September 2012 Newsletter

THE VEGGIE CLINIC
HOME OF DR. TOMATO

The Doctor is always in – no appointment necessary!
THE PHOTOTRON – SHINING A WHOLE NEW LIGHT ON GROWING!

GREETINGS FELLOW GROWERS:

Well, as hard to believes as it is – summer is over. I am sitting here listening to the radio (yes, the radio, not an IPod or a streamed audio file) and they are calling for temperatures in the high 30’s or low 40’s tonight! I’ve already started to bring wood into the Castle and my desire to do garden tasks like weeding is, well, non-existent.  I haven’t seen our hummingbirds in the past number of days either. They may have packed their bags and headed south on their annual, totally unbelievable migratory journey.  The summer plants like tomatoes, peppers and eggplants definitely are NOT happy. I think they can sense that their inevitable journey to that great compost pile in the sky is just around the corner.
All in all, I think that this summer’s growing season will be classified as GOOD, not great. Some crops took a long time to get established which resulted in a diminished yield. It was, however, quite a good year for tomatoes! I had about 14 varieties in and all of them produced yields above the expected “norm”. A few of my heirloom varieties – Church, Carbon, Brandywine, Brandywine Landis, Tangerine and Zapotec – yielded huge harvests of exceptionally large fruit. Many of the individual tomatoes were upwards of 2 pounds!  I finished my last batch of tomato sauce last night and now have enough jars of sauce to take us through the winter (I think I just said the W word).
If any of you have reports on varieties that you grew this summer, send them along. I will share them with the other growers who read this newsletter. A variety I grew for the first time this year was Costoluto Genovese. This is an Italian variety that has been around for a long time. It is a medium sized tomato with deep ribbing. I was worried that the ribs would end up splitting and/or rotting but I was pleasantly surprised. The tomato stayed split/rot free and in pristine condition throughout the entire season. It is a handsome looking tomato and the taste certainly warrants a VERY GOOD rating. Another tomato that performed really well for us was GOLIATH ORIGINAL. BIG tomatoes,  good taste and heavy yields.
The Kale, Swiss chard and cabbage all did very well and we should be harvesting until Thanksgiving.

BE PATIENT:

A couple of newsletters ago, I told you that I was researching the whole subject of adding microbial/fungal charges to the growing medium (be it soil or soil-less mix) and would get back to you with a synopsis of my findings. Well, I am now several hundreds of hours into my research and am not done yet. My research has taken me from nutrients and nutrient delivery parameters to light science, spectral analysis and photon flux ranges for optimal plant growth. That lead to soil biology and chemistry right into the whole area of water usage, resource optimization and environmental stewardship.
The bottom line is that this research has expanded many of my concepts of growing in general and lead to my developing some amended and new procedures for growing. I currently have several experiments under way using some of these new techniques. The results are truly impressive. One upshot should be my ability to offer you certain products that were previously beyond our capabilities to offer you. I have also added several new scientific instruments and devices that will allow me to offer you services that were previously unavailable or hard to locate in the area. So….I ask for your continued patience as I put all this together and get back to you with an abstract. As always, my goal is to provide you and your family with pesticide free, contaminant free, environmentally responsible, low carbon footprint plants and food.

TOMATOES:

Here is a very interesting article from the July 28th, 2012 issue of SCIENCE NEWS. It is titled Tomato Breeding Sacrifices Taste by Susan Millus:
It looks like 70 years of breeding for better color in unripe fruit has inadvertently helped create the wet-paper-towel flavor of the modern tomato.
Growers care about the green of unripe tomatoes, explains biochemist Ann L. Thomas Powell of the University of California, Davis. Ripening globes that are uniformly green let growers easily judge when a field will be ready for harvest. Over decades breeders have selected for this uniform green coloring instead of for tomatoes that turn a deeper shade around the stem end, Powell says.
The problem is, getting rid of that dark green zone, called green shoulders, turns out to have sabotaged a gene called SIGLK2 that boosts sugar and other sources of flavor in the ripe tomato, Powell and her colleagues report in the June 29 SCIENCE.
“It is a good illustration of unintended consequences,” says molecular biologist Harry Klee of the University of Florida in Gainesville.
For years, Powell says, breeders assumed that a ripe red tomato got all of its sugars from the photosynthetic engines known as the chloroplasts in the plant leaves. It turns out, however, that a green-shouldered tomato gets up to 20 percent of its sugars from its own chloroplasts. Without the functioning SIGLK2 gene, the ripening tomato forms fewer and punier chloroplasts that don’t deliver, Powell and her colleagues have found.
Skimping on sugars certainly could make a difference in flavor, says Klee, who routinely does taste tests in his lab. His tomato testing panels respond strongly to sugar content.
Volatile compounds wafting off a tomato’s flesh also play a big role in its appeal. Inadequate chloroplasts don’t produce as much of the chemical precursors for some of these compounds.
In the June 5 Current Biology, he and his colleagues highlighted the importance of a handful of volatiles – some of them mere whiffs – in seducing the nose and taste buds.
Exactly what the loss of the green shoulders trait means for tomato flavor remains to be measured. But, Klee says, “It’s not the whole story of why modern tomatoes taste so bad, by a long shot.”
Even under ideal conditions, genetic differences will matter in flavor. When Klee and his colleagues pamper various commercial varieties, taste panels pan some of them and give the best ones decent but not brilliant ratings. And just because a variety is an heirloom doesn’t mean it tastes great, he cautions.
Here is a picture of an Heirloom tomato in my garden this summer. It nicely shows the “green shoulder” trait that is being talked about in the article. Tomatoes are interesting, complicated and often perplexing plants – which may be why they are also the most popular garden vegetable in the country!

A SHOUT OUT:

Several weeks ago, we went to the annual FALL HARVEST DINNER put on by the great people of the Farmington Garden Club. Great food! Beautiful weather. Wonderful people. It couldn’t have been a nicer afternoon!

STRAWBERRIES:

As you are well aware, The Veggie Clinic grew a LOT of strawberries for the Blue Seal stores and for sale here at the Castle. The first variety – JEWEL – was a fine, early/mid-season variety. Perfect for establishing a home strawberry bed that will (with a little loving attention) continue to produce for years to come. They have one main “flush” of berries that will provide you with a large quantity of fruit for making jams, jellies and preserves. The second variety –SEASCAPE – is what is known as an “ever bearer”.   This variety, instead of giving one main “flush” of berries in the spring/early summer, will just continue to produce strawberries all summer. At any given time, they will have fewer berries on the plant than the single “flush” of the Jewel variety, BUT, they will just keep producing berries LOOOOONG after the “conventional” varieties such as Jewel have shut down for the year.
I have friends that produce LOTS of berries each spring/early summer. If I want to make jams or preserves, I just go get a big batch of them and spend a day or two putting up my next winter’s preserves. BUT, what I miss is a few strawberries on my cereal or yogurt or in my protein shake – every day, all summer and into the fall. I also find the amount of work necessary to maintain a weed free, properly spaced, refreshed yearly strawberry bed exceeds my desire threshold. My solution? Well, here at the Castle, I plant up a bunch – 20 or so – of pots of the ever bearing Seascape plants. I then put those on our window box shelves and in our greenhouse, water and fertilize them faithfully, and enjoy strawberries all summer. In fact, it is the 24th of September as I write this and we picked about 10 beautiful strawberries today! When they get whacked by frost, I just commit their bodies to the compost pile and do it again next spring. It works great for us. Give it some thought for next year.

GREENHOUSE HOOPS:

You know that we bend up both low tunnel and high tunnel hoops here at The Veggie Clinic. This year, I started a new service. Many of you small commercial growers or home growers want to put up a small high tunnel for various reasons. The main cost in doing so will be the price of the hoops. If you buy them and they have to be shipped – freight costs will send shudders down your spine. I have the bender to produce high tunnel hoops with a 12 foot base width. These are the exact same hoops I use to build greenhouses here at The Veggie Clinic. Some people come and just want to buy the hoops all made up. Great, we can do that. Recognizing that cost effectiveness is a HUGH consideration for the small grower, I have begun letting  growers who want to build high tunnels themselves  just come and pay a small fee for using the bender. You buy the piping (which is available right at Lowe’s or Home Depot) and come bend your own. I will even show you exactly how to do it. It will take you all of about 5 minutes per hoop. If you do it that way, your TOTAL cost per your hoop (including the price of the tubing and the bending) will average a mere $30.00. Do the math! You CAN build a greenhouse – cheaply!
If you want to access this capability, just drop me a line and we’ll make arrangements for a convenient time. I will even tell you exactly what you need for tubing.

PREPAREDNESS 101 SEMINAR:

Last year, we did several “Sunday Seminars at the Castle” with very positive feedback.  One of the seminars – Preparedness 101 – was well attended and after its presentation, other groups asked if I could do similar presentations at their location. On Wednesday October 3rd, I will be giving another Preparedness 101 seminar at the Farmington Library in downtown Farmington. As with most/all things at the Library – there is NO cost to you! Below is a poster that the Library people made.

READING LIST:

You know from past articles in this newsletter that I am fascinated by the rapidly expanding field of epigenetic research. In a nutshell you do not just simply exhibit and manifest the information coded on your parents genes. Rather, your chromosomes are covered with “switches” (epigenetic switches) that can turn genes on or off in different combinations depending on non-genetic factors such as physical and/or mental stress, illness, nutrient deficiency, environmental stresses, drug use, dietary habits, low, or high body weight etc. etc. The HUGE implications are now being recognized by researchers around the world.
As I’ve mentioned in past newsletters, the same effects can be seen in plants. Seedlings exposed to high heat or low temperatures can experience genetic “switch flipping” that can be expressed months later as poor growth, low and deformed fruit production, less disease and/or drought resistance and a host of other undesirable expressions.
There is a fascinating article in the June 2012 issue of VOGUE magazine that slaps you in the face with the importance of the powerful implications of this process – in humans. The article is titled – DESTINY’S CHILD – A Pregnant Woman’s Diet, Exercise Habits, and Environment Could Shape Her Baby’s Susceptibility to Disease For Life written by Elizabeth Weil.
I’ll let you access this article either in hard copy or on line. If you have an interest in epigenetic science you’ll find this article fascinating. If you are an advocate of healthy eating – this will put an exclamation point after the phrase – these are some of the reasons it’s so important to eat a healthy diet. If you are pregnant or know someone who is – READ THIS ARTICLE AND PASS IT ON. If you can’t find the article, get in touch with me and I will make a copy and send it to you.

SLEEP ON THIS:

From the September 2012 issue of PREVENTION magazine:
Do Melatonin pills work? Are they safe?
Yes and yes if used correctly. A pill version of melatonin, a naturally occurring sleep hormone, can help treat jet lag and insomnia, says Rebecca Scott, PhD. of the New York Sleep Institute. Check with your doctor first for any prescription drug interactions (diabetes meds are typical culprits). Stick to a low dose (0.5 or 1mg) at least 2 hours before bed. And avoid the TV, computer, and smartphone. They emit light that can decrease melatonin levels.

I will do an article on the current research on blue spectral emissions from screened devices and their suppression of your body’s melatonin production.

FOR YOU ADVENTUROUS ONES:

I have been a performing tight wire and loose rope artist for 25 years. I have been getting requests for instruction in this unusual skill. I am making up a list of interested individuals. If you want to be on the list just let me know.  Classes and private lessons will be available. Extreme juggling too!

FARMERS MARKETS:

A lot of you have mentioned that you have not seen me at the Farmers Markets for several weeks.  The reason is simple. I need to access certain biological components to enable me to produce the mushroom varieties so many of you have come to love so much. These come from a couple of certified lab operations – both in the Western portion of the country. This year, it was so hot during the month of August and the first part of September that neither of the labs would ship any live components. I just had to wait until the weather mellowed out and the extreme temperatures came down.
I am now back in full production and you will again see me at the Farmers Markets. I have expanded my production capabilities to meet the needs of several new market segments. This coming year, we have the potential to produce in the range of 1TON of mushrooms!
I will also have mushrooms available here at the Castle throughout the fall, winter and spring. I will also have a couple other new products available all winter that I think you will like!

UNTIL NEXT TIME:
Here’s a great saying I first saw chalked onto the wall of a powerlifting gym:

CLEAR YOUR MIND OF CAN’T!

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