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Saving Heirloom Seeds 101

May 9th, 2013

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For many, preserving an heirloom seed in its original genetic makeup is important.

Why?

When we think of the word “extinction,” a head of lettuce normally doesn’t pop up in our minds. It’s also obvious that our grocery stores aren’t full of endangered fruits and vegetables either. But think about the prize-winning heirloom beets you boasted last spring, or your grandfather’s special heirloom tomatoes you remember eating every summer. If these heirloom seeds are not saved, the legacy of these plants will eventually die out.

Furthermore, preserving heirlooms creates diversity, making some gardeners feel it’s their responsibly to save these seeds so that genetic variation doesn’t become extinct. If you decide to save your heirloom seeds this year, there are some important ideas to learn and put into practice to ensure success.

How To Preserve The Genetic Makeup

Ensuring an heirloom variety doesn’t accidently change its genetic makeup is a top priority. Luckily, there are some simple practices that can help limit genetic loss. One is to ensure heirloom plants do not cross-pollinate with other varieties. The easiest way to avoid this is to separate varieties a fair distance away from one another. It’s a good idea to research each plant to ensure the distance is far enough away. For example, lettuce may only require separating it 25 feet, while some pepper varieties are considered a safe distance when distancing them at least 500 feet.

Other gardeners prefer time isolation, caging, bagging, and even individually hand pollinating - these are all techniques that can help avoid accidental cross-pollination. Keep in mind that while these practices take time and thought, if two varieties cross – their genes are permanently mixed.

How To Harvest Heirloom Seeds

When you’re ready to harvest, specifically select seeds from the plants that grew quickly and with vigor.  A common mistake is to choose seeds randomly, and from mediocre plants. One major rule of thumb? Never save seeds from malformed fruit, or a fruit that has been damaged by insects, mold, or disease. Plants should be strong, healthy and not exposed to stressful conditions when early seed formation begins.

Removing any diseased plants away from potential seed saving plants will increase the viability of the plant and its seed. Diseased plants can also spread pathogens to otherwise healthy plants, and can affect the success of succeeding generations as well. During seed formation, be sure to provide the plant with sufficient moisture at flower time – this will promote pollen development and flower set.

Furthermore, learning how to properly harvest seeds from a variety of plants can ensure you’re getting the most from each plant. We look forward to sharing how to properly clean, dry, and preserve your heirloom seeds in a future post.

Friends, which heirloom varieties are you growing this year?

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How To Grow and Use Beets For Beginners

April 29th, 2013

Researchers at Barts and The London School of Medicine have discovered that drinking just 500 ml of beet juice a day can significantly reduce blood pressure. Those that suffer from cardiovascular disease, or would like to reduce their risk of cardiovascular disease are advised to include beet juice in their diet (see our juice recipe below).

Yet, even if you’re not so interested in the health benefits, and more interested in how to make a delicious meal with beets (like this vibrant beet ravioli)- it might prove useful if you know how to effectively grow them in your garden. Our dual purpose beets produce striking dark red leaves that can enhance salads or a sautéed greens dish. When sliced, roots offer an attractive candy-striped color to pasta, salads, soups, or mixed roasted vegetables.

Spring is the perfect time to begin growing beets. Our heirloom and organic Bull’s Blood Beet can be found in the Veggin’ Out and Producer seed kits. If you’re new at this, check out our beet growing tips below.

Growing details:

*Soil temperature: 70-85 degrees F.

*Days to maturity: 45-60 days

*Sun and water: full sun/partial shade with moderate watering.

Starting inside: Sow seeds 3-4 inches in flats, a cold frame, an indoor seed bed, or in 1-1 ½” plug trays 4-6 weeks before transplanting outside. Transplant outdoors 12-18” apart in rows 18-34” apart.

Starting outside: Sow 3-4 seeds 12” apart, ½” deep, and in rows 24-36” apart. Thinning is necessary, as there is a chance you will get more than one seedling out of each seed. Thin when they are about 2 inches high by pinching them off. Be cautious not to pull them out of the ground, as this may disturb the roots growing nearby.

Seed maintenance: Adding mulch or organic compost will only help these plants to thrive. Providing moderate water (and being careful not to overwater), and offering opportunities for full sun and partial shade will also make beets an excellent long-season crop.

Harvest tips: When 2” or greater, dig or pull roots. Attractive roots are best harvested when young, and the greens can be harvested at any time. Leave fall crop in ground until needed or when soil begins to freeze.

Seed saving: Beets are biennials that must be dug, stored, and then replanted in order to produce seed crops in climates with freezing weather temperatures.

How to make beet juice?
Never drink beet juice by itself. Beet juice should always be mixed with apple juice
and/or other vegetables.

Beet Juice
1/3 bowl beet juice
1/3 bowl carrot juice
¼ bowl cucumber juice
1 tablespoon lemon juice

Blend all ingredients together then serve with 1 tablespoon of yogurt, as a topping.
Note: Never drink pure beet juice by itself. Drinking pure beet juice can temporarily
paralyze your vocal chords, cause hives, increase your heart rate, and/or cause chills
or a fever.

***Friends – are you starting beets in your garden this season? What other root vegetables are you growing?

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Hot For The Antohi Romanian Specialty Frying Pepper!

March 19th, 2012

Looking to spice up your meals at dinnertime? Consider, for a moment, the Antohi Romanian Specialty Frying Pepper found in The Producer as well as Hot Mama’s Peppers and Chiles. This bright yellow pepper that ripens into a brilliant red will entice your taste buds with its bright, sweet flavor.  It tastes sweetest fried, but can be baked, sautéed or even grilled for full flavor.  If you are new to growing peppers, plan on sowing the seeds indoors in mid to late March.  When spring is in full swing, you’ll find that they will become the coquettes of your garden. While you nurture and dote on them; they will ripen and plump, and undoubtedly bring promise of a flavorful dish!

Contrary to the popular belief, peppers are not annuals. Yet, they can be easy to grow if offered warm temperatures and plenty of sunlight.  These frying peppers also do quite well in drained soils rich in calcium and phosphorus. Be sure to harvest them when they are green or mature, and use gardening scissors so to not damage the plant.  Picking peppers when they are fully mature also encourages new buds to form.

These peppers are exceptionally flavorful when cooked in olive oil, and make a great addition topped on your favorite sandwich, or added to a stir-fry.  The recipe below is fresh and tasty — one bite will have you lingering over the thought of leisurely dining on a Mediterranean coast. The best part?  This sandwich can be ready in 20 minutes. Is it just us, or is it hard not to puff up your chest a bit when making a delicious sandwich using vegetables from your own garden?

Mediterranean-Style Vegetable Sandwich

(Makes 4 Sandwiches)

1 medium sized eggplant, sliced length-wise into ¼ inch thick rounds

1 tomato, sliced into rounds

½ onion, cut into half moon slices

5-6 Antohi Romanian Specialty frying peppers, de-seeded and sliced

8 ounces of Mozzarella cheese, ¼ inch slices (optional)

10-12 basil leaves

4 teaspoons Balsamic vinaigrette

¼ cup olive oil

8 slices of crusty French bread

salt and pepper to taste

Method:  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Lay a single layer of the eggplant rounds on a baking tray.  Brush each round with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Bake for 20 minutes, flipping them over halfway for even cooking. Meanwhile, heat a large skillet to medium high heat.  Drizzle 2 teaspoons of olive oil in the pan, and add the onion, a pinch of salt, and your frying peppers.  Sauté until tender and fragrant.

Once the eggplant has cooled, layer on the eggplant, onions, peppers, basil and cheese (if using) on a slice of crusty bread.  Drizzle with balsamic vinaigrette and olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Serve immediately.

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Tips For Sustaining A Survival Garden

February 27th, 2012

There are never any guarantees that our grocery stores will continue to be stocked full of food, or that a natural disaster will allow us safe roads to drive to the store on. Many emergencies are such that there is no time to start growing a garden, or just begin gaining experience at growing food. Perhaps that knowing this, you have already started a survival garden of your own.  But the only question remaining is, “how do I keep a survival garden thriving all year long?” Growing your own survival garden is similar to any other garden in terms of chores and maintenance, but do keep these points in mind:

Sustainable Plant Choices: A survival garden should include plants that are both nutritious and perennial.  It is also advantageous to choose plants with a long, repeated harvest. A survival garden that only requires daily and weekly tasks like fertilizing, mulching, pruning, weeding and watering is a far less daunting than starting a garden from scratch each season.  Also, while perennial plants need nurturing, they are also fairly forgiving for new gardeners, and when temporarily neglected. Good choices to include in your garden are: asparagus, root vegetables, beans, artichokes, horseradish and a variety of herbs.

Become An Expert! Do your research about each fruit, vegetable and herb you grow in your garden. Buy a few books or search online for instructions on the best techniques for proper planting, maintenance and harvesting in your garden.  There is no substitute to knowledge and experience to ensure your garden will thrive when you need it most.

Proper Planning: When including more plants in your survival garden, space should be optimized the best way possible.  Stagger and plant close together, and pay special attention to plants that have deep root systems. Plants that have deep roots (like tomatoes,) should be grown next to plants with less intrusive roots (like lettuce).  Take a look at our post on Companion Planting for more information on plants that grow well together.

Many survival gardeners also like to create designated areas for the variety of plants growing in their garden.  Separating and labeling medicinal herbs, vine vegetables and culinary plants may prove very helpful and accessible when in an emergency situation.

Seed Saving:  In an emergency, no one can afford to waste money or allow a garden to fail. In fact, some emergencies can last for more than one season or year.  Saving seeds from plants that are vigorous and thriving can ensure well-grown food years in the future.  To get the most out of your seeds, first be sure to never use hybrid or genetically modified seeds, as these will not be able to reproduce. Using non-hybrid seeds, also known as open-pollinated, allow you to reproduce the same plant and yield seeds every year.  Keep watch for vegetables and fruit in your garden that are free of disease, yield a high number of produce, and are the best looking (also – resist the urge to eat them!).  Mark that plant with a stake or ribbon. Allow the seeds to fully ripen before harvesting, and carefully place them indoors for drying.  A paper bag or clean newspaper will work just fine.  Once dried, store seeds in a labeled, airtight container or clearly marked envelope. Seed saving can only occur when non-hybrid seeds are planted. You can find a wide variety of non-hybrid seeds within Humble Seed’s The Producer- which makes the perfect survival seed bank.

Canning and Preserving: Preparing early and not waiting for an emergency to arrive is the key to survival. After each harvest, begin storing an emergency supply of food by canning your bounty and storing them in a dark room, food pantry or cellar.  Freezing food is not the best option for disaster preparedness, as there are never any guarantees that electricity will work.  Never canned before?  See our Canning And Preserving 101 post for an easy step-by-step guide to canning your produce.

Be sure to read our original post on Disaster Preparedness for more information and tips on survival gardening!

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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

c. ESPN

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
diseases

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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Seed Spotlight: Washington Cherry Tomato

March 22nd, 2011

 

Whether you’re hungry for a healthy snack or making appetizers, salads, and more, cherry tomatoes are a great choice for nutritional eating and enhancing a variety of foods. When picked fresh from the vine, radiant red cherry tomatoes offer full-of-flavor juices that showcase the wonderful flavors of the gardening season, and these little beauties will keep growing all season long.

Our organic Washington Cherry Tomato seeds produce 1 ¼” meaty and flavorful fruits. Seeds can be sown in spring after the average last spring frost and when soil temperatures reach 60 degrees. Tomato plants can be grown in a warm area that receives plenty of sunlight. In warm winter/hot areas, they can also be planted in early fall for winter harvesting. If growing cherry tomatoes you will need a tomato cage or other support system. Cherry tomatoes are lycopene-rich!

If you’re looking for a new way to enjoy cherry tomatoes try slow roasting them. Richly flavored, they pair well with soft cheese and crackers—it’s the perfect warm weather appetizer. Simply cut cherry tomatoes in half, lengthwise, then place cut side up in a roasting pan. Sprinkle cut tomatoes with fresh thyme leaves then season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Liberally drizzle tomatoes with extra virgin olive oil then place roasting pan in a 200 degree oven for 6-8 hours. When finished, the tomatoes will be collapsed but not dried out. Cool then serve with accompaniments. Tasty tomatoes indeed!

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Seed Spotlight: Rosa Bianca Eggplant

January 11th, 2011

 

Whether you call it aubergine or eggplant, this vegetable makes a wonderful addition to a spring garden and menus—as appetizers, side dishes and entrées. A plant native to India, the eggplant, today, is grown in most warm regions of the world.

Our heirloom and organic Rosa Bianca Eggplant—found in The Producer—is adored for its violet and white coloring and savored for its creamy, mild taste and wonderful texture. Raw eggplant can have a bitter taste, but once cooked, the flavor of eggplant turns deliciously complex and rich. This versatile vegetable can be fried, grilled or roasted.

If frying, it is important to take the raw eggplant’s texture into consideration. The texture is somewhat spongy, so it will soak up the oil. Fry over moderately high heat. Once the cell structure breaks down, the eggplant will release much of the oil it initially soaks up. Just like squeezing a sponge!

Grilling an eggplant is easy and adds a smoky-sweet flavor. Simply cut an eggplant, lengthwise, into steak-like pieces. Whisk together olive oil, minced garlic and chopped rosemary then brush each side of the eggplant slices with the mixture. Set eggplant slices, diagonally, on the grill and turn often until they’re cooked through.

Nutritionally, eggplant is low in saturated fat, sodium and cholesterol. It is also high in dietary fiber; folate; potassium; manganese; vitamins B6, C, and K; thiamin; niacin; pantothenic acid; magnesium; phosphorus; and copper. Wow! That’s a lot of nutritional health benefits!

This vegetable is a keeper, so plan on adding it to your spring garden and menus. Two of our favorite eggplant dishes include Baba Ghanouj and Eggplant Parmigiano. How do you like to cook your eggplant? We’d love to hear from you.

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Brighten Up Your Garden and Turn Up the Heat in the Kitchen with Sassy Peppers

September 8th, 2010

 

From mild to richly flavored to fiery hot, peppers offer unique flavors and varying degrees of heat. If you’re a pepper aficionado, you know what these sassy garden plants are capable of doing when it comes to flavor and versatility.

In the garden, peppers add eye-popping appeal. With their deep, rich colors and distinctive shapes, peppers are like Christmas ornaments in the garden. If you cannot imagine that thought without presents then think of ripe and ready peppers as presents to use in the kitchen. In many dishes from around the world, the distinct taste and texture of a pepper makes the dish, such as Mexico’s Chile Rellenos. Another popular pepper dish that is easy to make is Stuffed Jalapenos, Southwest-Style. They’re great for casual get-togethers and fun to make and eat.

If you’ve never handled peppers in the kitchen before there are a couple of things to keep in mind. Peppers contain a natural oil called capsaicin, which is what provides the heat in peppers. If you’re not careful and you accidentally rub your skin after handling peppers the capsaicin on your fingers can burn your skin. Many people people wear gloves when working with dried or fresh chiles, just to be safe. If you want to temper a pepper’s heat as much as possible, remove the membranes and seeds from peppers before using them in your food dishes. Also, if you’ve eaten a dish that contains peppers and your taste buds are on fire, drink milk, as it tames the heat.

If you’re ready to give peppers a whirl—trust us, you will not regret it—then check out our Hot Mama’s Peppers and Chiles Seed Lists and Details. We have ten different varieties of non-GMO and non-hybrid seeds, including certified organic and heirloom seeds, packaged in re-sealable Mylar® bags. Our Mylar® packaging makes planting now or later a great convenience.

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Memorial Day Week Long Sale

May 23rd, 2010

Use Code “GONAVY” to get 35% off on any of our seed kits! Jim served ten years in the navy and would like to honor all those who have served by offering this awesome discount to everyone. Offer ends June 1st.

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