Saving Heirloom Seeds: Quick and easy how-to without the fermentation process

We’ve had three light frosts here in the Thumb of Michigan already. I’m not ready to loose my garden… not yet… I’m just not ready. I still need to feel the life that it provides me with.  I still need to touch it’s bounty…

I just started harvesting the Roma beans.

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The lettuces are quite big enough to be transplanted into the hoop house.

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The two fall zucchini plants are just making their babies.  I just don’t want to see my gardens die yet…

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But my gardens are getting tired and beginning to show the signs of all its hard work.

Fall has moved in even though I’m not done with summer. But it’s here and there’s work to be done in preparation for the all to soon coming wicked days of winter.

Along with all the food preservation that I do each year, I also preserve something else… my seeds for next years garden and bounty.

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So why save your own seeds? Just buy them right? Well… that’s an option and if you purchase seeds from local, small family owned businesses you’re keeping your dollars within your community or at least your state.

But for me, I’m interested in being self-sufficient and not relying on seed companies, local or not to feed me and my family. It’s very important for me to know what I’m getting and where it’s been.

Saving my seeds also saves me money and depending on the size of ones garden, this can be a substantial amount.

Today lets look at a quick and easy how-to on saving Heirloom seeds without the fermentation process.

*The reason that some people teach and stress the fermentation process is because some believe there’s a better chance of killing any and all bacteria’s that may be in the produce.

NOTE: I’ve been using the following method that I’m about to show you for over 10 years and I have never once had problems with disease or poor germination.

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Step 1: It’s very important to find as perfectly shaped specimens as possible, harvested when fully ripe off a disease free plant to ensure successful seed saving.

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Step 2:  Using the small end of a melon baller, carefully scoop out the seeds. You’ll get some pulp but that’s fine for now.

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Step 3: Using your fingertips, separate the seeds from the pulp as best you can. You won’t be able to get it all.

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Step 4: Put the semi-cleaned seeds in a colander and wash with cold water. Gently press the remaining pulp through the holes being careful not to damage the seeds.

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Step 5: Place a paper towel folded in half and then half again so it’s 4x thickness on a paper plate and put the washed seeds on it. Be sure they’re in a single layer and not mounded one on top of another.  Be sure to label your paper towel by writing directly on it or using a sticker as I’ve done here.  Allow the seeds to dry on your counter for 2-3 weeks being sure to keep them out of direct sunlight. Once you’re sure they’re dry, fold the paper towel in half and store in a labeled zip-lock baggie and keep in your freezer till next spring.

This method of seed saving can be done with all seeds that come from ‘juicy’ fruit or vegetables. Here are a few other photo’s of my saved seeds.

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This red tomato is my Russian Big Roma and I’ve been saving the seeds for well over ten years. This is one of my favorite tomatoes. Because I’ve carefully selected only perfectly shaped and the largest tomatoes each year, the plants from these seeds will produce plants that are stronger, more disease resistant with larger fruits/veggie.

Saving your own seeds will be one of the most rewarding things you’ll ever do for your family.  Knowing that the produce you eat, grow, harvest, preserve and eat again each year has been possible because of your efforts…. this will give you a sense of true accomplishment.

Happy Day,
Jean

Freezing Vegetables: A simple guide to freezing your gardens bounty

It’s August and the garden is overflowing with her beautiful gifts of that earthy goodness… fruits and veggies are abounding into our outstretched hands as if to say, “Thank-you!” for the tender care we provided from seedtime through the harvest.

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The watering and weeding… mulching and now tenderly picking it’s gift telling them in their plant language to keep on going, just a little bit longer. Until we finally say, “All done!” and with broken heart of yet another completed life cycle we pull out that tired and faithful friend. But it’s not done there… now it’ll be composted and then in newness of life return into the soil into which it came next spring… once again aiding us into the new birth of yet another gardening season.

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I love to write about gardening… it’s a passion that my soul hungers and thirsts after.  But more importantly, I love to teach you, my reader friends about this passion. I long to stir up a desire in you. To create that longing. A burning desire to touch the soil. To dig. To toil. To reap.

What we sow we will reap… if, if, and only if we toiled for it. The reaping is at hand and the bounty is in. My can shelves and freezers are filling up and time is ticking. They’re lives are coming to the end…. and my dear little plants know it.

The nights have been strangely cold for what we would expect from our Michigan August. Sunday morning at 6:30am it was 49 degrees… that’s cold… too cold for tomatoes to ripen, even in the hoop house.

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But onward we go with what we have and so we must put-up all that garden goodness.  With it we can continue to linger in the garden through winters dead days, if only in a faded memory, as we prepare our meals and relish in that victory of self-sufficiency.

Canning, freezing, dehydrating, dry-curing and fermentation are a few of the methods to store the food that we have grown and raised.  I thought I’d touch base on the two that I have the most experience with, freezing and canning.

Today lets look at freezing fruits and veggies. Learning to put-up the produce that you have grown or have purchased is a key ingredient into self sufficiency and food freedom.  You know what you’re putting into that jar or baggie… you are in control, especially if you grew it. But even if you didn’t, get to know a farmer that you can trust and get organic produce that you can feel safe and good about feeding your family.

Here’s a Guide to Freezing Fruit.
I found this guide at Mother Earth News… and thought, “Why try to re-invent the wheel?” So here is their info with a link to more below.

“Depending on how you intend to use it, there are three ways to freeze fruit.”

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Dry Pack: A dry pack is good for small whole fruits such as berries. Simply pack clean, dried fruit into a container, seal, label and freeze. A tray pack is an alternative that can make fruit easier to remove from the container. Spread a single layer of fruit on shallow trays without letting pieces touch, and freeze. When frozen, package and return to the freezer—fruit pieces remain loose and can be poured from the container easily.

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Sugar Pack: Many fruits freeze well packed with sugar. To prevent darkening, first combine lemon juice or ascorbic acid in water (about 1/2 teaspoon per 3 tablespoons) and sprinkle over fruit. Pour sugar over fruit and mix gently. Let stand until juice is drawn out and sugar dissolved, about 15 minutes. Package, label, seal and freeze. Sugar packs are effective for sliced apples, apricots, cherries, peaches, nectarines, raspberries and strawberries.

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Syrup Pack: Nearly all fruits can be preserved in syrup. To make syrup, dissolve sugar in lukewarm water (a medium-heavy syrup is 1-3⁄4 cups sugar to 4 cups water), mixing until solution is clear. Chill syrup before using. Use just enough cold syrup to cover fruit in the container (about 1⁄2 to 2⁄3 cup syrup per pint). To keep fruit under syrup, place crumpled parchment paper or other water-resistant wrapping material on top, and press fruit down into syrup before sealing the container

Read more: http://www.motherearthliving.com/food-and-recipes/food-preservation/guide-to-freezing-food-zmoz13jazmel.aspx#ixzz2buFiyDsI

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Here’s a simple guide to freezing vegetables.
Vegetables are a little different because they typically need to be blanched or steamed, with a few exceptions. I only steam my veggies because as soon as the produce is submerged into the water (blanching), the nutritional benefits decrease significantly. Steaming doesn’t take as long either because you’re not dumping your water every time with the vegetable.

You’ll need to decide how large you want the packages. I do most everything in 1 quart (4 cups). This allows each of my family members to half a 1/2 cup serving.

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Each vegetable has a different steaming time due to it’s size, density and thickness. Here’s a guide that I found that will give you almost every ‘common’ and a few not so common steaming times for over 40 vegetables. This was a keeper for me.
http://www.healwithfood.org/chart/vegetable-steaming-times.php

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Here’s what I do with the veggies that don’t need any processing.:

*Zucchini and yellow summer squash- I freeze 2 cups of shredded summer squash in freezer bags because most recipes call for that amount.

*Onions are easy to freeze and are so handy to have already chopped, diced or sliced.  I typically use ‘snack’ sized baggies and place 1cup of onion into it. Then I place as many of the baggies as will fit into a gallon size freezer storage bag. Every time I need chopped onion for a recipe all I need to do is grab a baggie and toss the onion in. Great for soups, chilies and anything that calls for sauted onions.

*Peppers- hot or sweet again are great to have in the freezer. I chop and slice these- I like the chopped ones for chilies, omelettes and homemade pizza, while I prefer the slices for fajita’s and stir fries.  I typically lay the slices onto cookie sheets and place in the freezer. Once nearly frozen I use a turner to pop them up and then keep them in one gallon ice cream buckets. I like to put the chopped pepper into snack size baggies like the onions and store them the same way.

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Here is my Pesto recipe that I freeze! Enjoy friends.

Pesto

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2 cups Olive Oil
1 Tbsp. sea salt
1/3 cup Parmesan cheese, shredded
2-4 whole, de-skinned garlic cloves- end trimmed
Put all these ingredients into a blender and blend until completely mixed.

Add 1/2 cup, packed tightly fresh parsley leaves; blend until thoroughly  blended.

Add 1 cup, packed tightly fresh basil leaves; blend until thoroughly blended.

Put into 1/2 cup pint jelly jars or plastic containers. Freeze for up to 1 year.

Enjoy over pasta with some yummy homemade dinner buns!

I hope this not only taught you some useful, but also got you excited about getting your hands and kitchen dirty. I always say, “I’d rather spend a day or two of hard work putting up food so my family can eat good for the whole year!”

Happy Day,
Jean

Serendipity Discovered, My Banister Garden and Butternut Squash and Bacon Quiche

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As you stroll through my garden’s you’ll notice many unusual things sprinkled here and there… peaking out of a cluster of tulips or bowing over a rash planting of zinnias… Friends say that I have a flair for mixing my passion for plants and garden junque, marrying them together into welcoming and intriguing garden rooms. As I place these abandoned and unappreciated objects throughout my gardens it allows me to express my passions using my innate creativity.

Recycling things that no one else wants is something I enjoy doing… I can see the ‘practical’ and artistic use of an old fashioned metal canner… a rusty old wagon wheel… wooden crates or drawers… a wash tub or even more exciting, a derelict water trough… tin buckets, old wheel barrows… garden bikes, chairs… oh the list could go on and on! In my last post I talked about that discovered element… stumbling upon some tiny treasure you’ve been unknowingly looking for. My eye has become quite keen to spotting usable junque at estate sales, thrift shops and even along the curbside. My minds eye is in tune with what I love in my gardens. I’ve been to sales and there and behold an old wooden crate and tin bucket cast off in a corner… yes that will sit beautifully on my porch topped by that tin bucket over flowing with double petunia’s in it!

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As my friends and I walk and talk meandering here and there I watch their faces… I delight in seeing the shocked look at how cute 'they think' my antique metal canner's look planted up with purple pansies… how whimsical that old banister appears in the garden surrounded by a cascade of nasturtiums… and the 'wow' when they see hot pink geraniums in a white enamelware bucket that now sits on a rickety old chair… I love inspiring people, especially in the home and garden.

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I name all of my gardens. When we bought our home the upstairs railing was kicked in and totally destroyed by the previous owners… but a beautiful, old white banister still stood. As the men were removing what was left of it and getting ready to toss everything in a ‘junk’ pile, I was quick to say, “Hold on to that! That’s not junk… that is going in a garden!”… and so was born my Banister Garden.

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Here is my rendition of my Banister Garden. This garden is just under 200 square feet.

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1. Knock Out Rose Bushes- 2 pink
2. Daylily- 2 orange
3. Creeping Phlox- 3 lavender
4. Burning Bush shrub
5. Lavender- Hidcotte
6. Peony- 2 pink
7. Bee’s Balm planted behind Antique Two Burner Antique Canner filled with geraniums. The Banister stands behind the Bee’s Balm
8. Hydrangea- old fashioned white- just planted last summer
9. Iris- purple
10. Purple Bell Flower
11. Varrigated Sedum
12. Purple Ruffles Basil
13. Spirea- pink
~I have a garden chair that sets in the garden and I usually have a tin bucket planted up on it.
This garden like the Side and Bistro was dug up and replanted as well. I didn’t do all of these gardens in one year, it has been a process going on since 2009. This garden has had many faces as you will see in the photo’s at the end of this post under the recipes.

I’m a bargain shopper when it comes to plants as well as for garden junque. If I can’t grow it myself, swap or get from a family member or friend then I wait for stuff to go on clearance. In 2011 I ‘stumbled’ upon a great deal at a big box store on a couple Knock Out rose bushes. They were discounted 75%… now I never would have paid the full price for these even with all the hype about them… I can’t say that anymore! They are worth every penny… honestly, they don’t stop blooming except for about two weeks in mid summer. I would like to get several more and make a hedge with them in another garden… I always have a garden plan in mind!

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Here are some idea’s for things to combine in your gardens!
*Tin or Enamelware buckets with either geraniums or double petunias.
*Wash tubs- I purchase nice big hanging baskets and plant them right into them… instant wow! I have also planted them with cascading nasturtiums. (see photo).
*Wooden crates and drawers- I like to incorporate right into my gardens. I will take the bottoms out bury part way, fill with dirt and then plant herbs or again hanging baskets. I also like to use crates on my front porch as both planters and as objects to place other pots on.

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*Tea Kettles, coffee pots, old oil cans, any other type of metal container plant worthy. I have planted succulents like Hen’s & Chicks in these, pansies and petunias.
*Mailboxes- I have not done this, (yet) but I have seen some really cool ones done up. You need to use a ‘top’ door type- one where the top opens and the mail drops in (see photo at my blog 😉 )
…here are a few other ideas of some things I have seen, but haven’t done and don’t really fit into my garden scheme, but may be of interest to others…
*Old fashioned claw foot bath tubs- I would plant something tall down the entire center- zinnia’s, cosmos, cleome or all and then have something that trails out all around the edges- Wave Petunias, trailing nasturtiums.
*Row boat or other nautical piece- I would bury it and then do as with the bath tub- height and cascade
*Antique Metal Bed frame- Plant the bed’s legs or just set the frame down on the ground and then using appropriate flowers, plant a design of a quilt block- obviously not too detailed- maybe a Bow Tie, Diamond, Nine Patch or something along those lines.
… there are many other ‘found’ objects that you can use… be creative, you know what you like!
~The key to using any type of container is proper drainage!

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We are still in the grips of winter and here is Michigan we just got another six inches of the white stuff… so today I thinking comfort food! Enjoy friends!
Butternut Squash and Bacon Quiche

All purpose flour for rolling
1 recipe Flaky Pie dough (below)
8 slices bacon (Off course Garden Gates!)
1 medium yellow onion, halved and thinly sliced
Salt & pepper
3/4 pound butternut squash, peeled, halved and very thinly sliced
8 large eggs
1/2 c whole milk
1/2 c heavy cream
6 fresh sage leaves

1. Preheat oven to 350 digress. On a lightly floured work surface, roll out dough to an 11×15 inch rectangle. Transfer to a 9×13 inch baking pan. Fold edges of dough so sides are about 1 inch high. Prick dough all over with a fork and freeze until firm, 15 minutes. Press on dough, draping over rim of pan. Bake until crust is firm and edges are lightly browned, about 35– 45 minutes or until bottom is dry and light golden.
2. Meanwhile, in a large skillet, cook bacon over medium until almost crisp, 10 minutes, flipping once. Drain bacon on paper towels. Add onion to skillet, season with salt & pepper, and cook, stirring often, until golden brown, 10 minutes. Spread mixture evenly in crust. Top with squash, overlapping slices and adding a piece of bacon every few rows.
3. In a bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, and cream; season with salt 7 pepper. Pour enough egg mixture over filling to just reach top of crust. Top with sage. Bake until set in center and puffed at edges, 45 minutes. Let cool 15 minutes.

FLAKY PIE DOUGH:

In a food processor, pulse 1 1/4 c all purpose flour and 1/2 tsp slat to combine. Add 1/2 c cold unsalted butter, cut in 1/2 inch pieces; pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal, with a few pea size pieces of butter remaining. Sprinkle with 2 tbsp ice water; pulse until dough is crumbly but holds together when squeezed (if necessary, add up to 2 tbsp more water, 1 tbsp at a time). Form dough in a 1 inch thick rectangle, wrap tightly in plastic, and refrigerated until firm, 1 hour or up to 3 days).

“So… what are you going to do with a rickety old wooden chair with chipped paint Jean?” my husband asks me…”It’s serendipity Neil….”
Happy Day,
Jean
Please check out, Like and Share my Facebook page for my Dragonfly friends for daily extra recipes, photo’s and more at
http://www.facebook.com/pages/For-Dragonflies-And-Me/550000798362651?skip_nax_wizard=true

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This photo was taken in Spring of 2009. This was the first ‘face’ she had… the tulips were beautiful and the creeping phlox looked stunning. Notice the lattice on the side of the front porch… The wisteria that now covers that side of the porch was just a baby in this photo.

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Here is a photo of the same garden, same spot but taken in 2012. You can see it is deeper and quite a bit different. The burning bush in the far left corner is larger and now there is the spirea bush in the front right corner.

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This photo was taken in Summer 2011. You can see the black ground cover still laying around the edges from the ‘re-do’ that this garden received early in the spring.

The Organic Life: How To Get There and More Market Fresh Recipe’s!

What does Organic mean to you?  I think everyone reading this would have somewhat of a different answer.  Personally,  I want ‘organic’ to be the way I breath, eat and sleep… it’s the life style I want for myself and my family… it’s a personal choice… you can’t make someone ‘believe’ it if they don’t want to or they don’t care.  An organic life style isn’t easy by any definition of the word… especially if you live in the city! No offense there my city dwelling friends! I have come to understand your back yard isn’t even your own to grow your food if that is what you want to do… that is unless you get ‘their’ permission.  This is incredulous to me… as many of you who know me personally and have leaned over my market table where we have vented together on these issues!  So many of you ask me for advice on chickens, gardening and canning… I wish so badly I could do more than just give you ‘tips’… but that is where it’s at I guess.  So today I am going to give some reference materials along with more ‘tips’ on how to get a piece of the organic life for yourselves… and of course some more yummy market fresh recipes!  Enjoy friends!
What are most organic minded people searching for in their quest for this life style that is sure to better for them?  How do they change their eating, their basic hygiene habits and all the ‘normal’ stuff they have done for years?  Well in today’s world of the educated consumer and the ready to make a dollar industry, the choices are by far greater than when I started this journey.  Just about every grocery & big box store carries an organic line of everything imaginable.  But this is only the basics right?  What about going deeper… like the know where the stuff comes from… who processed it… who raised it… getting it from the hand that washed that beautiful brown, farm fresh egg… that’s what the search is really about… the knowing!  …and it’s important, no matter what ‘they’ try to tell you! There is this instinct within you that just want’s to raise some of your own food in your very own garden, preserve what you’ve grown… canning some of your own pickles and making your own strawberry jam… bake some bread like grandma use too… have a few chickens, gather those eggs, wash them with your own two hands and then fry em’ up. There are so many roads to this life. I love reading about people who left the rat race and said enough is enough… they go out to reclaim what they know was a part of their ancestory… the simple life… where you can hear the crickets chirping and see the milky way up in the starlit night, where the ‘light’ pollution doesn’t distort it all… dirt roads and pasture fields all around… not screaming sirens and blaring ‘booming’ radio’s… the good life!  I can preach all this stuff because we did it… almost sixteen years ago… It wasn’t and still isn’t easy… there have been many bumps in the road and I realize that not everyone can do this… but I have never regretted it and I will never go back! 
           
Here are some idea’s to grow by…  * Growing your own food is probably the first attempt that most folks make… after all grandma & grandpa always had a garden!  I remember being a child sitting in the middle of the long pea rows eating those beautiful and oh so yummy peas right out of the pod.  Grabbing hold of that carrot top and washing it under the spicket and crunch!  Garden fresh goodness at it’s best!  You will never know more satisfaction in your life than planting a seed or a seedling, nurturing it and then eating from the works of your very own hands… your own sweat and sore back… you will savor every mouthful to the fullest and you will make sure everyone cleans their plate!
           
*Canning is typically the next step… I think for reason of necessity because you got a lot out of that garden and now what do you do with it…. along with the sheer desire to preserve some of that goodness that you grew!  There is much to be learned in this field but once you have your main supplies and a couple sessions under your belt, you will quickly become an old pro and look forward to the harvest!
*Finding your local Farmer’s Market… some folks can’t or simply don’t have the space for a garden, much less a chicken coop!  The next best thing is definitely going to your local market and supporting the farmers that work so hard to bring you all those beautiful piles of healthy food every week!  Knowing where your goods come from seems to be by far the most important element in this journey… As all our market friends know, I love to talk… especially about gardening and canning!  Be sure to talk to your farmers and producers… we are all usually pretty excited about chatting about what we do… after all it’s our passions that have brought us to you at the market!   
*Energy saving seems to be right up there in the importance level… wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could all go solar or wind powered?  But again, reality needs to set in and that is not a possibility for most either.  Although when you shop local and directly from the farmer/producer you are saving!  You are saving fuel from the transportation of trucking in food from all across the country and the world.  Try using bio-degradable home products and recycling… these all help… every little bit counts! 
*Plastic is a big no-no to most as well… we love when our market friends come with their recyclable grocery bags and we try to encourage all to use them. We also encourage our customers to bring us their clean, empty plastic clam shell containers- we re-use them each week for the produce that goes into our CSA shares!  If you are at the market and you see one of the farmers selling eggs, most will gladly take your clean, gently used old egg cartons and reuse them each week as well.
*Body, Baby & Home care  products aren’t such a challenge any longer either… again, most stores carry organic lines and thankfully there are many on-line catalogs that supply a wide variety of products.  I do believe that this area is equally as important as the food we eat!  The harsh chemicals that we slather all over our bodies goes into the blood stream and I believe will eventually effect us in a very negative way!
*We even have the availability of organic clothing and other fiber products… again you can go to many farmers markets and find fiber producers.  They are often found by lamb, llama or the like farmers… these farmers then have the ability to produce wool, batting, etc. for you.
*You can incorporate these practices right down to gift giving. I know I have been guilty of not wanting to spend that extra couple bucks on so-and-so when they don’t even care about any of this ‘stuff’!  But you know what?  It just might be the seed that needs to be planted in a friends life… if you start the ball rolling with an organic and Eco-friendly gift they may do some deeper research or really like the product and then..

Here is a list of some really good books, magazines and sites that will help you on your way!

“A Slice of Organic Life”, Editor-in-Chief Sheherazade Goldsmith, Foreword by Alice Waters; Published by DK, discover more at www.dk.com

Organic Gardening Magazine, www.organicgardening.com
Countryside  & Small Stock  Journal, www.courntrysidemag.com 
Edible WOW Magazine, www.ediblewow.com
Taproot Magazine,
www.taprootmag.com
Mary Janes Farm Magazine, www.maryjanesfarm.org
Hobby Farm Magazine, www.hobbyfarm.com
Acres USA Magazine
Local Harvest,
www.localharvest.org
Local Dirt, www.localdirt.com
ATTRA, www.attra.ncal.org
Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Catalog, www.rareseed.com
Fedco Seed Company, www.fedco.com
Vitacost catalog- body/home care products, www.vitacost.com

More Yummy Market Fresh Recipes!
It’s summer and the bounty is on… lets cook!

Oven Dried Tomatoes
Tomatoes… as many as you like or have room to do.
Sea Salt
olive Oil
Fresh Thyme
Fresh Garlic, minced

1. Coat cookie sheet lightly with olive oil; preheat oven to 200 degrees.
2. Slice tomatoes about 1/2 inch thick; single layer them on coated cookie sheet; sprinkle with salt and fresh thyme leaves; sprinkle minced garlic over top- amount of garlic is a personal choice.  Experiment until you get the desired flavor you would like.
3. Bake for about 1 1/2 to 2 hours, checking every fifteen minutes to make sure they don’t dry out. 
4. Store in freezer bag for up to 3 months or in refrigerator in sealed container for about a week.

Summer Time Salsa
10 Roma type tomatoes, chopped
1 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
1/2 cup red onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. sea salt
1/2 cup olive oil
2 tbsp. lemon juice
tortilla chips

Combine all the ingredients in a bowl; mix thoroughly; chill in fridge for at least 2 hours to let flavors blend.
Serve with chips

Bacon Stuffed Cherry Tomatoes
1 lb. Garden Gate Bacon… of course
1 pint cherry tomatoes~ larger types if possible, from Garden Gate
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup red onion, finely chopped
2 Tbsp. fresh parsley, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1/4 tsp. pepper

1. Set aside prepared bacon on paper towels to drain off excess fat.
2. Cut a thin slice off the top of each cherry tomato- discard tops.
3. Use the small scoop of a melon baller to hollow out tomato; discard pulp.
4. Combine remaining ingredients in a bowl and blend well; spoon mixture into hollowed out tomatoes. Refrigerated until chilled and serve.

Happy Day,
Jean