Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Veggie PAK's First Blogging Anniversary on May 31st, 2011.

I began my blogging adventures one year ago today. It has been very interesting and fun. I have learned a lot about different methods of growing vegetables from a wide array of kind-hearted people that I have met during this past year.
To celebrate my blogging anniversary, I decided to do a little post on the status of our garden.

The petaluma gold rush beans are doing well planted where the chayote was located last year. The beans have been climbing vigorously the last couple of days and are looking nice and healthy.

The raspberries are growing pretty good, so there should be a nice total harvest this year.

The sorrell is ready for harvesting again. It's growing very well in this container.

The few seeds of bouquet dill have grown fairly well in the containers I planted them in.

The tomatoberry has sprouted two green tomatoes since my grandson Noah helped me transplant it to this pot.

My grapes are going to produce a wonderful harvest for us this year. The vines are full of grape clusters with more on the way. I can hardly wait for them!


You can see the figs that I circled in order to see that there will be quite a few on the tree this year.

The whiteout corn is growing very nicely. It's time to side dress it and hill it up.

The six rows of fortex snap beans are doing great!  On June 1st, I'll be sowing the next planting of seed directly underneath the fence fabric. The existing vines will guide the new vines to the fence fabric.

The ruby red Swiss chard is doing very well and is almost ready for a harvest. We enjoy stuffed Swiss chard leaves for dinner from time to time.

Giant Marconi Green peppers are doing very well. It won't be long and these will be ready for picking.

The Big Boy tomatoes are flowering out very well. Thank goodness for all the honey bees from two doors down for pollinating them!

That's it for this anniversary post. I thank each person that helped me by answering my questions during this time. I also thank my wife for proofreading most of my work. She's been a big supporter of mine and I appreciate her efforts.

Happy gardening to all.

Have a wonderful day.
Veggie PAK

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Food For Thought.

I want to share with you how important it is to keep a good supply of food stored in your home. We never know what could happen to impact the food supply, including the delivery of it. We should be prepared for some type of interruption during our daily lives.

On May 24th we had a terrible storm. The wind was so strong that it blew down groups of telephone poles because the wind resistance on the cables was too much for the poles to support. Many of the wooden poles had the "T" tops completely broken off of them and they were left swinging in the air. If the wind did that to power poles, you can imagine the number of trees that took additional wires down.  It left over 170,000 people without power. Some of those were without power for several days.

On the second day after the storm we went to our Big Box store and found a large portion of the refrigerated section looking like this:

Now the point here is not that the shelves are almost empty. The point is the speed at which this occurred. Just 24 to 48 hours and the store shelves looked like that. Are you prepared for something that happens that fast? I don't know if people bought all the food, or if the store lost their refrigeration and they threw the food away, or if the delivery trucks couldn't get through the maze of closed roads and streets. The cause is irrelevant but the end result is the same: EMPTY SHELVES. Thank the Good Lord that this wasn't a long drawn out event. Can you imagine two or three weeks of this? The damage here was minor compared to other places in the Country recently hit so hard by tornadoes.

Read about food storage methods that are in use today. Canned goods (all types) and dry goods (beans and rice) are the things to have on hand for those "just-in-case" scenarios. The water that those canned goods are packed in could be a lifesaver as well. If your water supply is out, you can drink the water the canned goods were packed in.

Home canned produce could be a lifesaver in a severe situation. I hope everyone tries their hand at home canning their produce.

Think about it.Wouldn't it be a good thing to do for yourself and your family?

Thanks for visiting.
Veggie PAK

Monday, May 23, 2011

Our Organic Seed Harvest Monday for May 23rd, 2011.

Our harvest for this week is organically grown Brussels sprout seeds.

These are two of our plants that I let go to seed. They are right at six feet tall. It's hard to tell in this pic, but the major portion of both plants are bent over on the left from what you see contrasted against the fence all the way down to the ground.

This is another angle showing the portion of the plants that are leaning over.

A close up pic shows how nice and full the pods are as well as how abundant they are.

After pulling them I hung the plants in my shop with a fan blowing on them to help them dry faster.

I undertook the tedious task of cutting each individual pod off the branch that it was connected to and collected them in this plastic tub.

This video shows how I got the process of seed removal going. After crushing all the seed pods I sifted out the larger pieces of hull using the top of my son's old iguana tank. The hardware cloth on it had holes that were about 5/16 of an inch square, so it kept out all the larger pieces.

This is the sifted result after all the seed pods were processed through the tank cover.

To further sort the seed from the chaff, I used a kitchen colander. I kept the seed material directly on the bottom and only sifted a little at a time. The holes on the bottom are smaller than on the sides, so you can get a cleaner product using just the bottom. I put about a tablespoonful of unsifted product in there, then rather than shake the colander, I tilted it at about 30 or 40 degrees and tapped on it. This let the round seed roll across the holes and fall through instead of shaking it and having the chaff turn at an angle and fall through with the seed. It wasn't a fool proof method by any means though. I repeated this process about six times for the entire batch of seed.

After all the work was done, we ended up with 3 1/2 ounces of organically produced Brussels sprout seeds. If each seed germinated and developed into a healthy plant, that would be more Brussels sprouts than I could eat during the rest of my life!

That's it for this week's harvest. Don't forget to check out Daphne's Dandelions at:

Have a great vegetable gardening day!
Veggie PAK

Sunday, May 22, 2011

5 Reasons High Fructose Corn Syrup Will Kill You.

If you love your family and kids, and I know you all do, I think you should read this entire post. It will absolutely make a difference in their lives if you pay heed to the information contained herein. If you read it you will have the weapon of truth in your arsenal against the unscrupulous food industry and it's government supporters. We are just dollar bills to them. You can see by the frightening quote below that deception for the dollar goes at least as far back as the Truman era.


—Harry Truman

Now, if that isn't the standard practice of today, please tell me what is. I think it is unconscionable.

The portion within the double quotes is taken from Dr. Hyman's website address below. I encourage each of you to visit it for more information.

Have a safe and nutritious day,
Veggie PAK


""The current media debate about the benefits (or lack of harm) of high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) in our diet misses the obvious. The average American increased their consumption of HFCS (mostly from sugar sweetened drinks and processed food) from zero to over 60 pounds per person per year. During that time period, obesity rates have more than tripled and diabetes incidence has increased more than seven fold. Not perhaps the only cause, but a fact that cannot be ignored.

Doubt and confusion are the currency of deception, and they sow the seeds of complacency. These are used skillfully through massive print and television advertising campaigns by the Corn Refiners Association’s attempt to dispel the “myth” that HFCS is harmful and assert through the opinion of “medical and nutrition experts” that it is no different than cane sugar. It is a “natural” product that is a healthy part of our diet when used in moderation.

Except for one problem. When used in moderation it is a major cause of heart disease, obesity, cancer, dementia, liver failure, tooth decay and more.

The Lengths the Corn Industry Will Go To

The goal of the corn industry is to call into question any claim of harm from consuming high fructose corn syrup, and to confuse and deflect by calling their product natural “corn sugar”. That’s like calling tobacco in cigarettes natural herbal medicine. Watch the slick ad where a caring father walks hand in hand with his four-year-old daughter through a big question mark carved in an idyllic cornfield.

In the ad, the father tells us:

“Like any parent I have questions about the food my daughter eats – like high fructose corn syrup. So I started looking for answers from medical and nutrition experts, and what I discovered whether it’s corn sugar or cane sugar your body can’t tell the difference. Sugar is sugar. Knowing that makes me feel better about what she eats and that’s one less thing to worry about.”

Physicians are also targeted directly. I received a 12-page color glossy monograph from the Corn Refiners Association reviewing the “science” that HFCS was safe and no different than cane sugar. I assume the other 700,000 physicians in America received the same propaganda at who knows what cost.

In addition to this, I received a special “personal” letter from the Corn Refiner’s Association outlining every mention of the problems with HCFS in our diet – whether in print, blogs, books, radio or television. They warned me of the errors of my ways and put me on “notice”. For what I am not sure. To think they are tracking this (and me) that closely gives me an Orwellian chill.

New websites like www.sweetsurprise.com and www.cornsugar.com help “set us straight” about HFCS with quotes from professors of nutrition and medicine and thought leaders from Harvard and other stellar institutions.

Why is the corn industry spending millions on misinformation campaigns to convince consumers and health care professionals of the safety of their product? Could it be that the food industry comprises 17 percent of our economy?

But are these twisted sweet lies or a sweet surprise, as the Corn Refiners Association websites claim?

What the Science Says about HFCS

Let’s examine the science and insert some common sense into the conversation. These facts may indeed come as a sweet surprise. The ads suggest getting your nutrition advice from your doctor (who, unfortunately, probably knows less about nutrition than most grandmothers). Having studied this for over a decade, and having read, interviewed or personally talked with most of the “medical and nutrition experts” used to bolster the claim that “corn sugar” and cane sugar are essentially the same, quite a different picture emerges and the role of HCFS in promoting obesity, disease and death across the globe becomes clear.

Last week over lunch with Dr. Bruce Ames, one of the foremost nutritional scientists in the world and Dr. Jeffrey Bland, a nutritional biochemist, a student of Linus Pauling and I reviewed the existing science, and Dr. Ames shared shocking new evidence from his research center on how HFCS can trigger body-wide inflammation and obesity.

Here are 5 reasons you should stay way from any product containing high fructose corn syrup and why it may kill you.

1. Sugar in any form causes obesity and disease when consumed in pharmacologic doses.

Cane sugar and high fructose corn syrup are indeed both harmful when consumed in pharmacologic doses of 140 pounds per person per year. When one 20 ounce HFCS sweetened soda, sports drink or tea has 17 teaspoons of sugar (and the average teenager often consumes two drinks a day) we are conducting a largely uncontrolled experiment on the human species. Our hunter gather ancestors consumed the equivalent of 20 teaspoons per year, not per day. In this sense, I would agree with the corn industry that sugar is sugar. Quantity matters. But there are some important differences.

2. HFCS and cane sugar are NOT biochemically identical or processed the same way by the body.

High fructose corn syrup is an industrial food product and far from “natural” or a naturally occurring substance. It is extracted from corn stalks through a process so secret that Archer Daniels Midland and Carghill would not allow the investigative journalist, Michael Pollan to observe it for his book, The Omnivore’s Dilemma. The sugars are extracted through a chemical enzymatic process resulting in a chemically and biologically novel compound called HFCS.

Some basic biochemistry will help you understand this. Regular cane sugar (sucrose) is made of two-sugar molecules bound tightly together – glucose and fructose in equal amounts. The enzymes in your digestive tract must break down the sucrose into glucose and fructose, which are then absorbed into the body.

HFCS also consists of glucose and fructose, not in a 50-50 ratio, but a 55-45 fructose to glucose ratio in an unbound form. Fructose is sweeter than glucose. And HCFS is cheaper than sugar because of the government farm bill corn subsidies. Products with HFCS are sweeter and cheaper than products made with cane sugar. This allowed for the average soda size to balloon from 8 ounces to 20 ounces with little financial costs to manufacturers but great human costs of increased obesity, diabetes and chronic disease.

Now back to biochemistry. Since there is there is no chemical bond between them, no digestion is required so they are more rapidly absorbed into your blood stream. Fructose goes right to the liver and triggers lipogenesis (the production of fats like triglycerides and cholesterol) this is why it is the major cause of liver damage in this country and causes a condition called “fatty liver” which affects 70 million people. The rapidly absorbed glucose triggers big spikes in insulin – our body’s major fat storage hormone. Both these features of HFCS lead to increased metabolic disturbances that drive increases in appetite, weight gain, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, dementia and more.

But there was one more thing I learned during lunch with Dr. Bruce Ames. Research done by his group at the Children’s Hospital Oakland Research Institute found that free fructose from HFCS requires more energy to be absorbed by the gut and soaks up two phosphorous molecules from ATP (our body’s energy source). This depletes the energy fuel source or ATP in our gut required to maintain the integrity of our intestinal lining. Little “tight junctions” cement each intestinal cell together preventing food and bacteria from “leaking” across the intestinal membrane and triggering an immune reaction and body wide inflammation.

High doses of free fructose have been proven to literally punch holes in the intestinal lining allowing nasty byproducts of toxic gut bacteria and partially digested food proteins to enter your blood stream and trigger the inflammation that we know is at the root of obesity, diabetes, cancer, heart disease, dementia and accelerated aging. Naturally occurring fructose in fruit is part of a complex of nutrients and fiber that doesn’t exhibit the same biological effects as the free high fructose doses found in “corn sugar”.

The takeaway: Cane sugar and the industrially produced, euphemistically named “corn sugar” are not biochemically or physiologically the same.

3. HFCS contains contaminants including mercury that are not regulated or measured by the FDA

An FDA researcher asked corn producers to ship a barrel of high fructose corn syrup in order to test for contaminants. Her repeated requests were refused until she claimed she represented a newly created soft drink company. She was then promptly shipped a big vat of HFCS that was used as part of the study that showed that HFCS often contains toxic levels of mercury because of chlor-alkali products used in its manufacturing.(i) Poisoned sugar is certainly not “natural”.

When HFCS is run through a chemical analyzer or a chromatograph, strange chemical peaks show up that are not glucose or fructose. What are they? Who knows? This certainly calls into question the purity of this processed form of super sugar. The exact nature, effects and toxicity of these funny compounds have not been fully explained, but shouldn’t we be protected from the presence of untested chemical compounds in our food supply, especially when the contaminated food product comprises up to 15-20 percent of the average American’s daily calorie intake?

4. Independent medical and nutrition experts DO NOT support the use of HCFS in our diet, despite the assertions of the corn industry.

The corn industry’s happy looking websites www.cornsugar.com and www.sweetsurprise.com bolster their position that cane sugar and corn sugar are the same by quoting experts, or should we say mis-quoting …

Barry M. Popkin, Ph.D., Professor, Department of Nutrition, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has published widely on the dangers of sugar-sweetened drinks and their contribution to the obesity epidemic. In a review of HFCS in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition,(ii) he explains the mechanism by which the free fructose may contribute to obesity. He states that:

“The digestion, absorption, and metabolism of fructose differ from those of glucose. Hepatic metabolism of fructose favors de novo lipogenesis [production of fat in the liver]. In addition, unlike glucose, fructose does not stimulate insulin secretion or enhance leptin production. Because insulin and leptin act as key afferent signals in the regulation of food intake and body weight [to control appetite], this suggests that dietary fructose may contribute to increased energy intake and weight gain. Furthermore, calorically sweetened beverages may enhance caloric overconsumption.”

He states that HFCS is absorbed more rapidly than regular sugar, and that it doesn’t stimulate insulin or leptin production. This prevents you from triggering the body’s signals for being full and may lead to overconsumption of total calories.

He concludes by saying that:

“… the increase in consumption of HFCS has a temporal relation to the epidemic of obesity, and the overconsumption of HFCS in calorically sweetened beverages may play a role in the epidemic of obesity.”

The corn industry takes his comments out of context to support their position. “All sugar you eat is the same.”

True pharmacologic doses of any kind of sugar are harmful, but the biochemistry of different kinds of sugar and their respective effects on absorption, appetite and metabolism are different, and Dr. Popkin knows that.

David S. Ludwig, M.D., Ph.D., Associate Professor of Pediatrics, Harvard Medical School, and a personal friend has published extensively on the dangers and the obesogenic properties of sugar-sweetened beverages. He was quoted as saying that “high fructose corn syrup is one of the most misunderstood products in the food industry.” When I asked him why he supported the corn industry, he told me he didn’t and that his comments were taken totally out of context.

Misrepresenting science is one thing, misrepresenting scientists who have been at the forefront of the fight against obesity and high fructose sugar sweetened beverages is quite another.

5. HCFS is almost always a marker of poor-quality, nutrient-poor disease creating industrial food products or “food-like substances”.

The last reason to avoid products that contain HFCS is that they are a marker for poor-quality, nutritionally depleted, processed industrial food full of empty calories and artificial ingredients. If you find “high fructose corn syrup” on the label you can be sure it is not a whole, real, fresh food full of fiber, vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients and antioxidants. Stay away if you want to stay healthy. We still must reduce our overall consumption of sugar, but with this one simple dietary change you can radically reduce your health risks and improve your health.

While debate may rage about the biochemistry and physiology of cane sugar vs. corn sugar, this is in fact beside the point (despite the finer points of my scientific analysis above). The conversation has been diverted to a simple assertion that cane sugar and corn sugar are not different.

The real issues are only two.

1.We are consuming HFCS and sugar in pharmacologic quantities never before experienced in human history — 140 pounds a year vs. 20 teaspoons a year 10,000 years ago.

2.High fructose corn syrup is always found in very poor quality foods that are nutritionally vacuous and filled with all sorts of other disease promoting compounds, fats, salt, chemicals and even mercury.

These critical ideas should be the heart of the national conversation, not the meaningless confusing ads and statements by the corn industry in the media and online that attempt to assure the public that the biochemistry of real sugar and industrially produced sugar from corn are the same.""

""Do you think there is an association between the introduction of HFCS in our diet and the obesity epidemic?

What reason do you think the Corn Refiners Association has for running such ads and publishing websites like those listed in this article?

What do you think of the science presented here and the general effects of HFCS on the American diet?""

(You can go to Dr. Hyman's website to leave a comment for him on these questions he poses.)


(i) Dufault, R., LeBlanc, B., Schnoll, R. et al. 2009. Mercury from chlor-alkali plants: Measured concentrations in food product sugar. Environ Health. 26(8):2.

(ii) Bray, G.A., Nielsen, S.J., and B.M. Popkin. 2004. Consumption of high-fructose corn syrup in beverages may play a role in the epidemic of obesity. Am J Clin Nutr. 79(4):537-43. Review.""

Monday, May 16, 2011

Our Harvest Monday for May 16th, 2011, and, A Pictorial Garden Visit.

Thanks for all the well wishes and I'm happy to say that I'm fully recovered from my recent surgery and I've been hard at work in the garden. We had a small harvest this week, but we're thankful for it.

We picked 3/4 of a pound of green beauty snow peas, and they were delicious! They're good enough for me to consider letting the remainder of the pods ripen for seed saving.

We also picked 5 ounces of schav (or sorrel) to make homemade soup. This was a pretty good picking from just four plants.

Here's my grandson Noah checking the bait in the raccoon trap next to our garden. In the past, the raccoons have damaged or destroyed a lot of our crops. Hopefully we'll catch them and relocate them somewhere miles away.

It's hard to catch a raccoon when a mocking bird eats the bait which consists of a peanut butter sandwich.

This pic is from when Noah was watering the freshly sown fortex green bean rows. He's a great help in the garden and he remembers what I tell him about raising certain vegetables. His little sister Keira told him to "look at the white butterfly" and Noah told her it wasn't a butterfly, it was a cabbage moth. I told Noah last year about what the cabbage moths do to your garden.

A load of nine bags of fresh grass clippings for the compost pile. This should really get it cooking!

And there it is, all blended in. I'll be turning this every two or three days to keep it aerated sufficiently.

Here are some schav or sorrel plants that my mom saved from the tiller in her garden in upstate New York. Mom and my sister sent them to me by the next day via express mail. The plants have already grown larger than what they were when they arrived.

Still growing the scallions on the green onions I planted last year. I'll probably pick these next week for use in a dip with crackers.

The bouquet dill is growing nicely in this container. I may transplant it later to an area protected from the wind.

Raspberries are forming already. It won't be long before they'll be ready for picking.

The blueberries are doing very well, but still have a few weeks to go before they're ready for me to begin harvesting them.

I planted some Henderson baby butter beans in one of the half barrels this year to see how they produce in there. They will be easier to pick this way instead of being on my hands and knees trying to find them.

The Straight 8 cucumbers are sprouting very well. I keep the soil moist to help them along.

The California Wonder Sweet Peppers are showing new growth since being transplanted.

The two caged rows of tomatoes on the left are Burpee's Big Boys and the two rows on the right are Park's Whoppers. I bought some of the green metal fence posts five years ago and they are still in great condition. That saves the time and trouble of looking for cage staking material every year. When I figure in my annual garden costs, whatever was purchased in the current year is calculated in full against the total value of the crops for that year. I don't prorate things based on the life of the material for my garden.

This is the Whiteout corn a couple days after the first ones started popping up. We're looking forward to some great sweet corn!

The Fortex green beans are looking great! I planted two additional rows plus parallel seeded the rows for twice the harvest. One interesting thing about the beans at this point is that up close, the leaves all look like little hearts. That must mean it's a vegetable to love.

From this angle you can better see the parallel seeding pattern that I used. Basically one row on each side of each fence with space in between for the next seeding. As soon as these plants have attached themselves to the fence material and start climbing it unassisted, I will sow the next planting of seeds in between the two established rows. That way, each of the two established "rows" of each main row will guide the new beans to the fence material to grow up onto.

Remember the previous post about the Swiss chard seed that my little grandaughter sowed in the container in our kitchen? Well these are the plants from that seed sowing. Some in the foreground are smaller but most are about 4 inches high. I was able to transplant 156 Ruby Red Swiss Chard plants through the help of her sowing the seed for it.

Here are my two rows of San Marzano tomato plants compliments of Norfolk County Feed and Seed. These are reputed to be great sauce tomatoes. In the right side of the pic you can see the Giant Marconi green pepper plants. I had three plants last year that produced 182 peppers that weighed a total of 21.75 pounds. This year we have 15 plants, so the harvest should be substantial!

The two center rows are La Roma II sauce tomatoes. I plan to use those as a backup sauce tomato. On the far right edge of the tilled area you can see my 7 sweet banana pepper plants. These sweet banana peppers are supposed to be especially good when pickled. Pickling will be a new experience for me, but I have a large assortment of my grandmother's crocks to use for it.

These are my Petaluma Gold Rush beans compliments of Michelle in California. They look like strong plants at this stage. I can't wait to see how they produce!

The Reliance grapes are slower growing than the others at this point. Odd, but the opposite was true last year.

The Himrod grapes have several very nice clusters of grapes forming on the vines.

The Glenora grape vines have gone berserk with grape clusters! There are wonderful long clusters of grapes forming all over the vines!

The Schav is responding excellently to a dose of dried blood. These four plants were picked down to a couple of little leaves apiece just earlier this week and most of what you saw in the pot was soil. Now look at them!

Looking out for the pollinators, here is a larkspur for them to enjoy...

and a Bachelor Button as well!



These are the Brussels sprouts plants that I let go to seed. It's so top heavy that it's fallen over. You can see that it is loaded with seed pods.

Here are the Brussels sprouts plants hanging upside down to finish drying in my shop.

Now for the perplexing part of the seed saving process. Everything I have read about saving seeds from Brussels sprouts or broccoli says that you absolutely MUST let the seed pods dry on the plant before you pull the plant. Now I'm no expert, but look at the following pics of the conditions of the stalks of the plants that I pulled. I fail to see how any nutrients can be going to the seed pods through these stalks. They are completely dry. Even the green skin just cracked away when squeezed. Consequently, what is the need for keeping the plants in the ground until the pods are browning?

Look at how the rope just crushed this stalk by the weight of the plant.

Arouses one's curiosity doesn't it?

This is what the gathered broccoli seed pods look like while still on the plants. They are also hanging in my shop to dry. One thing that I noticed while in the yard working is that the birds started eating the seeds like there was no tomorrow! They were even going to these two bundles and eating them while I was still there working. They bite the bulge in the pods where the seed is. Is that an indication that these seeds are viable and now ready to be dried and stored? I don't know, but nature does have a way about things.

This is a pic of one piece of a branch of broccoli that had dried on a plant in the garden.

Now if you look close, you can still see debris in with the seeds. Some seeds are also green. Does that mean that they are not viable seed or just not dried completely? I don't know. I do know that if all the seed in this pic came from that little branch and I have two heavy bundles of broccoli seed pods hanging up drying... I'm going to have a LOT of broccoli seed! That's a good thing since it lasts for five years.

That's it! Thanks for visiting and reading about our garden adventures. Any comments or suggestions are always welcome!

Have a great vegetable gardening day!
Veggie PAK