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Support My Tomatoes Can Rely On

I’ve finally found the answer for supporting my tomatoes. It’s an ingenious system known as the Florida Weave. Basically, it’s a system of stakes and twine that utilizes a weave pattern in an around the tomato plants to keep them stable, in place, and able to climb.

Florida Weave

It’s better than staking plants, because it allows them movement and accounts for the “sprawling” effect of fuller plants. It’s better than the metal cone supports, because they become too confining for the tomato plant as it grows and the branches and fruit become tangled and pinched. So far, I love it. I used the old twine that I saved from my hale bales through the years (I saved it all because I KNEW it would come in handy one day!) and tied them end-to-end until I reached the desired length.

Florida Weave_3

When I ran out of nylon twine, I went to the store and purchased garden twine made from natural fiber. I won’t do that again. One of the keys to success with this system is pulling and keeping the twine tight from stake-to-stake. I’ve only had this system in place for 10 days and the natural fibers have already stretched on me!

The nylon have not. Lesson learned. More

What’s In YOUR Produce?

We’ve all heard of the Dirty Dozen.  No, I’m not referring to some cops & robbers show.  I’m talking produce–fruits and veggies, specifically the kind we buy at the grocery store.  You know, the stuff we buy with the intention of feeding our family healthy meals?  Unfortunately, some of this produce we buy isn’t as healthy as we think.  Apples top the list as the most pesticide-laden produce of them all (so much for an “apple a day”) while other notables include: celery, peaches, bell peppers–

Bell peppers?  No wonder mine are so small compare to those beauties I pick up at the grocery store!  Packed with chemically engineered fertilizers, those green goddesses are as synthetically enhanced as the puffed up muscles of a steroid-ingesting body builder.  I mean, we all want to look good–our garden veggies included–but at what cost?  Are we really okay with subjecting our bodies to poison?

Not me.  This is simply one more reason to grow my own produce (as if I needed another!).  To continue, the list includes other lovelies such as strawberries, blueberries, grapes, spinach and lettuce.  For the complete list, check the website for Environmental Working Group.  These folks will give you an updated run down on what’s bad for you, but also what’s good.  A few of the winners for sale at your local grocer include onions, sweet corn, pineapples, avocados (love these!), cabbage, sweet peas and more. 

However, I’d like to include one caveat regarding corn.  With so many hybrids and scientifically altered varieties out there, I’m steering my family clear of corn purchased from the market.  For all its health benefits (vitamins, anti-oxidants, cancer-prevention, etc.), it’s also one of the most genetically modified veggies.  Not good.  While I understand the reasons for this process, I don’t care.  If I’m going to eat healthy, I want to ingest pure, wholesome fruits and veggies which is why in my garden you’ll only find heirloom varieties of corn.  And of course, it’s 100 % organic.

So next time you’re meandering the beautiful colors in your produce section, think twice before plucking that gorgeous pepper from your market shelf and consider growing it yourself.  It’s not as hard as you might think and the rewards for you and your family?  Priceless. 

But if you must buy your produce, choose organic when it comes to the list of worst offenders.  Your body will thank you.

Martha Stewart and Me

I’m a fan of Martha Stewart. I love her magazine, would love her show (if I had time to watch during the day) and I love her savvy business sense.  But one of the things I like best of all is that she gives great advice.  Really helpful stuff.  This month in her magazine (get the iPad version—its awesome!) she discusses the benefits of companion eating.  In the garden, we often talk companion planting, but companion eating?

You know I was intrigued.  What was this strange new concept of pairing foods according to the laws of nature?  What were the benefits?  As a born-to-sell kinda gal, I think in terms of features and benefits, goals and rewards (a tough sell in my role as stay at home mom) and I wanted to know more.  Talk to me, Martha!  How can you help?

According to her panel of health experts, some foods are most effective—nutritionally speaking—when eaten together.  By pairing them, you maximize nutritional output by increasing absorption potential.  Have I got your attention, yet?  Snagged me right off the garden bed.

Spinach is packed  full of plant-based iron—not easily absorbed by the body.  Summon the lemon!  (Or grapefruit, oranges—anything high in vitamin C.)  Why?  They say the Vitamin C changes the molecular structure of this type of iron which makes it more digestible. Looking for a healthy breakfast?  Go for a similar effect with oatmeal and OJ.

Now here’s a kicker:  did you know that lycopene needs to be combined with fat to be absorbed via the intestinal wall?  And of course non-saturated fats are best.  Think: olive oil, avocados, nuts and fish.  I do love fresh garden tomatoes drenched olive oil.  Mozzarella and basil only intensify my delight.

Next time your child asks for a banana-peanut butter sandwich, run to the pantry, grab the bread, slice the banana, smear the butter and slap that baby together—quick!—before they change their mind. It seems the potassium in bananas inhibits the retention of sodium; a good thing!  Tuna and soy sauce work the same way as do romaine lettuce and Caesar dressing.  Very cool news.  While my low blood pressure appreciates the extra sodium, my old lady eyes do not .  At all.  🙂 

And speaking of kids, keep on serving up those whole grain cereals with milk because calcium can be rendered ineffective without magnesium (found in whole grains, nuts and soy).  Try serving their next grilled cheese with whole grain bread.  YUM and healthy.

Okay. Now this last one made me rethink the entire article. You mean to tell me there’s an actual science to why chicken soup is good for you?

Apparently.  According to Martha’s experts, the zinc in poultry, shellfish, nuts and beans produce a protein that transports vitamin A (found in carrots, sweet potatoes, leafy greens) to the retina.  Very important to sight.

While we’re on the subject of soup, Martha has one of the best recipes for basic chicken soup.  But for those non-soup fans, take heart.  Turkey and sweet potatoes work, as do beans and cheddar cheese.  Hmmm…  Are you with me?  How about a little bean chili for dinner tonight?

Whatever you do, don’t miss Martha Stewart Living.  Bright colors, vivid photography, savory and creative recipes, this is a subscription I look forward to each and every month.  Especially my iPad version.  Not only is it animated, but it includes videos, links, recipes I can click save (to a photo album) for later use in the kitchen.  LOVE it!

**This article is from the current issue of Martha Stewart Living magazine ~ pick yours up today!