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High Mowing Organic Seeds
High Mowing Organic Seeds High Mowing Organic Seeds

The Seed Bin - December 2010

High Mowing is offering four special holiday seed collections to nurture the green dreams of the gardener in your life. Each collection comes in an attractive gift package and includes detailed planting instructions. Choose from the Garden Starter Collection for the beginner gardener, Kitchen Herbs, Heirloom Vegetable Lover's,  or The White House Collection. Free Shipping on all Holiday Seed Collections!
Join our Community Supported Seeds program by December 31, 2010 and receive 10% off seeds for next season! Put your seed dollars towards supporting a family-owned company committed to meeting your farming needs with high-quality organic seeds! Read more about this exciting program!
Gift certificates are the perfect solution when you just can't find the right gift or you want to leave the power of choice up to the recipient. Extra! For the holiday season, each gift certificate comes with a packet of our signature High Mowing Mesclun Salad Mix and our catalog, perfect for perusing and planning with a hot cup of tea on a snowy January day! Buy a gift certificate today!

What's Happening at High Mowing? - Delia Gillen, Website & Social Media Manager

Fall is winding down and winter is almost officially here. Snow is on the ground and the gardens have all been put to bed, but here at High Mowing we're just gearing up! Summer and early fall are the busy times for the trial and farm crews, while winter and spring are the busiest times for the sales and warehouse crew. The seed-packing crew is packing away like crazy as huge shipments of seed from our growers arrive daily. The sales team have come back from their farms and garden businesses and are getting up to speed on all our new varieties. The shipping crew has streamlined their pick line and have been filling orders as fast as they get them. In order to better serve our customers, in the first week of January we'll be expanding our hours - starting January 8th you'll be able to reach a sales associate from 8-6 during weekdays, and on Saturdays from 9 - 5. Also, in January we'll be introducing our blog, The Seed Hopper, with new articles and information posted every week. We look forward to working with our dedicated customers once again this year, and look forward to hearing about your gardening challenges and triumphs!

Growing Sprouts for a Burst of Winter Greens - Megen Hall, Sales Associate 

Megen ToaldoYou can’t beat the flavor of a fresh and verdant homegrown salad in the midst of winter.  All it takes is a mason jar, a sprouting lid, water, and seed…and a little bit of time and care. Whether you choose to use a sprouting tray or this mason jar method, growing sprouts is easy and well worth the effort. 

organic sprouts and shootsThere are countless varieties of seeds to sprout, but Alfalfa and Mung Beans are among the few that are great for the novice sprouter.   Whichever varieties you should choose to sprout, there are a few simple rules to follow for great success.  First, be sure to purchase seed that is sold specifically for sprouting.  This way you can be certain that the seeds have been handled in a sanitary manner and do not have any seed coatings, since you will be eating the seed as well as its sprout. 

Next, place approximately 2 Tbsp of seed into a clean mason jar (more than that can result in overcrowding and can lead to mold).  Fill your jar with warm water to rinse the seed, drain (using your sprouting lid) and refill, covering the seed with about an inch of water.  Throughout the process of sprouting, it is important to cover your jar with a cloth, such as muslin or a towel, to keep out light and dust, but allowing air to flow. 

The timing of the process will depend widely on the temperature of your home.  In cooler temps, sprouts grow slower, and vice versa.  Soak the seed for about 12 hours in a warm location.  Rinse with warm water and drain your sprouts 2-3 times daily, for the next few days.  Some sprout experts suggest repeating the rinsing process twice each time.  You want to keep the seed moist, but not soaked.  Store the jar on its side to help spread out the seeds, allowing maximum airflow to the most seeds possible.  After the sprouts have shed their hulls (some varieties have hulls, while others do not), place them in a bowl of water.  Hulls will either sink or float for easy removal.

Once grown to their desired maturity, it is time to green up your sprouts on the windowsill.   First, rinse and drain as previously done, but this time place your jar in a bright spot, out of direct sunlight, to encourage the chlorophyll and carotenes to develop.  This process takes about a day.  (Not all varieties require greening up.  Refer to your seed packet for specific varietal instructions.) At the end of the day, rinse with cool water, drain in a colander, but don’t let them dry out.  Sprouts are best when eaten immediately, but you can store them in the refrigerator in an airtight container for 4-5 days, rinsing each day. 

Enjoy experimenting with our family favorite recipe for sprouts, which combines a mixture of our preferred sprout varieties (we like radish, alfalfa, and Mung bean combo).  Mix with chopped apples, currants, minced red onion, and chopped and toasted walnuts.  Top with a blend of balsamic vinegar, mayonnaise, and a dash of maple syrup.  Tastes delicious and packs a nutritional punch!!

Winterizing Farm Equipment - Paul Betz, Sales Associate and owner of High Ledge Farm 

Paul BetzHere in Vermont, time is dwindling for field work as the ground is tightening and will soon be covered (we hope) with snow. Much of the work left to do is getting ready for winter and next spring. Picking up where the snowplow runs and putting tools and equipment under cover is a priority, but long term storage is also a concern. For farm equipment with gasoline engines, a few extra steps now make a big difference in how they fire up in the spring.

Any discussion about small engines needs to include a section about ethanol blended fuel. Federal mandates require a 10% ethanol blend, and plans are to increase the amount added to gasoline in the future. The ethanol can cause lots of damage to small engines as a result of its aggressive nature. It attracts water through condensation, which can pollute the fuel in the tank. Ethanol attacks rubber seals and hoses as well as liberating older deposits in carburetors and fuel lines, introducing them into the fuel system. I would recommend using an additive to your fuel for any small engines on the farm.

The first step for putting equipment away should be a cleaning. Pull the spark plug wire first. Get the dirt, grease and grime off the tool. Then put the plug boot back on and start the engine and let it run for a minute or two to warm up. Then change the oil and oil filter if the engine has one. Lots of small engines don’t have an oil filter, which increases the importance of changing your oil at the recommended interval. Replace the filter and refill based on manufacturer’s specs. Inspect the air filter, and replace or clean as needed.  Check and replace the fuel filter if needed. Add fuel stabilizer and fill the tank. Run the engine for a few minutes to give the new fuel a chance to get through the entire system. Keeping the fuel tank full reduces the air space in the tank, which reduces the available area for water to condense. Some people suggest draining a metal tank, because the fuel can eat at the tank and cause problems in the future. Use of an additive should lessen the aggression of the fuel, and this shouldn’t be too much of a concern. Having the tank empty does create more space for water to condense as the tank heats and cools, which will definitely cause problems.

If you are working on putting away a tractor, or something with hydraulics, now is the time to check your fluid for any water. If it’s brown or frothy, change it now. The water can separate and freeze, as well as cause corrosion to internal machined parts, neither of which is good. If the quality of the fluid looks OK, change it based on the manufacturer’s specs. Also test your antifreeze to make sure you have the temperature protection you need for your area. If you need to add coolant, be sure to run your engine until your thermostat kicks in to fully circulate the coolant through the block.

Adding Fogging Oilet the engine cool, and then pull the spark plug, or plugs, one at a time (if you do one at a time, you will lower your risk of hooking up the wrong plug wire) and spray the inside of the cylinder with some fogging oil. It will cling to the cylinder and be there for the first start up in the spring. Check the plug and replace if necessary, then put the boot back on.

Then hit all your fittings with a good quality grease, and call it done.

Spring gets closer every day. Better to have the season start with one pull.

All my best,

Behind the Scenes of the High Mowing Organic Seeds' Vegetable Breeding Work - Interviews with the people who make it happen. Tom Stearns, President & Founder

Heather JerrettBehind the scenes of our plant breeding are the two people who direct this work, build relationships with public plant breeders, take detailed notes, and organize taste tests to ultimately bring forth these exciting new varieties.  Both Jodi Lew-Smith and Heather Jerrett have worked at High Mowing since 2003 and are a large reason for the success of our company and for the high quality varieties that we offer.  Last month you had a chance to read about our breeding program through my interview with Jodi Lew-Smith.  This month I interviewed
Heather Jerrett, High Mowing Organic Seeds' Trials Manager
about her role trialing and developing the unique varieties we offer.

Briefly describe the HMS trialing program.

"Our trialing program is used to identify new varieties, control quality of existing varieties, as an educational tool for our sales and marketing staff, and as a showcase for our customers."

What role does Trials play in the breeding program, either early on in the breeding process, throughout the process, at the end or in an ongoing way?

"Trials helps identify interesting new varieties that catch the attention of Jodi in the breeding program.  Jodi walks through the trials every week and often notices varieties that are an interest to her current or potential future breeding projects.

Also, in the Trials, we compare our HMS breeding lines to the market standards of each crop type and to each other.  Our new sweet corn breeding program has given us test crosses in 2010 for evaluating for many traits including tip fill, tip cover, husk cover, kernel size and number of rows and plant height and yield, tassel timing, maturity and, of course, flavor.  These lines were all compared to each other and to other market standards from multiple plantings and throughout the season. 

The earlier that Trials is able to check out our new breeding lines, the sooner we get used to the projects and can see what attributes that we are looking for.   The more familiar Trials is with the breeding projects the better we are able to identify varieties or traits that Jodi might be looking for."

Describe a recent taste test that you have done.  How does it work and what do you do with the info?

"A few weeks ago we did a butternut taste test with 17 different varieties.  These varieties included the HMS breeding lines, the current varieties that we carry, other market standards, and a few new varieties available from other seed companies that we work with.  The breeding lines were all grown in the breeding plot and the others were grown in the Trials.  All varieties were cubed in same size, using the same part of each squash because different sections of the squash (i.e. neck or seed cavity) have different flavor.  They were then steamed in the oven in individual tin foil pouches for 20 minutes.  Then they were all given a number so that people didn’t know which ones were ours versus a competitor.  Then they were evaluated on flavor, sweetness and texture by HMS staff. 

Everything is rated on a 1-5 scale and everyone is encouraged to use the full scale in order to get a valuable spread of the numbers.  5 is the best and 1 is the worst.  All the tasters need to get their palette used to what they are tasting before they get started.  Many people taste each variety a few times to compare with the first time they tried it and alter their rating.  After the taste test, I collect the data sheets, enter everything into Excel, average the scores for each variety and each category, and sort to see which variety is on top.  The info gets emailed out to all the staff and it is used especially by the trials, sales and breeding staff.  The information is used for decisions regarding which new varieties to add, variety descriptions, directions to go with the breeding and more.  Taste is just one part of variety selection for us, but it is very important.

All of this info is also used as an educational tool for our staff.  All the names are revealed at the end and sometimes I am surprised by a variety that tasted differently than I would have expected.  A lot of it has to do with the timing of harvest and length of storage and storage conditions.  Because of that we like to do replicated trials and multi-year trials.  The flavor and nutritional potential of a variety is 60% from the genetics and 40% from the environment (soil type, rainfall, temp. etc).  So evaluating under these different conditions helps us to determine the varieties with the best genetics or those that are widely adapted to different conditions. 17 people all tasted 17 varieties – I create spreadsheets that are compiled for sweetness and texture of the squash." 

Katie's Kitchen - Little Bites of Celebration!   - Katie Lavin, Wholesale Sales Manager

Katie LavinThe time in between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve is loaded with get-togethers.  And by get-togethers, I mean opportunities to eat. I love filling up on appetizers, thinking to myself, “I could just eat little snacks for the rest of my life and be happy.” What’s not to adore about small bites of many tastes? And, if you’re hosting a party, appetizers can come together more quickly than an entire meal, and without the pressure.  Here are some of my favorites!

Garlicky Spinach Artichoke Dip

(adapted from Horn of the Moon Cookbook, by Ginny Callan)

While I usually try to highlight fresh food in this recipe section, I also appreciate what mayonnaise and canned artichoke hearts can do together. You might want to double this recipe, and serve one early and save one for later. Just sayin’.
  • ¼ cup of cream cheese, softened
  • ¼ cup of mayonnaise (you could try yogurt but I don’t know about that)
  • ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 3-4 cloves of garlic
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice (or not, if you don’t have any)
  • 8-10 ounces of clean fresh spinach (or one frozen block, thawed)
  • One can of artichoke hearts, drained
  • Bread crumbs and Parmesan for sprinkling on top

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Put garlic cloves and artichoke hearts in a food processor and chop finely.  Add spinach and chop that up, too. Add the mayo, cream cheese, lemon juice, and parmesan cheese and process until blended. Scoop into a small, oven-safe glass or ceramic dish.  Sprinkle bread crumbs and more parmesan cheese on top.  Bake for 25 minutes, or until golden and bubbly.  Serve hot with carrot and kohlrabi sticks, crackers, tortilla chips, or small slices of bread. 

Herbed Cheese Yule Log

Use only cream cheese or mix it with 4 ounces of goat cheese.

  • 1 bar cream cheese (8 oz), soften
  • Finely rubbed dried herbs or finely minced fresh herbs (rosemary, oregano, basil, dill, summer savory) or a few spoonfuls of pesto
  • Ground toasted nuts and seeds (sunflower, sesame, and pecans, whatever you have on hand)
Mix herbs and cream cheese (and goat cheese, if using) together well.  Cover and refrigerate for a bit (it will be easier to handle if it is colder).  Shape into a log and roll in the ground nuts and seeds.  Place on a platter and surround with assorted crackers and dried or fresh fruit.

White Bean Dip

This dip is elegant, easy, and vegan.
  • 1 14 oz can of white cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
  • Olive oil
  • 1 bulb of roasted garlic (only one bulb is needed for the dip, but you should roast a few more while the oven is on for use in other recipes).
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil, or to taste
  • 1 Tablespoon minced fresh or 1 tsp. dried rosemary, or 1 tsp. dried summer savory
  • ½ tsp salt and ½ tsp pepper, to taste
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Slice the stem tip off of the garlic bulb, taking off the tips of the cloves inside. Drizzle olive oil over the bulb and wrap up in some foil or a small covered baking dish.  Bake until cloves are soft and fragrant, around 30 minutes or so. Let cool and then squeeze the garlic from its skin into your food processor.  Add beans, rosemary, olive oil, and salt/pepper and blend into a smooth paste.  Scoop into a small pretty bowl and garnish with a fresh sprig of rosemary if you have one. Serve with kalamata olives and warmed pita bread.

Upcoming Food and Farming Events   

Look for us at the following fall events – stop by our booth to chat; let us know how your season went: which varieties performed well for you, which didn’t do so well; share your suggestions for improvements – we’re always happy to meet our customers!

Farmer 2 Farmer Conference, hosted by the New Entry Sustainable Farming Project
December 9, 8:30 AM 6:30 PM 
Sturbridge Host Hotel, Sturbridge, Massachusetts

Tom Stearns, founder and president of High Mowing Organic Seeds, will be leading an afternoon workshop on Building Healthy Community Around Healthy Food.

Conference organizers surveyed small-scale beginning farmers to find out what they are looking for now in a conference.  Overwhelmingly, beginning farmers are looking to obtain an insider's view from their peers regarding how to make their businesses successful. What could be better than a conference which addresses your specific needs?

ACRES USA Conference

Dec. 9-11
Indianapolis Marriott Downtown, Indianapolis, Indiana

The Acres U.S.A. Conference is the premier event nationwide for commercial-scale sustainable and organic agriculture. Several hundred eco-minded individuals from around the world gather together to tap the knowledge of some of agriculture’s brightest minds.
Come visit us in the tradeshow at booth #86

Great Lakes Fruit, Vegetable and Farm Market Expo

Dec 7 – 9th, Grand Rapids, MI
Come chat with sales reps Paul Betz and Katie Lavin at booth #1213

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