How to Choose a Tomato

With over 3000 heirloom tomatoes and a whopping 15,000 known tomato varieties in production, picking the right tomato for your own backyard can seem like a daunting process.

West Coast Seeds has provided this handy chart that may help simplify things a bit.

Obviously these are just a few varieties that this particular outlet sells, but it is good launching point for the overwhelmed tomato chooser!

Most of the varieties mentioned above are easily sourced at local nurseries as well.

Whatever variety you choose, you are sure to be rewarded by a smacking taste sensation. There is nothing like biting into a sun-kissed home-grown tomato. Unless it’s a sun-kissed home-grown tomato wrapped in a fresh basil leaf.

Delectable!

Guerrilla Grafting

A lot of people are familiar with Guerrilla Gardening. The act of planting an unsightly lot or space with beautiful plants without permission from the city or owner. It’s been growing on for decades.

Guerilla grafting, on the other hand, is something fairly new.

Guerrilla gardening sign

The idea took root in San Francisco where city planners had lined the streets with beautiful fruit trees. Intentionally sterile beautiful fruit trees. They were concerned about the mess of ripening fruit and feared the wildlife it might attract.

A group of California citizens said Piffle! Well, I don’t really know what they said, but I do know it wasn’t a remark of approval.

And then they went one step further. They started grafting branches of productive fruit trees onto the sterile ones. Without permission.

Yup, meet the Guerilla Grafters. The brain child of Tara Hui who started grafting onto the sterile fruit trees in the Bay area a few years ago. A news article about the movement can be read here.

The idea behind the rebellious action is to help feed the hungry and the homeless. Imagine a world where hungry people could simply roam the streets and byways to forage for food. An apple here, a pear there, a hatful of berries along a ravine. Sounds an awful lot like the world we were originally born to, before money madness took over. It’s intriguing to say the least.

Grafting apricot tree branches. Grafting fruit trees step by step

The art of grafting is pretty simple. Basically you sharpen a live branch and then drill a hole in the host tree and stick the adopted branch inside. You can then wrap the branch with a moisture retentive material until it takes hold, but even holding it in place with electrical tape will work.

This is how we come to have trees that will grow several kinds of different fruit on one tree. A great idea when you are shy on space but crave diversity. While it does involve some human intervention, the fruit you end up with is the same as the fruit you would find on the tree it originally came from. No messing with genetics as such.

Grafting is also commonly used in the rose industry where tender roses are grafted onto hardy root stock allowing them to grow in colder climates.

 

Biggest Tree in the World

Title for the biggest tree in the world goes to the cashew tree Anacardium occidentale.

Yup, the very same tree that gives us those scrumptious, expensive, calorie rich cashews.

The cashew tree has a unique growing habit somewhat similar to the Egyptian Walking Onion. As the branches grow they often become so weighty they bow down and touch the earth, sending down roots wherever they make contact.

In Natal, Rio Grande do Norte, Brazil, this growth habit has resulted is one cashew tree that has spread itself across 7,500 square meters or 80,729 square feet; the equivalent of almost two acres.

In other words, you can’t see the tree for the forest.

This grove consisting of a single tree produces 60,000 cashews every year.

Did you know cashew trees also produce cashew apples? Find out more about them here!

Cashew apple on the tree

Biggest Pumpkins Ever!

The biggest pumpkin for 2015 weighed in at 2230.5 pounds (1011.7 kilograms). It was grown by Ron Wallace of Rhode Island. To date it is the heaviest pumpkin ever produced in North America. Despite its impressive size it fell short by almost 100 pounds (45 kilograms) of the world record set in 2014 by Beni Meier of Germany.

Beni’s pumpkin weighed 2,323.7 pounds (1054 kilograms).

 

Trip 103

A picture of a giant pumpkin with its regular sized relatives in its shadow. As big as this pumpkin is it would be dwarfed by the current record holders.

 

During the height of the growing season these hulking behemoths can put on as much as 50 pounds (23 kilograms) per day! Kind of makes me feel better about the four pounds I put on over Christmas. Not sure why, but it does.

Growing giant pumpkins can become all consuming with many people dedicating their lives to seeing how big of a pumpkin they can produce. With records being shattered year after year there doesn’t seem to be any limit to how big they can grow.

Interested in producing a giant pumpkin? Here are a couple books to help you get growing…

growing giant pumpkin

 

giant pumpkin

A border made of vine plants and a squash

 

Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen

EWG has a wonderful website worth checking out. They list the most pesticide contaminated products as the Dirty Dozen and the least contaminated as the Clean Fifteen.

Here are the ones that made their most recent list in 2015…

Fall Apple Harvest

THE DIRTY DOZEN

  1. Apples
  2. Peaches
  3. Nectarines
  4. Strawberries
  5. Grapes
  6. Celery
  7. Spinach
  8. Sweet Bell Peppers
  9. Cucumbers
  10. Cherry Tomatoes
  11. Imported Snap Peas
  12. Potatoes

 

Fotolia_79978154_XS.jpg

THE CLEAN FIFTEEN

  1. Avocadoes
  2. Sweet Corn (organic non GMO)
  3. Pineapple
  4. Cabbage
  5. Frozen Sweet Peas
  6. Onions
  7. Asparagus
  8. Mangos
  9. Papayas (organic)
  10. Kiwi
  11. Eggplant
  12. Grapefruit
  13. Cantaloupe
  14. Cauliflower
  15. Sweet Potatoes

These lists help you make better choices at the market and if you have a garden spot, it can help you decide what to grow and what to buy.

Vegetable garden bed

It should be noted that even consuming the worst offenders is better for your health than eating processed or junk food so don’t use the dirty dozen as an excuse to give up on fruit and vegetables!

As EWG writes on its site “Eat your fruits and vegetables! The health benefits of a diet rich in fruits and vegetables outweigh the risks of pesticide exposure. Use EWG’s Shopper’s Guide™ to reduce your exposures as much as possible, but eating conventionally grown produce is better than not eating fruits and vegetables at all.”

Milk Fed Pumpkins

In the early 1900’s feeding milk to pumpkins was a popular trend. The method was reported to result in huge prize winning pumpkins. The technique involved using fresh cow milk. The pumpkin grower would put about a quart of milk in a small bucket, place it on the ground and then cut a slit in the vine and insert a straw or rubber tube. The tube was then placed in the bucket. Another quart of milk was added each day until the pumpkin had reached its optimum size or the day of the Country Fair arrived…whichever came first!

Bucket with milk

Many growers reported that the vines liked the milk so much and became so used to their feeding schedule that they actually rustled their leaves when the person approached the plants with the milk!

A border made of vine plants and a squash

 

 

Squash Vines Will Move Towards Water

If you place a bowl of water a couple feet away from a thirsty squash vine (pumpkin, spaghetti, butternut etc.) during a drought or when the soil is on the dry side, the vine will actually move towards the water and eventually place itself right in the bowl.

It doesn’t take long. Usually if you set the bowl of water out in the evening a vine will have found its way into it by morning.

If this sounds a bit like plant torture, well, that’s because it is. But it is also pretty amazing!

A border made of vine plants and a squash