Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Did You Know…How Does the AeroGarden Grow?

You know that the AeroGarden produces spectacular vegetables, herbs, flowers and fruit but what you might not know is how it works. How does the AeroGarden grow? It’s actually much simpler than you think. Inside each AeroGarden unit is a small microprocessor programmed to provide an optimal environment for your plants. How does it know what environment to provide? Because you turn the dial on the front of the AeroGarden to tell it what you’re growing. Instantly the humidity, nutrients, and compact fluorescent light requirements are adjusted to meet the needs of your plants.
Even more interesting than the internal microcomputer is the science that goes inside each and every seed and nutrient tablet. AeroGrow scientists have taken years of NASA aeroponic research for large scale operations and patented a small scale, organic approach for the mass market. The seeds are designed for fast growth and a large yield. Each nutrient pellet is derived from minerals salts such as the same type of mineral salts you might find in typical multi-vitamins; and is designed to neutralize your tap water for optimal growing conditions.

Monday, March 05, 2007

History of Peppermills

Because of its unique flavor and pungent aroma, black pepper (Piper nigrum) has been the most widely traded spice in the world for over three hundred years. Peppercorns from the Piper nigrum plan are bright red berries that turn black when they are dried and harvested. A pepper mill is then used to ground the peppercorns into a powdered spice called pepper.

For centuries, a mortar and pestle were used to crush peppercorns into powdered spice. Since the 14th century in Greece, brass coffee mills performed double duty to ground coffee as well as spices such as pepper. In 1842, the modern pepper grinder was created by Peugeot of France, the famous automobile manufacturer. Peugeot designed the internal grinding mechanism with grinding and channeling grooves that line up to crack the peppercorns and then grind them into powder. This internal mechanism is at the core of the pepper mills manufactured today, whether manually operated or battery operated.

The internal mechanism of a pepper mill can be made from stainless steel, nylon or ceramic and each material has its own benefits. Stainless steel is extremely durable, nylon won't corrode and ceramic is strong and porous. Pepper grinders with a mill crank are turned manually to grind pepper. Battery operated mills and mills with squeeze handles practically operate themselves and involve less labor.

The outer of the unit of the pepper mill can be made of wood, metal, glass or plastic and is designed to be decorative. Pepper grinders are available in a wide variety of sizes and shapes and some pepper grinders are even handcrafted from special woods such as ebony or teak. There are even pepper grinders that have built-in salt shakers on the top.

Fresh pepper also offers a wealth of health benefits. Pepper stimulates taste buds to increase hydrochloric acid secretion and improve digestion. Black pepper prevents gas, helps to naturally promote sweating and urination and has antibacterial and antioxidant effects. Also, a little know benefit is the outer layer of the peppercorn actually stimulates the breakdown of fat cells.

Australian food specialist Simon Johnson sums up pepper grinding the best in his book Providore. He accurately states that if you could only take one spice to a desert island with you, it would have to be pepper because nothing compares to the aromatic hit of freshly ground pepper.

Simple Tips to Get Started In Aeroponics

Adventurous growers have found that creating small-scale aeroponic systems is a fun and easy thing to do.

While aeroponic and hydroponic systems vary slightly in how they distribute nutrients to plant root systems, the cost of the small-scale systems is relatively the same.

Hydroponic systems work by providing a continuous flow of water and nutrients over the roots of your plants whereas aeroponic systems provide a generally consistent mist of nutrients and water onto the roots.

Both systems are available online or in stores as ready-made kits. Prices for a store bought kit begin around $150 and can go as high as $3000. Ready-made kits are wonderful for the first time grower or if you have limited space to garden indoors.

If you're more of a do-it-yourselfer, then home-made systems are an option and are limited only by your imagination.

Four requirements for a home system:
1) Support the plants above your nutrient solution.
2) Aerate your solution to provide oxygen to the roots.
3) Prevent light from reaching the roots by enclosing them in a supported structure.
4) Provide adequate light to the plant via exposure to natural sun or by using grow lights.
Styrofoam, aquarium pumps, and hangers have been used by the resourceful grower; just remember to take the size of your mature plant into consideration. For example; tomato plants need plenty of room for upright growth and support.
Short plants like lettuce and some herbs will usually support themselves but will need room to spread out. PVC pipe with holes drilled in it for each plant can work well. Additionally, if you're opting for an aeroponic system, small sprayers can be bought for $.50 online or at your local nursery.
First time growers can spend as little or as much as you'd like to get your system up and running but once you've established a system your costs are minimal. Besides nutrients, kits generally cost about $30-$40, the only other purchase you will have to make are the plants or seeds and that's the fun part!