Posts Tagged ‘organic’

Is Your Produce Genetically Modified?

These apples have PLU stickers with the number...

Image via Wikipedia

Have you ever stopped to wonder what those stickers on all the fruits and veggies you buy mean?
Until recently I assumed it was the simply a PLU (product look up number) so the cashier can quickly scan the produce.

Turns out there’s a whole lot more info in those tiny little stickers. And understanding what to look for can mean the difference between healthy organic fruits and veggies and genetically modified junk! Here’s what you need to know about

  1. What is it?
    While most of us can tell an apple from an orange, identifying the variety of fruit or vegetable in your hands can be a little trickier.  With nearly 2,000 varities out there it’s sometimes helpful to know you’re holding a Fuji Apple versus a Pink Lady.  The sticker will often list the variety of fruit or vegetable so you don’t have to guess.
  2. Where is your food from? 
    The sticker will usually tell you where the produce is from. If the produce is Canadian or American it will list the country or the province/state. If from outside North America it will simply list the country. Knowing where your food is from not only helps you support local agriculture but helps you pick from fresher options when produce is in season.
  3. How is your food grown? 
    How your produce is grown is displayed right on the sticker as well.  The 4 or 5 digit code will tell you if the food you’re about to eat is grown conventionally (i.e. with chemicals or fertilizers) organically, or genetically modified (how did this make it past the FDA anyway).  Here’s how to read the label:
    • 4 – digits codes: ranging from 3000 to 4961, represent your average run-of-the-mill conventionally grown food.  These are not organic or have not been certified organic (some small farms may not have the capacity or capital to get certified but may in fact grown chemical and pesticide free food)
    • 5 – digit codes beginning with 9:  This sequence is reserved for organically grown produce.  For example a banana may carry PLU4011, whereas an organically grown banana of the same variety would be labelled PLU 94011. Where ever possible, this is what I look for when filling my grocery basket
    • 5 – digit codes beginning with 8:  This sequence represent food that has been genetically modified or genetically engineered.  In other words, it’s a lab experiment.  I avoid these at pretty much all costs.

If you’re interested in what PLU stands for which fruits and veggies there’s a handy resource at www.plucodes.com.

If you’d rather take back control of the fruits and veggies you eat may we be so bold as to suggest growing your own? Our backyard harvest is sticker free.

Was this post helpful? Will it help you the next time you go to the market?

Eat drink and be merry.

The At Home Organic

www.twitter.com/homeorganicfarm
www.facebook.com/athomeorganicfarms
www.athomeorganicfarms.com

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This Week’s Poll: Fresh, Local or Organic

If you had to choose which produce to eat, what would it be?

6 Reasons to Grow your Own Food

I just read a fantastic post about why you should grow your own food.

Even with all the compelling reasons, many of us are victim to the wonderful world of convenience, and it’s sometimes hard to take the time (or find the time) to garden your own veggies (even if they are fresher, more local and more organic than anything you can buy).

We understand that sometimes you need a little push, or a helping hand and we’d like to be both the push and the hand for you.

At Home Organic Farms operates in Toronto and will build, install and maintain an organic vegetable garden for you, right in your backyard.  Now there is no excuse not to get growing yourself.  Contact us to learn more.

Want to help inspire someone else? Share your story with us.

Eat drink and be merry.

The At Home Organic

www.twitter.com/homeorganicfarm
www.facebook.com/athomeorganicfarms
www.athomeorganicfarms.com

Fooling Mother Nature: Winter Edition

Fooling Mother Nature in the winter is not as hard as it sounds.  Most cold tolerant plants enjoy the cooler months; it’s the wind they don’t like.

You need a cold frame filled with cold tolerant plants like Mache, carrots and arugula.  A cold frame is a box with hinged covers so that the plants are protected from the wind.  The cover is usually made of glass, or plastic, or something clear and non-porous.  It’s not the cold that harms or kills the plants it’s the wind chill.  Snow adds extra insulation so that’s not a problem either. 

 I am in Toronto, Ontario (Zone 5) so to ensure that I have plants in the winter to harvest I make sure to sow my seeds in early-mid October so that there is sufficient time for the plants to grow before winter.  Plants take longer to grow in the cold weather so be sure to allow yourself some extra time.  Also, be sure to go lighter when you water because water evaporates and drains slower in the cooler temperatures. 

AHOF has been harvesting plants throughout the winter for a few years now and can provide the cold frames for you.  We also have greenhouses available which is a nice alternative to cold frames.  Please contact us for more details. 

Have any winter gardening tips you’d like to share? Let us know!

Eat drink and be merry.

The At Home Organic

www.twitter.com/homeorganicfarm
www.facebook.com/athomeorganicfarms
www.athomeorganicfarms.com

Fooling Mother Nature: Summer Edition

I have a company that builds and maintains organic vegetable gardens for home owners, businesses, schools… everyone!  So it makes sense that I employ a few tricks to grow food faster or help extend the growing season both earlier and longer.

Like knowing which plants to plant when. 

To keep it simple, let’s split the Torontonian growing season in to two categories: Summer and Not-summer.  Or more specifically, hot and not-so-hot. 

Let’s use hot peppers as an example of a summer vegetable.  Peppers hate cold wet weather and frost often has a detrimental effect on them.  So how can you get them producing earlier in the season?

  1. For starts you must get a head start by purchasing seedlings or starting them on a sunny window on your own.
  2. Second you need to make sure they are in a warm/hot environment early on in the season when the temperature outside isn’t in the 30’s.  A simply way to do this is to grab a plastic garbage bag and cover the plant ensuring that there is soil overtop of the opening to guard against wind.  Now you have created a greenhouse effect so that you can have warmer temperatures in the bag and the plant will grow and produce faster. 

A note about pollination, I suggest that you remove the bag during the warmest point of the day to allow bees to pollinate the plant or you have to do it yourself. 

  1. Another neat trick is to put a jug of water inside the bag with the plant.  The water will warm up and slowly cool down overnight allowing you to keep warmer temperatures over night too.

 

Now for the not-summer plants; most greens go to seed (bolt) when the warm temperatures come in. 

  1. You need to go out of your way to make sure you search out heat loving greens during the summer to make sure you have a supply all year.
  2. Alternatively, you can setup some shade (if you already don’t have any) over top.  I like to grow ground cherries in the summer so I usually grow greens underneath the plant as there is a nice shade canopy that the plant grows into. 

A note about bolting plants.  Usually the greens turn bitter when the hot weather comes in, but if you enjoy bitter greens then make sure you clip off the flowers when they start to grow.  The plant will continue to yield leaves for a while longer.

Have any tips or tricks that have worked for you? Please share them along. 

Stay tuned for our Winter Edition of Fooling Mother Nature next week.

Eat drink and be merry.

The At Home Organic

www.twitter.com/homeorganicfarm
www.facebook.com/athomeorganicfarms
www.athomeorganicfarms.com

Organic Delivery Company Reviewed: Not local and overpriced

It is impossible not to notice the explosion in organic food options. 

The only organic option that existed when I was growing up was the food we grew in our backyard.

Now there are CSAs (community shared agriculture plans), organic home delivery companies, home vegetable gardening companies (like ours), farmers markets, organic sections in major supermarkets, even whole stores devoted to organic food.

My wife and I decided to check out one of the home delivery options in Toronto through a Groupon deal.  We were excited to see what organic food might be available in January in Toronto.  Too bad for us, as our first delivery came in March, almost two months and half a dozen emails later.  Well, the food seemed organic enough (no real way to check except for the stickers on some of the items) but we weren’t overly impressed with the lack of local representation.

Here’s what our Harvest box included and where it came from

Product

From Where?

3
Medium Apples

USA

1 Head
Of Broccoli

California USA

3
Carrots

Ontario – unconfirmed (no sticker)

4
Small Potatoes

Ontario – unconfirmed (no sticker)

1
Avocado

Mexico

1
Bunch Red Chard

California USA

1 Acorn
Squash

Mexico

3
Pears

USA

1 Bell
Pepper

Israel

1
Mango

Peru

1 Head
Lettuce

USA

4
Medium Oranges

USA

 

My favourite part? It’s not the inflated price tag – they’re a business after all and they need to make their money too.  I know I could pick this up at my local grocery store for about 20-40% less money, but hey, this came delivered right to my door.  No, my favourite part was their claim that 25% of this box was local.  Seriously?

When I asked if a 100% local option existed I was told there was (why wasn’t this offered to begin with??) but that it costs more.  Pardon me? Food grown locally that’s not transported 9,299 km (Israel to Toronto) is more expensive??  Something’s screwy here and I don’t like it. 

Honestly folks, if you think you’re supporting local sustainable agriculture buy supporting these organic delivery companies you’re wrong.  This is a scam.  You’re paying for people to buy wholesale organic food, pack it into a box and send it to you for a lot more than it would cost you to go to a store and buy it yourself.  Not to mention that you’ve successfully increased your foodprint (carbon footprint of your food) by purchasing a box of food brought in from tens of thousands of kilometres away.  100km diet eh? – forget it. 

Have you ever tried an organic delivery company? What was your experience like? Have you considered planting a garden instead and enjoying food that is not only organic but local too? We want to know.

Eat drink and be merry.

The At Home Organic

www.twitter.com/homeorganicfarm
www.facebook.com/athomeorganicfarms
www.athomeorganicfarms.com

How Big Should My Vegetable Garden Be?

The best answer is often the simplest one.  How ever much you want.  The aim of the vegetable garden is to produce food.  Once that goal is attained what is left over is up to you and you have 3 choices – consume it, preserve it or give it away.

But as a general rule of thumb, one 4’ x 8’ raised bed supplements 2 adults nicely. If you have a highly vegetarian diet or enjoy more food than the average Joe, go for one garden per person.

cedar summer garden

Summer Garden

If you find you have a shortage of fresh veggies to harvest, you can always plant more, but what happens if you have too many tomatoes for example.  We may be creatures of habit, but we often enjoy variety in our diet.  If you have already preserved as many tomatoes as you can (frozen tomato sauce is my favourite) then give some away.  Who would not want to be the recipient of free home grown tomatoes?!?!

For me, vegetable gardening is very much like tattoos.  Once you start it’s hard to stop.  But sometimes getting started is the hardest part. If you recently started a garden please share your inspiration.  If you’re thinking about it but haven’t gotten around to it yet, why not??

Eat drink and be merry.

The At Home Organic

www.twitter.com/homeorganicfarm
www.facebook.com/athomeorganicfarms
www.athomeorganicfarms.com

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