Trial by seed

Gardening in Fall and Winter: Grow Veggies in 5-Gallon Containers!

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Today is a bittersweet day. For us New Englanders, it's the beginning of the end... The first day of Autumn. We've long since kissed summer goodbye and are now anticipating cool days and even chillier nights. Gardens are starting to look a little tired, and it's just about time to put them to bed! For many gardeners, this is a sad occasion... having to bid our summer gardens goodbye. But this is not the end for many gardeners in warmer areas of the country! In fact, now may be the perfect time to plant cool season crops like carrots, kale, radishes, and more! To make it even easier on you, there's the option of planting your crops in easy-to-move gallon buckets!

Photo via Pinterest
Photo via Pinterest

Your options are vast if you're looking for a little bumper crop as we head into cooler weather. Most of these 1, 2, and 3 gallon containers can be found at your local hardware store or gardening center, so pick yourself up some organic soil mix and get started!

Using a 3-5 gallon container, you can accomplish growing the following things:

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As a side note, it's a little late for hot temperature crops like tomatoes and peppers. Unfortunately those will have to wait until next season for most people!

Be sure to drill holes in the bottoms of your containers to aide in drainage, and don't forget to feed & water, like any other type of garden!

Check out these links for more info on Fall Vegetable Gardening!
8 Vegetables to grow in fall container gardens
Fall gardening for beginners
Plant these speedy fall vegetables for a last hurrah!

Fermented Foods: Why They're So Important

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Most times when people hear the word 'fermented', they automatically think of something that's gone bad and is inedible. The reality of it is that lactofermentation is a process for preserving foods that was used long before we had preservatives and the ability to can foods using a process with high heat. Lactofermentation has a very simple list of requirements... water, salt, a jar, and an anaerobic (absent of air) environment! By creating this environment, you are allowing the good bacteria to thrive, and the bad bacteria to be destroyed by the good bacteria!

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When trying out the lactofermentation process for the first time, many people are afraid of what they might produce. For the most part, you'll be able to tell whether your fermentation attempt was successful or not, just based on the look and smell of it when you crack your first jar open. There's also a chance that a small amount of white mold may be present, but this type of mold can simply be skimmed off and thrown away.

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For more information on determining whether your fermentation was successful or not, you can check out these resources: Cultures for Health, “Why Your Vegetable Ferment Grew Mold, What to Do With It, and How to Prevent It"
Food Renegade, “Are Mason Jar Ferments Safe?
Wild Fermentation, “Vegetable Fermentation Further Simplified

We also offer a few books about fermentation, be sure to check them out:
Wild Fermentation
Drink the Harvest

One of the easiest ways to ferment foods is using The Perfect Pickler, one of our most popular sellers! The Perfect Pickler comes with a basic recipe book that can be used for almost ANY vegetable you'd like to ferment, as well as kimchi and sauerkraut recipes! The two photos you see below were me trying my hand at fermenting some shredded beets using the Perfect Pickler. I'll let you know how they turn out!

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Q. What are fermented foods?
A. Foods that have been through a process called 'lactofermentation', where natural bacteria feed on the sugar and starch contained in the food, creating lactic acid. This is a process that preserves the food and introduces beneficial enzymes, probiotics, B-vitamins, and Omega-3 fatty acids. Natural fermentation also preserves the nutrients in the food, as well as breaks the food down into a more easily digestible form. The probiotics that are created during the fermentation process are also known to improve digestion. The practice of fermenting foods has steadily declined in the U.S. since the introduction of pasteurized milk and yogurt, vinegar based pickles and sauerkraut, and many other similar products.

Q. Why eat fermented foods?
A. Fermented drinks like kefir and kombucha can balance out the bacteria in your digestive system, improve bowel healthy, and increase immunity. Having properly balanced gut bacteria and digestive enzymes can help you better absorb the nutrients you're consuming, instead of letting them go to waste. When you are able to better absorb nutrients from what you eat, the need for additional vitamins and supplements decreases sharply. By making and storing fermented foods, you are also saving yourself an abundance of time and money. Lactofermented foods last months without losing any of their nutrients. Fermented foods such as kombuchu are also linked to the detoxification of the body. They contain a compound called glucuronic acid that is capable of drawing out several different types of toxins as well as many heavy metals. (Read more about this here.)

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FERMENTATION IS NOT JUST FOR PRESERVATION!
This is a common misconception that many people are not aware of. Fermented foods are high in good gut bacteria that help our bodies function at the peak of their ability! Happy gut, happy body! Below are some foods/drinks you can craft and consume to reintroduce good bacteria into your diet. Be careful how much fermented food you consume at first if it isn't already a part of your diet... your body needs time to adjust to a new diet, so new things should be introduced slowly and in small increments.

- Kombucha (fermented tea) contains 4-7 different types of microorganisms. Just be careful with how much sugar it contains; it's always best to attempt making your own to control sugar content, or being an avid reader of nutritional labels. The flavor is sweet, fizzy, and slightly sour.
Some recipes we suggest checking out:
The Nourished Kitchen
Real Food Forager

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- Kefir (fermented grains) is great for improving colon and gastrointestinal health as well as boosting immune function. Flavor is like that of yogurt, just in a more liquid form.
Some recipes we suggest checking out:
The Nourished Kitchen
Real Food Outlaws

Interested in making your own yogurt? Check out our Yogurt Maker, which allows you to make plain or flavored yogurt, sweetened to your own tastes.

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- Sauerkraut (fermented cabbage) has a powerful impact on not just your gut health, but your brain health! It is linked to easing depression and anxiety. Fermented sauerkraut is less sweet and more sour than the 'sauerkraut' you can buy in the condiments section of the grocery store. You can use The Perfect Pickler for easy, tasty sauerkraut! Some recipes we suggest checking out:
The Perfect Pickler
The Nourished Kitchen

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- Miso (fermented soybeans and grains) is full of minerals like potassium, and lots of microorganisms to boost strength and stamina. Flavor is salty and slightly sour.
Some recipes we suggest checking out:
Superfoods For Superhealth
Renegade Health

- Tempeh (fermented soybeans) is chock full of proteins containing needed amino acids. Tempeh tends to take on the flavor of whatever you're cooking it in/with, so it's a great base to start with.
Some recipes we suggest checking out:
The Kitchn
Veganlovlie

- Kimchi (fermented cabbage) is an energy booster and skin cleanser that enhances digestion. Flavor is slightly sweet and sour, depending on how long you ferment it for, and what is being fermented with the cabbage.
You can use The Perfect Pickler to make simple, delicious Kimchi! Some recipes we suggest checking out:

The Perfect Pickler
Real Food Outlaws

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MAKE YOUR OWN! Most supermarket-sold fermented foods have been pasteurized and cooked at such a high heat that all the beneficial bacteria has been killed off. Also, many supermarket brands have high amounts of added sugars and sodium. If you have to buy from the store, make sure it's as local as possible, and that it's been refrigerated - true lactofermented foods are not typically shelf stable.

Sometimes there is some confusion as to the difference between fermented foods and pickled foods. It is important to note that pickled foods are not always fermented, and fermented foods are not always pickled. Pickled foods are those that have been preserved in some sort of acidic medium, such as vinegar, and subjected to some form of high heat in order to can them. The vinegar offers a form of preservation, but all the beneficial bacteria has long been killed off by the high heat used to can the vegetable. Fermentation, as explained at the beginning of this article, is preserving by a means of salt and an anaerobic environment, which prevents the growth of bad bacteria and allows good bacteria to flourish. Fermented foods require refrigeration.

To ferment uncut vegetables, you'll want to submerge them in a salt and water brine. For chopped, sliced or shredded vegetables, simply layer them with small amounts of salt and press the layers all firmly together to release juices and eradicate any air pockets. The lactobacillus bacteria that is present on the skin of every vegetable is what gets the fermentation process going. The salt keeps bad bacteria at bay and draws the moisture out of the veggies and into the jar to keep the fermentation going. This preserves the food without the use of heat, therefore preserving the beneficial bacteria that we need. It's also important to note that not all salts are created equal. Unrefined salt is the best to use, such as sea salt and Himalayan salt. If you are using a brine, your water should also be as free of contaminants as possible. Around 3 TBSP of salt per 5 lbs. of vegetables is a good starting point for measuring.

What are your favorite fermentation recipes and methods? Share in the comments section!

(The information on this blog is intended for general information purposes only and is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. It is not intended as medical advice or to replace the advice or attention of health care professionals. You may wish to consult your physician before beginning or making changes in your diet, nutritional supplementation or exercise program.)

 

Pinetree Recipes: Pumpkin & Squash Puree - Pinetree Garden Seeds

There are many different methods for using the abundance of pumpkins and squash in your garden, just in time for winter. We're thinking soups, sauces, toppings for meat dishes and much more...

Pinetree's Co-Owner (and resident chef) Jef shared with us a simple and delectable recipe for a squash puree you'll be eating straight out of the bowl!AEC_1731 - low

When selecting a squash or pumpkin to make your puree from, keep in mind that not all pumpkins and squash are created equal. Small pie pumpkins such as the Winter Luxury are the perfect choice for a sweet or savory puree. Large Jack-O-Lantern pumpkins (such as the Howden shown below), however, are NOT ideal for creating puree. Pie pumpkins are smaller and more dense with a smooth velvety texture that is fiber free with pure pumpkin flavor. Decorating or Jack-O-Lantern pumpkins like Howden have a bland, watery, fibrous pulp. They can be used but are not optimum for culinary purposes, decorating carving and livestock feed.
The Galeux D' Eysines, Sweet Lightning, Gold Nugget and Ebony Acorn squashes are all wonderful choices to create a flavorful puree.

A little bit of history on pumpkins and squash before we start! Pumpkins are a fruit (more specifically a berry) that have seeds and pulp that is produced from a single ovary (the female pumpkin flower). Contrary to popular belief, most commercial canned pumpkin is made from winter squash, where squash tends to have a sweeter, stronger flavor that gives the soups, pies and breads we make with it the flavor we all know and recognize!
The origin of the word 'pumpkin' comes from Greek word 'pepon', meaning large melon, with the French changing to 'pompon' then the British changing it to 'pumpion' and its final name give by the American colonists, in which the meat and seed provided nourishment to colonists and livestock. The original pumpkin pie was the whole pumpkin top was cut off , seeds removed and then filled with eggs, milk, spices and honey then baked in hot ashes. Here is a link to another blogger who tried the original pumpkin pie recipe out and had success! Pumpkins were also used by colonists to make beer. They are native to Central America with oldest evidence of pumpkin seeds dating back to around 5000-7000 BC, in Mexico. 1 billion pounds of pumpkin are produced in the US every season. Health benefits include it being a high source of A , C, E , B vitamins and potassium , high in fiber and high in antioxidants.

For this recipe, you'll need these ingredients:
Your selected squash or pumpkin
Olive oil
Butter
Garlic (whole cloves)
Fresh thyme
Cream or vegetable/chicken stock
Salt & pepper
A knife suitable for cutting through the thick walls of your squash

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Cut your pumpkin or squash in half, down the middle from top to bottom.

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Scoop out the insides, including seeds and fibrous pulp.

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Keep watch on the blog for a few quick and easy recipes regarding roasted pumpkin seeds...

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Once you've scooped the insides of your halves clean, rub them lightly with olive oil.

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Sprinkle the olive oil coated insides with both salt and pepper.

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Select a generous amount of fresh thyme to stuff inside the halves.

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Break off 2-3 cloves of garlic from your bulb and peel off the outermost layers of skin before smashing the cloves with the flat side of your knife. This helps to release some of the flavors. Place the smashed cloves inside the pumpkin/squash halves with your fresh thyme.

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Place a flat pan against the cut side of the squash before flipping the entire thing over, leaving the squash/pumpkin face down on the pan.

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Bake your squash halves at 375° for around 35-40 minutes, depending on size. Check it periodically for softness. If you desire, you can add a small amount of water to the pan in order to create some steam.

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When you can press into the squash easily with a light touch, it's ready to come out of the oven.

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Loosen the squash from the pan by gently working a knife or small spatula underneath the edges.

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When you flip the squash over, the insides should be completely soft and moist.

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Scoop the thyme and garlic cloves out of the squash and deposit some of the thyme leaves along with the whole cloves of garlic and some of the liquid from inside the squash into the bottom of a blender.

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Scrape the softened flesh of the squash into the blender.

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Add a small pad of butter (1-1 1/2 tablespoons).

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Blend and stir periodically until well blended.

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Add a small amount of cream along with salt to taste and blend until it reaches a smooth, creamy consistency.

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Ta-da! A creamy, flavorful puree for your use. Add a little chicken or vegetable stock to make it into a soup, or use it as a topping for a meat dish.

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Now that we've given you the recipe, here's a little background on the pumpkin we used... the Winter Luxury pumpkin!
It is said to be the best pie pumpkin, ever! The vines produce medium sized, 5-7 pound tangerine orange pumpkins that are blanketed with white netting giving it a pastel appearance. The flesh is silky smooth with just the right amount of sweetness. A must have if you like to have your own canned pumpkin in the pantry. Introduced in 1893 by Johnson and Stokes of Philadelphia, also know as Livingston Pie Squash. One pumpkin averages 2 pies and one plant produces an average of 4 pumpkins that weigh 5-7 lbs.

This recipe is mainly for use directly after, though if you'd like to freeze it, simply omit the butter and cream and pack into freezer containers with a small amount of space left at the top for expansion. To use, defrost and blend together with the butter and small amount of cream or vegetable/chicken stock, and it will be ready to use once more.

In order to can squash or pumpkin, a different method altogether is required. Instead of being pureed, canned pumpkin or squash must be cubed. See these instructions, provided by the USDA.

To dry pumpkin or squash, wash , remove seeds, stringy flesh and skin. Cut into small pieces , 1” wide by 1/8” thick strips. Blanch over steam for 3 minutes then dip into cold water to stop blanching action, drain excess moisture. Dry in electric dehydrator or in oven on cookie sheet , place on low or warm, 140-150degrees, prop door open to allow moisture to be removed, about 10-16 hours. Ground the dried pieces in a food processor and store in an airtight jar. To reconstitute, use 1 part pumpkin to 2 ½ part water.