Archive for August, 2009

Cute things and blackberries

It is a busy, summer Saturday on the farm.  There is so much to see and do:

The field crew of all ages and heights make sure that no beans are left behind.


Bean leaves hide faces.



Ben gets up close and gives his love to the beautiful Teggia bush beans and the morning’s harvest is carried in.



In the pumpkin patch, an eager Cinderella pumpkin is already large enough to wear a straw hat.  Only time will tell if it grows up to serve as a carriage.

Blackberry season is upon us and big, ripe berries are appearing all over the farm.  They are climbing up the groves of evergreen trees.




Down in the south-west corner of the farm they are thriving in their little bog, they are even nestled among rolls of irrigation tubing.

Visitors are welcome to join in on the blackberry harvest, we are offering U-pick by donation.  The donation box is in the harvest hut.

The highlight of the day: the Farm Wonders Garden Lunch!


A spectacular meal of bbq tacos, salsas and cakes prepared by the Farm Wonders Camp team to the delight of their volunteers and the farm crew.



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Farm Animals

Where are the animals?

When people come out to the farm for the market, an often overheard question is “Do you have any animals on the farm?” Usually when this question is asked, the person doing the asking has certain types of animals in mind. They are usually thinking of “traditional” farm animals  like cows, pigs, goats, and chickens. We do have some chickens at UBC Farm; these are the only “traditional” animals we have here. If you take the time to look around, however, you will find that our chickens are not alone…


Look Up

The chickens have squadrons of avian compatriots, from large raptors to tiny hummingbirds. Many bird species are spotted on the farm; some are residents, some are just making a migratory pit-stop, and some stop by as an occasional rare visitor. Bald Eagles, Red-Tailed Hawks, Northern Flickers, American Goldfinches, and Rufous Hummingbirds are commonly seen here. There is even a self-guided birding tour with numbered stops throughout the farm. Maps and a list of birds seen at the farm can be found at the front gate.


image from wikimedia commons

image from wikimedia commons


rufous hummingbird

image from wikimedia commons























Birds aren’t the only animals that fly, though – the arthropods are masters of the aerial arts as well – and among their number certain members of the Class Insecta are invaluable allies to us on the farm. Without the bees (both the native bumblebee species and the introduced European honeybee) to pollinate our crops, we would have to be out in the fields for hours at a time with small paintbrushes, hand-pollinating the flowers of many (if not most) of our crops – a virtually insurmountable task! So the next time you happen to meet a bee, remember to thank it kindly not just for the delicious honey, but for your fruits and vegetables, as well.


image from wikimedia commons

image from wikimedia commons


image from wikimedia commons

image from wikimedia commons






















Look Around

The chickens also have company in the forest and the fields. As with the raptors, the chickens don’t necessarily have the welcome mat out for all of their terrestrial neighbours, either.

Take the coyote, for example. The coyotes are probably the largest terrestrial animal found on the farm. They can sometimes be seen at the edges of the forest in the morning, watching the field crew – no doubt wondering what those crazy humans are up to now. They are also occasionally seen hunting in the fields during the day, but the most common “encounter” with coyotes is running across evidence of what they were up to the night before. Pawprints, scat, and dug-up fields are the most common clues, but lately they have been enjoying the melons with great gusto. Chewing up the irrigation drip-tape is also a perennial favourite coyote activity.


image from wikimedia commons

image from wikimedia commons



Smaller animals also abound on the farm, and the Order Rodentia is well-represented. Squirrels scamper in the forest (and love the compost bins), while deer mice and voles find luxurious habitat and plenty of food in the farm’s fields.


Douglas Squirrel

image from wikimedia commons

image from wikimedia commons

image from wikimedia commons






















Look Down

If you watch the chickens for any length of time, you will see them scratching in the dirt. They do this to search for food, primarily grubs and insects. This reminds us that not all animals live above the ground; many types of animals live in the soil here at the farm. Some are harmful, such as the larvae of many types of moths, and feed on our crops damaging them in the process. Some, however, are beneficial – such as the Ladybird beetles (ladybugs) that feed on aphids.


Ladybird Beetle

image from wikimedia commons



Another familiar denizen of the soil who benefits us greatly is the earthworm. These helpful creatures break down organic matter – which makes nutrients available to crop plants, in addition to loosening the soil  – which allows air and water to flow freely, greatly aiding the growth of  the plants living in it.



image from wikimedia commons

image from wikimedia commons



While we are thinking about life in the soil and how it influences the plants and other animals around it, we should perhaps spare a thought for the teeming multitudes of organisms in the soil that are too small for us to see with the unaided eye. A complex web of microorganisms is at the root of all life in the soil, and the health of these organisms determines the health of everything else in it. But that is a tale for another time…

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Wondrous Herbs.


Oh, Wondrous Herbs!

Who can imagine a roast chicken or turkey without the lovely flavour of sage?  Who can create a Jamaican jerk spice without thyme?  Who dares to make roast vegetables without savoury? What is a mojito with out mint?  Is a tomato sauce without oregano even worth making?


Here at the UBC Farm, we grow a wide variety of flavourful herbs that are for sale at our weekly market.  The selection will vary through the season, but there is always an aroma or a flavour that will tickle your culinary fancy: thyme, rosemary, taragon, chives, savoury, basil, parsley, mint, oregano, fennel, anise hysop, loveage, and more.


Don’t bee afraid of flowers!!  Many herbs will start to go to flower as the seasons progress.  Don’t worry though, these are not to be feared.  Many of these flowers carry similar flavours as the plants that sprouted them, and can be added to your favourite dishes just as the leaves.  The flowers can also make delicious and beautiful garnishes to any dish.

Herbs.  So beautiful, so delicious, so versatile.

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Hey Farmies, check out these great workshops being offered by Spring Gillard!

Backyard Composting with Spring Gillard
Saturday, August 22, 10am to noon
Near 21st & Main St.

Want to learn how to compost or get some tips on how to manage your smelly, rat infested bin better? Is it too dangerous to compost if you live in a non-earthquake proof highrise? Is it ok to put dead pigeons or belly button lint in the bin? Join Spring Gillard, author of Diary of a Compost Hotline Operator and get all your burning compost questions answered.

Spring does widespread research into urban agriculture worldwide. She is an avid storyteller who believes in the power of humour to convey serious messages.

Pay-What-You-Feel, suggested donation $25-35. Our contributions make it possible for teachers like Spring to expand and deepen the scope of the important educational work they are involved in.

To register, or to host a future backyard composting or other networking workshop, please contact Ross @ rmoster@flash.net Everyone is welcome to attend, but registration is limited to 25 participants.

The Gauntlet: A Look at the Emergency Food System
Wednesday, August 26th, 6:30 to 8:30 pm
Walking Tour, Kitsilano Neighbourhood

As we walk in our west side neighbourhoods, many of us run the daily gauntlet of outstretched hands, from the homeless to the NGO’s. Join author, Spring Gillard for a look at the emergency food system and the charity model and ponder: to give or not to give? Talk to service providers and learn about food programs on the west side that cater to vulnerable populations, as well as other initiatives that help increase access to fresh fruits and vegetables for all. $35. To register: info@gardenheart.ca or call 604.714.1394.
This is the final tour of the summer series, called Exploring the Food System on the West Side presented by Garden Heart Productions and the Westside Food Security Collaborative. More will be offered in the fall. For more info: compostdiary.com/.

Spring Gillard
Garden Heart Productions
Ph 604.714.1394/Fx 604.714.1396

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Some days, post-market clean up is a sad affair!  “Mystery” vegetables seem to have the hardest go at it — people just don’t know what to do with less common market treasure.  This week it was the tomatillos and kohlrabi.

Pick some up next time you see them at the market and try out one of the delicious recipes below.

Salsa Verde

Recipe taken from The Post Punk Kitchen
I love Tomatillos!

10 tomatillos (husks removed), diced
1 tsp olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 jalapeno, seeded and minced
1/4 tsp sea salt
1 1/2 cups vegetable broth
Juice of one lime
1 cup cilantro, loosely packed

Saute the garlic and jalapeno on low heat until, fragrant, about 3 minutes.  Add tomatillos and salt, saute until tomatillos begin to soften and release moisture, about five minutes.  Add vegetable broth, bring to a slow boil for 1/2 an hour, stirring occasionally.

Remove from heat, cool, then add the cilantro and lime juice, pour into a blender and blend until it’s pretty smooth, about 30 seconds.

Kohlrabi Puree

Kohlrabi is a sweeter, crisper version of broccoli stems.  It tastes great raw or as a side instead of mashed potatoes. Recipe adapted from The New Basics Cookbook

Scenic Kohlrabi sisters

4 kohlrabi bulbs
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
4 ounces mushrooms, quartered
3 tbsp unsweetened soymilk (or water)
salt and pepper to taste

Trim the kohlrabi bulbs, peeling them if the skins seem tough. Cut into 1-inch chunks. Rinse the leaves (discarding any that are yellow) pat them dry, and coarsely chop.

Bring a saucepan of lightly salted water to a boil, and add the kohlrabi chunks. Reduce the heat and simmer until tender, about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a skillet. Add the onion and sauté over medium-low heat until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, another 1 to 2 minutes. Add the mushrooms and the reserved kohlrabi leaves to the skillet. Cover, and cook 5 minutes. Then uncover, and cook, stirring, until all the liquid has evaporated, 3 minutes. Set the skillet aside.

Drain the kohlrabi chunks and put into the food processor. Add the mushroom mixture and all the remaining ingredients. Purée until smooth.

Transfer the purée to a saucepan and reheat over low heat. Serve and enjoy!

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Have you ever wanted to join us on Saturday mornings and volunteer at our markets, but have not been able to attend an orientation session yet? If you have at least 3 Saturdays to share with us between now and the end of October we would love to have you! We are about half way through the market season, and our dedicated volunteers have been working hard, so we are looking to find some more people who would like to come out and help us out! The orientation will be next Tuesday, August 11th at 5:30pm -about 7pm, meeting in the farm center kitchen. Please RSVP to Vanessa at ubcfarm.market@gmail.com if you would like to come, see you soon!

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I returned this morning to the farm after taking a little vacation.  The fantastic thing about coming back to a farm in the middle of the summer (in the middle of a heat wave) after only one week’s absence, is that everything explodes.  A bountiful cornicopia of beauty, life, and of course produce awaits at every turn.  The sunflowers have stretched well above my head.  The beets are ginourmous.  Kholrabi the size of a small child.  Beans overflowing.  (Lettuce unfortunately bolting…)

But of course, the most stunning and astonishing thing of all, the true winner in the great vegetable race, is none other than the zucchini.

I returned to my plot to find early this morning,  this monster lurking beneath the zucchini leaves.  I have photographed it here with a genuine adult foot so that you can see it’s massiveness.  No joke.


Now… perhaps the faint of heart would be overwhelmed by such a beast, ah but here, we are inspired…

I set off to find more.

The field crew were busily picking them.

Up at the market they were selling like hot cakes.  Although, I have reason to suspect Cristoph of some sneaking shenanigans.

And before we get to the meat and potatoes of this blog post (or the infinite delicousness of zuchini), I’d like to take a moment to pontificate poetical on the coquettish courgette…

To the bee, a flower is a fountain of life, and to the flower a bee is a messenger of love, and to both bee and flower the giving and receiving of pleasure is a need and an ecstasy

-Kahlil Gibran

Vegetables are beautiful!

So inspired I found myself by these zucchini flowers, I decided to make a special treat I will call Naomi’s blossoms of bliss.  First I will prove their deliciousness to you…

Now I will tell you how to make them….
1. mix up an egg with a little milk, salt and sugar
2. mix up some tapioca/corn/potatoe starch with a little flax meal
3. toss the flowers in mixture one, and then mixture two
4. Fry them up in some hot oil.


Perhaps, like Champ, you are still wondering what to do with your zucchinis.

Try Christoph’s Zucchini jerky. Marinade one inch thick slices of zucchini in terriyaki, molasses, maple syrup, garlic, ginger, and perhaps a little spice, and then dehydrate. Yum.

Or my Grandma’s Zucchini vichyssoise- a cold soup made with basil, zucchini, onions and milk, cooked and then blended.

There’s always the classic Zucchini boat. Or zucchini bread. I recently hollowed out a zucchini and filled it up like a quiche, which I would strongly recomend. Apparently Gemma has some fantastic ideas about zucchini pancakes… but enough of my chatter.

We want to hear from you! I challenge you now to enter the GREAT ubc farm ZUCCHINI RECIPE COMPETITION!

The concept is simple: You write your recipes in the comments section. We all win! And maybe, just maybe, a a prize will be awarded. It is likely that prize may have relatives in the squash family.

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