Posts filed under ‘non-gmo’

Heirloom Varieties

Striped Chiogga Beet

Striped Chiogga Beet

It wasn’t until just yesterday that I realized I had a theme going on in my garden. A friend had stopped by to chat, and as I was showing her what was going on, I realized that I was growing alot of vegetables with stripes—Chiogga Beets, Dragon Tongue beans, Calliope Eggplant, and even Dragon Carrots. So actually, it’s more like a purple stripe theme going on.

Dragon Tongue Beans

Dragon Tongue Beans

Dragon Tongue Beans: These were so easy to grow, I just direct seeded in May, and they quickly bunched up with pretty violet flowers, followed by large yellow bean pods with wavy purple stripes. I love serving these raw, because when you cook them, they lose their stripes. They are also great stirfried with cumin, garlic and olive oil.

Chiogga Beets and Dragon Carrots

Chiogga Beets and Dragon Carrots

This is what I love about growing your own food from seed—-you have access to a world of different types of heirloom vegetables that you just can’t find in a store. These Chiogga Beets and Dragon Carrots are both just as easy to grow as typical beets/carrots, and they have such a story to tell. The Chioggas, dating back to pre-1940 Italy,  have peppermint-type rings inside, (which also means they won’t make everything pink when you cook them). Dragon Carrots, with their bright purple outside, and yellow/orange rings inside, have amazing flavor and look fantastic on salads.

And to complete the purple theme,  the  especially obvious Calliope Eggplant:

The Striped Calliope Eggplant

The Striped Calliope Eggplant

I had a friend share 12 eggplant plants with me last month, and this was the first to all-of-a-sudden show up with a bunch of tiny purple striped eggplants. So, yes, this one was accidental, but quickly caught on. The Calliope Eggplant is also good for containers, producing tons of purple striped fruit. I’ll let you know how it tastes when we pick them later this week.


July 19, 2009 at 11:21 pm Leave a comment

Pretty Tasty: Nasturtiums

I have a problem, I admit it: I like to only grow things I can eat.

I love flowers, don’t get me wrong, but I tend to ask alot of the things I grow. The word ornamental just seems like a waste—put something useful in that spot!


So, edible flowers are the perfect mix, and will be all the rage at your next party. Everything looks better with a simple flower flourish, especially one you can eat. My favorite, Nasturtiums, do double duty, because they also are good for deterring pests and helping plants be more resistant to disease. Some say they are like a flower superfood, with natural antibiotic qualities and a plethora of other health benefits.

Nasturtiums come in several varieties, and can be compact or vining. They are really easy to grow from seed, and can handle a bit of neglect. I usually just drop a packet here and there throughout the garden, in between melons, cucumbers, tomatoes, around peppers, near the kale, and everyone’s happy. It makes a great living mulch too, blocking out those weeds.

nasturtium ensaladaAs for eating, every part of the Nasturtium plant is edible, but the flowers are the part I use. They have a slight peppery taste, and look fantastic in salads, on top of hummus, or on the side of a plate to add a little gourmet to your dinner party. And, it’s one of the easiest flowers to grow from seed (yet another impressive thing you can add to your list this summer). So, give it a go!

May 25, 2009 at 1:03 am Leave a comment

Spring Update

5 types of heirloom garlic front garlic patch 

Wow, it’s amazing how fast everything grows when you go away. Really, you just leave for 5 days, and everything seems to double in size. (Maybe it’s just because I wasn’t there to microscopically overcheck everything.)

fritz in the front garden

fritz in the front garden


first radishes in the coldframe

first radishes in the coldframe

I just came back from Boston, and was thrilled to see that my Garlic, Celery, Romenesco Broccoli and Fava Beans were all progressing quite nicely. The cold frame box is busting with greens, and the broccoli raab is getting ready to head.

I even took off one of my row covers to give the Red Cippolini onions and various Brassicas some air, but wondering if that was premature…hope the bugs don’t go too crazy after them. I left the back row cover up with Celery, Candy Onions, and Romanesco, as a test to see how they do versus sans cover.

It was hard not to buy tomatoes with the recent heatwave this weekend, so there I was with all the other garden junkies  loading up the wagon. Those guys are going in, as soon as my winter rye cover crop is completely overturned and decomposed. I turned the winter rye over about 3 weeks ago, but it’s a resilient bunch, and has continued to regrow after two more turnings. Hopefully, I have it all, and the tomatoes are ready to go in this weekend.

Now’s the time to start cucumbers, melons and other warm crops, so get going…thanks to Brownian Motion maybe, it’s already time to get warm weather crops in the ground.

April 30, 2009 at 2:08 am Leave a comment

Building a Cold Frame

coldframeAn easy, diy coldframe made out of extra wood and old windows

I heart my coldframe these days, and have been enjoying fresh salads from my front yard for the past few weeks already. It’s amazing how much the coldframe really took off in the last month. Although it looked bleak for a bit, I’ve successfully managed to overwinter Red Russian Kale, Ho Mi Z mustard greens, Winter Bibb lettuce, Ruben’s Red Romaine, and Space spinach. I planted them in late October, here’s what they looked like in early February:

coldframe_earlyfebruaryThe coldframe during winter—a little bleak
coldframeupdateColdframe on March 29–ensalada city!

Coldframes are also a great place to harden off seedlings, and start early interplanted crops. In between my lettuces, I sowed Easter Egg radishes, Scarlet Nantes carrots and Chiogga beets that have already sprouted, and will hopefully be ready to harvest after the spinach and lettuces bolt in May.

To make a coldframe, you just need some extra lumber, and old windows. Cedar or locust is best, because it’s the most durable, but spruce or pine are good if treated with an outdoor organic wood preservative. Some people paint their cold frames, but I think that kind of defeats the purpose of growing organically, since you’ll have paint leaching into your garden. Natural is the way to go.

If you really want to make an easy cold frame, try this one using four straw bales of hay.

Or, see the video below to construct one out of wood.

March 30, 2009 at 12:34 am Leave a comment

Starting Seeds Indoors


Now is the perfect time to get a jumpstart on this year’s garden. Although it’s still cold and snowy here in zone 6 (7 really, if you count global warming), you can start planting celery, onions, brussel sprouts, leeks, broccoli, cauliflower, beets, and even tomatoes from seed and save a ton of money by growing your own. Transplants from the nursery are convenient, but it’s amazing how far you can stretch a seed packet. Seeds offer more variety versus store bought transplants, and some seeds can last up to 10 years, so a two dollar packet of seeds can actually end up saving you hundreds of dollars if you preserve them well. Plus, you know exactly where your seeds come from, and you can avoid GMOs that frequently show up at nurseries (especially at those Walmart types of places)

Starting seeds indoors is relatively easy, but it does take some planning, and a good set of growlights. And, low lying ones help. I learned this the hard way a few years ago when I was growing tomato plants from seed in my bay window facing the street. First of all, florescent lights aren’t the most attractive lights to have beaming down (my poor neighbors), and second, I started to notice that the cops were scoping out our house–every few hours. For a couple of Brandywines. Small town cops!

This year, I’m trying out a new seed starting setup, with grow lights that move up and down. For christmas, my mom got me a remote control that connects to any electrical item, so we hooked them up to these nifty grow light stands and I feel like it’s the most luxurious thing ever. I get up, hit the remote, and the lights just turn on. Then, before I go to sleep, I turn them off (seedlings need about 16 hours of light time). And, that’s it—no hanging systems, no clunky set up, and each one fits two starter cells, so you can easily have 100 plants going without taking up your whole room. And, the lights are low, and unobtrusive. Couple this with self-watering starter kits, and it really couldn’t be easier.

February 19, 2009 at 4:20 am 1 comment

Selecting Safe, Non-GMO Seeds

seed catalogues

Around this time, the catalogs have arrived and you are flooded with options. I think I received more than 20 catalogs this winter so far, and despite the current state of things, the gardening industry is thriving. I’m happy to see that some of my favorite catalogs have gotten huge (like Baker Creek) while others are still trying to look like smaller grassroots companies, although they are really owned by larger corporations (like Cook’s Garden). The homogenization of seed companies, particularly, the insidious conglomerate Monsanto is harder than ever to decipher, but here are a few seed companies that specialize in GMO-free, organic and heirloom seeds:

High Mowing Seeds: Vermont-based independent, family-owned business offers nearly 400 heirloom, organic, open-pollinated and hybrid seeds.

Baker Creek: Based in Missouri, Baker Creek offers America’s largest selection of heirloom seeds for the heritage gardener. Featuring beautiful and exotic heirloom vegetable, flower and herb seeds from 70 countries.

Seeds Savers Exchange: Since 1975, Seed Savers Exchange members have passed on approximately one million samples of rare garden seeds to other gardeners.

Fedco: Based in Maine, this seed co-op offers non-GMO seeds for colder climates.

Seeds of Change: Offering over 600 distinct varieties of 100% organically grown seeds, potatoes, and fruit trees.

Abundant Life Seeds: Certified organic and biodynamic seeds


More and more people are starting gardens, which leads to more sustainable lifestyles (which I love) but also, there are more catalogs out there selling these GMOs. Created in a lab, and modified through gene splicing, no one really knows the long term effect these have. Recent Austrian research showed GMO corn may reduce fertility. Also, most GMO seeds are funded by Monsanto, the company that makes Roundup, and they genetically alter plants that can withstand this extremely toxic pesticide. Really, Monsanto has been patenting this process: they own the Roundup, and the seeds that resist it (aptly named Roundup Ready crops). So, farmers spray everything with nasty Roundup, kill all the bugs, and pass the chemicals on to us, all while infecting our farmlands with these scientifically developed seeds that the remaining bees spread around to other plants through pollination. It’s scary stuff, but the good news is that vegetables and seeds labeled as organic cannot be GMO.

Chances are, GMO’s are already a part of your diet, so why add to it? According to the Non GMO Project, It is currently estimated that in the U.S., 61% of corn, 89% of soybeans, 83% of cotton, and 75% of canola grown are genetically modified; GMO varieties of squash and Hawaiian papaya are also grown commercially. As a result, it is estimated that GMOs are now present in more than 70% of products in the average U.S. grocery store.

So, choose organic, grow your own, and help take Frankenfood out of the food chain.

February 13, 2009 at 4:34 am 3 comments

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