Monday, November 30, 2009

Lavender Ridge Farms

Texas is massive. Texans love food. And I think it's so massive that it's nearly impossible to keep track of it all. And I think there's so much food, it's not very easy to eat it all.  So since I will be in Texas for a little while, I've decided to explore the parts I never have before. And all the food that follows.

My first destination was Gainseville, Texas. Here I found Lavender Ridge Farms, a pick-your-own farm that grows lavender, herbs, geraniums, and vegetables all for the picking. 

Lavender season begins in May, so the 2-acre crop field was a little scarce. But no problem- we still got to enjoy a bit of lavender here and there.  Lavender bushes grow best in wide open and sunny flat fields. Texas is a pretty great place to grow it, as it tends to keep dry most of the year.

These shrubby plants were a lot larger than I thought they would be. (Also a bit empty because of the  time of year.) Either way, they smelled wonderful and one bush was the perfect amount for drying.  

This is how:
Lay your stalks out on a sieve or tray. Make sure that the stalks do not touch one another. This is ensure no moisture is retained between the stalks, or transferred from one to the other.
Place the tray in a cool shady area. You want to avoid the sun so the drying time is drawn out.
Also, lift your tray a few inches above the ground. This will allow an air current  to blow underneath and remove excess moisture.
It's also really important to bring in your stalks before a dew or mist settles. Basically, you want to avoid moisture any way you can.
Once dry, your lavender will have a greyish-blue color. Beauty.

So Lavender can be used for many many things. Not just pillows and sachets. (I'm not so into sachets...) Here are some things you can use them for. (Use them!)
  •  Get your hands on some oil of lavender and rub it on your temples or wrist to ease nervousness, light-headedness, flatulence, spasms, and even colic. (Another popular way to take it is 1-4 drops on a spoon of sugar.)
  • A few drops of essence of lavender can be mixed into a hot foot-bath to relieve fatigue.
  • It can also be applied to the source to relieve toothaches and sprains.
  • Try rubbing some oil on your temple to relieve a nervous headache, or slight episodes of depression. 
  • In France, lavender oil is a household fixture. It's often used to treat bruises, bites, and minor aches and pains. 
  • Lavender oil is also used as an embalming agent in some places. (Don't do this one.)
So enjoy the lavender info. Back with more Texas action so soon.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Sauerkraut (my love) ((Dedicated to my Grandmother))

Two Things:
First: I love sauerkraut. Really love to eat it. A world without sauerkraut is a world without love.  I love love. Second: I just got my hands on a book I've been looking for - Wild Fermentation by Sandor Katz. Oh this book makes me so happy. If you're into making your own ferments or sprouting or culturing, really look out for this book. It definitely  reignited my excitement about fooding. And I think I really needed to be reignited. (It's know.) 
Combining 1 &2: I made sauerkraut. A dear friend and I tried to make it a bit ago, but somehow it exploded and smelled like wet hot feet. We didn't want to eat it. We didn't want to go near it. And by the way, sauerkraut is too easy to make. (How did we go wrong?)
Either way, I tried to make it again. And taking tips from the book, I think I made a batch no where near feet. Hot, wet, or otherwise.
What you'll need:
Roughly Two Heads of Cabbage
Salt (sea or kosher)
Big crock or vat or container
Plate to fit inside container
Heavy weight

 I decided to use a red and a green cabbage, to make a pinkish kraut. But honestly you can use any kind you'd like. Shred or chop- either thick or thin. I used a wacky shredder from the 70's so my shred came out very/too thin. No problem.
As you shred the cabbage, place it in a large bowl and add a good amount of course salt: kosher or sea. For both heads of cabbage, I used about 5 tablespoons of salt. But I didn't measure, I just added salt as I shredded.
Next, put your cabbage, a couple hand fulls at a time, into the container. And then you punch. And press. And pound the cabbage. This (along with the salt) brings the moisture out and creates the brine your sauerkraut will live in. Don't worry if this doesn't create a ton of liquid yet, this will come in time. Once all the cabbage is in,  place your plate directly on top of the cabbage.  On top of this plate, place your weight to ensure your cabbage in under a lot of pressure. (The more pressure, the more liquid, the more fermentation.) Most recipes agree that a gallon jug full of liquid works best. This is what I used, as yes, it works beautifully.

And so it's done. Sauerkraut is being created. Cover your concoction with a cloth or towel to keep flies and dirt out and let it ferment in a cool, dry part of your house. You'll want to check your kraut every day or so to make sure the liquid is covering the plate.  If you find that your cabbage hasn't produced enough on its own within the first 24 hours, you can help: add one tablespoon salt to one cup of water and mix until dissolved. Add this to your cabbage. Add more as needed until your plate is covered in brine.
You'll want to check your kraut periodically to make sure everything looks fine. If water has dissolved, add more salt water.  Wait one week to a month. ( I know, its terrible. A month.)

Monday, October 26, 2009


Cabbage patch. And vitamin green patch. And kohlrabi patch. Really beautiful vegetables when you really take a look at them. Rows and rows and they were all growing really well. Two types of kohlrabi exist in North America: White and Purple Vienna. The purple one is a bit sweeter but white is more readily available. Also, kohlrabi are surprisingly high in Vitamin C. So if you need some, or if you bruise easily, eat some kohlrabi.

Luckily the farm grows a lot of Purple Vienna. This is a closeup.

  Here Hector is standing in a field of turnips, radishes, and beets.  (I later ate the Watermelon Radish he is holding and it stung my mouth in a perfect way.) These radishes run the opposite of others: the more mature they are, the less intense their flavor is. Because I ate the radish straight from the ground, the intensity was...well...intense. Sliced into a salad or pickled, the taste is a bit masked and becomes much more pleasant to crunch.

Two pictures of the vegetables growing straight from the ground: The top photo is our watermelon radish and the bottom picture is a trio of purple turnips. If you're in to pickling, purple turnips are delicious candidates. Their intense flavor combines with the acidity of the brine to make a really tart pickle.

Here is a comparison of two cover-crop fields. The top picture is a new field with rye seeds recently planted. The one on the bottom is a more developed field. (You can see the rye is already growing. ) If you're not familiar with the term, cover crop is a sustainable agriculture technique used to improve soil conditions for the growing seasons to come. Because it is the beginning of winter, Hector chose to grow rye as his cover crop. Though I didn't ask why, I'm guessing it is because rye has a deep root system, is easy to grow, and it can help control weeds. Rye's root system stimulates the soil and pulls nutrients to the top, making the field fertile for the next seasons crop.

Kale is one of my favorite vegetables and, at last, I saw a whole forest of it. This kalefield seemed like a growth of mini palm trees; paradise for every ant in town. It is a hardy vegetable and can be grown without a greenhouse all winter long. Fact: Kale tastes sweeter after a frost. Also: Kale is very high in calcium. So if you're lacking, eat some. Please eat some.  We were so excited/consumed with this part of the tour, that I forgot to take many notes. Just know that Kale is a member of the cabbage family and can be eaten raw or cooked. (If you hate bitterness, cook it.)

Thursday, October 22, 2009


This past weekend I got a chance to visit my friend Hector Tejada's farm in New Paltz, New York. Hector has 11 acres on which he grows vegetables like squash, kale, radish, turnips,  kohlrabi, cabbage, lettuce, carrots, sunflower greens, and more and more and more. He sells his crop at the Ft. Greene Greenmarket every Saturday, if you'd like to see/eat first hand.  I'm not sure I captured everything but I'm going to try and paint as bright and vivid of a picture as I can. It was so wonderful there. And here's why: 

These hens (and one brute of a rooster) were roaming around the farm in such a hilariously chicken way. They pecked around constantly and everywhere with a To-Do List on their minds.  But when I watched them a bit longer, I noticed that they just pecked around in hurried circles, committed to getting in the way of our feet and our steps and our legs...Chickens with their heads cut on go nowhere at all.
Note the blackish chicken that is sitting in a hole in the ground. Chickens create these little potholes to sit in, to keep cool in hot weather. If you want to hear the heck out of the rooster go here.

These white chickens are Araucana hens: the hens that lay small blue eggs. You can tell an Araucana apart from other hens because of the tufts on either side of their faces.

Look at those eggs! It was a bit weird to pick them up and feel that they were still warm. Hector says the hens lay about 70 eggs a week.

These sunflower greens were growing in a greenhouse. The top picture is a crop of greens that is just about to bud. The picture on the bottom is a crop that is one week older than the first. (Growing fast!) These pictures were taken on a Monday and the group on the bottom will be ready to sell by Saturday's market. 

 These squash were curing in a different greenhouse. Squash must be cured for a week or longer in order to harden the skin and to develop a sweet taste.
So much more to show you but I will compile it for my next post. 

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Gluten Free Granola

I should start this by saying that I never cared much for granola. I don't crave cold for breakfast. But about a year ago, when I realized what gluten was doing to me and cut it out of my diet, I began to dream of food I never ate before. For example, granola. And maybe I didn't crave granola exactly, but I did miss munching. And a crunch.   

                 This granola is amazingly, deliciously, delicious. I discovered the recipe while moseying around the internet looking to soothe my unexplainable granola crave. I've altered it from the original because I think it's a bit lighter this way. If you would like to see the original, find it here.

Gluten Free Granola

3 cups gluten-free oats *
1/2 cup sliced almonds
1/2 cup sunflower seeds
1/2 cup rice flour
1 Tbsp cinnamon
1 Tsp allspice
1 Tsp ground ginger
1Tsp ground cardamom
3/4 cup agave nectar (or honey if you like)
1/2 cup unsweetened cranberry juice
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
2 Tsp olive oil

Preheat your oven to 250ยบ and lightly grease a baking sheet with oil.

In a large bowl, mix the oats, almonds, seeds, and flour. Add in cinnamon, allspice, ginger and cardamom. Mix again.

In a separate bowl, combine agave nectar, cranberry juice, vanilla and oil. Mix until fully combined. Pour the liquid mixture over the oats. Stir with a heavy spoon so that all oats are fully coated. 

Pour your mixture onto the baking sheet and spread out evenly with a spoon. Bake for about 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and, using a wide spatula, 'rotate the crop.' Basically, till the granola over so that what was on the bottom is now on top. Do this to make sure your granola cooks evenly. Stick the granola back in the oven and continue baking.

Bake the granola for an hour or so, tilling every 15 minutes.  You'll know its ready when it is no longer sticky to the touch. (it should be dry and crunchy)

Store in an airtight container and it should keep for about a week.

Sunday, October 11, 2009


Did you ever watch/read Harry Potter? Yes remember those screaming plants that they pull out of the dirt in the Greenhouse? Daikon Radish are absolutely related. Except that they don't scream. If you've never tasted Daikon, just think of your conventional red-skinned radish but with a much harsher spice. Bit of a kick.I came across some mean looking Daikon at the Ft. Greene market and had to document their enormity.  Also, I decided I had to take one home with me.
What I Know:
  • The radish itself is rich in Vitamin C and potassium.
  •  Daikon leaves can also be eaten raw or cooked: good source of beta-carotene,  calcium, and iron.  
  • Eat Daikon if you're having digestion problems and to cleanse/strengthen your liver. 
Daikon is a staple in Korean and Japanese cooking (it is the most widely grown vegetable in Japan!) so I decided to seek a recipe from either country. Thus the Sunomono Salad. (Japan!)

1 medium sized daikon radish
1 cucumber (English is best)
5 Tbsp rice vinegar
2 Tbsp sugar
2 Tsp sake
1 Tsp salt

1.Peel the cucumber and radish.
2. Slice both into round, thin slices
3. Salt both and let sit for about 10 minutes
4. Wash and strain
5. Mix vinegar, sugar and sake in a cup
6. Pour over radish/cucumber mixture and let sit for about 15 minutes
7. Consume & Enjoy