Blurry bee on May 10

Went outside to snap a couple pictures and saw this guy buzzing around.

The wind over the last couple days blew all the flowers off one of my cherries. I’m worried that it bloomed and went before the pollinators could get to it. (It’s SO EARLY! Have I mentioned that?) So I was happy to see this guy – hopefully there have been more that I just haven’t been noticing. Come on, cherry! Work your sexy fruit magic.

buffalobeans

The garden is still a mess, but these buffalo beans are great early forage for bees before much else is in bloom. I have to cut them back to make room for some other stuff.

I’M ALIVE!

Guess what, YEG? I survived the winter. And if you’re reading this, so did you! Congratulations! It was one of the mildest and shortest winters I can remember, but still, this is Edmonton, so let’s go ahead and congratulate ourselves.

One of the great things about having a blog like this is being able to look back at past years and see what was happening at this time last year. That’s how I know that at this point in the Spring of 2015, my yard/garden looked exactly as awful as it does right now, and it’s ok, because I (mostly) fixed it. It gives me faith! I will implement my “just start” strategy and effect a change. (Goal for 2016 gardening season: Make my blog sound 150% more business-lingo-y!)

It’s also how I know that last year the cherries were in bloom by May 12th, and they’re also in bloom right now, 10 days earlier:

Left: Evans; right: Juliet. That’s all gonna be fruit for my belly.
The photo above the title is an ornamental double-hanging plum. It’s a beautiful riot of colour at this time of year, even though its leaves haven’t even really opened:

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Last year it barely flowered, and the wind blew the flowers off within a couple of days. But for now, the sun is shining, the climate is possibly permanently screwed up, the cherries are blooming, and things will grow. These are mostly good things. Let’s party. And get to work.

Another thing to make with cherries from the garden: Sour Cherry Reduction

Here’s how you do it:
Take the cherries and raspberries that are in your fridge about to go bad because, in a fit of productivity, you picked them and washed them and then left them in a container in the fridge with no plan for their use.

Take the pits out of the cherries. (we like to use the Lifehacker Bashing Method)
Put them in a pan.
Make a bunch of pan puns.
Cook them for a few minutes with some sugar. (An indeterminate amount; I just poured some in)
While they are cooking, mash them with a potato ricer.

Put them in mason jars in your freezer. In the winter, you can eat them on ice cream and remember how it was once warm.

A couple harvest pictures, August 2015

There are still lots of greens in the garden, but everything is really spicy. I’ve lost track of what that pepper variety is, but it had too much kick to be comfortably part of a salad. I’ll let the rest of those peppers ripen on the plant and then make hot sauce with them.

I know what the dog variety is, though: It’s boston terrier/pug, an heirloom variety normally only found in my bed.

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The smaller cherries are Juliets; the larger ones are Evans, which are later and sweeter (although still tart). James (my husband) also picked the last of the saskatoons and the first of the raspberries.

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.

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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,
Jocelyn

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