Monday, June 25, 2012

The Lavender Year

The crazy weather this year has thrown a number of gardening and food preservation plans awry, but in one area, the early and persistent heat (and even the increasing lack of rain) has been a blessing for my lavender crops.

In garden #1, my two lavender bushes have yielded four cuttings, three of which occurred during the last two weeks of May.  In garden #2, two more lavender bushes have provided two extensive cuttings.  (The lavender plants in garden #3, planted just weeks ago, are of course too new to yield anything.)

That means I've got several brown bags of cut lavender lolling about my place, drying in their own sweet time and adding their clean fragrance to the air.  What bliss!

But since I've been using lots of lavender in tea blends for the market, I've also bought and traded for even more lavender from some of my fellow producers at Local Roots.  I'll be curious to see how much I end up with once all the flowers are dried and stripped from their stems.

I've already dipped into this year's harvest, though.  I led a cooking class at Today's Kitchen Store yesterday afternoon -- an "Herbal Tea Party" -- and along with the luscious little fruit parfaits I made and dusted with mint sugar, I made my old-fashioned lavender cookies.  They were a very big hit!  And since these cookies are refrigerator cookies, with the dough needing to be chilled before baking, I had brought pre-chilled dough to class and took home the dough I made during the class.

Which meant, you see, that I had a nice big log of lavender cookie dough needing to be baked off this morning... and since I don't really need to eat all those cookies, I had an easy dessert to add to the Local Roots bakery case to start the week.

I do love my lavender!

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Thursday, June 21, 2012

Suits Me to a Tea

I've been making herbal tea blends to sell at Local Roots for a while now, but over the winter started making blends with local herbs and certified organic/fair trade black, green, white, and red teas.  So as you can see, my shelf space at the market has expanded to display these different blends.

So far, the response has been very favorable.  Every other week or so, I have to restock at least one and usually more of the blends since they are close to selling out.  I tell you, all my problems should be this wonderful...

And now that summer is here -- and since I have a big bag of big press & brew tea bags -- I decided to try my hand at making sun tea bags with those same blends.  I've started with just a few blends, ones that I knew would brew very easily as sun tea: Earl's Garden (Earl Grey with lavender), Green Light (Gunpowder Green tea with spearmint and nettles), and maybe White Dragon (white peony with tarragon).

Of course, I've been enjoying the test batches!  So I might just have to try more -- and that suits me just fine.

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Saturday, June 16, 2012

Check It Sprout!

Remember back in December during my annual blog review when I said I planned to get my fall crops started by midsummer this year, so that I would have lots of good things to eat later on?

Yeah.  I did it.  Go me.

This is actually only one of three flats I seeded for fall.  This one has (L to R) kale, pac choi, and spinach; the others have beets, rutabaga, and turnips; and broccoli, cabbage, and lettuce.  And so far, the only seeds I haven't seen a hint of are the broccoli ones.

So keep those fingers crossed -- I might just have a good deal to eat this fall, straight from the garden.

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Sunday, June 03, 2012

Making My Market

My baking business continues to grow at a reasonable pace: enough to challenge me, but not to overwhelm me.  The latest addition to my business routine has been to prepare for this year's downtown farmers' market on the square.

Now I bake Sunday or Monday through Thursday or so for Local Roots, and on Friday I dedicate a good chunk of the baking day to preparing for the Saturday morning market.  Friday had been something of a light work day for me before, so this addition works out well.

Yesterday, for my first-ever market, I thought I'd planned a "light" baking schedule.  Turns out I made 2 dozen loaves of bread, as well as crackers, croissants, and dessert bars, so I filled the table!  The breads were the first to sell out, and I kept track of which varieties sold out when (starting just after 9 AM, believe it or not) so that I can plan for previous weeks.  (Note to self: raisin-walnut is a keeper!)

I brought some samples (in the basket), which really helped to start conversations with new customers and convinced some new folks to buy loaves to take home.  I also had slips about my upcoming TKS cooking classes, and I think a few people were interested in those.

We had great weather (if a bit windy) for the market, and I found myself parked between a friend who sells goat-milk soaps and lotions and a new couple selling home-roasted coffee.  And this was my view -- you might almost think yourself somewhere in Europe with that architecture and the artisan breads, but no, the U.S. Route 30 sign is a dead giveaway that we're still here in Small Town, USA.

By fifteen minutes before the close of the market, I sold my last item -- a complete sell-out on Week 1!  Needless to say, it was a wonderful vindication of my choice to try out the market this year, and I am looking forward to next week's market day.

It just keeps getting better...

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