Archive | Organic Produce

Where Does Food Come From?

Caprese Salad

Caprese Salad

Where does food come from before it gets to the grocery store?  The USDA has strict country of origin labeling (COOL) laws that, “requires retailers … notify their customers with information regarding the source of certain foods.” Effective as of 2005, the law covers just about anything edible including: muscle cut and ground meats (beef, veal, pork, lamb, goat, and chicken); wild and farm-raised fish and shellfish; fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables; peanuts, pecans, and macadamia nuts; and ginseng. Yes, ginseng made the list and is specifically called out.

Cut the tomato off the vine with about an inch of the stem still attached. This helps the tomato ripen better.

Home grown tomato

Although the law covers country of origin, it’s difficult – if not impossible – to tell where within the country the food came from, the conditions in which it was raised, or the handling of that food from origin to table. This is just one of many factors that have fueled local food movements.

The microclimate in your area can affect what grows best in your yard.

The microclimate in your area can affect what grows best in your yard.

If you are interested in learning more, FoodRoutes.org is a great place to start. They point out that in addition to exceptional taste and freshness, buying locally strengthens your local economy, supports endangered family farms, safeguard your family’s health, and protects the environment. And don’t forget the experience factor. Whether you are checking out local farms or growing your own food, you’ll have these memories for a lifetime.

If you want to know where your produce comes from, one of the best ways is to grow it yourself.  Check out our Kickstarter Campaign, where we are raising funds to bring our very first product, TogetherFarm Blocks™, to you.  If you have a small space you can use these blocks to quickly build a custom garden box without tools or carpentry experience.  Check them out!

grow your own produce

Grow your own produce!

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Can your garden box do tricks? Introducing TogetherFarm Blocks

This post reviews TogetherFarm’s recently unveiled TogetherFarm Blocks – the best and easiest way to build a garden box.

TogetherFarm recently launched a Kickstarter Campaign to get TogetherFarm Blocks to market. Check out this link to learn more and to support the project:

TogetherFarm Kickstarter Campaign

Kickstarter Campaign for TogetherFarm BlocksMost garden boxes are pretty boring when you think about it. Just a plain square or sometimes a rectangle. If you want to get creative, you have to be a professional carpenter.

TogetherFarm Blocks changes all this because our blocks can do tricks – your imagination is the limit. We have designed a modular garden box system that is made out of 100% recycled plastic. Each of the individual blocks clip together to form a garden box in whatever shape or size you want. Since most of us have gotten so accustomed to thinking of gardening boxes as, well, a box, we wanted to share some of the possible layouts that you can do with each of the kits sizes – thinking outside of the box, if you will! Here are just a few of the layouts you can do with a TogetherFarm Blocks’ garden box kit. But don’t let these examples stop you. There are dozens more configurations that are possible.

Can your garden box do tricks? Introducing TogetherFarm Blocks

 

And, you don’t need any tools to assemble TogetherFarm Blocks. There is no cutting, no measuring, and no heavy lifting. Additionally, the blocks can easily be taken with you if you move. Here is what one of our newest fans said, “TogetherFarm blocks are ideally suited to renters like ourselves, who have ended up spending a couple hundred bucks at every rental house building our own wooden beds because we can’t stand to live without a garden :)!” This is just one of the many features that TogetherFarm Blocks provide to those who want to grow their own produce.

As we gear up for manufacturing, we need your help to get these blocks to market. TogetherFarm has launched a Kickstarter Campaign where we hope to raise enough funds to cover the mold and tooling costs to produce TogetherFarm Blocks. With your help, more people will have access to their own home grown produce. You can pledge at whatever level you want – from $1 and up. Those who pledge $35 or more will receive TogetherFarm Blocks of their own as a thank you for supporting the campaign. Here is the link to the Kickstarter Campaign:

TogetherFarm Kickstarter Campaign

And, thanks so much for your support!

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Red Anjou Pear, Amaretto and Cardamom Preserves Recipe

Red Anjou Pear Preserves

Red Anjou Pear Preserves

In this short article, we’re disclosing a closely guarded family secret, namely my wife Rhonda’s recipe for Red Anjou Pear, Amaretto and Cardamom preserves.  We had a bumper crop of pears and we’re only half-way through the season.  What better way to enjoy the harvest through the cold winter months than with pear preserves?  Who am I kidding – I started enjoying them shortly after they cooled.  Anyway, here’s the recipe:

Red Anjou Pear, Amaretto and Cardamom Preserves

Makes approximately eight,  8-oz jars of preserves.

  • 8 C  chopped ripe Anjou Pears (unpeeled and washed)
  • 4 C sugar
  • 2 TSP Vanilla extract
  • 1/8 TSP Cardamom (ground)
  • 1/2 C Amaretto liqueur (or substitute with 2 TSP Almond Extract)
  • 6 TBS Classic powdered fruit pectin

Directions:

  1. Combine chopped pears and sugar in a large soup pot.
  2. Cook on medium high until pears turn soft, about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  3. With a potato masher, mash some of the pears so the mixture starts to turn a little pink.
  4. When pears are cooked, add the Amaretto and Vanilla extract.
  5. Add the pectin, one tablespoon at a time, and stir until completely dissolved.
  6. Bring pears back up to a full rolling boil for one minute–stirring constantly so pectin does not burn.
  7. Remove from heat, and immediately process for canning while mixture is still hot.

Enjoy and let us know how yours turned out.  Oh, and don’t tell Rhonda!

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How to grow your own potatoes and harvest them twice in one year

How to grow your own potatoes and harvest them twice in one year

Freshly harvested young red potatoes from my garden

Often times when I buy a big bag of potatoes, I end up not being able to use all of them. Or, I wait too long to use them and they start growing little shoots all around the potato – even still in the bag. Here is the good news about this, you can use potatoes that have started to send out shoots to grow your own potato plants. I did this earlier this year. I had some red potatoes that sat in my kitchen for too long. Instead of throwing them out, I decided to put them in my garden. You can also buy seed potatoes from a nursery or seed store in your area. Potatoes are really easy to grow and you can actually get two harvests from each plant every year. Here is how to grow your own potatoes and harvest them twice in one year:

1. Take your sprouted potatoes or purchased seed potatoes and cut them into sprouted sections

Each sprouting potato can become 5-6 plants (sometimes more) depending on how many sprouts are developing on the potato. You can take the potato and cut it into big sections around each of these sprouts. Cut the whole potato up leaving as much of the potato flesh with each sprout as possible.

2. Prep the soil for planting the potatoes

Soil prep is really important in order to get a good harvest of potatoes. Since the potatoes themselves will form at the roots of the plant, they like soil that is loose and deep. Try to dig the soil to a depth of 1 foot before planting and make sure the soil is loose. It is also important that the soil drains well. If it doesn’t you may end up having water that sits around the potato roots and begins to rot the newly forming potatoes.

3. Plant each section of sprouted potato 4-6 inches deep

Once you have sectioned the potato, you are ready to plant. Dig a furrow that is 4-6 inches deep. Set each potato section into the furrow spacing them out by about a foot. If you are gardening in a smaller space, you can plant the potatoes closer together but you will probably get less of a yield. When the plants get to be about 1 foot tall, it is helpful to pull the soil up around the base of the plants creating a mound. This protects the deep roots and allows for more soil for new potatoes to form. The best time to plant the potatoes is when all chance of frost is passed and the soil is well warmed. You can also plant mid to late summer depending on how warm the fall is in your area.

The other option you can try is planting the potato plants in a 5 gallon bucket with drainage wholes cut into the bottom. Fill the 5 gallon bucket with soil and then plant the potato (or a couple potatoes) 4-6 inches deep. Then, be sure to water well as your potatoes begin to grow.

4. When do I harvest my potatoes?

How to grow your own potatoes and harvest them twice in one year

Potato plant flowers indicate that you can do a mid-cycle harvest

There are actually two times that you can harvest potatoes (especially with Yukon Gold and All Red Potato varieties). You know you can do the first harvest when the plants have flowered. In order to do this, lightly dig around the base of the plant being careful not to disturb the roots. As you sift through the soil, you will discover little potatoes. Pull up as many of these little potatoes as you want and be sure to eat them within a couple of days as they don’t last very long. When you have harvested the young potatoes, replace the soil and then water well. Be sure to reform the mounds around the plants.

The potatoes are ready for the second harvest when the plants have started loosing their color and dying back. At this point, you can thoroughly dig up the plants (or just dump out your 5 gallon bucket if you are container gardening). Dig deep around the roots and you will find lots of mature potatoes throughout the soil surrounding the potato plants. I have found that I often don’t find all the potatoes in the soil. This works out great because I get volunteer potatoes in my garden the next year, ready to start the double harvest process again when the plants begin to bloom.

That’s it. Next time your potatoes start to sprout, try planting them in your garden instead of tossing them out. Then, enjoy your own fresh, organic potatoes later that year.

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