I am embarking on a new Farmer’s Market initiative … organic produce! I will be bringing small lots of organic cucumbers, squash, tomatoes, peppers and eggplants to market beginning this weekend. Although I cannot compete with the larger market growers, I hope to provide some education to market customers on the importance of organics in produce.
For example, take the cucumber — that wondrous fruit grown 10,000 years ago in India and often overlooked in the vegetable aisle. It is remarkably healthy for you, providing so many benefits for digestion, skin and major bodily functions. But the Environmental Working Group, a respected public interest organization, ranked conventional cucumbers second for cancer risk and 9th most contaminated food. The USDA has identified 86 pesticide residues on commercially grown cucumbers:
- 10 Known or Probable Carcinogens
- 32 Suspected Hormone Disrupters
- 17 Neurotoxins
- 10 Developmental or Reproductive Toxins
- 24 Honeybee Toxins
The only way to mitigate against the poisons both in the wax coating used to preserve moisture and the vegetable itself is to peel. However, doing so removes the most nutritious part of cucumbers! So much easier and healthier to just buy or grow organic!
My favorite ways to enjoy cucumbers are simply slicing and dressing with dill, a little sugar, and a little vinegar or slicing them into spears and eating with a good sour cream dip. And don’t forget, after a day in the sunny garden, that cucumber is great for restoring your skin to dewy freshness!
I’ll be doing a series of short posts as I add organic veggies to my Farmers Market offerings. For now, you can get some delicious ORGANIC slicing cucumbers from me this Saturday at the Warrenton NC Farmer’s Market, 8 am – Noon. See you there!
Weeding my herb bed this morning, I turned a corner to weed my beautiful bulb fennel plants and the lacy fronds of the one closest to me were gone! Only a stalk remained covered with a dozen or so beautiful yellow and black striped caterpillars. I knew immediately that I was looking at a “flock” of Eastern Black Swallowtails-to be. The other two plants were also in the process of being decimated by these beauties. But I don’t begrudge any butterfly its dinner, since they grace my garden once they complete their metamorphosis. Their scientific name derives from the Latin “Papilio” for butterfly and “polyxenes” after the Greek mythological character Polyxena, the youngest daughter of King Priam of Troy.
I am reminded of a book I used to read to my young son called “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” by Eric Carle. It described the process in terms a 4 year could understand with charming illustrations. Basically, my very fat caterpillars will stuff themselves with my wonderful herbs until they are ready to begin the magical process of spinning their cocoons and metamorphosing into their new form and take flight. I hope it is soon … while I still have some herbs left! Once they do begin their transition, it will be about 10-14 days before emergence from their chrysalis. Can’t wait!
We know the dangers of these pests, for ourselves and our pets. Deet-containing Mosquito Products are known to be effective and the most-often used. But there are increasing alarms being raised about DEET. According to the journal Scientific American, “Duke University pharmacologist Mohamed Abou-Donia, in studies on rats, found that frequent and prolonged DEET exposure led to diffuse brain cell death and behavioral changes, and concluded that humans should stay away from products containing it.” And I don’t trust Bayer’s Picaridin because, well, it’s made by Bayer — a German chemical/pharma giant which got its start producing Xyklon-B for Nazi death chambers and which now produces bee-killing/environment poisoning neonics for your garden.
That is why I have researched and created CherryGal’s Organic Skeeter Spray with the active ingredient of Organic Lemon Eucalyptus Oil (OLE) which was recently recommended by the CDC as safe and effective. It works by blocking mosquitoes’ chemical receptors so they do not “see” you. It is safe for you, your family and your pets. I will have 4 Fl Oz Spray Bottles of my special formula available at the Warren County Farmer’s Market each Saturday from 8 am to Noon, at the BBT parking lot, corner of Macon & Bragg Sts in Warrenton, NC.
Of course, I will also have All Natural and Organic LuckyLike Dog Treats (Bacon Cheddar Barley Bones and Crunchy Peanut Butter Biscuits), and CherryGal Organic Heirloom Seedlings and Plants. (This week I have a few Fraises des Bois Alpine Strawberry perennial plants, herb and vegetable seedlings and decorative plants.) I hope to see you there!
The sky is just starting to lighten, enough for me to see my way into the garden. The coolest part of the day in a week of 90’s with little chance of rain. Of course, dawn (and dusk) are also the times when mosquitoes and other garden bugs you don’t want to see are out doing their daily dance. Bees and other pollinators won’t be up for a little while, so it is the best time to get your watering done and any organically-approved spraying you are going to do.
I like to water my garden by hand. As I hold my hose low to the ground to soak the dry earth around each plant I can keep my eyes on leaves, stalks and flowers to see what might be attacking my plants. You will not get this important information by turning on a sprinkler. Then, when my watering is done. I can come back with my organic-approved insecticidal soap spray and get those areas that need such attention. Of course, if I see any Japanese beetles or Stink Bugs, I just get those by hand, squishing them with appropriate scorn.
But mosquitoes have always been the one thing I hate about gardening. They are annoying and now we understand just how dangerous they are. They don’t bother my precious vegetables, herbs and flowers, but they can spread Malaria, Dengue Fever, Yellow Fever, various types of Encephalitis, Chikungunya, West Nile Virus and now, Zika. And of course, for your pets, mosquitoes spread Heart Worm.
I have chickens who eat mosquitoes. I also do all the usual things to keep skeeter populations down: Keeping my grass mowed very short, eliminating standing water including turning over all unused flower pots, cleaning my bird bath every couple of days, and sprinkling some all-natural repellant granules in the grass (really helps), but I have neighbors who are not necessarily doing those prophylactics, so inevitably, if unprotected, I will get a few bites.
DEET, though effective, is not without negative health implications. According to the journal Scientific American, “Duke University pharmacologist Mohamed Abou-Donia, in studies on rats, found that frequent and prolonged DEET exposure led to diffuse brain cell death and behavioral changes, and concluded that humans should stay away from products containing it.” I don’t trust Bayer’s Picaridin because, well, its made by Bayer — a German chemical/pharma giant which got its start producing Xyklon-B for Nazi death chambers and who now produces bee-killing/environment poisoning neonicotinoids for your garden.
So I have been using a very good natural formula I worked up for keeping mosquitoes at bay and will be offering it for sale at the Warren County Farmer’s Market. It is made with ALL ORGANIC ingredients and I believe it confuses the skeeters’ detection system long enough to protect me out in the garden for a couple of hours at a stretch before reapplying. The active ingredient is Organic Lemon Eucalyptus Oil (OLE) which was recently recommended by the CDC as safe and effective. It works by blocking mosquitoes’ chemical receptors so they do not “see” you.
I will be offering 4 oz spray bottles of CherryGal’s Organic Skeeter Spray for a modest price. I hope you will give it a try — for yourself, your family and your pets!
Deborah / CherryGal
I love strawberries! All kinds. But the strawberry that really grabs me is the delicate heirloom alpine variety known as Fraises des Bois. The elongated conical pointed fruits grow on mostly runnerless crowns, making this an ideal plant for containers or window boxes. I have grown mine organically for 10 years in two window boxes outside my kitchen door opening to my garden, and they have weathered unbelievably capricious summers and cruel winters without blushing. Each Spring they begin their unending offering of red, intensely flavored sweet, piquant fruits — it takes only a few to brighten a morning bowl of cereal. The fruiting lasts until the first freeze. The crowns are evergreen and regenerate themselves each Spring as if by magic. I give them an occasional shot of Espoma Organic Grow fertilizer, and remove any tired leaves but that is all I do and they repay me with such treasure!
If you have a medicinal herb or ayurvedic garden, you should add Fraises des Bois for their remarkable and little known health benefits. Not typically associated in the modern mind with medicinal use, Alpine Strawberry was historically part of the pharmacopeia and used in many different ways: the root for diarrhea; the stalks for wounds; the leaves as astringents. Today, teas made from the leaves are wonderful for digestion (and diarrhea) and to stimulate the appetite, and recent study indicates a high element of ellagic acid, a known cancer preventative. The crushed fruit is very soothing to the skin and has antibacterial properties, AND can be applied to teeth (with baking soda) or skin to “bleach white.” The berries are an excellent source of Vitamin C and recent studies show them to be high in antioxidants, making them one to add to your cancer protection diet.
I have harvested and sold the seed for this wonderful fruit for many years, but this year decided to offer a few plants at Farmer’s Market. So this Saturday you can pick up one of these rare heirlooms and start your own back porch strawberry patch! It is easy to do with just one or two plants. Hurry before they are all gone!
- Chlorine can kill your seedling. Your seedling has been raised with non-chlorinated water. So please, don’t kill it with tap water. You can de-chlorinate tap water easily by letting it sit, open, for 24 hours at room temperature.
- Please harden off your seedling by giving accelerated exposure to full sun and warm temps in baby increments, starting with 1/2 hour a day up to a full day. They have probably already experienced this, but better safe than “fried.”
- Tomatoes can be planted VERY deeply — up to their uppermost leaves — to encourage maximum root development. And all tomatoes, peppers and eggplants LOVE this side dressing: Grind up clean eggshells with used coffee grounds. This provides the magic formula that will keep the dreaded Blossom End Rot at bay.
- When planting, dig a $100 hole for a $10 plant. My cardinal rule. Your seedling has been grown in special organic potting soil. If you stick a 4″ seedling in a similar sized hole in a clay soil, guess what happens? It’s not pretty.
- Ideally plant on a cloudy, cooler day, or later in the day if it is hot and sunny. And water in very well. Keep an eye on it — any sign that it is stressed calls for immediate protective action. If thunderstorms are in the offing, cover it with a pot or cloche so it is not annihilated.
I love offering you these seedlings. They have been coddled, yes. But the result, if introduced appropriately to your garden, will be a healthy, organic producer of fruit and flower. Don’t forget that you can easily clone your CherryGal tomatoes, peppers and eggplants for next year’s garden. I’ll teach you how in a subsequent post.
I know everyone has lots of plans for this Memorial Day weekend, but I hope you will make time to join us at the Warrenton Farmer’s Market.
I will have small batches of Lucky Like All Natural Chicken Jerky, Bacon Cheddar Biscuits and Organic Peanut Butter Biscuits. Each bag will contain a Lucky Buck, good for $1 off a future Lucky Like purchase at Farmers Market and I will be honoring Lucky Bucks you have already collected for this Saturday’s purchases.
I will also have many CherryGal ORGANIC HEIRLOOM Garden Seedlings including:
Herbs — Basils, Bay Laurel Trees, Chives, Cowslip, Dill, Evening Primrose, Lemon Balm, Mints, Monarda, Nasturtium, Oregano, Parsley, Rosemary,
Soapwort, and Blood Sorrel.
Vegetables — Diva Cucumber, Ancho Poblano Pepper, Tomatoes (Black Krim, Brandywine, Costoluto, Buore Di Boeuf, Hillbilly, San Marzano, Laotian Phantom, Martian Giant and Scotland Yellow)
Decoratives & Houseplants — Black Peredovik Sunflowers, Pastel Day Lilies (last call, as these are ready to bloom and should be planted), Canna Lily, Ajuga, Morning Glory, Night Blooming Cereus and Pothos.
Several of these plants will be discounted so I hope you will stop by my booth this Saturday, 8 am to Noon, for a look see!
I don’t often get the time at the Farmers Market to talk with customers in depth about the benefits of heirloom varieties and organics. So I thought it would be helpful to commit those thoughts to my blog.
So what makes heirlooms and organics so great anyway?
First, and this may surprise you, many heirlooms ARE hybrids, in the sense that they were often the attempt to capture the positive attributes of two or more varieties, but unlike today’s hybrids, they have been grown out for so many successive generations that the genetics became standardized and the new variety was “open pollinated,” i.e., you can save the seed and that seed will grow true to the parent. These are the varieties venerated and saved by our grandparents and great grandparents, often brought with them when they emigrated from Europe, Asia, Africa and South America, and grown as family heirlooms.
But in modern times, seed companies have developed new strains specifically for commercial growers that often sacrifice the very qualities we seek as home growers for those qualities valued by the commercial growers and their end customers – the grocery stores. That is: higher yields, ease of transport and longer shelf life. A tomato that can be harvested green, gassed to color and brought to the store red and without bruising is, in their business plan, more desirable than a red, luscious, extremely flavorful heirloom tomato that could never make the transit from farm to grocery to table when hundreds or thousands of miles are involved.
Unfortunately, these same hybrid seeds are also marketed to home gardeners, who like the ease of growing such hybrids (high disease resistance and germination) and are unaware of the sacrifice of flavor and other qualities they are making with such choices.
Now, what is the advantage of growing heirlooms in an organic fashion? EVERYTHING!
First, there is the health advantage. Good organic gardens are built on compost rich organic soil populated by earthworms and a healthy beneficial microbiome. It may take years to create that if you are starting with poor or compromised soil, but it is worth it. Non-organic soils depend on chemical fertilizers, which take a heavy toll on the environment, and also deplete the nutrients in your produce. Study after study has shown that produce grown organically has a far richer nutrient composition than its non-organic competitors. Add to that the advantage of the freshness of home-grown, or locally-produced, which reaches your table faster with less loss ofnutrients, and there is no question that organically produced home grown or locally grown produce is far superior in every aspect.
An additional, and perhaps more important, advantage of organic produce is the lack of pesticides. Pesticides are toxins. Whether sprayed on your lawn or your broccoli, or imported via the produce seedlings you buy at your local nursery, they can wreak havoc with your and your family’s health. Just to give one example, if you use pesticides when pregnant or nursing, your children will have a 3x to 9x increase in the possibility of leukemia. There are countless other health implications.
Finally, organic gardening supports the environment. Everything from the richness and health of the soil, to the health of pollinators, including honey bees, to birds and animals. Chemical fertilizers not only pollute the water, they do nothing to enrich the soil — the very heart of our agricultural system. Worse case, pesticides such as neonicotinoids — widely used by US-based growers and nurseries — not only pollute the plant they “treat,” but migrate into the soil of your garden and toxify all your plants for pollinators such as honey bees. That is why they are banned in Europe!
So, to sum up, organic heirloom plants and produce are LESS EXPENSIVE, MORE SUSTAINABLE, AND HEALTHIER! What’s not to love? I grow and eat organic, and I sleep better as a result!
- Brandywine, which dates to late 19th C and considered by many to be the best tasting beefsteak ever. Large pinks up to 2#.
- Cuore Di Boef (Heart of Beef) a large 1-2# Italian heirloom oxheart
- Hillbilly, a large bi-color (red and yellow) slicer
- Costoluto Genovese, (only one left) a personal favorite Italian heirloom grown by Thomas Jefferson at Monticello
- Black Krim, a popular Russian heirloom that produces early and continuously till Fall. Rich, sweet flavor on pounder fruits.
- San Marzano, (only one left) an Italian heirloom that is considered the gold standard for paste & sauce
- Sweet Italian Pimento (only one left) a great all-purpose salad/fryer/roaster/pickler
- California Wonder (only one left) with thick-walled sweet flesh very productive
- Ancho/Poblano, classic spicy Mexican heirloom pepper most associated with Chille Rellenos and Mole sauce
Cucumber, Diva – my favorite, and the plants are getting bigger by the day
Costato Romanesco Squash – a wonderful Italian heirloom squash with great flavor. These need to go in the garden now, so they will be discounted on Saturday.
- Bay Laurel trees
- Chives (regular, not garlic)
- Parsley Gigante (flat leaf Italian)
- Nasturtium (edible climber)
- Basils (various, depending on what’s ready)
- Mints (various)
- Blood Sorrel