Microgreens and Smoothies…A Perfect Pair!

A few years back our family made a big push to incorporate more fruit into our diet. Our kids always like snacking on fruit, and due to our food allergies, we don’t have typical snack food in the house. The go to for them is almost always a banana or an apple…or two. We found that my wife and I weren’t eating enough fruit though. We always enjoyed smoothies, so we made the goal of eating one big smoothie each day.

IMG_0409After a while we discovered that microgreens mix perfectly in a smoothie. Their delicate texture and powerful taste blend well with all sorts of smoothie recipes. Their big nutritional value also boosts the vitamin and mineral content too!

Our go to smoothie base is 2 bananas, 1/2 lemon fresh squeezed, and roughly 12 oz filtered water. From there we typically add a cup or two of frozen fruit. Wild blueberries are always in the freezer so that’s what we use most often. If we want to mix things up we may add mango, strawberries or raspberries too. We also like to add an avocado if it’s more like a meal. Then come the greens. A little or a lot.  Its up to you, but we typically use  a heaping handful!

The mild varieties like Kale, Broccoli, Kohlrabi and Red Cabbage all mix well with fruit smoothies, much like spinach or full leaf kale. The Sunflower Shoots have a higher fat content which pairs well with the avocado for a creamier smoothie. The pea shoots really push the flavor with big pea taste. We shy away from the spicier varieties because the taste is so big, but if you want a smoothie with a kick, try arugula, mustard or wasabi!

IMG_1474Microgreens are fun to play with in the kitchen and know that no matter how you add them to your diet, you’re doing your body good! We all could use extra vitamins and minerals, and microgreens are some of the most nutrient dense foods on the planet! That’s why their really a perfect pair with fruit smoothie.

Oh, and if you have kids like ours, they love ice cream. Instead of using fresh peeled bananas, use frozen ones and instead of water just just a splash of coconut milk. Throw in the avocado, microgreens and berries and you’ll have a really nutritious ice cream snack. Go ahead and have an extra bowl! It’s good for you!

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?

 

Microgreens….not sprouts!

First off, lets just make it clear that I have no medical or nutritional training.  I am not a doctor and any advice given should be discussed with your healthcare professionals.  At the same time, these microgreens have changed my own family’s life and I don’t want misconceptions or misunderstandings get in the way from others thriving.

The reasons I lead off with that is because microgreens are popular these days.  I am oftentimes asked, “aren’t sprouts dangerous?” Or that, “sprouts are not good for pregnant moms…”. The answer is that sprouts can be dangerous.  They are frowned upon by the FDA during pregnancy.  Good news though….Microgreens are NOT sprouts!

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Sprouts are simply germinated seeds that are grown in water.  Many people have grown their own sprouts in mason jars.  The water is drained, seeds are rinsed, and water is refilled many times until the seeds have sprouted.  They are never planted and are sometimes sold in the same containers they are grown in.  Both the root and seed is consumed raw, but no leaf or actual greens because they are never planted.  Because of the water used during production, there is a large susceptibility for bacteria growth.  Over the years, this has given sprouts a negative image due to many health scares.

 

 

Microgreens on the other hand are grown in soil or another substrate that will allow the seed to grow into its first true leaf.  We use soil and water.  No nutrients or additives.  The greens are harvested when the first true leaf emerges.  At this point in the plants life, the colors are vibrant and the flavor is powerful.  Each variety has its own flavor and texture profile.   Some are crunchy while others are delicate.  Also, only the greens are harvested leaving the roots behind.  This really cuts down on the bacteria concerns.  Our product is closer to lettuce or mixed greens than sprouts.  All of these differences add up to a completely different product.

Microgreens are perfect for people of all ages.  Our dogs are even benefiting from the sunflower shoots.  They are too nutritious to be afraid of!

 

 

 

Building Our Farm with Compost!

We currently harvest anywhere from 50 to 80 trays of microgreens weekly. This leaves us with a lot of compostable goodies! Since we grow our Micros on a standard organic potting soil we have perfect starting materials. The crops are only grown for 10-15 days so they use up hardly any organic material. Additionally, we add organic material back in via the roots of the microgreens. This root material composts very quickly and we are left with slightly better potting soil!

From here we will take the compost and transfer it into raised planter beds that we are installing around our property. Composting is helping our operation grow organically, without large investments in our outdoor garden.

This system is working for us, but we are new to composting. I reached out to Julie, our friend and Owner of Elements Mountain Compost for a few pointers that can help get you some proper black gold. Here are three pointers to keep in mind, especially in a climate like ours here in Salida, Colorado:

  • Incorporate lots of brown materials (leaves, woodchips, dead grass, etc.)
  • Lots of surface area – smaller items will break down faster and mixing/aerating will allow bacteria to enhance decomposition.
  • Lots of moisture – compost tends to dry out in our arid climate and decomposing will stall out without sufficient water.

Over the coming years we will be changing and evolving our composting setup to meet our farm needs. Right now it’s pretty simple and meets our expansion goals. In the future, we plan on diving into worm bins for our kitchen scraps and a more elaborate composting system that will recycle the compost back into the microgreen production.

It is really satisfying to make great soil and every home should start this practice! Start slow and use yard clippings and kitchen scraps. Your houseplants and garden will thank you!