Friday, August 21, 2015

Collecting and Saving Teeny Yellow Tomato Seeds



Today we have teeny yellow (and red) tomatoes coming out our yin-yan.

I am joyful with such abundance during a year of drought, and grateful for the friends who passed the wonderful little yellow tomato starter plants on to us (when we had opted not to grow tomatoes this year after a couple of bleak harvests).

These tomatoes were labeled "Tumblers".  My gardener-daughter-in-law was here earlier in the summer and exclaimed several times over how sweet and tasty the tiny yellow tomatoes were.. like candy.  Could she have some of the seed?

Soooo.... I am saving seeds... and with a method that will work for any other tiny tomato (grape, cherry, etc.).

HARVEST: For the best possible seed production, let your fruit ripen on the vine if at all possible (and you know that it happens quickly with these little tomatoes).  

If you want to ripen the little guys you save from the first frost, they WILL ripen, but slowly, and in a cool, dry location. Seeds will always be most viable if collected from fruits that have at least turned colour... and definitely MOST viable of all from a very ripe fruit.  (Of course, this is where you also get your very delicious flavour, from the vine-ripened tomato-- but try not to eat them all!  Save the Seeds!)

PROCESS: Working with little tomatoes is easy-peasy-- no arduous slicing and wasteful elimination of the flesh around the stem-- just slice them in half around their middle/equator.  

Gently squeeze or scoop out the seeds from the vertical cavitiesCareful work will give you the rest of the little gems to sun-dry (or dehydrate), add to a salad or other dishes, or just enjoy as they are! 
 
Put the gelatinous matter and seeds into a small jar.   If you use less than about a 1/2 of a 1/2-pint jar of seeds and jelly, then add a little water.  

Cover with something like a coffee filter held in place with a rubber band.  Put somewhere warm, around 65-70° F, 20C,  like the top of the fridge.

Leave the solution in a warm place for about 3 days, stirring daily.

A surprising black fungus mat will develop over the surface of the mixture after just a couple of days.  But the GOOD NEWS is that this nasty looking fungus is a super-bonus: not only does the fungus consume the jelly gook
 that coats each seed and stops  germination but it also forms antibiotics that interrupt production of seed-borne diseases (such as canker, bacterial spot, and speck.) 
Finally, about the fourth day, pour warm water up to the rim of the jar.  Allow  the contents to settle and pour off the slowlyPulp and immature seeds will float on the top, and exit with the water. The heavier 'viable seeds' will sink to the bottom of the jar and nestle together there.  
Viable seeds will sink to the bottom of the jar


Re-fill the jar with warm water and pour it off repetitively until you are satisfied that the seeds that line the bottom of the jar are the clean, viable seeds you are looking for.  

Tip the clean seeds into a fine strainer and let the last droplets of water drain 

Turn the strainer upside down over a paper towel or piece of newspaper. Let the seeds dry completely (takes a day or two).

Gently separate the clumps into individual seeds,  and store in a small envelope, plastic bag, or plastic pill container.  I read somewhere about someone's grandfather who unreeled a toilet tissue roll and let the seeds dry there, then rolled it back up again to have a ready made seed mat for planting. 

 Label.

You can find this article on my Pinterest board for Tiny Tomatoes, along with a couple of dozen great recipes for Tiny Tomatoes... 
 and here is a favourite easy recipe for that abundance:
Oven-Fry Garlic Tiny Tomatoes: Pre-set oven to 350F. Mix tomato halves in bowl with Olive Oil, cracked Black Pepper, Minced Garlic, a little Celtic Sea Salt or Kosher Salt.  Bake for 20-25 minutes.  Use as a pasta sauce too!
 

Monday, July 6, 2015

Delightful Crunchy Sunflower Seed Pesto Recipe



Looking for a delicious way to use your yummy fresh garden basil  but almost had a heart attack when you saw the cost of pine nuts for the pesto recipe?   Subbing home-toasted sunflower seeds will give you a very tasty crunchy pesto for a fraction of the cost of pine nuts! 

Ingredients
  • 1 C. raw, organic, shelled Sunflower Seeds
  • 1 tsp. Celtic Sea Salt
  • 3 - 4 Garlic cloves
  • 2+ tsp. fresh-squeezed Lemon Juice
  • 4 C. lightly-packed Basil leaves
  • 1/2 C. extra virgin Olive Oil
Method
  1. In skillet over medium heat, combine Seeds and Salt, and stirring throughout, toast until most seeds are golden (careful not to burn!).  Remove from heat and cool.
  2. Combine all ingredients --except Olive Oil-- in food processor.
  3. Process while drizzling Olive Oil through the top opening.
  4. Store in mason jar in the fridge.  Makes about 2 C. Delicious on pasta, pizza, crackers, brioche, toast, or as the crunchy crust on a  cheese ball.
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Sunday, May 31, 2015

Yummy 3-Ingredient Organic Breakfast Cookies






You may already have come across these delicious breakfast cookies but thought: "hey, where's the good stuff? The sugar? The eggs? The fat?"  Well, the good stuff is all in the ingredients-- this is a whole food recipe which means we aren't using derivatives, we're using the real food, and it doesn't need to be gussied up with animal products to have incredible mouth appeal (that is what fatty, sugary, salty, custard-y textures and tastes contribute).  So, I say, try 'em and if you're disappointed, well, add some of the other ingredients...

Organic Breakfast Cookies (rainbow effect thanks to a crystal on my kitchen window sill)
INGREDIENTS (all organic and non-GMO)
    • 3 well-mashed Bananas
    • 1 C. Old-Fashioned Oat Flakes
    • 1/4 C. Chia Seed Gel
You can go with these 3-- pretty delicious by all counts-- or you can add in one or several of the following:
  • 1/4 C. chopped Nuts (I like pecans) or Seeds
  • 1/4 C. unsweetenened Coconut shreds
  • 1/4 C. Raisins or dried berries, figs, apricots, etc.
  •  1 tsp. grated fresh Ginger or 1 tsp. Cinnamon or 1/2 tsp. Nutmeg, etc.
  • 1/4 C. Apple Sauce
  • Sprinkle of Celtic Sea Salt
  • 1/4 C. Carob powder with 1 tsp. Cinnamon
  • ?? (what did you try that isn't listed above? How did it turn out? Please tell in comments below.
INSTRUCTIONS:
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F./180 C.
  2. Combine everything until well mixed
  3. Drop 12 cookies onto a cookie sheet covered by a silicone mat or parchment paper
  4. Bake for 15 - 25 minutes (different preferences, different ovens)
  5. Cool.  Eat in-hand as a cookie or, as my husband prefers, in a small stack with almond milk on top (like a super-rich, sticky banana porridge). However you eat them, they are 'natural' and yummy and easy on the digestion!
Here is a link to a very interesting presentation on the nutritional status of GMOs -- explained very clearly by Dr. Thierry Vrain, a soil scientist who worked for Agriculture Canada for many years.   If you are still confused about whether GMOs are over-played by the health nuts or terrifyingly justified by the Frankin-monster agro-industrialist supporters, this is a good video to watch for basic scientific understanding. 

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Make Your Own Seed Mats (for Tiny Seeds)




This year I am excited to be trying a new technique (or me) for carrot planting... I am going to make my own seeding mats!

Have you ever planted carrots and either been overwhelmed by all the seeds that burst through in one spot, making it difficult to thin them without pulling up too many, or just feeling how wasteful it is to be aborting all those potential wonderful carrots?

PLANTING CARROT SEEDS IS THE HARDEST PART OF GROWING CARROTS

Carrot seeds are teeny-tiny.  It is difficult to see them when you plant and because they are so light you will sometimes find them flying about willy-nilly.  Here are some methods you can use to lessen these frustrations:
  1. Buy "pelleted seeds"-- these are various tiny seeds with a clay coating that make them easier to see and work with.  The coating needs to be kept moist during the planting process and eventually falls away.  They are fairly pricey ($6+ for 100 seeds).  Order HERE.
  2. Buy Seed Mats or strips.  These are generally tiny seeds stuck to a sheet or 'tape' / strip of  light fibre paper (newsprint quality) that breaks down as the seeds are watered and as they germinate and grow.  The idea is that the seeds are arranged in the intervals that you would use if they had already been thinned.  This saves time and money.  
  3. Make your own Seed Mats or Strips!  Save money and time when you are getting pretty close to a carrot with every couple of seeds you plant**!  Recipe below.
WHEN TO PLANT CARROTS

Carrots generally like a cooler start, so it is good to plant at the optimal Spring planting time in your area (April-May generally).  However, most plants will respond if planted during the later part of the Spring, and carrots for our area can be planted at three week intervals until July, as well as sown in August for a winter crop (until freezing).  I'm LATE getting started with my garden this year because we spent a delightful week+ with our granddaughters.  It's a sacrifice I'm willing to make!

PREPPING THE SOIL

Dig the soil deep.  Carrots like a loose, well-drained bed.  My organic farmer son suggests that a sandy soil works well for carrots.  He grows monster carrots.  I'm going to use something a little more like Mel's Blend (the Square Foot Garden Guy) because I'm using round containers to plant this fussy, beautiful Rainbow blend.  

Don't walk on your carrot beds-- they need to be kept loosy-goosy-- which is why container gardening (or square foot or raised beds) work so well for growing carrots.  I'm going to use a blend of an organic black top soil that is from an "ancient" un-farmed bog area somewhere on the Island where I live (hope it wasn't a septic field-- sort of smells like it) along with some of our own compost and maybe I will mix in some precious (read: expensive and hard to locate) vermiculite.  

If you are a novice carrot gardener, you can find some soil blends here.  If you are using a container, you could always opt for the ready-made-up container blends for veggie growing.  If possible, opt for organic and non-GMO (read: NOT Miracle Gro).

MAKING THE SEED MATS
  1. Using some rough paper (undyed, untreated as much as possible) you can clip it to the shape of the container you are going to use, or into strips or squares that you will fit your square foot garden.
  2. I put my raw tissue paper (it had been used to pack some dishes I bought and seems pretty natural) on a pizza sheet for easy transport and designed it to fit my large planter container.
  3. Make up the "glue" by cooking together (stirring or whisking constantly to keep smooth) 1/3 C. of Corn Starch to 1 C. Cold Water.  When finished it will resemble lemon pie filling.
  4. Set the "glue" aside to cool.
  5. When it is cool, spoon the goop into a baggy where you have clipped out  a corner (or use an icing bag) and deposit pea-shaped globs at the intervals on your sheet indicated by your seed packet (example: my packet reads that small plants will need to be spaced about 1 1/2 - 4" apart so I will do my globs accordingly.)
  6. Drop 2-3 seeds in each glob and let dry.
PLANTING THE MAT
  1. Before planting, even out the soil with a rake or hand, and tamp down gently.  Water well.  Lay down the paper mat, seeds facing upwards, and mist or lightly shower until the paper and seeds are completely wet.  Cover (lightly) the paper mat with vermiculite, light potting soil or moss.
  2. As the carrots begin to germinate (taking 2-3 weeks) and grow, you will likely want to water them up to several times a day to keep the paper wet at all times.  The carrots will eventually push through whatever paper is left and begin their rooty-tooty descent downwards as their lovely ferny tops grow upwards.
  3. If you decide to produce your own seed (which will only happen with fertile seed, not with more hybrids), just let a carrot continue to live underground with unmolested tops.  In time-- with the right carrot-- it will produce a flower head that resembles the Queen Anne's Lace that you may have growing as a weed in your yard.  Then you can go ahead and save your own seed for next season's planting!

**Getting a carrot for every seed you plant is, of course, conditional on: (1)the germination rate of the seed you are using-- example, my Rainbow Blend is listed as having a rate of 60% (or more than half of all seeds planted) for seeds that are under  3 years old, (2)keeping the seed bed moist during germination, (3)the weather conditions, (4)your soil conditions, (5)whether those "pesky wabbits" are lurking about awaiting your crop.  Don't worry though, because carrots generally produce enough if they germinate and you look after them sufficiently during the course of the season.  The mats will cut down on the initial having to 'thin' out redundant seedlings and make for a nice orderly seed bed.
Aren't these pretty??

A TASTE OF OTHER CARROT BLOG POSTS:

Eating A Rainbow of Carrots
Crazy Carrot Cake Oatmeal Porridge recipe
Pan Fried Roast Carrot Sticks
Chickpea and Carrot Curry

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