July 30, 2009

Gracie, all tired out after her garden chores
Thanks, Heather, for the picture!

Gardening with Grace
Plus, a recipe for Blueberry-Lemon Bread/Cake

Yes, we did name our new puppy Grace Belle, and she IS a huge help in the garden... sort of! But this summer's garden has required a different kind of grace. Here on the coast of Maine, unrelenting rain, fog, mist, drizzle and just plain humidity, plus cool temperatures and little sun, have tested even the most patient and persistent gardeners.

Some thing of course are thriving in this micro-climate, but many things are not, especially those plants that like it hot such as peppers. We've planted - and lost- three batches of corn seed, and can only hope now that farmers farther inland from us will have abundant crops. But it isn't as though they haven't had a cool, damp summer too. So far, many of Maine's early hay cuttings, a crop essential for winter feed, have been devastated.

I've always stressed that one of the best ways to save on your grocery spending is to grow and preserve your own produce. Or, at least buy at your local farmer's market or even pick-your-own to can or freeze. That's a little tougher this year. But it is still going to mean better eating and more savings this coming winter.

One bumper crop for us this year is blueberries. The raspberries are doing well too, but they mold very quickly in the damp and must be picked quickly when it's relatively dry. No such problem with the blueberries. Plus, I'm sure you've read aoubt the fabulous anti-oxidant benefits (among other things) of blueberries.

We have a dozen or so high-bush blues of at least five different varieties. They are also planted near wild berries so the cross-pollination yields really favorful, large fruit. With no preparation needed to freeze them (just put in containers or plastic bags) , frozen blueberries don't lose shape or get mushy, and they can be used to make so, so many wonderful things including juice, plain or blended with lemonade, apple, or cranberry. I make a four-berry juice from straw-, rasp-, black- and blueberries with only minimal honey sweetening needed.

Yesterday I came across a recipe for a blueberry-lemon bread/cake. As this is one of my absolutely favorite flavor combinations, I went right down and picked fresh blueberries to try it. You make the batter, which incorporates finely grated lemon peel, then top with a mixture of 'berries, a little sugar and more lemon peel. The batter rises up over the topping, and the result is delectable!

Blueberry-Lemon Bread/Cake
Beat all together
1 1/2 c flour
3/4 c sugar
1 Tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 c shortening
2/3 c milk
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp grated lemon peel

Pour into a greased 8x8" pan and top with this mixture

1 cup fresh blueberries
3 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp grated lemon peel
Bake at 350 for 40-45 minutes or until browned and springy. YUM!

I suppose we need to look at back-to-school spending, but it's hard to face classes starting again after so little summer! Ya' know??