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Growing Change

A Guide To Growing Super Foods

Super foods are foods that are higher in nutrients per calorie than other foods and are blessed with scientifically proven health benefits. The list of “super foods” gets longer and more exotic every day – Peruvian maca maca fruit, Chinese hemp seeds, Tibetan gogi berries, acai and camu camu berries, amaranth and quinoa. These items can be expensive or hard to find. Meanwhile, there are many other easy to grow, easy to cook, easy to juice or to eat. Just plain raw fruits and vegetables that fully qualify as excellent super foods. Here are some of my favorites. 1) Sweet potatoes – It’s best to buy baby plants called “slips” online. There are over a 100 varieties with different tastes ... Continue

Tips for Sowing Vegetable Seeds in Your Kitchen Garden

The easiest way to grow vegetables is to plant seeds directly into the ground. Some vegetables such as beans, cucumbers, radishes, melons and squash mature within a typical growing season and don’t transplant well and hence should always be planted directly in the ground as soon as the soil reaches a temperature of roughly 60 degrees. Depending on where you garden, it’s probably time to sow these seeds. Prepare your planting beds by making sure they are level and weed and rock-free. Pole beans, cucumbers and some squash benefit from being trellised. Here’s my design for a cucumber/squash trellis: This is a great way to grow pole beans: It’s a good idea to mark where you planted your seeds. Whenever ... Continue

Basic Composting: Perfect Use for Your Pulp

Compost is a dark brown dirt-like substance used as a fertilizer, mulch and soil conditioner. It is produced when bacteria and fungi break down different sorts of organic waste such as kitchen scraps and garden debris. Making your own compost is easy, and just like recycling of which it is a form, composting is the right thing to do. Reasons to compost: 1) If you’re juicing regularly, you’re generating lots of vegetable scraps and pulp. Composting puts your kitchen scraps back into the soil and keeps them out of a landfill where they would otherwise create methane, a gas that pollutes the ground water. 2) Compost is a free, efficient, environmentally friendly alternative to high phosphorous chemical fertilizers that also ... Continue

How To Grow Cucumbers

Cucumbers are one of my favorite crops. They come in a variety of textures, tastes and colors, and they’re 90% water; hence, not fattening. Contrary to popular belief, cucumbers are a fruit, related to muskmelons, and not a vegetable. When I think of cucumbers, I think not only of English people eating thin, sometimes soggy, triangular little sandwiches, but also of ancient Roman midwives carrying cucumbers to the birthing mother and throwing them away when the child was born. Will someone please tell me what this was all about? There are three kinds of cucumbers: pickling, burpless (aka seedless) and slicing. I’m not a big pickle eater, and I never burp, so I grow slicing cucumbers. They take longer to ... Continue

Planning A Kitchen Garden: Site and Design

The easiest way to grow vegetables is to drive to the closest nursery and buy baby vegetable plants. It is not, however, the cheapest way. The most cost effective method for growing vegetables is to plant seeds directly into the ground. Once your soil has reached 60 degrees – or if you don’t own a soil thermometer – once your neighbors appear with seed packets in their gardens – it’s time to get sowing. But first, you need a plan. Remember, “Little Miss Mary, quite contrary, how does your garden grow?” If Mary’s garden didn’t have at least six to eight hours of direct sunlight daily, the answer would have to be: “Not so well.” “Location. Location. Location?” I say, ... Continue

Starting Seeds Indoors – part 2 of 2

When they germinate, seedlings emerge with one or two embryonic leaves called cotyledons. Then they put on their first post-embryonic leaves, known as “true leaves,” and that is when I deliver my transplants into the hands of the transplant nanny – a large grow light in my laundry room. A fan keeps the nursery fresh, and a boom box keeps my seedlings entertained. Today my little darlings are listening to Debussy. I imagine they prefer “Afternoon of a Fawn” and “Reverie.” I skip “Jeux de Vagues” (it will make them seasick), “Nuages” (too ominous) and “Fetes” (they’re not old enough to understand it.) At least I don’t talk to my plants. Which is more than you can say for the ... Continue

Starting Seeds Indoors; part 1 of 2

Every year in March and April, I start an insane variety of herbs, fruits, flowers and vegetables from seed. To me, nothing is more miraculous, more mysterious or more gratifying. They say you reap what you sow. I disagree. I plant small unpalatable things that cost almost nothing and weigh no more than grains of sand or small buttons. And yet, what I harvest tastes better and is more nutritious than almost anything I could buy and saves me more than $1,000 a year at the grocery store. I buy mostly heirloom seeds – seeds from plants that have been passed down from generation to generation, and from plants whose seeds are not genetically modified or patented. A vegetable’s life ... Continue

A Kitchen Garden – Getting Started, part 2

Whether you have a week or a weekend, an acre or a window box, growing your own food is easy. All it takes is sunlight, warm days, water and some basic knowledge: 1) Fruits and vegetables like nutrient rich soil, dirt with microbes and minerals. Give a plant great soil, and the plant will give you great tasting produce full of nutritional value. Fruits and vegetables grown in poor soil don’t taste as good and aren’t as good for you. But be careful! Over-fertilizing causes plants to produce lots of leaves and not a lot of fruit. And it makes things taste bland. Follow the directions on store-bought fertilizer. Better still – make your own fertilizer aka compost. I’ll soon ... Continue

A Kitchen Garden – Getting Started, part 1

Growing your own food is easy. All you really need are warm days, sunlight, water, and a willingness to see things from the plants point of view. Here are a few things to know before you grow: 1) Choose your kitchen garden site carefully. Fruits and vegetables require a minimum of 6 hours of direct sunlight a day. 2) Choose varieties that don’t exceed the growing days in your area. Certain fruits and vegetables require more growing days than others to yield. Different regions have different numbers of growing days. While I’d love to, I don’t have bananas, papayas or coconuts in my Connecticut kitchen garden. Or even celery or artichokes. Our growing season is very short. And the snow ... Continue

Thomas Jefferson’s Passion For Vegetables May Surprise You!

Thomas Jefferson was one of the founding fathers of the United States.  He was the 3rd President, the primary author of the Declaration of Independence, a supporter of religious freedom and an inventor, among other things.  But why am I writing about him on a health and wellness blog? Well, this true Renaissance man, (and hero of mine, as I am a proud graduate of the University of Virginia, founded by Jefferson) was also a dedicated vegetable farmer, and he cultivated a wide range of plants numbering in excess of 300 different varieties. When I recently learned what a strong vegetable advocate he was, througha story on NPR’s All Things Considered, it pretty much blew my mind.  How could this ... Continue

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