Thursday, November 19, 2015

Vegetable Feature: Sweet Potatoes

by Lisa Garvalia
Sweet Potato Harvest
Sweet potatoes, the sweet vegetable that you don’t have to feel guilty eating! Sweet potatoes are a great source for our daily nutritional needs. They are packed full of beta-carotene, calcium, potassium, iron, Vitamin A and Vitamin C. They are cholesterol free, have no saturated fats and are full of antioxidants. Oh, and did I mention they are sweet and delicious as well?

So, how does the sweet potato get that delicious sweet flavor?  Choosing the right variety of sweet potato, good soil, adequate watering and close monitoring during the growing season are all necessary to get the best tasting sweet potato. After the sweet potatoes are dug and brought in from the field, they are immediately put in the greenhouse and left to cure. The curing process is what changes the starch in the sweet potato to sugar and also ‘toughens’ up the skin so they can be easily handled and have a longer storage potential. The greenhouse is kept at a constant temperature of 85-90 degrees with the humidity level being the same and the process takes up to 7-10 days.

Sweet Potatoes Curing in the Greenhouse
Sweet potatoes do store well and they get better with age. The ideal storage for sweet potatoes, because of the high sugar content, is 55-60 degrees. Keep them in a dry, dark, well ventilated area. Sweet potatoes are sensitive to colder temperatures so keeping them at or above the suggested temperatures is best. If you do find spots on your sweet potatoes during storage it is a good idea to cook and freeze them if you are unable to eat them right away.

Sweet potatoes are very versatile when choosing how to cook them. They pair well with a variety of ingredients including apples, oranges, coconut, cranberries and limes. Common spices used with sweet potatoes include cumin, coriander, chilies, thyme, rosemary, chili powder, curry powder and more. If you want to keep it basic you can simply place a sweet potato in the oven and bake until tender. Cut it open and add butter, salt and pepper, or keep it in the fridge for a simple left-over, just warm and serve.

Best Whipped Sweet Potatoes with Caramelized Apples

Yield:  6 servings
3 pounds sweet potatoes
3 Tbsp unsalted butter, divided
2 Tbsp heavy cream
½ cup applesauce
2 tsp grated fresh ginger
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
2 apples, peeled & cored
3 Tbsp sugar
  1. Preheat oven to 375°F.  Place sweet potatoes on a parchment-lined baking sheet;  pierce each several times with a fork.  Bake until very tender when pierced with a knife, about 50 minutes.  Remove from oven;  let cool slightly.
  2. Cut open potatoes;  scoop flesh into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (may also use a food processor).  Add 2 Tbsp butter and the cream, and beat until smooth.  Add applesauce and ginger;  beat to combine.  Season with salt and pepper.
  3. Transfer sweet potato mixture to an ovenproof serving dish.  Place in oven until heated through, 10 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, cut the apples into 1-inch pieces.  Melt remaining butter in a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat.  Add apples and sugar;  saute until golden and nicely caramelized, about 8 minutes.  Remove from the heat.  
  5. Remove serving dish from oven and top with caramelized apples.  Serve immediately.

Recipe sourced from Martha Stewart Living Annual Recipes 2003.

Sweet Potato Rolls

Yield:  20 rolls
¼ cup warm water
1 envelope active dry yeast (1 scant Tbsp)
1 cup milk
⅓ cup unsalted butter
½ cup sugar
1 ½ Tbsp coarse salt
1 tsp ground cardamom
2 cups cooked sweet potatoes (about 2 medium)
1 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 large egg, lightly beaten
7 cups sifted all-purpose flour
Vegetable oil, for bowl
Melted butter, for brushing
  1. Place the warm water in a small bowl and sprinkle with yeast. Let stand until yeast is dissolved and mixture is foamy.
  2. In a small saucepan, heat milk over medium heat just until it begins to steam and bubble around the sides. Remove from heat; add the butter, and stir until melted and combined. Stir in sugar, salt and cardamom. Let cool slightly.
  3. Combine sweet potatoes and lemon juice in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment; beat until smooth, 2 to 3 minutes. Beat in egg, and the milk and yeast mixtures until smooth.
  4. Switch to the dough-hook attachment. Add flour, 1 cup at a time, beating until dough forms. Continue kneading dough on medium speed until smooth, about 8 minutes. The dough will be slightly sticky.
  5. Transfer dough to large oiled bowl. Cover with a clean kitchen towel, and let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.
  6. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper; set aside. Punch down dough and turn onto a clean work surface. Knead again with your hands, just until smooth. Using a bench scraper or sharp knife, cut dough into 20 equal pieces, and shape into round rolls.
  7. Place rolls on prepared baking sheet, about 2 inches apart; cover with a clean kitchen towel, and let rise again in a warm place until double in bulk, about 40 minutes.
  8. Using kitchen scissors or a sharp paring knife, snip an X in the top of each roll. Brush tops with melted butter. Bake until tops of rolls are golden, about 20 minutes, rotating pan halfway through. Transfer to a wire rack to cool slightly.
Note:  Excellent served with the Cranberry Maple Butter recipe featured in our fruit newsletter on November 22, 2014.

Recipe sourced from Martha Stewart Living Annual Recipes 2003.

Thanksgiving Dinner...Time to Plan the Menu!

by Andrea Yoder
Apple Cranberry Pie-recipe in this week's fruit newsletter
I’ve always enjoyed Thanksgiving, even going back to my childhood.  We used to spend Thanksgiving day at home and then celebrated with my mother’s family the weekend after Thanksgiving.  I liked this arrangement as it meant we got to enjoy not one but two Thanksgiving dinners!  As soon as I was able to start cooking on my own, I wanted to contribute to the meal.  By the time I reached junior high I was making the whole meal by myself.  I’d line up my recipes a week in advance in anticipation of the big day.  We enjoyed some traditional favorites—turkey, mashed potatoes & gravy, molded cranberry jelly, etc.  Like many families, we had a few specialty dishes that our family always had on the table.  My mother was known for her delicious yeast rolls as well as her runny blueberry pie and Grandma B always had to have at least one Jello salad and prune dressing (trust me…it’s actually really good).  Grandma Yoder always made her famous squash pie and turkey & noodles.  There were some formative years as I was learning to cook when I decided to experiment with my skills a bit….and not every dish turned out to be what I imagined it might be.  There was the year I decided I would try a new recipe for a pumpkin pie…all by myself.  Needless to say I hadn’t yet mastered the art of pie crust.  I made a pie crust that was so hard we had to cut it with a chisel….literally!  The filling was delicious, so the pie wasn’t a total loss and we all got a good laugh.

Beauty Heart Radish
As I grew up and left home, the holidays changed and there were years when I had to work on Thanksgiving or was too far from home.  I often spent the holiday celebrating with friends and was exposed to others’ traditions, family dishes, etc.  This was a whole new perspective for me and reminded me that it’s not so much the dishes on the table, but the people you spend it with and the memories you make.  One memorable Thanksgiving I spent the day with a group of college students.  Our mentor, Theresa, invited us to her home for Thanksgiving dinner and we all brought something to contribute.  I’ll be honest with you, I can’t remember what we ate because the lasting memory from that meal is that we laughed so hard our stomachs were sore and we accidentally set the table decorations on fire while passing the dishes family style!

Orange Kuri Squash
While I continue to hold onto some of those lasting traditions, new ideas have crept into the mix from time to time.  Inspired by vegetables or ideas from other people, I’ve learned that Thanksgiving is a celebration of a bountiful harvest and the possibilities for your menu are endless!  Whether you decide to stick to the old traditions, alter them with some updates, or go totally off the deep end and change things up completely, I’d encourage you to have fun along the way.  Embrace the bounty we have to enjoy….14 vegetables in this week’s box alone!  There are so many different things you can make….and that’s what makes the meal interesting and fun to cook in the company of friends and family.

This week's abundant CSA box!
With less than a week remaining to plan your culinary creations for the holiday, we thought it might be fun to highlight a few of our favorite recipes from our own archives utilizing the vegetables and fruits in your shares this week.  Maybe you’ll find some inspiration from these recipes or will give one of them a try this year.  I’ve cited the newsletter where the recipe was originally printed (all were from vegetable newsletters unless otherwise noted).  They can all be found on our website in our newsletter archives or in our searchable recipe database.  We’d love to see what you decide to cook for your Thanksgiving dinner.  If you have a minute to send us your menu, recipes or a picture of your creation, we’d love to have a glimpse into your holiday.
Happy Thanksgiving from all of us at HVF!

Creamy Gratin of Celeriac, Parsnip & Potato (December 20, 2008)
Parsnips with Brown Butter, Pecans & Maple Syrup (April 24, 2014)
Cranberry Maple Butter (November 22, 2014—fruit newsletter)
Cranberry Sauce with Dates & Orange (December 20, 2014—fruit newsletter)
Beauty Heart Radishes with Sour Cream Dressing & Poppy Seeds (January 12, 2013)
Grandma Yoder’s Squash Pie (September 29, 2007)
Ginger-Coconut Sweet Potatoes (November 9, 2013)
Brussels Sprouts with Ginger & Cranberries (October 31, 2014)
Crushed Potatoes with Cream & Garlic (July 18, 2015)
Creamy Horseradish Beets (November 17, 2007)
Celeriac & Apple Salad (September 1, 2007)

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Wrapping Up the Harvest

Jack enjoys the parsnip harvest
Hello Everyone!  This is Captain Jack (The Dog) reporting to you from the passenger’s seat of our mobile “Command Central”, aka Farmer Richard’s truck.  Dad and I have been doing a lot of driving over the past few weeks.   We seldom leave the valley, but we visit a lot of fields in the course of the day.  Fall is a very busy time of the year for us.  Many people think we’re winding down, but we actually still have a lot of work to do!  This has been a great fall for us in many ways.  Dad remembers having 3 feet of snow on October 31 back in 1989 or 1990.  Personally, I like snow and wouldn’t mind that, but the rest of the humans on the farm don’t seem as ready for the winter wonderland as I am.   We have harvested our horseradish, selected seed stock for next year and are almost done planting next year’s crop.  We dug and selected seed for next year’s sunchokes which are also all planted.  Of course, we have also planted our garlic and about half of it has already been mulched to keep it safe during the winter!

Jack in the truck
“Global warming” has been a blessing and a challenge this year.  We’ve had a warm fall with temperatures in September (4°F) and October (3°F) and above normal averages.  We all enjoy being able to feel our fingers as we work, and in that way we’re grateful for the warmer temperatures.  The downside of the warmer days is that crops are coming in ahead of schedule.  Turnips, radishes, etc. are sizing up faster than normal resulting in some things getting too big.  We like to “store” crops in the field and harvest as late as possible, but that just isn’t an option with some of the plantings this year.  While larger roots are entirely edible and of good quality, buyers won’t accept them thus they remain in the field and are unsaleable.

We get pretty nervous this time of year.  In addition to the temperatures, Dad’s also keeping his eye on moisture.  Last week we had 2.3 inches of rain which put a stop to our mechanical harvest.  Thankfully the ground was pretty dry and the 2.3 inches of rain soaked easily into very dry soil.  We were back in the field Monday morning, despite the ground still being a little wet.  We couldn’t wait though…we’re in a race against time with rain forecasted for this Thursday!  That means we have 3 days to maximize the harvest before we might be forced out of the field again.  Our goal is 120 more bins of vegetables this week averaging 600# per bin.  That’s 36 tons of vegetables to harvest in 3 days!  Wait…there’s one other challenge that’s part of this picture.  We’re nearly out of cooler space and bins!  We trim & wash vegetables every day to empty bins and send them back to the fields to get reloaded.  Nonetheless, we’re getting pretty slim on storage space and while Dad’s fretting in the fields, Mom (Andrea) is fretting in the packing shed.  Mom is trained as a chef and was taught to face challenges in the kitchen with no option other than to find a solution.  Sometimes I hear her telling herself “Make it happen Chef.”  Somehow it will work out, but in the meantime there’s an intense game of “Cooler Tetris” going on!  Right now we have our fingers crossed that we’ll get as much harvested as we can before the rain starts again and we’re hoping we don’t get as much as last week.

Captain Jack supervises the celeriac harvest
In looking at the long range forecast (several times a day), we know that the temperatures are going to drop eventually.  Next week they’re forecasting temperatures in the twenties.  Temperatures this low could spell the end for many crops unless we have covers in place!  Double covers with hoops to hold the cover above the plants work well to about 20-25°F.  We have already had some touches of frost and have covers in place for our remaining greens, parsley, etc.  Unfortunately they are a management challenge as they need to be removed on warm and wet days or we risk mildew setting in on the plants.

So, as you can see we are doing a bit of a “song & dance” around weather as we race against time to get everything harvested and tucked away safely in storage before winter sets in.  HVF has long been ahead of the times in supporting and encouraging “seasonal eating” throughout the winter.  Root and storage crops are an important part of our winter diet and are intended to last in storage until spring.  This is the way the settlers ate in the 1800’s and for those who are committed to eating a local Midwestern diet year-round, these late season crops are essential.  According to Mom & Dad’s estimates, we have a lot of food available to our members and customers over the next several months.  In fact, we still have Extended Season Vegetable shares available for our January deliveries.  Our sign-ups for this share are the lowest they’ve been in years, which is a bit concerning for us.  We’re hoping you just forgot to sign up for this share and if that’s the case, please send your order in soon!  If we don’t see better participation for January deliveries we’re going to have to consider discontinuing these deliveries as the economics and realities of running a truck in January just don’t balance out with the value of product on the truck.

Well, it’s Wednesday morning and we have to get our crew plans pulled together for the day.  I have another big day of hauling vegetables with my Dad, Farmer Richard.  I better eat my breakfast and brush my hair so I’m ready to go at 8 am when the crew heads to the field.  I hope you enjoy the bounty of this week’s box!  Captain Jack “The Dog” signing off.

Vegetable Feature: Brussels Sprouts

by Sarah Janes Ugoretz

Let’s face it: a lot of people love to hate Brussels sprouts. Visions of boiled-to-death, pale green, cabbage-like morsels just don’t seem appetizing—and indeed, when prepared that way, they become sulfurous and objectively unpleasant to eat, but it’s not their fault! And so, this week, we’re giving Brussels sprouts the attention they deserve as they are one of our personal farm favorites.

As a member of the cruciferae family, Brussels sprouts are towards the top of the list when it comes to neat ways in which vegetables grow. Their spherical heads cover a long, tall stalk and are produced from the leaf axils starting at the bottom of the stem and running upwards. Large, billowy leaves rise from the top of the stalk and essentially feed the plant to increase the likelihood of a healthy harvest.

At our market stand, we’re often faced with customers eager for the first round of Brussels sprouts each fall. However, it is really Mother Nature who dictates when our first harvest will be. Our sprouts need a good frost or two in order to increase their sugar content and really enhance the flavor—the same is true for the frost-sweetened, overwintered spinach we’ll have when we return to the stand in the spring.

In the kitchen, Brussels sprouts need to be treated with care. Raw, they boast a sweet, mild cabbage-y flavor, but when cooked their sweetness is further concentrated and they take on a wonderful, nutty flavor. Depending on your cravings, you can roast, blanch, sauté or braise your sprouts. The key is to cook them to the point of tenderness, not mushiness! One of the enjoyable culinary traits of Brussels sprouts is their ability to take on bold ingredients. They pair nicely with nuts, balsamic vinegar and bacon. One of my favorite ways to prepare them is to toss halved, roasted sprouts with Dijon mustard and honey. They can, however, be eaten raw. Shredding their tender innards into a hash, salad or pasta dish is a creative and delicious way to prepare them. When you’re ready to prep your Brussels sprouts, remove the dry part of the stem at the base of each sprout. You can also remove some of the loose outer leaves. Now either leave your sprouts whole, halve or quarter them or shred them.

Store your Brussels sprouts in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to a week. As they age, your sprouts will lose their sweetness and moisture, so use them in a timely manner. Nutritionally, this delicious vegetable will get you a high dose of vitamins A and C, along with a decent amount of iron.

Shredded Brussels Sprouts & Apples

Serves 2-3 as a main dish or 4 as a side dish
1 large, crisp apple, cut into bite-sized wedges
1 lemon, juice only
4 oz extra-firm tofu cut into tiny-inch cubes
A couple pinches of fine-grain sea salt
A couple splashes of olive oil
2 medium cloves garlic, minced
A Scant Tbsp of maple syrup
⅓ cup pine nuts, toasted and chopped
12 ounces Brussels sprouts, washed and cut into ⅛–inch wide ribbons

  1. Soak the apples in a bowl filled with water and the juice of one lemon.
  2. Cook the tofu in large hot skillet with a bit of salt and a splash of oil.  Sauté until golden, about 4 minutes.  Stir in the garlic, wait a few seconds, now stir in the maple syrup, and cook another 30 seconds or so.  Drain the apples and add them to the skillet, cooking for another minute. Scrape the apple and tofu mixture out onto a plate and set aside while you cook the Brussels sprouts.
  3. In the same pan, add a touch more oil, another pinch of salt and dial the heat up to medium-high.  When the pan is nice and hot stir in the shredded Brussels sprouts.  Cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring a couple times (but not too often) until you get some golden bits and the rest of the sprouts are bright and delicious.  Stir the apple mixture back into the skillet alongside the Brussels sprouts and half of the pine nuts—gently stir to combine.  
  4. Remove from heat and enjoy immediately sprinkled with the remaining pine nuts.  This isn’t a dish you want sitting around, the flavors change dramatically after ten minutes or so, and I think that is part of the reason Brussels sprouts get a bad rap. 

Recipe featured on by Heidi Swanson

Kale & Brussels Sprout Salad

Serves 4-5
2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
½ Tbsp minced shallot or onions
1 small garlic clove, finely grated
⅛ tsp kosher salt plus more as needed for seasoning
Freshly ground black pepper
1 bunch lacinato kale, center stem discarded, leaves thinly sliced
6 oz Brussels sprouts, trimmed, finely grated or shredded with a knife
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided
⅓ cup almonds, coarsely chopped
1 cup finely grated Pecorino

  1. Combine lemon juice, Dijon mustard, shallot, garlic, ¼ tsp salt and a pinch of pepper in a small bowl.  Stir to blend; set aside to let flavors meld.  Mix thinly sliced kale and shredded Brussels sprouts in a large bowl.
  2. Measure ¼ cup oil into a cup.  Spoon 1 Tbsp oil from cup into a small skillet; heat oil over medium-high heat.  Add almonds to skillet and stir frequently until gold brown in spots, about 2 minutes.  Transfer nuts to a paper towel-lined plate.  Sprinkle almonds lightly with salt.
  3. Slowly whisk remaining olive oil in cup into lemon-juice mixture.  Season dressing to taste with salt and pepper.
  4. Add dressing and cheese to kale mixture; toss to coat.  Season lightly with salt and pepper.  Garnish with almonds.

Recipe sourced from Bon Appetit magazine, November 2011.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Fall Flashback

Captain Jack The Dog Assists with Bulldozing
This is the time of year we start working more intensively on our fall “projects.”  In the field this often means clearing away brush and trees, cleaning up field perimeters, moving brush piles, etc.  Regardless of the work, there’s usually a task or two that require the assistance of our bulldozer.  We were reminiscing about this time of year recently and Richard remembered this article where we featured Vern & Ole—the original dozer operators who taught Richard everything he knows about bulldozing.  

This week’s article was originally featured in our newsletter on October 30, 2004.  Richard still has fond memories of working with Vern & Ole.  In fact, just a few years ago we cleared some land and excavated a site to build our house.  Who did Richard call to do the work?  Richard coaxed Vern out of retirement to excavate the house site…just to make sure it was done right.  We always knew Vern was here when we heard the hum of the dozer…as early as 5:30 am!  Vern, now in his 80’s, wanted to get his work done in the cool of the day.  Ole lives and works on a neighbor’s dairy farm.  As you can see, these two gentlemen have embraced the slower pace of retirement.  We hope you enjoy this little trip down memory lane.

—Richard & Andrea

Lessons From Vern & Ole

There is never a dull moment here at Harmony Valley.  Instead of winding down, in the fall we wind UP! We rush to stay ahead of the weather and to get all of our stored roots in before the ground freezes or the crops get damaged from the cold.  This fall has been very cooperative.  Mostly dry days and mostly above freezing temperatures have meant that we could keep the harvest coming.  The coolers are full, we have rented more refrigerated semi-trailers for storage than in past years, and we are ahead of schedule!

But, we have managed to fill up any spare time we might have had with our building projects.  First, we planned a machine shed to keep our more expensive equipment out of the elements and to have adequate space in which to repair them.  Then next to it we will build another greenhouse.  Our existing greenhouses have been too small for years now.  After a couple of drawings and sittings with Richard’s transit we were reminded that there’s very little level land on this farm that we don’t plant to crops.  We’d have to move some dirt from the upside to the down side to make a flat building site.  That’s where Vern and Ole come in.

Vern and Ole are originals.  They have lived in Vernon County for more years than we have memories.  Both should be retired, but neither have seemed to have heard the word.  Vern has been dozing so long that he can remember when he worked on constructing the first airstrips for O’Hare Field.  Knowing their reputations, we called on them for some advice and for their professional skills operating heavy equipment.

Vern and Ole both show up at first light.  They take no lunch break and you know they are around because there is a constant hum of diesel motors and clinking of dozer track.  In a few short days they transformed our hillside and pasture to the north of our yard into a flat, open space.  And the future machine shed and greenhouse across the road have an equally level home marked by stakes and pink ribbons.
     When Richard watches Vern and Ole work their magic with big machines, he stands transfixed.  At first he maybe didn’t understand quite how skilled they were.  Vern took a look at the site, with the fence, some tall, scruffy box elders and cottonwoods and Derek’s (summer farm chef) humble trailer home.  We all agreed, the fence would be removed, then the trees would come down.  But, Vern didn’t think the trailer would have to move at all. There stood Richard, eyes moving from the tops of the trees to the little white camper sitting just yards away, skepticism written all over his face.  Before long Derek was toting his stuff out of the trailer and Brian was pulling it to the other side of the yard.  NO FAITH!  By early afternoon the trees were gone, off in a pile, and the empty spot that had once been the camper’s location remained unscathed, not even a branch or twig rested nearby.  Lesson one had been learned.

For the next couple of days Vern and Ole teamed up; Vern on the seat of the dozer shaving off the hill, and Ole scooping up the dirt with a giant end loader, moving it across the road.  Then Vern began the tedious job of leveling the dirt Ole had hauled.  That’s when Richard learned lesson two.  Years of operating the dozer gave Vern an instinctive eye that really didn’t need the help of Richard’s expensive laser transit.  The transit sat unused until Richard came along at the end of the work to confirm that Vern was dead-on!

One day, before Vern and Ole loaded their equipment back up, we managed to coax them to the lunch table.  Derek had made grilled cheese on his signature sourdough and vegetable stir-fry with carrots, broccoli, parsnips and burdock! Both men ate with gusto, but it wasn’t lost on them that at least one of the vegetables was unfamiliar.  When Richard told them it was burdock, Vern told us a story.

He was hired by an old timer, a Polish immigrant, to “do a little work.”  When Vern arrived, the 84 year old man had already began the job.  He had excavated 1 foot deep all around the foundation of his barn, moving it all with a wheelbarrow and shovel; tons and tons of dirt!  Vern was amazed.  Vern later learned the man’s secret.  Balls of burdock burrs hung in the rafters of his barn.  The man said it was the burdock tea he made with the burrs and drank daily that kept him strong, and not sick a day in his life!  Wonder if Vern and Ole felt especially energetic after Derek’s lunch that day?

Vegetable Feature: Fresh Baby Ginger!

by Sarah Janes Ugoretz

Ginger Growing in the Greenhouse
The wait is over. Baby ginger is here! A member of the Zingiberaceae family, ginger is often referred to as a root, but it is technically a rhizome. This knotted, thick rhizome forms underground, growing downward from the surface, while its narrow, green, flowering stem extends up to 36 inches above ground.

We start the ginger in the greenhouse in either late February or early March.  It takes about 6 weeks just to start sprouting the seed pieces.  We transplant it into our cold frame greenhouse in June.  This location allows us to get more heat gain to give ginger the more consistent, warm climate it requires.  Even then, we will never reach the full potential of the plant before winter sets in, hence our ginger is called “baby” ginger.

Fresh Baby Ginger!
Ginger’s presence has been documented in Asian artifacts dating back 4400 years. Today, its uses fall primarily into the culinary realm, though it is also widely recognized for its herbal medicinal properties. In the kitchen, ginger is a highly versatile ingredient, easily incorporated into sweet and savory dishes alike, from breads and muffins to curries and soups. As a tonic, combine ginger with lemon, honey (and brandy, if you feel so inclined), and enjoy its warm, healing properties. Ginger is often recommended to help alleviate the common cold, as well as a host of other ailments.

There are a few key ways in which baby ginger differs from what you’re most likely used to working with. Texture-wise, baby ginger’s flesh is much more tender and juicy.  You’ll notice the skin is very thin with a pinkish hue.  In its fresh state, you don’t really need to peel baby ginger.  If left on your counter, your baby ginger will slowly develop a traditional thicker, grayish-brown skin.  

Harvesting Ginger
In terms of storage, baby ginger can hang out on your counter for up to one week. We recommend using the stems right away, however. Feature them as stir sticks in fancy cocktails, where they’ll also work to infuse their host liquid. For refrigerator storage, wrap your ginger in a paper towel and stash in a plastic bag in your crisper drawer. For storage that exceeds 1-2 weeks, you can preserve ginger by freezing it.  You can mince or dice the ginger and freeze it in small quantities or you can freeze it in whole pieces.  Simply clean the ginger to remove any dirt, and then cut it into pieces that you would consider to be the amount you might use at one time.  Put them in a freezer bag and freeze until you are ready to use it.  When you are ready to use it, remove a piece from the freezer and let it rest at room temperature for 5-10 minutes before you cut it.  In general, proper storage ensures you’re able to preserve both the potency and the incomparable flavor of your ginger. Enjoy!

Golden Milk

Yield:  2 cups
1 ½ -inch knob fresh baby ginger
One 1-inch knob fresh turmeric or 2 tsp
 powdered turmeric
2 tsp ghee
1 cup full-fat coconut milk
1 cup coconut water
1 Tbsp honey, or to taste

  1. Grate the ginger and turmeric (if using fresh) into a mortar or a bowl.  If using dried turmeric, add it to the bowl along with the ginger.  Spoon the ghee into the mortar or bowl and grind the ghee into the turmeric and ginger with your pestle or the back of a spoon until they form a fine paste.  
  2. Pour the coconut milk and coconut water into a saucepan, and spoon in the paste made with the turmeric, ginger and ghee.  Turn the heat up to medium-high and warm the ingredients together until little bubbles just begin to creep up the sides of the pot.  Turn off the heat and cover the saucepan, allowing the turmeric and ginger to steep about 3 minutes.  Strain the golden milk through a fine-mesh strainer into a tea pot or clean saucepan.  Stir in the honey and continue stirring until it dissolves.  Serve warm.

This recipe is borrowed from Jennifer McGruther.  She featured it on her blog, Nourished Kitchen
(  We enjoy this warm & tasty beverage in the winter months to ward off colds and illness.

Steamed Broccoli with Soy & Ginger

Yield:  4 servings
1 large head of broccoli (approximately 1-1.25#)
2 Tbsp sesame seeds
Olive oil
5 cloves of garlic, peeled and sliced
3 Tbsp soy sauce
½ tsp sesame oil
Juice of 1-2 limes
A Thumb-sized piece of fresh ginger

  1. Remove the florets of broccoli from the stem, staying as close to the stalk as possible.  By doing this you’ll be left with lovely small florets of broccoli and the stalk.  You don’t want to throw the stalk away as it’s absolutely delicious to eat, so peel it using a peeler then cut it in half and finely slice it up.  It will now cook at the same time as your florets.  Feel free to either steam or boil the florets and stalk;  just cook them so they’re soft enough but not overdone and mushy.
  2. While the broccoli is cooking, toast and toss your sesame seeds in a dry pan until golden.  Remove them from the pan and then put them to one side.  Add 3 Tbsp of olive oil to the pan, heat it up and slowly fry your garlic until golden and crisp;  like mini crisps.  I find that if I angle my pan so that the oil pools in one side, the garlic will fry really nicely.  Make sure you don’t let it burn as it will taste bitter.  When done, remove the garlic chips with a slotted spoon and put them next to the sesame seeds. 
  3. Now, instead of giving yourself another bowl to wash up, make your dressing in the pan—you don’t need the heat on, so turn it off and let the pan cool down a little. You only need to use about 2 Tbsp of the garlicky oil, so discard any extra, then add the soy sauce and sesame oil to the pan and swirl it around.  Add the juice from one of your limes, then grate your ginger with a fine grater.  At this point taste it—you should have a balance of nuttiness, saltiness and a lovely zing from the lime.  If it needs more soy sauce, olive oil or lime juice for perfect harmony then feel free to adjust to your taste.
  4. Serve the steaming broccoli in a bowl drizzled with your dressing (which you’ll need to keep shaking in the pan before serving so it doesn’t divide), and sprinkle with the garlic chips and sesame seeds—gorgeous!

The voice of this recipe is Chef Jamie Oliver.  He featured this recipe in his cookbook, Cook with Jamie:  My Guide to Making You a Better Cook.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Animal Welfare

by Sarah Janes Ugoretz

Our food choices look a lot different today than they did 70 years ago. Just one or two generations ago—prior to the industrialization and explosion of Big Ag—people living in the United States could feel comfortable assuming that any meat they consumed was raised the old fashioned way—on pasture, and as one member of a relatively small group of animals. But go to a grocery store or a restaurant today, and there are any number of stories that can tell the tale of how your meat made its way onto your plate. In this article, we’re hoping to start a conversation that is driven by one simple query: How do we want our meat to be raised? As we contemplate this question, we’ll consider not only our national production practices, but we’ll also draw in a few examples from around the globe.

For many of us, when the conversation turns to the meat industry and animal welfare issues, certain images may come quickly to mind—birds in cramped cages and “downed” cows, too weak to walk. Documentaries like Food, Inc. and books such as The Chain: Farm, Factory, and the Fate of Our Food have shed light on the myriad costs—to animals, to the environment, and to our fellow humans—that often accompany the U.S.’ industrial model of meat production. Meanwhile, when we think of responsible eating, we often tend to think of anything but large, feedlot-style production systems.

However, rather than viewing meat production as a binary, composed of either “good” or “bad” systems, we at Harmony Valley Farm look at these practices as falling along a spectrum. At one end, we have a production method primarily guided by a cheap, cram-them-in mentality. Farmers are largely operating within the parameters the U.S. market has set up for them. As we move towards the opposite end of the spectrum, however, we find that animals are afforded more entitlements, albeit to varying degrees. Their cages and pens may be larger, and their diets may consist less of grains and more of grasses and bugs. They may even be so fortunate as to be recognized as sentient beings—capable of feeling emotion and pain—that are deserving of a pleasant life. On this end of the spectrum, animals are typically able to exhibit their natural behaviors. Chickens can flap their wings, roam and scratch. Pigs can socialize, flop onto their sides and forage. Cows, as ruminants, can graze on pasture, interact with their fellow herd members and experience fresh air.

If we zoom out and look at meat production from a mainstream, market-based perspective, however, choosing to treat animals as sentient beings is not yet highly rewarded in this country. Should a farmer choose to operate from an animals-as-sentient-beings standpoint, the burden of this choice primarily falls upon their shoulders and it is not always the cheapest road to travel. As Farmer Richard mentioned to me earlier this week, Harmony Valley Farm’s 15 pigs are all raised on 20 acres of pasture, which gives them the opportunity to freely roam, socialize, graze and root. The vegetable scraps and organic barley and flax they’re given are delivered daily by hand. Although these practices are all in line with pigs’ natural behaviors, this is not the way all pigs are raised.  We prefer to reside on the end of the spectrum where animals are treated with respect for their innate characteristics.  Did you know that cows and pigs like to have their heads scratched behind their ears?  If they trust you and are accustomed to your presence, you can move easily among these large animals!  We recognize the animals we raise for meat are not our pets, nonetheless we treat them gently and with respect so they do not live in fear of human touch or presence.  This creates a much more pleasant environment for them to live in and allows us as animal handlers and feeders to work amongst them more safely.  When an animal is fearful, they will react to that feeling and can do serious damage in an effort to defend themselves.

If we expand our scope and take a look at this conversation in a more global context, sadly we see that the U.S. is fairly far behind when it comes to the welfare of our animals. For instance, a growing number of countries—including the entire European Union and, most recently, New Zealand—have extended legal recognition to animals as sentient beings (McIntyre, 2015). In publicly acknowledging that animals experience both positive and negative emotions, these countries have not only made it easier to prosecute animal cruelty, they have also demonstrated to the world that they are willing to place their morals and the wellbeing of animals above the bottom dollar. In turn, with the support of the government, the market is more favorable to discerning farmers and consumers alike.

Meanwhile, innovative approaches to raising animals can be found worldwide—including here in the U.S. Imagine a piggery (though this set-up works with cows and chickens, as well) that produces no runoff or odor and attracts zero flies. In Mountain View, Hawaii, you’d find such a system. Operating in accordance with Korean Natural Farming (KRN) animal husbandry methods, this system incorporates a layering schema, whereby four feet of bedding—primarily consisting of twigs, logs, and green waste—serves as host to an active microbial, aerobic environment, kept dry by a vented, overhanging roof and an open-sided building plan. The lactic acid added to this system digests the pigs’ waste, thereby neutralizing the smell and maintaining a healthy environment. Once this system is up and running, bedding doesn’t need to be changed, only added to every few months (Prell, 2015). Farmer Richard encountered such a system when he was visiting Germany several years ago. Imagine his delight when he discovered that his hosts had established this set-up directly off of their kitchen! Contrasting this with what we are most familiar with in the U.S.—CAFOs, or concentrated animal feeding operations—is a powerful exercise that demonstrates very succinctly the range that exists along the animal-rearing spectrum we spoke of earlier.

When it comes to animal welfare standards at play in the U.S., broad, sweeping change is possible. However, at this point in time, I would argue that farmers and consumers are primarily on the hook when it comes to working towards this change. Farmers who decide to raise animals humanely, in a system where they can exhibit their natural behaviors, will continue to depend on consumers who choose to opt out of the mainstream, cheap meat mentality—and are able and willing to pay a premium for this. As the world—along with a selection of our own farmers—continues to provide us with examples of what is possible, we can stay strong in our convictions and strive to tip the scales to favor a higher and more just standard for the animals that some of us choose to consume.

McIntyre, S. (2015, May 17). Animals are now legally recognized as ‘sentient’ beings in New Zealand. Independent. Retrieved from

Prell, J. (2015). Better pig farming: Zero-runoff, no-smell, no-fly piggeries. Acres, U.S.A.