Applesauce from the Orchard

Yesterday was my family’s yearly visit to go apple picking at our favorite orchard near Julian, CA and dare I say I think it was our best yet.  Instead of letting October roll around and then saying, “Oh!  We need to go apple picking!”, we went a few weeks earlier than usual this year.  And boy did it pay off.  The crowds were thinner and the apples bigger and more plentiful.

Selecting our bounty with first-timer cousins.

Selecting our bounty with first-timer cousins.

The breath-taking blue skies provided a touch of fall in the air.

The breath-taking blue skies provided a touch of fall in the air.

Quite the array of apple types.  I filled it until not a single other apple could balance without falling.

Quite the array of apple types. I filled it until not a single other apple could balance without falling.

We picked Jonathan, Gala, and Golden Delicious, among others.  While walking the apple tree isles, I decided that I wanted to make my grandmother’s apple sauce recipe with a good portion of our harvest.  This morning my helper and I did just that.  This recipe has been made in my family for over fifty years and today was the first time that I’d made it with my daughter.  I thought of my grandmother and of the many Thanksgivings and Christmas meals that I’d passed the bowl of homemade applesauce that my mom made each year.  It’s a simple, fun recipe that isn’t afraid to let the essential flavors shine.  And there’s no sugar added. (It’s also amazing on potato pancakes).



Grandma Iris’ Applesauce

7 yellow apples, peeled, cored and sliced thin
7 green apples, peeled, cored and sliced thin
7 red apples, peeled, cored and sliced thin
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup raisins
Cinnamon to taste

Put apples in a large pot with 1-2 inches of water.  Bring to a 
boil and then turn down to simmer for 10 minutes.  Don't cook to 
long to allow chunks of apples to remain.
Drain the water from the apples.  Add cranberries, raisins and 
cinnamon and stir.  Eat warm or cold.  Keep refrigerated.
Serves 4-6 people.

Whole Wheat Peach Banana Agave Muffins

I have a soft spot for banana muffins, especially when the weather is warm and my bananas ripen extra fast.  A few years ago I posted this recipe for whole wheat strawberry banana agave bread.  I essentially used the same recipe today to make muffins, and instead of strawberry banana, they were peach banana.  This fruit pairing turned out to be very complimentary and super useful for my first harvest of peaches from my Red Baron peach tree.


Preheat oven to 325.

  • 1/2 C Agave nectar
  • 1/3 C vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 1/2 C mashed extra ripe bananas (about 3 large)
  • 1 large or 3 small peaches, diced
  • 3/4 C whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 C all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • pinch nutmeg
  • 1/2 C chopped nuts (I use walnuts)

In a large bowl whisk agave and oil.  Stir in bananas, peaches and vanilla.  Stir in flour, salt, baking soda, cinnamon and nutmeg.  Fold in chopped nuts.  Pour into a greased muffin pan.  Bake 22-25 minutes.  Makes a dozen muffins.


Lady-Like Carrot

My kiddo has been itching to pull a carrot.  Although I explained that they’re not quite ready, we picked one anyhow.  After seeing it’s size, I was told emphatically, “They’re not ready yet!”.  This little carrot may have been small, but it was as lady-like as they come.


The pink mandevilla next to the chicken coop is in full swing.  What a show-stopper this one is.  I particularly appreciate it in it’s current location because it’s adds a softness and brightness to the coop area and surrounding dirty digs.

DSCN0386The Red Baron peach tree has moved into it’s hunched over look with the swelling weight of the many peaches.  A week or so more and I’ll be having peaches in my oatmeal, peach crisp, grilled peaches, peaches on my ice cream and peaches for a snack.  Lucky me.


New Orchard Addition

I like to think of my small collection of fruit trees as my “mini orchard”.  I bought a struggling peach tree for dirt cheap (pun intended) from where I work.  It had been in a pot for a few years and needed to get in the ground and stretch it’s legs.  She is an Eva’s Pride, which harvests a full month before my Red Baron peach.  AND it requires even less chilling hours…only 100-200, great for areas like mine in coastal southern CA.


Here's the Red Baron beginning to change from greenish/yellow to pink.

Here’s the Red Baron beginning to change from greenish/yellow to pink.

A fun lemon cucumber ready for picking.

A fun lemon cucumber ready for picking.

Indigo Rose is beginning to fruit and I swear I can already see that purple color.

Indigo Rose is beginning to fruit and I swear I can already see that purple color.

The Cherokee Purple heirloom tomato that I seem to grow every year is shaping up some nice fruit.

The Cherokee Purple heirloom tomato that I seem to grow every year is shaping up some nice fruit.

This evening's harvest!  Check out the Silkie trying to get a hand-out.

This evening’s harvest! Check out the Silkies trying to get a hand-out. HA!

Colorful Beans


The first real green (and purple and Rattlesnake) bean harvest of the season.  I grow all pole beans since I love taking advantage of vertical height in the garden.  Stick a 6′ wooden pole (hence the name) right next to each bean plant and leave the rest to them.  The green beans are from seeds I saved from last season.  The heirloom purple and Rattlesnake are new to me this year and I’m having such fun seeing their uniqueness peeking out in a sea of green.  They’re great tasting, too!  Can’t wait to add these to tonight’s dinner.

The bounty.

I’d say that green beans are one of the funnest edibles to collect.  There’s always more on the vine than you thought, because so many are tucked behind leaves or blend into their surroundings.

Bon Appetit!

Golden Beet Harvest


WIth the cupboards and fridge bare in anticipation of leaving on vacation, I knew I could lean on my garden to help out.

The illustrious golden beet. Tonight will be the first time I’ve tasted them and I’m curious how they will differ from their red counterpart.

The lettuce and Persian cukes helped build a salad for lunch.

The basket it a newly acquired find from an antique store.  I love it’s rustic look.  I wanted a basket to help with harvesting.  As I wash off my bounty, the holes on the bottom allow the dirt to escape before I bring it in the kitchen.

Secret Mulberry Tree

We’ve lived in our home for many years and there is one tree in particular in our neighbor’s yard that I love looking at from the living room.  In fall it turns a spectacular yellow color, goes bare in the winter and fills out in the spring with beautiful light green foliage.  This tree means spring for me, undergoing one of the most significant transformations around my home.  I’ve always wondered what kind of tree it is.

Today I glanced out of the window and noticed hundreds of tiny, maroon berries hanging throughout.  I honestly cannot remember ever seeing these berries before.  (It makes me feel like a bit of a doofus.)  I narrowed my eyes to see these berries come into focus as mulberries.  Yes, mulberries!  Score!!!  My family has had the pleasure of a bag of mulberries for the past few springs from a friend’s mulberry tree in a neighboring town.  They are somewhat unique in taste, similar to a plum tasting berry with floral undertones.  Thanks to my new heightened sense of all things edible, we’ll not only continue to appreciate this tree’s beauty, but also the newly discovered fruit that it bears for years to come (with permission from my neighbor of course).

I quickly grabbed a bag and went outside.

This tree is about 20′ tall.

Here are the little darlings. When ripe, they just fall off into your hand with the slightest touch.

Aren’t they beautiful?  You can eat the stem, but I prefer to eat the berry alone by sliding the stem through my teeth.

I thoroughly intend on knocking on my neighbor’s door to ask about harvesting more.  The majority of the fruit are still immature, but by the looks of many ripe mulberries on the ground, this neighbor isn’t making mulberry pie.  And I hate to see good food go to waste.

Purple Carrot Harvest

I have to say that these cosmic purple carrots are some of the funnest veggies I’ve grown (although I’ve only been doing this for 9 months!).  I love the feeling of pulling carrots from the soil when they keep going and going.  Beautiful!  It’s an exciting crop because you’re not sure what you’re going to get until you harvest, unlike most other veggies.

They are just full of flavor with traditional orange centers. We've been eating them raw and one night in a stir fry.

Late January Happy Harvest

A nice harvest for our dinner!

Calabrese broccoli

This broccoli harvest is exclusively made up of side shoots, grown just by leaving the plant after the main head is harvested. The heirloom Stupice tomatoes are STILL producing, along with the hearty snap peas. I bought that package of snap pea seeds for $1 and have been harvesting them twice a week for over a month. (Most of them don't make it to their photo op and are our garden snack). There are still two other sets of snaps that I planted in succession that will each produce just as much as the first, which is just about petered out. All for $1.