Crop Focus: Broccoli Microgreens

Our journey in micro-greens and farming all started with lots of research.  Celiac Disease had left our young family nutrient deficient and we needed to get some highly nutritious food into our diets immediately.   It’s not only us that is struggling with nutrient deficiency, but according to a 2017 study, two-thirds of the worlds population is also suffering the same.  It was surprising to read that nutrient deficiency is not just a third world country problem, but it affects all of the world, regardless of economic strength.  Additionaly, one-third of the worlds population is overweight as well as undernourished.  The food that we are currently surviving on in this world is not doing the trick.

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Over fifty percent of the worlds population lives in city centers, but most of the produce is grown in rural areas.  This requires massive distribution efforts.  According to that same 2017 Study, food distribution  comprises up to 10% of the total energy budget.  This system requires food to travel long distances and also limits the food diversity to products that will have long shelf lives.   The result is an increased reliance on processed and or packaged foods, and not on the nutrient dense farm fresh foods that our bodies require.

Microgreens are a solid solution to help us all get the nutrients that our current food model doesn’t allow for.  Broccoli Microgreens specifically, are one of the most nutrient dense foods you can source on this planet!  The same 2017 study found that broccoli microgreens are 1.73 times more nutritional dense than fully grown broccoli flourettes.  Thats a big deal!  Plus, they are a great source of sulphorphane, which reduces the chances of cancer forming by cleaning out the cells.  According to Livestrong.com, broccoli microgreens are at top of the list for foods that contain sulphophane.  At three days old, they contain anywhere from 10-100 times the sulphophane than fully grown broccoli or cauliflower!  Broccoli Microgreens are also a great source for potassium, vitamin K, vitamin C, folate, magnesium and other important vitamins and minerals.  They truly are a living vitamin!

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It’s amazing how much nutrition is packed into these tiny leafs.  Not only are broccoli microgreens more nutrient dense, but they also grow over 90% faster and use up to 236 times less water than fully grown broccoli!  Broccoli fouretts typically take 100 to 150 days to harvest, where as the broccoli microgreens are harvested in 10-14 days.  The best part about microgreens is that they are easy to grow indoors and don’t require fertilization or pesticide use.  They can be easily grown regionally and distributed locally which can drastically reduce the environmental strains brought on by the current large scale distribution model.  They are delicate, so they can’t travel far, and will therefor not loose their nutritional content due to long term storage.

The same 2017 Study noted that food sold at a grocery store would travel an average of 1800 miles prior to hitting the shelf.  This travel requirement reduces the available produce to those crops that has long shelf lives.  By adding microgreens to your diet you will be adding to your food diversity as well as your nutritional intake diversity.  It was found that peas stored at room temperature loose 50% of their vitamin C in 7 days and spinach looses 100% of the vitamin C within just 4 days!  When you have to rely on the standard food model grab those micro-greens to get back that lost nutrition!

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When you’re in Salida, we have you covered!  Simple Foods Market always has our Broccoli Microgreens in stock as well as a great assortment of farm fresh produce from hyper local farms in our area.  We produce our micro-greens year round to make sure that you can always source nutrient dense food, even in the dead of winter!  If its summertime, we will be at the Farmers Market alongside some great producers in the area that supply our wonderful valley with great produce that doesn’t have to make that travel either!

Make sure you check out our blog post on How to Eat Microgreens to maximize your nutritional benefits!  Also check out our post on Tips for Storing Microgreens to keep them fresher longer.

 

 

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!

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.

 

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.

 

 

Proud to be Colorado Proud!

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If you live in Colorado, you have seen the Colorado Proud stickers around the grocery  store.  There are lots of great products that proudly display this sticker on their packaging.  When you see this sticker, you can be assured that it was produced within the State of Colorado.  We are excited to announce that our micro-greens  are now certified Colorado Proud and will be showing off this colorful logo soon!

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“Better for you, better for Colorado” is their motto.   Colorado Proud is a program within
the Department of Agriculture that was developed in 1999. The goal is to make it easier for the consumer to locate Colorado Food and Agriculture products, as well as raise awareness of the benefits of shopping local.

Shopping Local is trending right now, and for good reason.  Shopping local supports local small businesses.  And in this case, it supports local farms.   When you spend your dollar locally, it creates a stronger local economy and fosters a closer community.   Since there is less transporting and shipping local goods, the carbon footprint of locally produced food and goods are much more sustainable for the environment.  Colorado Proud also wants to keep Colorado Unique, stating that when you shop local you get better and more persoanlized customer service.   And in todays day and age, with all of the food recalls from massive farms and production facitlities, its better than ever to “Know Your Farmer” and shop locally.   When you support a large farm, your support is unlikely to be noticed by that large business.  But when you support a small local farm, you’re helping pay their mortgage or send their kids to college.   Think of that impact on the local economy.

img_0193In order to qualify to be Colorado Proud Certified, the product must be grown, raised or processed within Colorado.  All fresh produce must be grown in Colorado and livestock must be raised in Colorado.  All value added items must be made in a commercial kitchen in Colorado and procucers are encouraged to use Colorado grown products as well.  This means that our new cottage foods items will not be adorning these lovely stickers…but you bet we will be having them all over our micro-greens!

This is a wonderful program that really helps spotlight our local producers, and they have the stats to back that up.  When the program was launched in ’99, only 59% of respondents recognized the CO Proud logo.  In a recent poll, that awareness rose to 72%!  Additionally, they note that 90% of consumers polled would purchase products from Colorado if the option was available!

I encourage you to check out the Colorado Proud website HERE.  You can search for Colorado Proud Certified companies like ours, find local farmers markets, check out the colorado produce calendar, and browse some popular recipes.  There are also links to find more about Colorado Agriculture, Colorado Forest Products, and local Agritourism opportunities.  You can even search for a local winery!  A great source for all things Colorado Proud!

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.

 

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!