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The Tortoise Chef

Jay Bagley

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Me too! I know.my health would be greatly improved! What does that say about how we feed our torts better than us?! Lolol
That question occurs to me quite frequently. I'm trying to mix in a bunch of fresh weeds that I had just picked with some grass, sometimes a little grocery store greens, all in the meantime I'm waiting for the timer to go off to my frozen pizza.
 

trickspiration

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Per @RosemaryDW 's request, here's an update on Spike's diet. Currently, the weed stock in Orange County is minimal because of weather, time of year, etc., and so he's been getting less of the good stuff (natural grown weeds) and more of the store produce (spring mix and romaine). Every so often, I am able to find tiny sprouts of young weeds in the yard (prickly sow thistle, dandelions, catsear), but these have been more of supplementary than the main course.

Nevertheless, Spike's been putting on them grams and is currently at 98.02 grams! It's quite a change from when we first got him!

December 2017
December 8, 2017.jpg

July 2018
July 21, 2018.jpg
 

RosemaryDW

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Currently, the weed stock in Orange County is minimal because of weather, time of year, etc.,
I’m surprised you can find anything. We have prickly lettuce that’s well on its way to seed and the bristly ox-tongue that never seems to die. But she won’t eat it this time of year.

It’s been super random here. I was out of town and it seems my husband put out half of a head of frisée per day! He was also brought home an enormous bundle of pumpkin leaves. Today he noticed she prefers the leaves so cut off the stems and tossed them. Lol.

He has really thrown himself into feeding, after realizing she had eaten half the buckwheats we’ve been carefully raising. “Wow, I guess you were right about that.” (Ha, of course I’m right. I’m always right!)

It’s like having a goat; everything gets carefully nipped down to the ground. She leaves just enough that the plants can sustain themselves and grow back. This is one of her yarrow grazing patches, the other yarrow behind is left to grow. (The now caged off buckwheat is on the upper left.)

BD85B107-2463-4D7E-9D31-30B24D456665.jpeg

After a season of hand watering and sun, we’ve finally had a little luck with the testudo mix I threw out in the winter. Carrots are “Blech,” as is dill. Fine with me, I love dill. Something in the yard must like chia. I’ve never seen her interested but none has ever grown more than four leaves before it’s gone.
 

trickspiration

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I’m surprised you can find anything. We have prickly lettuce that’s well on its way to seed and the bristly ox-tongue that never seems to die. But she won’t eat it this time of year.

It’s been super random here. I was out of town and it seems my husband put out half of a head of frisée per day! He was also brought home an enormous bundle of pumpkin leaves. Today he noticed she prefers the leaves so cut off the stems and tossed them. Lol.

He has really thrown himself into feeding, after realizing she had eaten half the buckwheats we’ve been carefully raising. “Wow, I guess you were right about that.” (Ha, of course I’m right. I’m always right!)

It’s like having a goat; everything gets carefully nipped down to the ground. She leaves just enough that the plants can sustain themselves and grow back. This is one of her yarrow grazing patches, the other yarrow behind is left to grow. (The now caged off buckwheat is on the upper left.)

View attachment 245833

After a season of hand watering and sun, we’ve finally had a little luck with the testudo mix I threw out in the winter. Carrots are “Blech,” as is dill. Fine with me, I love dill. Something in the yard must like chia. I’ve never seen her interested but none has ever grown more than four leaves before it’s gone.
That spread looks like it would make a lot of tortoises happy! Alas, we have a few bundles of dandelions here and there, but it's very sparingly present.
 

RosemaryDW

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The tortoise has become a little fixated on vines and for some reason I got it into my head she’s a little short on calcium right now. I’m pretty sure that’s not at all the case but the thought stuck. I got to the farmers market late and the pickings were slim. I found some leaves marked as okra that I am pretty sure were sourleaf (related). I also bought (human) turnips, which meant calcium-rich leaves for her! She’s a little iffy on sourleaf so I bought a little sweet potato leaf on my way out. Finally, I bought some pumpkin blossoms. I was planning to stuff them with cheese and fry them but bought a big handful, figuring she’d get any of the duds.

I was on my way to another appointment so just jammed everything into the fridge until the next day. At which point I realized I’d put the bag into the coldest part of the fridge and frozen most of the okra/sourleaf. If you’ve been wondering if frozen, defrosted mallow leaves are still edible, she was happy to eat them. But the stems were also floppy, which meant she couldn’t easily rip leaves off. I noticed her getting “stuck” on a few of stems when she couldn’t get a clean bite. I’m sure she would have been okay but tossed them to be on the safe side.

Turns out I froze about half of the sweet potato greens and a good portion of the turnip greens as well. You name it I froze it this week. :oops:

I salvaged what I could, including some radish stems from last week that were still fine. She will get most of the squash blossoms.

I saw something interesting this week: wing beans. They look about ready to take off. These things apparently put the soybean to shame: all parts can be eaten, by everyone and everything! Higher in protein! She got two, also frozen and sad.

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There is a frilly head of dill in there; I just wanted to see what would happened as they smell so strong. Surprisingly she ate about a third of it. I sure hope someone out there had less of a food fail this week than me.

289B9A21-EF45-4F6F-A935-877299FB527B.jpeg
 

RosemaryDW

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Another super hot week, I’ve been working late and on Saturday, then our air conditioning broke. :confused:

I’m truly a hot mess and barely made it to the Trader Joe’s by my house. I bought bags of endive, brussels sprouts, and cut up butternut squash, planning to chuck out a few each morning. I’ve noticed lately than our most experienced members feed more “orange” foods than I do; foods high in Vitamin A. She’ll get a few cubes and then I’m going to try freezing them, which I’ve also noticed folks doing. We’ll see how she likes the defrosted ones.

Husband of the Year (HOTY) went to the farmers market on his own to buy some bittermelon vines. The tortoise-loving lady at that stall noticed him and plucked out a bag of imperfect greens. We got quite a bit of gai lan, a Chinese broccoli that has the familar thick stems of the broccoli we know but is otherwise mostly leaves; radish leaves; and carrot tops. She told him she feeds quite a bit of carrot tops to her hermit crabs. Who knew they ate that kind of stuff? But I suppose crabs will eat anything.

Adila is not the biggest fan of gai lan, or any broccoli, really. She’ll eat the leaves but has zero interest in the stems so I’ll probably make them into broccoli slaw.

In the yard she is an eating machine! She’s getting into things she usually only eats in the spring, when she’ll eat anything. Heuchera (Coral Bells); leaves of our tacoma stans; catsear. Some dead leaves, some dirt. She’s devastated the wild strawberries. The primroses are dying out but she eats what she can find; the wild snapdragon; more yarrow. She even gave the red flowers on my slippers a try!

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She’s not really putting on weight, she’s a marching, eating, and pooping machine.

No food pictures this week; as you can see from the slippers, I’m still barely moving. o_O
 

Yvonne G

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I thought I might add a few words about what and how I feed my group. I have a big, green, plastic bushel basket type container that I use to mix up the greens.

food tub.jpg

I start with a big bag of Santa Barbara Salad (endive, escarole, radicchio), a small bag of either turnip greens or collard greens, one bag/bunch novelty greens (usually something asian), OR bell pepper, OR broccoli. I always add a head of romaine and a head of green leaf lettuce. Then I go outside and cut any edible weeds I can find (usually sparse this time of year) and a bunch of mulberry leaves and grape leaves. I cut the larger things up into 3 or 4" squares just to make it easier to mix it all together, then I reach in with both hands and mix it all up. I occasionally use zucchini and cucumber too.

feeding tub.jpg

Two or three times a week I add moistened Mazuri Tortoise Diet OR Purina Layer Pellets and I'll sprinkle some dried moringa leaves in too. I also use occasionally hibiscus tea to color the food red. I can't use Mazuri or Purina too often because there are red ants here and if the tortoises don't hurry up and eat those items, it draws the ants.

I feed two kinds of leopards, Manouria, YF, RF, desert tortoises, Texas tortoises, Russian tortoises, radiated tortoises and one very large sulcata. All of these animals, except for the RF, YF and Manouria, have grass and weeds growing in their yards, so they really don't need me to feed them very much, as they can graze, and they do graze.

My baby tortoises (leopards, YF, desert, Texas) all get this same food, but I chop it up into much smaller pieces for the babies. For any baby box turtles or the YF that I have in the house, I mix in a small amount of fruit and canned cat food to this same greens/veggie mixture. I start out all my baby box turtles eating this greens/veggie/cat food mixture, and if I ever skip a day of cat food, the babies still eat the greens.

I pretty much said all this on the very first page of this thread, but was asked to post again to keep the thread current.
 
Joined
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England
I thought I might add a few words about what and how I feed my group. I have a big, green, plastic bushel basket type container that I use to mix up the greens.

View attachment 247362

I start with a big bag of Santa Barbara Salad (endive, escarole, radicchio), a small bag of either turnip greens or collard greens, one bag/bunch novelty greens (usually something asian), OR bell pepper, OR broccoli. I always add a head of romaine and a head of green leaf lettuce. Then I go outside and cut any edible weeds I can find (usually sparse this time of year) and a bunch of mulberry leaves and grape leaves. I cut the larger things up into 3 or 4" squares just to make it easier to mix it all together, then I reach in with both hands and mix it all up. I occasionally use zucchini and cucumber too.

View attachment 247364

Two or three times a week I add moistened Mazuri Tortoise Diet OR Purina Layer Pellets and I'll sprinkle some dried moringa leaves in too. I also use occasionally hibiscus tea to color the food red. I can't use Mazuri or Purina too often because there are red ants here and if the tortoises don't hurry up and eat those items, it draws the ants.

I feed two kinds of leopards, Manouria, YF, RF, desert tortoises, Texas tortoises, Russian tortoises, radiated tortoises and one very large sulcata. All of these animals, except for the RF, YF and Manouria, have grass and weeds growing in their yards, so they really don't need me to feed them very much, as they can graze, and they do graze.

My baby tortoises (leopards, YF, desert, Texas) all get this same food, but I chop it up into much smaller pieces for the babies. For any baby box turtles or the YF that I have in the house, I mix in a small amount of fruit and canned cat food to this same greens/veggie mixture. I start out all my baby box turtles eating this greens/veggie/cat food mixture, and if I ever skip a day of cat food, the babies still eat the greens.

I pretty much said all this on the very first page of this thread, but was asked to post again to keep the thread current.
Can I trust "Grow Your Own Tortoise Food" kits?
 

RosemaryDW

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Can I trust "Grow Your Own Tortoise Food" kits?
Welcome @MaxisMYtortoise!

The Chef thread is where we talk about what we are feeding right now. The best place to ask about what is safe/good to feed or how to grow it is to create a new thread of your own in the general diet section. It will get the most attention and answers there.

Since you are in the UK be sure to mention that in your post; the seed options available there are good, just different from what we can get in the United States.
 

Mizcreant

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Fed Ghost a mix of escarole, dandelion greens, and wheat grass with crushed Mazuri sprinkled over it this morning. Had the entire thing devoured in about 15 minutes. He absolutely loved it. Gonna start introducing some dried flowers into his diet on Sunday.
 

RosemaryDW

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Finally! It’s not so hot or humid.

I bought some young celtuce to feed over the weekend; it doesn’t take any heat very well but since we’re around the house we can put it out just before she wakes up and goes to bed.

She’ll get a few bites of okra and I found some nice sow thistles.

It’s that time of year when people are begging you to take zucchini off their hands and I scored some stems with immature fruits and a few flowers. I do not know what the deal is with this tortoise. I am pretty sure zucchini is her absolute favorite food; she charges for it. But she does not care for the plant itself. The primary stems are pretty woody but there are plenty of young stems and leaves to go around.

I want this girl to eat squash, darnit! Sure, she gets plenty of bittermelon but melon and squash are not the exact same plant family. I finally pull out the cucumber tactic: grate some and coat a stem good and well with it.

It worked! Hopefully she’ll develop a real taste for it. Healthy, accessible, FREE! What’s not to love, unless you’re a stubborn tortoise. :mad:

45483296-B3A9-42D3-AF34-A64975B61848.jpeg
 

Moozillion

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I have an Eastern Mud Turtle (Kinosternon subrubrum hippocrepis).

Her regular food is earthworms! I dig them out of my pesticide-free garden during warm weather, but will be starting vermicomposting red wigglers very soon to make sure she gets them in the winter, too; AND to make sure the worms are well fed on lots of healthy stuff, including calcium. :)

Her favorite food is sushi grade raw salmon! But that can only be an occasional treat since it is NOT nutritionally balanced.
Other treats include raw catfish, but only VERY occasionally because it contains significant amount of thiaminase, which blocks absorption of B vitamins.

There are other things she COULD eat, but is too picky and turns up her nose: gut loaded crickets, gut loaded super worms and frozen blood worms.
 

helosoldier66

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Mar 1, 2018
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Southern Alabama
Currently have Russians and Redfoot

The Russians have 2 enclosures with the following plants growing inside -
Banana trees - Won't eat
Fountain grass - Won't eat
Creeping charlie - only have eaten lightly
Begonias - will eat some to the ground and not others, all planted at the same time and all the same color red
Aloe - will eat it to the ground I had to cage it off to prevent that
Carrot - haven't eaten
Hibiscus - love the flowers but won't eat the leaves
Polka Dot plant - only have eaten lightly
Monkey grass - only have eaten lightly
variegated Monkey grass - Won't eat
Spider plant - eaten to the ground
St. Augustine grass - have only seen eating this once
Grape vine - haven't eaten it
Gerbera daisies - Won't eat
Day lilly - Won't eat
Dracaena Spike - Won't eat
Dahlias- only have eaten lightly
Marigold - Ate this earlier in the spring but haven't seemed to eat it for 2 months
Zinnia - Won't eat
Petunia - ate these to the ground and haven't grown back
Pansy - ate these to the ground and haven't grown back
Red Coleus - haven't eaten
Green Coleus - only have eaten lightly and only in the last month
Kale - ate these to the ground and haven't grown back

There are a couple other flowers and herbs that have grown from seeds I threw in the enclosure but I don't remember the names, I may have identified them on the edible plant list I posted but don't remember.

I have also tried Kudzu leaves but they wouldn't eat them

There are numerous weeds that I used to see growing in this area but no longer seem to live past sprouting, spurge and dandelions. They will not eat a thistle or nutsedge. The Russians don't seem to be interested in grass type plants much and prefer large leaves, flowers, and succulents.

I supplement their enclosure plants with collard greens, turnip greens, mustard greens, radishes (they love the radish not just the greens), sliced sweet potatoes, green beans, cactus pads, cucumber, Mazuri tortoise food, squash, carrot, tomatoes, mushrooms, kale, corn on the cob, cantaloupe.
 

RosemaryDW

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Tried something I’ve been interested in for a while: stem celtuce. Celtuce is a lettuce cultivar that is grown primarily for the stem. Younger plants are eaten whole along with the leaves and that’s usually what I see at our farmers market; the large stems I’ve seen at our Asian grocers have been very large and too pricy for one little tortoise. This week I finally saw some good sized stems; they were $2.50 each so I took one home.

When I first sliced it open, it was a bit sticky, with flesh similar to a cucumber but firmer. The outer stem was pretty fibrous so I cut it in half to make sure she could get a grasp on it.

E999B97E-B163-4286-9FE9-FA02EB2E3755.jpeg

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Success.

A6E80559-1702-4C53-8D56-63778013FB98.jpeg

She’s still enjoying roses and our tacoma stans bush so she got good amounts of both when we trimmed them back this week. Also a few bok choy and some arugula.
 

Mizcreant

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Tried something I’ve been interested in for a while: stem celtuce. Celtuce is a lettuce cultivar that is grown primarily for the stem. Younger plants are eaten whole along with the leaves and that’s usually what I see at our farmers market; the large stems I’ve seen at our Asian grocers have been very large and too pricy for one little tortoise. This week I finally saw some good sized stems; they were $2.50 each so I took one home.

When I first sliced it open, it was a bit sticky, with flesh similar to a cucumber but firmer. The outer stem was pretty fibrous so I cut it in half to make sure she could get a grasp on it.

View attachment 250454

View attachment 250451


Success.

View attachment 250452

She’s still enjoying roses and our tacoma stans bush so she got good amounts of both when we trimmed them back this week. Also a few bok choy and some arugula.
Been looking for something different. Have to pick up a stalk for Ghost and see how he likes it.
 

helosoldier66

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Do you feed anything not on the list I made? I will add the Tacoma Stans. The Bok Choy is not listed but falls under cabbage so I will change the listing to specify Bok Choy. Bok Choy is listed on the tortoise table as "In Moderation" do yours eat much? I have noticed that the Table is very cautious. Unless it says "Don't Feed" I just use it as a general guide.
 

RosemaryDW

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Do you feed anything not on the list I made? I will add the Tacoma Stans. The Bok Choy is not listed but falls under cabbage so I will change the listing to specify Bok Choy. Bok Choy is listed on the tortoise table as "In Moderation" do yours eat much? I have noticed that the Table is very cautious. Unless it says "Don't Feed" I just use it as a general guide.
Hmm, your list is pretty big. I am sure I feed some things not on it, though. I will PM you a list of what she ate last year that I kept track of. She ate other stuff this year but they are reflected in this thread.

I do feed more brassicas than some. If you read the article on Russian diet in the wild, you see they eat quite a bit of them. https://tortoiseforum.org/threads/article-steppe-tortoise-diet-in-the-wild.30230/. They also eat a ton of ranuculus, mostly buttercups; ranunculas are a big “No” in the Tortoise Table. Many UK testudo owners let their tortoises eat buttercups. I would, too but we don’t have a native one in my area. They also eat a ton of poppies, another huge “No.” Another food I would feed but don’t have access to.

You will have noticed I am a casual feeder. I read what the Tortoise Table has to say but don’t consider it a bible. I do a lot of searching here, to see how other owners feed certain foods. I also track down plant information from lists I find on feeding wild gopher and desert tortoises, thinking their diet is closer to a testudo diet than other species. Tacoma Stans is an important food source for desert tortoises, for example.

My primary point is I wouldn’t necessarily suggest everything I feed is universally acceptable.
 

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