Tag Archives: Gardening

Get Spring Ready with The Seed Library!

Seed Library

With food prices remaining stubbornly high and a greater focus on healthy, organic and sustainable living, growing your food from scratch has never been more tempting. We’re proud to partner with York Region Food Network to help make this dream a reality by giving you the seeds and know-how to get started. This year, we will host a series of gardening-related programs, which will provide step-by-step instructions on growing plants and getting the best out of your edible garden.

The current program lineup is as follows:

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modern cottage gardenIt’s well into December, the air is icy, and the treetops are dusted white. Have you got chestnuts roasting on an open fire yet? This may be the only time of year that actually suits quarantine: cozying up with a good book and a hot cup of cocoa (well, except for all the holiday parties we’re missing out on—but let’s not talk about that). 2020 has been a year of many things, most of them truly awful, but one positive trend that has emerged from the rubble is something called cottagecore. If you’ve ever dreamed of giving it all up and running away to the woods, or of having your own thriving vegetable garden, or of days spent baking bread and tending to plants, then you’ve been dreaming of the cottagecore ideal! 

So what exactly is this “cottagecore” all the kids are going on about? The New York Times describes it as “an aspirational form of nostalgia that praises the benefits of living a slow life in which nothing much happens at all.” It’s basically like living inside the Animal Crossing or Stardew Valley games; perfect, fictional worlds in which your only responsibilities are tending to crops, raising animals, making friends, and decorating your house. Your cottage will most likely be in an open field, or in the woods, or perhaps by a small village where you can pop into some locally owned shops. It is, essentially, the antithesis of our hectic, technology-based, urban lives. 

Of course, like all things, cottagecore is not even close to being a new concept—what’s old is new, and what’s new is old. The term itself is new, a thoroughly modern invention combining the obvious “cottage” with the suffix “–core”, denoting a genre (derived from “hardcore”, which in the past 30 years has given itself to endless genres: softcore, mumblecorenormcore, the list goes on). But the concept of eschewing modernity and returning to nature is older than dirtBack in the day, the general term was “the pastoral”, which mostly applied to literature that idolized country lifeRomanticism (with a capital R) was a prevailing artistic trend in the 19th century, and was “suffused with reverence for the natural world”. In William Wordsworth’s famous “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud”, the poet describes the peace he feels when thinking back on a field of daffodils blowing in the breeze. 

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Hot Sauces, or What to Do with All Those Peppers You Grew This Year

Book Cover of The Art of Escapism Cooking by Mandy LeeThe crop that has grown the most prolifically in my garden this year have been my peppers*, and while I love eating them roasted, served with some homemade sourdough (lean or enriched dough, it’s all good) and a fried egg on top… it’s a lot of hot peppers. Some of which are those tiny little chilis not normally eaten peppered on toast with an egg over top (pun intended).

So I decided to make some hot sauce when a bunch of the Padrón, Poblano, and Tibetan lhasa peppers (along with a few Thai chilis) started to ripen around the same time, and stumbled upon Lady and Pups’ Mean Santa chili sauce recipe. Part of it is that her food photography is off the charts stunning and she (or her photographer) could probably convince me to eat just about anything through the photo alone, but what sealed it was the short ingredient list, plus copious amounts of photos detailing the process and what it looks like at every stage. I remember this author from her incredible cookbook The Art of Escapism Cooking, having only recently made the connection between Lady and Pups (whom I follow) and her cookbook (which I adored). The recipe is deceptively simple – I had everything except fish sauce, which I then acquired, and shiso leaves, which I left out – for the amount of flavour that comes out of it. Don’t get me wrong, your kitchen (and the living room, and maybe the entire floor) will smell for the entire day. But is it ever worth it! And definitely try it with eggplants as she suggests after the chili sauce recipe: perfect combination, and this coming from someone who doesn’t even enjoy eating eggplants.

I should make a note that this is a chunky chili sauce, a different beast from the vinegar-based hot sauce you might be used to. Think sliced rounds of chilies cooked in oil till they’re oozing with flavour, their natural smoky fruitiness paired with fish sauce (or soy sauce if you want to make this vegan/vegetarian) to increase the complexity and add just enough saltiness to it… the umami scale is next-level, and you’ll be salivating right by the pot as it’s cooking from the moment the peppers start to cook down and release all their delicious flavours, even as your hands start to tingle from cutting the peppers and continue to burn as you wait for the chili sauce to cool and develop even more flavour**. It’s worth it.

If you’re a spicy food lover and could probably imagine yourself spooning (mild or moderate) chili sauce into your mouth as a snack***, this is for you. For even more resources for hot sauce creation & use, see below the cut!

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