Native plants & the MacKinnon Food Forest

A couple of interesting articles on this great YEG edible landscape project.

Vue Weekly – Reshaping how we define native species
Dustin Bajer – Edmonton’s River Valley Food Forest

Hankering for fresh, homegrown berries but don’t have the resources, time or cash to grow/buy them yourself? The solution lies just north of the river in the MacKinnon Ravine, where our city’s first food forest has just passed its first birthday. Bring a pail and get picking.

In Mackinnon Ravine, West of the museum (‘s old location, not the new one downtown), is the city’s first publicly planted food forest. I did not know this place existed until I saw this article in Vue Weekly!

One of the things I love about Edmonton: the city is constantly surprising me with great ideas being implemented, new things being tried, people who are passionate about something getting their project going. It’s a big enough city that it can surprise you all the time with what it has to offer.

Since it’s the long weekend (soon! like 5 hours!) I’m going to try to make a field trip to the food forest and check out what’s growing.

Thanks, Martha: Sour Cherry Crumb Cake

The ‘Juliet’ cherry has the most enticing-looking fruit on it right now and I needed to come up with something to use it in. The fruits are just a little too sour to eat fresh (although with whipped cream or frozen yogurt they would be delicious.) And I was going to a barbeque yesterday so I decided to do something uncharacteristic and bake. Then I boasted about how I baked something with the cherries from my tree, basically getting all the gardening cred possible.

I made this Sour Cherry Crumb Cake (recipe from Martha Stewart). I was nervous about it. I am not a great baker, and I have a tendency to overestimate how good I am going to be at baking things. That’s a bad combination. I once tried to make cookies with fresh-roasted hazelnuts in them, which I roasted myself. It took hours and ended in tears, and the cookies were not that great, you guys.

Anyways, in spite of containing the words “offset spatula,” this recipe wasn’t heard to make and it turned out great. (I just used a regular spatula.) The trickiest part was probably pitting the cherries, which I left to my husband, figuring (correctly) that it would involve some pounding or making a mess, which are aspects of cooking he enjoys. He googled “how to pit cherries” and Lifehacker told him to put the cherries under a piece of parchment paper and pound them with a mallet. (We used a rolling pin.) This worked pretty well, and it took him less time to pit the cherries (about a pound of them) this way than it did for me to get the rest of the cake ready.


Result: Pretty delicious! Six out of six friends who ate it while playing Sushi Go! enjoyed it, and we ate the whole thing. I liked that it was not too sweet, and the cake itself doesn’t have a strong taste, so the cherries’ flavour really stands out.

Also, please note, I tried to “style” this photo to make it look fancier and to make my kitchen look nicer, but then you couldn’t really see the cake, so let’s just leave it at this, shall we? A lifestyle blogger I am not. I do have a twee vintage “SCOTCH” bottle with a flower in it just out of the frame, but you’ll have to take my word for it.

Yours in cake,

Weird things you can grow: Evans Cherry

weird thingsOK, so calling sour cherries a “weird” thing you can grow is a stretch, I know. But I’m not going to create whole new banners all the time when I already have this perfectly good one.

IMG_1171Five or so years ago now, I learned about ‘Evans’ Cherry from a gardening friend of mine who has a tree in her yard. It was a very nice size and shape (not too big) and absolutely loaded with bright red, luscious-looking fruit. I was amazed to learn that it’s a homegrown cherry variety discovered by local horticulturalist Ieuan Evans. He didn’t breed the cherries, but rather discovered them growing on a farm northeast of Edmonton (where they had been growing for more than 50 years) and propagated them. They are now one of the most popular fruit trees for the prairies.

I’ve never discovered a sweet cherry that’s hardy for zone 3, but there are lots of good sour cherries that will grow here, including the Evans and multiple varieties developed by the University of Saskatchewan (the ‘Romance’ series – some of which are even hardier, to zone 2).

IMG_1170 I have one of those trees too, a ‘Juliet’ (above) – which blooms a tad earlier than the Evans. Both my cherry trees are still getting established (one was planted in 2011 and one in 2012 – I think) so it’s hard to compare how productive they are. This year, my Juliet bloomed beautifully and is now covered in wonderful-looking fruit. The Evans bloomed a couple weeks later, but there was a very windy day soon after and almost all the blooms blew off, so I won’t get much fruit from it this year.

This weekend I’m going to try to come up with something to bake with my cherries. Stay tuned for WEIRD THINGS YOU CAN EAT!

More info
Alberta’s Little Cherry Miracle