Blackberries, thick and ripe

I’ve been picking blackberries the last few weeks. They are the most aggressive plant imaginable. There is a local blackberry on Vancouver Island with small leaves and a thin vine that creeps along the ground in undisturbed forest areas. The berries are small and their season is short.

Then there are the Himalayan blackberries, with thick tough vines and huge thorns. We were picking the Himalayans. They have a long season, stretching into early October depending on the weather, and the berries are huge. The bushes were on the other side of a ditch, so we backed the truck across the ditch and stood on the flatbed to pick. I still got clawed and scratched but they are so plentiful we filled three buckets.

I learned how to pick these berries from the mother of a friend. She always went out prepared. She wore heavy jeans, tucked into socks, with heavy boots and thick soles. That way she could use her foot to flatten the vines and move forward into the jungle. She wore a cotton shirt, with a long sleeved shirt over so the thorns could grab the top shirt and she wouldn’t get clawed. She had a belt around her waist that was threaded through the handle of her berry bucket. Then she wore one leather glove to grab the vine and left her other hand free for picking. She also carried a wire coat hanger to hook the vines and pull them forward if needed.

I lived on Vancouver Island until my eleventh birthday. Then my family moved to the North Peace area. Time passed, we moved on again to the Kootenays, and it was years later that I decided to return to Victoria to attend university. It was early September, and I was waiting at a bus stop to take me up to the university campus for the first time. There was a blackberry bush behind the bench, and I leaned over and picked a few berries. They tasted like home. I had forgotten how good they were, but those few berries reminded me. I’ve lived on the island ever since.

What wild fruit do you pick near your home?

Squash Soup, Garden gone crazy!

My garden is going crazy. I have a couple of English cucumber plants and they are producing like mad. We are trying to eat one a day just so it doesn’t get too far ahead of us, and we give the rest away. Luckily the tomato plants are just as busy, so we’ve had a lot of Greek salads! 🙂 Then there are the squash plants, too many to count.

Making a batch of Squash Soup today. I got the recipe from the world famous Butchart Gardens near Victoria. It always turns out fabulous – squash, apple, carrot, celery, onion, a stick of cinnamon, not to mention a few tablespoons of curry paste. Just put it through the food processor.

What are you harvesting from your garden?

Merry, merry Christmas – Best wishes for 2018

The rush is on—Christmas is just around the corner. I’m making shortbread for the family. Just finished two batches of chocolate oatmeal cookies. Some are asking for the Cranberry Coffee Cake, which is a favourite. I’ve also had requests for lemon angel food cake with raspberries. That is a traditional birthday cake for our family, and we have a new grandson born Dec 18th, so his siblings think the birthday cake can be justified. 😊

What do you cook or bake for Christmas?

I want to wish each and every one of you a wonderful holiday season, and many blessings in the New Year. Happy 2018! Wow!

Inundated With Tomatoes

Fall is here at last. The tomatoes went crazy in my garden this year. They grew so tall they pulled the tomato cages over. I had to stake them up with thick bamboo stakes and use string to tie them on. Then the fruit came—baskets of ripe tomatoes. Right beside the tomatoes were two cucumber vines that kept spitting out large prickly cukes. What to do with all that food?

I gave a bunch away, but looked for recipes to use it. This is a gazpacho soup which used both a ton of tomatoes and a bunch of cucumber. Perfect!

I loved it. My husband said he wasn’t used to this kind of food, and although it was very good, it left him wondering what was for dinner!

Recipe –

Large prickly cucumber, peeled and sliced

Tomatoes in equal amount to the cuke

2 cloves garlic

¾ c. red onion

Olive oil

Balsamic vinegar

Parsley leaves, handful

Oregano leaves, handful

Put through blender till smooth and season to taste with salt, pepper, Worchestershire sauce, bruschetta spices. Slice an avocado and add to soup, cool in refrigerator. Serve with crusty bread, toasted, and topped with parmesan cheese. Enjoy!

What do you do with  your tomatoes?

Crabapple blossoms show promise for great harvest

Crabapple blossoms (To follow, click on link at the bottom right)

The crabapple tree is loaded with blossom this year. It looks very promising for a great harvest. Now if only the apples stay on the tree long enough to be ready for picking in the fall. I have had to fight the squirrels for them every year for a while now. The first year, I had checked the apples and decided they needed another few weeks. But three days later, there wasn’t an apple left on the tree.

I make crabapple jelly for toast. Spicy crabapple jelly for dotting on cheese and crackers. Crabapple butter which is delightful with chicken or pork. Crabapple sauce, just because we like it.

And the good thing is – I don’t have to do any of that for months yet. There is still time to finish the cover for the first book of my new series, The Last War. I’m so excited.

Let’s hope it’s a good harvest this year.