Saturday, January 17, 2015

A look at the British past

I have been looking at the past some to get some insight into what is possible for the future.
The British have a long history of vegetable gardening, as several other nations do.
Few seem to remember the role these gardens and small farms playing in WWII.
I have found a series of videos that the BBC made that give some insight into this period and the importance of food production. It is also a time where chemicals were just being introduced to the farm. At the same time due to limited resources farmers had to reach back in time and use animal power and other technology that had recently been discarded.

Wartime Farm Part 1 of 8

Wartime Farm Part 2 of 8

Wartime Farm Episode 3 of 8

Wartime Farm Episode 4 of 8

Wartime Farm Part 5 of 8

Wartime Farm Part 6 of 8

Wartime Farm Part 7 of 8

Wartime Farm Part 8 of 8

Thursday, January 15, 2015

two interesting videos

I would like to suggest two YouTube videos.

The first one is called "Gardeners World, The Vegetable Kingdom"
I am suggesting this because is show a culture of vegetable gardening in the UK that goes back generations. Over 90 percent of people who garden in the UK grow some type of vegetable!

The second video I would like to suggest comes from the Corbett Report which is a independen listener-supported alternative news source.
The video is call "Solutions: Guerrilla Gardening"

What both show is that producing ones own food is not a lost art and in some cases is becoming mainstream.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

some lessons learned in 2014

Lessons learn in 2014

Every year I learn new things about raising plants. This year was not different. I had to redo all my Jerusalem artichoke beds due to a type of sunflower moth. Talking to an insect specialist it is likely a insect that feeds of the root of wild sunflowers in my area. Jerusalem artichokes are native to my area and related to sunflowers. So after many years of growing chokes I now have a pest problem. I will likely take care of the issue with predatory nematodes or fungus treatments in July and August. That is the likely time when the eggs were laid on the chokes.

I am also having an issue storing the chokes. They are like some of my other plants that are very high in water. If I was storing them for food I really need to store them in a cold area in sand of something. For they tend to mold very easily. I left most of my root stock in very large pots outside to winter over. I will likely try to dust with sulfur and put in a plastic grocery bag full of shavings next year. It is one thing to grow plants for food it is quite another to store it till you need it. The best place to store chokes is in the ground since they winter over in my area.

I have some small potatoes that I found in one of my pots that had herbs. I had thought those potatoes died out over two years ago. The pot had thyme that died out last winter. When I cleaned out the pot this fall to plant garlic I found the potatoes. It is January 2015 and the potatoes have sprouted. I will have to plant them in pots this weekend if I wish to keep them. I will likely baby them through the next month or so since I really want to keep a potato that will overwinter in my area.

My ground nuts I would consider a worthwhile crop now. I finally got enough to share with some people. I replanted chokes and ground nuts together in pots. I am hoping the ground nut vines will grow up the chokes. Ground nuts provide nitrogen and will hopefully reduce the sunflower moth attacks on the chokes. The nice thing about these two crops is that I can wait up to three years to harvest the roots and replant them. So they are a storable food source for me and my animals, provided I deal with the sunflower moths.

Another good crop to winter over are the garlics and onion families. I dug up my French grey shallots and replanted them this year. I also planted my garlic and purchased some new types. I could have planted green onions and long day onions in the fall and they would have wintered over. I have done this in the past. But time and money did not allow it this year. My garlic chives did survive this year so if they make it through the winter I will be transplanting these to make new larger containers of them. As a general rule I like to have at least two containers of any one plant that will overwinter. Sometimes one dies and the other makes it through the hard winter.

Well that is all for now. I am planning for 2015 and ordering seeds. I will try to be better with updating this blog.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Plants that can supplement protein levels over a extended growing period.

It has been some time since I added a post to this blog.
In order to have a balance diet one needs protein.

You need protein for your muscles, bones, and the rest of your body. Exactly how much you need changes with age:
According to WebMD the following levels of protein are required.
Babies need about 10 grams a day.
School-age kids need 19-34 grams a day.
Teenage boys need up to 52 grams a day.
Teenage girls need 46 grams a day.
Adult men need about 56 grams a day.
Adult women need about 46 grams a day (71 grams, if pregnant or breastfeeding)

You should get at least 10% of your daily calories, but not more than 35%, from protein, according to the Institute of Medicine.

Most vegetable protein comes from seeds, nuts, and legumes. However, many of these are not available until harvest time and must be stored for the year. There are plants that can be grown and harvested over an extended period that can help supplement protein. Unfortunately, few provide all the amino acids required. Also there can be an issue with oxalate levels. Even with these disadvantages they should still be included as possible sources of protein.

(One cup) 70 calories, 0g fat, 4g protein, 10g carbs, 5 g fiber

Collard greens
(One Cup) 25 calories, 0g fat, 2g protein, 5g carbs, 3g fiber

Turnip greens
(One Cup) 20 calories, .1g fat, 1.2g of protein, 4.4g of carbohydrates and 3.5g fiber

Swiss Chard
(One Cup) 7 calories, 0.7 protein, 0.07 fat, 0.6 fiber and 1.4 g carbs.

(One Cup) 7 calories, 0.12g Fat, 0.86g Protein, 1.09g Carbs., 4.3 Fiber

Mustard greens
(One Cup) 15 Calories, 0.1 g Fat , 1.5g Protein, 2.7 g Carbs., 1.8g Fiber

(One Cup) 30 Calories, 0g Fat, 2g Protein, 6g Carbs., 2g Fiber

(One Cup) 22 calories, 0g fat, 1g protein, 5g carbs, 2g fiber

Bok Choy
(One Cup) 9 calories, less than 1g fat, 1g protein, 2 g carbs, 1 g fiber

(One Cup) 4 calories, 0g fat,  1g protein, 0g carbs, 0g fiber

pea shoots
(one cup) 30 calories, 0g fat, 2g protein, 6g carbs, 2g fiber

sweet potato vines
(one cup) 22 calories, 0.2g fat, 1.5g protein, 4.7g carbs, 1.2g fiber

yardlong beans
(one cup) 49 calories, 0g fat, 3g protein, 10g carbs, 0g fiber

green beans
(one cup) 34 calories, 0.13g fat, 2g protein, 7.8g carbs, 3.7g fiber

artichoke hearts
(one cup) 116 calories, 3.96g fat, 5.83g protein, 18.81 carbs, 9g fiber

Brussels sprouts
(one cup) 38 calories, 0.26g fat, 2.97g protein, 7.88 carbs, 3.3g fiber

(one cup) 31 calories, 0g fat, 2g protein, 7g carbs, 3g fiber

New Zealand spinach
(one cup) 8 calories, 0g fat, 1g protein, 1g carbs, 0g fiber

(one cup) 36 calories, 0g fat, 2g protein, 8g carbs, 5g fiber

Lambs quarters
(one cup) 58 calories, 1g fat, 6g protein, 9g carbs, 4g fiber


Chart of oxalate levels in foods. This is an issue for formation of kidney stones.

This study clearly shows that boiling greens high in oxalate significantly reduces the soluble oxalate levels.
J Agric Food Chem. 2005 Apr 20;53(8):3027-30.
Effect of different cooking methods on vegetable oxalate content.
Chai W1, Liebman M.


Approximately 75% of all kidney stones are composed primarily of calcium oxalate, and hyperoxaluria is a primary risk factor for this disorder. Nine types of raw and cooked vegetables were analyzed for oxalate using an enzymatic method. There was a high proportion of water-soluble oxalate in most of the tested raw vegetables. Boiling markedly reduced soluble oxalate content by 30-87% and was more effective than steaming (5-53%) and baking (used only for potatoes, no oxalate loss). An assessment of the oxalate content of cooking water used for boiling and steaming revealed an approximately 100% recovery of oxalate losses. The losses of insoluble oxalate during cooking varied greatly, ranging from 0 to 74%. Because soluble sources of oxalate appear to be better absorbed than insoluble sources, employing cooking methods that significantly reduce soluble oxalate may be an effective strategy for decreasing oxaluria in individuals predisposed to the development of kidney stones.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Dealing with chipmunks and other issues

When it comes to high calorie gardening we often face issues.
Disease, insects, rodents, etc.

A typical example is below posted by a woman trying to grow potatoes.
“I would love to have success with potato planting! My husband and I have tried twice, and yet they all get dug up and stolen by chipmunks and the like. Any suggestions? We have tried container planting also, but those rodents are persistent.”

A key to high calorie gardening is to never put more calories into growing the crop than you get out of the crop. Another key is to grow what is easy to grow. So in the case of the chipmunks the answer seemed easy but was not.

There were many possible responses to this issue.

1.      Kill the chipmunks was a number of response. It was interesting that many Americans were ok with a cat killing chipmunks but were not ok with live trapping chipmunks. So this type of solutions involves legal issues as to killing chipmunks and social issues as to how acceptable is it to kill or remove chipmunks.
2.      Give up growing potatoes. However, there is only one constraint at this location to growing potatoes. It is very unusual to find a high calorie crop that does not have a single issue that can impact its growth. In this case it may be as simple as growing enough for the chipmunks and the people. Generally this type of problem is worse early in the growing season. The chipmunks can take all the seed potatoes. If one provided a alternative food, say whole corn for the chipmunks the impact on the potatoes may be less. Potatoes are planted in the early spring when other sources of food may still be scarce. It is not uncommon for rodents to survive in spring by eating root crops.

3.      She said that she tried growing potatoes in containers. I have had a similar problem with chipmunks. They got into the chicken grain and stored it in all my 55 gallon pots. I have spouted grain coming up in every single large pot I had. The first thing I did was to stop the chipmunk raids on the chicken feed. The second thing was to put chicken wire around my large growing containers. In the worst case one can put electric netting around their area. No chipmunk is going to take on electric netting.
4.      Finally the chipmunks are taking the potatoes to eat. Soaking the potatoes in water with ghost peppers would make a world of difference. Just use gloves and plant a ghost pepper with each potato. Chemical warfare against the chipmunks!

Now let us assume that one of the above methods actually works for the lady with the chipmunk problem. We than have to ask, is it worth the effort? A peanut is a great high calorie crop that I have not gotten to yet. My grandmother raised a peanut plant in Alaska. It was an amazing thing to do and it required a lot of effort and a special window box with a heater and grow light. In all, she got a handful of peanuts. So it can be done, but just because you can does not mean you should.

The point of high calorie gardening is to produce calories that can be consumed. It is assumed you have limited land, money, and labor. So the focus is on that which is easy to grow and trying to have no more than 20 percent of your calories in any one crop if possible. This is in case something happens to one crop the others will still carry the day. Just think of the Irish potato famine. If you have resources left over than you can think of other crops that you can grow. However, I would tend to devote my resources to foods that complement the high calorie crops such as herbs and spices. Carrots, celery, and onions complement many of the root crops.

So that is it for this posting please leave your comments.

Thursday, October 30, 2014


Cassava or Yucca Root
There are 330 calories in 1 cup (7.3 oz) of Cassava (Yucca Root), raw
Cassava is Africa’s second most important food staple, after maize, in terms of calories consumed. Cassava is a major source of calories for roughly two out of every five Africans.

Yucca root, also sometimes spelled "yuca," is known by the names manioc and cassava. Native to South America, this starchy tuber is eaten throughout Latin America, South Asia, the Caribbean and Africa. Used to make tapioca flour, yucca has a texture a little chewier than the potato and a milder taste. Rich in a range of nutrients, yucca can be used as a substitute in almost all of your favorite potato dishes.

Better known to Americans as tapioca, the pudding favorite is produced from the roots of this bush-like plant. But the crop can have deadly consequences. If prepared incorrectly, the cassava plant can produce cyanide, a deadly compound when consumed. A small number of people are also allergic to the plant — the American Cancer Society warns that those with a latex rubber allergy might be more susceptible and should consider opting for a different dessert.

Something to know is that all cassava produce toxic cyanide, but the two main edible varieties produce it in different amounts. "Sweet" cassava is the root most often sold for home cooking and has its cyanide concentrated near the surface. After peeling and normal cooking, it is safe to eat. "Bitter" cassava has cyanide throughout the root and can only be eaten after extensive grating, washing, and pressing to remove the harmful toxins. Bitter cassava is not typically sold for home use, especially here in the US, and is more commonly used to make tapioca and other cassava by-products.


How To Remove The Poison From Cassava Flour in English

harvesting cassava in rwanda: part 1

harvesting cassava in rwanda: processing (part 2)

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Humble spud poised to launch a world food revolution

Humble spud poised to launch a world food revolution
Dutch team is pioneering development of crops fed by sea water