Live at indiegogo, Library Seed Bank

graphic for the Library Seed Bank projectI also have a blog set up for the Library Seed Bank. I will be cross posting between the two blogs as about the progress. The indiegogo option I chose was to accept funding even if I don't reach my goal. Unlike Kickstarter, where you have to reach your goal to get the funds, indiegogo allows you to accept all donations if you choose. My first priority is to set up a nonprofit so I can get grant, and accept donations. Everything else after that is icing on the cake. My first seed bank goes in at the McCowan Memorial Library in Pitman, NJ. I have a couple other leads that I'm following up on, so I will let you know if they happen.

Please share the link for this project if you feel comfortable doing so. It's a tremendous opportunity to create a community-based structure to preserve local heirloom varieties of plants, and local gardening knowledge. Information and agriculture have sustained society from the start. Now, with the Library Seed Bank, we can bring the two together as an heirloom social structure for future generations.


Library Seed Bank and Cowboy Cab

bean sprout photoThe pace is quick, and I'm slowing down due to the fact that I'm not as young as the day before. This is not a lament about old age, it's a fact of life. Hopefully, these two projects will speed my transition to a day job working on projects like these. First though, good news on the gardening front. I'm ahead of the game. One third of my tomato plants are planted in addition to my Adventurers in Spring Gardening. I'm on track to have my garden complete by the time I usually start to plant. This is a good thing. More about the rainbow of heirloom tomato varieties later.

Second, the Library Seed Bank. This will be a program that I work with public libraries to establish seed banks at the libraries. This will offer open and free access to heirloom  and open pollinated seeds, like the knowledge and information that libraries provide. To honor the tradition of libraries, the Library Seed Bank will also have a free education component to it about the value of heritage seeds and seed saving. I will be launching an indiegogo project so I can form a nonprofit to get grants and accept tax-deductible donations. This is a great opportunity, and I hope you will join me as it grows. Pun intended.

Third, Cowboy Cab. A friend of mine. Anea Botton owns a social business, Valley Girls Foodstuffs, which she wrote about as conclusion to a 4 part series I did here at Vanishing Feast. The Cowboy Cab as she referred to it in a recent email is a fund-raiser that demonstrates what Valley Girl Foodstuffs is all about. Anea works with at risk teens and uses the pure food system, not the manufactured one, as a way for the teens to develop life skills. I will documenting this in real-time at this fund-raiser. At the event at night I will mentoring a teen who will be the official photographer for the event. I'm excited beyond words about this. I hope to shoot some video too, and will a wealth of content to work with. As I do here at Vanishing Feast, I let the story tell itself so stay tuned and see what this story will tell about itself.

That's it for now.

Caramelized Blue Jarrahdale Pumpkin Butter, Infused with Orange and Bay

waffle with butterWhen I planned my garden this year, I was looking forward to growing Winter Squash Marmellata, as it's known to the Italians, and Jaune Gros de Paris, as it's known to the French. I was intrigued hat this variety was used for making jam in Italy. In my neck of the woods, pumpkin jam is not very common. I like the flavor of pumpkin, and I tired of tasting pumpkin pie in everything pumpkin around here.

My garden didn't do well, and I did get a early, small pumpkin which was rotten. Pumpkin jam,  it seemed, at least from this variety, wasn't going to happen this year. One day however, day, good people at The Framed Table asked what flavors we were looking forward to this fall. I volunteered roasted pumpkin marmalade. I knew I could count on my farm stand having Blue Hubbard squash, a solid pie variety, and they do carry some Cheese Pumpkins, so I took a ride over to see what I could find.

blue pumpkin photoWhen I got there, my eyes immediately locked on the Blue Jarrahdale depicted in the photo on the left. Even thought I had no idea what kind of pumpkin it was, my gut told me it was good. I asked if they knew what kind it was, they didn't, so I was off to Google to ask for help.

The Blue Jarrahdale is a New Australian heirloom. It's a cross between a Blue Hubbard Squash, and the Cinderella Pumpkin, which it is said was the inspiration for the pumpkin in Cinderella. The Blue Jarrahdales run from 10-20 pounds, they have a very hard exterior, a sweet orange flesh, and a stringless texture. It's a good, manageable size for cooking,great balance of flavor and sweetness, and the texture is superb. It has a hard skin, be careful cutting it, a small seed cavity, and is stringless.

I knew I wanted to caramelized it, which would require a sweetener. I've seen coconut sugar around recently, and I did some research about it. The glycemic index is low, which means it sweet without spiking your blood sugar when consumed, and it's packed fulled of nutrients. provides the nutritional analysis here. First and foremost, food is nutrition. I wanted to create a sweet treat recipe that's packed with nutrients, and with a minimal amount of ingredients. I was able to do that, and the result is the recipe below.

Since I wanted to get away from the whole pumpkin pie flavor profile, I went with a flavor combination that's a favorite of mine, orange and bay leaves. Ever since I grew my first bay plant, I've been hooked on fresh bay leaves, or the dried version of the leaves I grow. As it is with most food, there's a world of difference between the fresh and the packaged variety on a store shelf. I find the flavor of bay leaf is a nice compliment to orange.

A few notes first, while I was fortunate to find a Blue Jarradale, if you can't find one, I'm sure any pie squash or pie pumpkin will work. If you can find a Blue Hubbard squash, which is fairly common, use that. If you can't find a fresh pumpkin, canned pumpkin should work. The caramelization steps would be different.

I used fresh squeezed Valencia oranges. They have a great flavor, but use what you can source easily. Same thing with the sweeter. If coconut sugar is not an option, go with brown sugar. Also, if dried bay leaves are all you have, use them.

The butter is finished in a crock pot. For pumpkins and squash, I like the steaming feature that the crock pot offers. The texture is well suited for this slow, moisture-based cooking process. Since the crock pot slowly adds a flavor-induced moisture, a nice rick texture is created for finishing with a blender stick.

Caramelized Blue Jarrahdale Pumpkin Butter, Infused with Orange and Bay

Aproximately 7 lbs. of pumpkin 1 cup organic, gmo free coconut sugar, more if needed 1.5 cups fresh squeezed orange juice 2 fresh bay leaves, 3 if dried 1 orange for rind, about 1 tbspn. needed Parchment paper

Yield 4 quarts

  1. Cut pumpkin in half, remove seeds and stem. Cut into equal size pieces leaving the skin on. (See seed saving notes below.)
  2. Coat the cut sides of the pumpkin with the coconut sugar. If the flesh is very firm, and the sugar is not adhering to it, scrap the flesh a little and than apply the sugar. Once the sugar starts absorbing the moisture, it will become tacky. The sugar will stick better.
  3. Put in a bowl, or large pot with a lid, cover and let stand overnight on a counter.
  4. Place the organe juice into a small bowl, tear the bay leaves and place into the juice. Add the orange rind into the juice/bay leaves mixture. Cover and place in the refrigerator overnight.
  5. Next morning, preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.
  6. Place orange juice mixture into a crock pot, put the lid and use low setting.
  7. Take the sugared pieces of pumpkin out of the bowl or pot, and place on the lined baking sheets.
  8. Pour syrup from the bottom of the bowl or pot into the crock pot.
  9. Roast the pumpkin for approximately 30 minutes, or until desired level of caramelized is reached.
  10. Remove from oven, remove skin from caramelized pieces, they will be very hot, be careful, and place into the crock pot.
  11. Let the pumpkin and orange juice mixture cook in crock pot for two hours, occasionally stirring and mashing with the back of a spoon.
  12. Finish with blender stick to create a smooth, creamy and rick texture.
  13. Process in jars, or plastic bags for freezing.

Seed saving note – Pure seed is extremely important to the biodiversity of our planet. GMOs are dangerous, and one way to combat them is to save seeds. Pumpkin and squash seeds are nutrient dense, so there's another good reason to save them. Whether you save them for sowing or food, the process is a simple one.

Seed Saving Notes

For sowing, remove the seeds, rinse in a strainer under warm running water, and remove any flesh. Dry on a paper towel, set out on a board or screen to dry completely. To save for the next season, place in an envelope, and keep in a cool, dry place until ready to plant. An airtight jar in a refrigerator is an option. Keep in mind though, if you use the refrigerator, and lose power for an extended period of time, the humidity and heat will build up, signalling the seeds to sprout.

For roasting, clean the seeds as above. Drain well. Preheat oven to 275 degrees. Spray a cooking a cooking sheet with oil, or line one with foil and spray with oil. Spread the seeds out in single layer, and salt them, or season them as desired.  Place in oven, until they turn a light brown. Keep an eye on them, timing will vary from 10 to 20 minutes.

Now that this is posted, I'm on my way back to the farm stand to scoop up anymore of these Blue Jarrahdales I can find. They are good keeper, up to a year, from some of the references I've read. With a span like that, who needs a can?

Nature Reveals the Truth

white flower photo For a while now, I've wanted to write about sourcing good seeds. I'm relatively new to the seed game. This is my third year. By looking at a tomato seed, you have no idea what variety it is, if it's authentic organic, or how fertile it is. Trust is a paramount when sourcing seeds. Seeds are a commodity, and like all commodities, they are bought and sold.

Last year, I came across a source for Goose Creek Tomatoes. I read that it's a rare variety, and there was story about the origins. Without question, that combination peaked my curiosity so much, that I had to grow it. Later, I found out about the questions concerning the veracity of the story.

From Tatiana's TOMATObase;

  • There is some controversy about the origins/dating of this tomato, as tomato experts know that there were no 'smooth' tomatoes available in the early 1800s.
  • There is also a lot of controversy about the fruit color, whether it is supposed to be red or pink.

Goose Creek seeds are hard to find, but I found a source on eBay. I ordered them right away. They were expensive as far as seeds go, fifty cents a seed to be exact. Since seeds are a commodity, and in a market driven economy, scarcity is factor in price.

When the seeds arrived, they were in a small, clear plastic envelope with a handwritten label on it. A slight pagne of skectipsism came over me. Now, for small seed collectors, having a preprinted package is expense that might discourage them from the important role of seed collecting.

A preprinted package though, is no gurantee that the contents inside, match the content printed on the outside. That's what the white flower told me last week. It provided the truth of what was inside the package of Zucchino Rampicante, a vining zuchinni and pumpkin, that I ordered this year.

I was SO looking forward to this variety. A massive vinning zuchinni with large bottleneck fruit that can be either a summer or winter squash, is a maddness that I embrace whole heartingly.

It would be trellissed with long red  asian string beans. A living Jackson Pollock painting perhaps, with the distinct contrast in foligae, flower and fruit between these two varieties.

Alas, that won't happen this year. While I was admiring the lush foligae of the vine, I saw a white flower. I found this odd, squash and pumpkin flowers are yellow. The flower I saw had expired, but I could tell it was a brilliant white.

So, I went to the Google and presented my case, white squash bloom. The verdict, I have either a birdhouse gourd, or an apple gourd. Lucky me. I don't like gourds. I don't get them, nor do I want to. Evidently though, this year I will have no choice.

From what I could find, these two varities of gourds come up consistently id keywords search for white squash flower. They are grown for a variety of craft products, and they do have some interest to them.

Mistakes happen, and I trust the source where these gourd seeds came from. They are passionate about heirloom varities. I had some iffy results from some other vendors this year. It was the first time I ordered from them. Other first time vendors I had good luck with. It's a matter of trial and error, and following your gut. If your not sure, don't order from them. If your fortunate enough to have a local seed vendor, with local seed sources, buy from them.

The Goose Creek tomato seeds I ordered were fine, and so were the Tiger Melon seeds I ordered from that eBay vendor last year. The other melon seeds not so much. This year, the pepper seeds I ordered from different vendor resulted in some fairly week plants across three varities. But I also didn't start a large number of each variety, so it's a tough call.  The  organic San Marzanno seeds I got from the same vendor are doing tremendous, so it's kind of a balance.

Not every seed from every plant is going to be a blue ribbon winner. I have noticed though that some vendor's seeds have a high germination rate, consistent with what's noted as the standard rate for that variety, while others not so much. This is also all the more reason to learn about seed collecting. You can get to see where your strong plants are, and you can collect seeds from a wide variety of fruit.

The Goose Creek tomato is very tasty, and the green tomatoes are a very light shade of green, almost a translucent white. Very pretty to see.  They were a lot like the Box Car Willies (BCW) I grew last year. Almost strikingly similiar. The BCWs were a lot later though, and thanks to a hail storm, which destroyed the BCWs, I couldn't do a tatse test.

I love that fact that a white flower told me a story this week. It goes to show that no matter what, storytellers tell their stories. And, on a blog influenced by Thoreau, that is as much about storytelling as gardening, how fortunate that this story was told by my garden?  The wonder of it all.


Heirloom Garden 2011, Part 2 of 2

As mention in part 1, I'm going to be growing a lot of tomato varieties, sixteen to be exact. A few more then I originally thought, but since I have a knack for growing them, I might as well work with the inherent magic that is presented. Without further ado, and in no particular order, I give you tomatoes 2011:

Pomodoro Belmonte – That is what the front of this beautiful package of seeds from Italy says. Pomodoro is Italian for tomato, and Belmonte is a heirloom from the Calabria region in Italy. There is a town called Belmonte in Italy, which the residents are very proud of their culinary flag.

I was so excited to find these tomatoes. They will be part of my Family Garden Quilt. My paternal grandparents are from Calabria, so to find a tomato that is from their region is really very special. While my grandparents are gone, I will be sharing a taste of a tomato that I would venture a guess they tasted before they left for America. I shared some seeds with my cousins who will be growing them this year also. One tomato, many generations, and a common experience of taste, aroma and visual stimulation.

Black Cherry Tomato – This is considered a rare cherry tomato. From what I read, black tomatoes are argued by a lot of connoisseurs to be the best tasting color in palette of tomato colors. I love cherry tomatoes, and these are said to produce and abundant crop.

Goose Creek Tomato – The story of this tomato is that a Caribbean slave smuggled these seeds aboard a ship that docked near Goose Creek, South Carolina. She planted the seeds the first spring after she arrived, and the seeds have been passed down through generations of her family. I look forward to sharing the taste that motivated a slave to smuggle seeds with her on her journey, and shared with her family as a true heirloom.

Lime Green Salad Tomatoes – These are new to me this year. They are small fruits, early season and grow on compact plants. Green tomatoes have a great flavor, and this variety is said to be be prolific. I'm excited to mix these with the black cherry tomatoes in a very colorful salad.

Northern Lights – Another early season variety. Last year I planted all mid to late season varieties. I ended up with a  boat load of tomatoes that ripened all at once, over a two week period. It's a bicolor, red and yellow, and smaller then most of the bicolors that are around. I may never see the northern lights but I will be able to say I tasted them.

Middle Tennessee Low Acid – These seeds were a gift from a purchase from What a great surprise. These large red beefsteaks have a low acidity to them, something I used to only associate with yellow tomatoes. Now this gift of seeds will not only broaden my selection of tomatoes that I grow, but my knowledge of low acid tomatoes.

Red Fig – I was fascinated by the story of this tomato. Imagine that. Me fascinated by a story. Grown since the early 1800's in America, this small pear shaped, red tomato got it's name from a process in which they ended dried out and stored as a fig substitute. Yum. You can about that process here.

Grandfather Ashlock – More history that I'm going to grow and taste. Three Ashlock brothers served George Washington in the Revolutionary War., One brother settled in Kentucky, where he grew this pink, potato-leaf beefsteak variety. The seeds were passed along the generations, and this is a very rare tomato.

Cherokee Chocolate – Cherokee Purples are my favorite tomato overall,and any variety that comes from them is going to get attention from me. From what I read, there's not much difference in taste, but it's the color and size that distinguishes the chocolate from the purple. Evidently, there was mutation in a grower's garden that changed the color of the epidermis from clear to yellow, which changed the color of the fruit to mahogany.

Cherokee Purples – My favorite tomato, all though last year Henderson's Pink Ponderosas swooped in and stole my heart. The Cherokee Purples though, still retain the top spot. An amazing taste experience for me. And quite beautiful to look at. I saved seeds from last year's garden.

Watermelon Pink Beefsteak – These tomatoes are big, red and very sweet. Last year they were the least prolific in my garden, but produced some of of the largest tomatoes overall. During the ripening process, I observed a couple that developed green stripes on them, and for a couple days they had the markings of a watermelon. It's said that it's the little things in life that make it worth living. Seeing that process is one of them. Allow yourself to see it too by growing them.

Mark Twain – I never heard of these tomaotes before, and I haven't found the reason why they are named for Mark Twain yet. I will do my best though to find out. These are another very rare tomato, one that I will drive from NJ to Tennessee to buy Mark Twain tomato plants. They will be featured post in the future, so stay tuned for more about them.

Pomodoro Cuor Di Bue – Or Oxheart, or Heart of the Bull. Another Italian variety, and since I am a Taurus, I do have heart, and I am of Italian descent, this is me in a tomato. As I encourage people to look at plants as a reflection of themselves, and their family, this tomato demonstrates that concept for me. It's an oxheart shaped tomato, pink/red in color, very meaty from what I read, and a nice saucing tomato. It's also considered a rare tomato by some. I look forward to growing them. I grew an Orange Oxheart one year, and I just loved the shape, and flavor of that tomato.

Rutger's Tomato – I grew this New Jersey heirloom last year. A wonderful tomato I have to say. Small sized fruits, very prolific, a great taste, no cracking problems, and overall a tomato that demonstrates what a Jersey Tomato is all about. The local lore here in New Jersey is that we grow the best tasting tomatoes. Anywhere.

Boxcar Willie – Another New Jersey heirloom, a late season orange/red tomato that will round out my Family Garden Quilt as representative of learning to grow tomatoes in New Jersey. I welcome this tomato into the fold, and look forward to making a nice sauce with the Rutgers for a true Jersey Tomato sauce.

"Bell Tomatoes" – I put the name of this tomato in parentheses because that's the name of the tomato that these seeds originated from. The seeds are part of a larger seed collecting story that I feel I'm living right now. This is another post in the making, and has the potential to add a significant layer to the story of Vanishing Feast. For now thought I will leave you with the cryptic instructions I was given, "...plant the paper towel".

That's the list for this year. It's through the power of seeds that I can do this. They offer me the opportunity to grow history, and tickle and tantalize my senses like so many generations before, and hopefully after, providing that this feast for the senses does not vanish.

The Magic in This Story's Process

When I started writing my other blog, Magic Hat Stories (MHS) I encouraged people to look at their lives as stories, and to remember the magic and impact that stories had on them growing up. I know for myself, as an adult, I get caught up in the stress of modern life, and at times, forgo the magic that living a life framed in stories offered. I got really lucky when I started writing MHS. It reconnected me to when I was a child living the adventures in my storybook pages. The incredible journeys that myths and folklore took me on in college, and at one point, when both of those times conspired to push me into being a storytelling milliner. That though, is another story for another time.

In the midst of living my life, and being open to the creating this story of Vanishing Feast, the magic appeared ten fold over the past 6 weeks or so. In any process, magic happens. One has to keep a keen eye or two open, and perhaps three if you consider the mythical third eye to your soul, to see what magic happens with the process. I feel the magic that existed in the storybooks of my youth is what I'm experiencing now with this project.

For example;

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.

Seed Collecting Stories - The charm of a lot heirloom plants for me obviously is the story behind them. In the course of a conversation with a friend, it seems like I am living a my own version of a seed saving or seed collecting story. I'm keeping this close to vest as I follow the path this story is taking me on. Once I get more details I will share them here. You gotta love the instructions "Plant the paper towel."

Hydroponics - It started innocently enough, I walked in the door of the local horticultural supply company. When I walked out, I had this potential hydroponic system in my head as way to keep the feast going year round. There's an odd shaped closet in my studio that has become a catch all of dead energy. What a great flip this would be to turn this dead space into a thriving area that could perpetuate the feast all year round. This presents a bit of challenge  since I would have to slightly modify a room and find the cash for this system though.

In the context of living my life as a story though, the plot twists above offer me the opportunity to take this story to the next level. And as true storyteller will tell you, these magical moments that so innocently appear, offer the best content to be told.

I've secured a double lot in the community garden program I participate in for this year, have a great variety of seeds, and will be plotting my garden this afternoon. That will be the next post up. I will be posting more frequently now, so thanks for your patience and stay tuned.