Category Archives: chard

Garlic and Blackberries and Figs, oh my!

Summer was late coming to this part of the world.  While eastern Canada was suffering through a heat wave with 30+ temperatures and a humidex reading into the 40’s, we were still wearing sweaters and dealing with umbrellas. 

But in August, summer arrived. Nice hot days, coolish nights and no humidity.  The bugs vanished and the river started to go down.  The garden which was late in producing, picked up speed and now everything is ready at the same time. 

I know this is a blog about fibre, but there were many more things that have occupied my spare time ever since I returned to work. The Garden.  It’s not as large a garden as in days gone by; it is more of a recreational garden.  We use it to grow stuff that we want and as a way to learn more about the finer edges of growing food.

This weekend we harvested our garlic. We planted it in February, very late by our standards, but were still pleased by the result.  Good sized bulbs (larger than a golf ball) and strong flavour, even before it has had time to cure. There it is, drying in the sun.

This is the result of three full beds of garlic.  Enough to plant another three beds next year, give us a good tasty supply for our own consumption, and have enough left over for some decent bartering. 

The garlic was ready and so are the blackberries.  In this part of the country, blackberries are the bane of anyone who has a garden.  Not originally from this part of the world, they are an aggressive plant and take over spaces in very little time.  They grow all year round for heaven’s sake, the leave don’t fall off in the autumn to allow for a domant period.  They have one redeeming quality: they offer free food. 

It’s amazing.  In mid to late August you can pick all you want, anywhere — in the city and along country roads, for you can find blackberry brambles where ever you go.  We have plenty surrounding us.  On the edges of the hayfield and along the fence line.  They are taking trying to take over.

There is an art to picking blackberries.  First is to find the mother lode.  Yes, the mother lode.  That is the amazing abundancy of berries that is so densly clustered that you can’t pick in a systematic, methodic manner.  When you find the mother lode, you can fill your bucket in 15 minutes flat, with little pain. 

Blackberries, while very good for our health and all that, are hateful plants.  No matter how careful you are, no matter how well covered you are, you ALWAYS get serious gouges and splinters from the affair.  But this doesn’t stop me.  Blackberry picking is war, and the best prepared get the best result.  Here’s a shot of the mother lode, located along the front fence line at my place.

It’s hard to dress properly for blackberry picking because the berries are ready when the summer heat is at an all time high.  Although full coverage is recommended, I pick sleeveless and in shorts.  The brambles scratch but at least they don’t get snagged in the clothing — which is actually worse than a gouge.  You need a belt and a bucket with a handle.  Attach the bucket to the belt so you can pick with two hands and get the job done fast.  You also benefit from having a leather glove handy and some clippers.  I told you this was war.

The next things that are coming on are the figs. Several birthdays ago, a friend planted a fig tree for me on the north west corner of the house.  I didn’t know much about figs and thought that it would be years before I was harvesting anything. Well, these are amazing plants, and this one loves the spot where it was planted for it is thriving.  Here’s what they look like on the tree.  They grow straight out from the tree and as they ripen, they start to sag and soften.  They keep for days in the fridge so you can easily collect the 2 dozen that you need to make a good fig chutney. 
The last thing to show off is the chard.  That’s my hand on the left edge holding the leaf.  I love the colour of the spine and the deep green of the leaf.  All the leaves on these plants are huge like this, huge yet still tender. 
I am thankful for this bounty.