Category Archives: Fruit

Only Child on the disappearing chocolate and other foods

Only Child's raspberry bushes (in part over to the right

Only Child’s raspberry bushes (in part over to the right)

Chives in  my front garden - here for now

Chives in my front garden – here for now

When we think of crop, vegetable and fruit damage due to “weather” we think of drought, too much rain and insect infestations. But it wasn’t necessarily a regular occurrence and the following spring and summer season, we would get out vegetation back. Either the perennial would grow back or we would plant another crop of wheat or barley.

Today, many of our foods are heading for permanent extinction and some of them are not what you would normally place in this category.

Foods such as bananas, maple syrup, honey and chocolate.

Yes, chocolate. Attention all of us chocaholics.

What are the culprits?

Let’s take honey first, as you’ve probably heard about this one. Bees make honey and it is the bee population that is shrinking. The culprit: Colony Collapse Disorder. It’s killed over one-third of the bees in the United States alone. Bananas are being felled by Panama disease.

Okay, so that’s pests and the like. But much of the shrinking food is caused by – you guessed it – the extreme weather we’ve been having the last 10 to 15 years. Those of you who have read some of my previous blogs on weather know who/what I think is responsible here. Suffice to say, I will quote the lady I talked to on a bus the end of May. She said, “God controls the weather.”

Back to the food. Considering all that is disappearing, we might be able to forget about dieting. But we might also have to forego being healthy. Back to the bees. They don’t just make honey; they pollinate a lot of our vegetables and fruits. Think: pumpkin, sweet potatoes, apples, almonds, blueberries, peaches, avocados, cucumbers, cranberries, onions, blackberries, grapefruit, raspberries and oranges. The list goes on.

What is one to do? Extract the seeds from the fruit or vegetable and plant it the next year, then repeat the process? If the plant grows, that is. I purchase seeds from a Canadian seed company that does not treat its seeds. What if it and other seed companies no longer had seeds to sell?

Which doesn’t help me with my two favourites from the above list – chocolate and raspberries. As some of you know I have a huge black raspberry bush which provides me (and my son, his girlfriend and my friends) with delicious fruit. I freeze the extra for winter use on cereal, or as dessert. The bushes started as three small half metre plants I brought from my Aurora home to my Toronto home when I moved in October 1998. What happens if the number of bushes decrease instead of increase? Or worse still, suddenly die off?

As for chocolate, that is not grown in Canada or the US but in West Africa (Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire). Chocolate substitutes such as carob just don’t feed the taste buds or my very soul. In my hallway I have posted a sign given to me by another chocaholic. The sign reads “Who cares what the question is; chocolate is the answer.”

So, what is our answer? I only know that whenever I see a bee – honey or otherwise – busy in the flowers, in the blossoms, I say a “thank you” and give the bee its space to do its business.

What do you think? Are you a chocaholic?

You can read more about this at http://www.foxnews.com/leisure/2014/03/26/are-these-foods-doomed-to-disappear/ and scroll down to the links for other related stories.

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

Only Child Writes

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Filed under black raspberries, Fresh produce, Fruit, Only child, Rain, Weather

Only Child muses on raspberries and roses

Burgundy Iris among the white roses in Only Child’s front garden

I’m discovering new ways to relax in my garden. I don’t have to just sit out in the garden, looking and reading. I can relax while I’m doing. Just as well because my raspberries have appeared two weeks early this year because of our early summer weather. So for the next few weeks I’ll be out there almost daily picking raspberries.

Then there are the roses. The white ones in front were spreading their branches and flowers all over the place including over my driveway. I don’t drive but some of my friends do, so to avoid any vehicles brushes against the roses, I cut the bushes back.

It hurt me to do so. But as I trimmed them back, the process turned into almost a meditation, a ritual. And this morning when I went out in full raspberry-picking gear (long pants, long sleeves and wide-brimmed hat to avoid getting scratches from the branches) much the same thing happened. Instead of rushing through it all like I was battling time, it turned relaxing – even when I dropped a berry; I thought, “That’s one for the birds.”

I’m not sure my late mother actually sat and relaxed in her garden, except when I was a toddler –and here the photos tell that story. Mom was always out in the garden picking red raspberries, beans, and currants, until she persuaded me to do so. I loved picking beans and raspberries, but not the currants. They don’t taste good raw and they seem to attract bees. Mother’s busyness in her garden paid off in the many fresh raspberries, plus her own version of canned currant jam and jelly and mustard beans – the latter I’ve never been able to find since. And unlike me, she pruned her raspberry bushes properly so she didn’t have to pick in a maze the next season. I use the “hit or miss” procedure although I do keep in the new shoots for next year’s berries and cut back the deadwood – what I can reach. Somehow I don’t get it as smooth and clean as Mom did.

Maybe, Mom did relax in her garden after all – by picking berries and trimming the bushes.

Then there were her rose bushes – but that’s for another post.

For now, those of you in Canada, enjoy the July 1 Canada Day holiday weekend coming up and those in the United States, enjoy your July 4 holiday…in a garden, if possible. Next week I’ll get more serious. Meantime, I’ve added a few more pictures of my garden.

Enjoy.

Cheers.

Sharon Crawford

Only Child Writes

Fushia pink roses by the sidewalk of Only Child’s house

Poppies popping up among the chives by Only Child’s veranda

Front view by steps to veranda shows yarrow, coral bells, chives under the boxwood. Raggedy Annie among the rosebushes is in the background.

Only Child as a toddler in the backyard with her late Mom who is sitting in the Muskoka chair.

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Filed under black raspberries, Fruit, Gardening, Home and Garden, Memoir writing, Mother, Mother and Child, Muskoka Chair, Only child, Raspberries, Roses, Sharon Crawford

Only child returns from holidays

Only Child's home sweet home and garden from the front.

You know the saying about holidays, “It’s good to get away but it is always nice to come home.” That seems to describe me when I go away for a holiday the last few years. I can make it for about a week and then I get homesick, not for the routine as one of my cousins suggested, but for my garden and house. Somehow seeing the homes and gardens of the many cousins I stayed with, gives me ideas; my mind follows that train of thought and you can get the picture here.

It didn’t used to be like this. When my son was growing up we flew to the east coast and west coast of Canada visiting friends and family. Often we were away for two or three weeks. I don’t recall becoming homesick although I do remember worrying about some fruit I forgot to put in the compost which was left to rot in the fridge. Well, some grapes left in the fridge this time round grew some white mold. But I had my friends next door checking the house and garden, watering plants, bringing in the little print mail I get, so when away I didn’t worry about the house and garden. I just missed them.

However, I needed this holiday away from work and dealing with the myriad of stuff requiring fixing, purging, etc. at my place. Therein is the crux for anyone working from home: sometimes you need to get away from it all wherever you chose as your destination (or in my case, five different destinations). While away I wrote nothing but personal email replies and edited nothing. In fact, I was so out of the writing/editing/loop that one of my Michigan cousins (a retired circuit judge) found a spelling inconsistency in road signs and pointed it out to me. But I took photos of cousins, friends and gardens and showed my garden and previous holiday photos to my cousins and friend, thanks to a memory stick.

Upon my return I went into a house sorting, gardening and then marketing (editing) frenzy, plus sorting out the business email (unlike some people I know, I don’t deal with business – online or by phone when on holidays and let my clients know beforehand.) That’s another key – don’t take the business with you, unless you are on a business trip. In this technology-based society, we forget to take breaks.

Take my two seat companions on the train to Strathroy, Ontario. No. 1 was a young male plugged into his Ipod until he got off one stop after the trip’s beginning. The young lady who next sat beside me began with her laptop, then moved to her e-reader and finally as the train rolled into London, Ontario, her Iphone. Except for the e-reader, where’s the relaxation in all that?

So, my only regret is I didn’t get my third train ride, the one home from Grimsby, Ontario. The train, coming from Albany, NY, got stuck for hours in Rochester. So VIA Rail arranged for a cab to pick up those of use coming from St. Catharines and Grimsby at the railway stations at train time. Good move for the six of us going to Toronto Union Station. The taxi (a big van) ride was smooth and we arrived about the same time as the train would have.  And I didn’t have to lug my bag and laptop up the steep train steps and try to make it along the narrow aisles without having my bag’s strap latch onto the back of the seat.

So, I tell myself. But, hey. I’m the daughter of a railway man and train travel is in my blood.

Now, I’m getting serious about taking the train to the east coast and west coast of Canada. Not this year. Now I have bills to pay, have to put food on the table, and there are house and yard repairs. (the hose sprung a big leak and needs replacing).

Where do you go to get away from it all? Do you go away? And do you keep yourself plugged in 24/7 like you do when at home and at work?

Cheers.

Sharon

Only Child Writes

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Filed under Balance, Cousins, Escaping problems, Family, Fruit, Gardening, Holidays, Home and Garden, Only child, Peace and quiet, Railways, Train Stations, Travel, Vacations

Only Child loves rhubarb

Rhubarb - not from my garden or Mom's but from Arthur's clip art online. See blog roll for website

Rhubarb follows me around. Maybe it’s in my Mommy genes. Mom grew rhubarb the width of her garden. I grew rhubarb in my Aurora garden until it dwindled from neglect. Rhubarb is in my Toronto garden – although not in its original place on the far side of the house. With the help of a neighbour, it got moved to the main garden area in the backyard – more sun and it’s in my face so I have to pay attention.

But except for the eating, what I do with my rhubarb is way different from what Mom did. One of her “processing tools” scared me so much I had to come up with something simpler and safer. As I write in my memoir:

The pressure cooker and a big blue-and-white speckled canning pot are steaming on the stove. Both contain water that would boil over in hell, but Mom is preparing to create her version of heaven – rhubarb and strawberry jam. I feel like the angel earning her wings as I hover nearby and try to catch her instructions drifting through the steam.

“Sharon, you have to boil the jars first,” she says. “Boil the water first and then carefully put the jars in the pot.” She covers the large pot and the pressure cooker.

I’m still standing away from the stovetop. The pressure cooker terrifies me. It appears like a miniature steam engine puffing away on the stove, and ready to blow up in my face any minute.

“Why isn’t the lid on tight?” I ask, pointing my finger at the pressure cooker, but still remaining a few feet away from it.

“That’s so the steam can get out and we’re boiling the jars to sterilize, not cook them.” She sees me staring at the lids and thick rubber circles lying on the tables. “Those are the ring bands that go around the neck of the jars to seal them.”

“Oh,” I reply.

Mom is using the standard Mason jars, but I remember she took her chances with reusing jars that once held mayonnaise and store-bought jam. After the regular washing in the sink, she gave them the boiled-in-the-pan treatment.

While a whole lot of boiling is going on, Mom opens the stairway door and retrieves a basket of strawberries and rhubarb from the steps. She carries it into the kitchen, dumps the fruit into the triangular-shaped colander in the sink, and runs water over it. She pulls out a couple of sharp knives from a drawer and goes to work on the ruby sticks. She hands me the paring knife to prepare the strawberries.

“Don’t slice them across the top like that. You’re missing some of the berry. Dig in with the tip of the knife and then put it under a bit and lift up the leaves. Here, Sharon, I’ll show you.”

I let her finish as chopping doesn’t appeal to me. Neither of us has any clue that in less than a decade, Mom’s fingers will be too curled and swollen from arthritis to chop the meat on her plate, let alone fruit for jams. All the plans and prayers in the world won’t change this from happening. 

But right then, I’m waiting for those jars to sterilize so I can do the real cooking – the rhubarb and strawberries. When the jars have boiled to safety, Mom removes them and stands them up on the small kitchen counter by the sink. She pours the water into the sink and when the fruit is sliced, she dumps it into the speckled pot. I stir it with the wooden spoon. The steam rushes into my face and I don’t mind that it mixes with the summer heat in our non-air-conditioned kitchen. I can see the hard rhubarb slices dissolve to shreds; then the strawberries go soft. Mom mutters something about pectin to thicken and sugar to sweeten and both land in the pot. I pay no attention to amounts; just keep stirring round and round inside the pot.

“Is it ready yet, Mom?” I ask.

“Give it a few more minutes.”

More stirring. My right hand feels tired and my gastric juices reach high anticipation.

“It’s got to be ready now, Mom.”

“A few more minutes. Here, let me check if it’s sweet enough.” She takes a spoon from the drawer, scoops out some of the rhubarb strawberry mixture and slides a bit of it into her mouth. “Hmm. Needs a bit more sugar.”

“Let me try.”

“Wait; still needs sugar.” She pours more of the white stuff in, guides my hand in a fast stir, then says, “Ok.” She hands me a clean spoon from the drawer.

I dig the spoon deep down into the pot, but most of what I collect falls off. I open my mouth wide and shove in the spoonful and . . .

“Ouch. That’s hot.”

Of course, not too much makes it into the jars. Mom decides to make rhubarb and strawberry pie and some of the mixture in a jar in the fridge gets spread on toast in the morning for her, Dad and I to gobble down.

(Excerpted from You Can Go Home – Deconstructing the Demons, copyright 2011 Sharon Crawford)

Today I  skip the pressure cooker and mason jars. I cut up the rhubarb, wash it, toss some in a pot, add a little water, put it on the stove (medium heat), and stir  off and on until it is soft. Any extra I freeze raw in bags for winter’s use  – just thaw, heat and eat . Or make rhubarb pie or crisp.

Anybody else have some rhubarb stories or recipes to share?

Cheers.

Sharon

Only Child Writes

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Filed under Fruit, Gardening, Only child, Only child memoir, Processing rhubarb, Rhubarb