Posts Tagged ‘backyard’

Fooling Mother Nature: Winter Edition

Fooling Mother Nature in the winter is not as hard as it sounds.  Most cold tolerant plants enjoy the cooler months; it’s the wind they don’t like.

You need a cold frame filled with cold tolerant plants like Mache, carrots and arugula.  A cold frame is a box with hinged covers so that the plants are protected from the wind.  The cover is usually made of glass, or plastic, or something clear and non-porous.  It’s not the cold that harms or kills the plants it’s the wind chill.  Snow adds extra insulation so that’s not a problem either. 

 I am in Toronto, Ontario (Zone 5) so to ensure that I have plants in the winter to harvest I make sure to sow my seeds in early-mid October so that there is sufficient time for the plants to grow before winter.  Plants take longer to grow in the cold weather so be sure to allow yourself some extra time.  Also, be sure to go lighter when you water because water evaporates and drains slower in the cooler temperatures. 

AHOF has been harvesting plants throughout the winter for a few years now and can provide the cold frames for you.  We also have greenhouses available which is a nice alternative to cold frames.  Please contact us for more details. 

Have any winter gardening tips you’d like to share? Let us know!

Eat drink and be merry.

The At Home Organic


How Big Should My Vegetable Garden Be?

The best answer is often the simplest one.  How ever much you want.  The aim of the vegetable garden is to produce food.  Once that goal is attained what is left over is up to you and you have 3 choices – consume it, preserve it or give it away.

But as a general rule of thumb, one 4’ x 8’ raised bed supplements 2 adults nicely. If you have a highly vegetarian diet or enjoy more food than the average Joe, go for one garden per person.

cedar summer garden

Summer Garden

If you find you have a shortage of fresh veggies to harvest, you can always plant more, but what happens if you have too many tomatoes for example.  We may be creatures of habit, but we often enjoy variety in our diet.  If you have already preserved as many tomatoes as you can (frozen tomato sauce is my favourite) then give some away.  Who would not want to be the recipient of free home grown tomatoes?!?!

For me, vegetable gardening is very much like tattoos.  Once you start it’s hard to stop.  But sometimes getting started is the hardest part. If you recently started a garden please share your inspiration.  If you’re thinking about it but haven’t gotten around to it yet, why not??

Eat drink and be merry.

The At Home Organic

What’s in Your Salad?

Organic Vegetables TorontoToday you may have gone to the grocery store and bought some produce.  Perhaps you came home and made a delicious meal with organic vegetables you bought.  Congrats! You’re already one step ahead of the many Torontonians that think take-out or restaurants are a major food group.

We didn’t get a chance to visit the grocery store today.  Lucky for us, our backyard garden is already producing, and we picked our Arugula fresh from our cold frame.

We also have organic carrots and merlot lettuce ready and are seeing the first signs of our fall garlic planting come up. 

Do you have a spring crop yet? Interested in one? 
From one self-proclaimed foodie to another, nothing beats local, organic produce that you’ve grown yourself!

Eat drink and be merry.

The At Home Organic

7500 Tomato Varieties – which are you eating?


tomatoes in my hand

Blondkopfchen and Black Cherry tomatoes

Usually when you’re out grocery shopping your choice of tomato is fairly limited.  You can choose between Ontario and USA field tomatoes, Ontario cherry tomatoes, and sometimes an heirloom variety (at $5.99/lb or more)… But what about the actual name? What about the actual variety?

Personally, I look to buy from Ontario when ever possible, even though I know that means going without some of my favourite fruits and veggies in the off months.  I can’t wait for spring time when the first pieces of broccoli and lettuce come to market.  But my absolute favourite is when local tomatoes hit the market. 

I love them.  I love them in salads, stir fries, sandwiches, pickling, barbequing, stews, pastas, and the list goes on.  There are few recipes out there where I don’t try and sneak some tomatoes in. 

Then one day, I realized that I have no idea what kind of tomato I buy.  I know if it’s a cherry tomato, or a field tomato, but that’s it.  Did you know there are more than 7500 different varieties of tomatoes?  Varieties like Cosmonaut Volkov, Big Rainbow, Brandywine, Moneymaker and Mr. Stripey illustrate just how little you may know about the tomatoes you buy at the market.

The tomatoes I find at the market lack that big tomato flavour that comes from home grown tomatoes, which makes sense since the tomato growers are focused on quantity and so quality is missed. 

As consumers we have become somewhat complacent in the food that we buy because we accept that we must purchase what is offered.  Time becomes a key factor in deciding what foods we eat as there is only so much time available for grocery shopping.  Why go to multiple stores when there is so much available at one? 

It almost seems silly that so many of us will settle for any variety of tomato that we find, instead of seeking out a Black Zebra tomato for perfect Brushetta, or the Blondkopfchen, ideal for winter salads.

Can’t find your favourite tomato variety at your local market? Try growing your own!

Eat drink and be merry.

The At Home Organic


What Does Organic Mean Anyway?

I’m a new parent and one of the wonderful things about being a new parent is getting all sorts of fun new things for your new baby.  One of our friends gave us a children’s book entitled Foodie Babies Wear Bibs.  It’s a great little book.

Well if the book had one extra page, we bet it would read: Foodie Babies know where their food comes from.

Let me digress for a moment…

Ask Google to define ‘organic’ and you’ll get 6.3 million results, well sort of.  You’ll actually get 11 links because anything past the first page doesn’t matter.  The last link on the page is from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency which defines an Organic product as “…an agricultural product that has been certified as organic.” 

Feels like a weak definition? Well to quote a former Canadian Prime MinisterI don’t know. A proof is a proof.  What kind of a proof? It’s a proof.  A proof is a proof and when you have good proof it’s because it’s proven.” No, I’m not kidding – check it out.

Actually the only way you have a good proof that your fruits and veggies are organic is to grow them yourself.  Where you control what goes into your garden and what comes out. 

What’s funny is that home gardens in other parts of the world are entirely organic.  Those home gardeners grow and collect their own seeds, use their own compost as fertilizers as well as other manures from their own livestock.  Their reason is very simple.  If they do not grow their own food, they will not eat. 

Is it time you had your own organic garden? We think so.

Eat drink and be merry.

The At Home Organic

100 Miles, 161 Kilometres or Just 10 feet?

All this talk about the 100 mile diet means that more and more people should understand the concept of the locavore

 For those who might not, the gist is that you should be able to sustain yourself and your family on food found within a 100 miles radius of your home.  And as a Canadian, 100 miles is about 161 kilometres, which seems like it’s further, which is always a plus.  Yes I understand it doesn’t have the same ring to it as 100 miles but that’s not the point.  How many yards are in a mile anyway?

 The idea is to support local growers and lessen then footprint of transporting food.  How many boxes of California strawberries did you eat last December? I know I had about 31. 

 In the modern, global economy different foods are available to us that are grown all over the world.  Locavore eating takes into consideration the fossil fuels spent in bringing that food to you. 

Some food transports leave a bigger footprint than others. For example, white truffles from Piedmont are flown all over the world whereas Moroccan tangerines are shipped by boat.  I’m not even going to get started on wine and cheese…

There are so many delicious foods that come from all over the world that would be a shame not to indulge in, but that doesn’t mean that you should not take advantage of your own capabilities. 

Why would you bother buying Californian strawberries in June when you could have your own crop right in your backyard that took only a few steps to harvest rather then a few days on a refrigerated transport truck.  Nevermind the fact that your own strawberries would be harvested at the perfect moment when they taste the best.  They also freeze well so you can have some in December too!

The same is true for so many foods that come from outside our 161 kilometre bubble.  Foods like red and green peppers are some that I find come from somewhere in the States as with many herbs and lettuces.  It is very true that there exists a longer growing season in the Southern USA but that shouldn’t stop you from growing your own foods while you can.  The more you are able to grow and harvest from your backyard the less green house emissions you are contributing to, through purchasing imported foods.

 Some skeptics may say that if you don’t buy those California strawberries that someone else will, but hopefully they’ll be Californian.  Ghandi said, be the change you want to see in the world.  I do love my truffles and French wine, but also, my mustard green lettuce, basil, thyme, dill, arugula, watermelons, tomatoes, cucumbers, ground cherries, hot peppers 10 steps from my back door.

 Eat drink and be merry.

The At Home Organic

What Cuts Your Lawn?

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