Friday, April 27, 2012

Growing Sweet Corn from Seed

Growing Sweet Corn can be pretty easy.  Nothing beats the taste of fresh, homegrown sweet corn.

To ensure an early crop, sow sweet corn seeds either indoors or in a heated greenhouse.  I recommend using Peat Pellets , or something like it do the delicate roots are not disturbed.  Corn does not transplant well.

Seeds should be sown in warm conditions, covered very lightly (depth of ¼ inch) and kept reasonably moist until seedlings emerge. 

The sweet corn seedlings should germinate after 10 – 12 days, and once they have fully emerged the weakest seedling from each pot should be removed.  If you choose to direct-sow, thin Seedlings 6-8 inches apart.

Water well and if they are being germinated indoors - move to a warm, bright windowsill.

Do not over water.

The young Sweet Corn plants can be planted into their final positions once all danger of frost has passed – around the middle of May, but remember that they will need to be hardened off for a week or so before hand. This can be achieved by either bringing them back under protection over-night or placing them under a cloche or poly-tunnel outside.

Plant corn in well-drained soil with lots of organic matter.  Grow in full sun.  Mulching around your corn will help keep the free of invasive weeds during the summer.  Plant with beans, cucumber, melons, morning glory, potato, pumpkin, soybeans, squash and sunflower.  For complete details, read Companion Planting 101.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Companion Planting 101

I cannot take credit for the abundance of information on Companion Planting and am happy to share.  My favorite sources have been and Golden Harvest.  For complete information check out their websites.  Most of the information below came from Golden Harvest.  

When purchasing seeds or planning your garden, consider companion planting for low-cost, eco-friendly soil amendments and pest-control.  Check out Part 1 (getting started) and Part 2 (herbs).

Beans: All bean enrich the soil with nitrogen fixed form the air, improving the conditions for whatever crop you plant after the beans are finished. In general they are good company for carrots, celery, chards, corn, eggplant, peas, potatoes, brassicas, beets, radish, strawberry and cucumbers. Beans are great for heavy nitrogen users like corn and grain plants because the nitrogren used up by the corn and grains are replaced at the end of the season when the bean plants die back. Summer savory deters bean beetles and improves growth and flavor. Keep beans away from the alliums.

Beets: Good for adding minerals to the soil. The leaves are composed of 25% magnesium making them a valuable addition to the compost pile if you don't care to eat them. Beets are also beneficial to beans with the exception of runner beans. Runner or pole beans and beets stunt each other's growth. Companions for beets are lettuce, onions and brassicas. Beets and kohlrabi grow perfectly together. Beets are helped by garlic and mints. Garlic improves growth and flavor. Rather than planting invasive mints around beets use your mint clippings as a mulch.

Broccoli: Companions for broccoli are: Basil, Bush Beans, Cucumber, Dill, Garlic, Hyssop, Lettuce, Marigold, Mint, Nasturtium, Onion, Potato, Radish, Rosemary, Sage, Thyme and Tomato. Celery, onions and potatoes improve broccolis' flavor when planted near it. Broccoli loves plenty of calcium. Pairing it with plants that need little calcium is a good combination such as nasturtiums and beets. Put the nasturtiums right under the broccoli plants. Herbs such as rosemary, dill and sage help repel pests with their distinct aromas. Foes: Grapes, strawberries, mustards and rue.

Cabbage: Celery, dill, onions and potatoes are good companion plants. Celery improves growth and health. Clover interplanted with cabbage has been shown to reduce the native cabbage aphid and cabbageworm populations by interfering with the colonization of the pests and increasing the number of predatory ground beetles. Plant Chamomile with cabbage as it Improves growth and flavor. Cabbage does not get along with strawberries, tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, rue, grapes, lettuce and pole beans.

Carrots: Their pals are leaf lettuce, onions and tomatoes. Plant dill and parsnips away from carrots. Flax produces an oil that may protect root vegetables like carrots from some pests. One drawback with tomatoes and carrots: tomato plants can stunt the growth of your carrots but the carrots will still be of good flavor.  

Chards: Companions: Bean, cabbage family, tomato, onion and roses. Don't overlook chard's value as an ornamental plant in flower beds or wherever you have room for it. Don't grow chard near cucurbits, melons, corn or herbs.

Corn: Amaranth, beans, cucumber, white geranium, lamb's quarters, melons, morning glory, parsley, peanuts, peas, potato, pumpkin, soybeans, squash and sunflower. A classic example is to grow climbing beans up corn while inter-planting pumpkins. The corn provides a natural trellis for the beans, pumpkins smother the weeds and helps corn roots retain moisture. Corn is a heavy feeder and the beans fix nitrogen from air into the soil however the beans do not feed the corn while it is growing. When the bean plants die back they return nitrogen to the soil that was used up by the corn. A win-win situation. Another interesting helper for corn is the weed Pig's Thistle which raises nutrients from the subsoil to where the corn can reach them. Keep corn away from celery and tomato plants by at least 20 feet.

Cucumber: Cucumbers are great to plant with corn and beans. The three plants like the same conditions: warmth, rich soil and plenty of moisture. Let the cucumbers grow up and over your corn plants. Cukes also do well with peas, beets, radishes and carrots. Radishes are a good deterrent against cucumber beetles. Dill planted with cucumbers helps by attracting beneficial predators. Nasturtium improves growth and flavor. Keep sage, potatoes and rue away from cucumbers.

Eggplant: Plant with amaranth, beans, peas, spinach, tarragon, thyme and marigold. Eggplant is a member of the nightshade family and does well with peppers as they like the same growing conditions.

Leeks: Use leeks near apple trees, carrots, celery and onions which will improve their growth. Leeks also repel carrot flies. Avoid planting near legumes.

Lettuce: Does well with beets, broccoli, bush beans, pole beans, carrots, cucumbers, onion, radish and strawberries. It grows happily in the shade under young sunflowers. Dill and lettuce are a perfect pair. Keep lettuce away from cabbage. Cabbage is a deterrent to the growth and flavor of lettuce.

Melon: Companions: Corn, pumpkin, radish and squash. Other suggested helpers for melons are as follows: Marigold deters beetles, nasturtium deters bugs and beetles. Oregano provides general pest protection. 

Onion: Planting chamomile and summer savory with onions improves their flavor. Other companions are  carrot, leek, beets, kohlrabi, strawberries, brassicas, dill, lettuce and tomatoes. Intercropping onions and leeks with your carrots confuses the carrot and onion flies! Onions planted with strawberries help the berries fight disease. Keep onions away from peas and asparagus.

Peppers, Bell (Sweet Peppers): Plant peppers near tomatoes, parsley, basil, geraniums, marjoram, lovage, petunia and carrots. Onions make an excellent companion plant for peppers. They do quite well with okra as it shelters them and protects the brittle stems from wind. Don't plant them near fennel or kohlrabi. They should also not be grown near apricot trees because a fungus that the pepper is prone to can cause a lot of harm to the apricot tree. Peppers can double as ornamentals, so tuck some into flowerbeds and borders. Peppers can be harvested at any stage of growth, but their flavor doesn't fully develop until maturity.

Peppers, Hot: Chili peppers have root exudates that prevent root rot and other Fusarium diseases. Plant anywhere you have these problems. While you should always plant chili peppers close together, providing shelter from the sun with other plants will help keep them from drying out and provide more humidity. Tomato plants, green peppers, and okra are good protection for them. Teas made from hot peppers can be useful as insect sprays. Hot peppers like to be grouped with cucumbers, eggplant, escarole, tomato, okra, Swiss chard and squash. Herbs to plant near them include: basils, oregano, parsley and rosemary. Never put them next to any beans, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts or fennel.

Pumpkin: Pumpkin pals are corn, melon and squash. Marigold deters beetles. Nasturtium deters bugs, beetles. Oregano provides general pest protection. Again dill may help repel those frustrating squash bugs. See squash entry for more tips.

Radish: Companions for radishes are: radish, beet, bush beans, pole beans, carrots, chervil, cucumber, lettuce, melons, nasturtium, parsnip, peas, spinach and members of the squash family. Radishes may protect squash from squash borers. Anything that will help keep them away is worth a try. Radishes are a deterrent against cucumber beetles and rust flies. Chervil and nasturtium improve radish growth and flavor. Planting them around corn and letting them go to seed will also help fight corn borers. Chinese Daikon and Snow Belle radishes are favorites of flea beetles. Plant these at 6 to 12 inch intervals amongst broccoli. In one trial, this measurably reduced damage to broccoli. Radishes will lure leafminers away from spinach. The damage the leafminers do to radish leaves does not stop the radish roots from growing, a win-win situation. Keep radishes away from hyssop plants, cabbage, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts and turnips. Radishes are a good indicator of calcium levels in the soil. If your radish grows and only produces a stringy root you need calcium.

Spinach: Plant with peas and beans as they provide natural shade for the spinach. Gets along with cabbage, cauliflower, celery, eggplant, onion, peas, strawberries and fava bean. Plant spinach with squash. It's a good use of space because by the time squash plants start to get big the spinach is ready to bolt. 

Squash: Companions: Beans, corn, cucumbers, icicle radishes, melon, mint, onions and pumpkin. Helpers: Borage deters worms, improves growth and flavor. Marigolds deters beetle. Nasturtium deters squash bugs and beetles. Oregano provides general pest protection. Dill may repel the squash bug that will kill your squash vines. Generously scatter the dill leaves on your squash plants. Keep squash away from potatoes.

Tomatoes: Tomato allies are many: asparagus, basil, bean, carrots, celery, chive, cucumber, garlic, head lettuce, marigold, mint, nasturtium, onion, parsley, pea, pepper, marigold, pot marigold and sow thistle. One drawback with tomatoes and carrots: tomato plants can stunt the growth of your carrots but the carrots will still be of good flavor. Basil repels flies and mosquitoes, improves growth and flavor. Bee balm, chives and mint improve health and flavor. Borage deters tomato worm, improves growth and flavor. Dill, until mature, improves growth and health, mature dill retards tomato growth. Enemies: corn and tomato are attacked by the same worm. Kohlrabi stunts tomato growth. Keep potatoes and tomatoes apart as they both can get early and late blight contaminating each other. Keep apricot, dill, fennel, cabbage and cauliflower away from them. Don't plant them under walnut trees as they will get walnut wilt: a disease that attacks tomatoes growing underneath these trees.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Companion Planting: Just Getting Started (part 2)

HERBS!  Did you know that by interplanting different herbs in the garden, you can naturally repel certain bad bugs?  I use a very reliable source, Golden Harvest, for Companion Planting.  Now I'm going to share!

Basil: Plant with tomatoes to improve growth and flavor. Basil also does well with peppers, oregano, asparagus and petunias. Basil can be helpful in repelling thrips. It is said to repel flies and mosquitoes. Do not plant near rue or sage.

Opal Basil: An annual herb that is pretty, tasty and said to repel hornworms! Like the other basils it also does well with peppers, oregano, asparagus and petunias. Keep away from rue and sage.

Borage: Companion plant for tomatoes, squash, strawberries and most plants. Deters tomato hornworms and cabbage worms. One of the best bee and wasp attracting plants. Adds trace minerals to the soil and a good addition the compost pile. The leaves contain vitamin C and are rich in calcium, potassium and mineral salts. Borage may benefit any plant it is growing next to via increasing resistance to pests and disease. Borage and strawberries help each other and strawberry farmers always set a few plants in their beds to enhance the fruits flavor and yield. Plant near tomatoes to improve growth and disease resistance. After you have planned this annual once it will self seed. Borage flowers are edible.

Chamomile, German: Improves flavor of cabbages, cucumbers and onions. Host to hoverflies and wasps. Accumulates calcium, potassium and sulfur, later returning them to the soil. Increases oil production from herbs. Leave some flowers unpicked and   German chamomile will reseed itself. Growing chamomile of any type is considered a tonic for anything you grow in the garden.

Coriander (Cilantro, Chinese Parsley etc.): The leaves of this plant are Cilantro. When left to flower and go to seed the dried tan seeds are Coriander, a familiar spice. It is a member of the carrot family. Repels harmful insects such as aphids, spider mites and potato beetle. A tea from this can be used as a spray for spider mites. Partners coriander are for anise, caraway, potatoes and dill.

Dill: Improves growth and health of cabbage. Do not plant near carrots, caraway, lavender or tomatoes. Best friend for lettuce. The flower heads of dill are one of the best nectar sources for beneficial insects in the garden attracting hoverflies, predatory wasps and many more. Repels aphids and spider mites to some degree. Also may repel the dreaded squash bug! (scatter some good size dill leaves on plants that are subject to squash bugs, like squash plants.) Dill goes well with lettuce, onions, cabbage, sweet corn and cucumbers. Dill does attract the tomato horn worm so it would be wise to plant it somewhere away from your tomato plants. Do plant dill in an appropriate spot for the swallowtail butterfly caterpillars to feed on.

Lavender: Repels fleas and moths. Prolific flowering lavender nourishes many nectar feeding and beneficial insects. Lavenders can protect nearby plants from insects such as whitefly, and lavender planted under and near fruit trees can deter codling moth. Use dried sprigs of lavender to repel moths. Start plants in winter from cuttings, setting out in spring.

Marigold: (Calendula): Given a lot of credit as a pest deterrent. Keeps soil free of bad nematodes; supposed to discourage many insects. Plant freely throughout the garden. The marigolds you choose must be a scented variety for them to work. One down side is that marigolds do attract spider mites and slugs.

-French Marigold (T. patula) has roots that exude a substance which spreads in their immediate vicinity killing nematodes. For nematode control you want to plant dense areas of them. There have been some studies done that proved this nematode killing effect lasted for several years after the plants died back. These marigolds also help to deter whiteflies when planted around tomatoes and can be used in greenhouses for the same purpose. Whiteflies hate the smell of marigolds. Do not plant French marigolds next to bean plants.
-Mexican marigold (T.  minuta) is the most powerful of the insect repelling marigolds and may also overwhelm weed roots such as bind weed! It is said to repel the Mexican bean beetle and wild bunnies! Be careful it can have an herbicidal effect on some plants like beans and cabbage.

Oregano: Can be used with most crops but especially good for cabbage. Plant near broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower to repel cabbage butterfly and near cucumbers to repel cucumber beetle. Also benefits grapes.

Sage: Use as a companion plant with broccoli, cauliflower, rosemary, cabbage, and carrots to deter cabbage moths, beetles, black flea beetles and carrot flies. Do not plant near cucumbers, onions or rue. Sage repels cabbage moths and black flea beetles. Allowing sage to flower will also attract many beneficial insects and the flowers are pretty. There are some very striking varieties of sage with variegated foliage that can be used for their ornamental as well as practical qualities.

Tarragon: Plant throughout the garden, not many pests like this one. Recommended to enhance growth and flavor of vegetables.

Thyme: Deters cabbage worms. Wooly thyme makes a wonderful groundcover. You may want to use the upright form of thyme in the garden rather than the groundcover types. Thyme is easy to grow from seeds or cuttings. Older woody plants should be divided in spring.

Yarrow: Yarrow has insect repelling qualities and is an excellent natural fertilizer. A handful of yarrow leaves added to the compost pile really speeds things up. It also attracts predatory wasps and ladybugs to name just two. It may increase the essential oil content of herbs when planted among them.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Companion Planting: Just Getting Started (part 1)

What is Companion Planting?
 According to :

 Companion planting is based around the idea that certain plants can benefit others when planted next to, or close to one another.

Companion planting exists to benefit certain plants by giving them pest control, naturally without the need to use chemicals, and in some cases they can give a higher crop yield .

Generally, companion planting is thought of as a small-scale gardening practice, but it can be applied on larger-scale operations. It has been proven that by having a beneficial crop in a nearby field that attracts certain insects away from a neighbouring field that has the main crop can prove very beneficial. This action is called trap cropping.

While companion planting has a long history, the benefits of companion planting have not always been understood. Traditional recommendations, for companion planting have been used by gardeners for a long time, but recent tests are proving scientifically, that they work.

Other ways that companion planting can be beneficial is to plant a crop like any Legumes, on an area where it will feed nitrogen into the soil, then it will not be necessary to use any chemical fertilizers for the next crop.

The African marigold, along with other plants, are  well known for companion planting, as they exude chemicals from their roots or aerial parts that suppress or repel pests and protect neighbouring plants.

Companion planting also exists in a physical way. For example, tall-growing, sun-loving plants may share space with lower-growing, shade-tolerant species, resulting in higher total yields from the land. This is called spatial interaction, and can also yield pest control benefits, for example, the presence of the prickly vines is said to discourage raccoons from ravaging sweet corn.

Another type of companion planting is called Nurse cropping, where tall or dense-canopied plants may protect more vulnerable plants through shading or by providing a windbreak. For example, oats have long been used to help establish alfalfa and other forages by supplanting the more competitive weeds that would otherwise grow in their place. In many instances, nurse cropping is simply another form of physical-spatial interaction.

Beneficial habitats-sometimes called refugia-are another type of companion planting that has received a lot of attention in recent years. The benefit is derived when companion plants provide a good environment for beneficial insects, and other arthropods, especially those predatory and parasitic species that help to keep pest populations in check.

This is just the beginning.  Part 2 will have plant specific information.  Stay tuned!

Monday, April 16, 2012

DIY Moisturizer Recipes

Skin is our largest organ—adults carry some 8 pounds (3.6 kilograms) and 22 square feet (2 square meters) of it. This fleshy covering does a lot more than make us look presentable. In fact, without it, we'd literally evaporate.

I am experimenting with several DIY moisturizers.  I have sensitive skin so I'm pretty careful about what I use on my skin.  So far I haven't had any weird reactions and I am only using organic ingredients whenever possible.

Melt 1 tablespoon of Cocoa butter with 2 tablespoons of Jojoba in a double boiler over medium heat. Once it is melted, stir in 1 tablespoon of aloe Vera and stir until it is well mixed. This one is good for dehydrated skin.

One of my favorite sources for recipes has been Wise Bread.

Honey Lotion

5 tbsp emulsifying wax
1 tbsp liquid lanolin
1/4 cup coconut oil
1 teaspoon honey
Instructions: Over medium heat in a double boiler, melt the ingredients until smooth.

Almond Lotion

1 tbsp vitamin E oil
1 tbsp grapeseed oil
1 oz grated beeswax
1-1/4 cups almond oil
1/4 cup coconut oil
1/2 cup water

Instructions: In a double boiler over low-medium heat, melt the beeswax with the almond and coconut oil. Let cool. In a separate container, mix the remaining ingredients. Using a whisk or blender, mix these ingredients into the beeswax/almond/coconut mixture.

Grapeseed Oil Lotion

Grapeseed is a lighter oil and won’t be as rich as the other recipes above.
3 tbsp beeswax (or emulsifying wax)
2/3 cup grapeseed oil (or mix 1/3 grapeseed and 1/3 olive oil)
2 tsp coconut oil
4 tbsp water
Instructions: In a double boiler over low-medium heat, melt the beeswax or emulsifying wax and add in the grapeseed oil and coconut oil. Mix everything well. Let cool slightly and blend or whisk in the water.

In all of the above recipes you can add in drops (usually around 15-20) of your favorite essential oils for a great-smelling lotion. (Lemon and lavender are some excellent options.)

You’ll want to store the lotions in a glass jar in a cool and dry place. They should last several weeks to several months depending on your climate.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

DIY Body Scrubs

In the last few years I have stumbled across so many "pink" websites I've stopped counting.  One of my favorites is Pink of Perfection: A thrifty girls guide to the good life.  There are quite a few amazing  DIY Beauty Recipes (and they are delicious).  
Below are a few of my favorites.

Homemade Sugar Scrub
1/2 c. brown sugar
1/2 c. grapeseed oil (olive oil would be great, too)
splash of vanilla extract
Stir to combine and slough away!

Wake Me Up Scrub
from Body + Soul
¼ cup olive oil
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup sugar
15 drops peppermint essential oil
½ cup used coffee grounds from a freshly brewed pot
Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl and thoroughly blend. Transfer the scrub to a wide mouthed jar, and store in a cool place until ready to use. The scrub will keep for one to two weeks, longer if refrigerated.

Almond Orange Scrub
from Self
1 handful almonds
1 orange peel
1 cup grapeseed or olive oil
Blitz all ingredients in a blender or food processor for an antioxidant rich scrub.

Sweet and Spicy Sugar Scrub
adapted from Care2
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup white granulated sugar
¾ cup almond, hazelnut, or coconut oil
2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 teaspoons ginger
2 teaspoons nutmeg
In a medium-sized bowl, combine all ingredient. Using a whisk, blend ingredients thoroughly, making sure to break up any lumps of brown sugar or spice.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

WHAT is an Heirloom Seed?

More and more people are turning to their own backyards for sustenance and piece of mind.  Whether your garden is financially, politically or hobby oriented there are several things to consider before you get started.

I've already written about my disgust for gmos and their destruction of the food system as a whole so I won't get into it again.  I feel my blood pressure rising just thinking about it.
Country Gentleman Sweet Corn
Heirloom seeds produce heirloom vegetables or produce.  An heirloom seeds is not necessarily an organic seed (but can be).  A gmo seed is neither heirloom or organic.  The definition of heirloom "is something, perhaps an antique or some kind of jewelry, that has been passed down for generations through family members."  An heirloom seed therefore is a seed which has been saved and passed down from generation to generation.  These seeds have been carefully cultivated and are considered a great value to the recipient.  Some heirloom seeds have been passed down for over 100 years and others for over 400 years.

Heirloom seeds are typically a hardy variety.  The weak have not survived.

For example, the heirloom variety Calabrese Broccoli is "An Italian heirloom that was brought to America in the 1880s."  The Country Gentleman Sweet Corn "was introduced around 1890 by Frank Woodruff & Sons.  One of the best heirloom sweet corns."  Not to mention the Connecticut Field Pumpkin, "A great pumpkin for baking pies or carving Jack-o-Lanterns. Introduced prior to 1700."  The Red Fig Tomato, "Great for drying or preserving. 
This heirloom dates back to the 1700's." 
These are only just a few out of hundreds of varieties available to any interested gardener.
French Breakfast Radish
Whether you are a beginner or seasoned gardener there is an heirloom for you!  To make things a bit easier, I've posted instructions for Growing from Seed.  If you're a beginner, I encourage you to use it and share the information.

My favorite varieties so far have been the Purple Top Whiteglobe Turnip (pre-1880s), the Cherokee Purple Tomato (1890s) and the French Breakfast Radish (pre-1885 French heirloom).

Whichever varieties you choose to grow, have patience and enjoy the fruits (or veggies) of your labor.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Who is the Richest Man in the World?

Now THAT is the billion dollar question?  The answer would depend on how and what you consider of value.  I value morals above money and happiness over acquired "toys."  A billionaire may be rich in "dirtbacks" and yet be alone and miserable.  

I think the riches person in the world has the biggest garden and the most seeds...As well as a loving family no matter what part of the world you are in...But that's just my own little world.  What about you?  What makes you "rich"?  Is it friends, family, possessions?

“I am poor and naked, but I am the chief of the nation. 
We do not want riches but we do want to train our 
children right. Riches would do us no good. 
We could not take them with us to the other world. 
We do not want riches. We want peace and love. 
Red Cloud

“It is not easy to be a pioneer - but oh, it is fascinating! 
I would not trade one moment, even the worst moment, 
for all the riches in the world.”
Elizabeth Blackwell

Monday, April 9, 2012

Monday Garden Update

It's been a few weeks since I posted a garden update.  In many parts of the US gardeners are just getting seedling planted or transplanted into their beds.  Not Florida!  I'm currently harvesting quite a bit from the garden.  This weekend I brought made a few delicious meals with my harvest which I'll post at Mary's Kitchen.

My harvest included: Swiss Chard, Little Gem Lettuce, Hungarian Heart Tomatoes, Cherokee Purple Tomatoes, Pimiento Peppers, Black Beauty Eggplant, Dill and Fine Verde Basil.

Last weekend I transplanted Habenero Peppers, Amana's Orange Tomatoes, Cosmos, Marigolds, Purple Opal Basil, Cucumbers, Little Gem Lettuce and Extra Dwarf Pak Choy.  This is my current organized mess:
The west side of the garden
Baby Eggplant 2 weeks ago
Eggplant today!
Purple Opal Basil
Pimiento Peppers
1/2 Seedling table with Tomatoes
And there you have it!!!  I'm rushing a bit this morning so it's short and sweet.  I forgot to take pictures of my harvest this weekend so you'll have to use your imagination.  I am so excited to rely less and less on store-bought or farmer's market produce!

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Mary's Vanishing Oatmeal Cookies

This is one of my favorite recipes.  The original recipe came from the Quaker Oats container.  My mom made the original recipe quite often when we were kids.  I put my own healthy spin on the original.  I have substituted apple sauce for butter and cut back on the sugar.  In addition, I use almond slivers and/or coconut flakes.

Mary's Vanishing Oatmeal Cookies
makes about 4 dozen cookies

1 cup organic apple sauce
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon cinnamon
3 cups Quaker Oats (old-fashion, uncooked)
1 1/4 cup raisins
*omitted* 1/2 cup granulated sugar

Extras:  1/4 cup almond slivers and/or 1/4 cup coconut flakes

Heat oven to 350 F.  Beat together apples sauce and sugar.  Add eggs and vanilla, beat well.

Add combined flour, baking soda and cinnamon.  Mix well.  Stir in oats and raisins (and almond slivers/coconut flakes).  Mix well.

Drop by rounded tablespoons onto ungreased (I use Pam) cookie sheet.  Bake 10-12 minutes or until golden brown.

Cool 1 minute on cookie sheet if you can wait that long.  Remove to wire rack if there are any left.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

So You Think You're Buying Organic...

Right!  When I wrote The Politics of Food I didn't know there was a book (and entire movement) with the same title.  
Find out more here.

After my rant on Monday I decided to continue with a bit of revelation as to what organic consumers are actually consuming.  I'm not judging because I used some of these very products without know what's really going on.

"Educate and inform the whole mass of the people... They are the only sure reliance for the preservation of our liberty."
-Thomas Jefferson 

Prepare to be stunned! (I know I was)

Sorry I couldn't make this bigger.  For a better look, Check out Cyber Help for Organic Farmers.  Who owns "organic" companies?  Nestle, Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Kellogg, General Mills, Danone, M&M Mars, Cadbury, Hershey Foods and Kraft.

According to Green America, many of these companies have been cited for using GMOs in the products, violating child labor laws, animal testing, racial and gender discrimination and Pollution.

When I used to shop at Whole Foods (now the truth is out and even their products contain GMOs) I was always tempted by the sparkling case of "organic" juices and smoothies.  You know, by Odwalla and Naked Juice.  The sad truth is that they are owned by Coca-Cola and Pepsi.

The "organic" industry is booming and the money is flowing in...To the same companies who have been poisoning us.  Big corporations noticed the increased demand and have infiltrated the "organic" industry.  To find out which companies are NOT owned by big corporations, check out Nutrition Wonderland.

Okay, so maybe the big corporations employ thousands/millions of people.  With the current economic crisis/depression, jobs are important but most of these "jobs" are sent overseas where they is even less regulation.  They continue to cut corners, support unsustainable agricultural practices, use ingredients which are POISON in some countries and all for their bottom line.  It all comes down to MONEY!  And who do you think pays for all of this?  The consumer!

How do we, the consumer, get out from under these dastardly corporate greedies?

1. Know what you are eating and who you are supporting.  Buy Local whenever possible.

2. Grow your own or join a CSA.  Growing your own does not have to be a daunting task.  Start small and ask for assistance.  Herb gardens are easy to start and continue to provide for years if properly maintained.  Sprouts are nutrient dense and take up almost no room.

3. Buy Fair Trade.

4.  Make your own.  Rather than buying packaged foods (at a premium), make them at home.  You'll save money, you'll be in charge of what you are eating AND by doing so you will reduce waste from excess packaging.  Check out Mary's Kitchen for "made from scratch" recipes.

"Enlighten the people generally, and tyranny and oppressions of body and mind will vanish like evil spirits at the dawn of day. "
-Thomas Jefferson

Monday, April 2, 2012

The Politics of Food

Although some may disagree, I don't consider myself a politically active individual.  I do however feel very strongly about MY FOOD, which some say is highly political.

Think about this question: How is it that we live in such an advanced world (technology, medicine, science) and yet "the world is facing a hunger crisis unlike anything it has seen in  more than 50 years"?
925 million people are hungry.  In the US alone 15.1% live in poverty.

The price of food has gone up while the quality has gone down.  Have you ever stopped to READ a label in the grocery store?  If you can't pronounce it, your body probably does not need it.  If you have ever wondered how your food is made or how your meat is raised, I urge you to watch the movie Food Inc. or read the book The Future of Food.

There is some debate as to whether organic food is actually better or healthier than conventionally grown (chemical laden) food.  There is no doubt in my mind that the food I grow in my own garden is better for me than anything I can buy in the store.  When I eat a homegrown tomato it was taken from the vine 5 minute prior.  The Swiss Chard I saute was freshly harvested and I know for a fact that no chemicals were use, it was not irradiated and it didn't have to travel hundreds of miles (or even 1 mile) to my dinner table.

Now I'm not saying I eat perfect.  I don't cook everything from scratch and there are plenty of canned goods in my pantry.  The point I am trying to make is that it is up to each and every person to be responsible.  Don't expect policy makers or big-agro to look out for you and your family.   I'm tired of the "Oh don't worry about it" attitude.  I might just scream next time I hear "You can't worry about what you have no control of."  REALLY?  

What about the women in Michigan who turned her front yard into a raised bed garden and faced jail time.  Read an article here.  Fortunately for her and her family, the city of Oak Park dropped the charges.

What can you do about it?
The California Initiative to Label GMOs is a step in the right direction.  They hope to "Ensure the safety of food for California families and children."  I have written about GMOs many times.  Long story short, they are bad for the bees and there has been NO research done to find out what effect they may have on the human body.

Be aware.  Get active.
-Michigan has decided to ban Heritage Pigs.  Read about it at Food Freedom News
-The FDA Deleted 1 Million signatures for GMO Labeling.  Read about it at Natural Society.

Have you ever thought about the EFFECTS of GMO food?  No?  Do you know what they are?  Neither does the FDA, USDA or Monsanto.  There could be devastating long-term effects, both to the human body and our environment as a whole.  Read about CCD and the Bees.

I WILL fight for the future of my food.  I will continue to grow my own veggies (maybe even raise chickens one day) and I hope the USDA, the FDA and the federal government would mind their own business.  And really, if the USDA or FDA allows companies to sell PINK SLIME, than I think it should be OK for me to grow my own food and share it with my friends.