PROTECTING THE GARDEN AND STILL BE ORGANIC

Pests can ruin your vegetable crop, but they can be controlled if caught early enough. Here is an excerpt from From Seed to Table on dealing with them while still remaining as organic as possible.

The definitions on organic gardening differ. At its most basic level, it means gardening with native plants, using natural fertilizers and pesticides, with the addition of composted materials. I’m not going to label our gardening efforts as organic, even though we might qualify under some of the more loosely interpreted definitions. We plant vegetables that are well suited to the environment where we live. We prepare the soil using organic materials, such as compost and mushroom manure/compost, supplemented with sand to help loosen the clay loam, such as what we had in western Pennsylvania. However, we do use Miracle Gro® on our seedling plants to help them grow faster and stronger, but we do not apply Miracle Gro® on the garden. For pesticides, we use natural concentrates including rotenone—if available—pyrethrins, spinosyn A and D, found in Captain Jack’s Deadbug Neem® oil concentrate, and bacillus thuringienis (BT) for general purpose caterpillar control. These natural, organic products are diluted with warm water according to instructions that come with the concentrates. We spray the cole family of plants and beans every two weeks or as needed, based on damage from cabbageworms or bean beetles. We don’t pick those vegetables until at least a week after spraying. All of these natural pesticides break down quickly after a couple of days in sunlight. Rains will wash them off, so it should be reapplied after a substantial rainstorm.

Here’s a chart to help determine what types of pesticide work well for individual vegetables.

VEGETABLES

PEST

CONTROL

Beans – bush and pole (green, yellow, purple), lima and butter beans Bean beetles, caterpillars, aphids, white fly, stink bugs, leaf miners Pyrithins, Neem oil, Captain Jack’s Deadbug (spinosyn A & D)

 

Tomatoes – all kinds and colors Hornworm, aphids, white fly, stink bugs, fungi (early and late blights, powdery mildew), leaf miners

 

Pyrithins, Neem oil, spinosyn A & D, except for fungi use copper octanoate concentrate (copper soap), or mancozeb (manganese and flowable zinc concentrate

 

Peppers – sweet and hot Stink bugs – white yellow blemishes on pepper Pyrithins, Neem oil, spinosyn A & D

 

Cole family – cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, kale, collards, turnips, rutabagas, kohlrabi

 

Cabbage worm or moth Pyrithins, Neem oil, spinosyn A & D, or BT
Cucumbers – all sizes Cucumber beetles, aphids, white fly, fungi on leaves

 

Same as tomatoes
Squash – summer/winter Squash bugs Same as peppers
Spinach Leaf miners Same as peppers

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THE ART OF COMPOSTING

CompostHere’s something you can start at home without much effort. You might have all the ingredients right at your fingertips.

We start with either a plastic or metal garbage can for the outdoors bin. But for the kitchen I’ve used many different containers with a air-tight lid, until recently. When visiting a friend, I spotted a stainless steel container on the counter top that blended right in with the kitchen appliances. I was happily surprised when she told me it was her compost container complete with a lid with air holes and a carbon filter  to capture smells.

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Stainless Steel Compost Bin

 

Here’s an excerpt from Seed to Table on composting.

Composting

I’ve been composting kitchen waste ever since I had a small rooftop garden in my efficiency apartment in Ann Arbor in 1979. Since then I’ve composted on a twenty-acre homestead, in an urban backyard, and behind the shed. It’s a simple process and begins with finding a container with a sealable lid to keep in the kitchen for the food scraps.

It’s not a complicated process, although many folks hesitate to begin because they believe it’s difficult. If you simply follow a few basic instructions, you’ll be rolling in the black gold of the gardening world as quickly as the tomato plants begin sprouting green fruit.

Not all of your waste from the kitchen makes good compostable material. Avoid the use of meat scraps, fish byproducts, cheese, bones, fats, oils, or grease because they attract wild animals, take a very long time to break down, and can spread harmful bacteria into the soil and infect plants.

Eggshells, coffee grounds, and vegetable matter make the best material to start the process of minting your very own black gold. We buy brown, unbleached, coffee filters, so we throw the grounds and the filter in the compost bin as well.

Once the container is filled with your kitchen scraps, empty it into the compost bin outside and cover with either brown or green organic material. Making the rich topsoil requires a balancing act between green materials and brown materials placed on top of the kitchen scraps. The green things are those still close to the live stage, such as grass clippings, food scraps, and some manures. Don’t use the manure from pets or pigs, as it will promote the growth of harmful bacteria. Chicken manure is the best kind if you can find it. The browns have been dead for a while and consist of dry leaves, woody materials, and even shredded paper. We use some of the ashes from our fireplace, too. Layering these elements, with the browns taking up the most space, leads to the decomposition of the materials. Air and water are essential in assisting in this process, but usually there is enough liquid in the compost container and in the air without watering the pile. If you notice the material in the bin looks dry, go ahead and water it.

There are composters you can purchase from shredders to rotating drums to three-stage bins. You can spend from $20 to several hundreds of dollars to make a compost bin. If you live in the extreme north, you may need to invest in the more sophisticated type of equipment to ensure the success of your compost. However, I’ve composted in Michigan, Florida, Pennsylvania, and North Carolina and managed to do it successfully without expending tons of money.

We use the simplest and cheapest compost bin possible. We bought a plastic garbage can for under $10 and cut off the bottom and drilled holes all over the lid and sides to allow airflow. You can spend a little more on a galvanized garbage can, but it will be more difficult to remove the bottom. Dig a hole about three-inches deep in the soil the diameter of the can and placed the bottom into the ground, filling around the outer sides to make it secure.

Cover the bottom on the inside with the dirt removed to make the hole. Don’t pack the dirt but keep it loose and airy. You’re now ready to throw kitchen scraps on top. We cover the scraps with leaves from the yard and put the lid back on the garbage can. Every time we put new material from the kitchen into the bin, we stir or stab at the layers with a shovel. It is very important to cover those scraps with the brown material, or you will attract insects, and maybe even wild animals because the scraps will begin to smell as they decompose. The dead material hides the process of decomposing.

In the spring, I fill flowerpots with the healthy rich soil from the bottom of the compost bin to assist grateful petunias, pansies, impatiens, and marigolds. We’ll gaze upon the blossoming colors on the patio and take satisfaction in making fertile soil that originated in our kitchen and garden. Our vegetables, herbs, and flowerbed plants will all receive a healthy dose of the soil as well, and then we start the process all over again.

Earthworms are the essential ingredient for turning the scraps into rich dark soil. If I see a worm in the yard, I’ll pick it up and carry it to the bin, but mostly the earthworms find it all by themselves. If you don’t see any in your pile, buy a small container of earthworms from the local bait shop and let them loose. They eat the organic matter, and quite graciously poop behind nice dirt.

I love the symmetry of composting. It’s a way to be a part of the cycle of nature without disturbing or destroying it.

GARDEN NEWS – IT’S ONLY BEGINNING!

 

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Jack’s Beanstalks?

Last year, our Smoky Mountain garden saw very little rain. The whole region suffered from a drought. But this spring and now into June, the rains have been frequent and steady. We left on our trip to Michigan hoping the rain would continue so our friend didn’t have to come over every other day to water. She came three times over a two-week period, but only to pick vegetables.

 

A few days before we returned, she hauled home a bag of beans, several green peppers and onions and a batch of peas. The day we arrived home, my husband went out and picked five plastic bags of vegetables, including a large bag of broccoli from plants that had already put forth heads. My well-heeled and prolific gardener husband had never seen such a thing.bowl

Yesterday, our first full day home, I spent in the kitchen. I blanched and froze fourteen bags of beans and seven bags of broccoli. There’s still a bag of beans in the refrigerator waiting to be steamed for three bean salad (see my recipe below).

Last night, he began digging up the garlic. This is the first year that we really have a crop. We’re letting it dry out on the porch now and before it rains this afternoon, Bob is outside digging up the rest.

20170619_105222Here’s a warning to family and friends we’ll see this summer – expect plenty of bulbs for your summer and fall garlic needs. I’d love to braid them, but haven’t a clue how it’s done. Anyone out there who knows how to do it?

Here’s the process for blanching and freezing both the beans and the broccoli.

20170619_105117Beans

  1. Wash and break into two-inch pieces.
  2. Place in boiling water and blanch for three minutes.
  3. Remove and immediately and drop into ice water for three minutes.
  4. Remove from water and put into freezer containers.

Broccoli

  1. Rinse and remove stalks and leaves. Cut into serving size pieces.
  2. Place in one gallon of salt water (1 cup of salt) and let soak for thirty minutes. This will make sure all the bugs are gone before blanching.
  3. Rinse thoroughly.
  4. Place in boiling water and blanch for three to four minutes (depending on the size of the pieces).
  5. Remove and immediately and drop into ice water for three minutes.
  6. Remove from water and put into freezer containers.

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Pat’s variation on a marinated green bean salad

From Seed to Table by P.C. Zick with Robert Zick

4 cups green beans, steamed for about 7 minutes

1 can black olives, chopped

1 can garbanzo beans

1/4 lb. Swiss cheese, cut into small chunks

onion, chopped (use amount to your taste – I used two small onions from the garden)

fresh dill, parsley or other herbs of your choice

1 red pepper, chopped (you can use green or banana peppers too)

1 TBSP balsamic vinegar

2 TBSP olive oil

juice from one lemon

Mix together all the vegetables and herbs. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Whisk together the rest of the ingredients and pour over the vegetables and herbs. Chill before serving. This salad is even better on the second and third days.

green bean salad

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Available on Amazon – Kindle and paperback versions.

FLORIDA GARDENING

 

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House painting in progress

 

We’ve been in Florida since November. The time has flown as we’ve been taking back a house that had been a rental property for six years. We tore out the kitchen and replaced it with new cupboards, counters, and appliances. We painted most rooms and had renovations done in the bathrooms. And then in January, we tackled the exterior of the house turning it from gray to barn red. We love the results.

But through it all, my gardener husband, Robert, studied and planned and then he built. He sowed seeds and planted. We now have a 20 x 4 raised bed garden, a small herb plot (that was already here but filled with weeds), and three fruit trees planted.

Peas

Peas climbing

 

He’s been pulling seedling trays outside and then back in at night under grow lights. These will go to our cabin in Murphy, which he plans on putting in next month. Finally, this week he built a cold frame, which is large enough to be a guest bedroom, so those plants can just stay outside permanently until they’re ready for the ground.

 

ColdFrame

The Cold Frame

We only have a few months left to enjoy the Florida garden, but that’s all right. It will be a delicious two months. We’re eating lettuce and spinach every day now. Herbs are lush and green and grace every meal. Pea pods are forming, and the broccoli and cabbage appear to be doing well. Bush beans will be ready for consumption soon. What we can’t eat, will be blanched and frozen.

 

 

herb-beans

Beans and Herbs

When I prepared to roast a chicken the other day, I chuckled and hummed, “Parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme,” and that’s precisely what I put in the pot with the chicken.

 

Robert has found the best of all possible worlds for a gardener–year round gardening. And I am the lucky recipient of all his hard labor. It’s a good life.

GARDENING IN OCTOBER

dsc03682The garden started in March by building raised beds on the side of a hill are still producing! Tomatoes, winter squash, and lima beans grace our table. Although the butternut and Queensland Blue are there more for decoration right now.

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Queensland Blue Pumpkin – Cooks up just like regular pumpkin

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March 2016

 

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May 2016

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July 2016

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October 2016

Next on the agenda:  The Florida garden. We’re in the process of heading to our home in Tallahassee for the winter. It will be the first time my husband has spent the winter away from a northern climate. He’s already plodding and planning and ordering seeds. In fact, yesterday, he began potting some seedlings. He hasn’t even built the garden yet! But he plans on using the same concept of raised beds and creating his own mixture of soil.

How did your garden grow this year? Love to hear from you!

 

 

 

#Garden Abundance

IMG_0716It’s a good thing we took a break this week because, by Friday, the refrigerator and countertops overflowed with zucchini, tomatoes, cabbage, onions, peppers, and carrots! Time to get to work.

Normally, I try to spread it out over a few days, but I decided since I’m between writing projects that I’d take one day and devote to the preserving the produce.

I started with a new recipe. Zucchini Blueberry Bread. The local market called me this week to tell me local blueberries were in, and they’d saved two gallons for me. After freezing two large gallon bags for use in smoothies, I still had a full container and zucchini in the crisper. After researching online for recipes combining the two, I finally found one that I could modify for our tastes and preferences. So here it is! I’ll be adding it to the next edition of From Seed to Table, but until then here it is.IMG_0765

Zucchini Blueberry Bread

3 eggs, beaten

1/2 cup oil

1 cup maple syrup

3 cups, zucchini (unpeeled and grated in food processor)

2 tsp vanilla

1/2 tsp almond extract

3 cups flour (I used 2 cups unbleached white, 1 cup whole wheat – personal preference)

1/2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp salt

1/8 tsp cloves

1 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp allspice

4 cups fresh blueberries

Directions:

  1. Add oil, syrup, vanilla, almond extract, and zucchini to beaten eggs.
  2. Sift dry ingredients and add to batter.
  3. Fold in blueberries.
  4. Pour into 2 greased loaf pans.
  5. Bake at 350 degrees for one hour to one hour, fifteen minutes until toothpick comes out cleanly.
  6. Cool on rack. Bread freezes very nicely.

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We had it for breakfast this morning, and it’s very moist and delicious. I modify recipes to reduce the oil usually suggested. Then I add more zucchini because if I’m making zucchini bread, chances are I have enough to spare.

IMG_0770My husband picked the first cabbage yesterday along with a few lovely carrots. Nothing else to do but make some cole slaw. I used the recipe for freezing slaw originally from Ball Blue Book Guide to Preservingmodified for my book, From Seed to Table. When I first saw this recipe, I was skeptical, but in our family, it has a proven track record!

Here’s the recipe from From Seed to Table:

Cole slaw to freeze

This is a wonderful way to preserve all that fresh cabbage. Once thawed, add mayonnaise to taste. The flavors are even better in this slaw when thawed than when fresh, even if the cabbage wasn’t as crisp.

1 large head of cabbage, shredded

3 large carrots, grated

1 large onion, chopped

1 tsp salt

1 ½ cup sugar

1 tsp dried mustard

1 cup white vinegar

½ cup water

Combine all vegetables in a bowl and sprinkle with salt. Let mixture stand for one hour. Bring the rest of the ingredients to a boil and boil for three minutes. Cool. Ladle over vegetables and stir together. Place mixture in freezer bags or containers and place in freezer. We like our slaw with a little bit of mayonnaise so I add about a tablespoon to each two-serving bag when it’s unthawed. If you like an all-vinegar slaw, you don’t have to do anything except thaw the slaw when you’re ready to eat it.

We saved back some for dinner last night, and it was tart and biting, which we like. The freezer will mellow some of that.

Finally, we put together our pasta sauce, using the method and recipe from our book, which brings me to one final thing!

Normally, From Seed to Table  is $3.99 to download on Kindle, but through July 25, you can grab it for only $0.99. The book also comes in paperback. Check it out!

 

S2T-5

Click on cover for $.99 cents Kindle version

Kindle

Paperback

What’s growing in your garden? What’s going on at your local farmers’ market?

 

 

 

 

CUKES & ZUCS – GARDEN MADNESS HAS BEGUN

 

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June 23, 2016

Suddenly, I’ve been thrown into overdrive in the kitchen attempting to preserve the produce starting to accumulate. The past two days found me dealing with the cucumber and zucchini madness happening right outside my door.

 

Yesterday, I decided I had enough cucumbers to do seven quarts of kosher dill pickles.

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Kosher Dills

Wrong. I had enough to do almost twice that many, but my canner only holds seven. So today I used the rest to make my bread and butter pickle chips.

 

So far, the zucchini is under control, but still three good sized ones made four loaves of zucchini bread, which will be great for when we have visitors later this summer. Nothing beats coffee, fresh fruit and zucchini bread for an easy summer breakfast.

 

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Zucchini Bread

 

 

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The Leftovers

 

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Bread & Butter

 

 

The tomatoes are starting to produce–mostly small varieties–but my husband tried a new variety this year, Black Brandywine. It’s gorgeous. Only two have been brought to the windowsill. We plan to eat them plain with salt to savor the taste, which hopefully will be as wonderful as their deep burgundy color.

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Black Brandywine

 

From Seed to Table by P.C. Zick

Walnut Date Zucchini Bread

4 eggs

3 cups flour

¾ cup maple syrup

2 cups buttermilk (use regular milk and add 1 tsp vinegar)

¾ cup chopped walnuts

¾ cup chopped dates or raisins

1 tsp cinnamon

½ tsp nutmeg

¼ tsp cloves

3 cups shredded zucchini, drained

1 tsp vanilla

2 tsp baking soda

¾ tsp baking powder

1 tsp salt

Mix together all ingredients until blended. Place in two greased loaf pans. Bake at 350 degrees for 50-60 minutes or until brown on top and toothpick inserted comes out clean.

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WANING DAYS OF SPRING

beans1There’s something powerful in eating locally grown vegetables, either from our own garden or the farmer’s market. It makes me want to eat much healthier in all ways when the main pieces of a meal showcase homegrown bounty.

Something about the mountain air and my husband’s green thumb has bombarded our garden beds this spring, and now that his hard work is done, he spends his mornings and early evenings picking his ‘fruits.’ He likes to pick vegetables when the sun is not beating down upon them. He says the cooler times of the day are better because all the ‘energy’ of the plant are in the fruit. When the sun is out that energy is transferred to the roots. Using his philosophy, the root crops are best picked during peak sun times. Others say the morning while still fresh with dew is the best for capturing the most moisture.

All I do is say “Grilling salmon tonight. Make sure we have some green to go with it.” And right now magically when I go to cook dinner, the crisper is filled with rich goodness.

Right now, at the end of May, we are eating the last of the lettuce, spinach, swiss chard, and radishes. But the broccoli, beans, and peas are coming on strong.

What are you enjoying in your area?

LOVE THY NEIGHBOR

IMG_0677We moved to the mountains of southwest North Carolina to heal and live in a peaceful and clean environment. Since December, we’ve lived here full time. But our neighbors, with whom we share a driveway, spent the winter in Florida. They came back last week, and with their arrival, a bit of our peace vanished.

What happened shows us the problem in our world today when people become so focused on their own agenda that they forget some simple courtesies.

Communication before accusation and love instead of hatred are the main ones that come to mind. If two families with a shared driveway are unable to discuss calmly and with respect then what hope do we have as a country to find a way to solve our problems?

We initially bought this cabin with the intention of healing and restoring our balance. For the past three years, either my husband or I have been at dis-ease with our bodies. First, I was hit with a nasty virus that killed nerves in my legs and left arm that resulted in months of chemo-like treatments to rid myself of the unwelcome invaders. Three weeks after I received the green light from my doctors that I was cured, my husband’s dis-ease began. We’re still on the journey to his well-being. And the one thing that has helped him the most has been building, creating, planting, and now harvesting a bountiful garden. Along with the mountain air, I see him regaining his strength and will to live. The growth of the green produce has been inspiring and fulfilling for both of us.IMG_0668

Then the neighbors returned from their winter sojourn.

All through the winter, I kept her informed of the progress of our garden building which came within a couple of feet of their property line on the driveway.  When dirt was delivered and accidently dumped over the property line in March, I sent her an email with photos explaining that Robert would remove the dirt as the gardens were built, and that we’d be keeping them in produce all summer. She replied that there was no problem, and they looked forward to sharing in the bounty.IMG_0627

Within an hour of their return, she visited with Robert as he worked on the garden. She talked about the property line, about the eventual paving of a portion of the driveway, and about gravel on the rest. We would share in the cost of all the work. Robert chatted with her several times over the next three days, believing neighborly relations were fine.

Then the email to me came informing me, in case my husband hadn’t, that Robert didn’t realize the importance of property lines and that they must have control over their property. She accused him twice in the email of “clearing” their property, and then gave me all sorts of legal descriptions of the property line. Then they stopped talking to us but daily walked the property line, pushing back weeds and climbing the hills.

The other day, they came down to the edge of the garden, once again looking at the property lines while Robert worked in the garden just feet away. He forced them to speak to him.

“We’re getting a surveyor out here because this has to be legal,” she informed him.

“Fine,” he responded, thinking that it didn’t have to be this way but if they wanted to spend the money to determine if we’ve done something so horrendous that they had to accuse us in an email and then stop speaking to us, then fine. Go ahead.

Based on the information provided to us by both the developer of our little subdivision and by the neighbors, we kept within our property lines. Dirt was spilled across the line, which has been removed. And to get at the dirt, Robert did remove some suckers on a stump from a tree removed before we moved here, which is one foot into their property.

I might add that this property line in question is at the back of their cabin and down a slight hill. They can’t even see it from their home.

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The back of their cabin

 

I understand wanting to establish legal property lines. And if they’d approached us first without accusations, we might have been able to work it out, and even shared the cost of the surveyor. We’d feel better, and they would be blessed with produce throughout the summer.

We have decided that our peace shall not be broken by the lack of good manners. We are praying for a satisfactory outcome, and we’re sending them all our loving energy via prayer. We’ve come too far in this process of restoring our well-being to let anyone else take it away.

My husband and I are in our sixties and have lived in various places separately and together during our lifetimes. This is the first time either of us has encountered a problem with a neighbor, so it has been disturbing.

Please keep us all in your thoughts that we can solve this little problem because I need the hope that we can solve the bigger issues in the world today. And it all starts with the little seeds in our own backyards.

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THE FIRST SALAD OF THE SEASON – #GARDENLOVE

IMG_0648We rolling in lettuce right now. Radishes are beautiful and tasty, too. My husband planted a variety of radishes, and the taste differences are subtle, but none of them are bitter as sometimes happens with older radishes.

I’m amazed at how fast the garden is growing. I’ll soon be pulling down the canning equipment from the attic and buying new jars to put up sauces, pickles, and relishes. I didn’t pack our canning jars from Pittsburgh — too much to move as it was. Time to stock up on freezer bags, too, for peas and beans that will surely come on quickly and soon.

The photo on the left was taken March 20, and the one of the right I took this morning, May 5. It’s a lovely, yet shocking, surprise. I guess my northern gardener adapted to gardening in the mountains with ease.

The bed with straw on top in the photo on the right is planted with approximately twenty-eight asparagus plants that arrived via mail the other day. We have to wait two years to enjoy their bounty.

Today, he’s building the last of the beds, and I’ve asked him to hold off on planting anything there. Fat chance. He has winter squash in pots ready for the ground. At least, I won’t have to deal with preserving those because they should store all winter long once harvested.

We went to the local farmer’s market on Saturday to see what others were offering in local food. They had about the same things we did. I should look into getting my own table at the market for later this spring.

How’s your gardening growing?

 

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From Seed to Table is FREE on Kindle through May 7, 2016. Grab your copy by clicking on photo or if you’d prefer the paperback, click here.