How To Grow Tomatoes By Seed

young woman holding a tomato plant - How To Grow Tomatoes By Seed

The decision to grow tomatoes from seed is a personal one, as many gardeners prefer to simply purchase plants to transplant directly into their vegetable garden or containers. Those who choose to plant by seeds are a bit more adventurous and prefer the more hands-on of growing tomatoes from seed. Of course, this is a much more time-intensive process than simply buying an established plant at the nursery.

Growing tomatoes from seed isn’t too difficult, and it is tough to beat the contentment that comes from seeing the materialization of your patient efforts taking shape.

Using The Right Seeds

For starters, you have to start with the right kind of seeds. If you’re going to use seeds that produce a hybrid tomato variety you won’t have much results. Why? They just don’t grow true to the parent plant the way a good, old-fashioned heirloom will.

According to Mother Earth News, hybrids are more productive and disease-resistant than open-pollinated tomato varieties or heirloom tomato varieties. But open-pollinated tomatoes generally offer the richest flavors, and the great thing about planting heirloom seeds, you can dry out and save the seeds to plant in future seasons. Hybrid tomato breeding focuses on the needs of commercial producers who favor tomatoes that resist diseases and ship well, often allowing flavor to take a back seat.

Here are a few on-line sources were you can purchase tomato seeds.

After you have bought your favorite heirloom seed varieties, just follow the steps outlined below.

How To Germinate Your Seeds

USDA Plant Hardiness Zone MapYou’ll want to germinate the seeds indoors, roughly 6 to 8 weeks before the last spring frost in your area. If you aren’t sure when to start, click the image to the right to be taken to the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map to check out the “last frost in your.”

To get started, purchase several containers of sterile seed growing mix. Moisten your containers, and make shallow holes about 1/4 inch deep. Then, drop the seeds into the hole and gently cover with dirt.

If you are using larger containers, that allow planting several seeds, you will need to make furlongs 1/4 inch deep. Place seeds into furlongs, at 1/2 inch apart.

large heated propagatorWater the containers very gently, and then place them in an area which consistently reaches and holds between 75 to 80-degrees Fahrenheit, such as on top of your refrigerator.

If you happen to have a heated greenhouse, or a propagator to germinate your seeds, then even better.

As soon as you see the seeds begin to sprout, immediately add a strong light source from either a florescent grow bulb or natural sunlight.

true identifiable tomato leaves appearingAfter about a month you will notice the first “true” and identifiable tomato leaves begin to appear.

This tells you that it is time to transplant your seedlings to bigger containers. This is known as “pricking out” your seedlings.

With a spoon or fork, scoop out each individual tomato seedling. Transplant individual seedlings into containers at least 3 to 4 inches in diameter filled with moistened potting mix.

Gently water in the seedling after planting. When spring weather reaches and holds 55-degree temperatures at nights, move your plants out into the sun for a few hours at a time to harden them off. Gradually increase sunlight exposure daily over a week, until they can sit outside all day.

soil test kitBefore transplanting your seedlings, be sure to check the pH level of your soil to ensure it is not too acidic or alkaline.

Growing Garden Tomatoes says that your soil pH should be between 5.5 to 6.8 for tomatoes. Home soil testing kits can be purchased at gardening and home improvement centers, and many major cities offer soil testing for a fee.

When you are ready to transplant your plants, remove the bottom branches and plant up to just below the bottom leaves to ensure healthy growth and a strong root system.

Add  a tomato support in the form of cages or stakes and water gently. As your tomato plants grow, simply water soil when dry and enjoy your harvest!

Here’s a few recipes you can use your ripe home grown tomatoes in.

Garden Fresh Tomatoes and Salsa

Sweet Tomato Chutney

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Keeping Your Family Safe with a Reliable Meat Thermometer

Meat Thermometer

Meat thermometers can do two things for you.  They can prevent you from overcooking and drying out your foods as well as prevent you from spending fortunes in medical expenses.

Government health regulations are very particular when it comes to foods being prepared at certain temperatures.  Those certain temperatures are set to ensure that no one eating the foods prepared is going to become ill from being undercooked.  It is especially important in facilities that prepare meals for numerous people.

But for you and your family it is just as important that because it is hitting home.  Using a meat thermometer is a small price to pay for the peace of mind that everyone is safe to eat the foods prepared in your home.

There are two types of thermometers that can be used.  One that you leave in the meat while cooking and the other you stick it in the meat and take an instant read temperature.

Some thermometers are digital, some have voice responses that speak to you and then there are those that will tell you the temperature with a hand remote from 300 feet away.  The gadgets of convenience are not nearly as important as the timely accuracy that you are really wanting.

Let’s take a look at several thermometers and discover which are best at giving you the quickest accurate readings.  As well you’ll want to know which thermometers can take a wide range reading.  Meaning, how well it does in going from 0 to 450 degrees.

We won’t compare prices because most meat thermometers are $30 or less.  If you find higher priced thermometers it will because it has added bells and whistles like, opening the oven door for you.  But remember, that’s not what’s important when it comes to being safe.

Thermometer Performance Reviews

Brand

Accuracy

Reading Time

Range

Overall Score Consumer Reports /100

Overall Score Amazon /5

Polder 360 Dual Probe

Excellent

Very Good

Excellent

92

3.1

Taylor Weekend Warrior 806

Very Good

Excellent

Excellent

84

3.6

AcuRite

00648

Good

Excellent

Excellent

72

2.6

Taylor Classic 1470

Very Good

Poor

Excellent

67

3.3

Maverick ET 64

Excellent

Very Good

Good

66

4.1

Polder THM-372

Excellent

Very Good

Good

65

3.4

Oxo 1051105

Excellent

Good

Good

64

1.5

Kitchen Aid SS

Very Good

Fair

Good

49

4.5

Taylor Connoisseur 501

Very Good

Poor

Good

25

4.2

There is wide range in the score variances and quite a difference in ratings between Consumers Reports and Amazon ratings. For your information the numbers from Consumers Reports comes from several rounds of testing, whereas the scoring system from Amazon is directly related to consumer feedback.

Some brands are instant check while others are leave in while cooking, but which type you choose is a matter of your preference. And that fact that some are digital and some aren’t, played no role in the ratings. That also is a matter of preference. Most importantly you now know which thermometers you are going to get the best readings from.

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Slow Cooking, is it Safe?

crock-pot and recipe book

In early times past, food stuff such as roots, vegetables and meats were wrapped in leaves and placed on warm or hot rocks that made a ring around a fire. The wrapped food was left there for a long period of time. Early cooks discovered that cooking this way tenderized tough plants and meats, and released more flavor into the food. This concept or type of cooking was carried over into  pot-based cooking over fires and eventually to stoves.

This tradition of slow cooking was first commercialized by the Naxon Corporation with its electric slow cooker intended only for beans. Rival Corporation bought Naxon in 1971. Rival redesigned the slow cooker and branded the bean cooker as the crockpot. The original crockpot’s stoneware liner wasn’t removable. Than In 1974 the product was redesigned with a removable liner, for easy cleaning. Aside from cosmetic changes and the addition of larger sizes, crockpots remained virtually unchanged until the introduction of a programmable crockpot in 2001.

Some disadvantages to crockpot cooking are: vitamins and nutrients are lost because of enzyme action during cooking. Raw beans must be boiled before cooking to remove an enzyme that can cause food poisoning. Canned beans do not require boiling, as they are boiled in the canning process.

A slow cooker is certainly convenient, but if not used correctly there is the potential for food-safety hazards. Temperatures between 40° and 140°F fall into the so-called “Danger Zone,” since bacteria thrive in these temperatures. When using a slow cooker be sure to take precautions that keep food from being in the Danger Zone for too long. To avoid the Danger Zone, never add frozen ingredients to your cooker, refrigerate any ingredients you’ve prepped ahead in separate storage containers and bring liquids to a simmer if you’re cooking on Low before adding them to your cooker to give the heating process a jump-start. Never attempt to cook a whole chicken or roast in your slow cooker: large hunks of meat won’t cook thoroughly enough in the slow cooker. So when cooking with meat, make sure it’s cut into smaller pieces that will cook throughout.

The US Food and Drug Administration state that bacteria grow the fastest between 40 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit. Depending on the meat, it needs to be cooked to a minimum of 145 degrees Fahrenheit to kill most bacteria (poultry should be cooked to 165 degrees Fahrenheit and ground meat to 160 degrees Fahrenheit). Even if your food is eventually cooked to the proper temperature, if it stays too long in the 40-140 range, it will house much more bacteria than if cooked properly.

When possible, preheat the Crock-Pot before you add the food. This process will ensure the food is not kept at a temperature that allows bacteria to grow rapidly. In addition to preheating, setting the temperature to a high setting for the first hour before switching to the low setting will help to ensure the food reaches the correct, safe eating temperature.

It is recommended to never use a crockpot to reheat already cooked foods, but have been stored in the refrigerator. Also it is worthy to note, that crockpots bought with in the last 5 to 6 years do cook faster than the older models. Therefore, not leaving the raw foods to long in the temperature danger zone (40 and 140 degrees).

 

 

This was received in an e-mail from my former place of employment:

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Sources of information: 7 Tricks for Better Slow-Cooking in Your Crock Pot    Safety Tips Regarding Crock-Pots    Crockpot History

 

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Organizing Your Refrigerator

Organizing Your Refrigerator

Organizing your refrigerator is more than just knowing where everything is located. Organizing is to maximize the space and maximize the shelf life of the food items stored in the refrigerator. Thus, it is important to keep a refrigerator in an organized state. The following suggestions will help you in your efforts to organize your refrigerator.

Start with removing all items from the refrigerator and washing the inside shelves and compartments of the refrigerator. Hot sudsy water will do to disinfect.

Before returning food items to the cleaned refrigerator, throw away any item that is expired or has been cross-contaminated.

Know the correct temperature setting and if you are not sure read your refrigerator manual.

When returning the food items sort them by groups, like produce, meats and dairy.

Place any item that does not have its own container in a see-through container. This will let you to see the food items when searching through the refrigerator for something to eat.

Stock your refrigerator according to designated compartments, such as vegetables in the crisper and deli meat in its drawer.

Perishable food items should be placed on the bottom shelf as it is cooler than the top shelf and will prolong the shelf life.

Store jarred and glass items in the door. But do not store milk in the door.

Your refrigerator may have an egg compartment, but eggs will stay fresh longer stored in their original cartons.

Leftovers can quickly build up and be hard to identify after time. Designating a shelf just to leftovers will help to prevent them from getting pushed back into a corner.

Each time you open a perishable food item, write the date opened on the container as a reminder. This makes cleaning out the fridge a lot easier.

Have a magnetic organizer on the refrigerator door or one side of the fridge to hold pens and food labels so they’re easy to find when you’re marking and dating leftovers.

Food items with closer expiration dates should be at the front of the fridge and items with later expiration dates towards the back.

Vegetables should be stored in the crisper drawer as it was designed to keep in humidity.

Lastly do not over pack your fridge as cool air must circulate the compartment of the fridge to keep food from spoiling prematurely.

 

Image Credit: The Shiksa

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