I’ve known for years that Evans cherries thrive in Edmonton, but I only recently learned that they are actually “from” here.
In 1976 a cherry orchard near Fort Saskatchewan owned by one Mrs. Borward was about to be torn out to make room for a new federal penitentiary, the Edmonton Institution. Borward invited local horticulturalist Ieuan Evans to take suckers from her plants.
I haven’t been able to find any info on where exactly the Borward cherries came from, but they were a variety of the species Prunus cerasus, commonly known as sour cherry and native to areas around the Black and Caspian seas. Morello is another example of a variety of that species. The Borward trees were … Continue reading.
I’m starting to research the plants in our yard more thoroughly. This is the first of several “Plant Profiles” I hope to write.
“Prunus” means plum (think: prune), and “tomentosa” means densely hairy, referring, I think, to the leaves. This shrub is native to the far east, notably the Himalayas, China, and Japan. “Nanking” is the old roman-alphabet word for the Chinese city now transliterated as Nanjing.
As a fruit tree the Nanking is very much inferior to other sour varieties like Evans and Carmine Jewel. While the fruit is merely adequate, the plant has some striking ornamental qualities. The mature wood is a lustrous red roan. When young the shrubs are a bit twiggy and awkward, but … Continue reading.
This is one of those “probably more than you wanted to know about…” posts, but when one plant has a hundred names, I’m always curious for an explanation.
A cold-hardy bush that produces delicious, anti-oxidant-rich berries of striking colour and interesting shapes as early as June, the haskap has captured the attention of a diverse group of obsessives: gardeners, nutritionists, chefs, and linguists, to name a few.
Haskaps are native to several far flung regions in the northern hemisphere, and most often found in or near bogs in boreal forests. They go by a dizzying number of names, some of which are described below. For clarity’s sake, the plant we are discussing is Lonicera caerulea. There are four notable … Continue reading.
Some quick notes on a springtime specialty.
The most difficult part about using rhubarb as a pastry filling is that once it’s cooked it has almost no structure. Actually it’s entirely liquid. For this reason rhubarb is often mixed with other fruit like strawberries or apples. Right now I have lots of rhubarb, hardly any fruit in the freezer, and berries and apples are still months off. In other words I have to set my rhubarb filling with gelatin or cornstarch.
We like rhubarb because it is tart, but oftentimes it is too tart. To make sure the acidity isn’t overpowering, I make rhubarb pie in a shallow, French tart pan instead of a classic North American pie pan; this … Continue reading.
Oddly enough, I eat a lot of local fruit this time of year. Especially rhubarb. Every spring and summer we freeze a large quantity of chopped rhubarb stalks. The following April it suddenly occurs to me that in a few weeks there will be fresh rhubarb popping up in the backyard, and that I should probably use up last year’s harvest before that time comes.
Think of the following posts as either a way to clear the freezer of last year’s fruit, or as a way of looking forward to the new fruit on its way.
Sticklers will insist that this drink isn’t really shrub.
Shrub is an old-timey North American drink, traditionally a reduction of fruit … Continue reading.
Sugar plums are one of those items that are common in Christmas carols and stories and yet are basically unknown to modern revelers. (Other examples: wassail, yule, and figgy pudding. Furthermore, I’ve never seen mistletoe before, and I just saw real holly for the first time a few weeks ago, at the farmers’ market. I got excited, grabbed the leaves, and stabbed myself.)
My dictionary defines a sugar plum as a small ball of candy, and nothing more. There are not necessarily any plums in sugar plums. The word “plum” is associated with dried fruit, and good modern dictionaries still give one of the many meanings of “plum” as “a raisin.” The most common manifestation of sugar plums is … Continue reading.
I know I already posted today, but I wanted to quickly tell you about some cutting-edge developments in the composition and aging of the 2012 fruitcake.
Hazelnuts lose their spot to almonds. For three years now my fruitcake has been poundcake flavoured with orange zest, garnished with glacé Evans cherries, candied Navel orange peel, and roasted hazelnuts. The cherries are the star. They bring loads of flavour, acidity to balance the buttery luxury of the cake, plus they’re from Lisa’s dad’s backyard.
Working with Evans cherries over the past couple years, we’ve noticed that their aroma has a distinct note of almond extract. For some reason this aroma is especially evident in the single-varietal rumpots we’ve made. This … Continue reading.
Crabapple is my favourite jelly, hands down. The perfect balance of tart and sweet. A distinct, local flavour sitting in the pantry all year.
The following recipe works well for the Dolgo crabapples we get from Lisa’s dad’s backyard. I imagine there is huge variation in sweetness, acidity, and pectin content in crabapples across the region, so I can’t say for certain if this will work for you. But it’s a good base recipe.
For the record, I don’t core the apples. I don’t even stem them. I remove leaves, if I find it convenient. I mash with a fork and strain through a jelly-bag, so the seeds and stems don’t end up in the jelly. Pressing cider with Kevin … Continue reading.
I know: jellies aren’t hip. When I say “fruit jelly” you immediately think of your great aunt, or possibly high tea at the Fairmont Empress. Jellies are stuffy.
I love jellies for three reasons: one, they’re tasty and I eat them for breakfast; two, they’re extremely handy to have in the pantry, to stir into sauces or inject into doughnuts; three, they are beautiful, visually and conceptually. Actually they’re a bit like headcheese, conceptually: the cook extracts a natural thickener from the main ingredient, then concentrates it to form a network that gives the food a unique, wobbly texture.
If that piqued your interest even remotely, please, read on.
The Chemistry of Jellies
Lets start at the beginning. Unlike … Continue reading.
I’m writing about this because I know next to nothing about plants, or how they germinate and grow and proliferate. Really. Almost nothing. This week I learned a few simple guidelines for maintaining raspberry bushes that made a mark on my neophyte mind.
When we moved into our house about a year ago we inherited no less than three raspberry stands. I’m not sure of the variety, but based on descriptions I’ve read I would guess they are Boyne raspberries.
Raspberries grow on stalks called canes. Over the winter I often pondered the canes standing in my backyard. Were they dead? Dormant? Would they produce fruit next year? Did I need to do anything to care for them?
Whatever the … Continue reading.