Super Green Thumb
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How much does productivity matter to you?

There was just a big gardening article in my local paper about preparing for our county fair (next July).... Get seeds now for a new competition catagory for newly introduced varieties (cutting edge hybrids). It got me thinking about how my local radio and newspaper garden "celebrities" promote "the usual suspects" All American Selection varieties etc and either don't know about "heirlooms" or have derogatory things to say about them. I don't really like the word "heirloom" because it was meant to describe old family varieties, but is used in the marketplace for anything that is not a hybrid (I.e open pollinated varieties).

Modern hybrid vegetable development is aimed at looks and productivity (both in terms of yield and disease resistance). Flavor must fit into a general norm for the most part (in order to sell at the supermarket) , although sweet corn is trending towards varieties that are sweeter than frosted breakfast cereal.

I have my suspicions that a lot of home gardeners (at least new ones)pick what they do because of the advertizing. I know that with the first tomato seeds I ever bought my descision was based on disease resistance. The package scared me into thinking that tomatoes were sickly creatures. Little did I know that there were no tomato diseases within twenty miles of my Los Angeles third floor balcony tomato growing in sterilized potting mix (white flies were a different matter). I also didn't know that tomatoes could taste vastly different from the slices on my Big Mac.

An observation I had growing up in suburban farm country is that people with gardens are always giving stuff away, which is a pain in the rear if you think about it...having to sneek over to the neighbors in the dead of night to leave a bag of anonymous zucchini on their porch because you know that you would spend time in purgatory for tossing perfectly good, but unwanted, vegetables away. Seems to me that growing less productive varieties would make for a more enjoyable gardening experience.

Flavor is another matter. Four years ago I grew Super Sugars Snap peas. They are "super" because of improvent over regular Sugar Snap Peas (slightly shorter vines and resistant to powdery mildew). But then I tried the original (not super = Clark Kent Sugar Snap peas :lol: ) I much prefer the flavor of the original and will accept a little lower production for something I like to eat more.

Modern Americans tend to be more reliant on the grocery store than the garden...we just cracked open a jar of spaghetti sauce or a quick meal the other night instead of pulling out one of the 20-30 packages of cooked tomatoes in the freezer to make sauce (not my call on that one), so I'm tempted to believe that in many cases garden produce is (in a way) luxury rather than neccesity.

So that leads to my title queston. Is maximizing productivity in your garden high priority for you? or are you content with average productivity in exchange for variety and/or flavor? or are you someone that likes to try the new cutting edge stuff to see what you'll get? How much does space limitation affect your viewpoint?

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Super Green Thumb
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Location: Northern Utah Zone 5


"So that leads to my title queston. Is maximizing productivity in your garden high priority for you? "

Production is definitely desirable for me. I had a large family and we ate out of the garden. Now the kids are all gone, but still come around to share. I also sell a bit at the local farmers market, though the market is not my primary reason for gardening.

"or are you content with average productivity in exchange for variety and/or flavor?"

I have found some good varieties that are both productive and flavorful. Many of the new varieties also have disease resistance, which I find to be a plus!

" or are you someone that likes to try the new cutting edge stuff to see what you'll get? "

I am not above trying new things. Sometimes they have turned out great.

"How much does space limitation affect your viewpoint?"

Not in the least! I have plenty of space.

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Super Green Thumb
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Location: TN/GA 7b

Space is definitely my limiting factor. But that leans me to growing things that are productive all season (like swiss chard) and things I like and can interplant with, like tomatoes and peppers grown in beds with herbs, flowers, broccoli, etc. I won't grow determinate tomato varieties because I want tomatoes all season, not one big crop of them.

So far I haven't tried heirloom tomatoes, because if I have room for only five tomato plants, it is a disaster if one fails. I do worry about the disease resistance. In my humid climate, even the hybrids seem fairly disease prone, compared to the chard, peppers, carrots and other things that never have any diseases or problems. My tomatoes regularly get septoria and /or blights by mid-season-ish and then I struggle to keep them going, pulling affected leaves, treating them, etc. Tried potatoes for the first time last season and they just died with a blight, so I don't know if I will even bother with them again.

I do like flavor, but my hybrid tomatoes are so much better than the store ones, that I'm not much worried about whether there's something out there that might be EVEN better!

I will be growing Delicious tomatoes for the first time this year, supposed to be large, flavorful, and with good disease resistance, along with Ultimate Opener and maybe one or two more.

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Location: Eastern Oregon

Flavor is #1 for me. I am on a quest to locate the best flavored varieties. Although there are several that I think I've already found, so quit searching.

Smeraldo Romano beans, sun sugar cherry tomatoes, Red Gold potatoes (very productive also), Mokem carrots, Tondo Scuro Di Piacenza squash, pineapple tomatillos, etc....

Green Thumb
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Don't give up on the potatoes if you have room - last year was simply bad. Two years ago I planted three rows (~35' each) and I am still eating on them.

I liked the Delicious - two years ago it was one of my best producers but the maters weren't scale busters as sometimes described. If you like juice, I really recommend Red Zebra. The fruit is smaller, ~3 ounces and has lots of seeds, but the juice is sweeter than most maters and thicker. I can my juice in two-liter pop bottles and when it settles, the RZ's water percentage is half most other toms. Plus, I was getting 15-18 tomatoes per plant twice a week.

Lastly, I know that determinants are suppose to ripen over a much shorter period but that has not been my experience. I've picked them from the middle of summer until the killing frost in October.


Green Thumb
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Sure, production is important but taste matters equally. I don't want to grow lots of cardboard.

With an empty nest and living in a small urban area, we don't/can't grow an endless number of vegetables. We love tomatoes and are still looking for the best of the best (subjective) that we can eat fresh, dehydrate or freeze. We plant 16-20 tomatoes each year - hybrid and heirlooms.

Each year, we have given up a bit more lawn and expanded on the types of veggies. This year some of the newbies are the onion family - leeks, onions, shallots. I don't have room to grow a lot of them but can manage about 75-100 of each. Some will be eaten on harvest, some dried for long storage, and some dehydrated for longer storage.

We are also trying some mini melons and hope for some good flavor. We chose varieties that could be grown vertically as we do our cucumbers. We chose eight ball zucchini as it is a perfect space saver.

We also have tomatoes in the freezer - some as sauce and some that were roasted. We use them throughout the winter and try to have a package or two just as the new harvest is coming in. So, using some sauce from a jar (like Bove's awesome vodka sauce) is a matter of covenience and saving some of our "good stuff" to last until the next harvest.

So, in our small garden, productivity is important but not more than taste and variety.

What I like most about growing our produce is that I grow it from seed and it is fresh, healthy and safe. When we have extra, we share with neighbors who don't garden or the food shelf - nothing goes to waste.

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Greener Thumb
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Good question!

I will always choose the "heirloom" varieties over the hybrids unless there is an unusual veggie I'd just love to try. But that's more because I'm not so keen on changing the way nature does things. ie: genetically engineering food.

I find that sharing is one of the great parts of gardening! It's so nice to bring a basket of veggies to work and say "I grew this" and watch people go ga-ga over it. When I bring in a basket they always disappear in minutes. Of course I enjoy canning too, so there's never a worry of "what to do with all the extras".

Quantity is important to me, but just a micrometer below being important enough to go with all hybrid veggies. Taste runs just about equal.

The most important thing about the garden for me though, is time spent with the kids and teaching them to be a little more self reliant here and there.

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I'm going to give a short reply which is not necessarily the WHOLE answer. :wink:

I started my adult life as a snobbish eater looking for GOOD FLAVOR ... at restaurants. Not the top-of-the-line 5-star stuff because I couldn't afford it, but still, my friend and I would go out to at least one lunch and one dinner every week -- and I knew we'd get along the first time SHE did this when we went to lunch -- ask for "What's REALLY good?" When DH and I first started spending time together, we got along famously because we both ordered the most UNUSUAL item on the menu. :>

So when I began growing my own vegs, I naturally looked for "gourmet" varieties. Colorful and good looking on the plate was part of that. But over the years, I've learned to differentiate between "Chef's Favorites" (some seed catalogs cater to those) and REALLY good flavored varieties that grow well with reasonable amount of care. Organically grown is another level of gourmet but to my mind, an essential one.

Productivity falls below those other criteria. I can be happy/satisfied if I get one or two meals out of an experimental plant or variety. I like being able to say *I* grew THIS in OUR garden. However, sustainability in the garden has been added to my goals, so I like being able to collect my own seeds to grow the next generation of flavorful good performers. Also, now that I'm learning to can and preserve SURPLUS harvest, production may yet play a greater role -- but that has as much to do with my own skill as a gardener. 8)

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Green Thumb
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If I had to pick one attribute as my top priority, it would be flavor.

I can't recall that I have ever stressed over production. However, I suppose that I do tend to select for that... because, if I try a particular variety a few times and it doesn't seem to "make" (low production or crop failure), I will look for another variety.
On the other hand, sometimes it's not the fault of the variety, but a cultural practice that I may need to learn or improve.

Green Thumb
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Location: Coastal Southern California

Flavor for me too, and organic.
I don't understand why MOST of the catalog descriptions for vegetables use the term "sweet". I don't want candy, I want tomatoes and corn and green beans.

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Super Green Thumb
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Gardening is usually a 12 month deal, if I don't get it right -- a 12 month wait is often necessary to take another shot at it. Crop failure is awfully disheartening. That means, success is my most important issue.

Flavor is subjective. Experience has something to do with it but if someone is in love with the flavor of Early Girl tomatoes and another claims that Bloody Butcher is the very best - far be it from me to insist that one or the other is right or wrong.

Neither of your snap pea examples, TZ, is a hybrid. I can remember when Sugar Snap was introduced as an All-America winner. It took me a couple of years to try it but not long. I can say that Sugar Snap peas are the most important vegetable introduction of my gardening lifetime! I am absolutely delighted with snap peas but I've tried many variations on the original.

When I really got serious about gardening, I was living at a fairly high elevation for this neck of the woods. The only tomato variety that could be trusted to ripen for me was Sub-Arctic and the only corn was Polar Vee. Sub-Arctics are an open-pollinated variety and has been around for about 60 years now. I was fairly disappointed in my options and it was a relief when I moved to a lower elevation and could grow Earliana tomatoes and Early Sunglow sweet corn. Happily, there have been many choices since :) !

By the way, TZ. You might try getting some frozen garden veggies between that bottled spaghetti sauce and the pasta. Nothing like sneaking something healthful and tasty in wherever you get a chance :wink: .


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Flavor is the key but unfortunately I worry about getting enough produce, so I plant far too much of everything. Growing up in the northeast kingdom of Vermont, I was one of 18 children so gardening was a necessity. We grew a lot of everything. Now, I grow a lot, not because I need to, it's because I want to. Our children are grown and have long ago moved away. Most of our backyard is taken up by a large vegetable garden, herb garden, raspberry patch, shed, greenhose and compost bins. Although my wife doesn't garden, she is 100% supportive of all my gardening activities.

Over the weekend, we made a couple of large pans of lasagna for friends who just lost a loved one. I make lasagna with my own canned tomatoes, sauce, paste, and a couple of jars of hot salsa. I also use my own garlic, onions, oregano, basil, thyme and parsley. Sausage, hamburg, and cheeses come from Hannaford's but people just love this stuff. Why? Because the veggies and fruits all came from an organic garden. Delicious--flavor.

Super Green Thumb
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Good point about the peas, and it relates to my dislike of the word "heirloom" in some discussions. The debate is often heirloom vs hybrid: which is better? but the reality is "improved" vs unimproved with the improvements being aimed at making the farmer more money (shipping, shelf life, disease resistance, looks, productivity). It just so happens that it is easier to get some of these characteristics through hybridization. In some cases (brussel's sprouts) I prefer hybrids because I can't get sprouts on the O.P. varieties, but I'm not going to scan the seed catalogs for this year's newest most improved variety. Getting the seeds on the sale rack might be more my style.

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Super Green Thumb
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The best way to grow Brussels Sprouts is: DON'T!

Some things may be touted as edible, but that does not necessarily make them palatable. On that list are dandelions, Brussels Sprouts and okra.

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Greener Thumb
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Location: Ecuador, USDA Zone 13, at 10,000' of altitude

In my garden, flavour and heat-resistance reign supreme - I grow varieties that are definitely less productive simply because they taste better. I also like to try new things each cycle - which means for example that I've got Daikon going this time round, even though I'm only fond of it as a pickle, not fresh/cooked. Like many people, I trade excess production with my neighbours, and that works out well for me - I don't grow Habas (Fava beans) or Nectarines, but when my Plums and Tomatoes overproduce, I can always swap for them.

However, I'll agree with Jal. No Brussels Sprouts, no Okra. Also no Parsnips/Rutebagas. I refuse to eat stinky and/or slimy things!

Then again, I'm also quite spoiled by the inexpensive availability of good food here - if something fails in my garden, I can usually get something similar at the market (my tomatoes excluded).

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Green Thumb
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Location: Merritt Island, Florida

Flavor and Health

You know it is funny you mention this, I was speaking with a close friend and we can observe alot just by looking at kids today. Kids think canned Raviolo is better then home made Tomato sauce, they think a dried packet of Mac & Cheese is the bomb, forget homemade Mac & cheese that costs 20 bucks a pan, they think McDonalds is the best hamburger ever ( I don't think it is even made from something that was close to the cow) :shock: . This is the way society is, the produce at store appeals to them because the package is pretty, :? forget health, forget taste. This is the way they were brought up. Most people do not want to change that.

I got into having my own garden because honestly I could no longer afford organic. I wanted to change my families way of eating as much as possible. I grow for better, healthier and more flavorful produce. Space is limited so I would like to get enough to make a difference, but will sacrifice it for learning something new. Everytime I see that Miracle Grow commercial I laugh. I don't want a 4 lb tomato, I want tomatos that can be used within a reasonable amount of time, without waste. There is alot of trial and error for me being new. You learn from reading and forums like this to correct that thinking. Yes I did buy what I could from my local nursery - I didn't know any better. Now I buy mostly from Baker Creek and Johnnys - A year ago I had no idea these places exsisted. I am trying different varities to bascially see what does best in my area, you can't just grow anything in the Heat in FL. I want to try and narrow it down to some good heirloom and organic varieties, but I have alot of trial and error ahead of me.

Taste, :roll: to me, everything I grow and eat from my garden tastes better (even if it is in my mind) because I worked hard to get there. I am proud and happy with what I have accomplished in such a short time. :D

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Green Thumb
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Location: Rural Ottawa, ON

Originally I was after flavour and ease of care (especially being a new gardener) but in the last few years I've really found that most things you grow at home taste a million times better then store bought no matter the variety.

With a quickly growing family and very long cold winters, now quantity and freezing quality is the most important to me. Even though it doesn't taste as good as it does fresh, I just ran out of zucchini a month ago adding a little into pasta sauce once a week. Before I grew it this year, I didn't think I liked zucchini. We still have some beans in the freezer but that is about it; for next year I'm aiming to carry us right through the winter with frozen (or canned!) vegetables.

Since we also buy local meat (VERY local, like next door...) nothing makes my soul feel better then putting together meals where everything except the salt & pepper are grown/raised and harvested within walking distance.

In a couple cases (like beans) I may grow two different varieties, one for fresh and one for freezing.

Non-hybrids (true heirlooms or not) are also important to me only because I want to be able to save my seeds from year to year.

#1 Freezing quality/taste
#2 Quantity vs Space/care requirements
#3 Non-hybrids for seed saving

My last reasoning is I like to try to grow something (or a few somethings) every year. Next year asparagus, eggplant and beets - three things I've never grown before! Last year it was arugula, celery, zucchini and cauliflower, all (relatively) big successes.

"....having to sneek over to the neighbors in the dead of night to leave a bag of anonymous zucchini ... " gave me a good giggle - I just throw them at my family members and run, they are more forgiving ;).

I would definitely say that seed packets are sold on those descriptions, most of which say nothing helpful about the actual plant, and can be down-right misleading at times.

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Green Thumb
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vermontkingdom wrote:... I make lasagna with my own canned tomatoes, sauce, paste, and a couple of jars of hot salsa. I also use my own garlic, onions, oregano, basil, thyme and parsley. ....
That's what it's all about ... there's nothing like making tasty dishes with your own organic-grown ingredients !!! :D

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Green Thumb
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Location: middle Tennessee

jal_ut wrote:...Some things may be touted as edible, but that does not necessarily make them palatable. On that list are dandelions, Brussels Sprouts and okra.
Now, jal, if you ever come through Tennessee, you'll have to let me whip up a plate of Fried Okra for you ... you might be converted! :D

Cool Member
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Location: CT

Taste, Taste and Taste otherwise if taste did'nt matter I'd go to the market.

Sometimes I wonder if it would be better to not know what a fresh vegetable is supposed to taste like.

My garden is 100% OP/heirloom, non-certified organic with around 80-100 different veggetable varieties and continues to expand.

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Joined: Tue Jan 04, 2011 11:59 pm
Location: South East NSW Australia

Taste or Production?

I have to agree with everyone here, taste is vital, and the reason most of us do it is that the alternative is very tasteless, and expensive! :shock:
I've also fallen for the "let's try this heirloom variety" and failed to plant some of the regular varieties. -result crop failure. I guess it's best to try new but also stick to the known.

Brussels Sprouts!!! are you joking :o They are wonderful. -But not easy to grow. A friend of mine bought a (1) hybrid seedling last year, $4.95!!, however, he was picking heaps of delicious sprouts for more than 3 mths, we are both looking out for this plant at our nursery.

All the best to all gardeners up in the northern hemi (snow etc) areas, don't know how you manage, but you do.

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Super Green Thumb
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I love Brussels Sprouts but they got so many aphids. I need plants that ake less work and still produce well but the quality of the vegies is what I am after.

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Green Thumb
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Location: Litchfield, Michigan

In my case I need productivity, disease resistance as well as flavor. I spend a lot of time researching university field trials during the winter.

I have found that no matter how good something tastes, price and appearance are weighed just as heavily, if not more so, by the customer.

Trying to make a bit of a living also means I need a hardy plant that can take a licking and keep on producing through wet, dry, humid, bug and disease infested weather.

This not only helps me reduce my chemical dependency but it also reduces my labor required to monitor and police...

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Location: Southern Ca

fresh from the garden produce, no matter what variety, is going to take 1000% percent better than the stuff from the store. for me I go for productivity, mainly because we are trying to be self sufficient, and second because we live in an area where there are so many people that are in need, so I grow 2 to 3 times what we need so that I can provide for others.

I got a comment from a lady at church last year (I had been taking tons to veggies to church for the members) she said that she didn't like my tomatoes because they were too soft and tasted funny, at first I thought something must have been wrong with the one tomato that she got but then I was looking at the tomatoes at the store and they are extremely had, bright red, but they have no flavor because they are forced to change before they are ripe. People are forgetting what fresh is supposed to taste like.

Somebody mentioned that she grows heat tolerant varieties, what are the heat tolerant varieties, we get up to 120 degree heat in the summer and the plants suffer because of it, I struggle to keep them alive.

Super Green Thumb
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Location: ohio

I can't say that productivity is the only reason that I consider when I choose a variety, but it does help.

Really, variety matters to me in that I like to do what I can to get each plant/variety to produce at it's maximum, however high or low that maximum may be.

I like to experiment with culture, spacing, pruning etc. to see what the plant likes the best.

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Super Green Thumb
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I must say that quality-taste is the most important to me. Heck take a look at last year I had tons of production but the quality wasn't' there. With bug and disease ruined fruits what good is production.

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Greener Thumb
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Location: Virginia

There are many important aspect of "selecting varieties" mentioned in this thread. And while my first, initial response would be "Flavor over production indeed" I believe the answer is not quite as simple and may not be the same for every garden.

If someone has room for say 2-3 tomato plants, 2-3 peppers and small space for other small garden varieties such as lettuce, herbs and such, then one may consider varieties that have a balanced compromise between production and taste (possibly)

I have room to grow many varieties, and since I can easily afford to loose the production over the flavor, which I prefer to begin with, I'd do anything I can to try only the veggies that suit my pallet.

On the other hand, for example when it comes to Cucumber varieties, our summers are very hot and humid, and Powdery and Downy mildew are guaranteed! So this is were I come to compromise. Early season, I would grow OP varieties, but for succession planting, I now plant only DM and PM resistant varieties, mostly hybrids. Many of them taste almost as good as OP, and this is simply a choice of mid summer - to have cukes or not to have cukes (or almost no cukes), since hybrids are the only ones can survive, and produce mid/late summer and early fall.

Same goes for lettuces. In the fall, I plant OP varieties, but since most of our springs quickly go from mild to immediate heat of the summer, I've been growing 25-35 days hybrid lettuces that I find to be pleasant tasting, and produce well and quickly before the summer heat sets in. Just don't have the luxury of waiting for the best tasting 60+ days lettuces during that time, so I sacrifice a little of the taste for production.

But at the end, in ideal condition, taste is what matters most indeed!


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