Photo Gallery index > New Year's Update (2012 Review)

  • We'd like to share a few stories from our 2012 season, the year we trialed 16 varieties of quinoa. Five kinds didn't germinate well, but nine of them finished seed in September. It was our best result getting quinoa to mature. Perhaps the secret was to get the seed in the ground in late March - germination was within 48 hours just from soil moisture. Thinning, roguing and weeding helped our quinoa get big and beautiful, often standing over 180 cm (6 ft) tall in an exotic display of colour. We cut the stalks in late September, when they had some dry seed on them, and spread them out in the hayloft. We are still cleaning batches and are ready to do taste testing. We look forward to scaling up our favourite, because quinoa's potential for local food production deserves more exploration.
  • This foggy scene on August 8th reminds us of all the precipitation we got in the summer of 2012 - and it turned out to be the best shot of our buckwheat, seen here in full bloom with sunflowers and oats in the background. We like buckwheat as a cover crop and are trying it for food too.
  • Millet is another grain which has potential on the prairies. This proso millet was planted on May 18th and harvested mid-September. Though the birds started eating it in early September, we were still impressed with our first reaping of millet, right up until we tried to eat it. It was an unpleasant surprise that the seeds - though easily removed from their heads by hand rubbing and some winnowing - retained a fibrous hull that left the cooked grain unpalatable. On the right farm this could be fed to chickens on the stalk, providing food and bedding. We will continue looking for a good grain millet.
  • We trialed bush dry beans for growing protein and found them easy and productive. We like their nitrogen fixing aspect and are working them into our winter diet in soups and casseroles. Clockwise from top left: Scarlet Runner, Appaloosa, Jacob`s Cattle, Agassiz, Orca, Tiger Eye and, centre, Buerre de Rocquencourt, which doubles as a yellow wax bean. We need to scale up the Orca and Tiger Eye before we can provide seed, but the rest are now available.
  • Another protein experiment, Styrian pumpkin produces edible 'hulless' green seeds which can be dried and stored. Styria is a state in southeast Austria, so we thought we should see what this pumpkin could do in central Alberta. We like eating the seeds, but are still debating whether the harvest is worth the effort, especially since the pumpkins needed to be harvested in September after the first frost and ripened indoors into November. It's tempting to try again with seed from a few of the heaviest producers, starting earlier in May, and pruning more to focus the plants' energy on their two biggest fruits - but if the pumpkins can't mature in the field, then we will have to say goodbye to this one.
  • These snap peas came to us from our good friend Margaret out in the Kooteneys - she has been growing them for five years now, and they were a big hit in our garden. We are definitely planting more of these next year so we can eat more and still have some seed left over. We've looked at snow peas over the years, but found the best all around edible podded pea to be this one right here. Yes, they're that good.
  • We tried two kinds of corn this year, of which Painted Hill was by far our favourite. There are many famous corn cultivars: here a flour corn called Painted Mountain - which was bred in Montana by Dave Christensen for earlyness and cold tolerance, and Luther Hill Sweet Corn - named after its breeder in 1902 and also cold tolerant, were crossed and stabilized by Alan Kapular of Peace Seeds. Painted Hill has beautiful multicoloured cobs that are sweet and delicious. We planted it at the end of May and were eating it in very early September, but would like to try planting it earlier next year in mid-May.
  • This one ends a minor quest: to find a tasty 'rapini' style vegetable that does well for us.... Well this raab is it! Succelent flowerettes with big broccoli flavour are great stir fried on their own or with other veg. Raab can be planted early in the spring up until June, and again in mid-August for a fall harvest.
  • This was the year of trying 25 different tomatoes. The biggest challenge this season was all the rain we had in July and August, which caused many varieties to swell up and split. Some kinds, like Brazilian Beauty and Crimson Sprinter, were basically a total loss, but others stood out as split resistant, and those are the ones we are pleased to add to our line up in 2013. Pictured here is our 2012 Taste Test Winner, Black Prince - despite the rain it still delivered rich complex tomato flavour.
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