...if you have a backyard and a kitchen, this blog might be for you!

a chronicle of tips and recipes on everything from gardening to canning and baking your produce, even if you're planted in suburbia...in fact, especially if you are planted in suburbia.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Planning Your Pantry

anachronism:  The representation of someone as existing or something as happening in other than chronological, proper, or historical order...like a wrist watch in a Shakespearean play, or a post on planning a usage calendar for your canning pantry during the season for planning the next garden...

Yep, this link would have served better if it had been found at the end of last summer, but better late than never, I suppose.  I am not particularly skilled in this organization area so it could take me all the way until next fall to be ready to use such a pantry chart.  (smile)
Enjoy the link and hope for the need to use it next year! 


Happy planning!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Following May Be Unsuitable for Some Viewers

...due to the YUCK factor. 
From those of us who like to eat our food in the "purest" form and who shop purposefully to approximate garden fare when homegrown produce is out of season, the following question arises:
What the heck is on my lettuce?

Sadly, the answer just might be:  modified atmosphere packaging or MAP for short.  These are edible coatings applied to vegetables to slow spoilage--and they are applied to organics as much as anything else.  According to a blogger quoted in the following article: "Gelatin is ... extracted from the boiled crushed bones, connective tissues, organs and some intestines of animals such as domesticated cattle, chicken, and pigs"  and then is used as a "plasticizer" for various vegetables. 
If you're interested in more information on this Fear Factor ought-to-be, I highly recommend you read the following link:

While it may seem alarmist of me to draw attention to the subject, some concern has been voiced that these edible films pose a potential health hazard and could lead to growth of food-borne pathogens if they are not applied correctly.  Better to be infrmed, I say.

Happy--no, not happy.
I'm afraid it's just yuck today...
But tomorrow, we'll perk things up a bit. I can only be depressed about food options for so long, and then I need a break!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

To GMO or Not to GMO...That Is the Question

Grandma never had to mull on  these choices!

It doesn't take much time spent in the gardening community for you to begin hearing about GMO vs. non-GMO plants and seeds.  If  it's all new to you, however, here's a little pre-view of a topic you might want to research more deeply.

First, the standard definition and rationale for use:
"Available since the mid-1990s, genetically modified organisms (GMO) or genetically modified plants are regular crops that have been biologically altered through genetic engineering. These crops are intended for human or animal use and consumption and have been altered to enhance desirable traits and increase crop output. Traditionally, these kinds of alterations were done through breeding, a process that takes several generations and many years to accomplish. Genetically modifying foods can be done quickly and efficiently. Drought tolerance, pest resistance and similar traits make crops easier to grow and often require fewer harmful chemicals to bring them to maturity."

Read more: What GMO Plants Are Allowed in the U.S.? | eHow.com http://www.ehow.com/list_7508186_gmo-plants-allowed.html#ixzz1n1LyLdC2

Second, why the fuss:
Why Organic and Non-GMO?
The US Department of Agriculture's National Organic Program requires that organic farmers meet very specific requirements before they can sell their seeds as organic. One of these requirements is that seeds not be genetically modified in a laboratory, which means that they may contain the DNA of animals, other plants, even bacteria and viruses! As you can imagine, a lot of people are avoiding eating produce that has been genetically modified.  Another reason to not grow GMO vegetables is because large companies, like Monsanto, own the patents to many of the varieties of produce they have developed. This means that farmers who want to grow these varieties must pay royalties for the right to do so for every year the seeds are sown, even if they are able to harvest seeds from the previous years crops (which is actually illegal in some cases). In fact, some varieties of produce have been altered to not grow seeds at all!
Some people avoid GMO products because they don't think it's healthy to eat food that has been genetically altered, and others avoid them because they don't believe that anyone should have to pay a private entity for the right to grow vegetables. Whatever your reasons are, growing organic, non-GMO vegetables is a great way to get closer to the food you put in your body.  More from this article:

Finally, how to shop:
I researched a bit online.  Walmart and Lowes don't  classify seeds and seedlings in their store-specific search menus, but Home Depot's Garden Center does offer a drop-down that classifies by brand of seed.  If you know non-GMO brands, you might be able to select appropriate seeds, but that's a little like collecting pottery or glassware.  Who keeps that savvy selection knowledge in their head?  Some of us might, but not the casual gardener.  So,  I opened a chat menu with a customer service rep and had the following conversation:
Chat InformationYou are now chatting with 'Rhonda'
Rhonda: Welcome to The Home Depot. How may I assist you today?
Deborah: Hi, Rhonda. I'm writing an article about purchasing non-GMO seedlings through major retailers and wondered if your company specifies whether their starters are non-GMO or not?
Rhonda: I will be happy to assist you today.
Rhonda: Let me research this for you.
Deborah: Thanks.
Rhonda: You only need the seedling starter kits correct?
Deborah: Actually, I'm looking for seedlings. I know they aren't in season just yet, but if they were, would I be able to ask for non-GMO plant starts and be directed to them?
Rhonda: I am not certain if we have these available, we can research this for you. Please allow me two to three minutes to research this for you.
Deborah: Thanks! I'll wait...
Rhonda: I appreciate your patience.
Rhonda: I was not able to find any non gmo seeds online, I am sorry about that.
Rhonda: Would you like the phone number to your local Home Depot to see if they have this in store for you?
Deborah: No thanks, this is sufficient. Again, thanks for you time!

Obviously, major retailers don't make these seeds or seedlings easy to find.  Conventional wisdom, however, offers a few hints:
"Heirloom" seeds and plants are generally un-modified.  Hence their heirloom status.  Also, avoid anything with the word "hybrid" in its name, although not all hybrids are bad.  Some are the result of careful cross-pollinating.  (Like Granny did with her rose garden varieties.)  But even a hybrid produced without patented genetic modification is not guaranteed to grow "true-to-type" in future generations.

One way to march with certainty along the route of non-GMO seedlings and seeds is to find an online specialty retailer such as http://www.heirloomorganicseedlings.com/Why-Choose-Heirloom-Organic-.html
(oops...never mind...they're an Australian company.  Unless you happen to be in Australia.  They don't appear to ship internationally.) 
Try here: http://www.greenpeople.org/seeds.htm (handy because it lists state by state.)
Or here: http://www.ehow.com/how_5945659_buy-non_gmo-plants.html  for more information. 

Obviously, you must be more dedicated to the concept of growing genetically pure plants than you are to convenience.  Small, local, private nurseries might be aware which of their offerings are non-GMO, but you will probably pay more for these seedling,, so you must also to be more dedicated to growing non-GMO's than to cost-effectiveness.  On the other hand, non-GMO's produce viable seeds; so if you're willing to invest in an initial generation and then train yourself in the art of seed-keeping, you won't have to buy seeds in subsequent years, making the cost actually cheaper in the long run.

So much to consider.  Fortunately, it is still winter, and the soil is still cold.  Time enough for musing on the more philosophical side of the craft.

Happy pondering!

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Opening Day!

Unlike baseball's opening day, garden season's opening day begins quietly, and usually indoors.  The "field" shows nosigns of activity yet.  But indoors, many types of seeds can make an early start in a germination station and then move outdoors in March or April.

This year I used a spongy "growsheet" to start my cool crop seeds.  The sheet fits in a 10 x 20 tray and has a clear cover to facilitate good humidity levels during germination and seedling growth.  The process is quite simple:
Step 1: saturate the grow sheet, and then pour off excess water.  Other similar systems have peat pellets that you wet and then wait for them to expand as they absorb the water.
Step 2:  "plant" the seeds. My advice would be to take tongue depressors and make markers to remind yourself what kinds of seeds you plant and how many of each type is in the tray.
Step 3: re-wet the seeded sheet but don't over water.  My particular tray called for 70 oz of water to be added before covering with the clear lid.

Once the tray is under its lid, you merely need to keep it exposed to light for 8 hours a day and keep it room-temperature warm.  The lid insures proper humidity, so no extra watering is needed at first; but after roots are apparent, the lid should be removed to minimize disease threat.  Watering with the addition of a nutrient solution (Miracle Gro type of thing) works well at this stage of growth.

Eventually, seedlings will be ready for transplanting.  As warm as the predictions are running, these may be ready to go directly outdoors as they are all cool weather crops--all but the sunflowers. They'll need to wait a little longer to go outdoors. They'll probably go into peat pots in the interim.  I'll transplant them about the same time I start germinating the next round of seeds, the ones for the summer crops. 
Welcome, Garden 2012.  Glad to have you here!