Monday June 8, 2009

Flying over the farmland towards Edmonton last Thursday I said to Robert, “there’s something wrong down there.” It’s not because we’ve just come from Switzerland where the canola pods are leaning heavily, and the first barley is already starting to turn colour. After all, we know those are winter crops.

Everything, including the crops, is several weeks behind - barley field in front of our house. (Photo by Marianne Stamm)

Everything, including the crops, is several weeks behind - barley field in front of our house. (Photo by Marianne Stamm)

No, it’s more than that. It is June, right? Shouldn’t it be green down there? There can’t be that much summer fallow.

Driving the 200 kilometers home from the airport we get a closer look. There are some wheat fields that are an even green now, but they’re in the minority. Even from the road many fields look like they’re just seeded.

Later we learn some canola fields were reseeded due to frost damage. Most are just very late. Farmers were happy to get their crops in quite early after the late winter. Now they’re concerned because it’s taking them such a long time to grow. Our growing season is so short here – we can get frost again late August, although usually it waits until mid September.

Not even the weeds want to grow in this cold weather. (Photo by Marianne Stamm)

Not even the weeds want to grow in this cold weather. (Photo by Marianne Stamm)

Harold Huising phoned me from Innisfail. He and his wife Johanna moved down there last summer and he’s running a market garden together with his daughter-in-law Beth. He’s pretty discouraged. The zucchini and other squash have frozen twice already and the tomatoes he planted last week froze too. The strong winds blew the cover cloths around so that the seeded crops underneath were damaged. The year hasn’t started out well for him.

Everyone tells us it’s the coldest spring in a long time. I felt it when I poked my head out the door Friday morning – only three degrees Celcius! This morning there was a light frost. That isn’t quite conducive to growing conditions. The long range weather report is for warmer temperatures. Together with the 15 millimeters of rain we got Friday that could improve things quickly. Let’s hope so!

In my garden – seeded for me with love by my wonderful neighbour –  not even the weeds are growing well. Nothing is really, except spinach – and rhubarb. I made a rhubarb torte and invited our neighbours for coffee yesterday. This is a recipe I received over 20 years ago from my sister-in-law in Switzerland who received it from a friend who got it from the Alsace, France. The torte has delighted us and our guests every spring since.

When we were in the Alsace a week ago at the wedding, this cake was one of the desserts served. I was pleased to find it is an Alsace specialty offered at most restaurants and bakeries at this time of year. So for those of you with a rhubarb patch who like to bake, here’s the recipe:

Alsace Rhubarb Meringue Torte

This specialty of the Alsace, France, can be baked up by every Canadian farm woman! (Photo by Marianne Stamm)

This specialty of the Alsace, France, can be baked up by every Canadian farm woman! (Photo by Marianne Stamm)

Cream together: 3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter
Pinch of salt
2 egg yolks
1 tsp vanilla
1 tbsp. milk

Add:             1 2/3 cup flour (I’ve used whole wheat flour)
2 tsp. baking powder
Mix, and roll out or press into a round cake form, spring form, or tart form. (22 cm or more)

Spread 2 tbsp. crushed nuts over the dough.

Add: 2-3 cups of chopped rhubarb. Bake at 200 (350) degrees C. for 15 minutes.

Mix:     1 egg yolk
3 tbsp. sugar
100 ml. thin cream

Pour over rhubarb in crust. Return to oven and bake another 20 minutes.

Meringue:  3 eggwhites
Pinch salt
2-3 tbsp. sugar

Whip until stiff peaks form. Pile on rhubarb torte. Bake for another 10 minutes.

Enjoy!

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