Thursday, July 28, 2016

Vegetable Feature: Onions and Garlic

By Andrea Yoder

     We’ve always known it is important to include onions and garlic in our diets daily, at least that’s what our gut instinct told us.  Laurel’s article in this week’s newsletter gives us just a glimpse into the science about why they are important and how they work in our bodies.  We do try to include a vegetable from the garlic and onion families in every CSA box, starting with ramps in the spring and finishing the season with cured garlic and storage onions.
     We select our varieties of onions very carefully to help us make the progression through the season.  This week we are harvesting some of our sweet onion varieties.  Sweet onions bridge the gap in the season between some of our early season fresh onions, mainly scallions and fresh Cipollini onions, and our storage onions.  Sweet onions mature more quickly, so they are ready to harvest ahead of the storage onions.  They do not store as well because they have higher sugar content and much thinner skins.  They are meant to be eaten fresh and you’ll find them to be very mild. In fact Farmer Richard says they’re so mild you can “eat them like an apple!”
     Very soon we will start bringing in the remainder of our onions.  They’ll “cure” in the greenhouse to help develop their skins so they will store longer throughout the winter.   You should store “cured” onions and garlic in a cool, dry location with good ventilation and away from direct sunlight.  The onions in your box this week may be stored in the refrigerator to help lengthen their shelf life, given they have not been cured yet.

Zucchini & Onion Gratin

Finished Gratin

1 large onion, thinly sliced
4 Tbsp olive oil, divided
1 cup fresh bread crumbs 
⅓ cup grated Pecorino or Parmigiano Reggiano or whatever you have on  hand
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 zucchini (large or small), thinly sliced (2 to 3 cups)

Onions cooking but not yet caramelized

1.  Heat 2 Tbsp oil in a medium ovenproof skillet over medium heat. Add onion; cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are soft and starting to caramelize, 10 to 15 minutes. Note: if you have time to really allow the onions to caramelize at a slow pace, do so; if you don’t, just sauté the onions until they are soft. Season with salt and pepper.

Layering of zucchini

2.  Meanwhile, toss breadcrumbs with cheese and remaining 2 Tbsp oil; season with salt and pepper. Top onions with squash (this can be a single layer or two or three layers) and breadcrumb mixture. Bake at 350°F until squash is tender and breadcrumbs are golden brown, 20–25 minutes.

This recipe borrowed from 

Chilled Cucumber-Tahini & Herb Soup with Cumin-Spiced Roasted Chickpeas

Photo borrowed from food blogger & farmer Andrea Bemis
2 medium cucumbers, peeled and chopped into
   ½-inch chunks
¼ cup tahini
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
3 ½ Tbsp fresh lemon juice
3 cloves of garlic, minced
¼ cup fresh dill, plus more for garnish
¼ cup fresh basil, plus more for garnish
¼ cup parsley, plus more for garnish
½ tsp crushed red pepper flakes
⅛ tsp cayenne pepper
½ tsp sea salt, plus more to taste
Sprinkle of black pepper, to taste
4-6 ice cubes
¼ cup water to thin if necessary

Cumin-Spiced Chickpeas
1-15 oz can chickpeas, rinsed, drained and patted    dry
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp fine sea salt
2 Tbsp olive oil

1.  Place all the ingredients for the soup (except water) in a high speed blender and whirl away until smooth. Stop to scrape down the sides. If necessary add a little water to help get things moving. Taste test and adjust seasonings as needed.

2.  Preheat the oven to 425°F. Toss chickpeas with cumin, salt and olive oil. Place on a well-greased baking sheet and bake until browned and crisp on all sides. About 15-20 minutes. Toss chickpeas halfway through cooking.

3.  Serve soup with chopped fresh herbs, roasted chickpeas and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. Enjoy!

Recipe borrowed from Andrea Bemis’ blog,
Check out Andrea’s blog for other interesting vegetable-centric recipes!

Alliums to Fight Cancer

Potato Onions being harvested in the field!
By Laurel Blomquist

  Welcome back to our newsletter series on an anti-cancer diet! You may have noticed that a Harmony Valley Farm CSA share always includes garlic and an allium (onions, chives, leeks, etc) every week. It is widely known that garlic and onions are the building blocks of flavor. However, as you may recall, Drs. Beliveau and Gingras, authors of Foods to Fight Cancer, also recommend alliums as some of the strongest plants available to fight cancer, especially esophageal, stomach, prostate, kidney, colon, lung and breast cancer. Just to refresh your memory, alliums also combat neurological, immunological, gastrointestinal, cardiovascular and metabolic disorders, as well as the process of aging.
  Garlic in particular has been mentioned throughout history as a medicinal food more than any other plant that we regularly consume. Sumerian tablets contain references to garlic as early as 3000 BC. (Anti-Cancer, p. 135) The Ancient Egyptians were known to consume garlic in great numbers. Tutankhamen’s tomb contained garlic. The Codex Ebers, a medical papyrus from 1500 BC, lists over 20 garlic-based remedies for such vast symptoms as headaches, worms, high blood pressure and tumors. (p. 79)
  The Ancient Greeks and Romans also used garlic. Pliny the Elder wrote in Natural History no less than sixty-one garlic cures for infections, respiratory problems, digestive issues and lack of energy. In the Middle Ages, garlic was used to fight the plague, and in the 18th century, scurvy and asthma. In 1858, Louis Pasteur proved that garlic has powerful antibiotic capabilities. (p. 80) During WWII, Russian soldiers used so much garlic that it was nicknamed “the Russian penicillin.” (Anti-Cancer, p. 135)
Ramps fresh from the woods
  The rest of the allium family has a storied pedigree as well. Onions, natives of Eurasia, have been revered in ancient cultures. Egyptians thought they invoked strength and power for the eater. For the Chinese, they were a symbol of intelligence. Leeks, probably originating in the Middle East, were thought to strengthen the voice. Aristotle wrote of this, which convinced Nero (the Roman emperor) to eat leeks in such large amounts that he was known as the “porrophage” (“Leek Emperor” in Latin). Leeks are the national emblem of Wales, which they celebrate every March 1st by wearing leeks and eating cawl, a traditional soup featuring leeks. Shallots originated in the ancient Palestinian coastal city of Ashkelon. Crusaders returning from the Holy Land in the 12th Century most likely brought them to France. Chives were used in China at least 2000 years ago, both as a food and as a medicine to treat bleeding and poisoning. Marco Polo brought chives with him to Europe. (p. 81)
Garlic and onions are powerful because they contain sulfur molecules. While a garlic clove remains intact, it is storing and accumulating a compound called alliin. When the clove is crushed, chopped or chewed, the enzyme alliinase is released, mixes with the alliin, and changes into allicin. Allicin is what you smell when you macerate garlic. Allicin is the cancer-fighting molecule that we are interested in. (p. 81)
  The best way to maximize stable allicin in your body is to eat garlic raw, however we all know that this is not always preferable. Researchers in Wisconsin and Argentina found that letting chopped garlic stand for 10 minutes before adding it to cooked dishes allowed enough time for the allicin to stabilize so that it doesn’t break down during the cooking process. So chop your garlic, prep something else, and add it to your dish 10 minutes later. (Cavagnaro, et al.) In addition, the most effective way to increase your body’s absorption of allicin is by mixing it with oil. And you thought this was because it tastes good!
Garlic and Onions on our Farmers Market stand
  Onions and other alliums contain similar sulfur molecules. Two of these compounds, DAS (diallyl sulfide) and DADS (diallyl disulfide) are thought to be the main compounds that contribute to the prevention of cancer. These compounds fight cancers caused by nitrosamines the best. Nitrosamines are formed in our intestines from nitrites, a preservative found in pickled foods and cured meats such as sausage, bacon or ham. (p. 83) Nitrosamines can also be found in charred meat and by burning tobacco. (Anti-Cancer, p. 135) Nitrosamines can trigger mutations in cell DNA, which is the essential process that causes cancer. DAS and DADS prevent nitrosamine formation. (p. 83) DAS and other compounds also inhibit enzymes which activate carcinogens, opting instead to stimulate elimination of these carcinogens.
  DAS and other compounds also activate cancer cell apoptosis, which is a ritual suicidal process for cells known to have damage at the DNA level. These compounds may also make it more difficult for cancer cells to resist chemotherapy drugs. (p. 84)
  Onions have some very special molecules as well. They contain polyphenols such as quercetin, which prevents cancer cells from growing by interfering with their development. The authors add that the compound which causes the user to cry, propanethial S-oxide, is not essential to the anti-cancer process. Don’t rinse your onions to alleviate crying, however, as this will wash away the beneficial compounds.
  Another way alliums help to fight cancer is by regulating blood sugar levels when combined with other foods. Maintaining balanced blood sugar is important for reducing insulin secretion and IGF (Insulinlike Growth Factor). When we consume a lot of glucose, our bodies release insulin and IGF to allow the glucose to enter our cells. IGF stimulates cell growth. Unfortunately, too much insulin and IGF promote inflammation, feed tumors, increase a tumor’s ability to invade neighboring tissue, and make cancer cells less susceptible to chemotherapy. (Anti-Cancer, p. 67)
  How much garlic and/or onions or other alliums we need to eat in order for these compounds to be effective is currently under study. Researchers in Italy, Switzerland and China showed reductions in cancer growth in people who ate 1 clove of garlic or ½ a cup of onions per day (Collins).
With this in mind, you can see why we at Harmony Valley Farm make sure to include garlic and one allium in your CSA box every week. To your health!

Beliveau, Richard and Denis Gingras.  Foods to Fight Cancer, 2007. (cited as page number only)
Servan-Schreiber, David.  Anti-Cancer: A New Way of Life, 2009.  (cited as Anti-Cancer, page number) 
Cavagnaro, Pablo F., Alejandra Camargo, Claudio R. Galmarini, Philipp W. Simon, “Effect of Cooking on Garlic (Allium               sativum L.) Antiplatelet Activity and Thiosulfinates Content,” Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, Vol. 55, No.         4, Jan. 2007.
Collins, Karen, “Onions and Garlic for Your Health,” American Institute for Cancer Research, Feb. 26, 2007.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Vegetable Feature: Green Curly Kale

By Andrea Yoder

     In the foreward to her book, Brassicas—Cooking the World’s Healthiest Vegetables…, Laura B. Russell states “When Hippocrates said ‘Let food be thy medicine, and medicine be thy food,’ there’s little doubt in my mind  that he was referring to foods drawn from the brassica family.”  We thought it fitting, given the topic of our main article, to feature green curly kale.  This is just one of several varieties of kale we grow.  Our other varieties include red curly, lacinato and baby kale as well as collard greens.  These greens vary from others we’ve sent your way in that their leaves are thicker than say spinach.  As such, they need to be cooked a little longer or “marinated” to soften the leaves.
     Kale may be eaten raw or cooked.  Raw kale salads have become quite popular in recent years and are great for the summer when lettuce and spinach are less available.  If you choose to eat kale raw, we recommend thinly slicing it and “marinating” it for 30 minutes or more with oil and/or an acidic ingredient (such as vinegar or lemon juice) to soften the leaves and make them more palatable.  Kale may also be stir-fried, sautéed, steamed or added to soups, stews and the like.  Baked kale chips are also a fun way to eat kale and a healthy alternative to potato chips!  Due to the recent surge in popularity of kale, there are loads of recipes available on the internet.  We hope you enjoy your “Wisconsin Superfood” this week!

Kale Chips with Almond Butter and Miso

Yield:  4-6 servings

¼ cup almond butter
2 Tbsp warm water
¼ cup chopped onion
1 ½ Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for greasing
1 garlic clove, chopped
1 Tbsp white miso
2 tsp fresh oregano, chopped
2 tsp fresh thyme, chopped
1 tsp cider vinegar
1 tsp tamari
¼ tsp ground turmeric
⅛ to ¼ tsp crushed red pepper
1 bunch green or red curly kale, washed
Salt, to taste

1.       Preheat the oven to 300°F.  Lightly grease two sheet trays and set aside.
2.       Place all of the ingredients except the kale and salt into a blender or food processor.  Puree until smooth. 
3.       Shake any excess water off of the kale.  Strip the leaves off the main stem.  Discard the stems and tear the leaves into large bite-sized pieces.  Place the leaves into a large mixing bowl and drizzle the almond butter mixture on top.  Using your hands or tongs, mix the kale to evenly coat all of the pieces with the almond butter mixture.
4.       Spread the kale pieces evenly on the two sheet trays and lightly sprinkle with salt.  Place in the oven and bake for about 15 minutes.  Remove the pans from the oven and lightly toss the kale pieces.  Return the pans to the oven and bake for an additional 5-10 minutes or until all the pieces are crispy. 
5.       Remove from the oven and let cool, then carefully lift the kale chips off the baking sheets and serve.

Recipe adapted from one originally published in Food & Wine magazine in March 2012.

Vegetable Quesadillas with Pistachio-Kale Pesto

Yield:  4 servings quesadillas and 1 cup pesto

Kale Pesto:
½ cup pistachios
1 clove garlic
½ cup olive oil
2 cups raw kale, packed
2 cups basil, loosely packed
Juice of 1 lemon, more to taste
Salt & freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Quesadilla Filling:
2 medium zucchini
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
2 Tbsp olive oil
8-10 cherry tomatoes, quartered
1 cup cheese, shredded (variety to your liking)
Salt & freshly ground black pepper, to taste
4 tortillas (9-10-inch)

1.       Preheat oven to 350°F degrees. Cut zucchini into slices ¼-inch thick.  Lay them on a sheet tray and brush with olive oil.  Season with salt and pepper.  Flip the slices over and repeat on the other side.  Thinly slice the onions and toss with enough olive oil to lightly coat.  Put the onions on the sheet tray with the zucchini.  Place in the oven and bake 15-20 minutes or until the zucchini are tender.  You may need to remove the onions before the zucchini is finished. 
2.        While the zucchini is baking, prepare the pesto.  Place all the ingredients for the pesto into a high speed blender or a food processor.  Blend until nearly smooth. Adjust seasoning with additional salt, pepper and lemon juice as needed.
3.       Assemble the quesadillas.  Spread approximately 2 Tbsp of kale pesto on half of each tortilla.  Top with zucchini slices, onion, and cherry tomatoes.  Sprinkle cheese on top of each tortilla, then fold in half. 
4.       Heat a skillet over medium heat. Add ½ Tbsp olive oil. When the skillet is warm, add the quesadillas and cook on each side for about 2 minutes or until the tortilla is golden and the cheese is melted. Cut into quarters or thirds and serve immediately.

Recipe adapted from one originally sourced from

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Anti-Cancer: A New Way of Life

A Summary by Laurel Blomquist

            The cover of Anti-Cancer: A New Way of Life proclaims, “All of us have cancer cells in our bodies. But not all of us will develop cancer.”  Did you know you have cancer cells in your body? Does that thought scare you? It doesn’t have to. Read on to see what you can do about making sure those cells never proliferate or become life-threatening.
David Servan-Schreiber was an ambitious psychiatrist who had spent his life climbing the ranks of his profession. One day the volunteer subject of his brain MRI study didn’t show up, so he put himself into the machine. The scans showed a walnut-sized tumor in his brain, and thus the doctor became the patient. After diagnosis, Dr. Servan-Schreiber was treated using the most modern techniques available: surgery, chemotherapy, radiation. When he asked his doctor if there was something else he could do to prevent the cancer from returning, his doctor told him to continue living life as he had prior to his diagnosis.
I have something to confess. I was diagnosed with Stage I breast cancer this past February. Yes, I followed my doctors’ recommendations regarding established medical protocols for my cancer. However, you have a feeling of powerlessness when you are just waiting around to see if the cancer is going to come back. Reading this book, as well as Foods to Fight Cancer, changed the course of my life forever.
If you had a toolbox that you could use to combat an illness from all sides, wouldn’t you want to use every tool in the box? I was inspired to change the paradigm, from giving over control to my doctors to taking control. I established a self-care routine that included rest, diet, exercise, meditation, time in nature, breathing techniques, and many more small changes in my daily routine that would alter my prognosis for the future. Of course, these diet and lifestyle changes don’t just lower my chances of getting cancer, there’s more. According to the journal Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity, “Oxidative stress impacts almost all acute and chronic progressive disorders and on a cellular basis is intimately linked to aging, cardiovascular disease, cancer, immune function, metabolism and neurodegeneration.” (
In other words, an anti-cancer diet is also anti- diabetes, obesity, insulin sensitivity, metabolic syndrome, neurological disease (Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, etc.), gastrointestinal disease (ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, etc.), autoimmune disease (Rheumatoid arthritis, Lupus, etc.), and any other acute or chronic disease characterized by inflammation and oxidative stress, as well as the process of aging in general. Everyone says they want a long, healthy life. I was willing to do everything in my power in order to achieve that.  
Like myself, Dr. Servan-Schreiber was not convinced that he had no control over the recurrence of his cancer other than the treatments that doctors could provide. He points out that doctors who are at the pinnacle of research in their professions cannot stop to conduct research outside of their fields, or read experimental protocols that haven’t been given a double-blind study. He does not blame his doctors for this because they are busy doing important work to save the lives of their patients. There are many other practitioners doing alternative therapies and research, however. Dr. Servan-Schreiber is not a food chemist, so he uses research from other scientists to support his dietary recommendations. He often cites the research done by Drs. Beliveau and Gingras, who you may remember from Foods to Fight Cancer,  the book I reviewed two weeks ago. Of course, these two are not the only scientists he has explored. He is a thorough researcher; the chapter on food alone has 140 citations! The scope of this article is much too short to present all his findings, so I’m going to summarize a few fruit and vegetable recommendations he recommends for an anti-cancer diet.
The doctor states that cancer is known to thrive on both sugar and insulin, so in general, eating foods that are lower on the glycemic index should be a priority. These include peas, beans, sweet potatoes, whole fruits, and alliums such as garlic, onions, and shallots, which lower insulin peaks when combined with other foods. (p. 70)
           Stone fruits, especially plums, contain high levels of antioxidants and are more cost effective than berries, year-round. He cites a study showing that these fruits fight high cholesterol as well. (p. 119)
The labiate family, which includes mint, thyme, marjoram, oregano, basil, and rosemary, are rich in the fatty acids of the terpene family, which reduce the spread of cancer cells or provokes their death. (p. 138)
In order to grow more rapidly, cancer cells stimulate the creation of new blood vessels so that they have a fuel source close by. This is called angiogenesis. A molecule which inhibits cancer cells by blocking angiogenesis is apigenin, which is found in parsley and celery (p. 120).
Fresh Ginger Root grown on our Farm
Ginger root is also anti-inflammatory, containing antioxidants that reduce angiogenesis. It’s also anti-nauseating, helping control the side effects of chemotherapy. (p. 134)
Vegetables and fruits rich in carotenoids inhibit the growth of cancer cells and stimulate immune cells to attack cancer. These foods include carrots, yams, sweet potatoes, squash, pumpkin, tomatoes, persimmons, apricots, and beets. The bright colors mean the foods contain vitamin A, lycopene, lutein, phytoene, and canthaxanthin. (p. 136)
Pomegranates contain antioxidants and slow prostate cancer growth by 67%! (p. 139)
Flaxseeds contain short-chain omega-3s and lignans, phytoestrogens that block harmful hormones, lower cholesterol, and maintain balanced blood sugar levels. Our friends at Driftless Organics just started producing their own organic flaxseed oil. Add it to salad dressings or smoothies for an anti-cancer cocktail. (p. 143)
Other foods the author includes as part of an anti-inflammatory diet are olive oil (especially virgin), mushrooms, and seaweed.
When Anti-Cancer was published in 2009, the health of the gut microbiome was just beginning to be on the radar; now it’s one of the hottest health topics in popular science. Dr. Servan-Schreiber cites research that states probiotic bacteria inhibit colon cancer growth by moving toxic waste out of the body. Why not make a batch of sauerkraut, kimchi, or kvass with a vegetable of your choosing (choose a brassica for an especially potent combination) and eat it regularly? Don’t forget to feed your probiotic bacteria with prebiotics, such as garlic, onions, tomatoes, sunchokes, and asparagus. (p. 143)
In addition to recommendations for specific foods, the author also emphasized the importance of organic vegetables versus conventional.  He cites a study by Dr. Cynthia Curl, who measured the amount of organochlorine pesticides in the urine of 42 preschool children. Children who were fed an organic diet had pesticide levels below the Environmental Protection Agency’s maximum, while children on the conventional diet had a level 4 times the maximum. While he states that some doctors have interpreted these findings as insignificant, he disagrees, and so do other doctors. (p. 89)
He further states that selenium stimulates immune cells and boosts the effects of antioxidants. According to the author, organic foods are rich in selenium, while conventionally-grown vegetables are lacking because of soil depletion of this mineral. (p. 144)
This book was written as a tool to help all of us flip our genetic switch for cancer off by making decisions that will impact our long-term health. In summary, the doctor states, “Every day, at every meal, we can choose food that will defend our bodies against the invasion of cancer by: detoxifying carcinogenic substances; supporting our immune system; blocking the development of new (blood) vessels needed for tumor growth; preventing tumors from creating the inflammation that serves as their fertilizer; blocking the mechanisms that will enable them to invade neighboring tissues; and promoting the suicide of cancer cells.” (p. 125)
For more information, be sure to check out the book and his website:

Thursday, July 14, 2016

You Reap What You Sow… In Garlic & Relationships

By Farmer Richard (as told to Andrea)

A little over a week ago, Monday, July 4th to be exact, we finished harvesting the 2016 garlic crop.  We got it in just in time—it started raining within 30 minutes of closing the greenhouse door where it is stored.  Every garlic crop is a labor of love and despite the number of harvests I’ve been through, every crop meets me with a feeling of anxiousness around harvest time.  I can’t rest until it’s all in, safe and sound.  Learning how to grow garlic is a skill and an art I’ve learned over many years.  My lessons in garlic go back to the mid 70’s when I first started farming…..and tried to learn how to grow garlic from old Dave Frattalone.  Here’s the story.

 I started my farming career at my first farm, Blue Gentian, in St. Paul, Minnesota.  There were several old-timers I learned a lot from in those early days of farming.  Henry Hildebrandt & Dave Frattalone were two farmers who were in their 70’s and 80’s about the time I started farming.  Their families had a long history of growing vegetables for the people in the St. Paul area and sold their produce at the farmer’s markets.  Henry’s family had a long history of being good tomato growers and had 2 acres of cold frames that they used to grow vegetables in during the off-season—they even pulled off radishes in March!  Dave Frattalone was from a well-respected Italian family who had been supplying St. Paul for years.  Both of these gentleman were instrumental in teaching me many important things about farming that you just can’t learn about in a text book, seed catalog or really in any way other than by doing it.  So how do you get an old-timer to teach you things and share their knowledge?  You offer to plow their fields!  That tactic worked well with Henry who lived close to my farm.  In exchange for my labor, we developed a good neighborly relationship that opened up many doors for me to learn about growing vegetables.  Conversely, Dave lived further away in Little Canada and was a little harder to warm up to.  In Atina Diffley’s book, Turn Here Sweet Corn, she describes Dave as “The King of the Saint Paul Farmers’ Market.”  At that time, Dave was the only one at the market who grew and sold garlic.  I was intrigued by Dave’s garlic and tried to talk to him about growing it.  Unfortunately old Dave had no interest in talking to me about garlic.  It was clear he did not want to teach anyone else how to grow this valuable crop, so he remained tight-lipped for several years!

Let’s put the story into perspective.  In the late 1800’s and early 1900’s farmers’ markets were thriving.  It was the place people went to purchase their “groceries.”  Food was produced and purchased within the region, so people relied on their local farmers to show up at the markets each week.  The Frattalone and Hildebrandt families sold everything they could grow and left each market with an empty wagon.  Well, let me rephrase that.  They didn’t take vegetables home, but Henry’s family did have the contract to clean up all the horse manure after the market (remember there were still a lot of horses being used for transportation at this time).  They’d bring their wagon to market loaded with vegetables, and would take it home loaded with rich, nutritious horse manure for their cold frames!  In the same wagon--yikes!  Unfortunately, times started to change and with the development of grocery stores and transcontinental transportation, people shifted their purchasing from the farmers’ markets to the grocery stores.  By the time I entered the scene and started selling at the St. Paul farmer’s market, times were rough and a lot of farmers were taking large amounts of vegetables home with them each week instead of selling out.  The competition was thick and old Dave was just protecting his livelihood and the “monopoly” he had on the local garlic market.

Well, I still wanted to learn how to grow garlic, even if Dave wasn’t willing to help me.  At that time I did know Dave was buying garlic from an old seed company in California, Basic Vegetable.  He grew a softneck variety that he planted in the spring and produced small bulbs that he harvested in the fall.  Knowing little more than that about garlic, I had to do my own research.  I started reading and found a farmer in Canada who grew a different type of garlic, a hardneck variety.  He produced beautiful garlic, but one of the keys to his success was planting it in the fall.  I started experimenting with growing garlic and quickly learned some key lessons, including the importance of careful seed selection.  Since seed garlic wasn’t as readily available as it is today, I learned how to save “seed” from each year’s garlic crop to replant.  After several years of experimenting with growing garlic, I took one of my nicest bulbs of garlic over to Dave Frattalone.  When he saw the quality and size of my garlic, he perked up in interest and was all ears.  I willingly shared with him everything I had learned about garlic and on that day I broke through to old Dave.  After that experience, Dave was much more willing to share his farming knowledge with me, knowing I’d do the same for him.
To this day I still value the lessons I learned from these old-timers.  Maybe old Dave’s greatest contribution to my farming education was that he did not tell me his secrets to growing garlic!  If I had not been forced to seek out information on my own, I may never have found the Canadian grower who introduced me to the hardneck garlic we grow and rely on today.  In fact, our Porcelain garlic originated from seed garlic I got from him!  We’ve carefully maintained this variety and have saved seed from it for over 30 years now!  Thanks, Dave and Henry, for sharing your farming knowledge and experiences with me.  It is true that you reap what you sow…in garlic and in relationships.

Vegetable Feature: Carrot Tops

When I asked Richard which vegetable he thought we should feature this week his response was “Carrot Tops!” So first of all, let me clarify that the tops are in fact edible!  Carrots are often sold with their green tops on as a sign of freshness.  While most people discard the top, it’s a shame to do so as there is a lot value in the tops!

Carrot tops are similar to parsley, however their texture is a bit coarser.  The flavor of carrot tops is similar to carrots (go figure), but with more of a “green” character.  Carrot tops may be used to flavor soups and stocks.  If you are making vegetable or meat stock, add the carrot tops during the last 30-40 minutes of cooking.  You don’t want to cook them too long or the flavor will change to an overcooked vegetable flavor.  If you are incorporating carrot tops into a soup, you will want to either finely chop them and/or blend the soup to yield a smooth texture.

One of our longtime CSA members, Carol, tipped us off to the beauty of carrot top pesto.  You can find a recipe for this in the searchable recipe database on our website.  I started thinking of other blended sauce type preparations that resemble pesto, such as chimichurri.  Chimichurri is a fresh sauce made in Argentina that consists of parsley, oregano, garlic, vinegar and olive oil.  I tried this preparation with the addition of carrot tops and found it was delicious!  I’ve included the recipe for you in this week’s newsletter.

As Richard was reflecting on carrot tops this past week, he told me about some of our original CSA members who actually encouraged him to pack the carrots with the tops left on the carrot.  Prior to that Richard didn’t realize there was a use for them so they topped the carrots and just delivered the root.  Why did they want the tops?  Well, these members were from Japan and they wanted to use the carrot tops to make Carrot Top Tempura!  Tempura originated in Japan and consists of a light batter that can be made from cake flour, rice flour, all-purpose flour or a mixture of these.  Vegetables, seafood and meat can be dipped in this very simple batter and is then deep-fried briefly.  You can tempura all kinds of vegetables.  In this week’s box, you could use the carrot tops as well as zucchini, onions, green beans and even broccoli to make a mixed vegetable tempura.

So this week, we encourage you to “think outside the box” and consider including carrot tops in your meals.  Have fun and reap the benefits nutritionally as well as enjoying yet another delicious vegetable!

Carrot Top Chimichurri

Carrot Top Chimichuri plated with Halibut

By Andrea Yoder

Yield:  about ¾-1 cup

½ cup coarsely chopped carrot tops
¼ cup coarsely chopped parsley
3 Tbsp red wine vinegar
4 large garlic cloves
2 Tbsp fresh oregano leaves
2 tsp crushed red pepper
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil

1. In a food processor, combine the carrot tops, parsley, vinegar, garlic, oregano and crushed red pepper.  Process until the ingredients are  finely chopped.  Season with salt and black pepper and mix again, just briefly.

2. Transfer the vegetable mixture to a bowl and pour the olive oil over the mixture.  Let stand for at least 20 minutes before using.

Chimichurri is a traditional sauce in Argentina.  As with most traditional recipes, each cook will have their own variations, but the basic ingredients for chimichurri include fresh parsley, garlic, oregano and vinegar.  Chimichurri may be used as a sauce to serve with food.  Traditionally it’s served with grilled meats, but it is also a nice accompaniment for grilled chicken and fish or tossed with roasted vegetables.  You may also use chimichurri as a marinade to add flavor to cuts of meat such as flank steak.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Foods to Fight Cancer: Essential Foods to Help Prevent Cancer

A review by Laurel Blomquist

Foods to Fight Cancer by Richard Beliveau, Ph.D. and Denis Gingras, Ph.D. is not just for cancer patients. Certainly, it provides a path by which people who have been diagnosed can become partners in the fight for their health. However, it is meant as a prevention guide for anyone living in today’s society looking for a way to take control of their own wellness.
The book begins by explaining exactly what cancer is. For most people, cancer is a scary word. When we hear it, we think of acute health problems, perhaps even a death sentence. This book describes cancer as a chronic disease, one that develops over time from a variety of factors. Humans today are bombarded by thousands of environmental toxins, more than at any other era in our existence. That, coupled with a diet of convenience and a sedentary lifestyle, has led some of us to switch on genetic markers that turn cancer or other chronic diseases, on.

The fact is that we all have cancer cells in our bodies right now. Cancer is really nothing more than cells reacting to this toxic environment that they have been presented with. All life on Earth has been created through evolution of cells and organisms, reacting and changing to better adapt to their environment. Cancer is nothing but an extension of this evolution. The only difference is that cancer cells have gone rogue. In other words, instead of adapting as a part of the organism (you), cancer cells (if given the chance) adapt and separate themselves from you, growing as a foreign body inside your own.

The authors argue that by changing what we eat and utilizing what they call ‘nutraceuticals,’ we can turn those genetic markers to the ‘off’ position. In this situation, cancer cells, instead of proliferating, will be found by your intelligent immune system and be destroyed. So what, exactly, is a nutraceutical? As you can imagine, a nutraceutical is a pharmaceutical that is found in food. We all know that foods contain carbohydrates, proteins and fats (aka macronutrients). What these scientists are looking at are the micronutrients (phytochemical compounds, fibers, vitamins and minerals).

Farmers have some control when it comes to making vitamins and minerals available to plants. Here at Harmony Valley Farm, we prioritize soil health by adding compost, growing cover crops and rotating crops to replenish soil nutrients.
When it comes to phytochemical compounds, however, the plants have their own ways and means of producing them. From page 59:

“Phytochemical compounds are molecules that allow plants to defend themselves against infection and damage caused by microorganisms, insects, or other predators. Plants cannot flee their attackers and have consequently had to develop advanced defense systems to counter the harmful effects of aggressors present in their environment. The phytochemicals produced by plants have antibacterial, antifungal, and insecticidal properties; they repair the damage caused by aggressors and allow the plant to survive in hostile conditions…. Because phytochemical production occurs in direct proportion to the stress to which the plant is exposed, we might guess that plants cultivated naturally, without the use of synthetic pesticides, are more susceptible to attack and thus contain greater quantities of self-defense molecules,” (emphasis mine).

Without directly saying it, what these scientists mean is that organic foods most likely contain phytochemicals in greater amounts. While the jury is still out on whether or not organic foods contain more macronutrients than their conventional counterparts, these scientists are theorizing that organic does trump conventional when it comes to micronutrients, particularly phytochemicals.

 A basic premise of the book is that human beings have been tasting and testing plants on Earth for thousands of years. We often think that our ancestors chose the plants that we eat simply because they did not poison us, or because they tasted good, or perhaps because they were easy to grow. The authors argue that humans have actually selected plants based on their ability to fight disease and keep us healthy. They cite ancient texts such as the Bible, Greek, Roman and Arabic mythology, Egyptian scrolls, Chinese culinary preparations, Japanese tea masters, Ayurvedic principles, Assyrian cuneiform, Aztec archeological remains, and Mayan and Toltec legends to prove that humans have been classifying these plants as beneficials for a very long time.

The doctors set out to prove that these compounds in food really work. In their lab, they use raw extracts of whole fruits and vegetables. They do not separate these extracts into their parts. They are interested in what the fruit or vegetable as a whole has to offer. What they found is nothing short of spectacular! The phytochemicals that they study include: antioxidants, polyphenols and isothiocyanates; compounds that target the processes involved in the development of a tumor. They think a diet based on regular intake of these foods is one of the strongest weapons we have for the prevention of cancer.

So, what plants have emerged as the focus of their study? In brief, the categories that are presented in the book include: the brassica family, (cabbage, kale, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, broccoli, arugula and the like) the allium family, (garlic, onions, leeks, shallots, etc.) soy (edamame, miso, tempeh), turmeric, green tea, berries, omega-3s, tomatoes, citrus fruits, red wine and chocolate. The scope of this article is too short to go into the details of how the phytochemicals in each of these categories work, as well as the best ways to prepare and consume these foods for maximum benefit. Keep your eyes peeled for future articles in this series for that information!

I strongly encourage anyone who is serious about taking charge of their health to read this book and learn more about how whole, organic foods can alter the course of your life. My motivation to eat delicious, fresh, nutritious food has never been higher. Luckily, I work at the best possible place for access to these wonders of nature: Harmony Valley Farm!

Vegetable Feature: Amaranth Greens

by: Andrea Yoder

Amaranth greens could be called one of our own “super-foods.” While I’ve never sent a sample to the lab to test nutrient levels, we know greens in general are packed with nutrients and foods with vibrant colors are such because of the antioxidants and phytochemicals in them. So I introduce to you the beautiful, deep red amaranth, the cooking green in your box this week!

The variety of amaranth we grow is referred to as “Polish Amaranth.” We purchased the seed from Wild Garden Seeds (WGS), which is kind of funny because Richard is the one who actually gave them the seed originally! The story goes like this… day Richard was driving to La Crosse and saw this beautiful red amaranth growing in a garden along the way. He stopped and asked the people who lived there about this plant. They said their Aunt May brought the seed with her from Poland and they were happy to share it with Richard. So Richard collected some seed and started growing it, mostly as a baby green to mix into his gourmet salad mix.  It didn’t do so well as a salad mix ingredient, but in later years we found success growing it as a mid-summer bunching green used for cooking. Since we aren’t in the business of seed production, Richard passed the seed onto Frank Morton at WGS and he has been maintaining this variety of amaranth.  Thanks Frank!
While many greens, such as lettuce and spinach, struggle to thrive during the heat of the summer, amaranth grows in all its glory.  As a more mature bunching green we recommend enjoying it as a cooking green for optimal flavor. The stems are often tender enough to be eaten as well, just finely chop them and cook them alongside the greens. Amaranth can be simply boiled, steamed or sautéed with garlic and onions for a super-simple preparation. It also pairs well with other summer vegetables such as zucchini, green beans, corn, tomatoes, basil, etc. Amaranth is similar in flavor to spinach, except better!
Amaranth is thought to have originated in Central and/or South America, but has made its way around the globe. It can be found in Europe, Asia and the Americas, which means there are many options for finding ways to use this vegetable. It pairs well with beans, cumin, coriander and oregano for more of a Mexican approach. Stir-fry it with garlic, onion, ginger and a drizzle of sesame oil for more of a Chinese influence. Mix it with pasta, tomatoes, oregano, basil and Parmesan for an Italian flair, or take it in more in the direction of Indian cuisine by choosing curry spices & lentils (see this week’s recipe). We hope you enjoy this lovely green, for its aesthetics, nutrition, history and flavor

Red Lentil Soup with Amaranth Greens  
Yield:  4 servings

2 Tbsp ghee or sunflower oil
¾ cup finely diced onion
1 Tbsp minced garlic
2 tsp red curry paste
1 tsp ground turmeric
1 Tbsp mustard seeds
1 ½ cups red lentils
6-7 cups water
½ bunch cilantro, leaves and stems separated
Sea salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 bunch amaranth greens
Lemon wedges, for serving (optional)

Yogurt, for serving (optional)

1.    Heat ghee or sunflower oil in a soup pot over medium-high heat. Add the onion and garlic and saute just until the onions are softened, about 5 minutes. 
2.    Add the curry paste, turmeric and mustard seeds. Continue to saute, stirring frequently, for several more minutes until the mustard seeds are fragrant. Add the lentils, 6 cups of water, and 1 ½ tsp salt. Bring to a simmer.
3.    Separate the leaves of cilantro from the stems. Mince the stems finely and add them to the soup.  Coarsely chop the leaves and set aside to use as a garnish when serving the soup.
4.    Continue to simmer the soup, uncovered, stirring frequently. Simmer until the lentils have disintegrated into a soft texture and are thick. You may puree the soup at this point if you want it perfectly smooth, or may leave it as is. Adjust the thickness of the soup to your liking by adding an additional cup of water if needed.
5.    Prepare the amaranth greens by separating the leaves from
      the stems. Roughly chop the greens into bite sized pieces. You should have about 4-5 cups of greens. Finely mince the remaining stems.You may choose to discard the lower portion of the stems that are thicker.
6.    Add the amaranth to the soup and stir to combine. Continue to simmer for another 5-8 minutes or until the greens are wilted and tender. Season the soup with freshly ground black pepper and additional salt if needed. 
7.    Portion the soup into bowls and serve along with optional (but highly recommended) garnishes including chopped cilantro, yogurt and a squeeze of lemon juice.

Recipe adapted from a similar recipe featured in Deborah Madison’s book, Vegetable Literacy.