in spinach-only spinach has much lower safer amounts of oxalic acid). I cut it off about 1 inch below the leaf and at the ground level. The stalk is the part we eat. It is very tart so we need to add a good amount of sugar to sweeten it up when cooking.

So I made a strawberry-rhubarb pie! You mix up 3 cups strawberries with 3 cups rhubarb mixture with 1.5 cups sugar and 2 tablespoons of cornstarch in a big bowl and put the mixture in an uncooked pie shell. Then I put a crust on top of the mixture.

Before I could get a picture of the whole pie after it came out of the oven, everyone got into it first. Yum! Juicy and sweet.

What have I been doing?

I’ve been busy in the garden! It is ALMOST  finished. I have 8 more tomatoes to plant tomorrow that I forgot to get that are some of my standards at the SF Farmer’s Market. OPPS! But they will be ready in time.

Two weekends ago I had 7 friends/family help with planting the majority of the tomatoes. A great big THANK YOU to all that helped-Elodie, Flynn, Ronnie, Lava, Tom, Sharon and myself! I couldn’t have done it without you! I also have a few more flower seeds to plant by the entry. Otherwise it’s done-FINITO! Yea right-there is always something to do in the garden! Here are some of the things happening in the garden:

The fava beans are looking good. Here they are flowering. I like the black and white flowers. I don’t think I’ve ever seen black and white flowers on a plant before. They had some aphids so I sprayed them with insecticidal soap and they are looking better. They have baby fava beans on them now.

The beets and carrots are coming along quite nicely. They are outside the pole bean tent area and will fill in nicely

Here are some beet greens I harvested while thinning out the beets to give them room to grow. They are yummy in a salad and are so beautiful.

In the shadiest part of the garden I planted some bok choi and lettuce and have had it covered with row cover since planting to help keep them from the heat and bugs. They both are looking great. I’ve never grown bok choi before so I’ll have to research when to harvest as they are getting to be pretty big and won’t like the heat for too long.

The fennel bulbs are getting bigger and are almost ready to harvest. Maybe another 2 weeks. They also won’t do well in the heat. I wonder if they will get as big as the ones in the grocery store..

About half of the tomatoes I previously planted are growing out of the top of the wall of waters and I need to take them off before it gets too difficult.

It’s been fun growing some early stuff. The bok choi, fava beans, fennel and lettuce are more cool season crops and will have to be harvested soon because of the heat. Probably all of them will be harvested BEFORE July.

I also have potatoes that are growing through the roof, strawberries that are being harvested and rhubarb that is ready to pick but will save that for other posts.