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!
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!
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!
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
I want to thank everyone who turned out on Saturday May 13 at the Warren County Farmers Market. Despite inhospitable weather all day, we had our SECOND BEST DAY EVER in terms of sales, so thank you so much!
This coming Saturday I think I can confidently predict more new offerings that may interest you. Keep in mind, these are heirloom ORGANICALLY GROWN so I’m sorry if the prices are somewhat higher than others but they do require more attention then hybrids. But they are without a doubt HEALTHIER for you and your family and if gardened properly will be just as productive and satisfying (more so).
TOMATOES: In addition to a few Costoluto Genovese and Hillybilly tomatoes, I will have some Black Krim, Brandywine and Coeur Di Boeuf (oxheart). My favorite “spicy” pepper is Ancho Poblano, and I will have a few ready by Saturday. I will continue to offer Diva Cucumber, and they are getting bigger and stronger by the day. This is a stellar performer in the garden, with disease resistance. I will also have some Rosemary, regular Chives and Parsley Gigante (Italian flat leaf) for your pleasure. I will also have some beautiful Nasturtiums, which are so lovely in the garden, but can also be put to culinary use in salads and as toppers for soups.
I will send out another email before Saturday’s market, so you know exactly what to expect. As with all my offerings, early bird gets the worm!
Lucky Like Premium Dog Treats will be back weekly at the Warrenton NC Farmer’s Market opening 8 am to Noon on April 15. We will be offering our Best Selling Crunchy Peanut Butter Biscuits and NEW Bacon Cheddar Barley Bones.
In addition, we will be offering a NEW Heavenly Herbal Elixir for your dogs, cats and chickens. Just add a tablespoon or two to your pet’s food or water to get the benefits, which are many, from keeping bugs at bay to putting a spring in your elder pet’s step, addressing skin issues, and building strong teeth and bones, anti-depressant and pain reducer and anti-inflammatory. All this achieved with an Organic brew of apple cider vinegar and organic herbs that are safe for your pets! Comes in a beautiful corked bottle which can be returned for a discounted refill.
Finally, get your gardens going with CherryGal Heirloom Herbs offering a wide range of ORGANIC culinary and medicinal herb seedlings, and a few decorative seedlings, during the opening weeks. It is so important to grow organic for anything that you will be utilizing for food or medicine. Most varieties will be in very limited supply, so please come early on the 15th. I can’t bring them all, so there will be more in following weeks until gone, but again it will be first come first served (and no pre-sales). A partial listing:
Allheal (Prunella vulgaris), Apple Mint (Mentha suaveolens), Bay Laurel (Laurus nobilis), Blood Sorrel (Rumex sanguineus var. sanguineus), Catnip (Nepeta cataria), Cinnamon Basil (O. basilicum), Evening Primrose (Oenothera biennis), Bronze Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare), Clary Sage (Salvia sclarea), Garlic Chives (Allium tuberosum), Golden Creeping Jenny (Lysimachia nummularia ‘Aurea’), Gooseneck Lysimachia (Lysimachia clethroides), Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis), Lemon Grass (Cymbopogon citratus), Lemon Mint (Monarda citriodoro), Thyme, Lemon (Thymus citriodorus), Marshmallow (Althaea officinalis), Macartney Rose (Rosa Bracteata), Oswego Tea (Mondarda didyma), Painted Sage (Salvia horminium), Roselle (Hibiscus sabdariffa), Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis), Syrian Oregano (Oreganum maru), Tri-color Sage (Salvia officinalis v. tri-color), Variegated English Thyme (Thymus vulgaris), Virginia Mountain Mint (Pycnanthemum virginianum), Wild Bergamot (Monarda fistulosum), to name just a few!
There will be so many returning vendors this year and some new ones so I hope to see you there!