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Mediterranean Stuffed Acorn Squash Recipe

November 13th, 2012

Looking for a fabulous way to use the Tuffy Acorn Squash and fresh herbs from your garden this season? This mediterranean inspired recipe is sure to hit the mark. When roasted, acorn squash naturally becomes tender and subtly sweet, while the brushed on butter and brown sugar adds a warm, hearty flavor, perfect for chilly temps. While the acorn squash roasts, prepare the savory and sweet mediterranean stuffing. The fresh herbs picked directly from your garden brings this stuffing over the top, and tastes delicious hot as it does cold.

If you’re expecting vegetarian friends at your Thanksgiving this year, they will undoubtedly love this hearty main dish. This Mediterranean Stuffed Acorn Squash also tastes wonderful when paired with a favorite soup.

Mediterranean Stuffed Acorn Squash

(Serves 4)

2 medium acorn squash, halved and insides scooped out

2-4 tbsp melted butter

1-2 tsp brown sugar

sea salt and pepper

1 cup whole wheat couscous, or other whole grain

2 celery stalks, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 tomato, chopped

1 can garbanzo beans

1/2 cup raisons

1 lemon

2 teaspoons fresh herbs (thyme, parsley, sage, cilantro, or a combination)

extra virgin olive oil, for drizzling

Method: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. and place the acorn squash on a lined baking sheet. Brush the insides with the melted butter, brown sugar, sea salt and pepper. Bake for 40 – 45 minutes, or until tender and caramelized. Meanwhile, prepare the couscous by following the package instructions, and lightly saute the celery, garlic, tomato and a pinch of sea salt in a large skillet. Stir in the garbanzo beans, raisons, and fresh herbs, and remove from the heat when warm.

Combine the couscous with the vegetable mixture, and add the lemon juice, additional salt and pepper to taste, and a light drizzle of olive oil. When the acorn squash is roasted, brush additional melted butter and brown sugar inside the flesh (if desired). Stuff each half with the warm couscous stuffing, and serve immediately.

 

About Us:

Humble Seed specializes in premium garden seed kits that are packaged and themed for convenience and ease.  We are dedicated to providing the highest quality heirloom, non-GMO, non-hybrid, and organic seed varieties to those who choose to start from seed.

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What Factors Affect Germination?

October 20th, 2012

Germination: When a seed or spore begins to grow and put out shoots after a period of dormancy.

Seeds need to be stored in environmentally controlled conditions in order to ensure optimum germination and prolong their lives. When exposed to elements such as heat and moisture, the life of seeds can be gravely compromised. Have you ever noticed how seeds are stored at big box stores? Many times, they’re placed in the hot sun or near plants that get misted. The paper packets that these seeds are stored in do not protect them from these elements.

That’s why we store our seeds in environmentally controlled conditions up to the point of shipping. Before being shipped, seeds are packaged in re-sealable Mylar® bags which provide great seed protection, as well as the opportunity to plant now or later. And, if you are a seed saver, you can re-use your Mylar® bags to save seeds from the plants you grow. We pamper our seeds so much that we even play classical music to them in our storage facility.

While we do our part to ensure some of the highest germination rates around, there are other factors to consider for successful germination.

Soil Conditions That Affect Germination:

*Moisture. To trigger germination, adequate soil moisture is critical. Ensure the soil is moist, but never wet before planting. Also, remember to practice continuous watering throughout the germination period.

*Temperature: While most seeds will germinate in the spring (seeds prefer rising temperatures), some seeds perform better when planted in other seasons. Check which season or temperature works best for your seed prior to sowing.

*Consistency: While seeds can germinate in many different types of soils and surfaces, the best soil for germination is not rich. Salts and acids in rich soil can actually delay or stop germination, as many seeds prefer thin, sandy soil. Purchasing a Germination Mix from a reputable nursery or creating your own is your best bet.

Other Conditions To Consider:

*Storing seeds properly. Once purchased, keep seeds stored in a dry and cool place, such as in an airtight container in your refrigerator. Also, keep seed varieties separated from each other in clearly labeled packets. If stored in the right conditions, seeds will remain viable for years.

*Light exposure.  Providing seed with the correct light exposure is as important as providing the correct soil conditions. Always check the seed packet instructions for the sunlight requirements. Some seed prefers the dark during the germination period, while others require sunlight. If the seed requires light, place the seed at the top of the soil’s surface. If the plant prefers the dark, plant the seed beneath the soil (and check the seed packet for recommended depth).

*Proper labeling.  Label all of your seeds in the garden, as well as the date you planted them. While time consuming, this technique is key for determining proper germination rates. While some rely on good memory or keeping seedlings separated – many gardeners find that something always puts a wrench in the system. Labeling is the best practice for knowing when anticipated germination ought to begin, or when a seed can be transplanted outdoors.

Furthermore, keep a record book to note the date you planted, the time it took to germinate, whether you started your seed too early or late, and whether you grew too few or too many. Even better… record if everything was just right!

What are your tips for ensuring successful germination?

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Why Invest In Non-GMO and Organic Seeds?

October 8th, 2012

The word, “organic” commonly refers to the way farmers grow and process agricultural products. But with all of the focus on organic food – sometimes we forget the importance of investing in non-gmo seeds. With large biotech corporations like Monsanto and Syngenta controlling 40 percent of the U.S. vegetable seed market, it’s now more important than ever to seek out and store “safe seeds.”

Doing so can offer support to natural farmers, improve the environment and our health while making it easier to grow seeds in safe conditions.

It Offers Support

It’s simple: buying “safe seeds” supports the companies and farms that are committed to producing healthy food. When you make the choice to purchase non-gmo over modified seed, it sends a message that you support a more positive trend towards improving agriculture, without genetic engineering. It also promotes more research for finding new ways to grow seeds specifically using natural conditions.

It’s Better For The Environment

When crops are grown for seed, they require an entire life cycle for seeds to mature. This results in a greater length of time in which pests and diseases can destroy the seed crop, and may explain why in conventional farming, plants are doused with pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides. These chemicals are poisonous and should not be allowed to run-off into our water supply, as they can be hazardous to our health and our children’s future. They also carry heavy toxic load for the environment, and the surrounding natural farms. Yet, with the focus on the bottom line, companies allow these devastating effects.

Buying non-gmo seed that is certified organic provides the assurance that no synthetic chemicals were used while the seed was growing and maturing. In this video, a seed geneticist discusses how organic crops are “babied,” while being able to withstand the common problems farmers face.

It Makes It Easier To Grow Organically

Non-GMO seed that grows in organic conditions are more likely to thrive using natural gardening practices. When seeds grow in organic conditions, they become more adapted to compost and milder applications of pesticides, and develop stronger roots to seek out scattered nutrients in the soil. On the other hand, when seeds are modified and then developed with conventional farming practicing in mind, seeds become more reliant on fertilizers and pesticides to survive.

Studies show that when life gets a little tougher for organic plants, often times, it forces the crop to withstand drought, bad weather, and other common gardening problems. It’s also important to remember that high quality seeds have already proven their viability in organic growing conditions.

It’s Better For Our Health, Says Recent Studies

Over the last decade, plants and seeds have become increasingly engineered and treated with chemical fertilizers, synthetic insecticides and herbicides, as well as synthetic fungicides. A French study recently published their findings after rats were fed a lifetime of Monsantos’s genetically modified corn, as well as water tainted with American permitted “safe” levels of Round-Up.

While controversial, their findings were shocking.

The animals fed GM corn developed mammary tumors, as well as significant kidney and liver damage. In fact, up to 70% of the rats fed the GM diet died prematurely, compared with just 30% from the control group. Furthermore, the animals exposed to the “safe” levels of Round Up (remember that GM seed varieties are more tolerant to increased applications of this herbicide), had a lower life expectancy than the control group. Based on this study’s conclusions, Russia rushed to ban imports of Monsanto’s genetically modified corn, while France and a growing number of European countries continue to uphold their bans, not wanting to risk the health of their country.

Another reason to invest in “safe seeds?” Researchers at Stanford University published a study in the Annals of Internal Medicine that showed organically-grown food being more nutritious than conventionally grown. While this study has sparked controversy since, it’s important to keep in mind as we make choices about food.

**Do you use “safe seeds” in your garden? What are the reasons you personally choose to grow them? 

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How To Prep In An Apartment Or Small Living Space

September 25th, 2012

If you’ve ever watched the posted videos from the apartment dwellers who survived the 2011 Fukushima earthquake, you’ll understand the importance of prepping, even when in an apartment. Many of the dwellers had little to no food in their refrigerators (since they ate out much of the time), and found their water contaminated. Limited space in an apartment means you may have to be more selective and creative when prepping for a disaster. But remember, the steps you take now can mean all the difference in a survival situation. Here are a few tips to get your started:

How To Plan An Apartment Garden

Start by saving now for a small garden, and reserve money each week. Use recycled goods to keep costs at a minimum, and begin saving soda bottles, yogurt tubs, food jars, etc., for later use as containers. Garage sales and thrift stores may also have some useful items.

It’s wise to carefully plan out your space, and work with what you have. Most apartments have a balcony or patio – but also consider using the space near a sunny window, or on the rooftop if available. Need some guidance on how to garden in small spaces? Find websites or blogs that detail their successes with container gardening, and take notes on what practices they used. You’ll likely discover small tips, like growing plants vertically which can manage small spaces better, and yield a crop comparable to larger garden spaces.

Invest in seeds that are non-GMO and non-hybrid, and store them in waterproof and rodent proof re-sealable containers. This will ensure long-term food storage, leaving the option of growing seeds now or later.

How To Store Food When Space Is Tight

Getting creative is a must when storing food in an apartment. Consider any unused space as a potential place to store food – under the bed, linen closets, storage lockers, or shelving units can hold dozens of cans and survival items. If you truly have limited space, try living minimally (that is, without unneeded items or furniture that take up space). You may find it challenging to give up some possessions in your home, but remember that it may mean the difference between surviving and thriving if a disaster strikes.

When storing food, remember to:

1)    Keep dry food up high. Keep all dry food up high and away from the ground to prevent water damage or problems resulting from high trafficked areas.

2)    Keep food away from sunlight. Sunlight can destroy the nutrients in food and cause internal temperatures to rise and fall in a container.

3)    Keep food in a cool, dry location. Cool, dry places provide the optimal environment for food to stay well preserved.

How To Plan Emergency Gear In An Apartment

Since space is limited, it can get tricky finding ways to store different kinds of emergency gear. Instead, stick with gear that is necessary and has multiple uses, and check our list below.

A Multi-Tool - a multi-tool can provide a screwdriver, pliers and an assortment of knives all in one.

Can Opener(s)  – food is necessary for survival, store at least two of these.

Portable Water Filter – water must be filtered or boiled if you suspect it’s contaminated.

Solar Charger – small devices can become fully charged even in the absence of power.

Duct tape – with its dozens of uses, duct tape can repair tears, seal up windows, pack up boxes, and more.

Other useful items: flashlights, a weather radio, hiking shoes, USB flash drives, emergency preparedness books, first aid kit, rain gear, lighter or matches, self protection such as pepper spray, and small hygiene items.

To learn more, see our guide to canning, as well as our other emergency preparedness posts:

Canning 101

Five Tips For Prepping

Tips For Sustaining A Survival Garden

Survival Gardening: How To Boost Your Disaster Preparedness 

***Preppers and gardeners:  What are your favorite tips for prepping in a small space? We’d love to hear your thoughts and ideas.

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Protect Your Food Supply

June 19th, 2012

Increasing seed prices and fuel costs means many Americans are digging a little deeper into their wallets just to put food on the table.  In 2010, the New York Times reported a sharp 32% increase for the price of corn seeds, and a 24% increase for soybeans. Even more shocking, it’s estimated that seed costs have increased roughly 135% since 2001!

What’s the deal?

Competition And Genetically Modified Seeds

More than ten years ago, sales people from dozens of seed companies were able to compete for business, promising healthier crops and larger yields than their competitors. But all of that has changed as large seed companies are now using license agreements that block less expensive generic versions of seeds from entering the market.  This ultimately creates an unfair advantage over the competitors. Consequently, farmers have limited options, which in most cases result in choosing those larger company’s seeds that have been genetically modified.

Unfortunately for farmers and the consumer, it turns out that genetically modified food is not just bad for your health, they are also to blame for rising seed costs. Seed companies understand that weeds, insects and plant diseases have long been a challenge for even the most skilled farmers. To combat this issue, certain biotech qualities have been added to seeds, which result in better weed control and crop resistance to herbicides and pests. While reluctant at first, farmers are now more inclined to spend more money on these engineered seeds, as labor, pesticide and machine costs will ultimately go down.

Yet, even as the market forges ahead and heavily uses genetically modified foods as the new norm, the Organic Center reports that, “The GE corn, soybean and cotton seeds planted over the next five to 10 years will, if current trends hold, contain increasing numbers of stacked traits (usually 3 or more) cost considerably more per acre, and pose unique resistance management, crop health, food safety and environmental risks.”

How Fuel Prices Factor In

Economists are now saying that rising fuel prices are a leading cause behind sky rocketing food costs, specifically for produce and meat. When diesel fuel is needed to power not only tractors by also semis and other forms of transportation – grocery stores are forced to make adjustments to stay in business.  Mike Servert, owner of Servert And Sons Produce was interviewed at the Carolina Reporter And News, and was asked about the rising price of fuel. His response was simply, “the more the cost of transportation, the more it’s going to cost at the table.” Servert also estimated that the cost of a $4 crate of oranges could jump to $10 if fuel costs continue to increase.

What’s the next step?

Investing In Quality Seeds You Can Trust

Unfortunately, it seems we no longer have control over the quality of food currently stocked in our grocery stores. Consumers are ultimately left in the dark to whether their unlabeled produce was the product of genetically altered seeds, or bioengineered to resist harm from extensive sprayed herbicides and pests.  With a population already wary of their food supply – considering the frequency of E.coli and salmonella threats, many are turning towards investing in seeds they can trust and growing them for large organizations, community gardens, and in their backyards.

The Producer’s seed packs not only guarantees 26 varieties of non-GMO, non-hybrid, certified organic and heirloom seeds, it’s also an investment. The Producer will continue to save you money and will provide assurance that your fruits and vegetables are the healthiest food around. At $4-5 a pack, you’re guaranteed quality seeds that have the highest rates of germination when compared with traditional seeds. In these ever-changing times, it’s a relief to know that Humble Seed guarantees seeds that are consistently nutritious and unadulterated.

Sources:

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/12/business/12seed.html?pagewanted=all

http://www.organicagcentre.ca/DOCs/OrganicCenterUSA/13Years20091116.pdf

http://www.datelinecarolina.org/story/16982848/rising-gas-prices-mean-higher-food-prices

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Five Tips For Prepping

June 5th, 2012

Major life changing events can and do happen. Definitely most occur without surprise, and can affect small, remote areas or major cities. Others are more obvious and one, so attuned, can make the best of preparations. Regardless, they can happen slowly or very quickly, causing insignificant to long lasting deterioration even after the worst is over. Such changes can take on many forms, from hurricanes, earthquakes and tornadoes, dangerous spills, flu outbreaks, and especially severe economic events. Knowing this, “prepper’s” are taking great measures to ready their homes and families for endurance, trying times, or just plain survival. With that said, they are also sharing with neighbors, establishing neighborhood gardens, and taking to social media to sound the alarm so to speak by writing about survival, prepping, and the cyclical nature as to why this is prudent.

Many wonder if government agencies like the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) can truly provide everything we need in an emergency?  Since 2003, FEMA is largely in command of planning and responding to disasters of all varieties.  However, when Hurricane Katrina struck Louisiana in 2005, the FDA reported residents were without basic needs like adequate food or clean water for days, even weeks for some. They also reported that crop supplies and processed goods were completely submerged under water, and exposed to contaminants like chemicals and sewage, forcing residents to fear the very essentials necessary for survival: food and water.

Below are five ways you can better prepare your own food and water supply in the occurrence of a disaster. These tasks should be prepared before a disaster strikes, and with your own location, climate, physical health and family needs in mind.

1)   Store a variety of ways to cook and heat up food.  Depending on whether you’ll have access to electricity, batteries, or even the outdoors – ready.gov suggests that a few different modes to cook a meal can make a real difference.  If you have access to the outdoors, there are now a variety of survival stoves to choose from.  However, survivalists recommend that the stove heat up to at least 1,200 degrees F.  Furthermore, a stove that can run on rechargeable AA batteries, and equipped for a DC Out Plug and/or a portable solar charger can all prove useful in a survival situation. Along with a survival stove, you can keep food warm by using candle warmers, chafing dishes, and fondue pots. Keep in mind that charcoal grills, a fireplace, a campfire and eating food right out of the can are also options.  In the chance you need to change locations, ensuring some cooking devices are light, portable and easy to use should also be considered.

2)   Begin purifying and storing water sooner rather than later. FEMA suggests that families should store ½ gallon of water, per person, per day in the chance of a disaster.  Yet, keep in mind that children, the elderly, and those with health issues may require more than the ½ gallon to stay hydrated.  Medical emergencies and hot temperatures can also quickly deplete a water supply.  Many disaster preppers aim to more than double FEMA’s suggestion, storing at least one gallon of water, per person, per day. Furthermore, it’s important to consider your own climate, family needs and common sense to build an adequate water supply.

Many choose to store bottles of water for easy access.  Yet, boiling water and using one of the many water purification systems out there are also safe ways to attain water when done properly.  If water is running short, learning how to chlorinate or distill water is incredibly useful in an emergency, and can save lives. Also, avoid carbonated, alcoholic and caffeinated beverages in an emergency – as these can dehydrate the body and lead to more water consumption than planned for.

3.) Store seeds that offer a wide range of nutrition in airtight, long-term packaging. In severe weather, drought, or in the unpredictable nature of any disaster – ensuring your seeds stay fresh and viable can play a major factor in survival.  While there are a wide range of seed packages and storing opportunities to choose from, The Producer  is a great investment and trade. For a around $5.00 a pack, you get a seed kit that offers bulk fruit and vegetables in 26 varieties of non-GMO and non-hybrid seeds, including certified organic and heirloom varieties packaged for long term storage. Seeds are packaged in re-sealable Myler® bags, then stored in waterproof, rodent proof container that is also FDA approved for long-term storage.  Whether you choose to grow your seeds now or later, The Producer ensures a nutritious food supply.

4) Build Your Own Survival Garden. 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?” To learn more about sustaining your own survival garden, this post offers detailed instructions on planting and maintenance.

5) Learn how to can your own food. First invented during Napoleon’s time as a means of feeding troops healthfully during a march, canning is used today as a useful method to preserve garden fresh fruits and vegetables. Never canned before? Canning entails placing fresh or cooked produce in jars and heating them to a temperature that microorganisms are unable to survive in.  If done effectively; canning can prevent unnecessary waste, save money, and provide healthy food for your family all year long, as well as in an emergency situation. Essentially, there are two options for home canning: one is water bath canning, and the other is pressure cooker canning.  View this post for detailed instructions on the canning process, and how to store cans long-term.

If canning your own food for disaster preparedness is something you aim to try, consider canning a variety of nutritious foods.  Canning fruits like mangos, cantaloupe, and passion fruit can offer B vitamins, which are essential for energy, cell production and body growth, whereas pineapple, brussel sprouts and butternut squash have high amounts of vitamin C, which plays a significant role in building the immune system, protecting body tissue, and warding off free radicals.  Be sure to pack at least (2) can openers in your disaster supply kit, and consider opting for low sodium canned food to prevent dehydration.

So, as the old English proverb goes; “Hope for the best and prepare for the worst” is something worth taking to heart given the current state of the world. We thank you for support of this blog and here is a thanks to you, 20% off at check out for any seed kit by using the code: HSBLOG20

You might also like ~ Survival Gardening: How To Boost Your Disaster Preparedness

 

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Plant the Garden of Your Dreams with a Customized Humble Seed Kit

April 3rd, 2012

Spring is officially in full swing, and many of us are eager to get back into our gardens and harvest the delicious benefits.  Selecting the seed varieties that work best for your own growing conditions, environment and dinner plates is all part of the fun – and can produce very positive results in your garden.  With this in mind, Humble Seed is pleased to offer a popular demanded option to take advantage of: the opportunity to customize your own seed kit! We are thrilled to partner with Very Jane once again to bring gardeners this much requested option for a limited time.  We also look forward to featuring a permanent customized seed kit option in the near future on our own website.  Review the details below so you can begin your seed selecting right away!

How To Customize Your Seed Kit

To get started, simply review the 28 varieties of premium seeds that are offered exclusively for this promotion. Select 10 different seed packs of your choice. Due to inventory demand, we will not be able to fulfill multiple packs of the same seed type within a single order. Each customized seed kit is priced at $32.00, a 20% discount from the retail price ($40.00) and offered exclusively for this promotion! We are offering the following premium seeds for each customized kit:

 

Vegetables:

Scarlet Nantes Carrot

White Bunching Onion Scallion

Crimson Sweet Watermelon

Amazing Cauliflower

Tavera Green Bean (organic)

Red Express Cabbage (organic)

Green Romaine (organic)

Rosa Bianca Eggplant (organic / heirloom)

Washington Cherry tomato (organic)

Rose Tomato (heirloom / organic)

Black Seeded Simpson (heirloom)

Marketmore Cucumber (organic)

DeCicco Broccoli (organic /heirloom)

Peppers:

Yankee Bell Pepper

Antohi Romanian Specialty Frying Pepper (organic)

Padron Pepper (heirloom)

Joe’s Long Cayenne (organic)

Conchos Jalapeno

 Herbs:

Superbo Basil

Purly Chives

Banquet Dill

Bronze and Green Fennel (organic)

Greek Oregano

Cumin

German Winter Thyme

Titan Parsley

Common Sage

Santo Cilantro (coriander)

As always, Humble Seed offers non-GMO and non-hybrid seeds with heirloom and certified organic options at an exceptional value. You can also trust that our premium seeds have one of the highest germination rates when compared with other seed companies, and we ship them directly to you in a re-sealable and airtight Mylar® bag; guaranteed for long-term storage and effective seed saving.  At Humble Seed, you can trust that “ex-seeding expectations” is an affirmation we take seriously.

Click here to start building your seed kit!

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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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From Sprouts to Sprouts: Practical Tips for Making Homemade Baby Food

February 11th, 2012

With the growing concern of contamination, pesticides and chemicals in produce, parents are now seeking the freshest and safest food for their babies.  After all, babies have the most fragile of systems, and pound for pound; babies consume more vegetables than most adults.  Perhaps that is why making your own baby food is the latest trend for sustainable and healthy living.  In fact, 70% of parents have made their own baby food, and the number is growing.  But why leave in the middleman? Growing your own baby food allows parents to grow seasonal produce that their child prefers, while allowing a unique opportunity to have a stake in what goes into their baby’s mouth.

The Jarred Food Dilemma: Over the years, jarred baby food has become safer now that regulations prevent companies from adding “fillers” to jars.  It’s also convenient, and many parents are relieved to see organic baby food now shelved at traditional grocery stores.  Yet jarred baby food, even if organic; is commonly over-cooked and overly processed. It is also concerning that we do not get to see the produce selected for jarring.  Are the fruits and vegetables selected at their peak and truly organic? We just don’t know.

What To Grow: Children prefer sweeter, milder tasting vegetables like carrots, squash, sweet potatoes, sweet peas, and beans.  Yet, a wide variety of fruits and vegetables are easy to puree and can be made into baby food. In fact, planting a variety of produce can allow babies to become exposed to a variety of vitamins and minerals, as well as flavors.  Babycenter.com also recommends incorporating super foods like blueberries, broccoli, avocados, mandarin oranges and prunes, as they are especially healthful for babies. The Producer and Veggin’ Out have a variety of excellent choices.

Preparing Baby Food: Depending on what your little sprout is eating, you’ll need either a: blender, food processor, baby food grinder or even a fork for softer produce like bananas or avocados.

Step 1: Select fruits and vegetables at their peak. Wash off excess dirt, and remove peels, stems and seeds.  Slice into chunks.

Step 2: Cook fruits and vegetables until tender (sautéing in water or lightly steaming works well).  Do not overcook, as this depletes the food from its vital nutrients. It is also not necessary to use oils, butter, lard, salt, seasoning, gravies or sugar while cooking – keep this food as natural as possible.

Step 3: In a pureeing device of your choice, add a liquid such as water or fruit juice (remember that honey is toxic to infants). Puree until smooth and store in batches in your freezer. Many prefer adding the mixture to ice trays as an easy way to store and retrieve single servings. If you plan on storing a smaller portion in the refrigerator, remember not to store it longer than 2 days.

Carrot Acorn Squash Puree

3 cups acorn squash, peeled and chopped

1 cup carrot, peeled and chopped

2 quarts of water

Method:  In a large saucepan, cover the vegetables with water, bring to boil and simmer for 5-10 minutes.  When soft, remove from heat and add vegetables to a blender with a slotted spoon.  Gradually add reserved water, and puree until very smooth.

 

What are your experiences in making homemade baby food?

 

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