Fertility Diet and Eating for Two

I was lucky. I didn’t have a problem getting pregnant. My husband has only had to so much as sneeze at me twice and I’ve gotten pregnant (though unfortunately, my first time resulted in a miscarriage – the DNA just decided to be wonky). But unfortunately, for so many women, trying to conceive is not so easy.

My happy, healthy little guy

My happy, healthy little guy

Are you thinking about trying to get pregnant? Actively trying to get pregnant? Already pregnant? Nursing a baby? If so, you are hopefully watching what you eat. Your diet makes a HUGE difference in whether or not you will successfully conceive, as well as a HUGE difference in nourishing a pregnancy and a little one. If you’re dreaming of or looking down the barrel of motherhood (ha! That’s really a great comparison, actually), here is a list of foods that should make up the bulk of your diet – as well as some that you should be avoiding altogether.

Hopefully, by now, you’ve cut out fast food and processed food. If not, GET ON IT. These “foods” have no place in a healthy diet to begin with, much less a diet aiming for fertility and nourishment. In addition to the below list, make sure you’re getting plenty of sleep and cut out the stressors in your life.

Top 10 Fertility Foods

1.   Colorful fruits and vegetables: This should be no surprise. You know your fruits and veggies are good for you. By eating a variety of colors, as well as a hefty amount of leafy greens, you’re ensuring that you eat some quantity of very important vitamins and minerals – necessary for correct cell formation and reproductive function. Leafy greens, such as kale and spinach (**NOTE: iceberg lettuce does NOT count!) also contain a great amount of folate, vitamins A, C, and K, calcium, and potassium.

2.   FULL FAT dairy: NOT low-fat. NOT fat-free. NOT skim. Full fat – which in the very least means whole milk. Raw milk is absolutely superior to pasteurized whole milk, however, as it still contains the good fatty cream and the nutrients haven’t been zapped by the pasteurization process. If you don’t drink raw milk, at least opt for raw cheeses, and low-temperature pasteurized milk and cream. Your body NEEDS fat – especially when trying to conceive, growing a baby, and nursing a little one – to correctly put together cells and maintain proper hormone balances. Guess what – that little egg doesn’t leave the ovary unless there is sufficient fat content in the diet to maintain the correct balance of female hormones. Always make sure the dairy you’re buying is rBST-free, and try to make a farm visit to the farm where your milk is coming from. In addition to great healthy levels of saturated fat, dairy provides good levels of Vitamin D, enzymes for food absorption, vitamins A, K, and E, CLA (a fatty acid known to be a powerful antioxidant),  and calcium. Raw milk provides this vitamin D naturally, in a state that your body can easily absorb, while storebought whole milk has a synthetic form of vitamin D added. Some argue that the synthetic form is virtually useless as our bodies do not recognize it as easily as natural vitamin D.

3.   WILD-CAUGHT salmon: Salmon is a fantastic source of heart-healthy Omega-3 fatty acids, protein, selenium, DHA, vitamins D and B-12, and calcium. Omega-3 fatty acids and DHA are essential for brain cell formation. Always make sure your salmon is wild-caught – King, Sockeye, Coho, and Chinook salmon are the breeds you should look for. Alaskan is preferrable over Pacific, but both are usually wild-caught. Always avoid Atlantic salmon. Atlantic salmon is almost always farmed, and contains chemical contaminants such as PCBs and dioxins. It also has artificial color added (don’t believe me? Look on the label at the store!) and lower levels of all of the good nutrients listed above. Don’t worry about mercury levels in wild-caught salmon – they are very low. If you are still worried about it, don’t eat the skin and brown/gray meat near the skin.

4.   Coconut Oil: I know, I sound like a broken record. Coconut oil just has SO many benefits!

Everyone should have a big jar of this (not necessarily this brand) on the counter!

Everyone should have a big jar of this (not necessarily this brand) on the counter!

Coconut oil is a very healthy saturated fat, and you can use it to cook virtually anything – from frying, to sauteing, to using it in place of shortening for baking. Coconut strengthens the immune system and balances hormones for regulating blood sugar and the thyroid gland. It helps absorb fat-soluble vitamins in the other foods you eat and increases HDL (good) cholesterol in the blood. Cholesterol is essential for healthy cell formation.

5.   Eggs: Eggs are truly a superfood. Eggs have great levels of choline, which is necessary for stem cell proliferation and cell division. It helps in the formation of baby brain cells and even decreases baby’s (and yours!) levels of cortisol (the nasty stress hormone). Eggs also contain amino acids necessary for eye development, protein to build muscle, and are a fantastic source of several vitamins and minerals including A, D, E, B2, B6, B9, iron, calcium, and phosphorus!

6.   Grass-fed organ meats: I just heard the collective “yuck” from all of you reading. Hear me out. Organ meats – including liver, kidneys, and others – are very concentrated sources of vitamins, minerals, healthy fats, folate, and necessary amino acids. They are a power punch for fetal development. Yes – these organs filter toxins out of the body; but, they do not store them. Toxins are actually stored in the nervous system. Eating organ meat is not only safe, it’s extremely healthy. All of the nutrients found in organ meats are necessary for forming tissues, cell division, and maintaining mama’s reproductive health. If the thought of liver on a plate doesn’t sound appealing to you, try adding it in to dishes like steak and kidney pie, chili, dips, or soups.

7.   Pastured Meats: Protein, iron, B12, and healthy saturated fats are only some of the great ingredients in meat. Pastured meats always have higher concentrations of vitamins, minerals, and macronutrients than their confinement-raised counterparts. Good protein levels are SO important for blood production, bone and muscle development, and development of maternal cells in the uterus and placenta.

Confused about the difference between “pastured” and “grass-fed”? Grass-fed meats are just that – animals that eat grass. Pastured meats may or may not be “grass-fed”. For example, pastured cows are certainly eating grass. However, pastured poultry and pigs are not – these animals are not natural vegetarians. They are eating a mix of vegetation, insects, and even small amounts of protein. Pastured simply means these animals were raised in an environment that ensures both humane conditions for the animal, and optimal vitamin and mineral formation in the meat for you!

8.   Shellfish: Shellfish – fully cooked only when you’re pregnant! – are a fabulous source of iron, magnesium, and zinc, among other vitamins and minerals! Did you know that mollusks such as clams, oysters, and mussels contain more iron than red meat? Red blood cells don’t form without iron; adequate iron levels are crucial for a healthy pregnancy. Shellfish are also a great source of protein.

9.   Bone Broth: If you’re not yet familiar with this type of broth, now is the time to start looking into it. Bone broth is made by taking scrap bones (beef, chicken, whatever you like), roasting them, and then simmering them in a crock pot (with a Tbsp. or so of apple cider vinegar) for days until they shatter when you touch them. At this point, the majority of the minerals have leached out of the bones and into your broth. You can add bone broth to recipes in place of any broth or stock. You can also have a big hot mugful of broth when you wake up or when you wind down. Bone broth is concentrated with vitamins and minerals such as calcium, silicon, sulfer, magnesium, animo acids, and antioxidants – all necessary for healthy fetal development.

10.   Nuts: When you’re pregnant or nursing and you’re CONSTANTLY hungry (mm… a snack sounds pretty good right now), nuts are a fantastic snack. Nuts are power packed with protein, healthy fatty acids, fiber, and vitamin E. The nutrients in nuts help your baby’s blood vessels develop properly, ensure proper heart development, and build the immune system.

So What’s on the DO NOT EAT List?

crying baby

1.   Low-fat or fat-free ANYTHING: Low fat and fat free are simply terms that mean “we have removed all of the healthy fatty acids from these products and instead replaced them with sugar or artificial sweeteners and lots of chemical additives to trick your body into thinking they still taste good. Whether trying to conceive or not, don’t ever put these products in your shopping cart.  

2.   Refined Flours: There is really no redeeming nutritional value from refined flours, and they result in a big spike to your blood sugar and irritation to the gut lining.

3.   Sugar: We have really started to realize how detrimental sugar is to our health in the past few years. Sugar – especially refined sugars like HF corn syrup, white sugar, and brown sugar – puts extra stress on your pancreas, liver and kidneys, causes low-level inflammation of the gut and raises blood pressure. A sweet every now and then won’t kill you (believe me, I have one heck of a sweet tooth that I fight with daily), but especially during the period of time when you’re trying to conceive or nurture a growing baby, it’s best to lay off the sweets.

4.   Soy: This “health” food has been touted by the industry for a long time as an alternative to meat protein for one reason and one reason only – it’s cheap to produce and they want to sell you cheap food. The truth about soy is actually very sinister. Soy directly disrupts the female reproductive cycle by interfering with the production of estrogen. This includes soy in all non-fermented forms – edemame, soy extracts in processed products, tofu, lecithin, soybean oil, etc. Soy is also toxic to the placenta and can interfere with nutrient absorption to the fetus and even contribute to birth defects. Your man isn’t immune from soy’s effects either –  when men eat soy, estrogen levels increase and may negatively effect sperm production.

5.   Vegetable Oils/Shortening: Oils such as canola, soy, corn, safflower, and sunflower are high in Omega-6 fatty acids. These oils are largely responsible for heart disease. In the woman who is trying to conceive or the mama nourishing a baby, these rancid oils can interfere with proper formation of the circulatory system and interfere with cellular processes at the DNA/RNA level.

6.   Artificial Colors/Flavors: These chemical concoctions interrupt adrenal function, cause chromosomal changes, and damage DNA. Flat out – they are nasty. Avoid them at all costs. If you’d like to read some in-depth information about artificial colors, this article contains great data: Rainbow of Risks

The fact is that if you’re not at optimum health, your baby won’t be either. We all go through phases, especially when actually pregnant (I, myself, had a very humiliating Taco Bell phase that lasted a couple weeks when I was pregnant with my son). Don’t beat yourself up over those. However, especially if you’re trying to conceive, now is the time to get started on a healthier diet for fertility and healthy baby development.

If you’re interested in learning more about how a traditional diet can help you conceive or nourish a growing baby, I’d strongly recommend picking up a copy of the Nourishing Traditions cookbook. Also, check out these resources from some other bloggers that I love:

Beautiful Babies E-Course by Kristin Michaelis (Food Renegade):

beautiful babies

Holistic Squid Fertility Page

Finger Lickin’ Good!

BBQ sauce is an art. Sure, the basics are all there in most any sauce. But each BBQ sauce needs its own personality. In honor of Valentine’s Day, I’m sharing with you the sweetest sauce in my arsenal – and man oh man, is it good! I confess – this is not a “healthy” recipe. It’s got a lot of sweet stuff in it. However, since we don’t tend to sit down to an entire bowl of BBQ sauce, I think in moderation we will be fine. 😉

Kiya’s Honey BBQ Sauce

1 c. raw, unfiltered, local wildflower honey

1/4 c. molasses (I know, not traditional sugar – bad girl)

3 Tbsp. organic ketchup (or homemade!)

3/4 tsp. paprika

1 1/2 Tbsp. organic or homemade seasoned salt

1/8 tsp. pepper

1/4 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. minced garlic

1/4 c. organic steak sauce (or i use “camp” sauce)

2 Tbsp. Worcestershire

1 Tbsp. prepared mustard

1 1/4 c. brown sugar (as minimally processed as possible)

Ok. Here comes the hard part. Mix everything together. Chill in the fridge at least 30 minutes. That’s it! While this sauce is great as soon as its done resting, it gets even better after a few days of sitting in the fridge. This recipe makes about a half quart. I usually double it and keep the whole quart in the fridge for a while. Want to make my Honey BBQ Chicken? Simple. See below.

food 2

Honey BBQ Chicken

1 c. honey BBQ sauce (recipe above)

1 whole 3-4 lb. chicken, cut up

1/3 c. coconut oil

pepper

seasoned salt

onion powder

Melt coconut oil in large frying pan over medium-low heat. Add chicken pieces. Sprinkle with pepper, seasoned salt, and onion powder. Continue to fry over medium-low heat, turning every few minutes, until juices run clear. Top with BBQ sauce. Enjoy!

Half Sprouted Pancakes

Pancakes are so versatile. You can add bananas, pumpkin, chocolate chips, or even a bunch of sprouted flour and they only get more delicious! Admittedly, this recipe does take longer than opening up a box of Hungry Jack, dumping it in a bowl, and adding some water. It takes about 5 minutes. Really though, isn’t your family worth 5 minutes? While pancakes are usually a Sunday special in our house, I often make a double batch of these pancakes and then take them to work with me throughout the week.

Half Sprouted Pancakes

1 large pastured egg

1 1/4 c. low-temperature pasteurized, organic buttermilk (If you don’t have buttermilk on hand, simply put 1 1/2 Tbsp. lemon juice in a measuring cup, fill to 1 1/4 c. with milk, stir, and let it sit 10 minutes)

3/4 c. sprouted spelt flour

1/2 c. organic, unbleached all-purpose flour

2 Tbsp. coconut oil, melted

1 tsp. raw sugar

1 tsp. aluminum-free baking powder

1 tsp. baking soda

1/4 tsp. salt

Pastured butter and real maple syrup for serving

Extra virgin organic coconut oil for greasing griddle

In medium sized mixing bowl, beat the egg. Add the rest of the ingredients and beat well. Using a sandwich baggie, smear your griddle generously with coconut oil. Heat griddle to 400 degrees. Depending on what size you want your pancakes, pour 1/4 – 1/2 c. batter onto your griddle. When edges appear dry and bubbles appear in the center of the pancake, flip. Repeat with the rest of the batter. Drizzle with butter and syrup. SO. EASY.

Add whatever your heart desires to make the pancakes your own!

Feeding Your Tot and Your Wallet

Large brand baby food jarred butternut squash - $1.19

Large brand baby food jarred butternut squash – $1.19

Which do you choose to feed your little one?

Actual butternut squash - $1.99

Actual butternut squash – $1.99

If you’re one of the many moms that feed jarred baby food (even organic), you may want to reconsider. In addition to being simple, making homemade baby food has several other advantages.

1) It’s cheaper. Compare the two pictures above. You can pay roughly 80 cents more for a whole butternut squash as you can for one small jar of baby food, and the squash will make at least quadruple the amount of food!

2) It’s fresher! How long has the jarred food actually been in the jar? Oh, they don’t give you a date? That’s probably because they don’t want you to know exactly when it was packed. By making your own, you know just when that food was cooked and pureed. If you grow your own, you even know when it ripened and that no nasties were sprayed on it!

3) No BPA (or BPS, or whatever the industry decides to call it these days in order to label it BPA-free). Baby food jar lids, and even some of the squeeze pouches are lined with BPA. If you haven’t done your research on this awful chemical, it’s been linked to cancers and reproductive problems. Unfortunately, companies that are now advertising BPA-free packaging or toys are only replacing the BPA with a chemical known as BPS… and from early research it looks like BPS is actually worse than BPA. By making your own and freezing in silicone trays (early research seems to put silicone in the clear), you’re avoiding that nasty BPA.

4) Did I mention it’s cheaper?!

I freeze my little ones meals in a silicone tray from Green Sprouts. When he goes to the babysitter, I simply pop out a cube or two of food and put them in a container! Look at the yummy, colorful foods he has to look forward to this week!

baby food1

More on first foods:

Most mainstream pediatricians have bought into the “give rice cereal in a bottle as a first food” hype. Well, I’m not exactly telling you not to listen, but I will tell you that I did not listen. Baby cereals are lacking in nutritional value (the one redeeming quality is perhaps the iron fortification), cause a spike in blood sugar levels if eaten alone, and are difficult for little tummies to digest. Instead, start with vitamin and mineral-rich first foods, cooked (if necessary), pureed, and thinned if need be with a little breastmilk. My son’s first foods (all organic) were: sweet potatoes, sweet peas, carrots, butternut squash, bananas, apples (yep, with cinnamon), peaches, pastured egg yolk and avocado. Our one exception to the cereal rule was steel cut (slow cooking) oats. I also add a little bit of pastured butter to my boy’s veggies when I puree them because butter significantly increases mineral absorption. However, if your little one is sensitive to cow dairy at this point (and many babies are before the age of 1), you should probably omit the butter.

*Fun fact: Canada recommends meat as baby’s first food!

Did you follow the cereal rule? If so, would you do it again? If not, what yummy foods did your little one first try?

It’s Not Delivery, It’s…Homemade!

I struggled for a long time to find a pizza recipe I liked. Everything I ever found was in the “meh” category. Now that I’ve found and tweaked a good one, I can’t understand why anyone would order delivery pizza when homemade tastes so much better and is so much faster… not to mention has no nasty preservatives! I’m going to issue a word of caution: my pizzas are not overwhelmingly “pretty”. I am horrible at tossing pizza dough. My pizzas usually end up as a weird rectangle shape, but they are oh so delicious.

pizza

Another confession: While I believe wholeheartedly in the health value of sprouted flour (if you aren’t familiar with sprouted flour, it digests as a vegetable and not a carbohydrate), I freely admit that it is not the easiest flour to work with. I encourage you to add as much sprouted flour to your recipes as you like, but would also advise you to add small fractions at a time until you find a sweet spot in your recipes. For my pizza dough, I only use 1/3 sprouted flour. If you don’t use sprouted flour (I suggest you buy some though, and get familiar with it!), you can use plain old flour. But, at least buy organic so you’re avoiding GMO wheat.

Take some free time when you have it and make your dough. If you make it ahead of time and freeze it, all you have to do is take out a dough ball the day before you want to make pizza and pop it in the fridge to thaw. On pizza night, whip up your sauce, assemble your pizza and within 20 minutes of starting time, you have fresh, delicious, homemade pizza!

Kiya’s Pizza Dough

1 1/2 c. sprouted spelt flour
3 c. organic all-purpose flour
1 3/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. instant (rapid rise) yeast
1/4 c. extra virgin olive oil
1 3/4 c. ICE COLD water
organic cornmeal for dusting

Stir together flours, salt, and yeast in large bowl (I do mine in the kitchen-aid). Slowly stir in oil and cold water (I use the dough hook on my kitchen-aid) until all flour is absorbed. Mix 5-7 minutes until you have a smooth sticky dough. The dough should clear the sides of the bowl, but stick to the bottom of the bowl. Sprinkle flour on counter and transfer dough to floured counter. Cut dough into 4 equal pieces. Sprinkle flour over dough and flour your hands. Round each piece into a ball. Mist dough generously with spray olive oil.

At this point, I put the dough balls I don’t want to use that night into individual bags and put them in the freezer. Just put one in the fridge the day before you want to use it. For dough you are not planning on freezing, rest it overnight in the fridge and take out 2 hours before you want to make pizza to let it rest at room temperature.

Kiya’s Pizza Sauce

My sauce is a little tangy due to the white wine I put in it. If you’re not a fan of the flavor white wine lends to a dish, omit the wine and substitute with water. This recipe makes enough for two pizzas.

1 6-oz. can organic tomato paste
3 oz. warm water
1 1/2 oz. organic dry white wine
3 Tbsp. grated Parmesan cheese
1 tsp. minced garlic
1 tsp. anchovy paste (yes, you can easily find this at any grocery store)
1 tsp. onion powder
1 tsp. dried oregano
1/4 tsp. dried marjoram
1/4 tsp. dried basil
1/4 tsp. pepper
1/4 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper

Whisk all ingredients together and let sit 30 minutes to develop flavor.

Make Your Pizza

Preheat your pizza stone by placing it in the oven and turning your oven on to 450 degrees. Let sit in the hot oven for at least 30 minutes. Take the pizza stone out of the oven (leaving oven on) and place on a dish towel on top of your stove. Let it sit for a couple of minutes then dust with cornmeal. Flour your hands and toss or stretch the dough to pizza size; place on the baking stone. Spread on your sauce, cheese (I slice a ball of fresh mozzarella) and toppings. Bake 8-10 minutes until crust edges are browned and cheese is bubbly. Wait about 3-5 minutes before slicing. Voila! Enjoy!

Are You Microwaving Your Baby?

Good. I have your attention. Would you purposely sit your baby or toddler in front of the microwave for 8 hours straight? What about 24 hours straight? The answer is probably an overwhelming “Of course not!” Why? Because we know that there is a risk associated with the microwave radiation coming from our microwaves. If you’re like me, you attempt to use it as little as possible, and when you do use it, you stand away from it. But is that enough to keep your family safe?

If you are one of the many parents concerned about radiation exposure, chances are the answer is no. A typical microwave emits about 2450 MHz or 2.45 GHz of radiation. Now, let’s take a look at the average household. There is a good possibility that at least two cell phones are constantly in the house, and constantly turned on. Each cell phone runs on a frequency of between 700-2100 MHz. Most of us have WiFi – which is also usually always turned on. An average WiFi system can run on a frequency of anywhere from 300 MHz up to 300 GHz. These two sources of radiation probably come as no surprise to you.

One that may come as a surprise is your baby monitor. My little bundle got one of the best baby monitors I could find. It was a digital sound monitor. It gave the room temperature of his nursery and everything! After looking into it one day, I realized that this digital monitor utilized a frequency of 2.4 GHz. This is a standard amount for digital baby monitors. Not to mention, that you probably place the baby monitor (like I did) right next to the little one so you can hear every sound he/she makes. This brings the radiation ever closer to baby’s brain.

So let’s add all of this up:

2 Cell phones (24 hours per day): 1.4 GHz (average)

1 WiFi system (24 hours per day): 150 GHz (average)

Baby monitor (8 hours per day): 2.4 GHz

This amount of radiation adds up to an average of over 62 times the amount of radiation emitted from your microwave! Even subtracting the most dangerous element – the WiFi –you’re still at least doubling the amount of radiation coming from your microwave. This is obviously a worst case scenario – provided you have all of your dangerous devices close to you in the same room. One reader pointed out that the distance you are from these devices has a very large impact on exactly how dangerous they are and that is absolutely true.

However, these numbers are no doubt as troubling to you as they were to me. In this technology age, what is a parent to do? Get rid of internet and cell phones? Likely not (though that would be ideal). Here are some changes you can make TODAY to reduce the amount of radiation your baby is being exposed to:

1. TURN OFF your WiFi when you’re not using it. Ours takes less than a minute to come back on. This is a very, very minor inconvenience.

2. Turn off your cell phones when you’re able – or at least when you sleep. Or turn off even one cell phone when you sleep. Do not sleep with your cell phone beside your head.

3. Get a landline. I know. Stone age, right? However, a regular cordless phone emits an average of 900 MHz – significantly less than your cell phone.

4. Get rid of that digital cadillac-esque baby monitor and exchange it for an analog monitor. Our analog monitor runs on 49 MHz. Yes, there is a little bit more interference if you don’t set it up in the right spot. However, that trade off was certainly worth it for me. Move the baby monitor away from baby’s head.

We don’t conclusively know exactly how radiation affects the body, but it has certainly been linked to tumor growth in animals. Chances are that it’s leading to tumor growth in humans too – as of course, we are part of the animal world. Don’t take that chance with your baby or the rest of your family. Cut back on radiation today.

Heirloom Seeds – Preserving our Past to Feed our Future

The notoriously ugly and delicious heirloom tomato

It’s an appropriate time to start talking about seeds. If you have any plans to plant any fruits, flowers, or garden veggies, now is the time to be planning your gardens and beds. After deciding which plants you want this year, deciding which type of seed you want to plant is an important second step.

Most of you have heard of an heirloom tomato. You may not know exactly what it is, but you’ve heard of it. You may even know that its an “ugly” tomato or that it’s usually priced higher than a generic grocery store tomato. What is heirloom? Why would it matter? 

First, let’s talk about what heirloom seeds – fruits, veggies, flowers, and everything in between – are NOT. Heirloom seeds are not first-generation hybrid seeds. First-generation hybrids are usually both patented and sterile. Heirloom seeds are also NOT genetically modified. I won’t tiptoe around the GMO “debate” to spare feelings. GMO seeds both threaten our food supply and our health. When genetically modified crops mix (wind, animals, you name it) with non-genetically modified crops, the DNA of that entire crop is changed forever. Forever genetically modified. Forever is a long time. We also do not know (but we do have an idea – and its bad) for sure how genetically modified food interacts with our digestive systems as consumers of these plants (not to mention the digestive systems and consequently the meat of the animals we may be feeding GMO crops to). We DO however, know that some genetically modified traits, such as Bt, were developed specifically as pesticide qualities and cause insects’ stomachs to explode. While your stomach or mine may be able to handle that quality in the food, it is foolish to think that it is not in some way negatively affecting the cells of our digestive systems. There is no debate – GMO is less desirable for a large number of reasons.

Now, what ARE heirloom seeds? Here you need a very brief biology lesson. First-generation hybrids exhibit what is called “hybrid vigor”. It means that they are the sweet spot of gene combinations for every plant trait that exists between the two parents. However replanting that first-generation hybrid will never result in that same sweet spot again. Heirloom seeds are very genetically diverse (big difference from modified), open-pollinated (by bees or wind) seeds that take advantage of the natural selection of favorable genetic traits for each type of plant. These seeds have been passed down for thousands of years to maintain the fantastic qualities of these plants. When you plant the seeds from an heirloom plant, the offspring plant will be pretty much exactly the same as the parent in terms of quality and vigor.

Here are the three main advantages of heirloom seeds:

1. They ripen over the season instead of all at once – as nature intended them to. You have probably had experience with buying too many tomato plants. You decided you wanted tomatoes, brought ten plants home, and in August, the tomatoes were rotting on the plants because you couldn’t eat them fast enough. Nature intended the plant to have a longer production cycle. Imagine you’re a raspberry plant. Bear with me. There is a deer that walks past you each day. You want that deer to eat your berries, because that deer will then poop the seeds from your berries all over the place and voila! – new raspberry plants and species preservation. Would you want to show the deer a smaller amount of sweet, ripe berries each day? Or, would you want to put all of your berries on the table in the same week? Which scenario gives you a greater chance of species preservation? Fruits and veggies that ripen slower over the season give you – the budding homesteader – ample time to eat and preserve the foods you are growing. Canning completely ripened tomatoes from 10 plants at once can seem a daunting task. Canning a few ripe tomatoes from each of those 10 plants is much more manageable, and you enjoy the fruits (pun intended) of your labor much longer.

2. Save seed, save species, save money! Sure the big-brand packet of green beans may cost 60 cents less at the grocery store. But you will have to buy that packet each year if you want to continue growing green beans. Seeds from heirloom plants can be saved each year. You never have to buy seeds again, provided you put in the effort to harvest some at the end of each season! You’re also ensuring that the heirloom species you planted will continue to thrive for years to come.

3. Beautiful colors and superior taste. I can PROMISE you that if you do a blind taste test comparing the generic red round ethylene-gas ripened store-bought tomato against an heirloom tomato, you will overwhelmingly pick the heirloom every time. They simply taste far superior. Those beautiful blue potatoes, purple peppers, green tomatoes, red carrots, and chocolate colored lettuce? You will never see them again unless heirlooms are preserved. And note, the colors aren’t some superficial trait that has no real value. Each naturally occurring color provides a wealth of different vitamins and minerals.

Some of the top-rated heirloom seed companies are:

Seed Savers Exchange: www.seedsaversexchange.org
Organica Seed: www.organicaseed.com
Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds: http://rareseeds.com
Sustainable Seed Company: http://sustainableseedco.com 

This year, I’m getting my seeds from Seed Savers Exchange. I’ll keep you posted as to how my crops are turning out. What are you planting this year?

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