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Today is an exciting day in Eat Like No One Else history. It is the release date for my first ever e-book entitled “Fruits of Their Labor”. The first issue features the behind the scenes stories about Cotton Candy grapes, Ojai Pixie Tangerines, Saskatoon berries, and Dick’s Pretty Good Garlic.

Here is an example page:

Cotton Candy Grape Preview Page

The book costs only $5. Check out the official sales page or you can buy the book directly on this page using the link below.

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Baker Creek Seeds

As people begin shift through seed catalogs and displays that are starting to pop up at stores across the country, I wanted to take some time to recommend some of my favorite sources for seeds. Right at the top of that list is Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds. They are one of the most fascinating seed companies I have come across. Their catalog is amazing, full of 1500 rare, non-GMO seeds and stories to read. The catalog has a very homey feeling to it, down to the clothes the people in it are wearing and the pictures of cute kids holding different vegetables. It’s a popular free catalog that has already run out of copies to order in 2014! They also have their “The Whole Seed Catalog” that you can purchase for $7.95.

So what is so special about this company.

1. They offer heirloom seeds.
2. Their seeds are non-GMO
3. The unique seeds that I have found nowhere else
4. Passion

Passion
I want to start with the last one first – passion. This company is passionate about their seeds. It shows in the catalog. It shows on their facebook page, which they regularly update with their journeys around the world, collecting seeds. In the last two months I have seen them show pictures of harvesting bananas with orange fruit, tubers of all sorts of colors and sizes, Banana passion fruit, and much more. They recently talked about this man who grows Okra in Panama and he uses the seeds as coffee beans! He roasts them and grinds them up as a substitute for coffee. They will have those seeds available to purchase in the future.

Heirloom seeds
Everyone hear the words “heirloom” tossed around nowadays. Why should I care? Heirloom seeds are special because they have been passed down, they have stood the test of time. They are grown not just because they will bring the most profit but because they are the tasty, or good for you, or just add beauty to your garden. Many have stories behind them. Many are almost lost forever. What Baker Creek is offering is a way to preserve agricultural diversity. Big agriculture just wants to grow what will bring the most money into their bank accounts, which is not a very diverse selection of crops.

Non-GMO
Genetically modified seeds are taking over the country. Many are concerned about the health risks they pose, me being one of them. The big companies are growing more and more GMO plants all the time. Without people trying to preserve non-GMO seeds, we could see non-GMO varieties quickly wiped out. Each year Baker Creek is finding it harder and harder to offer GMO free corn seeds as Monsanto’s GMO corn is cross pollinating with heirloom, non-GMO varieties. Since corn is wind pollinated, it’s easy for this to happen and with over 90% of the corn grown in the United States being GMO, you can see where that would be a problem. That is why Baker Creek tests their corn samples to and they only offer varieties that do not test positive for GMOs.

Unique, Rare Seeds
Through their travel around the world, you can find seeds in their catalog that you cannot find anywhere else. One of the funniest parts of the catalog was going through the melon section. So many varieties, shapes, colors, and flavors I have never seen anywhere else. They had some unique tomato varieties from Russia and the Ukraine that would be fun to grow. They offer the hottest pepper on record “Trinidad Scorpion” coming in at a whopping 1.2 million Scovilles (units that measure heat of peppers). To compare, a Habanero is 350,000. They also offer pink bananas, the peel is a bright pink color and the fruit contains a ton of seeds.

These are great reasons I will plant seeds from Baker Creek this year. Here are a few specific varieties I am looking into:

Golden Sweet Snow Peas | Click here for ordering info
A snow pea that is a brilliant yellow color. It said to be more than just a novelty.

Black Icicle Tomatoes | Click here for ordering info
A dark colored tomato in the shape of a icicle that ranked high in brix (sugar), lycopene, and potaasium. It was 2nd overall in a nutritional study done on tomatoes mentioned in the catalog.

Yellow Wonder Wild Strawberry | Click here for ordering
A light yellow colored wild strawberry that may be small but packs more flavor than you would ever find in the grocery store.


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Growing Cannellini Beans

When it comes to easy growing and variety options nothing can match up with the bean. Stores like Whole Foods Market are starting to get into more varieties of heirloom dried beans. And why not. they are good for you. I find that when it comes for looking for bean seeds to plant you often find more selection in the bulk section than on the display of seed packets. When you buy dried beans in the store you are buying the seeds themselves. So certainly you can plant those dried beans in your garden. One type of bean I wanted to try was Cannellini beans also known as white kidney beans. These are one of my wife’s favorite beans for soups.

Growing Cannellini Beans

Selecting Beans to Grow
One thing to be ware of when choosing to grow dried beans from the store is that the germination rate may not be as good as if you buy them from a seed company. These beans are not being stored and maintained for the purpose of growing. Also depending on your source they could have been sitting around for a while. That is why it’s best to buy them from a store that sells them in bulk so that you are not buying them in a bag that has been sitting around for who knows how long. Also look for organically grown beans then you can grow them organically yourself.

Growing Cannellini Beans

Growing the Beans
I planted the beans in early June after there was no risk for frost in my area. Like I mentioned the germination rate wasn’t the best, so I did plant some more seeds in a couple spots where plants did not come up. These beans have a bush habit of growing so you don’t have to worry about staking them. About a month later they began to produce flowers. Two weeks after that the beans were ready to pick for green beans. I wanted to try them in their green form to see how they tasted and to encourage the plants to grow more beans.

Cannellini Beans Ready to Pick

Ready to Pick for Fresh Beans
Roughly 2 to 3 weeks after the beans were green they were ready to pick. How do you know they are ready? They turn yellow when the beans inside are ripe. You can also feel the pods. Do the beans inside feel plumb? If so they are ready even if the outside is still green. I do find they are easier to peel if the pods are yellow. You also have to watch you if they start to shrivel the beans inside will become too dry, which is good if you want dried beans but I grew them for fresh eating. I will probably end up with some dried which will be perfect to save for next year.

Cannellini Beans Shelling

How to Cook Fresh Cannellini Beans?
Once you have them shelled, just place them into a saucepan cover with enough water to just cover. Slightly salt the water. Then bring them to a boil and cover and simmer until done. You can mix them with couscous, soup, use them in salads, or season them with with some garlic, pepper, and herbs and eat them as it. They are creamy and delicious with a much fresher taste than in their dried state.

Cannellini Bean Salad

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Peas and Oats Sprouting

One of my favorite times of year is when I get to plant my peas in the ground. It’s the favorite garden veggie of choice at this household. The kids can’t get enough for those candy-like peas picked fresh from the garden. When I was looking up some information on peas this past winter I came across the ideas of growing oats with the peas. The oats are planted at the same time as the peas. The peas can then climb up the oats as they grow providing a trellis that not only is a lot cheaper than buying fencing but also add nutrients to the soil. I am excited to give this a try. I will keep you on the progress as the plants grow.

Related link: See my post on Cheap Pea Trellis Options

Peas and Oats Sprouting

The varieties of peas that I am growing this year are: Super Sugar Snap, Green Arrow Shelling Peas, Mammoth Melting Snow Peas, Oregon Snow Peas, Wando Shelling Peas.

When planting the peas and oats I made sure I had enough room to walk in between each row so I could get in to access the peas when they are ready. I marked each row with a brick and made sure I could fit both my feet between each row. The pea plants themselves can be planted close together as they have shallow rows and I find thrive when competing with their neighboring plants.

Peas and Oats Sprouting

I planted my peas right at the end of March. The weather has been back and forth with a lot of cool, below freezing nights. While peas and oats can withstand these frosty nights it took the seeds a while to germinate – over 2 weeks. By the end of April the peas started to establish themselves with their leaves unfolded and signs of the tendrils being formed.

Peas and Oats Sprouting

I have never grown oats before so I am interested in seeing how they take off. The variety I choose was Cayuse Oats. Right now the are both the same height as the pea, depending on the individual plant. All I need is for the oats to get tall enough for the peas to have something to grab onto.

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I am getting ready to make my seed purchase for this year’s gardening season. When selecting seeds for my home garden they are a couple of things I look for.

1. Unique varieties
I want to grow stuff that I am not going to be able to find easily in stores or at the market. I love cooked carrots, especially when you have a mix of different colors. But I only find them in a store on a rare occasion.

2. Non-GMO Seeds
We get enough GMO products in the store. I certainly don’t need to grow any. So I am careful to make sure that the seeds I buy are not genetically modified.

3. Buying Seeds from a Company That Deserves Support
I want to support a company that deserves my support. I don’t want to support a company who is associated with Monsanto either directly or indirectly. I want to support a company who is out there trying to do what’s best for the seeds and for bringing unique and heirloom varieties to the public.

Buy from the Seed Savers Exchange
These three reasons are why I am buying most of my seeds from the Seed Savers Exchange this year. They are a non-profit organization that is out to preserve diversity of seeds. They don’t sell GMO seeds. They offer many heirloom varieties. Most people might think heirloom is a buzz word used by people to sell something at a higher price, often heirloom tomatoes for example are priced higher per pound than varieties that aren’t considered heirlooms. What I like about heirlooms is that they generally are more flavorful. They are varieties that have been passed down for decades. Because they taste good. It’s not just about what produces best. If I am going to take the time and effort to grow something I want it to be out of this world amazing in taste.

More About Seed Savers
Seed Savers has a membership program that you can be a part of. If you are able to you can even save your seeds to be apart of the exchange but that’s not required for membership. You can buy seeds from them without a membership as well ((I don’t have one). They have a catalog you can view online or have mailed to your house. It’s full of awesome things. The advantage members get is they get access to even more varieties of seeds – more than you probably could imagine.

What Seeds I Am Buying This Year
Here is a list of what I plan to purchase from them this year. When the growing starts I will be covering each variety with pictures and updates on the process.

Arugula, Apollo
Bean, Climbing French OG
Brussels Sprouts, Long Island
Carrot, Dragon
Carrot, Jaune du Doubs
Corn, Golden Bantam OG
Cucumber, Holland White OG
Cucumber, Parisian Pickling OG
Lettuce, Bronze Arrowhead
Lettuce, Crisp Mint OG
Lettuce, Red Iceberg
Pea, Green Arrow OG
Squash, Long Island Cheese
Tomato, Kellogg’s Breakfast
Tomato, Speckled Roman OG

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I love to garden. I love the thrill of bitting into food that I grew myself. What I don’t like is the expense you have to pay to start up a garden. It starts adding up quickly. I moved recently, so I am kind of starting over this year. You can be sure I will be looking for ways to save some money. That is what got me thinking about searching out cheap options to use as a trellis for growing peas. There are plenty of things that are easy to run out to Home Depot to pick up. I would rather find a cheaper alternatives. Here are some that I have come up with. I would love to hear if any of you pea growers have tried these before.

Using Sticks
At some garden stores you can buy pea sticks. Why buy what you can find around your yard. Search your yard after the next storm or windy day for sticks that you can use. The trouble is getting them the right size. The differences can provide a rustic charm. You have to make sure your stick is going to stand up and not break after the peas have made their way up them. Also you must be concerned with height. Check to see how high your peas grow. Finding sticks that are really tall might be a problem. You can consider going with
shorter varieties of peas.

Peas Tomato Cages

Using Tomato Cages
A good way to get multiple uses out of something. Peas can grow on tomato cages just find. The best part is peas are a spring crop. You can grow them on the cages, harvest them, and still have time to put them on the tomatoes before they collapse. I tried this one year. It did well. Althought my peas eventually got too tall for the cages, so you have to watch the height of your cage versus the height your peas are suppose to grow.

Using Wheat/Oats
Just yesterday I read on a seed website the idea of growing oats next to the peas. The oats provide support as the peas grow. I have done a similar concept with growing beans on corn stalks (part of a Three Sisters garden). I am really intrigued by this idea. I don’t know how the timing would work out. Plus corn stalks are stronger than wheat or oats. Has anyone else given this a try before? I have done some research but haven’t specifically found someone who employs this method. It’s a great idea as long as you can time it right.

I will be on the look out for more cheap alternatives. Don’t let expensive trellis stop you from growing peas. They are one of my favorite crops of the year. Nothing beats the sweetness of a shelling and eating a pea right out in the garden. They are candy to my kids!

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I haven’t talked a whole lot about varieties of lettuces on this blog. I am looking to do that more often in 2013. I hope to help get you away from buying the bagged, prepared lettuces and working on making your own mixes. It’s cheaper and allows you all that creative freedom you desire. Today we are going to talk about Curly Endive. There are different lettuces that are endive. Belgian Endive is pure white with yellow on top. Curly Endive is very different from Belgian. Just look at the picture above (or below). It has naturally curly leaves. It is sometimes referred to as chicory.

What Does Curly Endive Taste Like?
Crisp leaves with a bitter taste is the best way to describe it. The inner leaves tend to be less bitter and more mild. I think it’s best used as part of a salad mix, then for a salad on it’s own (although you certainly could). As for salad dressing, a sweet dressing is recommend, like a honey mustard or the root vegetable dressing I made last week.

Can You Cook with Curly Endive?
Most certainly. I haven’t tried to yet but other bloggers I have. I found a recipe for a Curly Endive Mash featuring potatoes, cheese, and red bell pepper. Another website recommended wilting it along with some citrus flavors, garlic, almonds, and dates.

Growing Curly Endive
Curly Endive grows as a head, but not a tight head, so you can harvest outer leaves allowing the plant to continue to grow. It takes a while to grow 65 to 85 days depending on the exact variety. It doesn’t like heat, it will bolt if it gets too hot. For growing in the spring, you will need to start your seeds indoors or you can wait for a summer planting for a fall harvest where you don’t have to be as concerned about the heat.

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When one is going about picking tomatoes to choose to grow the choices can be overwhelming. Cherries, beefsteaks, yellow ones, plum, grape, pear, chocolate colored, and the list goes on. You can spend a lifetime growing different varieties. If that is your mission I can give you a hand – cross the Indigo Rose variety off your list. It has to be one of the worst varieties of tomatoes I have ever grown.

Before I expound on why I don’t like this variety, let me give you a little background on it. Indigo Rose was developed at Oregon State University. Their mission is to breed tomatoes with higher levels of antioxidants. The purples and blues of the produce world are said to have high levels of antioxidants, such as the blueberry. Indigo Rose is a purple tomato.

The unique thing about this variety is that it doesn’t start out green, but it’s final purple color. This presents a challenge. How do you know when it’s ripe. Well the tomato isn’t fully purple. The underneath side is green as it’s the sunlight that causes the purple color to come out. Eventually the underside will turn red when the tomato is ripe. Problem is in order to harvest the tomatoes you have to check underneath them. Often when doing this I ended up accidentally snapping the tomato off. The purple colors turns more brownish when it ripens but you have to have a really good eye to notice that.

The plant performs relatively well considering the drought and super high temperature we experienced this summer. It held up a lot better than my Amish Paste tomatoes. I had to grow them in containers this year as I was moving half through the season.

As for the flavor, first off if you pick it before it’s ready, you will be really sorry. If not perfectly ripe this variety is taste terrible and is tough. Even when ripe, we found it to have a tough outer skin. Also the sweetness to acidic ratio of this tomato was not what my wife wanted in a cherry tomato. We decided not to use them for fresh eating , but just cook them up into sauce to add to pasta at a later point. The sauce actually came out rather nicely, so maybe all isn’t lost. But even so, Indigo Rose won’t be making a return visit to my garden.

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The most frustrating thing for a gardener is when you got through all the hard work of planting something and then you wake up the next morning to find that a critter decided to turn your hard work into a midnight snack. One of the biggest problems can be rabbits. Oh they may be cute but when it comes to your garden they are pure evil. So what is a person to do? The last two years I have been planting my tomatoes in the same place in our yard. The first year I decided to plant marigolds with them, just for that pop of color. It was all about making the area nice. Now what I noticed is that nothing ever touched my tomato plants. Not once did I find a leaf that was chewed on even in the slightest. And it’s not that the bunnies just went away, trust me they aren’t hard to find around my house.

When last year began I decided that I better plant marigolds again. I didn’t want to risk not planting them and having the rabbits attack what I just planted. And you can bet that I won’t take my chances this year either.

Now there is some debate on whether this actually works. I have read people saying that marigolds won’t kept animal pests away from your plants. Could there be another reason, maybe? I know a thing or two about gardening but I am far from being considered a master gardener. But in my experience they have never touched any plants I planted next to the marigolds and this is why I will continue to practice this. It’s worth a try if you have are having trouble with rabbits. At the least you will have some pretty flowers.

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If you live in one of the more northern climates, you might want to get a jump on the growing season. I live in Michigan. I try to plant as soon as possible. This year, since the winter was mild, the ground never really froze. We had an early start to spring like temperatures. The next 10 days it’s not even predicted to fall below freezing at night. So I am ready to garden. But still wanted to give my seeds the best chance. To do this I decided to help warm up the soil a bit. The easy way to do it – black garbage bags. By laying down black bags on top of my soil, I am drawing in heat, and this will help give the soil temperature an additional boost. It is also good for keeping weeds at bay before you are ready to plant.

The day I put them down it was really windy, which was good because I got to test what would keep the bags from flying away. I am lucky that I have a lot of bricks and stones on my yard left behind by a former tenant. I just put a stone at each corner.

Why Garbage Bags?
They are cheap. It’s a lot quicker than having a roll of black plastic, which you are going to have to cut. The beauty of the garbage bag is you can remove them one at a time. Say you only want to plant in one spot, you can just remove the bag(s) from that spot.

How Long Do I Need to Have the Bags Down For?
I would say as long as you can. As long as you don’t think it’s really going to snow a lot again, I would put them down ASAP. Then when you are ready you can remove them.

What About Drainage?
You should poke some holes into your bags, so that water can drain down into your soil.

When Will It Not Be Necessary?
Once you pass the frost free date in your area, then I wouldn’t bother putting them down anymore, your soil should be ready. I am most using them for early crops, like peas, broccoli, lettuce, and cabbage.

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WELCOME TO MY BLOG

I'm Eric. I live in Ann Arbor, MI with my wife, 3 kids, and a flock of ducks. I love grocery shopping, trying new fruits, farmer's market, and traveling.
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