Archive for January, 2010

Turnip recipes and seed catalogues

Thursday, January 21st, 2010

For those of you who are trying to eat more seasonal meals this winter, I thought I would share a few recipes.  I have been trying to find more ways to use turnip – it is a great winter vegetable but one that can be harder to get people to like.  I find it always tastes nice cooked with equal parts carrots and then mashed, with butter and salt and pepper.  But recently I have found a few interesting recipes that both children and adults have seemed to like.

Oriental Turnip Fries

  • 4 cups turnip, peeled and cut into 1/4″ by 2″ matchsticks
  • 2 tbsp sesame oil
  • 2-3 tsp tamari or soy sauce

In a large cast iron pan warm the sesame oil over medium heat.  Add the turnip and saute for 3-5 minutes.   Add about 1/3 cup of water and place a lid on the pan.  Steam the turnip fries until tender, about 5 minutes.  Remove the lid and let the water evaporate.  Add the tamari or soy sauce and saute another few minutes.  Serves 4-6.

Mashed Turnip and Potato

  • 4 cups turnip, peeled and cut into 1/4″ chunks
  • 2 cups potato, peeled and cut into 3/4″ chunks
  • 3 tbsp butter
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream (this is why kids like this recipe!)
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • Salt and Pepper

Place the turnip in a large pot and cover with water.  Bring to a boil and simmer for five minutes.  Add the potato and more water if necessary and boil until both the potato and turnip are tender, about 15 minutes.  (The turnip takes longer to cook than the potato so that is why I cut it into smaller chunks and also why I cook it slightly longer).   When tender, drain the water and add the butter and cream.  Using a hand blender or potato masher, puree until smooth.  Add the nutmeg and season with salt and pepper.  Serves 4.

I was also given some golden beets and decided to make a grated beet and carrot salad.  I wanted a different dressing than my usual oil and vinegar and so came up with this one:

  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup rice vinegar
  • 2 tbsp tamari sauce
  • 1-2 tbsp honey
  • 1 large clove garlic, grated
  • 1 tsp grated ginger
  • 1 tsp sesame oil

The ginger and rice vinegar flavours seemed to work well with the salad.

And finally on the subject of seed catalogues…

Canadian Organic Growers is a great place to get inspiration for gardening.  Membership is $40 per year ( and includes a quarterly magazine as well as a monthly enewsletter.  It is a great way to stay current on what is happening in agriculture, and has many great articles for both commercial and home gardeners.  It also has an  extensive lending library which is free to members.  The Winter 2010 magazine has articles on growing garlic from bulbils and on saving seed.  There is also a comprehensive directory of seed sources for organic growers  – seven pages of small and large seed companies.  One that was recently recommended to me and which I think is worth checking out is the Cottage Gardener, one of the few smaller organic seed companies that offers seed in both packet sizes and larger quanties.  (

Best wishes for a happy rest of the winter.

Time to order some seed catalogues

Thursday, January 7th, 2010

Happy New Year to all.  I find it interesting how one’s energy can follow the seasons – as the light levels go down and we approach the winter solistice it seems as there is little thought of starting new projects.  But once we emerge from those really short days and find the beginning of January, it feels like enthusiasm and energy return.

So, for those of you contemplating a garden this year, I would really encourage you to go online and order some seed catalogues.  While it is possible to buy all of your seeds from gardening and hardware stores, you will find that seed companies offer a far greater variety of both vegetable varieties and package sizes.

Canadian seed companies seems to come in several different sizes, each with advantages and disadvantages.  The larger seed companies include Stokes, William Dam, the Ontario Seed Company and Dominion Seed House.  These larger seed companies all publish beautiful colour catalogues that they will send out for free.  Generally larger seed companies give a much better catalogue description of the vegetables that they are selling, in terms of taste, days to maturity, productivity, disease resistance, etc.  They also sell their seeds in many different package sizes, from packets to kilograms.  This allows one to purchase larger quantities of seeds, which is far more economical for vegetables such as salad greens, peas, and beans.    To their disadvantage, some of their seeds are often treated with a fungicide (to prevent rotting during germination – something that I have never found to be a problem.  Also they offer only a limited number of organically grown seeds.    By far the best larger seed company that I have found is Johnny’s Selected Seeds in Albion, Maine.  While it is an American company, it is committed to providing a very high percentage of organically grown seeds, many of them older heirloom varieties.  The quality of their seed, in terms of germination rates and longevity of the seed, is the best that I have ever found.

There are many smaller Canadian seed companies that publish very simple, black and white catalogues.  These companies are generally committed to selling only open pollinated (i.e no hybrids) and organically grown seeds.  What I have found to be the biggest disadvantage with these smaller companies is the lack of description in their catalogues.  So while they may sell several varieties of peas or carrots, there is very little information about taste, days to maturity, etc.   As well, the seeds are generally only sold in one size which is a small packet size.   Some of the smaller Canadian seed companies include Greta’s Organic Gardens. Prairie Grown Seeds, Terra Edibles, Salt Spring Seeds, West Coast Seeds and Full Circle Seeds.   Salt Spring Seeds is run by Dan Jason who has worked for several decades now to develop varieties of grains, dry beans, and pulses such as lentils, suitable for growing in Canada.  He also specializes in many varieties of garlic.

If you have the time, order a few seed catalogues in the next few weeks, they are wonderful for dreaming about spring and the seeds that they have to sell are far more interesting than those sold on racks at grocery, hardware, and gardening stores.