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I wrote a book about preserving food. The same step-by-step instruction and full-color photos you find in my blog. Buy it at Yes, You Can 

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Sprouts is a terrific source for certified organic seeds intended for home sprouting. Dress up salads, stir-fry, sandwiches, spreads, and other dishes with homegrown sprouts of all kinds. Follow this link to order your sampler or to find home sprouting kits.


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Posts Tagged ‘kitchen gardener’

Greatest Tip for a New Kitchen Gardener

Several garden writers I met on Twitter collaborated to create this book which asked to pose for this photo on the larder in my office. The canned goods are from last year, but the book is fresh. Follow this link to order your own copy.

The best tip I offer to new kitchen gardeners is: find an experienced kitchen gardener and get acquainted. Help out in his or her garden if you can, ask lots of questions, and don’t be shy about sounding ignorant.

I’ve yet to meet a kitchen gardener who can’t turn “Hello” into a 45 minute conversation about vegetable-growing minutia. And, after more than 40 years’ experience growing green things, I learn something new and useful in nearly every one of those conversations.

So, get to know a kitchen gardener.

No Gardeners in Town?

A corollary to my favorite gardening tip is: Get a good book. A book about kitchen gardening can be at least somewhat useful in lieu of an actual experienced gardener. Each book provides its own voice and a unique approach to gardening… usually reflecting the experience of the book’s author.

Here’s where things get really good. What if you could have a great gardening book, and actually interact with the book’s author? With the growing influence of social networking on the Internet, you can do just that.

Many garden book and magazine writers hang out on social networks. Twitter has attracted a particularly large and active network of garden writers, and most are pleased to interact with other gardening enthusiasts. As an even greater bonus, there are many bloggers in the garden writer community; online, you might find an enormous body of work beyond an author’s books and magazine articles.

Meet Some Happening Authors

Recently, two books about kitchen gardening came on the market:

Grocery Gardening by Jean Ann Van Krevelen, Amanda Thomsen, Robin Ripley, and Theresa O’Connor.

Grow Great Grub by Gayla Trail

Each of the authors who contributed to these books is on Twitter.

Grow Great Grub is the latest book by Gayla Trail. I’ve followed Gayla on Twitter for many months and I particularly enjoyed her reports from a recent trip to Dominica. Follow Gayla on Twitter and follow this link to buy her book.

So here’s my latest tip for beginning kitchen gardeners: Buy these books, get Twitter accounts, follow the books’ authors, and keep learning. I believe you’ll enjoy your interactions online nearly as much as you’d enjoy chatting with other gardeners in your neighborhood.

While I’m recommending you follow people on Twitter, how about following me? I haven’t yet published a book for kitchen gardeners, but I enjoy connecting with them and hearing about their successes and failures just as I shared mine in my blog.

Jean Ann Van Krevelen – @JeanAnnVK

Amanda Thomsen – @kissmyaster

Robin Ripley – @RobinRipley

Theresa O’Connor – @seasonalwisdom

Gayla Trail – @YourGrowGirl

Daniel Gasteiger – @cityslipper

I wrote more about Grocery Gardening and Grow Great Grub at Home Kitchen Garden Store. Please check it out and buy your copies today.

No one paid me to tell you about these books, but it seems right to let you know that if you buy through links on this page, I will earn a token commission from

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Friends for a Kitchen Gardener

italian tomatoes

When I first posted about these unusual tomatoes, I called them “Italian” tomatoes. Since then, other people have suggested they are “Dutch” tomatoes. I had not heard the term “paste tomato” by 2008, but I understand now that the category of paste tomatoes includes those that are mostly meat with relatively little liquid. These are paste tomatoes. What’s more they have a striking resemblance to the Andes tomato I found in an online seed catalog. My neighbor has been growing them for years.

I started writing Your Small Kitchen Garden in August of 2008, and that emboldened me to visit a neighbor whose garden I had eyed from the road for more than a decade. I wrote about that neighbor’s garden in this blog on September 15, 2008 in a post titled A Large Kitchen Garden.

I very much enjoyed meeting these neighbors, and was fascinated with the unusual chili-pepper-shaped tomatoes they were growing. I was moved a bit when they handed me two of the curious tomatoes insisting that I should save the seeds and grow them in my own small kitchen garden in 2009.

Tomato Luck in my Small Kitchen Garden

I needn’t remind anyone what a miserable growing season 2009 presented in the northeastern and the southwestern United States. I got lucky: while late blight destroyed tomato patches all over Pennsylvania, I harvested several bushels of tomatoes before lesions appeared on my plants.

Among the tomatoes I harvested were dozens and dozens of those chili-pepper-shaped treats grown from seeds I saved from my neighbor’s gift. I raved about those tomatoes in my blog. They are awesome-sweet and flavorful, and I served many of them in my favorite tomato salad. As well, I canned gallons of sauce, diced tomatoes, and tomato halves. After all that, I also dried tomatoes using my toaster oven’s dehydrate setting.

I saved seeds. In fact, I collected seeds from, perhaps, a third of the uninfected chili-pepper-shaped tomatoes I harvested in 2009.

Growing Pains for Kitchen Gardeners

By the time blight hit my small kitchen garden, I had seen its effects on many other local gardens. Driving past my neighbor’s yard nearly daily, I watch his garden evolve through tilling and early growth and then go right into death throws. I never saw tomato plants there rise above surrounding vegetation and I wondered: did he lose his entire crop? Worse: did this miserable growing season break his streak of growing those lovely chili-pepper-shaped tomatoes? I wondered whether he had harvested seed… or whether he had seed left over from 2008 that he might try again in 2010.

lima bean

My neighbor grew lima beans two years ago, but told stories of a giant variety of lima beans that they used to grow until the crop failed on year. I’ve seen giant lima bean seeds in catalogs, so I’m going to track some down and do some seed-sharing.

So, while preparing seeds to mail to readers who have participated in my free seeds giveaway, I thought I’d take a packet of seeds to my neighbor. I figured he might be glad to have fresh ones from 2009 so he could grow more of those cool tomatoes.

Gardening Friends

It had been a year and a half, but it took only a moment for my neighbors to remember me. We talked a bit about what a horrible season 2009 had been for kitchen gardeners, and I learned that their garden had suffered a lot from the constant rain. Turns out, being an in-ground bed, their garden doesn’t drain, so it does best during very dry years when everyone else must add water to get decent results.

It wasn’t clear whether my neighbors were seedless, but they seemed genuinely grateful for the seeds, and quite happy to talk about their garden and the coming season. He will be 82 years old next month, and still he’s figuring to manage his large garden bed.

I agreed to track down seeds for super giant lima beans and visit again before it’s too late to plant them. Apparently, my neighbors grew such lima beans years ago but things didn’t work out one season and they’ve lost the strain.

In any case, as I’m sure most gardeners would attest: talk with gardeners about gardening, and you’re making friends. That’s how it felt yesterday, and I’m looking forward to another visit.



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