AFTER MY EDGER, MY FAVORITE TOOL IS THE COMPUTER. Mea culpa. The latest harvest: the secrets of Kosher salts, above (and why your pickles taste too salty some years); tactics for going pesticide-free indoors and out—and even how to save heirloom tomato seeds the Amy Goldman way. Sound useful? If I share, will you forgive me all my rooting around indoors instead of being outside on nonstop edging duty?
THANK YOU DEB PERELMAN OF SMITTEN KITCHEN, who cooks up a giant food blog from her tiny, 42-square-foot New York City kitchen. Just in time for peak pickling season, Deb unlocked the riddle that had been puzzling her (and me) for years: why recipes come out too salty sometimes and not others. Turns out that not all brands of Kosher salt (shown above, in my Grandma’s glass salt cellar) are created equal. The scoop from Deb (thank you, thank you).
WANT TO USE LESS CHEMICALS in and around the home and garden? Who doesn’t? Beyond Pesticides dot org is an essential resource to help in the plight. Just look at this list of factsheets (each a PDF). I love the one on “Reading Your Lawn Weeds,” for instance, a tactic that will really help you think before dumping on some needless toxin; you can find it partway down this page of theirs, at the link “Creating a Healthy Lawn.” A handy tactic for finding least-toxic pest-control companies near you is offered in this state-by-state online tool.
SPEAKING OF PESTS, WHAT ABOUT TICKS? The Wall Street Journal posted this rundown the other day of where we are in the fight against them (not faring so well), citing research from Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station revealing that more than 80 percent of ticks on a property “are within 3 yards of the lawn perimeter, particularly along woodlands, stone walls, and ornamental plantings.” In other words, you don’t have to go deep-woods hunting or hiking to come into contact.
I’m not sure if the further update that cedar chips are a good repellent—meaning that you could theoretically surround yourself with them as a barrier zone—is good news or bad. You know how I feel about chunky in mulch (hint: I prefer it in peanut butter).
HAVE A FAVORITE HEIRLOOM TOMATO whose seeds you’d like to save? How to do it can be confusing at first.
Nobody knows the proper seed-saving step-by-step better than preservationist and author Amy Goldman. It’s all in the fermentation (which is much easier than it sounds).
The amazing Amy also has tips for saving melon and squash seed, should you be blessed enough to have an open-pollinated (a.k.a. heirloom) one of them that you hope to grow again next year. Try it!
My elderly neighbor has a tomato garden, so his son (who is the head curator at the US botanical gardens btw) bought him Amy’s book over the summer. It’s funny though, he grows only hybrids; the only time he grows heirlooms is whenever my mom gives him a few of her extra plants. Heirlooms don’t really do well in his poor soil, but he loves the book and my mom’s tomatoes anyway. I was reading through it the last time I was at his house. It’s a very nice book. His wife says that they both really like the pictures of the tomatoes, and I agree. If the food in that book can’t convince anyone to plant tomatoes (or at least lust over wanting to plant them) nothing will.
I was most interested in the seed saving procedure though. I felt like a could do it myself. The only thing that confused me was that some of the pictures of the process were on a different page than the process itself, which sent me on a scramble flipping through the book to find the exact page.
Great sites, thanks for sharing them. The Beyond Pesticides site looks like a great resource. I’m looking forward to researching it further.
I’ve never understood the reasoning behind fermenting tomato seeds- too much trouble! I’ve been saving seeds from my tomatoes for years just by rinsing them and drying thoroughly on a paper towel prior to storage and have never seen any difference in germination rates between my saved seeds and commercially available seeds.
Welcome, Ellen — I have done that, too, with the paper towel. Works, as you say! See you soon again, I hope, and thanks for the information.
Thanks for the link to Amy Goldman’s seed saving page. It’ll help me become better at it. I’ve been growing mostly heirloom tomatoes for several years now and save seeds from all the best tasting varieties (one of this year’s candidates is ‘Spears Tennessee Green’).