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November 2009

October 2009

Choosing Vegetable Varieties

Aji Dulce and Pasilla Peppers, dehydrated and ground make a great seasoning    Damon Morgan Kentucky Butcher Corn for cornmeal and corn totillas   Health Kick Tomatoes, higher in lycopene

     As this gardening season is winding down we need to turn our thoughts to next year's garden.  Knowledge and good planning are the foundation of a successful garden.  Choosing vegetable varieties is a very important factor in determining the success of your garden.  Your hard work and good intentions will not be justly rewarded if you plant the wrong vegetable in the wrong place at the wrong time for the wrong reasons.  Here are some things to consider when choosing vegetable varieties.

Flavor:  When choosing a vegetable variety flavor is one of my primary concerns.  Flavor depends on variety selection and growing methods.  Our customers were willing to pay more for our produce because of superior flavor, texture and keeping qualities.  We were often told our products were the best they had purchased.

Nutritional Content:  We are often told that more color in the diet equals more nutrition.  Eat the rainbow some have said.  For this reason I choose to grow yellow and multicolored corn instead of white, blue and yellow potatoes instead of white, and orange and blue sweet potatoes rather than just the orange varieties.  As for tomatoes, the main variety I grow for home use is called Health Kick.  It contains more lycopene than other varieties.  You get the idea. When reading seed catalogs be alert to statements made concerning nutritional content.

Productivity:  Some varieties are much more prolific than others.  Generally speaking hybrid varieties tend to produce more than heirlooms.  You should also consider how a specific variety may grow in your environmental conditions - length of growing season, soil texture, temperature extremes and amount of rainfall.

Pest and Disease Resistance:  Many varieties have been bred for resistance to certain types of diseases.  For instance Big Beef Tomato has the following letters beside the name in the seed catalog, VFFNTASt, meaning it is resistant to Verticillium Wilt, Fusarium Wilt: races 1 and 2, Nematodes, Tobacco Mosaic Virus, Alternaria, and Stemphylium.   I try to choose the most disease resistant varieties that have other qualities that I am looking for.  Also some varieties resist pest better than others.  One example is Neck Pumpkins.  Most pumpkins have a hollow stem at ground level that vine borers like to enter which kills the plant.  The Neck Pumpkin has a solid stem that resists vine borers.

Space Requirements:  If your space is limited you can find seed for vegetables with compact growth.  You may also consider growing pole beans and cucumbers on a trellis.  You can also find varieties that grow well in containers.

Drought, Heat and Cold Tolerance:  By reading seed catalogs carefully you can find the varieties best suited for your climate.

Length of Time to Harvest:  Gardeners in northern areas have a shorter growing season than those in the southern regions.  Consider the length of time until harvest when choosing your vegetable varieties.

     I would encourage you, if at all possible, to grow your own transplants.  By doing so you have much more choice in what varieties you plant in your garden.  Study the seed catalogs, they are a wealth of information, then choose what works best for you in your situation.

     From choosing the seed to harvesting, gardening is not a one size fits all application.  There are a variety of ways to grow a successful garden.  I suggest that you learn tips and techniques from a number of experienced gardeners, then choose the techniques that work best in your situation.  The winter months would be a good time to read some of the great gardening books that are available.  In his book, Four Season Harvest, Eliot Coleman teaches how we can grow food year round.  Rodale's Ultimate Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening is a valuable resource for beginners as well as skilled gardeners.  Eileen M. Logan's book, How to Grow Organic Vegetables in Containers, can be very useful for those of you who have limited space.  I encourage you to read, learn, plant, grow and enjoy!

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Halloween Pumpkins

Neck Pumpkins    Preparing Neck Pumpkin for Pie    Pumpkin Pie

Does this look like a Halloween Pumpkin?

     I must say, it does not.  So what is the point?  The Halloween pumpkin and the pie pumpkin have a lot to say about our modern society.  

     October, time to bring all those pumpkins in from the garden or field.  Jack-o-lantern pumpkins are everywhere but where are the pie pumpkins?  If you search you can scarcely find one.  Why do farmers grow so many Halloween pumpkins?  Simple answer - because that is what their customers want to buy.  Herein lies my concern.  The Halloween pumpkin is associated with fun and entertainment, whereas the pie pumpkin is associated with nourishing food for the body.  The point is, I fear that we as a society are leaning more toward fun and entertainment at the expense of things of substance and greater value.  I'm not suggesting that we throw out the jack-o-lantern but that we have some balance.

     Pumpkins were a staple in the diet of the native American Indian. They were grown with corn and beans and called the three sisters.  The corn provided a support for the beans to climb, the beans were able to fix nitrogen in the soil, and the pumpkin leaves helped shade out unwanted weeds.  By teaching the early colonist to grow the three sisters, the Indians helped them survive in the new world.  Pumpkins are a storehouse of nutrition - Vitamin A, Beta Carotene, Potassium and more.  

     You can add these nutrients to your Halloween treats and children will love helping you do it.  Check out the following recipes.  It's fun!

Pumpkin Pie

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

Pumpkin Muffins with Chocolate Glaze

Pumpkin Pie Pinwheel Cookies

Iced Pumpkin Cookies

Spiced Pumpkin Cookies

Pumpkin Fudge


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Today's Food for Thought: "Watch over your liberties and privileges"

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Matthias Burnett

Consider well the important trust . . . which God . . . [has] put into your hands. . . . To God and posterity you are accountable for [your rights and your rulers]. . . . Let not your children have reason to curse you for giving up those rights and prostrating those institutions which your fathers delivered to you. . . . [L]ook well to the characters and qualifications of those you elect and raise to office and places of trust. . . . Think not that your interests will be safe in the hands of the weak and ignorant; or faithfully managed by the impious, the dissolute and the immoral. Think not that men who acknowledge not the providence of God nor regard His laws will be uncorrupt in office, firm in defense of the righteous cause against the oppressor, or resolutely oppose the torrent of iniquity. . . . Watch over your liberties and privileges - civil and religious - with a careful eye.

[Matthias Burnett, Pastor of the First Baptist Church in Norwalk, An Election Sermon, Preached at Hartford, on the Day of the Anniversary Election, May 12, 1803 (Hartford: Printed by Hudson & Goodwin, 1803), pp. 27-28.]


The Fall Garden, Broccoli, Sweet Potatoes and Greenhouse Tomatoes

Broccoli    Sweet Potatoes    Savoy Cabbage, Collards, Broccoli

I have begun harvesting broccoli and finished digging all the sweet potatoes.  Mice nibbled on a few of them but left plenty for us.  They will keep all winter in a cool area in our house (55 - 60 degrees).  Never store sweet potatoes in the refrigerator as temperatures below 50 degrees can cause cold injury and rotting.  Savoy cabbage and collards are still growing very well.  The rest of the peppers and neck pumpkins need to be gathered soon.

Greenhouse Tomatoes    Pest Control,Yellow Sticky Card    Greenhouse Tomatoes

The greenhouse tomatoes are pollinating very well without my help even though we have had a lot of cloudy days.  No serious pest problems so far.  The yellow sticky cards have caught a variety of insects.  I've seen a few white flies and a few aphids.  We expect ripe tomatoes in the first or second week of November.

After quite a bit of searching I finally found some Chandler Strawberry plants.  They should arrive the middle of next week.  A little later than I usually plant but it should be all right.  Remember its time to clean up the garden, take soil test (see your local extension office), apply lime if needed and plant cover crops.

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Pear Marmalade Recipe

Pear Marmalade

Make your own Pear Marmalade.  It's fun and it is delicious!

3 quarts organic pears (ground)

Juice of 3 organic lemons and zest

6 cups sugar

1 cup crushed pineapple

Juice of 3 organic Valencia oranges and zest

Mix all ingredients together.  Boil until clear.  Put in hot sterilized jars and seal.

Try it on your homemade bread.


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Today's Food for Thought: 10-12-09

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Daniel Webster

Early American Jurist and Senator

[I]f we and our posterity reject religious instruction and authority, violate the rules of eternal justice, trifle with the injunctions of morality, and recklessly destroy the political constitution which holds us together, no man can tell how sudden a catastrophe may overwhelm us that shall bury all our glory in profound obscurity.

(Source: Daniel Webster, The Writings and Speeches of Daniel Webster (Boston: Little, Brown, & Company, 1903), Vol. XIII, p. 492. From "The Dignity and Importance of History," February 23, 1852.)

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The Fall Vegetable Garden, Chinese Cabbage and Kimchi

Fall vegebable garden    Chinese Cabbage    Kimchi

     Fall is a great time to get those fresh green vegetables that we are told are so good for us.  They are said to provide an abundance of nutrition and even prevent some diseases.  It seems easy for us to neglect the green foods to our own detriment.   My fall garden consists of Chinese Cabbage, three varieties of collards, broccoli and Savoy Cabbage. The soil for the fall garden was mulched with hay.  I fertilized with liquid fish, bone meal, sulfate of potash, epsom salts and borax.  Pests have included a few worms, harlequin bugs, grasshoppers and crickets.  Until recently I have hand picked worms and harlequin bugs.  The plants are getting so large it is more difficult to find the worms so yesterday I sprayed with Bacillus Thurningiensis, brand name Dipel, to control the worms.  

     Chinese Cabbage was the first vegetable ready for harvest.  It is tender crisp with a texture I compare to a cross between lettuce and cabbage.  Each fall I like to use the Chinese Cabbage to make a few quarts of Kimchi, Korean Sauerkraut,  which keeps for weeks in the refrigerator.  Being preserved by lacto-fermentation, it provides good bacteria needed in our intestinal tracts to aid good health.   In her book, Nourishing Traditions, Sally Fallon explains the health benefits of lacto-fermentation and provides many easy to follow recipes, including the one I use for Kimchi.  

     Broccoli is almost ready for harvest.  After the main heads are cut, smaller shoots will grow to extend the harvest.  Because frost adds a sweeter flavor to collards, I will wait until after frost to harvest them.  Cabbage and collard harvest should last at least through January.

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Country Kitchen Recipe: Baking a Delicious Sweet Potato Cake Packed with Nutrition

Sweet Potato Cake  Frosted Sweet Potato Cake  Frosted Sweet Potato Cake

Sweet Potatoes - Delicious -  Nutritious - Keep well in storage - Very versatile

As we all know we need to limit our sugar intake.  That being said, if you want something sweet now and then, this is a great recipe.  Made with organic whole wheat flour, organic sweet potatoes, organic milk, extra virgin olive oil and free range eggs it packs a lot of nutrition.  With or without frosting, it is a winner.

Cake Ingredients: 

1/2 cup organic milk                                                                  2 1/4 cups organic whole wheat flour    

2 cups sugar                                                                              1 teaspoon baking soda

1 cup extra virgin olive oil                                                          1 teaspoon baking powder

3 free range eggs, separated                                                   1 teaspoon cinnamon

3 cups grated and peeled organic sweet potatoes              1 teaspoon nutmeg

1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract                                                   1/2 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In large mixing bowl with electric mixer blend the olive oil and sugar until well blended.  Separate eggs.  Add egg yolks, vanilla and milk to oil mixture.  Blend well and set aside.

Sift 1/4 cup of the flour over grated sweet potatoes.  Toss to coat all sweet potatoes well.

In a separate bowl combine the remaining 2 cups of flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt.  Add this to the oil mixture and mix well.  Fold in coated sweet potatoes.

Beat egg whites stiff and fold into the cake batter.  Pour batter into a 10-inch tube cake pan that has been coated with oil and flour.  Bake cake 55 minutes or until done.

Frosting Ingredients:

1 cup organic milk                                           1 cup powdered sugar                               1 cup coconut

3 tblsp. organic whole wheat flour         1 cup organic butter or Smart Balance           1/2 cup pecans

                                                                            1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Place milk and flour in a sauce pan and use a whisk to blend well.  Cook over medium heat until it thickens stirring constantly.  Remove from heat and allow to cool thoroughly.

Place sugar, butter or Smart Balance and vanilla extract in mixing bowl and mix well with electric mixer.  Add flour mixture and mix well. 

Stir in coconut and pecans.

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