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Staple crops  RSS feed

 
Posts: 63
Location: Washington coast
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I wonder how many people can use sunchokes as a staple crop. I barely consider them a human food. We can't eat more than about 2 ounces without serious problems and at least half the people I know who have tried to eat them in any significant quantity have given up on them. I have been trying to select varieties for lower inulin content, but it seems like that will be a very long road.
 
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Location: BC Interior, Zone 6-7
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I'm fruitarian for the most part, so staple crops for me include figs, persimmons, melons, grapes, stone fruit - the higher calorie fruits - but also tomatoes, fresh raw sweet corn, and berries. I grow enough melons to eat at least a couple a day during the season. I eat up to a pound of leafy greens every day, so lettuce, although super low calorie, is also a staple. During the winter I eat a tonne of mixed sprouts and sunflower greens too. We're moving to our new property in the spring and I'll be planting perennial fruits then. Once our greenhouse is up, I"ll see what kind of success I can have with bananas, which I unfortunately buy a lot of at the moment. One of the few cooked things I eat in any real quantity is popcorn, and I'll be trying that crop out now that I'll have the space to avoid cross pollination.

My husband eats more conventionally and for him we grow potatoes, sweet potatoes, dry beans, and sweet corn. We both freeze and dehydrate the corn. Soon we'll try out dent and flint corn.

I have 10lbs of chestnut seed in cold stratification to plant out in the spring, so hopefully that will become a staple for him as well. I found cutting the chestnuts in half, blanching, then squeezing them out of the shell while hot is the easiest shelling method. They can then be frozen or dehydrated. Many of the chestnuts come out of the shell on their own while still in the water. This is a property I'll have to select for in my own trees to make it really worthwhile to process large amounts.

Our land has lots of wild hazelnuts already, but I have a few different domesticated varieties to plant out as well, along with various juglans, almonds, and pistachios. I'll probably try out pine nuts when I have time. We also eat a lot of pumpkin seeds - styrian's the best; and we're going to work towards pressing our own oil from sunflowers.

I might not get to it next year, but I plan on growing grain - I'll have to experiment with different varieties. Oikos tree crops has a perennial wheat i'd like to play around with. This summer I found a trail with feral rye growing all over and brought a big bag home with me. It was very easy to thresh in a pillowcase and the chaff was so light I barely needed a breeze to winnow it. I ended up with a little over 5 lbs for maybe an hour and a half's work. Easy work and pleasurable to do. Until now I'd assumed grain would be too much work to be worthwhile on a small scale.

I'd like to grow amaranth, but am unsure of what I'd do with it in large quantities to make it a true staple. I've only ever used it whole as a minor addition to crackers, ground as a minor addition to bread, and popped as a moderate addition to granola.
 
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Tyler Ludens wrote:
Though some disagree about health benefits, alcoholic beverages have been a traditional method for storing fruit and grain calories, so yes, to me they qualify as staples if you consume them often enough to be getting significant calories from them (not just on special occasions).

R Ranson wrote:
You're right, I should have qualified that they need to be imbibed in moderation to be 'healthy'. In pre-industrial times (and beyond) they were a vital source of Vit B, Vit C, and other nourishment during the winter when fresh foods can be scarce. Not a food on their own, as an accessory to a meal they can provide some rather useful nutrition in a high calorie format.



Moderation, PAH! That's a cultural myth based on neo liberal politically correct nonsense. Not that it doesn't make some sense. But what does sense have to do with Alcohol? Not that I would like to see too many people drinking to excess now, especially with automobiles now in existence, but... When my grandfather was a child working in the vineyards of western France in the late 1800's, there was a barrel of wine at the end of each row for the workers to dip a cup in!-as a child! When it is accepted, it can go a lot further. Safer than water at that time in history, too. Culturally, Europe was brimming with alcohol in many forms, and still is. Go spend Christmas in Germany; from what I heard it's hard to find sober people anywhere but the hospital and police station, and even there...

From what I understand of what it does in our bodies, it is actually best to consume alcohol on an empty stomach before a meal, or a long time after eating. Not that European cultures cared about any of that!
 
Roberto pokachinni
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I'd like to grow amaranth, but am unsure of what I'd do with it in large quantities to make it a true staple. I've only ever used it whole as a minor addition to crackers, ground as a minor addition to bread, and popped as a moderate addition to granola.

amaranth porridge is delicious!
 
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Right now about 90% of carbs come from the grass family (corn syrup, wheat, rice, sugar cane, oats, beer, etc). I would love to diversify that to 7 families: rose family, fig family, grass family, potato/tomato family, sweet potato family, chestnut and hazelnut.
 
master steward
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Roberto pokachinni wrote:
Moderation, PAH! That's a cultural myth based on neo liberal politically correct nonsense.



Well... moderation is a subjective term.

To be honest, I deliberately choose the word 'moderation' as drinking has become such a political issue. There is a lot of information and misinformation about alcohol consumption, that it's easier to be deliberately vague and let the reader fill in what they imagine moderation means.

Personally I agree with you that modern (North American) approach to alcohol is historically weird.

It would be a nifty thread to start: exploring the nutritional benefits and detriments of everyday alcohol consumption and what qualifies Moderation in different parts of the world and times in history.
 
pollinator
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I agree it would be a good idea go for it
Just to give you some ideas My "father in law a french man is known as a very moderate drinker here in France as he only drinks about 100 bottles a year . When you add it up its a big chunk of callories . ( thats two glasses a day )

David
 
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One thing about staples is which variety do you plant of the staples. Corn, beans and squash are good. But which varieties of corn, beans and squash are the most "staplish"?
 
master steward
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I think a great book for answering that question, Benton, is The Resilient Gardener by Carol Deppe (you can read some permie reviews of it here: http://www.permies.com/t/46891/books/Resilient-Gardener-Carol-Deppe). I got the book for Christmas and am about 1/4 of the way through it. She has a specific section on each of those food crops (as well as one on potatoes and one on eggs). I haven't gotten to those sections yet, but she's already mentioned a lot of neat varieties that she grows and what she grows them for. When I get those chapters, I'll try to remember to come back here and post what she said about which ones are the most "staple"ish of them all.

Hopefully someone else has some insights, too!
 
Benton Lewis
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I'm going to check that out. I clicked on the link you provided and the first comment said she talks about potatoes, corn, beans and squash and eggs. Those are the ones I would go with too except I would add wild game such as deer to the list. I want to get that calorie base on my land with staples and I think those will be my start. Edible weeds that reseed themselves and grow back without my effort are high on the list as well but finding sources for these wild edibles seems challenging. Would like to grow all those edible weeds that grow like weeds that I can in my climate.
 
Benton Lewis
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Does she feed her chickens solely with what she grows on her land?
 
Nicole Alderman
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She raises ducks and they free range (she's in the Pacific Northwest, so lots of rain and slugs for them to eat). She does feed them a lot of potatoes that she grows on her land--she gives them free choice of potato and chicken feed and corn (I assume she grows the corn and potatoes). When she does that, they "don't eat any corn and eat only half as much commercial chow" (pg 188).

Another thing that cuts down of feed costs that I just discovered is fermenting the feed. You pretty much just soak the feed in water for 1-3 days, and feed the chickens or ducks the feed. It makes for stronger eggs, and they can digest it better. The eggs taste better, too, and supposedly they need 1/3 less feed when it's fermented. Here's a page on fermenting feed: http://www.permies.com/t/47256/chickens/ferment-chicken-food.

Oh! And, I don't know where you live, but I just found out about hardy perennial ground cherries. They taste, supposedly, kind of tomato-y and pineapple-y, and are more vitamine dense than tomatoes. Not a food staple, but could be a easy nutrient staple. They're hardy down to -25f, and are considered in some areas in the east to be a noxious weed. That's always a good sign, in my book! They're related to the tomatillo and (tastier) non-hardy ground cherry (both of which supposedly reseed happily). Here's a thread on it, too: http://www.permies.com/t/48327/plants/finding-seeds#426027. You can find the hardy ground cherry seeds through Oikos: http://oikostreecrops.com/products/berries-shrub-crops/yellow-groundcherry/.

I hope that helps!
 
master pollinator
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Benton Lewis wrote:One thing about staples is which variety do you plant of the staples. Corn, beans and squash are good. But which varieties of corn, beans and squash are the most "staplish"?



I think this very much depends on where you live, so that you grow varieties which are adapted to your locale. For dry, southern locations a good seed source is http://www.nativeseeds.org/
 
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"For dry, southern locations a good seed source is http://www.nativeseeds.org/"

Think I'm gonna be looking more closely at this either next fall or next spring (depending on when I'm making another big seed order)
 
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Benton Lewis wrote:One thing about staples is which variety do you plant of the staples. Corn, beans and squash are good. But which varieties of corn, beans and squash are the most "staplish"?



As far as I'm concerned, the most staple-ish varieties for my garden are those varieties that did well here in previous years. With that premise in mind, I chose to develop my own varieties of all staple crops. That allows me to maintain genetic diversity, and to select for local-adaptation and reliability. My crops thrive in my garden because they are descended from ancestors that thrived in my garden.

When I was growing up, we ate 3-4 cobs of sweet corn per day during sweet corn season, and cut it off the cob to freeze for use during the winter. Today, I still eat a lot of sweet corn in season, but I mostly grow flour corn as a staple, because it can be stored on the shelf for years. I nixtamalize it to make masa harina, posole, tortillas, pancakes, cornbread, and hominy. Also use it for thickening stews.

In my climate where double cropping is not feasible due to the short season, I like the days to maturity to take up the entire season, so that the plants can capture the maximum amount of sunlight. Growers in hot climates with long-seasons, may benefit from shorter days-to-maturity so that they can get multiple crops per year.

In my climate, the most productive beans are "vulgaris" bush beans. Pole beans tend to be too long season for my garden. In damp/coolish maritime climates, fava beans or runner beans are likely to be a better staple. In hot southern climates, cowpeas or teparies are likely to be the better choice. In gardens just a bit colder than mine, garden peas may be the legume of choice.

The most staple-ish squash seems to me to depend on what grows well in the area. Pepo and maxima squash tend to have a lot of failures in warm climates due to bugs. Mixta and moschata tend to handle insect predation better. Lagenaria and Luffa are more suitable for hot/tropical climates.

Here's what my staples look like:

Astronomy Domine sweet corn: Descended from hundreds of varieties.


Harmony Grain Corn: Likewise descended from hundreds of varieties.


Lofthouse Dry Bush Beans: Descended from about 300 varieties.


I grow 5 species of squash as staples, for example:

Maxima.


Moschata.


Pepo.


Mixta.


Lagenaria.


I grow sunroots as an "emergency staple" because I can leave the tubers in the ground and not dig them unless there is an emergency that causes the community to run low on food.




 
Tyler Ludens
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I love all the color variations in your crops, Joseph! Very inspiring!

 
Joseph Lofthouse
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Tyler Ludens wrote:I love all the color variations in your crops, Joseph! Very inspiring!



Thanks. I figure that more color equals higher nutrition and better taste.

 
pollinator
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Joseph, what do I read to get started doing what you are doing? I don't have a clue. I really don't understand the landrace thing at all.
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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Todd Parr wrote:Joseph, what do I read to get started doing what you are doing? I don't have a clue. I really don't understand the landrace thing at all.



The essence of landrace gardening is that when a genetically diverse crop is grown in the same location using the same techniques that the crop becomes locally-adapted to the growing conditions and to the farmer's way of doing things. Landrace gardening is the traditional method of growing food in which the seeds to be planted next year result from survival of the fittest and farmer directed selection in a particular garden in previous years. Landrace varieties become attached to a region, and thrive in that region. Landrace varieties are genetically variable so that as conditions change from year to year the population can adapt to the changes.

There is a short summary on my web site: http://garden.lofthouse.com/adaptivar-landrace.phtml

I have written a series of blogs for mother earth news about landrace gardening. They are available at: http://www.motherearthnews.com/search.aspx?tags=Lofthouse
Perhaps the best background info in that series is in the second blog: http://www.motherearthnews.com/organic-gardening/landrace-gardening-survival-zbcz1306.aspx
 
Todd Parr
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Thank you
 
Benton Lewis
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Thanks Joseph! I want to do like you practice landrace gardening. Also, I live in the south so thanks for giving me the idea to get shorter-season varieties for multiple harvests. Also thanks for the advice on varieties that do well in the hot southern climate. I'll be checking your website out!
 
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Let's not forget the role healthy animal fats play in caloric load. Not only meats come from our grass-fed animal friends, but rendered fats that are used to cook the aforementioned lo-cal greens. I'm looking forward to growing out heritage pigs that would be more fatty than their modern breeds, and taking advantage of all the fattier bits. Previously, I've rendered my fats from whatever source I could scrounge.
 
Tyler Ludens
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Yes, but pigs are not what I would consider "crops"! This thread is about plant foods, specifically.

 
Laura Sweany
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I recognize the primary focus is plants, hence it's lodged in the "growies" category, but I believe fats play in integral role in caloric intake, especially when cooking grown foods. Let's recognize the cross-pollination, shall we?
 
Nicole Alderman
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Tyler Ludens wrote:Yes, but pigs are not what I would consider "crops"! This thread is about plant foods, specifically.



Well, to raise livestock, you have to feed them. If you raise all the crops that the animals eat, and then eat the animal, they are one of your crops...at least in my mind. This is especially so in marginal areas (especially very cold ones) where not much grows that you can eat, but a sheep or a duck or a pig can eat it.

So, perhaps if we talk about livestock as a crop, we should discuss how to grow all their staples.
 
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Joseph, I read your blog on Mother Earth News. It was very inspiring and I would very much like to try my hand at landrace gardening. Now, I do have a question concerning cross-pollination of cucurbits. Am I right in thinking that they only cross-pollinate within their category? Say, pepos with each other, and maximas with each other, and so forth? Or do they ALL mix?
Thank you!

 
Tyler Ludens
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Laura Sweany wrote:I recognize the primary focus is plants, hence it's lodged in the "growies" category, but I believe fats play in integral role in caloric intake, especially when cooking grown foods. Let's recognize the cross-pollination, shall we?



Yes, I have mentioned the importance of animals in the human diet in many other threads, but I'm trying to keep the focus in THIS thread on plants.

 
Casie Becker
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Can anyone weigh in on if it's reasonable to grow olive trees for the oil in the homestead? There's an area in the front yard where I think I can fit a trio of olive trees. On a garden tour in Austin there was a family growing a full vegetable garden underneath the canopy of a pair of olives, so I don't think I'll even have to sacrifice vegetable space for them.
 
Tyler Ludens
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I planted some olive trees but, as usual, they died (I've killed most kinds of trees). From what I've read, it would be possible for a homestead to produce their own olive oil from only a few trees.

http://www.pacificsunoliveoil.com/olive-oil-faqs/

http://olivetreegrowers.com/faq.php
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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There is some low-level super-rare crossing occurring between species: Especially when highly genetically diverse varieties are grown in highly intermingled conditions. Most often seeds from inter-species crosses are aborted. That manifests as empty seed husks, or low numbers of seeds in a fruit, or low germination. A suspected moschata/maxima cross that I discovered in my garden produced only 7 seeds between 2 fruits, and they didn't germinate. One of my collaborators is growing descendants from an inter-species cross with maxima as a parent. Guess that I'm saying that interspecies crosses happen very rarely and when they do they usually self-eliminate. Some of the wild species of squash are more susceptible to crossing with domestic species.

Among the commonly grown north American squash, the only somewhat easy cross is between mixta and moschata. They are sorta separate species, but not quite fully separate. I am working with an interspecies population descended from mixta/moschata crosses. There are fertility problems, but they are still generating enough viable offspring for my purposes. As an example, one fruit produced 22 viable looking seeds this year. That's far short of the hundreds of seeds that uncrossed squash produce, but it's enough to work with. For practical purposes the easy way to avoid this particular cross is to not plant seed crops of mixta and moschata squash right next to each other. A little distance goes a long way towards reducing chances of crossing.

The only squash that got to pose with the farmer during the 2014 growing season was that suspected moschata/maxima interspecies cross. The seeds didn't germinate.



 
Monica Eger
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Thank you, Joseph!
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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For me, the easiest to grow and harvest plant-based oil crops are seeds: especially walnuts, sunflowers, and brassicas.

Shelled walnuts are around 65% oil.

Shelled pumpkin and sunflower seeds are about 50% oil. At my place, naked seeded pumpkin seeds seem like the way to go if I were making oil.

Poppy and mustard seeds contain around 40% oil. And removing husks isn't a problem.

Corn is about 4% oil.

Dried beans are about 1% to 2% oil.
 
Jan White
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Casie Becker wrote:n if it's reasonable to grow olive trees for the oil in the homestead?



These people are growing olives in a very different climate than yours, but they've got lots of information: http://oregonolives.com There's a link at the top of the page for more specific information on pressing oil. My climate's a little colder than theirs, but I plan on trying olives out once I get some other stuff established - primarily something I can use for lots of winter mulch!
 
Jan White
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Joseph, I, too, have been very inspired by your articles on Mother Earth News. I'd never heard of landraces before. When I read your articles a whole bunch of things fell into place for me and really fleshed out my ideas about growing food into more of a cohesive philosophy. All of a sudden, things I was doing instinctively while thinking, "this isn't really the way I'm SUPPOSED to do it, but oh well," had good reason behind them. Other things I did because I thought it was the only way, I've now happily abandoned. So thank you very much

I'm curious what varieties went into your pepo landrace. Zucchini, obviously. Any delicata, crookneck, etc.? And are they primarily a summer squash or can they be left to mature and still be tasty?
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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Jan White wrote:things I was doing instinctively while thinking, "this isn't really the way I'm SUPPOSED to do it, but oh well," had good reason behind them. Other things I did because I thought it was the only way, I've now happily abandoned. So thank you very much



Jan: You're welcome. People write me frequently to express that sort of sentiment.... How for years they have been doing things the 'WRONG' way, because it worked better for them, or seemed more natural to them, or because their plants grew better for them. If the only thing my writings about landraces accomplish it to give people some self confidence that what they are already doing really is OK, then my efforts to write seem worthwhile.

One area where I see this disconnect very frequently is regarding 'open pollinated' seeds. People read the term, and they evaluate the plain meaning of the term and come away with the idea that while the mother is known that the daddy could be in doubt. When in reality, every known technique is typically used to insure that open pollinated varieties are self-pollinated and no mystery pollen donors are allowed. So I use the term promiscuously pollinated, to arrive at a definition that more closely resembles what people think they are getting when they order 'open pollinated' seeds. Promiscuously pollinated also comes close to describing the entire history of agriculture other than the past 60 years which have been rather abnormal.

I don't much like the taste of pepos, so I haven't put much effort into developing pepo landraces. I grow landraces of zucchini and crookneck. I grow each one in a separate field. I keep the phenotype narrow. I don't allow any green crooknecks. I don't allow any yellow straight-necked squash. I do similar with the zucchini. They have to look like traditional long/skinny zucchini. I allow the skin color to be anything. But the shape and texture are carefully maintained. My original seed came to me as landraces from The Long Island Seed Project. To that I added the varieties that are commonly grown around here, and a few varieties that I obtained from swaps.

I am intending to start an acorn squash landrace this year. I found two fruits this winter that tasted good to me, so they can be the start of a landrace breeding project for pepo winter squash. I'll probably look for two or three more acorn squash varieties for the initial planting. I would enjoy working on a Delicata landrace one of these days. Squash seed stays good for a number of years, and for the rest of my life if frozen, so I could maintain a number landraces without worrying about them crossing. I have a number of isolated fields, and could borrow more from friends or family.

I have eaten all the species of squash that I grow as summer squash. I haven't tried to select for better taste as summer squash. I haven't tried to make a dual purpose summer/winter squash. I haven't tried eating the zucchini nor crooknecks as winter squash. I suppose that I have genetics running around my farm for making some really clever moschata and lagenaria summer squash. They'd look like zucchini, long and skinny. Here's what the moschata-zucchini look like this evening... I'm intending to grow these in a mostly-isolated patch next summer. One nice thing about moschata-zucchini, is that there wouldn't be any seeds in the neck part of the fruit.

Before anyone asks, the longest fruits are a bit over 5 feet long.
very-long-necked-moschata.jpg
[Thumbnail for very-long-necked-moschata.jpg]
Progenitor of dual purpose summer/winter moschata squash?
 
Tyler Ludens
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This past Summer I grew Zucchetta Rampicante, a variety of Cucurbita moschata. Mine were never quite as long as yours!
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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Joseph Lofthouse wrote:Here's what the moschata-zucchini look this evening...



I expect that seed from Moscchini Summer Squash will be available this fall...
 
David Livingston
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Joeseph
I was looking for a plant to grow for oil to cook with . Any ideas ? I have Walnuts- which are great for salads but not for frying.
 
Todd Parr
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Joseph, do you sell seeds for people that would like to try this? I know your conditions are different than mine and that is the purpose of what you're doing, but if a person wanted to try this with one crop, say sweet corn, do you sell a "grab-bag" of 20 or 50 or 100 different kinds of corn so that I could try it? I think it would be fun to give this a shot, but I would hate to buy 100 packets of beans or corn or whatever just to plant two of each to get started.
 
Jan White
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Thanks, Joseph. Super info as usual. Your moscchini look great - I'll be curious to see what you refine them into, if you end up putting the effort in.
 
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