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!

 

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

 

 

New Compostable Packaging!

We are upping our packaging game! IMG_0269

Unfortunately, plastics are a necessity in the convenience based world we live in today.   Our packaging has always been recyclable, as well as made from recycled materials, but we found a way to lessen our impact even further.

A couple of weeks ago I came across a photo on instagram of a farm using some plant based packaging and I started on our hunt for something better for us to use.  What I found was amazing.  Not only were there plant based options but we found ones at World Centric that were 100% plant based.  They are also 100% compostable.  And even better then that…World Centric uses third party certification to verify all of their products!

First off, World Centric is a B-Corporation, which puts them in good company like Patagonia Outdoor Apparel.  According to http://www.bcorporation.net, there are only 2,655 companies, representing 150 industries across 60 countries. Working with the USDA Biopreferred Program, they certify that their products are produced with renewable plant materials.  The Biodegradable Product Institute is a non-profit that certifies that the product will meet the USDA requirements to actually compost.  In addition to their certifications, they also are a member of 1% For the Plant which means 1% of their annual sales are donated directly to an approved environmental or sustainable non-profit organization.  They are also a Green America Certified Business which certifies that their  business is used as a platform for positive social change.  And if that isn’t enough…they also donate a large portion of their pre-tax profit to many global grass roots program.

All of this information is listed on their webpage, which I fully encourage you to check out.   They have lots of information of how to be an informed consumer and why these kinds of products are necessary.  If you’re ordering products for your business, please look for yourself.   Their list of products are endless, the prices are competitive and everything ships fast and safe!

Check them out at worldcentric.com, but more specifically, check this link out that relates directly to becoming a more informed consumer. (World Centric – Tools for Conscious Living).

When you find good companies like this one, its worth sharing about them.   We are fully impressed thus far with our experience and are thankful that there are thoughtful companies like World Centric to support our small business.

 

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!

 

 

 

Reduce, Reuse and Recycle on the Farm!

We try to be as sustainable as we can with our farm operations. We reuse trays, compost, and avoid using plastic when possible. The farming industry has become overrun with plastic products, and we’re trying our hardest not to add to that problem.

We use plastic trays for our microgreen planting, but re-use them as many times as possible and make sure they are recycled when they are broken beyond repair. We reuse all seed starting and propagation containers. We choose to mulch with wood chips and not landscape fabric. We have a long lasting plastic greenhouse covering that should last much longer than the standard. It’s safe to say that without plastic we wouldn’t be doing the same stuff we’re doing now. But we’re aware of our use and make it non negotiable that all plastics be recycled and have minimal impact to the environment as possible.

Far and away our largest use of plastics is our plastic containers for our microgreens. We did extensive research on packaging and found that plastic clamshells are the best product for our greens to maximize shelf life and product freshness. The containers we use are BPA-free, 100% recyclable and made from a minimum of 30% post consumer recycled product. We pay a little more for this quality product, but it’s way too important to skip on!

One way we are able to lower our environmental impact is to offer bulk and custom orders directly off the farm. If you have a container that you would like to use, we can fill it up and avoid the plastic all together! If the small containers are just not enough and you find yourself buying multiple containers at a time, we can help there too. We offer small, medium and large clamshell packages that can reduce the number of plastic containers purchased at a given time. Additionally, if you purchase directly off the farm we can re-use your containers that you clean before refilling! Plus, we will take back any used containers that are in good shape. We won’t re-package greens, but we will use old containers to plant our live trays that are offered in the farmers market season!

We are always trying to minimize our impact and aim to provide a quality, consistent product. If you want to shift to bulk orders directly, please contact us today! And of course, we also ask that you play your part and make sure that our used packages make it into the recycling or be re-purposed!

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!