Sprouts & Salads

It’s so easy to sprout things, and then they’re alive! Sprouting changes the texture and make-up of beans to make them more edible with less digestive issues, and makes some vitamins more accessible. There’s just something special about eating a live bean rather than a dull, dried bean (nothing against them, I cooked some yummy pinto beans with apples & turmeric the other day). My favorites for sprouting are green lentils, mung beans, alfalfa, chickpeas, and sunflower seeds (raw, not toasted – non-irradiated). Making sprouts adds a fresh-grown item that could be a good substitute for salad during low-yield times in the garden.

I like the way sprouts twist and curl and reach out. And their crisp crunch that tastes so fresh and clean. Here I have added some green lentil sprouts along with mung beans, chickpeas, navy beans, pintos, chard, dill, lemon, & olive oil to make a glorious 5-bean salad, a step up from the white bean salad I’ve been making lately.

First soak your bean/seed of choice (dried, not canned or cooked) in cold water for the first day, to fully hydrate. Then rinse them with fresh cool water twice a day (morning & night), straining the water out. All they need to live is water and a bit of air, and they will start sprouting in a couple of days. When the sprouts are big enough for your taste, refrigerate them to prevent overgrowing. It’s that simple.

I sprout in a metal pot with a holey lid, and strain with a sieve. In the past I’ve used a set-up with glass mason jars fit with screened lids, that you can simply fill with water and strain without having to undo the lid.

We’ve had some red sumac powder in the pantry that someone saved last fall. It’s an unusual item that looks like chili powder but isn’t spicy at all. It tastes very lemony, kind of like a whiskey sour. Here I have combined sumac with lime juice, olive oil, turmeric, white pepper, and pickled beet juice to make a lovely colorful dressing that probably most people weren’t sure what to do with. Also shown here is a coconut-mint-lime dressing (coconut milk adds a creamy factor to vegan dressings), and a spicy thai dressing with a green bell pepper puree.

Bean Salad with Chard & Chives

We have lots of lovely rainbow chard brightening our plates this week. Kale and spinach too, which all seems to go down with a bit more enthusiasm when combined with various forms of garlic. Fresh green garlic chives and scallions are in great shape this spring, a flavorful garnish for pretty much anything. Lately I’ve been favoring this cold white navy bean salad with chives, chard, fresh lemony sorrel, parsley, olive oil, lemon juice (a bit of zest would add oomph), salt & white pepper. I chop up the rainbow chard stems like celery, a colorful crunch, then slice the greens up finely. This is a refreshing way to use up some of the abundant greens this spring.

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Celebrating Spring with Mint & Mango

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Fresh-tasting split pea soup with mint & mango (& other green herbs: thyme, parsley, sage, tarragon, celery, plus turmeric & white pepper). Surprisingly delicious, savory combination! We happened to get a surplus stock of 20 cases of very ripe mangoes… time for smoothies & mango salsa!

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Deep dark loaf: whole wheat, oats, rye, buckwheat, molasses. Sweet & Earthy.

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The courtyard in bloom, complete with kitty & lilacs

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First rhubarb harvest of the year! Mango-rhubarb jam?

Dragon Eggs

Dragon eggs for Brunch! I used pickled beet juice to dye some hardboiled eggs pink, and tried to use wasabi/turmeric/scallions for green but ended up adding some food coloring to that one… turned out pretty cool, kinda tie-dyed. Better color after soaking them overnight without their shells. Happy Spring!

More from brunch: the finished eggs, & cinnamon rolls (vegan, with a ground sunflower seed filling)

Swept Away By Spring Update: Kale, Kombucha, Sourdough Redux, & More

Swept Away By Spring Update: Kale, Kombucha, Sourdough Redux, & More

Well, it’s been a while since my last post. I should have been writing about the boatloads of kale we’ve been getting from our garden and turning into kale chips, salads massaged or otherwise, smoothies, hummus, pesto, kimchi, kale slaw, pickled stems, and just about everything we can come up with. Kale-pocalypse, as we call it, has been two weeks of Iron Chef: Kale. It is a superfood with large amounts of vitamin C, iron, and more.

There’s also been lovely spring onions :), great lettuce, and still beets & carrots aplenty. I’ve taken some not-so-super photos with my phone, but I should get back into the habit of bringing my Canon DSLR… sorry for the quality and blurriness and lighting issues. I’ve also been meaning to get out and take more photos of the spring beauty all around – flowers and the garden sprouting – and now we’ve had several days of rain. I’ve gotten a bit swept away by the beauty and peace this month, reconnected with some friends, and got out of my winter cave. I even went to an awesome indie rock concert for the first time in a long time, at Richmond’s Broadberry, Thao & The Get Down Stay Down, with Little Scream and Avers. Sometimes you gotta rock out:

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Thao & The Get Down Stay Down is touring with their new album “A Man Alive.” Their song “Meticulous Bird” has been playing on loop all week on my mp3 player.

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Little Scream (from Canada) was great too, they opened for Thao.

Anyway, here are some food things I’ve made lately:

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Kale salad with shredded beets, blood oranges, and red onion

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A bouquet of rainbow chard stems

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Chickpea salad with olives, kale, & tahini

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Potato casserole with homemade yogurt, fresh herbs (chives, chervil, parsley), eggs, & olive oil

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Fresh sourdough loaves ready for a spring picnic

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My first attempt at babka – cocoa cinnamon swirls in a banana bread dough

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Blood orange kombucha (we were recently gifted a bunch of blood oranges, which is awesome. So pretty. Cheers!

A couple of notes/corrections on my last blog, about sourdough:
– A friend found out that there is no GMO wheat grown in the US, yay!
Rye is safer than I thought. Of course folks have used rye in sourdough successfully for a long time. The concern about trippy rye mold is mostly null in modern times – the specific mold that causes hallucinations, the ergot fungus, grows on the rye while in the field. It’s removed after harvest now, and affects not just rye, but many grain crops like wheat, oats, barley, & more. Rye flour & berries mold easily if left out in the climate in VA, which should be avoided in general, but it’s not the ergot fungus.
– Some folks say it isn’t best to feed sourdough a 100% whole wheat diet, that variety is best. You’ll find that every sourdough baker has something that they prefer to feed their dough pet: white unbleached, rye, oats, leftover porridge grains. One friend swears by feeding his sourdough dehydrated potato flakes, and you know what, it tasted great and was fluffy. Just goes to show ya that many methods work.

Coming soon: More spring harvests, the herb garden, and birthday cakes.

Pretty Salads Gallery

There’s nothing like a fresh salad to spruce up a table. A pretty salad can effectively garnish the whole meal. A variety of colors in salads can increase appetite, as well as providing basic fiber and raw nutrients. A medium-dark lettuce carries whopping amounts of chlorophyll; vitamins A, C, & K; manganese; folate; and more. It’s also an opportunity to add some Omega-rich healthy oil – such as extra-virgin olive oil, walnuts, or another favorite nut. Salads are fun to make here on the farm, with a full supply of super-fresh homegrown greens, herbs, edible flowers, cukes, tomatoes, and more. Sadly, cold weather is here for a few months slowing that supply down a bit. Cooler weather is actually best for growing lettuce, flavor-wise – in hot weather the flavor can turn bitter if the plant bolts or “burns.” Our farm continues to grow lettuce, kale, and other greens in the hoophouse all winter long. It’s easy to make up new salad recipes using whatever veggies look best in season. Here are a few of my favorites from the past couple of years:

Quick-pickled Radishes

This is such a simple recipe – and can be colorful, if you choose colorful radishes. Our farm grows a lovely mix of purple, pink, red, and white radishes.

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Slice very thinly, then sprinkle salt to taste and vinegar to the top level of the radishes in a bowl. Add fresh cilantro leaves, and mix well. This salad is great right away, and even better after at least a half hour of soaking. For community meals, I usually make a couple of quarts of this salad when we have enough radishes! Here’s a basic ratio for smaller proportions:

1/2 cup thinly sliced radishes, 3 Tablespoons Vinegar, 1 teaspoon salt.

I have come across many interesting variations in recipes for quick pickles, so experiment with adding things you might like in the basic recipe, like horseradish, sugar, garlic, ginger, herbs, thinly sliced carrots or other crispy veggies.

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Apple Rhubarb Flower Salad

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Some folks shy away from edible flowers, or don’t know which ones are edible. Some common back yard varieties include daylilies, violets, borage, squash flowers, nasturtium, roses, redbuds, etc. Caution is advised for unfamiliars, naturally. Edible flowers have been in food fashion for centuries, with a recent jump in popularity the past decade or so. A friend of a friend started their own edible flower business for a couple of years, simply growing what they could in their back yard, selling to the back doors of restaurant kitchens who received them with pleasant surprise. Flowers are wonderful cake toppers – seven years ago, I made a simple handfasting cake with pale yellow & pink rose petals & violets for a couple of old-fashioned friends’ special day.

This salad uses purple & white violets, plus their greens, picked fresh the day of use. Thick, reddish rhubarb stalks are best in season in the spring. Slice the rhubarb thinly, discarding the leaf (which is poisonous). Core your favorite apples (for this salad, I like the sweetness and flavor of gala or fuji), and chop into 1-inch chunks, sprinkling lemon juice as you go to prevent oxidation. Proportionally, use about 4 parts apples to one part rhubarb. The tartness of the rhubarb contrasts nicely with the sweetness of the apples. Add the violet leaves whole, or slice them. Add a drizzle of honey, a splash more lemon (to taste), sliced fresh sorrel (if you have it – a lemony leafy herb) or parsley or chervil. Mix well, and top with pretty violets right before serving (they might wilt in the fridge or heat).

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Cucumber, Apple, & Pear salad

Peeling is optional if you trust where your produce came from. Thinly slice equal amounts of cucumbers, apples, & pears (asian pears are especially well-suited with their juicy, crispy, mild flavor). Wash & mince a handful of fresh parsley. Add a splash of rice wine vinegar or fresh lemon, a light drizzle of honey, light sprinkle of salt, and mix well. Our farm grows small, yellow “asian jewel” melons that taste like a slightly sweet cucumber – also a great addition to this salad.

Massaged Kale

Kale, whether massaged, cooked, or in chip form, is definitely “in fashion” lately. As a dark, leafy green, kale provides vitamins, iron, & potassium. Massaging kale softens it while leaving it raw and its nutrients intact.

Wash kale, and strip from the stems (pulling the leaves off with your hands), or chop finely (1-inch leaf pieces, plus thinner sliced stems optional). Mince a couple cloves of garlic, and sprinkle with some salt & pepper to taste, a splash each of lemon juice & apple cider (or white wine) vinegar, plus a generous drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil. With clean hands, roll up your sleeves and massage the kale as you might a person or bread dough. Turn & mix while massaging for about 15 minutes, until the kale had decreased in size by about half. Sometimes I won’t have enough room in the bowl to massage it all at once, but then I can add more kale in once there is room for more to fit.

Mixed Greens & Purples with Feta

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Purple & blue veggies & flowers are uncommon in nature. Purple vegetables contain antioxidants, a wide variety of vitamins in trace amounts, plus plenty of vitamins A, B-6, C, and potassium. They’re best served raw, with some kind of acidic element (lemon, vinegar, etc) to protect it from oxidation, for the most nutrients and health benefits.

Wash & dry baby spinach greens, or your favorite dark leafy greens (pictured above is tat soi & radish greens). Thinly slice a purple cabbage and a red onion. Toss salad with a sprinkle of coarse salt, black pepper, oregano, olive oil, and fresh lemon juice. Crumble feta cheese and fresh black olives and mix.

Tomato Salad with Basil & Tarragon

I love a mix of colors of tomatoes (Verna orange, yellow peach, big rainbow, burgundy, green zebra heritage varieties are some of my favorites), and of course any fresh red tomatoes will work. Cube the tomatoes or slice how you like. Roughly chop (or rip by hand) fresh herbs: basil, tarragon (goes surprisingly very well with tomato flavor – naturally sweet), oregano, plus salt & pepper to taste (I use sparse, coarse salt and fresh cracked black pepper), and mix. This salad could easily be sliced instead, showing the prettiest sides of the tomatoes’ colors – and then spread over some focaccia flatbread and baked. Yum!

For more texture, flavor, and protein, add fresh mozzarella cubes and sliced red onion & let marinade for a while before serving.

Wild-Harvested Salads

Like edible flowers, more back yard salad may be eluding you. Get a trail guide or plant identification book, or a neighbor, and start looking. Knowing at least a few common wild edibles provides fresh meals while camping in wilderness, and variety of diet while back home. Never be without nutritious, dark ruffage (also spelled roughage). Some common plants to look for and taste:

-chickweed (grows most of the year in medium climates)
-purslane (juicy, lemony flavor, omega 3)
-dandelion leaves (& flowers) – bitter, coffee taste, good for liver
-wild onions (easy to find shooting up above the top of the grass, almost anywhere)
-watercress (grows in or near streams)
-nettles (high-nutrient density, great for your organs)

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Green Goddess Dressing

This is a favorite dressing which can take different forms. Everyone makes it slightly different to their own taste, but the basics are to chop up lots of green things and puree into a dressing – spinach, kale, parsley, cilantro, scallions, etc. I start with a jar and fill it half to two-thirds full of chopped green ruffage, pour vinegar about halfway, add a scoop of yogurt, a scoop of tahini, salt & pepper to taste, and olive oil to fill, then puree using an immersion or standing blender.