Adventures in Spring Gardening

Last year without much success, I tried to do some spring gardening. I got jealous of my neighbors with their lush lettuces and stone age size cabbage heads while I declared victory with some micro broccoli rabe. I enjoyed it, but the kale, lettuce, onions, spinach and potatoes I planted either died or didn't do very well. Undaunted, because as a gardener that come with the plot, I jumped right in this year the weekend after my plot was ready. Today. I just about wrapped up the early planting. I'm happy to say that I have the following in the ground;

  • Blue Adirondack Potatoes
  • Crapaudine beets
  • Belgium White Carrots
  • Purple Dragon Carrots
  • Tasco Celery
  • Tabris Beans
  • Purple Pak Choy
  • Red, Golden and Candy Striped beets, they were some beet seedlings that I'm trying and that's all I could find out about them
  • Radicchio
  • Romaine Lettuce
  • Red Zeppelin Onions

I'm impressed with myself. I've never had this much in the ground so early, and my garden plot in such a manageable position. I'm out ahead of the weeds, and I have some rapidly growing tomato plants that will be going in at least 10 days earlier than I planed. Black plastic will go down next weekend, which will heat the soil, and the following weekend they go in. I anticipate that they will be very happy.

So that's it for now. I hope your gardens are moving along.


What's New in This Year's Garden

plant planting cellsSince the organization meeting for my community garden is coming up next week, and my plot will be available, it makes sense that I should get my seeds started. Most of what I grow will be planted after May 15, so I'm still good. Barely. Life happens so I will just go with the flow, and hope for the best. I have a couple new varieties this year, as always and I'm looking forward to what's going to happen with them. The Tabaris bean will be new, which I wrote about a little while back.

Toothache Plant or Szechuan Buttons will be new. It intrigues me. I look forward to growing and photographing it. It seems like a beautiful subject to photograph with the leaves described as bronze-purple, and flowers that look like yellow gumdrops with red eyes, it might be a specimen from a garden in Alice in Wonderland.  The leaves numb the mouth, hence the name Toothache Plant. There are references for culinary uses, for cocktails, and as a medicinal herb. It's a member of the Asteraceae family, which includes sunflowers, asters and daisies. Sounds like a fun plant.

Dragon Carrots, which is vegetable that people rave about, will have a place in my garden. Red skin with orange interiors, and chock full of vitamins, they demonstrate that nutrition can be fun. First and foremost, food is nutrition, and when you can grow fresh, organic nutrition, you should take advantage of it. It's a simple concept.

Paris White Cos lettuce is a new to me, but considering Jefferson grew this for 60 years at Monticello, it's been around a long time. It's a French heirloom. I find the French have a nice selection of heirloom lettuces. It's a romaine lettuce, which I enjoy a lot.

Green Pear Tomatoes sound interesting. I like green tomatoes a lot. Aunt Ruby's German Green Beefsteaks are legendary, and rightfully so. They have a sweet, spicy flavor that sets the standard for green tomatoes. The Green Pears are fruity in addition to the traditional spicy sweet green tomato flavor profile from the description. Throw in prolific and I'm sold.

Wild Galápagos Tomatoes are another tomato that captured my imagination. Anything Galápagos related is fascinating, especially the giant tortoises. I wasn't aware that wild tomatoes grew there until I came across these seeds. The seeds I have are one of two varieties endemic to the Galápagos. They are small, yellow-orange grape shaped, and because of their resistance to a number of tomato pests including the whitefly, and resistance to salt. plant breeders use them as source to cross with other varieties. It all sounds great but the key for me, I have a connection to the giant tortoises.

Japanese Black Trifele tomatoes introduces me to the Trifele tomatoes of Russia. Russia contributes a lot of varieties to the heirloom tomato rainbow, and these large, black, pear shape tomatoes are described everywhere, and I do mean everywhere on the Internet as;

In Russia the Trifele varieties of tomatoes (of which there are several colors) are highly prized and command big prices.

Where the Japanese in the name comes from I can't find a source for that because of the above sentence defines the tomato on the Google. I did find a source for the red, pink, and yellow Trifele varieties,, scroll through this interesting collection of Russian varieties to find them. Gotta love looking at Russian tomatoes with Japanese in their name on a website called Amish Land. A rainbow indeed.

Black tomatoes are some of the most flavorful around. These are compact, determinate potato leaf plants that produce all season, and can handle all types of weather from what I read. I'll see if they can handle the oppressive Jersey July humidity.

Sungold Tomato seeds were shared with me by Carol Ann, a good friend. They are sweet, early and have notes of fruit. The color is described as orange, tangerine, apricot or gold. I'll take any or all of those colors. They will be a nice contrast with the Green Pear described earlier, and the Black Cherry that I will be growing.

And finally, Speckled Roman, also from my friend Carol Ann, who raves about these paste tomatoes. Red with orange stripes, just the name alone makes want to grow them. Speckled has a gesture of humor to me, which I love.  They were developed by John Senson of the Seed Savers Exchange, and are said to be a cross between Antique Roman and Banana Legs.

That's what's new this year. Now, if the weather cooperates...



Carrots, A Colorful History

photo of carrotsLast week I wrote about how to grow carrots. For a long time, growing root vegetables intimidated me. It was rather silly. All plants have roots, so what was the mystery about these plants with edible roots? Was there some kind of magic involved? A ritual maybe? Ancient secrets past down from ancient astronauts? In reality, none of these implied-in-my-head factors applied. Root vegetables like carrots are rather easy to grow. Like every plant, root vegetables have some individual requirements, but nothing outlandish. They are not divas, and are rather fun and colorful. Domestic carrots originated around Afghanistan in colors of purple, red and white. Yellow carrots appeared in Turkish writings in the 900s, and the Dutch developed the orange carrot in the 1600s. There are black carrots that are grown in some countries today that include Turkey, Syria and Egypt. They are grouped with the purple varieties. That's quite a history. Queen Anne's Lace, the carrot's wild cousin, grows from the Mediterranean region to Asia and North America. The root of Queen Anne's Lace is woody and not edible, but does have herbal medicinal uses.

It was the French seedhouse, Vilmorin-Andriueux in the late 1880s that developed a lot of today's carrot varieties, including the Nantes and Chantenay. Miniature, Imperator and Danvers round out the list to five varieties, and this chart  is a good reference.

Jaune De Doubs is a french heirloom variety that dates back to the 19th century. From;

Jaune du Doubs Carrot (78 days) Open-pollinated. I like this 19th century French heirloom best of all the yellow carrots. Holli Cederholm, another admirer, calls it “a mainstay in her open-pollinated rainbow carrot bunches,” and reports it performed beautifully on her heavy and rocky new ground—with fewer culls than #2076 Danvers or Dragon. Not everyone agrees. Some are put off by its sometimes rough unrefined appearance and variable taste and texture. We advise working your seed bed well before sowing to avoid forked or shallow roots. The plants have the kind of dense rampant wildness that has been tamed out of the newer hybrids, so thin them more rigorously than other varieties. Well-grown they produce smooth conical 5–8" yellow roots, showing slight green shoulders and good core color. Better flavor cooked than raw and retains good color. Cederholm reports that the roots stay crisp and crunchy in storage for tri-colored carrot slaw all winter.

Fast forward to a modern variety, Purple Dragon, which has the same amount of lycopene as tomatoes.When plants breeders create varieties that boost nutritional value that's a win. First and foremost food is nutrition, not a pesticide. That is the difference between hybrids and GMOs.

Off the soapbox and back to history, there is the White Belgian, a carrot grown historically for feed, but yet is a great tasting carrot. It's important to note that carrots have been grown for animal feed as well as the farmer's table. Perhaps that's one reason it took until the late 1800s for them to be reinvented for popular consumption. I grew White Belgians last year, but due the schedule I had, they fell to wayside. They got in the container too late, and languished in the intense heat we had in July 2012. I did get some long, very narrow carrots, and the taste was superb. It was this taste that inspired me to do it right this year. I'm adding Purple Dragons to my list, recommend by a cousin and a good friend, both who know gardening well, and Jaune De Doubs.

Atomic Red Carrots add red to the carrot color spectrum, The red is from lycopene. They are a imperator type, and are a good cooking carrot.

For miniature carrots, there are Paris Market, a round orange french heirloom, Little Fingers, a short cylindrical orange carrot, and Parmex Baby Ball Carrots, an improved version of the Paris Market that does not need peeling. The Parmex link also has Adelaide Baby Carrots listed.

For juicing, try the Healthmaster variety, an orange Danvers type. Also, any of the purple varieties would be good for juicing since they are full of antioxidants and lycopene.

This is a just sample of what's out there for carrot varieties. There are festivals around the world that honor this colorful and healthy root, and there's an International Carrot Day too. But the ultimate tribute in my book is the association with Bugs Bunny, a beloved cultural icon, my favorite cartoon character and an appropriate association.


Carrots, Growing, Not Manufactured

photo of carrotsManufactured carrots? Yes, but not in an evil scientist, GMO way. The baby carrots that are so popular today, have an interesting history. When they first appeared on the market, they started out as carrots that were deemed not market worthy. They were cut from these shamed carrots. Mike Yurosek of Newhall, California, a carrot farmer came up with this idea, and in the process, he revolutionized carrot breeding, and the carrot industry. You can read his story here.

If you look at the package label, baby-cut carrots are shaped out of larger carrots, and baby carrots are either carrots harvested early, or varieties that are full-sized, small carrots. You can also tell the difference by the shape of the shoulder, and if the carrots still have the skin on. If it has a true carrot shoulder, and the skin, you know it's not cut from a larger carrot.

It seems odd to refer to a naturally grown carrot whittled down to as a smaller version as a manufactured carrot, however, while researching this post, I kept coming across the term. I think it's great that a use was found for what was once scrap because of its shape or appearance. The scraps from the cutting process are used for juicing or for animal feed. Also, because of this process, carrot consumption has risen. According to;

"Baby-cuts" are part of a sharp upsurge in the carrot's popularity in the U.S. Between 1970 and 1986, Americans ate  6 pounds of carrots per person per year. However, American consumption of carrots began to take off in 1987, and by 2002 it had reached <11 pounds per person.

Quite a good story all around I would say. It ties into a challenge of growing carrots. Carrots need soft, rock free soil at a preferred depth of twelve inches to grow long and straight. You always want to provide the optimum growing environment for your plants. While you might not mind knobby or fork shaped carrots, which can happen with hard soil or rocks in the path of the root growing down, this will add stress to the plant, and that's never a good thing.

To clear the soil for carrot beds, or for any root vegetable for that matter, you can sift it through a screen. You can also double dig, or use containers that you fill with soft, rock free soil. Raised beds are ideal since you're adding the soil to raised bed you can ensure that it will be soft and rock free.

Whatever method you choose, add in about a 1 inch layer of mature compost, or vermicompost, which is compost processed by worms. It's a great addition to your soil.

Direct sow your seeds. Carrot seeds are very small, so be careful handling them. Some suggest mixing them with an equal amount of sand to seed for spreading the mixture, and others suggest seed tapes. Whatever method you're comfortable with, sow them a quarter-inch deep, approximately 2" apart, and space the rows approximately a foot apart. Double and triple rows are ok, depending on the space you have available. If you do double or triple rows, try succession planting a week apart. This will extend your harvest for 2 or 3 weeks depending on how you time the succession planting. If you are using containers, keep the same spacing between plants. Don't crowd the container, or the row.

If you can't do twelve inches in your bed, or you have really hard soil, work with what you have. While the twelve inch dept is ideal, you can always plant Paris Market Carrots, a small round variety.

Carrots are slow germinators, be patient with them. Also, you can plant quick-growing radishes with them to mark where the row, and to break the soil. Just be sure to remove all the radishes when they sprout. Carrots don't like crowds, so mulch the rows to keep weeds at bay, and keep the soil evenly moist during the germination period.

You can plant them in the spring before the last frost, but the soil temperature needs should be at least 60 degrees. They can tolerate a light frost. They do better with phosphorous and potassium instead of nitrogen, so keep the manure away. They don't like acidic soil. A pH of 5.8-7 is best. If you test your soil and it's below the 5.8 pH number, use lime to raise the pH.

Harvest them when the carrots show a rich color, cut the tops off, wash and store them in a refrigerator or a cool root cellar.

Row covers are universally suggested to combat the carrot fly. Companion planting suggests that sage, lavender or rosemary mask the aroma of carrots that attract the carrot fly, and Allium, (leeks, shallots etc) confuse the carrot fly. Carrot however says this rarely works. They have details here on dealing with this pest.

That's how you grow them, next week it's what kind to grow. That will be fun!

Rat Tail Radish

Sorry, I don't have a photo for this heirloom variety yet. You can find one here, along with a seed source. Hoover your mouse over the thumbnail and you can see a larger photo. I like radishes, and until a couple of years ago all I knew were the small, vibrant red, pungent, crunchy balls of flavor. Once korean cuisines entered the trendy foodie scene, the Daikon radish appeared. These large, white cylindrical shaped roots challenged what I knew and thought a radish was. Once the fascination starts, the researcher and historian kicks in, and all of sudden I have a new subject matter to explore, which makes me happy.

Now, as an advocate for heirloom vegetables and pure food, it gives me great pleasure to find different varieties of vegetables as content for what I do. This year, Rat Tail Radishes will be in my garden. When I saw the photos and description of this edible seed pod, I felt a deja vu, which is always a plus for me.

The Rat Tail Radish arrived in England in the early 1800s from Java. They made their to America, and became a very popular addition to gardens during the 1860s, and like a lot varieties fell out of vogue for a number of reasons including this snip from From Kitchen Gardens International ;

...  The plant may have become a victim of the hype, begun by Mr. Bull, who exhibited the curious radish at the great International Horticultural Exhibition in London in 1866. The new unnamed radish caused a sensation and was accompanied by claims of spectacular performance. It was claimed that its pods grow three inches overnight and attain a length of three to four feet. It was “destined to supersede root radishes of all kinds, and render us no longer dependent upon crops that were uncertain, and good only at certain times.” It was predicted that breeding with the garden radish would produce hybrids with both edible pods and roots. Soon there were others reporting growing it, and the descriptions, names used and place of origin were so different that it caused much confusion in the botanical and horticultural world. The disputes over name and classification were more easily settled than the claims of its marvelous qualities. ...

I found the above an interesting read about the Rat Radish. Again, here's the link.

All root varieties of radishes produce edible seeds pods, the unique aspect fo the Rat Tail variety is they are grown for their edible seed pods, not for their root. The plants grow up to 5 feet tall, produce delicate flowers which I've seen described ad edible also. Harvest the pods when small, up to 4 inches in length, they can become tough when they get large from what I've read. They attract pollinators, always a plus, and the young leaves are also edible, which makes sence Since they are members of the Brassicaceae family, otherwise know as the mustards, or cabbage family.

You can search for Madras seeds or Rat Tail Radish if you want to do your own research. And finally, I love the name. It adds to the quirky nature of heirloom vegetables.

Expo Recap

heirloom squashThe 2nd Annual National Heirloom Expo was  a wonderful event, and a successful one too. The expo folks estimate the crowd at 14,000 attendees. I'd say for a midweek event in it's second year, that's impressive. I'd like to thank The Petaluma Seed Bank, and Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds for all their hard work. Mounting an event like this is not easy. As a vendor, I'm happy to say, I had no problems. Speaking of vendors, there was quite a variety. There were seed  companies, pure food companies, people working in social justice, gardeners, farmers, activists, artists, and innovative people of all kinds, all working to make a difference locally, and for the planet. I was truly in awe. Than there were prepared food vendors serving up crepes, grass fed beef burgers, vegan and vegetarian fare, pad thai, and organic grilled cheese sandwiches on sourdough that were sublime. I had the Wild West version, which featured this delicious sauerkraut. Yum.

Location, location, location they say in real estate, and for event planning, it's just as important. The Sonoma County Fairgrounds handled this event with ease. It's an expansive property, clean and comfortable, with plenty of horse stalls, corrals, a race track, complete with a full service building with bleacher seating, and nice exhibition halls. A large parking lot is right there, and easy access to the freeway, and downtown Santa Rosa.

Speaking of Santa Rosa, it's a great place. Nice people, a thriving, walkable downtown with independent shops and delicious food and coffee. There's a mall downtown in case you need something Apple. Much like the rest of Sonoma County, it's a great place to spend a week, or a lifetime. There's wine country, a beautiful, rugged coast, and a forest that surrounds the Russian River. Combine all of that with this event, and you have a nice option for a vacation.

As far as heirloom varieties go, The Hall of Flowers was the place to see them.  Quite abundant as you can see from my photos below. Since I was by myself, I didn't have a chance to attend any of the speaker events. Overall, I did hear great feedback from a lot of people. If there was one complaint, it was that there was sensory overload. Considering we live in digital, wired world, sensory overload experienced in real time is new or forgotten experience I suppose.

A couple of personal highlights;

  • I had the opportunity to inform two people about the dangers of GMOs. They had never heard of them. (I had one of my t-shirts on with 100% GMO Free on the front, which raised the question in their mind.) The first was was a senior citizen who was not happy when she found out what they are. She is a resident of CA, and I was happy to inform her that she could vote Yes on Prop 37, the ballot initiative to require GMO labeling on food products. The second was a young girl who was about 8 or 9. I was talking to a couple of people, and she hung around until I was finished.  She was intent on asking her question. I love the juxtaposition of ages here, along with the reaction and response that I got. The elder reacted with righteous indignation, and her response was to take action by placing a vote. The wisdom and experience of life on a micro level. The young girl was curious, and was intent on satisfying it. To me, that's the wonder of youth that gets worn away as we become adults. In the end, the response from both about GMOs was why is this happening? Indeed.
  • A teacher stopped by to admire my photographs of sunflowers. We had a nice discussion of sunflowers, and photography. As the conversation flowed,  she told me she was teaching her class about sunflowers. I brought some Hopi Dye Sunflower seeds to give away as promo. For a number of reasons, that didn't happen. What did happen though is I gave her a large packet of the seeds I had. She was thrilled. She also liked the Sunflowers 2013 calendar I had for sale, so I gave her a copy of that to share with her class. She was so grateful, and so was I knowing that my work was going to be used in some way to inspire young minds. Education is paramount to the evolution of society. The way education and teachers are viewed today to me is awful. I saw this as an opportunity to demonstrate an appreciation education, and the people who chose to make it their life's work.
  • I meet Cindy Scott and Stephen Scott of Terrior Seeds. They will be Slow Food USA delegates to the Salone del Gusto Terra Madre, which I will be covering as press. We compared flights to Italy. Slow Food International made their arrangements. I made my own. As it turns out, We're leaving the same day, on the same airline and leaving for the flight to Italy from the same airport. They are from Arizona, I'm from New Jersey. I know the flight they are on, I almost booked the same flight. I look forward to meeting up with them in Turin, Italy. Oh, and those green pear tomatoes from their catalogue are a must have for me in 2013.

These are just a few of many interactions I had. Quite honestly, the three days are a big, fascinating blur. So many interesting people, with great stories and information to share. I could've spent a week listening and learning.

Now, onto some projects that I became aware of, and will featuring in future posts.

The Agtivists – This a project with a funding deadline of September 30, 2013. Zofia Hausman is the film maker behind the project.

From the page; The Agtivists is a feature length documentary that shadows the work of four American pioneers who are leading the way in the fight for our food freedom.

I will have featured post this weekend about this film.

For now, please check out the indiegogo,com projcet page, and if so inclined, please contribute.

Ceres Project – This is a fascinating story of food and community building. This story is so organic on many levels. More to come about this wonderful organization.

Valley Girl Foodstuffs – They are a social purpose business, (YES!) and they work with Sonoma Valley Teen Services. The teens they work with learn about the food system from the farm, to the kitchen, to the market. During this process, the teens develop skills that they can use as a platform for growth. And, can I just say, the flavor profiles and the ingredients here are top notch. Just saying, sweet and spicy papaya mustard.

Seed Matters– I'm excited by this new initiative funded by the Clif Bar Family Foundation. The major components are conserving crop diversity, protect farmer's roles and rights as seed innovators and seed stewards, and reinvigorate public seed research and education. Hear that Monsanto.

The Community Seed Toolkit will provide a nice resource to local people to learn about seed stewardship. Matthew Dillion is the curator for Seed Matters, and was the founding director of the Organic Seed Alliance, which I am a big fan. I've been on their distribution list for a number of years. I have confidence that Seed Matters will grow into top resource for organic farming. The site goes live in October, and I will be following this program closely.

That's a smal snippet of my experience over the three days of the event. Since I was flying solo for this event, I didn't get out and about as much as I would've liked. Perhaps that was for the best. Too much of anything will always be too much.

I had samples of my t-shirts on display. I got a lot of positive feedback, which is exciting. My favorite moment with the t-shirts occurred when a woman was admiring the Candy Roaster Winter Squash shirt. She was smiling, laughing to herself, and shaking her head. Of course I had to ask her if she knew about that squash. She did. It turns out her aunt raves about how "oh so good it is, and laments that she can't find them around anymore like she used to." This woman couldn't wait to tell her aunt that she saw her beloved heirloom variety on a t-shirt, at this national heirloom variety expo. And, that the t-shirt was part of a program to raise awareness about heirloom varieties of plants. A moment to savor, among so many.

Here are some random photos form the Hall of Flowers. I had about 7 minutes left on a half hour dinner break to try to capture this immense display of abundant varieties. Alas, no captions.

heirloom vegetables

heirloom varities

Hello, and Welcome to the Folks from the Expo!

Thanks for stopping by! Make yourself at home, and look around. Be sure to follow me over the next few weeks as I post updates about Salone del Gusto Terra Made, and I will provide live updates from the event. In my previous post, I mentioned that I was going to talk about the choice of the sunflower as my brand image.

It all started organically, and for the new folks, I listen to nature, my intuition and I look for the elements that appear in my life that can be considered content of a larger story. I feel we write the story of our life everyday, and when you look at life that way, some really cool things happen.

Back to the sunflower. This year, I had a whole bunch of sunflowers volunteer in my garden. They sprouted early, and were growing like they were on a mission. I let them grow, and as it turns out, they became the inspiration for my art and my brand.

You see, the old guard sunflowers are at risk of becoming tomatoized. Since sunflowers have become such a popular cut flower, the plant breeders are responding with varieties that are commercially in demand, while the old guard gets forgotten. Much like what happened with the tomato and the tomato industry.

As it was, some of the sunflower volunteers in my garden were the Hopi Dye variety. I had grown them the year before, and some reseeded. The Hopi Dye are an ancient variety grown by the Hopi Indians as a food source and a dye source. The seeds are a deep, polished black, and they produce a dark purplish blue dye. The stalks and leaves produce a green dye. The Hopi would use this dye for yarn and baskets, and would also use the seeds for food and oil. A big difference from using a plant for only a cut flower. I believe there is room in the garden for both.

My aim is to raise awareness of threatened heirloom varieties of plants, and to encourage people to view them as family heirlooms. The Hopi Indians cherished these plants for all the gifts that Mother Nature gave these plants, a true heirloom to share with future generations. All of that would be enough to warrant a brand image for a project such as this. There is more though. The sunflower provides a feast for pollinators, birds, animals and humans. It's a feast for all to share. That's powerful, and for me, it's a honor to use this as the symbol of my work.

Had they not volunteered in my garden this year, and had I not recognized them for the content they were providing to my story, this post wouldn't have the interest that is has. And, that sums up a lot of what Vanishing Feast, An Heirloom solution is about.

Expo Preview

expo photoAs you might know, I will be a vendor at the 2nd National Annual Heirloom Expo. I'm probably very excited, but I'm too tired to notice. I've been pushing it to get ready, and with three weeks to go, I'm happy to say, I won't be rushing around like the people I deal with in my corporate day job. About the expo;

The National Heirloom Exposition is a not-for-profit event centered around the pure food movement, heirloom vegetables, and anti-GMO activism. Our inaugural event held mid-September 2011 in Santa Rosa, California drew more than 10,000 people from around the country and beyond. With more than 70 speakers and 250 natural food vendors, the event was the largest gathering in pure food history! The Heirloom Expo has gained incredible interest among home growers, farmers, school groups and the general public–so much so that it is being called the “World’s Fair of the pure food movement”!

The three day schedule of speakers alone is worth the price of admission. There will demonstrations  exhibits, and of course vendors. I'm listed as vendor under Magic Hat Media, my soon to be corporate name. I'm proud to be a part of this.

My goal is to introduce myself to the everyone I can. I am my best asset. It's what sets me apart from everyone else, and it's the same for you. Your talent in what you chose to do is an extension of who you are. No need to hide behind it, and no need to be obnoxiously pretentious about it either.

I want to grow my audience. As luck would have it, I will be at the Salone del Gusto Terra Madre by Slow Food International as press five weeks later. This presents an organic opportunity for me to entice the crowd to join at this event in Turin, Italy. Carlo Petrini, the founder of the Slow Food Movement is a speaker at the Expo, so there should be a buzz going on about this event.

I will have some books for sale, three different calendars of my photographs and some photographs. I was hoping to make some hats to sell, however they fell off the radar screen. They may still happen, but if they don't, they don't.

The big news is this, I will be launching an awareness program there. In the course of the creative process this summer, an inspiring idea presented itself. It was too good to let pass by. Not everyone wants to garden, and not everyone can. So how do they participate in raising awareness or preserving the heirloom varieties? Participating in farm markets is a great. Educating their children about the wonderful world of heirloom plants is another way. But how they help get the word out to the general public? Well, this program will be one way. That's all I'm going to say about it. I'm keeping it under my hat until the expo. It's the classic storytelling element of a cliff hanger.

Photo courtesy of the 2nd National Annual Heirloom Expo.

The First Harvest, Sorrento and Rapini Broccoli Rabe

Being the second generation Italian that I am, growing up long before Andy Boy brought broccoli rabe into the mainstream, whenever my mom would work her magic, and have this exotic, bitter and very tasty green appear on the dinner table, it was always a celebration.

My mom had her sources, the corner stores in South Philly, the Italian neighborhood of Philadelphia, or, from the local baker, who had connections to the authentic Italian food pipeline. The sandwiches of grilled sausage or roast pork, topped with broccoli rabe and imported provolone cheese so sharp that it felt like it was cutting your tongue, are fond memories of how food was such a integral part of who I am today.

As much as we grew in our garden year after year, we never grew broccoli rabe. The organic farmer that my dad got our plants from never had it as plants, and none of the farmer friends of the family ever grew it. Seeds were never available.

Since this year since I'm challenging myself to try an intensive approach to my garden, which is allowing me to grow a wide variety of vegetables, of course I had to grow this family heirloom food. It's a treasure that held a special place at my family's table.

A descendant of a wild herb, and a member of the mustard family, it's classified as a turnip.  Broccoli rabe is used by Italians, Chinese, Portugal and the Netherlands, and now readily available in America.

I ordered two vairties of broccoli rabe seeds, Sorrento and Rapini, which is a generic name for this plant. I planted both, and had a much better harvest of the Sorrento. Both were planted at the same time, and what I found was the Sorrento grew a little larger, but for all intents and purposes, they could've been the same plant. They tasted alike also. I'm letting some bolt to seed and will have a fall harvest from those seeds.

It's a small plant, and would work in containers, and naturally, in a herb garden considering it's lineage.

I love that this was my first harvest. It's a family tradition, and it's the core of Vanishing Feast, An Heirloom Solution. Now, if I could just grow some of that provolone cheese...




A Cornucopia of Sensual Delights

Sorry for not writing a new post last week, things got crazy in my life. I wrote an earlier post about how I was going to have two gardens this year, and I was going to compare and contrast the results. Well, it seems like some egos, and one ego in particular connected to a city government, conducted a micro coup d'état. This cabal took over a local community garden from the folks who built it over the last 6 years. I was told the offer for my plot would have to be renegotiated with the new regime. No thank you. I can do much better things without drama. And for the record, I believe the new leaders will destroy it.

I'm back to one garden, and that's fine by me. Now, granted I could've split my current plot up, but there are vast differences in how these two community gardens are structured. Those conceptual differences were going to be as much of the story as the harvests from the gardens.

For this year I will have a 20'x60' plot, which I'm going use a Square Foot Gardening/Intensive Gardening (SFGIG), hybrid technique. I will also be mixing some containers into the layout. I've always used my own version of intensive gardening, but always planted in rows. This year will be a new challenge. I have A LOT of new varities to grow, photograph and write about. So the SFGIG approach is approprite for me this year.

Both techniques demonstrate a efficient use of land. Following Thoreau's lead in the Economy chapter in Walden, both techniques fit into the philosophy he laid out in that chapter. As I move forward with Thoreau as an influence in my work, it's natural to demonstrate how I apply that influence, and share it here. With economical use of resources that nature provides, you can create an abundance.

I will have 8 squares to work with. Each square will be 7'x7', and I'll have an approximated 2' wide path around each square. The containers will have White Belgian Carrots, Crapaudine Beets, Lime Green Salad Tomatoes, Tequila Sunrise Peppers, Castelfranco Radicchio, and Rossa Di Treviso Radicchio.

Square 1 –  This will be heirloom tomatoes. I have 15 varieties to choose from including Hawaiian Pineapples, a new one of me this year. They are not to be confused with Pineapples, which I also have seeds for. While both varieties are late season beefsteaks, Hawaiian Pineapples are solid yellow with a hint of pineapple in the flavor from what I understand. Pineapples, are bicolors, and have notes of citrus in their flavor. This I know firsthand.

Square 2 – This will be interesting square since there will be an area that goes vertical. Growing vines vertically are part of the efficiency of SFGIG. So with that in mind, and always looking to push the boundaries, I'm creating art on a trellis. I view it as a blank canvass, and will growing Chinese Red Noodle Beans with Zucchino Rampicante. It should be nice contrast of foliage, flowers and fruit. The rest of the square will have Purple Tomatillo, Silver Edge Squash, Giant Cape Gooseberries and Golden Marconi Peppers.

Square 3 - Here will be Wild Garlic, Greek Pepporcini, and Green Nutmeg Melons. This square is a little light so something else may end up here.

Square 4 – This will be divided between Purple Majesty Potatoes and the classic 3 Sister combination using Morado Purple Corn, White Scallop Squash and Dragon Tongue Beans. While a traditional 3 Sisters planting uses a vining bean, I chose a bush bean since Dragon Tongue Beans are a famous Dutch heirloom variety.

Square 5 – More tomato plants here along with Winter Squash Marmellata, (Jam Pumpkin), as it's known in Italy, or Jaune Gros de Paris, (The Large Yellow of Paris Pumpkin), as it know in France. It can be a very large pumpkin, with a pinkish-orange skin and sweet yellow flesh. In Italy it's used for preserves, hence it's Italian name. I plan on making some pumpkin jam later on this year. I will also be growing some Giant Orange Amaranth and Greek Giant Amaranth in this square.

Square 6 – This will be my succession planting square. Succession planting is where you plant with the intention of harvesting crops is a succession. Whether this done with specific type of vegetable such as tomato, where you plant early varieties, mid-season varieties and late-season varieties, or plant a vegetable such as lettuce once a week for three weeks in a row so the harvest will last for three weeks in succession after maturity. Or, you do something like I will be doing. I'm going to do a succession of Viroflay Spinach, which dates back to 1885, and is the father of many modern hybrids, and Broccoli Rapini and Sorrento Broccoli Rabe all at the same time, followed by yet to be determined radishes, and than Tuscan Kale.

Square 7 – Here will be Black Lentils, Padron Peppers, and Delice De La Table (Delight of the Table) Melons, a famous French cantaloupe. It's very rare here in North America, still around in France. It's an old variety of a true cantaloupe, not like the cantaloupes that are sold in supermarkets. They are muskmelons. I can't wait have them delight my table.

Square 8 – This will have Jing Orange Okra, which I have seen described as a Asian or African variety. Any okra plant is a beautiful, and this one produces orange-red pods, and beautiful white flowers. I expect some beautiful photographs, and tasty pickled okra this summer. There will be Rouge D'Hiver Lettuce, an old french heirloom, which may get moved to the succession square with the kale. Since cool weather brings out the red color, that could be why they would be moved. Rounding out this square will be Shisgigatani or Tonas Makino pumpkin, a Japanese pumpkin developed in the ealry 1800's and is considered one of the kyo yasai, which are traditional vegetables of the Koyoto area of Japan. It's used in a vegetarian cooking known as shojin ryor, which is eaten by Buddhist priests. It will be a nice contrast to the Jam Pumpkin from Square 5, which is from France, and used for jam in Italy.

Still to be determined, Flat Red Onion of Italy, a red cippolini, and Romanesco Italia, a cauliflower that is called a broccoli, and is a chartreuse example of fractal geometry with a nutty flavor.

So while the tale of two gardens are gone, the economy of land use will provide a abundance for a cornucopia of sensual delights. It's a nice trade off.

A Bounty of Delight

I just placed my final seed order! I love looking around and discovering new heirlooms. A fascinating aspect that I learned this year is the threat that feed carrots face. While lingering over the vast selection at Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, I found Blanche A Collete Vert, or White Belgian Carrot. A large white carrot that was popular as animal feed in the 1800s, it's well suited for the kitchen. If you haven't guessed by now, I'm growing it this year. It will be my first attempt at carrots. Interesting enough, while browsing around Heritage Harvest Seed I found the Jaune de Doubs, a french heirloom carrot originally grown as fodder. While I won't be growing them this year, it did occur to me that heirloom feed crops for animals are just as endangered as heirloom table crops. An aha moment that gives me another avenue to explore. Love it.

Another exciting first for me will a three sisters plot. I have Morado Purple corn, White Scallop Squash and Devil Tounge Beans. The corn is very old Peruvian variety, the squash, an Native American variety, and the beans are a Dutch heirloom variety. What a beautiful perfect protein they will create as a meal.

 Zucchino Rampicante, is described by Baker Creek as the Italian vining zucchini pumpkin. I knew I had to grow this. It's a an aggressive vine, with an abundant harvest of crookneck squash that can grow rather large. I'm not a fan of zucchini, but I LOVE the plant. It fascinates me that I will have a aggressive vine that references zucchini, and has the texture of a acorn or butternut squash. Nice content for some beautiful photographs I'm sure. It's also known as the trombone squash.

I'm branching out into Asian heirlooms this year. Shishigatani or Toonas Makino is very rare Japanese pumpkin. I'm intrigued by the shape, color and texture  of this variety. It's shaped like a bottle gourd and it's skin is covered with warts. Why does a wart covered skin intrigue me so? That's for another post.

Another Asian variety for me this year is Chineese Red Noodle Beans. I love string beans, and the long Asian varieties of beans are a favorite of mine. It's a heat tolerant bean, which is nice because I'm using a trellis as canvas this year. I will attempt an modern art installation piece with these and Zucchino Rampicante.

And finally, at least for the Asian varieties, I will have Jing Orange Okra somewhere in the two gardens this year.

There will be purple tomalitos, giant cape gooseberries, two kinds of amaranth, and for the first time ever, Hawaiian Pineapple tomatoes.

Having two garden plots this year offers the chance to experiment and experience more than ever before. Nowhere is it written that you need to have a full row of any anything. Why limit yourself? I may only have a couple of each variety, but that's ok. I want sensory overkill with what nature offers. It inspires me, and by doing so, I can share it with you. With this way of paying it forward, we all win.

Made in the USA since 1784, D. Landreth Seed Company

Ask any gardener which seed company is their favorite, and the response will be as varied as the garden they grow. Fortunately, you can shop for the seeds of your choice online. The choice for your garden is yours, not the limited selection offered by a big box retailer. For too many years, small independent seed companies have fallen to the wayside, just like a lot of heirloom vegetables. Without the seeds, we have no plants. Seed companies are part of the heritage and knowledge that I will advocate for. By raising the awareness of heirloom vegetables to save then from extinction, the sources that supply the seeds can be saved from extinction also.

The idea for this post has been lurking around in my head for a while, so while searching for Purple Majesty Potato sets, I came across the D. Landreth Seed Company. From the font page of their website;

Since 1784, the D. Landreth Seed Company has been providing its customers with one of the most extensive selections of fine lawn and garden seeds in the world. Our founders introduced into the United States some of the most beloved flowers and vegetables known today including the Zinnia, the white potato, various tomatoes, and our own Bloomsdale Spinach. We have become the oldest seed house in America because we are passionate in our quest for excellence in quality, service and innovation.

Needless to say this got my attention, along with the fund raising drive they conducted to save the company. They fell well short of their goal, however, they will get some of my business this year, and by writing about them I hope to help them survive. You can too by buying their catalogue, which is designed by an American company and printed in America on a family-run press;

The catalogue is designed by a small, Baltimore-based and family-owned business, Victor DiPace Associates and it is printed by a family-owned local printing company. Producing this catalogue is far more expensive than it is for most companies who are outsourcing their printing requirements overseas. We charge for our catalogue to help with some, but not all, of the costs to produce and mail. Each catalogue that you purchase from Landreth is helping to keep an American employed and therefore making this country stronger.

Take a look at their site and see if something interests you. It would be a shame to see this company fold. Too many varieties of heirloom have disappeared, as well as so many small, independent American companies and jobs they provided. By supporting independent seed companies and organizations, you are keeping plants from vanishing forever, as well the livelihoods of people who have the same passion and commitment that you have. And in the end, you will delight your senses the unique palette of flavors, colors and aromas that Mother Nature provides.

I've dedicated a page to resources for heirloom seeds, plants, nut trees and fruit trees.


Bisignano #2 Tomatoes – One Plant, Four Shapes of Fruit

photo group of bisignano2 tomatoes I like to think of this tomato like this as the anti-Cello pack tomato. The Cello Packs as I recalled were 3 bland tomatoes in a small, white rectangle shaped basket wrapped in cellophane. It was the perfect synthesis of what was, and still is wrong with the industrial food machine today.

Tomatoes bred for shipping not flavor, uniform in shape and size, and the shelf life and texture of the wax fruit that one could interchange in a pinch if needed. The packaging might have tasted better than those tomatoes.


Fortunately though, with a little luck, I think I found the Bisigano #2 tomato. Or I should say, the tomato found me. While I'm not sure the tomatoes I grew last year are Bisignano #2s, I will confirm it this year when I grow them side by side.

Last year I wrote about some seeds that came my way from a friend of mine. My friend got these seeds from a friend of hers. He had grown them for 36 years, did not know the name of the variety, and said the seeds came from a family in Italy. There was an air of mystery about this, and was sounded like many seed collecting and seed saving stories. I tried to research what variety they were based on the little information I had. No luck though. I needed a full season to observe all of the characteristics of the plants.

To my fascination I watched these seeds take off and grow into these large, lush and tall plants. The circumference of them was astounding to me, think a wooden bushel, and not only wide but tall also. I felt awkward staking them since they grew in such a perfect circle. I knew these were going to produce some special fruit, and they did.

green bisignano2 tomatoes

The first fruits were these large bell  shaped tomatoes that looked like bell peppers as you can see on the right. As if this was not enough to blow away a fanatic like me, I could sense the plants were laughing at me and saying to themselves "you ain't seen nothing yet."

And they were right. I observed harvested 3 other shaped tomatoes, on the plant. One a, standard plum shape, one oblong, and a globe shape. Some had a small tip at the end of them. This might have indicated that this variety were Opalkas, which has the tip as a distinctive characteristic. While a few did have it, the majority did not.

In my search for seeds this year, I happen to come across the Bisignano #2 tomatoes. I read this description, (scroll down the web page to the description), and it seems to describe the tomatoes as accurately;

A favorite plum tomato. From Italian, Mr. Bisignano. Sturdy, rampant vines, set out four different fruit shapes; oval, globes, plums, and large heart shapes. All are thick walled and meaty, deep orange-red with full, rich tomato flavor. One of the best processing types you'll ever find, they are equally good in salads. Some of the first plants I set out, and the last fruits I pick each year. A true all season tomato

While it will be a full season before I have the results of the side by side comparison, my gut tells me this is the tomato I grew last year. I hope it is. It's another example of the wonders of heirlooms and nature itself. And one I will advocate for since it seems to be less popular.

You can purchase seeds at the site of the description above, or here.

Happy New Year! A New and Exciting Chapter

Photo of silver edge squash seed Happy New Year! How do you like the new look? I took the blog off the blog server and put under the domain name on a web server. The theme or layout I chose is one that adapts to devices such as tablets and phones. Lots of potential here, and this blogging software is new to me so there will be a few hiccups along the way, which if you experience any on your end, please let me know.

Also, there are buttons on the sidebar or at the bottom of the page depending on the device you are using to use Twitter or Facebook. If you're on Twitter please follow me at @vanishingfeast. The RSS feed will be set up shortly.

As you know, I write this blog from the perspective of a life lived as an unfolding story. So with out further ado, let's catch up.

The banner I would love to wax poetically about how I created that art on my own. How it was a true labor of love. That however would be such a tall tale that even at 6'4" I couldn't pull it off. I doubt Paul Bunyon would be able to either.

The banner is an old label type of artwork from a tomato packing house that no longer exists here in southern NJ. The art work is in the public domain, and the town where this packing house was located is 11 miles from my house. Considering that the tomato is the state vegetable here in NJ, I know of only one tomato packing house left here. They do produce a couple of tasty brands of tomatoes, Scalfini, and Don Pepino, which is pizza sauce.

Hmmm, it looks like they have been taken over by B&G foods. I haven't been to their site in a few years. The last time I was able to contact the plant directly. The tomatoes though haven't changed. I bought them recently.

I felt that it was appropriate to use this artwork for Vanishing Feast, and to create the brand image with it. The history and character that is inherent to this artwork represents Vanishing Feast - An Heirloom Solution better than anything I could create on my own.

I've been carrying those labels around for 14 years, and I have no idea how long they were in my parent's attic. Now, the banner will live on in honor of a what once was, and hopefully provide inspiration for preservation and or resurrection of what it was once.

The Silver Edge Squash Seed They say that every dark cloud has a silver lining. Whoever they are, they say a lot of things that sometimes doesn't make sense. In time though, if you stop, breathe and listen, sense presents itself in a form that you never expect. The end of 0f 2011 was awful in a lot of ways for me. It's working itself out, and there is a silver lining.

Enter the Silver Edge Squash seed. Now as any storyteller worth their words will tell you, symbolism and content happen if you let it. I found this seed, was intrigued by the silver edge, and ordered it. It wasn't until I started writing this section today that I realized the connection to the silver lining that has emerged in my life during the past moth or so.

The squash is a Native American variety that is grown for its seed only. The flesh is unpalatable from the descriptions. The seeds however are made into pepitas. I love freshly roasted pumpkin and squash seed, which is a good source of nutrition, so this was a natural fit for me to order. Look for a post about this variety in the late season of this year.

The book It will be soon, another month or so. The transition to this nimble and current format was necessary for the long term. With that comes the learning curve of new software, and setting up a online store. I have a list of plugins for this software to look at, as well as a storefront set up with a revenue collection service that's not PayPal.

If you were reading this blog last year, hopefully, you'll recall the adventures of the Mark Twain tomatoes. If not  here is an bit from a post;

Mark Twain tomatoes- Never heard of them until I started seeking out rare tomato seeds for Vanishing Feast. I discovered them in the catalogue. When I went to order the seeds, they were out. I was faced with a choice, a classic example in building a narrative in a story. Do I just say "oh well I'll order earlier next year" or do I demonstrate my commitment to this project, and start a journey to find these seeds or plants. I chose to find seeds, plants or both. A little alchemy later for making the right choice, I found plants that will be available in northern Tennessee at Shy Valley Plant Farm. Living in southern New Jersey I can make this trip, document it as part of this story, and taste these rare tomatoes, that evidently bruise easily but taste really good. Perhaps the Mark Twain will become a rally point in this story.

and here is a continuation of this adventure from last year. As it turns out, Fedco Seeds, doesn't have any seeds this year. Fedco is the seed company that I originally found about theses tomatoes. Last year they claimed they were the only commercial source for these seeds, and that there were only two seed savers they knew of that were saving these seeds. It remains to be seen why they don't have seeds this year. Perhaps the seed savers are rotating their varieties. The story continues for another year.

I'm glad I went to TN and got some plants, and despite the nasty hail storm that destroyed my garden last year, I have still have seeds.

So what does this have to do with the book? The cover photo is the Mark Twain tomato plant, and the Mark Twain tomato plant introduces the reader to the the stories and photos of the tomato buds featured in the book. Another really cool plot twist.

Posting schedule A new post will be up every Saturday. In order to build an audience, I think a regular schedule of posts are in order. As I transition into doing this full time I hope that I will be able to post more often. And add video also.

Project 366K Ok, so what the heck is this? To be honest, I'm not really sure but here's the concept. If 1 picture is worth 1,000 words, and 366 days are in 2012, 1 photo a day would equal 366k words if posted consecutively.  So, that's what I'm doing. Since I'm a skilled photographer with various subject matter, I'm experimenting with From what I can tell it's a hybrid of Twitter and blogs.

As I explore this ever changing landscaoe of new media, I figure this would be a good experiment. I have lots of photos to work with and will have many more in 2012. Why not see what kind of exposure I can get for my work? The theme I chose for my tumblr is designed to adapt to devices like tablets and phones, so it is current with the changing nature of how people retrieve the information they seek.

There will be captions and photo credits. The words will be tags and the thoughts that the viewer experiences. No description, just the image.

The Silver Edge Squash seed was the first photo published. The symbolism there was the planting of a new idea. Here is a link. If you have a tumblr, please follow me there.

So that's it for now. See you on Saturday.

Digging Deeper Than Freshly Dug Potatoes – ANDES-Potato Park-CIP Agreement

PotatoesThere's always a story lurking somewhere around me. Recently, I stopped by my garden plot at the community garden. It's the end of the season and I wanted to assess what had to be done to close it. I didn't plan to do any work, and was not dressed for any. I pulled up a few small plants, my neighbor saw me and hollered "You can dig as much potatoes as you can."

I never grew potatoes which means I never dug them either. All around me though, my neighbors had potatoes. Evidently they grow well there. Always looking for knowledge and content to write about, I said "Great, thanks!"

He asked me if ever dug them before, I said no and he said it wasn't a big deal. He didn't have fork, just a shovel, he demonstrated what to do and handed me the shovel. It's an easy thing really. You just have to be careful. You dig a little dirt, find the potato and brush off the dirt. Considering I had sandals on, and a nice pair of short pants, it was going to be a short experience.

I quickly dug about 5 pounds, and while digging I realized that I could have fresh roasted potatoes is less then an hour. I took my potatoes, thanked my neighbor, and was on my way. I have to say, the batch that I roasted were incredible. Like anything else that is fresh, the taste and texture were sublime.

I moved onto gnocchi. I just had to. Fresh potatoes, some King Arthur flour and in a short amount of time I had pillows of heaven. Shortly after, I cooked a butternut squash that another neighbor gave me, had the last of the tomatoes from my garden, and some of the frozen gnocchi. An impromptu dinner that was grown within 400 feet of each other. It doesn't get any better then that.

When I decided to write about this, naturally I had to research heirloom potatoes. In the course of digging for information, I came across the Andes-Potato Park-CIP Agreement. From the article that precedes the agreement;

LONDON, Jan 18 (IPS) - Peru gave the world the potato, and the potato now offers indigenous people around the world a new recipe for securing their rights.A new agreement between six indigenous communities and the International Potato Centre in Cusco, Peru, heart of the old Inca civilisation in the Andes mountains of Latin America, recognises the right of these communities over the unique potato strains that they have developed and grown.

So what does this mean? More from the article;

The new agreement "means that Andean communities can unlock the potato gene bank and repatriate biological diversity to farming communities and the natural environment for local and global benefit," ANDES said in a statement Tuesday.Though excluded and often oppressed, indigenous peoples are the traditional custodians of biodiversity, and this agreement recognises that "the conservation, sustainable use and development of maximum agro-biodiversity is of vital importance in order to improve the nutrition, health and other needs of the growing global population," ANDES says.

How GREAT is that? Except for the part about indigenous people being excluded and often oppressed, that's tragic. This agreement reclaims their rights to a food that they have cultivated and introduced to the world. They are the original stewards of potatoes.

This agreement signed in 2005 doesn't give them the right to patent the genes, it's just the opposite. It protects their rights from interlopers who would try to do that. The agreement was sign by six Peruvian indigenous communities, and the International Potato Center, an agricultural research center based in Lima, Peru, which is the sponsor of the Potato Park;

Located in Pisaq in the Sacred Valley of Peru, the Potato Park is a one of the few conservation initiatives in the world where the local people are managing and protecting local genetic resources and traditional knowledge about their health, food, and agriculture. The Park covers more than 12,000 ha between 3,150 and 5,000 masl. About 600 varieties of native potatoes grow in the Park, most of them unique to this habitat. Six Quechua communities live in the Park. Some had been struggling for land tenure for years until the Quechua-Aymara Association for Sustainable Communities (ANDES in Spanish) brought them together in this in-situ conservation project.

I'm amazed and inspired by this. I want to see this place. I have to. What better example of what I want to encourage people to do within their families? There will be more written about this I'm sure. For now though, a story that started out innocently enough with a brief visit to my garden plot and spontaneous potato dig will have to do.

Fermenting Hinkelhatz

photo hinklehatz pepperNo, it's not the title of a new Christopher Guest film. It's another self-induced adventure that I get to write a story about. You know the saying you just can't make this up, well I sorta do by growing my own content. Hinklehatz peppers, aka Chicken Heart Peppers are a very old Pennsylvannia Dutch heirloom. (If you click the link scroll about halfway down to the description.) Or, you can keep reading this;

These hot peppers have been cultivated in this area for over 150 years! Its name perfectly describes the shape and size of these extremely hot peppers. These hot little beauties are used almost exclusively in pickled form by the PA Dutch, although they also cook and puree the peppers to make a "pepper vinegar" similar to Tabasco sauce, which is used on sauerkraut and other dishes. A recipe appears in 1848 in Die Geschickte Hausfrau. Prolific, long-season plants. Very ornamental, on compact 1-1/2 to 2 foot bushes. Very resistant to all bugs and disease. Also very cold hardy for a chile pepper.

What the above fails to mention is the name, Hinklehatz, translates into chicken heart because the peppers are very close to to size, shape and color, if it's the red variety, of a chicken heart. They rate 125,000 units on the Scoville scale. They are very serious hot peppers.

The description of the plant is accurate. A large, sturdy bush that withstood the following; a hail storm that killed the rest of my garden, then torrential rains, a hurricane that passed within 60 miles of it where it was growing, and finally the remnants of a tropical storm. The pepper itself has a very tough skin. The flavor is somewhat fruity until the caspian kicks in and reminds you of it's ranking on the Scoville scale.

A friend mentioned that one day she wanted to ferment some hot peppers into a sauce. That got me thinking about trying that with the hinkelhatz. Since the Pennsylvania Dutch use these peppers for hot sauce and pickling vinegars, it seemed like a good fit for these peppers.

The Pennsylvania Dutch are stewards of heirloom varieties. Their contribution to the preservation of heirloom varieties is a standard that I hope a lot of people follow. It's essentially what the focus of this project is all about. That is growing varieties of plants with a history and tradition, and passing them along to future generations. I'll write more about the Pennsylvania Dutch and their varieties in the future. For now though, let's get back to fermenting hinklehatz.

I started out inspired. I wanted to work with the fruity notes in the flavor of the pepper, so I decided to use a locally grown canary melon. I would've used one that I grew, however the previously mentioned hail storm took them out. If you never had a canary melon, you are missing out on a very sweet melon, with a robust and deep melon flavor. Some bay leaf, black pepper, garlic, shallots, and some black cherry tomatoes would round out the sauce.

I would attempt to do some food styling for the photographs. I was going to ferment for 30 days. A complete month of fermenting, and document the process with weekly photos. It was going to be the best hot sauce ever.

As would be the case in any story, an antagonist would arrive on the scene muck up the works. In this story, it arrived in the form of yeast. The yeast formed from not having a sealed jar, and brine that lacked enough salt. There wasn't much information out there about fermenting hot peppers for sauce, and me being impatient and impulsive when it comes to being creative, I forged ahead with what little information I found.

Not that the yeast that grew was a bad thing, but it wasn't good either. So I did some more digging for information, or excavating is more like it, and found this site. It was here that I found the information that identified the yeast. After reading through this page I saw the errors of my way. If you want to try this, it seems like this page is a solid source of information. I haven't gone back to try this yet, perhaps I will since the plant I have still has a lot of hot peppers on it.

I thought the story was done, however as it will be, innocently enough at a pot luck dinner at a friend's house, another friend was talking about the hot peppers she grew. She mentioned how she would put them in a jar with some sherry and making a spicy cooking wine. BINGO!, I had a solution to this story, so that's what I did. While not a hot sauce or a pickling vinegar in the traditional Pennsylvania Dutch vein, a delightful end to this self-induced hinkelhatz adventure.

Book Update – Waiting for a Proof

Future_tomatoes_CVR_FinalI kicked around the idea of pre-selliing the book, but I have no control over the print quality. The print on demand nature of self-publishing lends itself to manuscript type of books where it's all type, or perhaps a lot of type with some illustrations through out the book.

Digital printing of photographs has gotten better over the years, and since this book does have superb photos in it, I thought it would be best to get a proof before selling it.

Another factor is the paper stock. I would think the people who run this business would have a good idea of what paper works the best for both type and photos. That's why we get proofs.

The files are uploaded. I'm waiting for them to be reviewed to see if they meet the submission guidelines required by, the publishing studio by I have confidence that the final product will be good.

I have a donation button the right hand side of the blog. I put there for people who want to donate to help me continue. I know the economy is tough. In October, I'm going to lose my job for the third time in 5.5 years. It will complicate my life in many ways, and it does offer the opportunity perhaps to spend more time on this.

With the gardening off-season coming up, I want to start shooting some video of what people are doing to preserve the heirloom varieties. I do believe it's a good niche to fill. I have the camera to shoot it. I need a good mic such as a Zoom H4 , and good tripod to start.

I now have a calendar store at which features my photography, with a wide range of subject matter. Any calendar ordered will support Vanishing Feast. The choices right now include the Sunflowers a Go Go mentioned in the previous post, The Sonoma County Coast, and Window Shopping, a series of photos of store windows that capture the surreal dioramas that the reflections in them create. I have a blog set up, and will be posting at the blog and tweeting daily to see what kind of traffic and attention I can get. Perhaps some Google Ad Words too.

I also woke up from a very lucid dream with the idea of three tomatoes and how to grow them. What better way to preserve the future tomatoes and vegetables than to teach children about them. I have a concept developed that's been soundly rejected by publishing companies so there has to be merit in the idea. I will adapt that concept to this.

I'm experimenting with the self-publishing opportunities that are out there. I see myself as a media company that creates media that will support heirloom varieties and offer some products to others to use as fund raising tools. It would a variation of the social business model that Muhammad Yunus presents in Creating a World Without Poverty. With your support, this will happen. Please feel free to pass this post along to anyone who you know that can help me achieve this goal.

I have a lot of talent and creativity and the corporate world has made it clear to me that I'm not worthy of them. No matter what happens over the course of the next six months with my situation, I will find a way to continue on with this.

Ok enough of the shameless self-promotion, now back to the stuff I grow and write about. On the horizon we have a failed experiment with fermenting hot peppers to create hot pepper sauce. I will demonstrate what not to do. It's a good metaphor at my attempt at my previous career.

I also tried to make dye from Hopi Dye Sunflowers that I grew this year. It didn't work either. It's a beautiful plant that the Hopi Nation has used for hundreds of years so I'm sure it works quite well when you know what to do with it.

That's it for now, and thank you for your support.



Sunflowers a Go Go 2012

Sunflower8_low-res Sunflowers, who doesn't love them? I'm sure there are are folks out there who don't, but for the most part, they are adored by many, inspiration to others, and an important food and oil source for birds and humans. Van Gogh painted, Martha Steward gave them brand approval, and Greek mythology tells a very interesting tale of how the sunflower was created;

Clytie was a water-nymph and in love with Apollo, who made her no return. So she pined away, sitting all day long upon the cold ground, with her unbound tresses streaming over her shoulders. Nine days she sat and tasted neither food nor drink, her own tears and the chilly dew her only food. She gazed on the sun when he rose, and as he passed through his daily course to his setting; she saw no other object, her face turned constantly on him. At last, they say, her limbs rooted in the ground, her face became a sunflower, which turns on its stem so as always to face the sun throughout its daily course; for it retains to that extent the feeling of the nymph from whom it sprang.

Sunflowers4_lowres I was so inspired by this myth that on one Halloweenwent out as the spirt of Clytie dressed as sunflower. It was quite fun, and let me tell you dancing to the B52s dressed as sunflower took that expereince to whole new level. I also wrote a short one act treatment that was featured during the Philadelphia fringe festival isn 1999, lead the fringe festival parade that year dessed as sunflower, and have a sunflower named Clytie as the lead storyteller in a children's series that I want to publish.

It was only natural that I grew them. Since a good number of them survied the vicious hail storm a couple of weeks ago, I knew I had to do something with them. And that's where Sunflowers a Go Go came from. It will be a calender of photos that are manipulated in photoshop with a dayglow/go go treatment to them.

Sunflowers7_lowres I need to raise money so I can grow Vanishingfeast into a web series, and by producing a range of prodcuts to sell, I can grow this concept. If someone wants to underwrite this BELIEVE me I would welcome it however until that happens, I have to keep moving this along.

Since I will use my book as fund raiser for librairies that will host book signings, and make the book avilable to other groups who support heirloom vegetables in some way, along with sustainable organic agriculture, it gt me thinking about this calender. It can available for any organization with a holisitc and progressive mission as fundraiser for them. Details of this will be worked out since this calender idea just came up this week.

So that's it for now. More to come.

My Family Garden Quilt

Well I'm planning my garden, and this year I'm ahead of the game. Last year it all happened so quickly that I was lucky to get anything out of it. The greatest harvest thought was this concept of Vanishing Feast. How lucky am I?! In these posts at my other blog, Magic Hat Stories (MHS), An Heirloom Garden, A Family Quilt by Another Name, Part 1, Part 2, I look at the concept of heirloom gardening, and put it in the context of a family quilt. This year I fully intend to use a portion of my garden as a family garden quilt.

In this post at MHS, My Heirloom Garden Follows the Journey of My Family, I use 3 heirloom varities of vegetables to trace my family's journey from Italy, to Philadelphia, PA, and eventually to southern New Jersey. While I did grow all three varities, they were not set up as a quilt. As I mentioned above, last year was rushed experience.

I will be using the same 3 varities I wrote about in the post mentioned in the paragraph above. These are Jimmy Nardello's Sweet Italian Peppers, Fish Peppers and Rutger's tomatoes. This year I will be adding Belmonte Tomatoes, which originated in Calabria area of Italy, where my Dad's family is from. The Jimmy Nardello's are from Basilicata, Italy where my Mom's family is from. The story of the Fish Peppers goes that it originated with African-American slaves, and was used in the Baltimore/Philadlephia area to flavor seafood chowders. Both sets of my grandparents settled in Philadelphia, and the Fish peper will honor that fact my garden quilt.

Rutgers and Boxcar Willie tomatoes will complete the quilt. They represent New Jersery where my dad moved our family in the 1960's. This is where my dad taught me and my brothers about organic gardening.  I'll use some flowers and herbs to represent my mom to color and texture. And yes, this will be a square shape. I plan on shooting video and still photos as part of the documentry.

I will share the photo and the progress on this blog.


Hello and Welcome Pepsi Refresh Visitors!

My name is Jeff Quattrone, and here's my bio. I'm thrilled that I am in the running for a Pepsi Refresh Grant. The idea for Vanishing Feast started out organically, appropriately enough. I started a blog called Magic Hat Stories and in the course of writing about people, organizations, etc. that do something that changes the world in a positive direction, I came across SlowFoods USA's Arc of Taste.

The US Ark of Taste is a catalog of over 200 delicious foods in danger of extinction. By promoting and eating Ark products we help ensure they remain in production and on our plates.

Since I love storytelling, a lot of my writing on the blog was to encourage adults to see their lives as ongoing stories that they write everyday. By focusing on the actions of people who were doing something positive, I wanted to inspire people to emulate that in what they do on their own. When I came across the Arc of Tatse and the stories behind the food sources, I became fascinated (aka obsessed), which inspires my creativity.

Sometime around the middle of March 2010, I happened to be a counter having breakfast. The local paper was there. In it was a story about a community garden program at my local county college. I was stoked as they say. I haven't had access to a plot of ground to grow vegetables for a very long time. I realized that I had the opportunity to walk my talk, so I signed up.

As the saying goes, life happens and the blogging fell off for a while. That's because there's a bigger purpose for what I should be doing, and that is how the idea for Vanishing Feast sprouted. I started storyboarding some ideas, and the creative process started. My father taught me about organic gardening in the 60's. I won a Honorable Mention at the Salem County Fair for a 7lb canteloupe I grew. I studied photography and film making in college. I have extensive experience designing communications across a broad spectrum of media and audiences. And I wrote this post, My Heirloom Garden Follows the Journey of My Family. which I see now is where the seed was planted. Also, there is a heirloom in my family that is a plant, and that story will be featured in the video.

While I was writing Magic Hat Stories I would refer to the magic that happens when people take action. Little did I realize that the magic would happen to me in the process.

I will blog about the process here. Thank you for stopping by and considering to vote for me. I assure you that I take my creativity seriously, and if I win this grant, I promise that it will story of inspiration along with tools that will take that inspiration into action.

Some other blog posts that are related to this subject.

New Year's Resolution - Renew Your Region's Culinary Traditions With Endangered Fruits and Vegetables 

An Heirloom Garden, A Family Quilt by Another Name, Part 1

An Heirloom Garden, A Family Quilt by Another Name, Part 2

Exit 1 Bayshore Oyster Stout Thanks to the Oyster Restoration Project

Turning The Big Apple Into The Big Green Apple