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Make Your Garden Work Fill Up Your Piggy Bank

November 30th, 2011

Gardening is a wonderful hobby, and you may not relish the idea of turning it into a job. However there are ways in which  you can enjoy your garden whilst making a little money from it too.

Anyone with a garden has the potential to earn money, all that is needed is a little imagination, some homemade compost,  and a polytunnel, and even without these there are ways you can still profit from your pottering.

Pot for Profit

The most obvious route is collecting the seed heads, as the marigold, petunias, pansies and calendulas go to seed in the
autumn, you can collect the bounty and store them somewhere dry. In the spring pot them with a mixture of your compost and some potting compost in used flower pots, and set up a little sign at the end of your drive with a table with plants for sale.

If this seems like too much of an effort, buy some tiny brown envelopes and divide seeds equally between each one. Labelling carefully with a short description along with a one line instruction, you’ll be able to sell your harvest without ever getting your hands dirty.

Split for Victory

Splitting mature plants too makes a tidy profit. Your chrysanthemums, artichokes, grasses and aubrietia will all look fabulous in a pot, and prettier than a garden center, while the flowers left behind will soon grow to the same size again with the extra root space.  Another idea is making produce from your product.  Anyone with an established bramley apple tree or plum tree will know that they give away apples to save them rotting on the floor. There are a myriad of recipes to use these fruits, such as jams, chutneys and jelly’s that will look great in canning jars, and gift wrapped nicely you could find yourself earning a pretty penny indeed.

Almost any vegetable can be made into a chutney, with the courgette and runner bean chutney being a popular choice this year. With a few of the larder essentials such as vinegar and sugar, you can put them in sterilized jars topped with wax paper, cellophane, fabric and ribbon of your choice, they’ll look amazing on any kitchen shelf, and taste even better.

Deft with Design

If you’re deft with design, try your hand at planting hanging baskets for others. Investing in some hessian, a few hanging baskets and using seeds from your own garden; you can create stunning displays that will soon be snapped up as the word spreads.

Then of course there’s the veggie plot. Leave nothing to waste. If you find you’re feeding more than your family with your produce, slap a sticker on it, label the price and sell at a farmers market with the jams, the hanging baskets and the seeds, or quite simply, have a rolling cart you can pull to the end of your drive, with a sign, whenever it’s walking weather and you’re feeling sociable!







About the Author:

Humble Seed welcomes guest posts. “This post was written by Sam at Lavenderworld. Lavenderworld was launched last year and provides a wide range of products that are naturally beautiful from skincare to all kinds of plants and much, much more!”

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A Heart-y Holiday Menu

November 23rd, 2011

Looking for a non-traditional entrée or a side dish that will wow your guests over the holiday? Try these delicious yet heart healthy dishes that will certainly break up the monotony at your dinner table! The winter holidays arrive only once a year; making it unlikely that one or two high calorie meals will tip the scale.  But healthy eating as a lifestyle is really about the big picture of what you choose to put in your body.  Replacing heavy creams and fatty meats with fresh vegetables, herbs, nuts and lentils are just a few ways to transition a holiday meal while still making it taste flavorful and satisfying. For more pictures, information, and recipe ideas go to

Holiday Lentil Walnut Loaf

An exceptionally delicious entrée for vegetarians, and for those wanting to serve a unique dish on the holidays. Use fresh herbs and vegetables. This recipe can be made gluten-free.
(6-8 servings)

1 cup dry green lentils
3 tablespoons ground flax seed
½ cup warm water
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 small yellow onion, diced
1 medium carrot, diced finely or grated
1 celery stick, diced finely
1 small apple, grated
salt and pepper
1 teaspoon fresh thyme, chopped
1 teaspoon fresh parsley, chopped
¼ teaspoon Herbes de Provence
¾ cup chopped walnuts, toasted
½ cup whole wheat flour (or oat flour to make this gluten-free)
¾ cup leftover stuffing (or breadcrumbs)

Method: In a medium- sized pot, add 1 cup of dry green lentils to 3 cups of water.  Allow lentils to boil, reduce heat and simmer for 45 minutes, or until lentils are tender.  Strain lentils, and process 75% of the lentils in a food processor or blender. Add the processed lentils to the whole lentils in a large bowl.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Heat a large pan to medium-high heat and add olive oil.  Combine onions, garlic and a pinch of salt, and allow the onions to sweat.  Add carrots, another pinch of salt, and sauté for 2-3 minutes.  Add the celery and the apple, and mix in your fresh and dry herbs. Allow flavors to combine for 2-3 minutes.  Let it to cool slightly, and combine the onion mixture with the lentils.

Make flax egg by combining the ground flax seed and warm water in a small bowl. Allow mixture to thicken for 5 minutes. Combine the flax egg, walnuts, flour, and leftover stuffing with the lentil mixture.  Knead the loaf with hands until it is moist and all ingredients are mixed well together.  Form into a large loaf and place into a well-greased loaf pan or casserole dish. Bake for 35 – 40 minutes. Use your favorite barbecue or tomato sauce to glaze the loaf.


Cauliflower with Curry Butter

This non-traditional cauliflower dish is incredibly flavorful, and full of spices rich with anti-inflammatory properties.  Although, your guests will not be concentrating on the latter as they go back for seconds! Use fresh cauliflower:

(6-8 servings)

3 pounds cauliflower
4 tablespoons Earth Balance, or other vegan butter
½ teaspoon turmeric
⅛ teaspoon cayenne pepper
¼ teaspoon black pepper
⅛ teaspoon nutmeg
⅛ teaspoon ground cloves
2 teaspoons fresh ginger, finely minced
2 tablespoons cilantro, chopped
1 tablespoon lime juice

Method: Using a paring knife, cut cauliflower into small florets. This should yield 8 cups of cauliflower. Heat a large pot of salted purified water to high. In batches, stir in cauliflower once the water reaches boil. Allow the cauliflower to simmer for 4-5 minutes, or until tender.  Use a slotted spoon to remove the cauliflower and set aside.

In a medium saucepan, melt butter and combine turmeric, cayenne pepper, black pepper, nutmeg, ginger and cloves.  Once all ingredients are incorporated, drizzle the butter sauce onto the cauliflower while mixing.  Stir in cilantro and lime juice.  Add additional salt and pepper if needed. Garnish with additional cilantro and serve warm.

Homemade Herbed Stuffing

A vegetarian-stuffing full of flavorful herbs, this recipe can be made gluten-free.
(6-8 servings)

1 loaf of bread (brown rice, whole wheat, multi-grain), torn into small pieces
olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 onion, diced
2 stalks celery, finely diced
½ cup parsley, minced
1 teaspoon fresh thyme, minced
1 teaspoon fresh rosemary, minced
1 teaspoon fresh sage, minced
salt and pepper
2-3 cups vegetable stock

Method: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Toast bread cubes in the oven or toaster until golden brown.  In a large saucepan, combine olive oil, garlic, onions, and a pinch of salt and sauté until onions have sweat.  Add the celery, another pinch of salt, and cook until celery is tender (about 4-5 minutes).  Allow the celery mixture to cool, then using a rubber spatula, add the celery mixture to the bread crumbs. Add the fresh herbs and additional salt and pepper to taste to the bowl.

Slowly pour the vegetable stock in, as some bread absorb better than others. The bread should be evenly coated, moist and clumping together.  It should not be soggy or drowning in stock.  Pour bread mixture into a large casserole dish, and drizzle a little olive oil on top.  Cover with foil, and bake for 25 minutes. Remove the tin foil after 25 minutes, and bake an additional 10 minutes for a crispier top.  Serve warm and with vegetarian gravy.

Savory Green Beans and Roasted Tomatoes

A simple yet satisfying dish with heart healthy green beans and cherry tomatoes.

(6-8 servings)

2 pounds of green beans, ends trimmed

1 carton of cherry tomatoes (about 10 tomatoes)

1/2-teaspoon cumin

1/2-teaspoon cayenne pepper

1/4-teaspoon ground cloves



Method: Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  On a lightly greased cookie sheet, place tomatoes on sheet and lightly salt and pepper them. Bake tomatoes for about 50 minutes, or until no longer firm   Boil 1 inch of water in a deep skillet.  Add green beans and allow water to boil again.  Place cover on beans, and simmer for about 10 minutes.  Simmer until beans are tender, but still a little crisp.

Remove beans and add seasonings. Toss green beans evenly, and add salt and pepper to taste.  Place roasted tomatoes on top.


What’s your favorite holiday dish?

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How to Double your Garden’s Production

November 22nd, 2011

Your garden already produces so much however, if you look at it through fresh eyes, you’ll be able to see how it can work for you.  With just a little extra time, and very little money, you can double the production of your vegetable patch, your fruit trees and your blooms, making your garden double the fun!

Sustainable Satisfaction

Making your own compost will easily double the production of your crops. With raised beds no longer do you have to worry about forking of the parsnips or club foot in the carrots? Your new soil will be rich in nutrients and suitable for any crop ensuring your waste is kept to a minimum and only the leaves and peelings are fit for your compost heap.

Whether you choose the hot method – quite simply starting with a heap of compostable material and letting the heat of the
layers rot it quickly whilst turning a few times, or the cold compost where you add you organic kitchen waste gradually and take the rotted material from the bottom, each one will enrich the soil and feed your plants and vegetables, making them very happy growers indeed.

Successive Success

Successive planting can also double the production, if you start off many vegetables and even tomatoes in the autumn in
a greenhouse; you can have an all year round harvest. Successive planting of lettuce, leeks, parsnips, almost anything you’d like to see on the dinner table, will ensure you reap the rewards as others are only just getting started.

Even sowing direct is easy. Just before the frost try sowing broad beans. Although they recommend sowing in March or April, you’ll be delighted with the results, as they know just when to wake from their winter slumber, and as they poke through the soil in early spring they’ll give you the natural indication of the weather trends and what to plant next.

Keyhole Gardening

The Permaculture garden is becoming very popular now, with keyhole gardening becoming an increasing trend, this uses the method of planting fruit vegetables and herbs together for ease of access, ensuring you only plant what you need and you make the most of the space you have. With sustainable methods a popular tip used by permaculture gardeners is to use cardboard or black print newspaper to prepare the beds, and then plant through them to detract weeds, and as it rots it also forms its own nutrients for the soil.

For decoration cover with woodchips or hay, and then plant strawberries with tomatoes, or marigold with carrots.  Marigolds have marvellous bug deterring properties and add color to any design.

The trick is to plant the crops that need the most care closest to your door, such as herbs and salad crops, then the further away you travel, plant those that need little care such as the broad beans or potatoes. This method also works well with bringing the garden into the kitchen, as you’ll find you eat much more salad and use more herbs when the accessibility is eased, whereas a potato being a staple food will not be ignored even if you have to walk a few meters to get it!


About the Author:

Humble Seed welcomes guest posts. “This post was written by Sam at Lavenderworld. Lavenderworld was launched last year and provides a wide range of products that are naturally beautiful from skincare to all kinds of plants and much, much more!”


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The Great Indoors. A Guide To Indoor and Windowsill Gardening

November 20th, 2011

Whether you’re an urban gardener, or would like to bring your plants safely indoors for the winter; windowsill and indoor gardening is an easy way to grow your favorite herbs, vegetables and peppers.  In fact, many plants grown in containers require minimal care, and grow just as well indoors.  You will also find that the proximity of the plant is ideal when indoors, as herbs can be easily snipped and thrown into your favorite dish, and you can leave that cumbersome winter jacket in the closet as you harvest your veggies.  You’ll also find easy access in recycling your used coffee grounds. This blog post about Container/Vertical Gardening may also be particularly useful as you grow your indoor garden.  Follow these simple steps below and grow your own beautiful indoor garden without the worry of frost and weather damage.

 Step By Step Indoor Gardening:

  1. Find a container that is at least 6 inches deep.  Containers vary in shape, colors, price and materials used.  Wood, plastic and strawberry containers are the least expensive, but may rot easily.  Choose Redwood and Cedar wood, ceramic and metal containers if available, as these are less likely to experience wear and tear.  Wide containers are also ideal for growing several herbs in one container.
  2. Scout out a good location in your home for your garden. The location must provide light for at least 5-6 hours a day – keep in mind that south or southeast facing windows yield the most light.  Windowsills work well, but be certain that sneaky drafts will not bother your plants.  Also, stay clear of heating vents and kitchen appliances, as these can deplete your plants of the humidity needed for proper growth.
  3. Select herbs, vegetables and chilies that will not grow too tall or wide.  The Producer, Veggin’ Out and Uncle Herb’s Favorites have a variety of plants that are easy to maintain in an indoor garden.
  4. When transplanting plants to the in-doors, add 2 inches of soil to the container and place plant carefully inside.  Patting down the soil gently, fill the remaining areas with soil leaving an inch of room at the top of the container for water.
  5. It’s easy to forget about watering your plants if your location is in a less used room or behind a couch.  Create a watering schedule, and ensure plants are getting enough water by allowing water to seep through the holes at the bottom of the container.  This helps water infiltrate the roots of the plant.  If your containers do not have holes, drill them and place a plastic or decorative container at the bottom of the pot to collect water. Herbs will need less water than vegetables and chilies, and remember to fertilize the soil once a month with organic fertilizer or compost.
  6. To avoid disease and dust, mist your plants with tepid water, and carefully wipe down leaves that may have accumulated dust.

Using Lights For Indoor Gardening:

Uncle Herb’s Favorites and The Producer have a wide variety of herbs and salad greens that grow well using indoor lights.  Obviously more costly than natural sunlight, growing lights can be purchased at any home goods store and many find they are more reliable than waiting for sunny weather.  If you live in an area that receives little sunlight (even if just in the winter months), this may be an excellent option for your indoor garden. Because plants need a full spectrum of light for photosynthesis, be sure the lights you purchase are either fluorescent or have high intensity discharge.  Both of these methods will ensure your plants grow as naturally as they do in the great outdoors.

Get The Kiddos Involved!

Gardening is a fantastic way to keep your children active while learning about the science and nutrition behind each plant.  Are you looking for ideas to get their hands dirty (in a good way)?  For one, encourage your children to decorate the plant containers with paints and other artistic tools.  They’ll love decorating something for the home! Or, take a family nature walk and pick out unique and odd shaped rocks to place between containers.  Label the plants’ names on each rock and set them beside each container.  Also, ask children to pick out which seeds they prefer to grow and allow them opportunities to nurture each plant until harvest time. This could be a great opportunity for kids to experience the science of plant growth!  Lastly, allow children to help in the kitchen and give them easy jobs using the herbs and veggies they grew!  Children will have more awareness about what food goes into their bodies if they take an active role in their daily meals.

What herbs, vegetables and/or plants are you planning on growing indoors this winter?

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The Value of Humble Seed: We ExSeed Expectations!

November 16th, 2011

In the number of years of growing our own herbs and produce, on occasion we may have all purchased seeds from a grocery store or garden supplies store. As we brush off the dust that has settled on each package, one may notice the seeds looked quite normal and were ridiculously cheap. But as the plants begin to grow in size and take shape, one cannot help but grow weary of what our families are actually eating. It is difficult not to wonder: how long were the seeds in the store for? Were they exposed to the sun, rain and other elements? Were these
seeds genetically modified? Or perhaps inoculated with pesticides? Is there a possibility that these seeds were hybrid or pollinated in a controlled environment, and are now unable to regenerate a seed for future planting? In essence, life is like a package of store bought seeds, you never know what you’re going to get. We soon begin to realize that all seeds are not alike.

The Difference: This is why Humble Seed has a different philosophy that allows you more control over your gardening and what ultimately goes on your plate. We do this by ensuring our seeds are non-genetically modified and non-hybrid, we feature numerous organic and heirloom varieties as well. In addition, all of our products are carefully stored within temperature controlled environments prior to being shipped directly to your home or business.  Our convenient garden seed kits offer you the ability to:

  • Grow herbs and vegetables that are fresher and more nutritional than their store-bought counterparts.
  • Save money by purchasing seeds in bulk and growing your own foods.
  • Engage your family around a backyard experience, and educate children on the importance of gardening for a sustainable way of living.
  • Learn how to garden in convenient, inexpensive, and informative ways.
  • Sustain yourself with garden know-how in case future disasters deplete our food supplies.

Themed Bundled Packages:
When you purchase a garden kit, you get to choose from a variety of carefully themed packages that are convenient and wonderful for busy lifestyles. Whether you are a spicy food fan and prefer a variety of hot and spicy chilies, want to grow your own herb garden, or someone who
follows a raw, vegetarian or healthy diet and desires the freshest and most nutritious vegetables to choose from; Humble Seed has a package that will suit your gardening needs. We also offer The Producer, a bulk seed kit with a vast array of fruits and vegetables for larger gardens.

Safe Packaging: Our seeds are never exposed to harsh conditions and are stored in environmentally controlled conditions until shipping. This ensures optimum germination when planting. Before being shipped, seeds are packaged in re-sealable Mylar® bags which provide further seed protection, as well as the opportunity to plant right away or in the future.

We Believe In Open-Pollinated Seeds: Humble Seed features seeds that are open-pollinated. This means that each seed is naturally pollinated by birds, insects, wind, and other natural processes. Outside of our jalapeno, hybrid parent plants are never used, and your seeds can be harvested and re-planted, producing the same plant as the parent.

Guaranteed Non-GMO Seeds: We use only non-GMO seeds and ensure that seeds were never genetically modified or changed, and will traditionally grow the same plant in which originated. Non-GMO seeds also contain the maximum amount of nutrition a human needs to sustain vitality and good health. How much do you know about Genetically Modified plants and seeds? Take the quiz below!

Test your GMO Knowledge!  Quiz yourself with these True-False and Multiple Choice questions.


1. What are three of the most common genetically modified foods?

a. corn, soy and potatoes

b. broccoli, soybeans and carrots

c. almonds, green beans, tomatoes

d. Walnuts, parsley and kiwi


2. (True or false) The top five most common genetically modified foods are genetically modified to produce their own insecticide.


3. Which television network showed a poll that found 93% of people want the government to require labeling on GMO foods?

a. NBC

b. ABC


d. The Food Network


4. (True or false) In the genetic modification process, biotech scientists often use viruses and bacteria to invade cells of plants and in-plant foreign genes.


5. Based on animal research, what problems can result from consuming GMO foods?

a. reproductive problems

b. infertility

c. auto-immune

d. all of the above


6. (True or false) One way to identify GM seeds is to simply look at the package.


Answers: 1)a, 2)True, 3)b, 4)True, 5)d, 6)False


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The Versatility of Swiss Chard

November 9th, 2011

                                                          The Versatility of Swiss Chard

When we envision Swiss chard, we may associate it with Switzerland.  Instead, we should picture this vitamin rich, green leafy vegetable devoured by those that live in the Mediterranean.  Places like Spain, France, Monaco, Italy and Greece all consider Swiss chard a staple.  And it is no wonder why it is so loved in there region; it is rich in calcium, potassium, vitamins A and C, beta-carotene and carotenoids – a pigment that studies show helps prevent against degenerative eye problems.  This leafy green has also been linked to helping balance blood sugar levels, and those with Alzheimer’s. Looking to include more minerals in your diet? Swiss Chard has a whole host of them, including copper, calcium, sodium, potassium, iron, manganese and phosphorus.  It is not a mere coincidence that those living in the Mediterranean region are some of the healthiest people in the world! It is clear that this leafy green vegetable is a powerhouse of nutrients just waiting to be served up for a healthy family meal.

When choosing seeds to grow, it is easy to pass up the Fordhook Giant Swiss Chard for a leafy green we are all familiar with leaf lettuces and cabbages.  But we at Humble Seed find Swiss chard to be just as versatile due to its soft leaves and subtle flavor. Many also find it tastes less bitter than Collard, Kale and Mustard greens.  So what are you waiting for? The Producer features Fordhook Giant Swiss Chard, and is just one of our premium seed kits that offer heirloom, certified organic, non-GMO, and non-hybrid seeds to choose from.

Planting Guide

Season: Swiss chard does not grow well in the heat, making it a cool weather vegetable.  Grow these leafy greens at the end of summer, fall and spring.  These plants grow best at temperatures never above 75 degrees F, and not below 32 degrees F. Therefore, avoid winter planting, and cover plants during cold frosts. Also, keep in mind that the maturity rate of the plant ought to be at least 2-3 weeks before the first snow.

Soil: Fertile soils that drain well work best for Swiss chard.  To prepare the soil just prior to planting, add well-composted organic matter, an all purpose fertilizer, and/or a cow manure tea to ensure the soil is nutrient rich.

Placement & Planting: Be sure to find an area exposed to direct sunlight before planting.  For container gardening, plant seed ½ – 1 inch deep in fertile, well-drained soil. When transplanting (plants should have 3-4 true leaves) or growing Swiss chard in a larger garden, plant 6 inches apart, and leave a foot between each row.

Watering: Provide 1 inch of water a week, or 2 inches during warmer days.  If you notice any flowers appearing, this means the plant is getting too hot.  If this occurs, prune the flower stalks to prolong the harvest and provide more water.

Harvesting: When the moment of truth arrives, harvest when leaves are about 5-6 inches in length. Leave 2-3 inches of stalk in the soil, and trim away any unwanted leaves that may be impeding the growth of any new growth. Store the leaves in the refrigerator for as long as 2 weeks.

Looking for some fresh ways to use Swiss chard? Your taste buds will do a happy dance once they taste these recipes!

*The Basics: As Fraulein Maria says in the Sound of Music, “Let’s start from the very beginning, a very good place to start.” With that in mind, the whole Swiss chard plant is edible, and you can enjoy it raw, sautéed, braised, steamed, or in soup. However, many prefer to eat just the tender leaves over the crisp stalk. Therefore, remove the stalk and any ribs if you are looking for less crunch.

Stuffed Shells with Oyster Mushrooms and Swiss Chard
This is an absolutely delicious dish with brain boosting oyster mushrooms and nutrient rich Swiss chard.  Bonus: the calories and fat normally found in stuffed shells do a disappearing act!  View how-to pictures here.  
(Serves 4-5)

3-4 cloves garlic, minced
1 yellow onion, diced
8 large oyster mushrooms, chopped
1 bunch of Swiss chard, chopped
1 pinch nutmeg
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
salt to taste
1/2 cup pine nuts
1/2 large lemon, juiced
1 package pasta shells
1 jar of your favorite tomato sauce
1 large tomato, thinly sliced
1-2 T vegan Parmesan cheese
1-2 teaspoons parsley, finely chopped
2 tablespoons of olive oil for cooking

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cook pasta shells for approximately 10-15 minutes in boiling water and a little olive oil.  Allow pasta shells to boil until el dente. Drain water and carefully set pasta shells aside. Heat a skillet on medium high heat with olive oil and add onions, garlic, and a pinch of salt.  Once the onions are translucent, add the oyster mushrooms and another pinch of salt.  Allow the oysters to soften (about 4-5 minutes). Stir in the Swiss chard, a pinch of salt, red pepper flakes, and the nutmeg.  Allow mixture to simmer until the chard is wilted (about 5-6 minutes). Stir in pine nuts and lemon juice.

Pour 1/4 of the tomato sauce into the large casserole dish.  Carefully stuff each shell with the vegetable mixture, and set each shell in the dish.  Neatly line up the shells until you have used up the vegetable mixture. Pour the remaining tomato sauce over the shells, and place tomato slices (about 6 needed) on top of the shells.

Lightly place tin foil over the casserole dish, and bake for 20 min.  Once done, take off tin foil, and bake for an additional 5 minutes.  This will give your dish a nice rustic appeal.  Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and parsley.  Serve immediately.

Swiss Chard Salad With Garlicky Pommes De Terre

(Serves 4 )Take a mini-mental vacation to France and make this delicious and unique salad.  When we visited France, we saw Parisians in cafes just about everywhere devouring this salad.  View how-to pictures here.

5-6 stalks Swiss chard, de-ribbed and chopped well
2 tomatoes, sliced
2 avocados, sliced
2 Tbsp olive oil
4 Yukon Gold potatoes (or other small potatoes)
5 cloves garlic
4 slices smokey Tempeh bacon
parsley for garnish
salt and pepper to taste
1 baguette, sliced

Miso and Herb Vinaigrette

¼ cup red wine vineger
¼ cup chopped basil
¼ cup fresh parsley
2 Tbsp fresh cilantro
1 Tbsp. mellow white miso paste
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
cracked pepper

Arrange your Swiss chard, tomatoes and avocados on a plate. Heat a large skillet on medium high and add the olive oil.  Stir in potatoes and season lightly with salt and pepper. Sauté the potatoes for at least 10 – 15 minutes, or until browned and tender. When potatoes are almost finished cooking, add garlic and a touch more olive oil. Sauté the garlic and potatoes for the remaining few minutes.

While potatoes are simmering, make your dressing and brown the tempeh bacon.  For the dressing, whisk together all ingredients in a medium sized bowl.  The end result is purposely a little chunky from the herbs.

Assemble the salad by adding the browned tempeh bacon to the Swiss chard, and pile the potatoes high on top.  Add the freshly chopped parsley, and dressing.  Slice the baguette and offer it on the side of the salad.  The French never go without a side of baguette!

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Vertical and Container Gardening: How To Create An Eiffel Tower of Plants

November 7th, 2011

If your patio is like mine and about the size of a postage  stamp, you will notice that it is imperative to manage space.  Yet a small space does not mean you have to  give up your favorite plants, fruits and vegetables; it just means you have to  become more creative with how you grow your garden! Vertical and container  gardening are two fantastic ways to manage the space in a small area, while  yielding a bounty of fresh produce comparable to those with larger areas to  grow.  The techniques described below are  useful for gardening at homes with small backyards, apartments, and for those who would like to grow more plants per square foot.

Vertical Gardening: Vertical planting refers to growing plants upwards in lieu of horizontally in a traditional garden bed. There are a number of simple and more elaborate ways to build a vertical garden.  And it seems there are just as many benefits  to building a vertical garden as there are modes to make them.  Some of the advantages include: vertically  grown plants will naturally become less pest and disease prone.  This is due to the plants being away from the  ground where pests tend to gravitate.  You may also be keen to the fact that you will no longer have to remain stooped over a garden for hours, as vertical planting means less time spent  harvesting while leaning over a garden bed.  Weeding and tilling also become less necessary in some circumstances.  Another fantastic benefit?  You (and the environment) will like that less water is required for vertical gardening, and your plants will look healthier as oxygen has the opportunity to circulate more evenly.  Now stop counting all the money you’ll be  saving on your water bills and from avoiding the chiropractor and let’s get gardening!

Plants Suitable For Most Vertical Gardening: If you plan on building your vertical garden up from a chain link fence, trellis or vertical lattice; be aware that you are limited to what you can grow.  Plants that grow upward and can be trained and/or have vines work best for this type of vertical planting.  Plants that work best are: Tomatoes, Green Beans, Lettuces, Cucumbers, Melons, Squashes, Corn, Chard, just to name of few.  All of these varieties can be found within Veggin’ Out and The Producer. If you plan on hanging your plants in baskets; all herbs and plants from Uncle Herb’s Favorites and Hot Mama’s Chiles and Peppers will work exceptionally well.

Vertical Gardening Tips and Tricks: To grow a vertical garden inexpensively, use a chain link fence, trellis, hanging baskets or a garden lattice. Other effective structures include: nailing decorative cans to a wooden fence, using an old dog kennel or shelving unit, and building your own structure using garden fencing and pipes. Watch to see how the vines and plants grow naturally, and secure the plants with garbage bag twist ties or gardening green tape.  Secure the plant at the bottom, again at the center, and one at the top without impeding the growth. Vining plants climb by twisting and clinging.  Therefore, build  a structure that can sustain the weight of the vines and plants.  Once the vines have been trained, they will grow naturally upward on their own.

Plant the vertical garden next to shade loving plants like herbs, and away from sun-loving plants like vegetables. If using hanging baskets, line them with moss to keep in moisture after you water.  Did you know that if you hang your plants from baskets or pots, you can actually have the same number of plants as a square foot of garden space?

Container Gardening:  Container gardening is another practical way to garden in a small area.  Likewise to vertical gardening, almost anything grown in a regular garden can grow well in a container garden.  In addition, this type of gardening is easy to maintain, and can be done inexpensively. This is because once you have built your container garden, you may continue using it season after season, and year after year.  Below are a few helpful tips to avoid the common mistakes made when container gardening, and to ensure your garden thrives just as well as a standard outdoor garden.

Choosing The Best Container:  Luckily there are a vast array of containers to choose from that will suit a variety of needs. We find that wood, plastic and strawberry containers are the least expensive, but can easily rot and sustain wear and tear after frequent use.  Therefore, if you prefer containers that will withstand the hands of time, then ceramic or metal containers are worth the investment.  Just be sure you drill a few holes at the bottom if they do not already have a drainage system. Please note that large containers are also the easiest to maintain plants in due to the extra growing space.

Get clever with your containers and have the most original garden in the neighborhood! Who would have thought that laundry baskets, decorative trash cans, pumpkins, used soda bottles and wooden barrels make great containers for gardens? You’ll soon be that savvy gardener all the neighbors talk about (in a good way!).

Plants Suitable For Container Gardening:  Most plants from Uncle Herb’s Favorites, Veggin’ Out, Hot Mama’s Chiles and Peppers and The Producer will work well in your container garden.  Stay away from exceptionally large vegetables like watermelons, cantaloupe or squash.  Large containers can also fit a variety of plants with different shapes and sizes in just one container.

Tips and Tricks For Container Gardening

Use the Humble Seed companion planting blog post to find which plants grow well next to one another so that you can easily plan each container successfully. Redwood and Cedar wood is relatively less likely to rot than other wood containers. Drill holes at the bottom of the containers for drainage (if holes are not already present), and line the bottom with newspaper so that soil does not escape. Plant bright foliage around your container garden for some added texture and color.  Do not use flowers. Use light colored containers in the summer to reduce heat absorption, and darker color in the fall and winter months.

Happy gardening!

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Guest Post: Food for thought

November 1st, 2011

The folks at the USDA released their projections for 2011/2012-food price inflation. The bad news is that feeding ourselves will cost ~4% more in 2011. The good news is that USDA thinks prices will rise only ~2.5% next year.

I shop (I hate it). My food inflation is closer to 10%. It depends on what you eat. For example, from the report:
Meats, poultry and fish +6%
Seafood +6.5%
Beef +9%
Fresh vegetables +5%
Cooking oils +7.5%

These items are all well above the average set by the USDA. The following kept the index low:

Processed vegetables +1.5%
Beverages +2%

After looking at this I loaded up on canned peas and Coke. 

There’s other information at the site I thought was interesting. For example, what’s your guess on the amount spent for food prepared at home and the amount spent on eating out?

Answer: 52% is prepared at home, 48% is purchased and eaten onsite or taken home. Half of what we eat is “out”. I find that to be a surprisingly high number. Behind that 50-50 ratio is, no doubt, the problem with diabetes and obesity.

If you were wondering how the restaurant-bar business did during the depression the USDA has the numbers. My conclusion is that depressions are very bad for eating establishments. It takes a long time for a real recovery in spending habits. It’s also clear that wars are very good for the restaurant biz.

The “eat out” numbers did fall in 2009. But they recovered in 10’ and are headed higher again in 11’. We had recession. A big one. But consumers barely batted an eye. I’m surprised at this result.

The At Home and Away total 2010 food bill came to $1.2T. That makes eating the largest industry in America.

In 1930 19% of all food consumed was Produced at Home. By 1960 that percentage had fallen to 6%. In 2010 it was only 1.6%. While this trend is not surprising, the magnitude of the drop is worth noting. At one time we were a nation of gardeners, today we just do ‘drive through’.

The food we eat makes us sick. The 2010 estimate for food related illnesses came in at a lumpy 76,000,000 people (About ¼ of us get sick every year). These illnesses caused 325,000 hospitalizations and 5,000 deaths. The economic costs of these illnesses came to $152 billion. In other words, the bad food we eat cost us significantly more in 2010 than the combined operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

It’s not surprising that the US pays less for food as a percentage of income than any other country. But the comparisons are still interesting. The US spends 6.5% of disposable income for food. Poorer countries like Nigeria, Kenya and Cameroon are forced to pay ~45% of incomes to put food on the table. The high population countries are as follows:

Vietnam = 38%
Indonesia = 32%
India = 28%
China = 22%

I find these numbers troubling. There is only one direction for them to go. The developing countries with big populations will see greater gains in income, with that will lead to increased food consumption. Approximately 30% of income goes to food in these areas.  It’s hard not to see that this is going to push up the prices the globe pays for everything we eat.

For example, the USDA put the per person food cost in China at $129 in 2000. Today that number is $360 (280% increase). Over the same period the USA consumption increased only 42%.

It’s old news that China and the other big/fast growing populations are consuming an ever-increasing amount of the world’s supply. But these numbers are scary big. If the underlying trends continue(why would they not?) then we are headed into supply problems that can only mean rapidly rising prices.

This conclusion gets back to the beginning. Food inflation in America is running today at 5+%. The USDA says the inflation will moderate next year. This is more government hopium. I’ll take the “over” on their numbers. In my view rapid increases over the next decade are baked in the cake.

The most regressive economic consequence is for food inflation to take place. We have 45mm Americans on food stamps and tens of millions of others on the edge. I find it ironic that the Federal Reserve excludes food inflation when setting monetary policy. While the Fed can’t be blamed for rising food cost, they are most certainly stoking the fires.

Bernanke has said he wants to contain inflation (excluding food and energy) at less than 2%. Food inflation is running at double his target. Possibly Ben needs a new Mandate.



About The Author:

Bruce Krasting

I worked on Wall Street for twenty five years. This blog is my take on the financial issues of the day. I was an FX trader during the early days of the ‘snake’ and the EMS. Derivatives on currencies were new then. I was part of that. That was with Citi. Later I worked for Drexel and got to understand a bit about balance sheet structure and corporate bonds from Mike Milken. I was involved with a Macro hedge fund later. That worked out all right, but it is not an easy road. There was one tough week and I thought, “Maybe I should do something else for a year or two.” That was fifteen years ago. I love the markets. How they weave together. For twenty five years I woke up thinking, “What am I going to do today to make some money in the market”. I don’t do that any longer. But I miss it.

Bruce is also a frequent contributor to the cutting edge and highly influential financial blog ZeroHedge.

We encourage you to follow Bruce on his blog for very insightful and helpful commentary on these interesting times.




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