Crop Focus : Sunflower Shoots

 

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Sunflower Shoots are seedlings of sunflower plants that are grown from 10-14 days.  The crunchy greens tastes like slightly sweet raw sunflower seeds, making them a popular crop.  Everyone loves sunflower seeds, and not surprisingly, they also love these sunflower shoots.

Similar to sunflower seeds, their shoots are also a great source of good, unsaturated fat.  As you would expect, they are also the most calorie dense micro-green that we grow.  Just 1/4 cup of Sunny Shoots contains 190 calories and 16 grams of fat.  As comparison, 1/4 cup of dry roasted sunflower seeds contains 207 calories and 19 grams of fat.

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In addition to fat, they are also a great source of plant based protein.  The shoots contain nearly 40% protein and 8 amino acids!  Beyond that, sprouting naturally releases some enzymes that make the greens much more digestible than in seed form.  When grown in soil, they also take up the minerals from the soil which boosts the vitamin and mineral content in the shoot form.

Pregnant or Breast Feeding Women should also know that sunny shoots are a great source of folate.  Men should know too, that they are a great source of zinc, which will help your sperm counts.  Nothing better than fresh vitamins and minerals from your food!

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Not only are they amazing for you, they also taste great!  Other than pea shoots, these are the most durable micro-greens that we grow, making them surprisingly versatile.  They are great mixed into any salad mix to provide a sweet nutty crunch or even used as the main ingredient in sunflower shoot pesto!  We really enjoy the taste and texture they provide to a fruit smoothie.  Sometimes though, the simpler the better.  When we have sunflower shoots left over at the end of the week (which rarely happens), our go to is sunflower shoot and nut butter sandwich.  Toast, Nut Butter of Choice, Sunflower Shoots and Honey.   Thats all.  It rivals the standard PB&J.  Its a common snack for us on the ski lift between run, or packed into a cold pack for a snack along the trail.  This sandwich will give you all the energy you need to fully enjoy your next adventure!

Even that simple sandwich is too many steps for many people!  Snacking like they are popcorn works too!  Kids love these tiny greens too.   They are fun, and crunchy, and sweet.  Its hard to find a kid that turns them down, so if you’re looking for a healthy snack that your kid will actually eat….try this sandwich and leave the rest of the box out for your kid to snack on too.  They will be eating greens and not even care, or they may even like it and try others!

 

Eating Greens Does the Body Good!

We all know we should eat more leafy greens.   I was told that for years and I brushed it off for later in life.   I mean, who wants to really eat a sad side salad with iceberg lettuce and carrot shavings?  No-one does.  No-One.  But the truth is that leafy greens are truly amazing for a healthy balanced diet.

IMG_2218First off, they are high in nutrient and mineral content while being very low in calories and fat.  This means you can pile them high on a plate and you’ll get full before you start packing on the extra lbs.   All leafy greens are charged with loads of vitamins like A, C, and E, and minerals like Copper, Zinc, Selenium and Potassium.  Vitamin C alone has a major impact on the bodies ability to burn fat.  Low levels of vitamin C appear to hamper the bodies ability to shed fat.  Think of it this way…its not the salads that help you loose weight, its the high nutrient content that is allowing the body to function as designed!

IMG_0285Another thing we need in our diet is fiber, and greens contain fiber in spades.   Fiber is not digested by the body but it helps the body in many ways.   It helps with satiation.  You will feel fuller, longer, when you’re consuming enough fiber in your meals.  Beyond being fuller, it will help slow the absorption of sugars which helps regulate your blood sugar levels.  No more crashing when you’re eating enough fiber!

When you’re consuming a lot of vitamins, minerals and fiber from your food sources you’ll notice a few things.  You will have increased cognitive function, increased energy, increased weight loss, and an overall more youthful appearance!  Who doesn’t want that?

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All greens bring something to the table, but the darker the greens, the more mineral and nutrient content.  So don’t shy away from Kale, Chard, Spinach, Broccoli, Collards and other greens like that.  And of course Microgreens!   Microgreens are more nutrient and mineral dense than even the fully grown leafy greens so make sure they are a part of your meal planning as well.  Red Cabbage, Broccoli, Kale, and Kohlrabi Microgreens are the darkest of our micros, so they are always a good choice to really boost your nutritional intake!  Plus they all taste great.

At first you’ll wonder how you can eat all of these greens.  But, after a while you’ll find yourself looking for even more greens.   We have been actively adding greens to our meals for 3 years now and there hasn’t been a meal without some sort of greens on the plate.   Bringing color and beauty to the plate, when you eat greens regularly, you’ll really miss them when they aren’t on the plate.

 

Microgreen Guacamole!

IMG_0942We have been talking a lot about the versatility of micro-greens in the kitchen.   Really the only thing you need to avoid is heat exposure, so they are really useful in the kitchen.  They go way beyond sandwich and salad toppers.  One of our favorite uses is to wow people with our homemade dips and sauces.  The fan favorite to date is by far the guacamole with our cilantro micro-greens!

Micro-greens are perfect to blend into any sauce, and in this case they smash well into some homemade guacamole.  The huge flavor in these small micro-greens really work well with guac because they are delicate enough to mix into the creamy avocados, but the flavor comes through with every bite!

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Here is what you will need to make this amazing dish:
– 2 Ripe Avocados
– 1 Lime – squeezed fresh
– 1/4 cup Diced Red Onion
– Garlic Powder – just a dash
– Onion Powder – Just a dash
– Salt – Just a dash
– Cilantro Micros – add to taste

Start with the avocados.  Find the most ripe ones and dice them into a bowl.  Then we add some diced red onion.  For the spices we add a dash of onion and garlic powder and salt to your taste.  Then squeeze 1 lime into the bowl and place the cilantro greens (with seed husk) on top and mix all of the ingredients together with a  fork.  We use lots of cilantro micros, but feel free to add as little or as much as you like.  It doesn’t take too long before the guac is creamy and ready to go to the fridge.  This would also be the time to add any other toppers you may enjoy like diced tomatoes or salsa.

Cover with plastic wrap or a lid and place in the fridge to cool.  After chilling, this guac is going to be ready for your toast, chips, tacos, or even to eat by the spoonful.  This simple guacamole is a game changer.  Be a party hero and bring some superfood guacamole to your next get together!IMG_0431

 

 

How To Eat Microgreens

There are a few repeat questions that I get at every farmers market, and they tend to focus on “how do you eat these?” or “are these just for salads?”.  The answer is always “Yes, they are great for adding to a salad, but they are really amazing added to any dish!”

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Microgreens are delicate and they need to be treated with a little care, but they are not hard to cook with or add into any dish.  Because they are delicate, its important to not introduce to heat.  They should be added after the meal is cooked and starting to cool.  We like to serve dinner plated and have good selection of microgreens to choose from at the center of the table, just like dressing or salt and pepper.  In cooler meals, like cold pasta salad or sushi rolls, the greens can be added right into the mix.  Same thing with salads.  Feel free to mix them in with your salad greens or sprinkle on top.

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We like to think of them as a nutritional supplement and use them to meet our daily requirements of many vitamins and minerals.  For instance, broccoli microgreens are likely the most nutritious greens that we grow.  Just 2 oz of these greens have the nutritional density of 2.5 lbs of broccoli flourettes.   When you’re using microgreens at every meal, you’re really just adding a little more nutrition every time you eat.   That adds up!  Just one small package is like consuming an extra 2 or 3 lbs of broccoli by the end of the week.

Plus, after a while, the plate just seems lacking without a splash of green or purple.  Once you get hooked, they are hard to quit.  But who doesn’t need a new healthy habit for the new year?

 

My road to healing part 3: how to feel better

-Guest Blog by Dr. Ann Croghan, PT, DPT, CLC

How to feel better?

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Start small. Do what you can. Have compassion for yourself.

Identify one part of your food habit that you know you should change AND then change it.  For me: it was dairy. Giving up dairy helped me to realize that I was sick and that I could feel better.  Look up the requirements for how long you need to completely avoid that food to know if it is contributing.  Dairy is a complete avoidance for 2-4 weeks. If you mess up, you have to start over. AND you need to know where that food hides. The milk protein casein hides in many things.  Did you know there is such a thing as vegan wine? Or that some non dairy coffee creamers have dairy? Or they use dairy in sausage cassing?

For dairy, there are three main proteins: lactose (which everyone knows), casein, whey. Funny enough, lactose never made me feel sick. So don’t use that as your baseline.

People say to me: “BUT CHEESE? I love cheese!”.  My response? I didn’t love my back pain. I didn’t love my: fatigue, depression, stiffness, hip pain, knee pain, leg pain, asthma, ringing in my ears…… ALL things I didn’t know I could change. My life is so much better without those food choices. And if we continue to advocate for change in the food we eat, we will see more people get better. We will see more restaurants serving food that support healthy minds and bodies.

Ask your loved ones to support you. Staying away from dairy was easier at first because Matt kept it out of the house.

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Living without dairy is easy: there are plant milks, coconut oil, you can make cashews into different kinds of cheese/cream/spread, bananas make the perfect ice cream. All of these choices are cheeper too! Plus I don’t feel terrible anymore.

 

Living without wheat, corn, soy. Read labels. Make your own food. Buy some gluten free bread from Little Red Hen.  On a daily basis I make a choice to feel better. I would rather not eat for the day than have food that will make me sick. Because my body has what it needs to function, I don’t feel terribly hungry any more. I don’t have hangery moments, or hunger crashes, or times where I HAVE TO EAT!!!!!

Add in living, nutrient dense food. You have a lot to make up for. Bananas, blueberry smoothies, lemons, apples, cauliflower, broccoli, peas. Of course: Microgreens!!! Grow your own lettuce, veggies, lemons, herbs.  It’s easy to grow your food. Why take care of a small 4×4 grass space in your yard that serves no purpose? Make it a garden instead.

Support your local farmer.

Support your local restaurant that uses food from the local farmer and not just food from the food truck….. unless it’s The Valley Roots Food Hub.

Don’t let people get to you. We only have this one life. I want to live this life without: fatigue, pain, depression, ringing in my ears, ridges in my nails, sickness. I want to live this life with: energy and laughter.  And for the last few years, I have been doing just that.

Thank you to my wonderful husband Matt for his drive to bring nutrient dense food to his family, to his community, and to inspire other farmers/gardeners to do the same. It’s time to make a change.

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My road to healing part 2: why would food matter?

– Guest Blog by Dr. Ann Croghan, PT, DPT, CLC

Why would food matter?

I always ask my patients: would you put 85 octane in your high performance vehicle?

This is why microgreens are vital toour food system and to our health. They help us to clean out the sludge and waste created by us putting 85 into our bodies. THEN they help us to maintain our health in a world where pollution is in our air, water, ground.

SO – how did I know I was sick? All the symptoms I described in part one, are pretty common. I was still functioning well as a child and a teenager. I did ok in school. I was First Team All Conference for basketball and held the record for average number of steals per game. I rarely missed a 3-pointer. I helped my soccer team make it to state 3 times…… but it was the back pain. The back pain became too much.

In college, there would be days that I couldn’t get out of bed. The pain was so intense that Matt would have to help me up. Then I was literally hit by truck, and the pain improved. A few years later, the back pain returned. For 3-4 years I searched for why. I was put on Vit D, had MRIs, X-rays, more blood tests…… nothing. “You are fine. You need to stand up straight, that will help”. Convinced I had lyme disease or rheumatoid arthritis or Fibromyalgia, I found a physician in Denver that saved my life. She had a specialty in arthritic conditions: her diagnosis? Potentially fibromyalgia. And then she started talking about medication. And I said, “I’d rather deal with the back pain, joint pain, fatigue, depression, brain fog, stomach pain…”

“Well, if you are willing to not take medication, maybe you would be willing to change your diet”.

ummmmmm? What? – “Of course I would.”

“Dairy, wheat, corn, soy are the biggest food allergens that mimic musculoskeletal pain. Which one do you think it is?”

Dairy. It was dairy. Look up dairy allergies. My symptoms as a kid and teenager are well documented as a dairy allergy.

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Matt and I LOVED to stop for pizza and beers after skiing

I COMPLETELY gave up dairy.  Two weeks later AND no cheating, I had no pain. My fatigue, stiffness, tired legs, ringing in my ears, brittle nails, depression, etc all improved by 70% over the course of the next few years. I added this morning drink called RAW Organic Meal from Garden of Life to help get more nutrient dense food in my body.

A few years ago, I switched to a plant-based diet without wheat, corn, or soy. I added more fruit. I added microgreens. My food choices now are: what purpose does this food serve me? Is this food nutrient dense? And guess what? Nothing. I feel great. When I accidentally have something that has wheat or dairy my back starts to hurt, my ears ring,   my shoulder hurts. I’m tired. I feel stiff the next day. I’m not over reacting to the dairy. THIS WAS HOW I FELT 24-7.

Microgreens have helped me make up for all the nutritional deficiencies that were created by a diet high in dairy, wheat, corn, soy, all the other processed food, the standard American diet.

My road to healing part 3: how to feel better.

My road to healing part 1: Normalizing sickness

-Guest Blog by Dr. Ann Croghan, PT, DPT, CLC

Normalizing sickness.

I was sick and I didn’t know it. Most of the life I remember, up until the last few years, was spent being sick. How can one be sick and not know it? Because sickness hides in what we normalize. Sickness hides in plain site and we become so used to it that we don’t realize we are sick.

How did I learn I was sick? One conversation with a physician started my life change over 6 years ago.  My road to healing and learning to listen to my body has been slow.  I made the changes I could, learned a little more, and then made more changes.  Microgreens have made a large impact in my life, and I am so thankful for my husband Matt for learning to grow these powerful plants.

What were some of the signs that I was sick? Looking back on my life, the signs are obvious, although my pictures look normal. But like I said: we have normalized being sick and we have allowed it to creep up on us.

As a kid: ear infections, urinary tract infections, growing pains, constipation, bed wetting, bloated tummy.

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Me at age 3

As a teenager: growing pains, knee pain, constipation, asthma, fatigue, depression, falling asleep at school (especially after lunch), lack of motivation for school, difficulty with endurance for sports, hard time with focused attention for reading, Raynaud’s, random pain in my feet and arms.

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Me at 18 years old in 2001

As a young adult: fatigue, feeling like I was hit by a truck when I would wake up, back pain, hip pain, shoulder pain, sleepy after lunch, stiff in the morning, tired after dinner, tired legs with walking up stairs/hiking/skiing, low Vit D levels, ridges in my finger nails, brittle nails, I had a tooth chip while eating soft food, Raynaud’s, depression, heartburn, ringing in my ears, random shooting pain in my feet, arm, wrist, neck, knees, legs.

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Matt & I skiing in 2010, just before I changed my life.

Now: nothing. I feel tired when my two kids (a 4 yr old and an almost 2 yr old) wake me multiple times per night and I only get 4-5 hours of sleep. BUT I would argue this would be a good excuse to feel tired. I eat some breakfast, drink some lemon water, have a cup of coffee, and then I’m no longer tired.

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My daughter and I in 2017

As I grew, my list of complaints got longer. My fatigue and body stiffness worsened. I was completely functional though! Society had normalized my feelings: “Oh, I’m stiff in the morning too!” or “It’s normal to be tired after eating, it means your food is digesting” or “Growing pains are such a bummer – I remember having those!”.  I ate fairly well for our society standard. I ate veggies and fruit, I had my dairy, I had my grains, and I had meat. Why would food matter?

My road to healing part 2: why would food matter?

 

Food Allergies and our Family

For the last 7 years, food allergies have shaped our family and is truly the reason why we started Poncha Creek Gardens.   Our journey began when my wife discovered she had an intense allergy to dairy products through a difficult and long process of searching for answers.  She suffered from intense fatigue as well as muscle and joint pain that seemed totally random.   After she realized the trigger and we removed all dairy products she felt better than she had in years.   No more fatigue and inflammation was down significantly.  I also went dairy free and felt the same responses even though I never was conscious of the symptoms I was experiencing.   

Going dairy free wasn’t too hard.  We were still able to go out to dinner.  Even pizza!    Fast forward a few years and our first daughter, Aspen, turns 1 and starts eating solid food.   Immediately she had diarrhea, rashes and dramatic behavior issues like rage and violence.  Celiac Disease runs in my family, so we cut wheat out immediately for the whole family.   Aspen got 90% better and my response was equally dramatic.   No more rage and our little sweet girl was back.  Over a few weeks I felt all my inflammation disappear.   I had no fatigue.  My depression and bad mood had lifted.   It was a total game changer.   So without an actual diagnosis, we confirmed that Aspen and I have Celiac Disease or at a minimum a severe intolerance.   

Although Aspen was better, she still had eczema around her mouth.   We came across some research linking eczema with egg consumption.  So we peeled that layer back and got rid of eggs.    The rash was gone in days.  We never missed eggs too much and wondered if they also contributed to some of the celiac symptoms we were experiencing. 

After a year of fully dairy-free and gluten-free diets, we hit another plateau and realized there were more things slowing our path to fully healing.  We then gave up all alcohol, corn, soy, canola oil and natural flavors.  We now follow a whole food plant based diet and try to eat mostly food we grow or source from other local farms in the area.  

 The benefits of the fresh local plant based diet have been outstanding.   We crave only the food we cook and are hardly tempted by more convenient dining options.  Food has become a cornerstone for our family.  If we go out for any social event we either bring our own picnic or eat before we go.   It’s a huge change from our old eating habits of enjoying all the delicious restaurants and dessert spots, but honestly if I could go back, I would go back and make these changes a lot earlier.