Harvest Breakfast

When our friends came to help us pick one ton of our Merlot grapes a couple of weeks ago, I made a harvest breakfast for us all.  You have to look after the workers!  I love using everything we grow in our garden for these breakfasts and in a previous post, I'd listed the menu.

We started with all-day-long oat bites - one of my staples and then had a parfait with berries, homemade marmalade granola (no sugar added) and homemade soy yoghurt.  I have to tell you that the highlight in my kitchen in the last few months has been my homemade soy yoghurt.  I'll share my recipe for it in the next day or two, but it has changed my life! I love it so much and its only 4 ingredients!  But, I digress.... the parfait was a blackberry base layer, then yoghurt, then granola, then raspberry, then yoghurt then granola.  Topped with fresh mint.

Then there was a a fig frittata, and also a roasted vegetable flat bread, with homemade sun-dried tomato hummus as its base - on a gluten free flax base:

Then came the an apple banana bread with an almond drizzle, and a discussion on whether sweet and savory dishes should be served on the same plate - or even on the same plate at the same time!!!   It is obvious that there is a big difference between Americans and British!!!

To finish -  the lemon cheesecake - dairy free, sugar free, gluten free ( and served on clean plates!!) Topped with citrus caviar!  Made with cashew nuts for the "cheese" and dates and almonds for the base.

And of course, it was our 10th harvest, so we did have to get out our ten year old Birdland Merlot wine to see how it was doing - and by the time we ate, it was lunch time!!  Every year we change the color of our wine label - our first year was yellow, as you can see below.  I wonder what color we'll choose for our 10th year?

Everyone seemed to enjoy the ending of our harvest


Harvesting crew expands

Our harvesting crew is expanding:

Here is little Evelina helping pick some figs:

And also some carrots!

She's doing well in her training - with lots of different fruits and vegetables to chose.....carrots, apples, tomatoes, pears, grapes, figs,....and also some stones to add to the pot!

Its a busy week this week as we have started our grape harvest.  The Godello (white) grapes were picked at 3am yesterday - in the dark!  This is our newest grape - a Spanish white variety that no one else is growing in California.  Our first vintage from last year's crop is being bottled now, so we'll soon be able to taste it.

We will pick our one ton of Merlot for our own wine tomorrow at the much more reasonable hour of 8am!  We are picking it ourselves with some friends and family.  It's always such a lovely day.  Picking a ton isn't too much work and then we all sit down together for a harvest breakfast.

Our main harvest (20+ tons) isn't scheduled yet as it is being bought by Jackson Family Farms (of Kendall Jackson etc) and they will decide when they want it.

With her own little bucket!
What are you harvesting this week?

An apple a day....

Apples, apples, everywhere....

We've now harvested the majority of our apples - and I've already dehydrated five large bags of them. They taste yummy dried - with nothing added.

And like our pears, our apples are huge this year.  We have a few apples that weigh more than a pound each!  It sort of makes a mockery of the "apple a day keeps the doctor away" as one of our apples could feed a family of four!

In fact, it did for lunch today. I made a nice slaw with a single large apple, walnuts, spring onion and mint.  And it fed four of us nicely!

Not quite sure what has happened with our orchard fruit this year.  We've never seen it so large - with pears over a pound each, apples the same and even large nectarines!  Yet not a great year for tomatoes.

But no complaints!  We are loving it.  What are you enjoying this early September?

August harvest - green pears and apples

This week's harvest is the green pear tree and the first of the apple trees. We first finished off gathering the red pears as we'd left a few smaller ones a couple of weeks ago.  They were so large now -  some pears were over 1lb in weight EACH! Monsters.   One pear can feed a family of 4!

We were hoping the green pears would wait a little while, but no. They were ready so they are now stuffed in the fridge for their big chill, along with all the red ones! It's pretty crowded in our fridges right now!

And yet the apples are ready too, so we picked one tree only...but the others need doing probably this week as well.  Yummy green apples that I am eating every day - but also have got our my trusty dehydrator so that is busy at work with the apples, before the next tree delivers!

Nothing goes on the apples.  Just slice them with the mandolin and dehydrate for a few hours at 115 degrees F, to retain all the nutrients.  No need to core or peel - and that way you even get a little star in the middle where the pips were  *  Nice decorative touch, don't you think?

It's a busy time of year :-D

Kitchen tools - Lekue steamer

The latest addition to my kitchen is a Lekue steamer.  Its a Danish design and I'm loving it!  I've never done much steaming - but in this past week, that's changed. I think I've done some every night.

The only problem is that I have steamed food and then eaten it and forgotten to take any blog worthy photos.

Who knew how tasty steamed food, picked straight from your garden, could be?  Well, maybe loads of people - but I've only just found out.

It seems my favorite is steamed potatoes and steamed broccoli.  Even my husband loves the steamed broccoli.  Neither of us thought he'd eat it but I put it on his plate -and he more than ate it - he enjoyed it!!

And the steamed potatoes?  Amazing.  I LOVE steamed potatoes. Dig them out of the ground, wash them, cut them up, steam for 6 minutes.  It cooks them so beautifully - really evenly cooked throughout.

Anyhow - enough drooling. Onto the Lekue.  It's a silicone piece of cookware and I bought the bright lime green one - as that's my favorite color. It also comes in white and red.  The one I bought was for 3-4 people.  It really shouldn't be labelled 3 -4 people. Not if you are a big veggie eater like me.   I can't imagine the 1 - 2 person size. You could hardly fit anything into it.

So go for the large size.

You put 2 tablespoons of water in the bottom and then add the little tray.  Add the food. Close it up and now you can steam it in the microwave or in the oven.  Perfect!

Open it up carefully so you don't scald yourself and your food will be perfectly steamed and delicious and nutritious.

I've done apples in it too and lots of different vegetables.  I can't believe its taken me all these years to get into steaming. But Lekue has done it!  I wonder what tonight will bring?????

My new kitchen tool of the week.
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Dehydrating fruit

So here is the dehydrated fruit I made - what is left of it, and before its all gone!

Don't the oranges look nice and glossy!

And I love the waviness of the apples - like they have been gently pleated as they dried.

What is your favorite dried fruit?  I don't like pears - they turn a little gritty, and last year I did some of our green table grapes that we grew - making yummy sultanas.....Maybe I'll have to do persimmons this year... Now if only you could dry quince without cooking them.....

I wonder what my next dehydrator project will be????  Oh, if only there were more hours in the day. I love having so many ideas in my head!

Dehydrating fruit

I had an idea to try dehydrating some citrus fruit.  We are finally coming to the end of all our citrus fruit from the garden but have a few oranges left.  I've never dehydrated citrus before but thought it sounded a nice idea.

And so I sliced them thinly, and added some apples and a couple of strawberries at the same time - might as well fill the dehydrator.

I dried them until they were crispy - and all of them are delicious.

It's great to eat the whole orange - peel as well and because its sliced so thinly, it doesn't taste too bitter.

I had great plans for these crispy snacks - creating something more than just dried fruit - but we ate them before I could finish the plan! I'll have to do some more and not leave them out to be eaten!!

This really is the easiest way to
preserve apples and when our harvest starts later in the year, I know I'll be doing plenty more. You don't have to peel and core the apples - just slice using a mandolin, no need to add anything to them (so unlike bought dried apples, no sulphur or citric acid) - and then just put them in a dehydrator and forget about them for a few hours.

Easy Peasy!  Roll on apple harvest!

Dehydrated apples

I got a new camera yesterday!  Yippee. My other one died. I thought it had died a couple of months ago, but it came back to life, but now not only does it seem dead, but it's also trying to kill my computer, as it causes it to crash when I plug it in, so I don't want it messing that up.  But I'm excited with my new toy and want to learn all it's features - or at least some of them :-)

Our big apple harvest has started here at home.  We picked the apples from one tree and any that weren't perfect, I chopped and dehydrated, ready to eat throughout the year. The rest we'll store and eat fresh!  Naturally as they came out of the dehydrator, I had to take their photo with my new camera!  Haven't figured out how to use it properly - just how to switch it on, but you've got to start somewhere!

How tasty they look.  We have so many apples each year - and I've been through the apple pie mix stage and the chutney stage and all the other preserving ways, but our favorite for apples is dehydrating. They make a wonderful snack and I always keep some in the car for late night journeys.

Sticky labels on fruit

Have you ever wondered what those sticky labels are all about on your fruit?  While they may be primarily for the sellers, there is useful information on them for buyers too, so don't just dismiss them as something you have to remove - take a closer look!

The numbers on the labels (PLU - Product Look-Up number) consist of either four or five numbers and they are used to classify fruit in three different ways: conventionally grown, organic, and genetically modified.

All four-digit coded fruit is conventionally raised, so could well be contaminated with pesticides and fertilizers.  In the photo above, the 4030 number is the number used for kiwi fruits. So all kiwis will have 4030 in their PLU.  Other fruits have their distinctive number, for example a Granny Smith apple is 4017, Comice pears are 4414, etc.  Some fruits have a different number depending if it is large or small., e.g. a small Granny Smith is 4139, instead of 4017.

Five-digit codes either begin with the number 8 or the number 9.

If the first number of 5 digit code is an 8, then it means the fruit has been genetically modified, and grown conventionally.

If the first number of a 5 digit code is a 9, then it means the fruit has been grown to the standard defined by the National Organic Board and is certified Organic.

So in the photo above, the 3435 indicates that this is a PiƱata Apple and the 9 in front indicates that it was grown organically.

You may also be interested to note that the adhesive used on the labels is safe to eat (!), but the label is not!!

So get out there and look for those 5 digit numbers beginning with a 9! But don't eat the label :-D