Crop Focus: Mustard Microgreens

7E5CC4A5-0FB6-4ACF-A1B5-5EB9BA2517E8When you need a little heat….reach for some mustard micro greens!   Mustard Greens are extremely potent and flavorful!  Don’t let the delicate texture and small stature fool you.  These guys bring the heat!

Tasting of horseradish or wasabi, a little can go a long way.  They are the most intensely flavored micro-green that we grow.  It looks a lot like Kale, or Broccoli, but if you accidentally grab a handful of mustard instead, you will know.  Their flavor anchors our spicy blend alongside Arugula and Radish.  Its an intense flavor but it finishes quickly.

We like to use our mustard micro-greens like hot sauce.  Baked potatoes, stir fry, pasta, or avocado toast are all perfect pairings.  If you eat eggs and fish, they are great to match with mustard micros.  The spice of these greens could also be blended into a salad dressing or tomato juice too!  Surprise everyone at your next brunch with a superfood micro green bloody mary!

All micro greens are great because they have a very high nutritional density and low calories.  According to Dr Axe, “they are a great source of fiber, which helps to regulate your digestive tract and lower high cholesterol levels”.  “They are also full of antioxidants which protect your body from free radical damage”.  Vitamins wise, they are high in K, A and C as well as folate.  Feeling sick?  Reach for some micro greens for their exceptional vitamin c content, which will boost your immune system!

It’s important to eat your micro-greens fresh and raw.  Add them to your meal after it has cooled and is ready to eat.  This will ensure that you get all of the nutritional content, no matter what you eat them with!   Give it a try.  Skip the hot sauce and reach for some micro-greens!

Crop Focus – Purple Kohlrabi Micro-greens

C882AFA3-BDE0-40F8-AA1A-59EFAE826D16Kohlrabi is a lesser known veggie on the scene.  It resides in the Brassica family, like broccoli or cauliflower, and forms a bulb at the base of the plant.  The entire plant is edible and is commonly either green or purple in color.  The bulb that is formed at the base of the plant is crispy and tastes kind of like jicama or a sweet turnip.  The leaves are similar in taste to collard greens, and can be prepared the same way.  Now that we know what the fully grown veggie is, lets jump into the micro green form.

We grow the purple version for our micro greens.  The light purple stem and bright green top is a beautiful sight that is packed with nutritional goodness.  Loaded up with vitamins like C and K, and made up of nearly 30% plant protein, these micro-greens are a true superfood!

IMG_0562All micro-greens are overflowing with great nutrition, but purple and red varieties are especially densely charged with antioxidants.  According to HealthFoodEvolution.com, the purple pigment that gives the purple and red colors in fruits and veggies is a great source for Anthocyanins.  These Anthocyanins protect our cells from lifestyle based damage, like cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and neurological disease.  Purple fruits, veggies and herbs have been used in natural medicine to help with the common cold, hypertension and even liver disorders.

Anthocyanins are our best friends.  No wonder our eyes are dawn to colors.  They are nutritious!  These antioxidants work hard to lower your inflammatory response.  Eat more purple colored veggies to lower your chronic inflammation.  This will help all inflammation based illness, but specifically lowers the burden on your cardiovascular system.  They can even lower your artery stiffness and lower blood pressure.  These anthocyanin’s also help with your overall brain health by enhancing memory and preventing age related decline.

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Who knew the color purple would be so important?  The good news is that micro-greens of all types are a great compact source of nutritional content.  Purple kohlrabi micro-greens are a great source of these potent antioxidants, vitamins and minerals.  And the best news of all, they taste amazing!

Tasting slightly of spinach and cabbage, these tiny greens go great in any salad or sandwich.   Top your favorite soup for a perfect splash of purple color!  The mild flavor and texture of these micro-greens make them a perfect pair for your fruit smoothie too.  You can also find kohlrabi micro-greens in our mild mix alongside broccoli, kale and red cabbage!  Now that’s a power packed lineup!

Crop Focus – Radish Microgreens

IMG_2326When gardening, some old school gardeners will use radish seeds to mark their rows so they know where slow germinating seeds were planted, like carrots.  Radishes are a quick growing crop in the field.  Taking just about 4 weeks from seed sowing to harvest, they pop from the soil quickly, which makes them great for marking rows.  The micro-green form is no different.  In the middle of summer, we can harvest our radish shoots in just 6-7 days from seed to harvest!  This makes it one of the fastest growing crops that we produce, edging out broccoli micro-greens by just a day or two.

IMG_1051Not only do they grow extremely fast, but they bring the nutrition too!  It’s interesting to think about, but radishes reside in the brassica family, just like broccoli, cauliflower and mustard.  Brassicas are known for their superior nutritional content and radishes are no different.  In fact, according to HealWithFood.Org, radish and broccoli micro-greens contain greatest quantities of glucosinolate, which is thought to fight cancer.   They are also great sources of folate and vitamin B6.  If you’re looking to loose weight, these greens are packed with vitamin C which aides in burning fat.  Plus, vitamin c helps with healthy skin and removes free radicals making your skin glow!  According to MarkitoFitness, radish micro-greens are 30% protein too!

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The crunch and flavor delivered by radish micros makes them the perfect pair for any sandwich or wrap.   They also shine in tacos and have really shown well in sushi rolls.   They are crunchy and just the right texture to add to your salad, to really push the nutritional content.  They are also just crunchy enough to perfectly top off your bowl of chili or tomato soup.  Really the uses are endless.   Radishes, more than other micro-greens varieties, don’t have any specific go to recipes for us, but they go well with anything so they are always on hand.

Radish Micros are the backbone of our spicy mixed micro-greens, which also includes mustard and arugula.  The watery heat accompanies the horseradish and peppery flavors to create a lovely complex flavor that is begging to be part of your breakfast sandwich.  If you like heat, you will love these greens.

 

 

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!

 

Tips for Storing Microgreens

IMG_1607At least one time each farmers market we get the question, “So, what do we do with these?  Do they need to be refrigerated?”  The short answer is yes.  They need to stay cold after harvesting, just like the salad mix.  Beyond keeping refrigerated, there are a few more storage tips that will maximize your micro-greens shelf life.

Let’s start with the harvest day.  Whether you grow them at home, or buy one of our packages, the shelf life timer starts ticking at harvest day.   Obviously the best way to consume micro-greens is to harvest them directly to the plate and consume without having to store them.  The reality is that, lots of people are purchasing greens or harvesting lots at a time and want to get the longest shelf life as possible.  Once the greens are harvested, they should be put into a container and directly into the fridge.  We harvest in the cool of the early mornings or late evenings so the ambient temperature of the greens is on the cooler side as well.  We also wait 12-15 hours after the last watering to harvest.   The cooler temps will keep the greens crisp and the time between waterings will allow the greens to dry out enough to harvest without extra moisture.  Don’t wait too long to harvest after watering though….those little greens are very water dependent so it’s important to hit that window where the greens are as dry as possible, but still full of life and standing tall!  In order to get a great shelf life, these parts of the process are imperative.

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Next, let’s chat about containers.  We don’t like using the plastic packaging, but the truth is, it’s the best packaging that we can send our harvest out the door in.  The sturdiness of the containers will keep the greens safe from bruising.  Thats the main reason we use clamshells.  When you harvest them at home or buy in bulk, you may want to switch up those containers.   Any airtight container will work, like a glass container or even a zip lock bag if you’re not worried about bruising.  Anything that we harvest that does’t immediately go into a clamshell for sale, will go into a Rubbermade Fresh Vent Container that is specific for leafy greens.   There is a small filter on the lid that helps keep the condensation down which helps increase shelf life.  We find that these containers will keep the greens fresh almost twice as long as our plastic clamshell containers.  If you are serious about your greens, you may want to look into a specific storage like this.  We will put a link to the style containers we use at the end of this post.  With that said, there are a few things that you can do with your plastic clamshells to keep them as fresh as possible as well.

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The main thing that we want to avoid is moisture and condensation.   In order to keep condensation down, it’s important to keep a constant, cold temperature.  We advise you to keep your greens in the fridge where the temperature is most constant.  Don’t keep them by the fan blowing the cold air, and don’t leave them on the door if you tend to keep the fridge door open a long periods of time.  When the greens warm and cool, they will naturally condensate, so keeping cold and dry while avoiding freezing temperatures is a must.  One of the best places to keep them would be in one of the drawers or towards the middle of the fridge.   If you find some condensation on the lid when you open it up, don’t worry too much, just wipe it clean!  That will help add some time to your shelf life as well.

Another note to make, is don’t leave them out too long!  Grab what you want and get those greens back into the fridge!  If you’re leaving them out for a fun meal, or party, make sure they are staying chilled like the veggie tray.   If you’re storing on ice, make sure there is a barrier to keep them cool, but not freeze.  If they are in direct contact with the ice, they will freeze and turn to mush in no time!

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If you follow these steps, you will be giving yourself the best shot at a long shelf life…but let’s be honest, they shouldn’t stick around too long to go bad anyways.   And if you find yourself with lots of greens that you won’t be able to finish in time, go ahead and freeze them for an easy addition to your smoothies.  Micro-greens are just like lettuce, just a little more delicate.   If you treat them well, they will surprise you how long they will keep fresh!

 

(CLICK HERE to see the containers that we use at home for our personal use and greens storage)

Support Local Businesses, Especially Local Agriculture

IMG_2361Today we vote each and every day.  But the vote that we cast is not in a ballot box.  We vote with our dollar and we cast our vote for what kind of community we want to engage and live in.  Most of the time we don’t think of this as voting.  Convenience has become a bigger value than the story behind the good or service.  Convenience is king.  Instead of supporting your locally owned coffee shop, its likely easier to hit up the drive through.  Instead of getting a CSA or visiting your local farmers market, it’s easier to hit up the local grocery store that has everything in one stop.  I get it.  Life is at a fast pace….but some things are really worth slowing down for.

Before children, my wife and I lived in the foothills of Denver.  We didn’t have a garden or grow anything for ourselves.  We didn’t notice how much we relied on big box grocers and really had no idea where our food was coming from.   We attended farmers markets a few times a year, but really relied on the convince of the grocery store and open all hours options.  We really missed something living there too.  We couldn’t quite put a finger on it, but something was missing.

IMG_0117When we moved to small town Salida, CO, everything about our consumption changed.   We were surrounded with small businesses and we engaged with the owners.  There are more small businesses than large retailers here and it totally shapes our community.  This is a lovely thing.  Small businesses supported by a small town!  We attended the farmers market every weekend, and got to know the farmers of our area for the first time.  After a couple of years, we decided to start our own farm and now we sell our produce at that same farmers market.  Now we know full circle what happens when you support local agriculture and local business.

IMG_2473Supporting local businesses makes for a stronger local economy.  The dollars earned by locals are spent locally.   This creates an amazing sense of community.   All of the small businesses in our town is exactly what makes our community so special.  We all support each other, and it’s noticed.  The atmosphere that brings so many visitors to our town is a direct result of the small businesses that create it!

When it comes to agriculture, when you support local farmers and ranchers you get fresher produce!  The food grown and raised locally is not transported long distances.   This helps with the carbon footprint and environment.  This also helps people get the nutrient dense food that they want….the freshest food possible.  Local farmers are more likely to grow heirloom and specialty crops which will increase food diversity.   Many of the best tasting foods don’t transport well, so the big box retails don’t carry it, and the large farms don’t grow it.  Then there is food safety.  With recalls all over the news, its more important than ever to know your farmer and how your food is being grown or raised.

IMG_2002When you support a local farmer, rancher, or small business owner, you investing in their family and therefore your local community.  Youre helping that farmer put their kids through college.  Youre helping that small business owner pay their mortgage or rent.  You’re helping that farm expand to bring more to the local market.  When you vote to spend money at the big box stores, your money leaves the local community.  It goes into the bank for a large corporation and is not noticed.  The big businesses look at the bottom line, not the community impact.   When you choose to shop local, every sale is noticed.  Every sale is a vote for a more vibrant and caring community.

 

Living Micro-greens by P.C.G.

IMG_0342As we come into spring, we are excited to get back outside and tidy up our gardens and back yards.   Soon the flowers will be in blossom and the humming birds will be buzzing from flower to flower.  But right now we are in-between seasons.  We have to keep our patience and not get started too early.   There is nothing worse than spending a ton of time in the garden and then the weather turns 3 weeks later as mother nature reminds you that gardening in Colorado is hard!

For the hardcore gardeners, this is the time for seed starting and getting a jump on the season indoors.  Others are making their lists and getting ready to hit up the local nursery to get their starts.  This is the perfect time to grow out some micro greens and scratch that green thumb itch!  Micro-greens grow fast and you can keep harvesting year round produce right from our countertop or kitchen table.   They don’t require lots of light so they do just fine on the countertop, but would also love to snuggle next to your garden starts as they grow.

IMG_0381We have lots of options when it comes to our living greens products.  During the summer farmers market season we have a wide variety of living greens ready to purchase and harvest.  We also take custom orders year round, and even will plant them in your own  pot if you have one in mind!  Most varieties are ready in 10-20 days so we ask for a 2 week minimum lead-time if you have a custom order that you want filled.  Our greens will come to you ready to harvest, which couldn’t be easier.   Just take a pair of scissors and trim at the base.   Some varieties like Pea Shoots, Wheat Grass and Chives you can get multiple harvests or even transplant into your own outdoor garden to grow out!

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Having a tray of micro-greens that you harvest directly into your meal is by far the freshest food that you can access…even fresher than the cooked food from your garden!  As you trim the greens you will have a full sensory experience.  If you trim the cilantro greens, your whole room will smell of fresh chopped cilantro.  The arugula smells of pepper in the air!  Trim directly into your meal and enjoy!  And enjoy the health benefits too!  When you trim and eat, there is no nutritional loss.  It’s the best way to enjoy the outstanding health benefits offered by these amazing tiny greens!

When you’re done with your greens, go ahead and compost the root mat.  It takes just a few weeks before its back to being potting soil and ready for planting again!  If you don’t have a compost setup don’t worry….just return it to us and we will compost the roots and re-use the planting container.  

Weather you’re looking to have a special center piece arrangement for your upcoming party or just want to have some fresh produce always at your fingertips, we can help!  Let us do the hard work and get your greens ready for harvesting then you can step in!

 

 

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.

 

Our Recycled Kitchen Garden

Spring kicks off this week and we are excited to get our outdoor garden space in order!  The beds are thawing out and all of the snow is melted.   As soon as these temps heat up, we will be in business!  We wanted to take a moment and shine a spotlight on all of the free and recycled or repurposed materials used to create our extensive kitchen garden!

When you’re establishing a garden for your family, there are lots of great free materials out there!  With our growing homestead, our budget is light so we have to be very thrifty while expanding.  Every penny counts, and who really has extra money to throw into a garden these days?

Here are all of the free and repurposed materials that we were able to acquire and incorporate into our outdoor garden space:

  • Raised Beds – We were able to come across some old barn wood that was gifted to us by a neighbor.  We created almost 250 linear feet of 3 feet wide raised beds.   The lumber was 1″ x 12″, so it was a little flimsy for the longer beds but all in all the lumber worked great and the cost was right….free!IMG_0134
  • Curved Raised Beds – After the barn wood was gone, we had a family friend that replaced their deck, and gifted us their old Trex Decking!  We installed a curved bed around our walkway and will be adding another bed around the exterior of the dome that will be planted with pollinator attracting flowers!img_0551.jpg
  • Wood Chip Mulch – All in all we had 6 dump truck loads of wood chips delivered.  After the raised beds were in, we filled in-between with the wood mulch.  The mulch ranged from 1′ deep to almost 2′ deep which has done a wonderful job of smothering the weeds and grass that we installed the garden over!  All of your arborists in town would love to deliver their wood chips to your yard for free instead of paying any kind of dump fee.  Call around and you’ll find them for free…delivered too.IMG_2445
  • Raised Bed Soil – We are lucky when it comes to our bed filling.  We are able to compost our microgreen soil and then use that material to fill our rasised beds.  The material is awesome potting soil that needs just a little compost added to make a great mix for our outdoor garden space!IMG_2326
  • Then there are the materials, pots and equipment.  Shovels, rakes, hoes, and other gardening tools are easy to find at garage sales or by scouring craiglist.  We were gifted some large planter pots from our family.  There are always pots being given away.  Be patient and ready to pounce when free items come available.img_0691.jpg

Thats pretty much the basics for a small garden.  And all for free.  All repurposed and recycled materials.  The food that is grown is top notch too.  Now lets see what we spent money on.

  • Geodesic Dome Greenhouse – We spent way too much money on our dome.   Its a great space for our personal gardening but it was expensive.  We saved lots of money over purchasing a kit greenhouse, but it was still an expensive build for our family.   We now use it for our personal produce more than a commercial space, which works for us, but we could really use more commercial greenhouse space.  If we started our farm before building this, we would have gone with hoop houses to increase the space, but we have an amazing small space for our family!cropped-img_0130-2.jpg
  • Fence Posts and Deer Screening – 10 Wood Posts, 10 Metal T Posts and 6′ Deer Screening was purchased in order to fence in our garden space.  Under $100 and the deer no longer have access.  We were able to find the screening on the facebook marketplace for a deep discount too!  Now we have roughly 1/10th of an acre fenced in.img_2229.jpg
  • Finished Compost – We have a compost area, but just not enough space to provide enough quality compost that we add to our raised beds prior to planting.  This gives our garden all the organic materials that it will need to produce all summer long!img_0126.jpg

With a few changes, mainly the greenhouse structure, we could have a huge garden space for under a couple thousand dollars including a greenhouse space.  If you want just a simple outdoor garden space, it can be almost free!  Its fun to re-use materials and grow your own food.  Don’t let your budget control your food growing aspirations.  Even a container garden on your patio can grow some amazing produce!

Check Facebook and Craiglist along with your local classifieds ads for fun materials that could be repurposed into a garden.   Check with friends and neighbors for anything they want to get rid of.  Call your arborists in town and schedule your first delivery of wood chips.  Get a shovel and a wheel barrel and start on the sweat equity.

 

 

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