Monday, January 25, 2016

How to Grow A Tomato from a Grocery Store or Farm Gate Tomato

Growing stuff from your lunch fruit and veggies is a great idea! That lettuce and tomato sandwich you are planning for lunch could potentially give you back several times more lettuce leaves and tomato slices than you started with.

And showing a friend or grandchild how you grew your tomato from seeds that you gently removed before you made a sandwich, well, wouldn't that be fun?

Before you get going with the growing, here are a few tips:
  1. Choose a nice ripe heirloom variety of tomato to purchase... the riper, the better, and if it is a heirloom (very old strain of seed that hasn't been tampered with, we're assuming) the seeds will more likely germinate, and grow into a "true" fruit-- something you will recognize as being like the tomato you had on your sandwich.  You may have to pay a little more, but you will enjoy the tomato on your sandwich, plus you will be assured of its 'coming back'.  If you buy it in tomato harvest season from a farm gate (that is, from a farmer with a veggie stand) or at a farmers' market or a local wholefood store that supports local growers, you will definitely increase your chances of getting the kind of produce you are dreaming of.
  2. Depending on where you live, and whether or not you have a greenhouse, you will likely not be planting your tomato seeds for a while after you have purchased the tomato and removed the seeds.  You can, however, check to see if you have seeds that will germinate... either put them in a damp paper towel in a baggy for a few days and check for sprouts, or grow them up in an egg carton with some damp, fine compost, covered with plastic wrap until they pop through (if they do).  
  3. Dry the seeds first, and if you have a type of small tomato (like Tom Thumb, for example) you can check out these directions for preserving your seeds.  This might seem a whole lot more veggie-nerdy than you were counting on, but believe me, if you do it the "right way" and end up with a bright and beautiful mass of these gems you will be soooo appreciative of the extra efforts!
  4. Here is the way to plant a tomato from a slice of a store-bought Beefsteak you were going to toss:
  5. That's the one!  Now go head and slice the top off and then take a slim slice under that......
Lay that slice, cut side down, on moist soil -- I am using a peat pot but any pot will do
Now go ahead and sprinkle a layer of soil over that.

Let the seeds sprout (7-14 days).  There will likely be a mass of sprouts.  Let them grow and pick the three or four strongest and transplant plant each carefully in its own pot.  Move into light and lightly fertilize.  With several leaves you can move into the garden.

**Unfortunately some seeds are sterile and while they will produce a plant, they will not produce fruit!**

Here are a couple of great videos that can fill in the gaps around actually growing from scratch (well, seed) and answer questions you might have:
 The fellow in this video found this huge ripe heirloom tomato in his local grocery store.  He takes the seeds out and talks about a fermenting process he uses with the seeds.
Jeremiah Jones with a clearly presented video on how to save your tomato seeds, and clean them up for storage.  He also emphasizes that a heirloom tomato is a good choice for collecting seeds.

The presentation is the most comprehensive of the three-- shows the "paper towel method" of collecting and planting seeds, and the process of fermentation.  He also demonstrates how he uses the dehydrator to fully dry his seeds.  And he is fairly funny (bonus).

Have a look HERE at some other plants you can grow yourself cheap or free! 

Friday, January 22, 2016

How To Grow An Avocado Plant from A Pit

Most of us avocado-lovers have at least tried to grow an avocado plant from a pit with 4 toothpicks resting along the rim of a jar of water.  As below:
Courtesy of Wikipedia
Some of us have had luck in that the pit sprouted within about six weeks and we were able to transfer the sprouted pit to a pot of soil and have a "tree" grow in the container.  Some of us faithfully kept the tepid water going and never saw a sprout, ever, until we finally faced the music and threw the fruitless pit away!

The avocado plant was a big hit in the 70s when I was at University.  As I recall, avocados had only fairly recently been introduced as edible fare into our Vancouver mindsets, and we were thrilled and excited by any sort of potted plants that would grow in our cozy apartment windows.  The exotic pit of the avocado suspended over tepid water, broad end down, brought up all kinds of fantasies of producing our own prolific avocado trees, in a container in said cozy apartment.  Then we would, of course, propagate small subsidiary plants for our friends.  And we would enjoy guacamole from thereon in.  Ha ha.

But many people did produce good sized houseplants, so the dream lived on.

Purchase this print by New Yorker's Michael Maslin
However, unless you were living on a plot of farm land in California or other similarly pre-disposed climes, the avocado fruit didn't grow.  Who knew that that was such a complicated process?

Today you can grow the fruit anywhere in a greenhouse if you are diligent, use the right 'root stocks', and know what you are doing.  But growing the fruit from the pit you just tossed out of your guacamole? A little tricker...

However, to grow an avocado plant, a pretty little tree that can grow to a huge tree, or large container plant, is still an accomplishment that will add some greenery to your cozy apartment or deck space.  So, go for it!  Find the general step-by-step instructions below along with some tips about pits that don't sprout and a couple of excellent short youtubes.
  1. Take the pit you just salvaged from the avocado flesh that you used in your recipe (guacamole, avocado-chickpea hummus, etc.) Wash it off with cool water and pat gently dry.  Sometimes the avocado has been refrigerated and the pit will not sprout (although some people claim they always refrigerate their avocados and have no problem sprouting them).  Washing the pit will remove the soft flesh that will mould.  Carefully, with your fingers, peel off the outer skin.
  2. Turn the pit fat-side/broad-side down and stick in about 3 toothpicks about an inch from the bottom so that the toothpicks evenly support the pit over a jar/glass of tepid water.  Fill with water up so one inch of the pit is submerged.  Check daily and keep this level consistent.  
  3. I would suggest that you place the jar in a warm place with adequate sunlight.  On the other hand, some folks suggest placing the container away from sunlight (in a warm cupboard, door shut) until the first sprout.  You could also place a brown paper bag over the jar and keep it on the warm top-of-the-fridge surface until the first sprout (?).  
  4. When the first sprout appears, put it in a sunny or indirectly lighted area and keep water until a good root mass has developed.
  5. Pot and continue to give it good light and water. See the second video for more information around when to transplant from the jar to a pot.
  6. An alternate way to sprout it is to bury the pit in your compost pile (mark its location in some way) and check back in a few weeks.  Dig it up if it is rooted and starting to sprout, and pot.
  7. If you have followed all the above instructions and the pit still hasn't sprouted in 6 months, throw it away.  Start over with a new unrefrigerated avocado pit, if you still have the dream.
Mr. Eastcoast is a little strident, but he appears to be passionate about growing avocado plants and is probably a model of success to learn from. (7 min. Time Lapse)

This short video talks about how to know when to transplant from the water container to the container with soil in it.
The video above shows a possum thoroughly enjoying an avocado that has dropped out of a tree-- some material online suggests that animals today eschew avocado but that prehistoric mammals (like the Giant Sloth) used to eat the avocado whole and propagate the trees through their defecation.  Not sure if this possum did any propagation, or if he/she, indeed, died from ingesting the toxic persin chemical.  The video-maker told me that the pit was gone the next morning.  The rest is mystery!

Don't be put off by the fact that you won't likely grow
an avocado fruiting tree from planting your sprout--
just the process of growing a sprout (or better yet, root stock)
is an exciting venture for anyone, particularly for 
parents, grandparents, and kids who have rarely seen this beautiful
creative process in action!
courtesy of
Have a look HERE at some other plants you can grow yourself cheap or free! 

How To Propagate an Apple Tree from Your Snack Apple

Growing an apple tree from seeds seems like a no-brainer way to grow an apple orchard-- or at least one great gnarly tree you could sling up a swing on for the future grandkids. Didn't that dude Johnny Appleseed just go about the USA flinging his seeds into the breeze, and aren't like 75% of all apple trees growing today a result of that expedition?

 Well... no. No. Growing an actual APPLE-BEARING apple tree from the seeds you just popped from your coffee-break fruit into a hanky is a lot rarer an experience than you might think.

BUT you can grow a tiny tree with shiny green leaves, and if you want to do a little more work and study, you can use this small tree as "root stock" for growing an apple tree that will possible produce edible apples (suggested: a dwarf apple tree).

BUT in the meantime, why not go ahead and root those apple seeds just for the fun of seeing the little thing grow in a pot on your windowsill or deck? And maybe you will prove me wrong and the small plant will mount into the sky and been heavy with apples... if that happens, I would be ever so happy to be publicly shamed-- you may write me a looonnngg comment with pictures of the apple tree(s) and I will amend this blog post to accommodate your success .

  1. Slice the apple just to the start of the core and then break it open to get at the seeds without injuring them.
  2. Eat your apple
  3. Set the seeds aside to dry for an hour or so.
  4. In Nature, an apple tree must sit for a long time under 4 degrees Celsius/39.2F, in order for it to sprout.  To replicate this process, and to make the seed believe it is in a winter situation, pack the seed in damp sawdust or in damp paper towels, in a covered, airtight, labeled (date and type of seed) container in the refrigerator.
  5. Start checking the seed after 45 days to see if any of the seeds have sprouted.
  6. Carefully dump out the contents of the container and with a stick, sort through and take out the seedlings that have fat little rootlets started.  Put them carefully aside to take to your growing area (nursery).  Put the non-sprouted (or poorly-sprouted) seeds back in the container, seal, and return to the fridge.
  7. Check the refrigerated seeds about once or so a week for about the next six weeks or until they have quit sprouting.  
  8. Each week plant the rootlets either in small (5") containers and cover lightly in compost, or if seriously considering growing root stocks, plant in fine soil 15 cm apart in rows 60cm apart.  In about 4 months you should be able to graft onto these root stocks.
  9. Apple trees rarely grow "true to type" so grafting would be the next step with your root stocks if you want a decent eating apple.  There are many videos that show the more complex matter of grafting onto the root stock.  Otherwise, you might just enjoy your fruit-free apple tree as you would a ficus.
Helpful short videos for understanding germinating apple seeds and starting root stocks:

Ernest young lad shows how to cut the apple so as not to damage the apples and how to pack into the toweling to ready for germinating.
Follows the above video and shows how to pot the seedlings in light compost.
    An explanation of how to germinate seeds with an eye to growing root stock from the seeds.

    Image of Apple Blossom courtesy of FreeImages 

    Have a look HERE at some other plants you can grow yourself cheap or free! 

    Thursday, January 21, 2016

    16+ Foods You Can Propagate from Scraps...

    So, you want to grow a garden using food scraps-- the parts of fruits and veggies that get tossed after the good bits have made it into the stew or the salad. It makes so much sense, doesn't it? You don't have much room, in fact you don't have a yard. You don't have much spare money, but you do have all these leftovers from your last shop at Wholefoods, some have gone hairy in the fridge, some never did make the grade for the school lunch.  Or maybe you do have a yard and you would like it to contain an orchard of your favorite apples or a luscious cherry tree dripping fruits onto the table on your deck.  Well... let's take a look at 15 (at least) veggies and fruits that it is possible for you to propagate from scraps (the parts of the fresh fruits and veggies that you are not using when you cook or snack on them) or through cuttings from generous neighbours and various other fun and free sources ...

    Just click below on the fruits and vegetables you are interested in growing and you will be taken to the page where the instructions and some helpful videos are contained. Some of these links are to highly rated youtube videos alone (more content to come). This is a particularly fun activity to engage in with children and grandchildren.

    How to Grow An Apple Tree from your Snack Apple
    How to Grow An Avocado Plant From A Pit
    How to Propagate Basil
    How to Grow Blueberries from Store-Bought Blueberries
    How to Prepare Seeds from a Store-Bought Canteloupe for Planting
    How to Grow A Carrot With Carrot Scraps
    How to Re-Grow Celery from A Throw-Away Stalk
    How to Grow A Cherry Tree from a Seed
    How to Grow A Peach, A Nectarine or a Plum Tree from the Pits
    How to Grow a Citrus Tree from Seed FASTER
    How to Propagate a Pineapple You Just Ate
    How To Plant a Potato Crop from a Potato You Bought At Your Organic Grocery Store
    How to Re-Grow Romaine Lettuce
    How To Grow from a Seeds from Your Grocery Store Squash
    How to Grow Free Strawberry Plant from your Neighbour's Plant, or your Own
    How to Grow A Tomato from a Grocery Store or Farm Gate Tomato

    Here is a very inspiring video to get your planting on:

     *Image courtesy of Anje Ranneberg

    Wednesday, January 20, 2016

    Vegan Squash Enchilada Tubbies - Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free

    Recently a Facebook friend posted a picture of her supper: a spaghetti squash enchilada just oozing cheese from all angles... she apologized that it wasn't a fancy presentation. It looked so comfort-food yummy that I knew that it would be my next planned meal. I have made quite a few 'adaptations' to the ingredients, and you can too. Just know that it turns out absolutely delicious with very little effort!

     I went shopping and found Amy's brand canned chili (vegan)(organic) on sale at my local wholefood store (Edible Island in Courtenay, BC) You could make your own chili-- maybe you even have some in the fridge?  Amy's Medium Hot Chili made with tofu has all the spices and ingredients that I was looking for, so I liked the convenience of opening the can this one meal.

    • Squash (I used an Acorn Squash)
    • Red Bell Pepper
    • 14 oz can Amy's brand Organic Medium Hot Chili with Tofu
    • 1 C. Frozen Corn Niblets
    • Daiya Cheese shreds (I used Mozzarella)
    • Chopped Cilantro (to garnish)

      1. Heat oven to 400F/200C
      2. Split squash in two from stem to stern, clear out seeds, and lay face down in foil- or parchment-spread oven pan
      3. Wash red pepper, dry, and add the whole pepper to the same oven pan
      4. Place in oven and cook until really soft and charred in places (you can remove the pepper if it is done earlier than the squash and put it in a brown paper bag until it has steamed itself cool)(Cooking time: about 35 minutes to 3/4 hr.) Leave Squash in oven, but you can turn it off-- or leave oven on and remove the squash to the counter.
      5. While baking squash, cook frozen corn in a small pan with an inch of water until tender.
      6.  Drain corn and in same cooking pot, combine corn with the chili and the skinned, seeded, chopped roasted red pepper (the sweetest roasted pepper I have ever eaten was the one I included in this recipe). Heat through on Low.  Stir and don't let it burn! (After the corn has cooked the combining/heating takes under 5 minutes)
      7. Remove cooked squash from the oven.  Spoon in the combined ingredients.
      8. Put Daiya Shreds on top.
      9. Return to the oven for as long as it takes to melt the Daiya shreds.  
      10. Top with chopped cilantro and eat!
      11. Don't be afraid to use ingredients to suit you/your family in your squash enchilada.  Filling, simple, tasty, healthy is what I aim for. 

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