Provolone vs Swiss Cheese

In the diverse world of cheese, you may find yourself comparing the characteristics of Provolone and Swiss cheese, two staples in delis and grocery stores. Provolone is a semi-hard Italian cheese known for its smooth texture and mild flavor, which can become slightly sharper as it ages. Its versatility makes it an excellent choice for sandwiches and pizza, where its melting qualities are prized.

Swiss cheese, originating from Switzerland, is easily recognizable by its signature holes, or ‘eyes,’ created by gas bubbles during the fermentation process. It boasts a nutty and mildly sweet flavor, which becomes more pronounced as it matures. Rich in protein and essential amino acids, Swiss cheese is not just a key player on a cheeseboard but also an important ingredient in recipes that call for a distinct and robust flavor. The nutritional content of both cheeses provides valuable protein and calcium, though their fat content and specific nutrient profiles may differ, which can be an important consideration for your dietary choices.

Historical Background

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As you explore the origins of provolone and Swiss cheese, it’s necessary to journey to the heart of Europe. Provolone finds its roots in Southern Italy, where it has been a traditional cheese since the 15th century. The cheese is known for its smooth, creamy texture and derives its name from the Neapolitan words ‘prova’ or ‘provola,’ which denote a globular shaped cheese.

Swiss cheese, on the other hand, is synonymous with cheese like Emmental, originating in the West Central cantons of Switzerland. This cheese, with its characteristic holes and nutty flavor, emerged in historical records as early as the 15th century as well. These holes, or ‘eyes,’ form through the action of bacteria releasing gases during the fermentation process.

  • Provolone
    • Originated: Southern Italy
    • Century of Origin: 15th century
  • Swiss Cheese (Emmental)
    • Originated: Switzerland
    • Century of Origin: 15th century

By examining the history of these cheeses, you gain insight into not only their origins but also the cultural significance they hold in their respective regions. Both cheeses have maintained their popularity over the centuries and continue to be a staple in their native lands as well as across the globe.

Classification and Types

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When you explore the variety of cheeses available, you’ll find that Provolone and Swiss cheeses offer distinct types that cater to different tastes and uses.

Provolone Varieties

Provolone Cheese is an Italian semi-hard cheese known for its smooth texture and comes in several types:

  • Provolone Piccante: Aged for more than four months and known for its sharp taste.
  • Provolone Dolce: Aged for 2-3 months and has a milder taste due to the use of veal rennet.

Swiss Cheese Types

Swiss Cheese is a generic name often used to describe cheeses that visually resemble Emmental with characteristic holes. Types of Swiss cheese you may encounter include:

  • Emmental: Originating from Switzerland, it’s a semi-hard cheese with a mild, slightly nutty flavor.
  • Gruyère: Another semi-hard cheese without the holes of Emmental, known for its rich and creamy flavor.

NB: Both Provolone and Swiss cheeses derive from cow’s milk and are enjoyed worldwide in various culinary applications.

Physical Characteristics

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Delving into the physical properties of provolone and Swiss cheese helps you appreciate their distinct culinary roles. These cheeses differ notably in color and texture, key aspects that influence their use and perception in various dishes.

Color and Appearance

Provolone cheese typically presents a pale yellow to creamy color, with a smooth and shiny exterior. Traditionally, it is shaped into a pear, sausage, or cone form when it is crafted and sold. Since it is a pressed cheese, provolone has a consistent color throughout, with no holes.

In contrast, Swiss cheese is recognized by its pale yellow hue and the characteristic large holes or ‘eyes’ that are formed during the fermentation process when gases are released. The eyes in Swiss cheese can vary in size and are often seen as a hallmark of this cheese type. Its rind is thin and its shape is generally a block or a wheel, which contributes to its distinctive look.

Texture and Consistency

Provolone offers a semi-soft texture that is smooth and can retain more moisture, giving it a supple and malleable consistency. This allows provolone to be sliced without crumbling and to be used in recipes where a smoother, more cohesive consistency is desired.

Swiss cheese, on the other hand, is a semi-hard cheese with a firmer texture. Though it is not as hard as aged cheeses like Parmesan, Swiss cheese holds its shape well and is suitable for slicing and melting. Its texture can be described as dense and slightly grainy, yet still capable of melting smoothly when heated.

Flavor Profile

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Exploring the distinct flavors of cheeses can elevate your culinary experience. In the case of Provolone and Swiss cheese, their unique tastes offer diverse options for various dishes.

Taste of Provolone

Provolone cheese presents a mildly tangy and buttery flavor, which becomes sharper as it ages. Originating from Italy, your palate may detect a slightly piquant note in aged varieties, while the younger Provolone offers a more mild and smooth experience.

Taste of Swiss Cheese

Swiss cheese, known for its signature holes, or “eyes,” delivers a nutty and sometimes slightly sweet profile. The flavor can range from mild to moderately sharp, depending on the age, with older Swiss cheese taking on a more assertive and tangy character that can enrich your dishes with a distinct nutty flavor.

Nutritional Content

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When comparing the nutritional content of provolone and Swiss cheese, you’ll notice some differences that may influence your choice depending on your dietary goals.

Provolone Cheese:

  • Calories: It tends to be lower in calories per serving.
  • Fat Content: Provolone offers a moderate amount of fat and is slightly lower in total fats compared to Swiss.
  • Sodium: It contains more sodium, which you should consider if you’re monitoring your salt intake.
  • Calcium: This cheese provides a good source of calcium for bone health, although it has less than Swiss cheese.
  • Protein: Provolone has a respectable protein content, essential for muscle maintenance and repair.
  • Vitamins: While containing vitamins A and E, it has lower amounts compared to Swiss.

Swiss Cheese:

  • Calories: Higher in calories, which may be a factor if you’re counting calories.
  • Fat Content: Contains more total fats, including saturated fats, which can impact cholesterol levels.
  • Cholesterol: It’s higher in cholesterol than provolone.
  • Protein: Swiss cheese is rich in protein, surpassing the amounts found in provolone.
  • Calcium: Provides more calcium per serving, beneficial for your bones.
  • Vitamins: Particularly high in vitamins A, E, and B12, these nutrients are valuable for a healthy diet.
  • Lactose: Those with lactose intolerance may find Swiss cheese easier to digest due to its lower lactose content.

Here’s a quick reference table summarizing the main nutritional differences:

Fat ContentModerately HighHigher
VitaminsA & E (lower)A, E, & B12 (higher)

Your dietary needs will dictate which cheese is more appropriate for you, but both can be included in a balanced, healthy diet.

Culinary Applications

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When incorporating Provolone or Swiss cheese into your cooking, consider both their melting properties and flavor profiles to enhance your dishes effectively.

Cheese in Cooking

Provolone is highly versatile in the kitchen due to its excellent melting qualities, making it a go-to for pizzas, pasta dishes, and grilled cheese sandwiches. Its higher moisture content allows for a smooth melt which is ideal for recipes where you desire a gooey texture. On the other hand, Swiss cheese also melts well but retains its shape better, suitable for items like fondue and hot sandwiches where you may want the cheese to envelop ingredients without becoming too runny.

  • Pizzas: Provolone can be used as a standalone topping or blended with mozzarella for a richer flavor.
  • Pasta dishes: Incorporate sliced provolone for a creamy addition to your baked ziti or lasagna.
  • Grilled cheese sandwiches: Swap in Swiss for a touch of nuttiness amidst the melt.

Pairing and Serving Suggestions

Provolone shines on a cheese board paired with full-bodied wines, while its milder nature makes it a fine substitute for mozzarella in salads. Swiss cheese, known for its distinctive holes and slightly sweet, nutty flavor, pairs well with fruits and hearty bread on a platter, as well as complementing sandwiches, especially those with ham or turkey.

  • Salads: Add thin slices of Provolone for a subtle tanginess.
  • Cheese board: Serve cubes of Swiss with grapes and pear slices for a delightful contrast.

Remember, when substituting one for the other, consider the textural differences and the way their unique flavors may alter the final taste of your dish.

Production Techniques

How Provolone Cheese Is Made

When you explore the production techniques of Provolone and Swiss cheese, you’ll encounter distinct processes that define their individual characteristics. Provolone cheese, originally from southern Italy, begins with the coagulation of milk using rennet, which separates the milk into curds and whey. The curds are then pulled and stretched while still hot, a technique known as pasta filata, giving Provolone its signature texture. After shaping, it’s immersed in brine, which provides the necessary salinity and starts the aging process.

CoagulationRennet (Calf/Vegetable)Rennet (Calf/Vegetable)
Curd ProcessingPasta filata techniquePressed into molds
SaltingBrine soakRubbed with salt
Aging2-3 months to 2-3 years2-14 months

Swiss cheese, on the other hand, particularly known for its holes or “eyes,” is aided by bacteria that produce carbon dioxide gas during the maturation process. Initially, the cheese is also formed with rennet, but the curds are pressed into molds rather than being stretched. As it ages, the bacteria inside consume the lactic acid and release carbon dioxide, creating the distinctive holes.

The duration of aging plays a vital role for both cheeses. Provolone can be aged from a few months up to several years, developing a sharper flavor over time. Swiss cheese usually ages for a shorter period, between two and fourteen months, which results in a smoother and nuttier taste.

Understanding these techniques helps you appreciate the nuances between Provolone and Swiss cheese, each significant in crafting their unique taste and texture.

Choosing Between Provolone and Swiss Cheese

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When faced with the decision of Provolone versus Swiss cheese, your choice may largely depend on your personal preference and the culinary context. Let’s compare their characteristics to aid your selection.

AspectProvolone CheeseSwiss Cheese
TextureSemi-soft and more pliableSemi-hard and firmer
Flavor ProfileMild flavor with a tangy touchNutty taste with slight sweetness
VersatilityMelts well; good for sandwichesHolds shape; suits slicing

Provolone cheese offers a mild flavor and a notable tang, making it a versatile option that melts effortlessly, perfect for hot dishes such as pizza or baked pasta. Its creamy texture aligns well with layering in sandwiches or as part of a cheese platter.

In contrast, Swiss cheese is renowned for its nutty taste and slight sweetness, coupled with a distinct sharpness that might stand out more in dishes. Due to its semi-hard nature, it holds up well when sliced and can be a delightful addition to cold sandwiches, salads, or even grated atop soups.

While you can substitute one for the other based on availability, consider the flavor impact and textural changes this would introduce to your dish. Provolone can usually replace Swiss when a milder, smoother presence is sought, whereas Swiss might be your choice for a bolder flavor with a bit more bite.

In summary, let your palate preferences guide you. Think of the other elements of your meal and how either cheese might complement or contrast the flavors and textures present. Enjoy the process of determining which cheese meets the needs of your particular dish or what simply sounds delectable to you at the moment.

Health and Dietary Considerations

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When comparing Provolone and Swiss cheese from a health perspective, it’s crucial to consider their nutritional profiles and how they may fit into your diet. If you’re monitoring calorie intake for weight management, be aware that Swiss cheese typically contains more calories. Given its higher fat content, including saturated fats, Swiss cheese could impact cholesterol levels, which should be moderated, especially if you have heart health concerns.

Nutritional comparison per 1-ounce serving:

NutrientProvoloneSwiss cheese
Total FatsLowerHigher
Saturated FatsLowerHigher
Vitamins and MineralsVariedVaried

Provolone provides iron, potassium, and Vitamins D, B2, and B5. These nutrients are beneficial for maintaining energy levels and supporting muscle function, among other health benefits. In contrast, Swiss cheese has greater amounts of calcium, phosphorus, and zinc, which are essential for bone health.

If you’re lactose intolerant, it’s important to note that aged cheeses like Provolone and Swiss typically contain lower lactose levels, which may be more tolerable in your diet.

Assessing your individual health goals, consider integrating these cheeses into your diet with moderation. Whether for bone health, weight management, or dietary restrictions, choose the option that aligns best with your needs while consulting with a healthcare provider or dietitian when making significant dietary changes.

Buying and Storage

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When purchasing Provolone or Swiss cheese, you’ll often find them readily available at your local grocery store. Depending on your needs, they can be bought in various sizes and weights, from thin slices to larger blocks.

Provolone, a semi-hard cheese with a lower moisture content than soft cheeses, typically comes in a cylindrical shape and may vary in age. Young Provolone is softer and milder, suitable for melting, whereas aged Provolone is firmer with a sharper taste.

Swiss cheese, recognized by its characteristic holes, or ‘eyes’, is also a semi-hard cheese. The moisture content of Swiss cheese can impact its meltability, with younger, higher-moisture variants melting more easily compared to older, drier ones.

Storage Tips:

  • Refrigerate both cheeses, wrapped in parchment or wax paper, followed by loosely fitting plastic wrap to allow breathing.
  • Aged cheeses can be stored for longer periods, whereas younger cheeses should be consumed more quickly.
  • Keep in different sections of the fridge to prevent flavors from mingling.
  • Avoid freezing, as this can alter the texture, especially for cheese intended to be melted.

By selecting the proper size and type of cheese for your culinary needs, and storing it correctly, you ensure the best flavor and shelf-life for your Provolone and Swiss cheese.

Cultural and Regional Influences

Provolone Cheese

When you explore the origins of Provolone and Swiss cheese, you are delving into rich cultural tapestries that reflect the diverse histories of Southern Italy and Switzerland, respectively. Provolone, a staple of Italian cheese varieties, emerges from the warm Mediterranean climate of Southern Italy. This region imbues Provolone with characteristics that are part of its charm – versatility in both flavor and application in numerous Italian dishes. As a testament to its cultural significance, Provolone’s use in local gastronomy varies by region, offering a spectrum of flavors from mild to sharp.

Swiss cheese, on the other hand, carries the legacy of Swiss precision and tradition. The cheese’s distinctive holes, known as “eyes,” and firm texture are the results of the cheese-making process mastered in the cool climate of Switzerland. Swiss cheese became emblematic of Swiss dairy farming, which significantly contributed to the local economies.

Your appreciation for these cheeses may deepen when considering their integration into the United States’ culinary scene. Provolone and Swiss cheese have been embraced in the U.S., finding new roles in sandwiches, burgers, and a variety of other dishes, enhancing the melting pot of American food culture.

Here’s a quick overview:

FeatureProvoloneSwiss Cheese
OriginSouthern ItalySwitzerland
TextureSemi-soft, pliableSemi-hard, firmer
Use in Local CuisineVersatile in Italian dishesEmphasized in Swiss dairy farming
Cultural ImpactIntegral to Italian gastronomySymbolic of Swiss tradition
Popularity in U.S.Widespread in Italian-American cuisineCommon in delis and sandwiches

Each cheese not only brings a unique flavor to your palate but also tells a story of the region it hails from, shaped by the environment, history, and traditions that define its essence.

Cheese in Popular Culture

Cheese occupies a unique place in popular culture, reflecting diverse tastes and the ever-evolving preferences of cheese lovers.

Cheese in Media

In movies, television shows, and books, cheese often symbolizes comfort and gourmet indulgence. Provolone and Swiss cheese frequently appear in deli scenes or as part of elaborate cheese platters, signifying a character’s refined palate or perhaps a communal dining experience. Your knowledge of cheeses might even help you catch subtle cultural references, like a character favoring Swiss cheese in a sandwich to hint at a preference for milder flavors.

  • Movies/TV: Characters may express their love for a specific cheese type, influencing public tastes.
  • Books: Descriptions of cheese can evoke a sensory experience, making it more appealing to you as a reader.
  • Ads: Commercials often feature cheese to appeal to your desire for richness and quality in food.

Public Perception and Trends

You may notice that certain cheeses cycle in and out of fashion. Provolone’s versatility and mild taste have secured it a spot on many popular pizza and sandwich recipes, while Swiss cheese, with its distinctive holes and nutty flavor, remains a staple in classic dishes like fondue. These cheeses adapt to popular trends while maintaining a steady presence in the market due to a balance of tradition and personal preference.

  • Cheese Lover: Major influences on cheese trends, as their endorsements can sway public opinion.
  • Personal Preference: Drives market demand; if you prefer milder cheeses, you might opt for provolone.
  • Popular: Cheeses that consistently appear in media and resonate with public tastes.
  • Trends: Current food movements, like artisanal or locally-produced cheese, affect your choice and the popularity of different cheeses.

Innovation and Future Trends

The cheese industry is constantly evolving, with innovations aiming to meet your health-conscious and gourmet expectations. In the realm of Provolone and Swiss cheese, you may encounter new aging processes that enhance flavor while considering nutritional benefits.

Health-Centric Innovations:

  • Probiotic-Enriched Cheeses: To support your gut health, future varieties may include beneficial bacteria.
  • Lower Sodium Options: For your cardiovascular health, look for Provolone and Swiss cheeses with reduced sodium levels.

Culinary Trends:

  • Flavor-Infused Cheeses: Chefs may experiment by infusing these cheeses with herbs or smoke to cater to your sophisticated palate.
  • Convenience: Expect to see pre-sliced options that cater to your busy lifestyle while maintaining taste and quality.


Manufacturers are likely to adopt more eco-friendly production methods. This means that the Provolone and Swiss cheese you enjoy will not only be good for you but also for the environment.

Aging InnovationsEnhancing mellow flavorsExploring deeper nutty essences
Health BenefitsTargeting iron and potassium levelsFocusing on protein and mineral content

Stay informed about these trends, as they’re designed to cater to your wellness and taste. Whether it’s for a cheeseboard or your favorite sandwich, the future promises cheeses that are both delicious and nutritionally mindful.

Comparative Analysis

The Many Types of Swiss Cheese

When you compare provolone and Swiss cheese, the most noticeable difference lies in their flavor profiles. Provolone, hailing from Italy, offers a taste that ranges from mildly tangy to sharply piquant, dependent on its age. In constrast, Swiss cheese, which includes varieties like Emmental and Gruyere, typically has a nutty and slightly sweet flavor, more pronounced in character.

Texture also sets these two cheeses apart. Provolone usually presents a smooth and even consistency, becoming more granular with age. Swiss cheeses, identifiable by their signature holes or “eyes,” have a firmer body. These holes are formed by gas bubbles during the fermentation process.

In terms of melting properties:

  • Provolone: Melts smoothly, ideal for sandwiches and pizza.
  • Swiss cheese: Also melts well, but with a slightly grainier texture, making it a go-to for baked dishes and fondues.

Here’s a quick comparison table for your reference:

PropertyProvoloneSwiss Cheese
FlavorTangy to sharpNutty, sweet
TextureSmooth to granularFirm with eyes
MeltingSmoothSlightly grainy

Regarding nutrition, differences exist but are not extreme. Swiss cheese is generally higher in calories and fat content, but both provide valuable protein and calcium. Unlike Cheddar, which is denser and richer, both provolone and Swiss cheese are lighter options in terms of flavor intensity.

Remember, your choice between provolone and Swiss cheese may differ based on your recipe or palate preferences.

Consumer Insights

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When you’re navigating the cheese aisle at your local grocery store, your choice between Provolone and Swiss cheese may be influenced by personal preference and your health-conscious goals. Provolone’s semi-soft texture and milder, buttery flavor appeal to those who favor a less pronounced cheese profile, while Swiss cheese offers a semi-hard consistency with a sweet and nutty taste that many cheese lovers cherish.

In terms of nutrition and fitting into a healthy diet, here’s a quick comparison to assist your decision:

Total FatsComparable, variant by typeSlightly higher
ProteinSimilar amountsSimilar amounts

If you’re aiming for a specific nutritional goal, such as reducing sodium or carb intake, these differences could be significant for your selection.

Popularity among these cheeses can vary based on regional and cultural preferences. Provolone might be more prevalent in Italian-style sandwiches and dishes. Meanwhile, Swiss cheese is often a staple in classic American deli offerings. It’s worth noting that both cheeses have versatile characteristics, allowing them to be used interchangeably in many recipes, depending on your taste preference.

Your choice between Provolone and Swiss cheese at the grocery store might ultimately come down to how you plan to enjoy the cheese—melted in a sandwich, as part of a cheese platter, or as a snack. The final decision rests in your hands, where taste and dietary considerations merge with the context of your meal preparation.

Environmental Impact

When you consider the environmental impact of cheese production, it’s essential to examine factors such as carbon dioxide emissions, the use of rennet, and the treatment of whey. The cheese-making process naturally involves various resources, from water and land to energy, contributing to its environmental footprint.

Carbon Dioxide Emissions: Cheese production can be resource-intensive, resulting in the emission of greenhouse gases. Carbon dioxide is released during the farming practices needed to raise dairy cows, as well as from the energy used in the manufacturing process of cheese.

Provolone and Swiss Cheese: While specific data comparing the environmental impact of Provolone and Swiss cheese are not readily available, it is known that hard cheeses, in general, tend to require more resources, potentially leading to higher carbon dioxide emissions. The distinction between the two in terms of impact would likely be the result of regional production practices and scale.

Rennet and Whey Management: Rennet is an enzyme crucial for cheese curdling. Its sourcing (animal-based or microbial) can affect sustainability. Moreover, how whey, a byproduct, is handled is significant. Proper whey disposal or its utilization in other products can minimize environmental harm. Some facilities convert whey into whey protein or use it in animal feed, thus reducing waste.

Your awareness of these aspects could deepen your understanding of the broader environmental impact linked to your choice between Provolone and Swiss cheese. Being informed about sustainable practices in cheese production allows you to make choices that align with your environmental values. Remember, the impact of cheese extends beyond taste and texture, involving complex production processes that touch on diverse environmental aspects.

Final Thoughts

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When considering your cheese options, personal preference plays a significant role. You might favor Provolone for its mild and tangy flavor, ideal for a subtle cheese experience. Its higher moisture content lends it a semi-soft texture, making it a versatile choice for cold sandwiches or melted into dishes.

On the other hand, Swiss cheese stands out with its nutty and pronounced flavor. Being a semi-hard cheese, it offers distinctive characteristics suitable for recipes where a firmer texture is desired. While both cheeses melt, their unique properties may influence the outcome of your culinary creations.

Here’s a quick reference guide:

FeatureProvoloneSwiss Cheese
FlavorMild and tangyNutty and more pronounced
VersatilityGreat for sandwichesFirm for slicing

Whether you’re building the perfect sandwich or crafting a gourmet dish, consider these points to enhance your meal’s flavor profile. Your choice might vary depending on the occasion or the particular taste experience you’re aiming for. With this knowledge, confidently select between Provolone and Swiss cheese based on your needs.

Frequently Asked Questions

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This section addresses common inquiries about the specific attributes that distinguish provolone and Swiss cheeses, from taste to health considerations.

What are the taste differences between provolone and Swiss cheese?

Provolone cheese usually has a mild and tangy flavor profile, whereas Swiss cheese is characterized by a nuttier and more pronounced taste.

How do provolone and Swiss cheese compare nutritionally?

Nutritionally, both cheeses offer similar amounts of protein and fat, but the exact values can vary depending on the specific type of cheese and its production process.

Which cheese has fewer calories, provolone or Swiss?

Typically, Swiss cheese contains slightly fewer calories per serving compared to provolone, making it a marginally lower-calorie option.

Which is considered healthier, provolone or Swiss cheese?

Determining which cheese is healthier depends on your dietary needs. Swiss cheese often has less fat and may be preferable for a lower-calorie diet, whereas provolone can be a better source of calcium.

Which cheese melts better for cooking, Swiss or provolone?

Provolone cheese generally melts more smoothly and is often preferred in dishes requiring a creamy, uniform melt, while Swiss cheese may not melt as evenly due to its firmer texture.

Can Swiss cheese be effectively substituted for provolone in recipes?

Swiss cheese can often be substituted for provolone in recipes; however, the flavor and melting characteristics will differ, which might slightly alter the final dish.

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Cassie brings decades of experience to the Kitchen Community. She is a noted chef and avid gardener. Her new book "Healthy Eating Through the Garden" will be released shortly. When not writing or speaking about food and gardens Cassie can be found puttering around farmer's markets and greenhouses looking for the next great idea.
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