Five Easy Plants to Grow for Delicious, Healthy Summer Drinks

Five Easy Plants to Grow for Delicious, Healthy Summer Drinks

Nothing says summertime like having a cool drink in the shade. We enjoy a lot of iced drinks here on the farm, especially when the chores keep us outside on hot days. Despite the hundreds of beverage choices on the market, however, there are several reasons we choose to make our own. Not only is it the sustainable choice (we like to skip the plastic jugs and juice boxes) but we avoid numerous additives like sugar, artificial preservatives and food dyes. And we save money as well!

To keep our cool beverages flowing, we grow five plants in our garden that ensure a constant supply and a pleasing variety. These herbs aren’t finicky—they can be grown in a country garden or a city balcony. All they need is soil, water, and sunshine! Want to try growing your own? Or if you want to start making yummy teas right away, you can can order all of these in dried or powdered form from Mountain Rose Herbs, a reliable source of sustainable herbal products. (not affiliated)

Tips for Growing the Herbs

grow-herbs

The first three are all in the mint family and will spread all over the place, so unless you have a lot of garden space to spare, plant these in their own pots!

  1. Peppermint: A very familiar garden herb, cooling, refreshing and helpful for digestion. Yes, it grows like crazy but we use LOTS of it!
  2. Lemon Balm: Known to be soothing and calming to the nervous system, great when you need to relax.
  3. Tulsi (or Holy Basil): Known in India as “the queen of herbs” where it is used as an herbal remedy for many common ailments, including stress relief!

These two will mind their garden manners a little better by staying within their boundaries. If they like their spot they’ll bush out and grow to be about three feet tall.

  1. Lemon Verbena: Fragrant and delicious with a delightful lemony taste, good for congestion, inflammation insomnia, and weight loss.
  2. Stevia: Nature’s healthy sweetener. You can make any of these drinks as sweet as you like with zero sugar or artificial ingredients!

Where can you get these plants? You’ll most likely find peppermint and lemon balm at your local nursery or any place that sells starter plants in spring and early summer. In recent years, I’ve begun to see stevia starts in the nurseries as well. Tulsi is often found at places that sell herbs. You can order the seeds for both stevia and tulsi at Mountain Rose Herbs. Lemon Verbena is often sold as a starter plant in nurseries as a natural insect repellent.

Creating Your Own Delicious Summer Drinks

homemade-herbal-tea

Basic Herbal Iced Tea

  • Choose any one or any combination of the mint, lemon balm, tulsi or lemon verbena leaves and pack a half gallon mason jar* about ⅓ to 1/2 full (with fresh leaves) or 2 ounces of the dried. If you want it sweet, add a handful of crushed, fresh stevia leaves or powdered stevia to taste.
  • Pour boiling water over the tea leaves to fill the jar. Place the lid, tighten slightly and let sit until cool (4-6 hours).
  • When the jar is room temperature, pour the tea over a strainer into your container of choice and compost the leaves.
    Refrigerate.
  • When chilled, serve over ice with a lemon slice and a whole peppermint stem if desired.

*Avoid pouring boiling water into a cool jar or likewise, trying to rapidly cool a warm jar as a sudden temperature change could cause breakage.

make-herbal-tea

Variations

  • For a more traditional iced tea blend, add 5-6 black tea bags in with any combination of the herbal tea leaves.
  • For super hydration, add ¼-1/2 cup apple cider vinegar!
  • For extra flavor, add fresh berries, honey, or a whole cut-up lemon (if organic, include a tsp of zest) to the jar before adding the boiling water.
  • For a delicious lemonade, add ¼-½ cup apple cider vinegar, the juice from two whole organic lemons plus a teaspoon of zest, a handful of crushed stevia leaves, a whole, fresh peppermint stem with leaves or 1 oz of the dried.

Whether you’ve got a garden plot or a few pots on the balcony, having these plants on hand will provide you with a whole summertime of delightful, healthful beverages. And of course, having the dried on hand will ensure you tasty iced or hot teas all year round!

Get ready for everyone to say, “Hmmm, this is sooo good! What’s in it?”

make-herbal-tea

 

Safe, Sustainable Drinking Water For You: Berkey Water Purification Systems

Safe, Sustainable Drinking Water For You: Berkey Water Purification Systems

At Lady Farmer, we’re all about helping you cultivate your own sustainable lifestyle. This includes helping you find the best quality products for all of your basic needs–and other than oxygen, nothing is more basic than water for survival.

We have well water here on the farm, and though we had a UV filter already in place to reduce pathogens, we sometimes wondered if it was enough. Bacteria is only one concern, as groundwater can be affected by numerous factors. For instance, what about glyphosate (Round Up) runoff? Then we learned all about the Berkey Water Filter systems and decided to try it out. We’re so glad we did, and we’re now we’re offering it to you in our online store! Read on.

berkey water purification system

Is Your Water Clean and Safe?

Left to her own ways, our beautiful, bountiful planet is more than generous in providing what we need. Access to clean, sustainable water, however, is often made difficult, by our human systems and consumptive practices. Troubled Water, a project on drinking water contamination in the United States (produced by the Carnegie-Knight News21 program) reports that as many as 63 million Americans have been exposed to “potentially unsafe drinking water” since 2007.

According to the CDC, contamination of our water systems can come from numerous sources. Here is a list of the most common ones:

  • Naturally occurring chemicals and minerals (for example, arsenic, radon, uranium)
  • Local land use practices (fertilizers, pesticides, livestock, concentrated animal feeding operations)
  • Manufacturing processes
  • Sewer overflows
  • Malfunctioning wastewater treatment systems (for example, nearby septic systems)

The Best Water Purifier

Okay, so maybe you’re already “in the know” about ensuring that you and your family have safe, sustainable drinking water, but there are so many methods and products to choose from.

Why did we choose the Berkey as the best water filter? So glad you asked!

First of all, it’s not just a filter, but an entire water purification system, which means it kills 99.9999% of pathogenic bacteria and reduces viruses by 99.99%.

Other key points that qualify Berkey as a top quality, Lady Farmer sustainable lifestyle product are:

  • It’s a gravity-fed water system, so no electricity needed. That’s sustainable!
  • It removes or dramatically reduces protozoa, trihalomethanes, inorganic minerals, heavy metals, pharmaceuticals, pesticides, VOCs, petroleum products, perfluorinated chemicals, rust, silt, sediment, radiologicals–and it removes glyphosate by greater than 75%! I’m good with having all of that taken out of my drinking water. Are you?
  • It’s low maintenance! I top off our “Big Berkey” every morning with a half gallon of water to keep it flowing (you don’t want water standing in it for more than 3 days) and drink from it all day. The only cleaning it needs is a quick, once-a-month warm, soapy wash of the lower container and you’re’ done. Easy!

The Cost of Clean Water

sustainable drinking water

You might be thinking the Berkey is too expensive for you to consider, but here are a few things to think about concerning the “true cost” of the water you choose to drink.

  • Do you buy bottled water? According to figures from the Beverage Marketing Corporation and International Bottled Water Association, bottled water is the #1 beverage product in the U.S. ahead of soft drinks, totalling $18.5B in sales in 2018. We spend more money on water than any other bottled beverage!
  • Consider what you’ll spend over a year on $1.00-$5.00 bottles (depending on size and where you buy them) that are emptied in minutes and then left to linger for thousands of years in the landfill. According to The Story of Stuff researchers, bottled water costs about 2000 times more than tap water, even though many of those companies are merely bottling the tap water and selling it to you! Your investment in a Berkey can actually save you thousands of dollars over years of use, and will prevent thousands of single-use containers from joining that plastic island in the Pacific (or the beaches, the rivers, the highways and forests….)
  • Do you purchase water while traveling? The Travel Berkey alone (currently $249-$269) could pay for itself in no time by providing you with an endless supply of purified water (that you can trust!) while on the road.
  • Once you’ve invested in the Berkey of your choice, further expense is minimal. Two Black Berkey® Purification Elements in a Berkey® system will purify approximately 6,000 gallons of water before replacement is recommended.

which water purification system is best

Choosing a Berkey Water Filtration System

Here’s an abbreviated guide to the choices we offer, complete details can be accessed here.
There are five stainless steel models, plus the super portable Berkey Go Kit.

In order of size and capacity (from largest to smallest), the choices are:

  • Crown Berkey: 6 gallons, 30” tall, ideal for large groups such as schools, churches group gatherings and extended outages.
  • Imperial Berkey: 4.5 gallons, 26” tall, great for mid to large-size families and small group gatherings
  • Royal Berkey: 3.25 gallons, 23” tall, serves small to mid-size families and works for outside activities.
  • Big Berkey: 2.25 gallons,19.25” tall,for smaller households and outdoor activities
  • Travel Berkey:1.5 gallons, 18” tall, the best portable water purifier we know! Great for vacation, it even fits in most carry on suitcases.
  • Go Berkey Kit: 1 quart, 14”, take it camping, hiking, school, work, lightweight and easy to carry

We are very happy with our choice of the Big Berkey. It’s just myself and Farmer Ted living in the house, but as you know, I make LOTS of tea! We tend to have lots of visitors as well, so we keep it flowing. I also like the height, it fits nicely in its corner spot by the window. Our next Berkey purchase will be the Berkey Travel. It’s so good to know we can have fresh, purified water anywhere we go!   –Mary 

It’s true we have many purchasing decisions to make in cultivating a more sustainable lifestyle, but when it comes down to our most fundamental needs, why not choose the very best?

Have questions about the Berkey? Let us know, we’re here to help (info@lady-farmer.com)! Ready to have the best water purifier out there in your home now? You can get it here and have your own clean water flowing in a few days!

Pure water is the world’s first and foremost medicine.
– Slovakian Proverb

what is the best water purifier system

Sustainable Travel: Real Food on the Road

Making sustainable food choices on a road trip can be a challenge, especially if you really care about sourcing and quality. Options are usually limited to fast food and packaged, shelf stable snacks at gas stations, not even close to the guidelines we like to follow at home. We try to bring our own along, but with so many things to do just to get out of town, food prep for the road often falls short. That’s why we’re always on the lookout for places to get “real food” while traveling by car.barbara-kingsolver-restaurantHere’s a gem we’ve discovered just up the road from where my grandparents live. The Harvest Table is in a small town called Meadowview, Virginia, a beautiful Appalachian town just off of Highway 81 close to Abingdon. It’s a special restaurant started by Barbara Kingsolver (The Poisonwood Bible, Prodigal Summer), which began as an extension of Kingsolver’s book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, the story about her family’s year-long experiment to eat only locally grown foods. It has grown into something much bigger, as they say on their website, “The Harvest Table is more than just a restaurant. Over the last ten years, the Harvest Table family has grown to include our kitchen staff, servers, store clerks, farmers, small business owners, artisans and neighbors. Relationships have developed over the common desire to support local and celebrate our Appalachian heritage.”

barbara-kingsolver-restaurantMy family loves to stop here when we can, as we can count on a locally sourced, nutritious, and delicious meal. The atmosphere is relaxed and casual–you feel a bit like you’re on a friend’s back patio. It’s high quality without the extra frills—just good care for the land, community and experience. This time around, mom and I both got the grass-fed burger, no bun, with a salad. It was just delicious!

It’s true that places like this are probably few and far between. In the absence of such options (and if your run out of time to prep your own “to go” meals) here are a few quick tips to help you make your way along the interstate food desert.

  • To avoid questionable water and plastic bottles, fill up a few half gallon mason jars with fresh, filtered water from home. (Stay tuned, the Travel Berkey water filter is coming to our online store— soon! )
  • Pack dried fruit and nut mixes. They are calorie and nutrient dense and sometimes might suffice in the place of a regular meal.
  • Fresh fruit, celery and carrot sticks, washed and ready to eat.
  • Grab a jar of organic peanut butter, a loaf of bread and a spreading knife to save the day.
  • A bar of high quality, dark chocolate will take you many a mile!

What do you take in the car to keep you going to the next real food? Do you know of any great places to stop for a meal where you’ve traveled? No matter where you are or where you’re headed, there are probably some Lady Farmers headed that way that would love to know how and where to eat better on the road, and experience local!

Happy summer travels!

Emma

 

harvest-table-restaurant

Sustainable Kitchen: How To Reduce Plastic Food Storage

Sustainable Kitchen: How To Reduce Plastic Food Storage

One of the biggest challenges in creating a sustainable lifestyle is reducing the amount of plastic we use daily. According to a report cited in this  Scientific American article, plastic manufacturing has increased exponentially in this century. Because food storage is a big part of this increase, a sustainable kitchen is a great place to start.

Why worry about using plastic for food storage? 

Substances from plastics can leach out and impact human health. It’s known that chemicals in plastics make their way into our food by coming into contact with it. The substances known as Xenoestrogens and Phthalates are easily transferred into our food from storage containers. Consumers might already be aware of the dangers of bisphenol A, or BPA in plastic. Manufacturers are now marketing BPA-free products, yet consumers should be aware that this does not mean these products are safe or sustainable.   BPA is only one of perhaps hundreds of chemicals in plastic that we encounter daily.

Xenoestrogens And Phthalates Can Affect Weight Control, Fertility And Hormone Balance

Research has shown xenoestrogens to affect the body in the following ways:

  • It can impair development of reproductive organs
  • Correlated with infertility and decreased semen quality
  • Promotes early puberty onset in boys and girls.
  • Promotes weight gain in women and men.
  • Accelerates hair loss in women and men.
  • Glandular (hormonal) dysfunction.

Other harmful substances hiding in plastic food storage are known as Phthalates. These are chemical compounds that are commonly added to plastics to increase their flexibility, transparency, durability and longevity.  These chemicals are associated with many health problems including obesity, infertility, birth defects and even certain cancers.

Tips For Reducing Plastic To Create A More Sustainable Kitchen

  • Don’t use plastic bags to bring produce home or to store it. Take your own cloth produce bags shopping with you.
  • Use clean dish towels to wrap things like leafy greens when storing in the hydrator. They will keep the produce dry and allow it to breathe.
  • Skip the plastic wrap and use sustainable beeswax wraps instead.
  • Get rid of all plastic food storage containers and switch out for glass. There are several brands to choose from on Amazon but most have airlock lids. Simax and Anchor Hocking have small baking dishes with glass lids that we use for storage.   
  • Use Mason jars for storage of bulk items.
  • You can also use Mason jars in the freezer. Just fill it up to about ⅔ full to allow for expansion.
  • Make your own condiments! Check out this super easy Mayonnaise recipe.
  • Skip the plastic jug and buy your milk in glass! Most natural food markets sell brands in glass bottles that you can return for a deposit.
  • When you buy meat and cheese, avoid grabbing the shrink wrapped kind off the shelf  and go to the counter to have it custom cut. Ask for it to be wrapped in paper instead of plastic.
  • Gradually begin cutting back on products that only come in plastic. Begin with things that seem less essential, such as chips, cookies, and most snack items. This might seem drastic at first because it includes so many things. You’ll find, however, that it not only cuts down on plastic use, but you’ll be eating more fresh, real food! You will also be saving money, which will make more room in your budget for better nutrition.

Remember that shifting towards a more sustainable lifestyle is a gradual process. It will take time and adjustment in many areas of your life. Taking steps to create a sustainable kitchen by reducing harmful plastics is a good beginning!

6 Reasons You Should NOT Eat Local

6 Reasons You Should NOT Eat Local

There’s a lot of talk about eating local these days, but as with anything else, it’s not for everybody. Here’s a list of reasons why you might be one of those who’ll want to think twice about this.  You should not eat local if;

1) You like your food well traveled.  

Let’s face it. Food from far away must be more interesting, or else why would anybody buy it? Those strawberries from Chile have come 5,000 miles! Granted, they don’t have much taste but wow, they’re big! And all of those little lettuce leaves from California, flying 3,000 miles across the country–every single one of them. Do you think they might be sprayed with something to keep them looking perky all those days?

2) You want to support Big Ag

Industrialized farming has taken over our food supply and left us with a shortage of farmers.  That means the food supply of our entire country and beyond is in the hands of a very few. So we should definitely support it because it’s just about all we’ve got! Everyone takes it for granted, without even thinking about the fact that a worker shortage or fuel crises or airline strike could throw the whole thing off any day. If something should happen to disrupt this giant system that controls how everything we eat is grown, harvested, processed, packaged, distributed and sold–where would we be?  Then we might have to eat local–or starve.  

3) The oil industry needs your support!

Eating local does not do enough to support the use of fossil fuels. For starters, the food doesn’t have to fly long distances on airplanes or be transported by giant trucks.  And if it’s organic, it isn’t grown with all of those petroleum based chemical fertilizers. If you’re buying your food from your local farm or a farmer’s market, the produce doesn’t have to be encased in plastic wrap or boxes, which are mostly made of—you guessed it–fossil fuels. So when you support Big Ag, you also support Big Oil. Two for one!

4) Eating local costs more.

That’s right! It seems backwards, but food from far away is usually much cheaper than what you get from close by. Much of the food from the mainstream distribution system in our country is genetically modified to be grown and shipped in mass quantities while still remaining edible, or at least sort of looking like it might be, so it costs way less to produce than real food with more nutrition in it that’s grown by a local farmer. But lots of people in this country can’t afford that. They need to buy the cheap stuff which makes them fat and sick and miserable, which most people seem to assume is okay because it costs less. Others who possibly could afford it still often choose the industrial foods because our economy thrives on everyone thinking more/cheaper/better. Because a bargain is a bargain. Right?  

5) You don’t really mind eating a lot of chemicals

Those chemicals are necessary to giant companies producing such enormous quantities of food. After all, they’re trying  to feed millions of people across thousands of miles. So they just keep using all of these different substances to grow and process the food (many of which are illegal in other countries)  and to make it last a long time so it can be shipped long distances and sit for weeks on the grocery shelves until we buy it. It’s the only way to do it on such a large scale. Besides, the government says all of those things are safe, so if you’re one of those people who doesn’t care to eat local, then you’re okay with that!

(Read me)

6) You’d much rather see farmland used for recreation instead of growing food

You’ve heard it said that no one can make a living farming anymore. Old Macdonald is so old school. You might think that farmlands are better used as weekend entertainment. Don’t we need more open space for athletic fields? Let’s not waste all of that land growing expensive food that no one is going to buy. You can get whatever you need at the grocery.  City people need a place to get away from the rat race and kids need a place to run around. Right? And they should know where their food comes from.

Oh wait…where does their  food come from?

Anyway, if you decide you’re NOT one of these folks and you DO want to eat real food that supports not only the farmers but your food quality and your food security, find the nearest the nearest CSA and sign up today!

7 Days of Easy “Real Food” Winter Meals

7 Days of Easy “Real Food” Winter Meals

Healthy, hearty winter meal preparation is simple with these “real food” staples on hand.

hearty-winter-meal

What is “real food”?

Real food is organic, seasonal, fresh, non-processed ingredients. Local is best, of course, but getting things fresh from closer-to-home is more of a challenge in winter, so when our neighboring farms are in low supply we do okay at small organic markets.

Here’s a shopping list* of things we try to keep in stock for a week of deeply nourishing soups, stews and suppers that keep us going through the cold months.

Real Food Shopping List

  • Whole pastured chicken
  • Beef Stew cubes (grass-fed)
  • Soup Bones (grass-fed beef, foraged pork, pastured chicken feet)
  • Pastured Eggs
  • Fresh root vegetables–carrots (purple or red for more nutrient density), parsnips, turnips, beets, rutabagas
  • Other seasonal vegetables-sweet potatoes, orange and purple varieties, white potatoes, cabbage (red and green)
  • Celery
  • Onion
  • Garlic
  • Greens (kale, chard, dandelion, spinach, lettuce)

*Some Real Food Shopping Tips

  • Look for “pastured” eggs and chicken, if possible, as opposed to organic, free range, or cage free, all of which are misleading labels.
  • Choose the loose vegetables over the ones in plastic bags, boxes or containers.
  • Choose the carrots with the tops still attached. This usually indicates they are more fresh.
  • Resist the urge to place all of your produce into separate plastic bags. Just put it all directly into your shopping bag and you’ll love not having to deal with the annoyance of all that plastic when you get home.
  • Check out this blog for a lot more information on real food shopping, and optimizing nutrition when buying from the supermarket!

Below are meal suggestions for the week using these ingredients. You may of course want to supplement with bread, rice, pasta, cheeses, etc. as desired.

Real Food Daily Menu Suggestions

hearty - roast- chicken

Sunday

Roast the chicken (basic recipe here) with carrots, potatoes, garlic and onion. Add beets, turnips or other root vegetables tossed in olive oil if desired. Serve a fresh green salad with your meal. Remove all meat from the bone and whatever is left over from your meal refrigerate for later use. Place the chicken carcass (and the chicken feet, if you have them) in a slow cooker, cover with water, add with a quartered onion and two celery sticks cut in half, salt and pepper. Cook on low for 12-18 hours.

Monday

When cooled, strain the broth removing the bones and vegetable matter for the compost. Cut up onion, celery, garlic, carrots and chopped cabbage, cook in the bottom of a soup pot in plenty of grass-fed butter until tender. Add the broth and let it cook on low for 2-4 hours. Enjoy your soup dinner and store leftovers in the refrigerator to eat later.

Start your beef broth by placing the bones in the slow cooker just covered with water and adding onion, salt, celery and any other vegetable scraps. (Here’s the authoritative book on broth!) Set on low and let it cook for 24 — 36 hours.

Tuesday

Chop up mixed greens and add the leftover chicken for a light supper.

Wednesday

Strain your beef broth early in the day and let it chill. Save the bones in the refrigerator. 2-3 hours before your meal, brown the beef stew cubes in butter with onion, garlic and a little flour. Stir in chopped celery, cabbage and any root vegetables such as parsnips, rutabagas or potatoes and allow to cook for a few minutes. Remove the beef broth from the refrigerator and take off the fat that has formed on top .When vegetables are softened add the skimmed broth to the pot. Cook it all together slowly on a low temperature a couple of hours or until meat is tender.

Thursday

Serve leftover beef stew or chicken soup with a chopped slaw using the red cabbage, what’s left of the green cabbage, chopped celery, onion and a grated carrot. Mix together and dress with olive oil, apple cider vinegar and salt to taste.

Friday

Early in the day, start another batch of beef broth with the bones you used earlier in the week. For your evening meal, saute several cups of fresh spinach, kale or chard with some chopped onion in a skillet on the stovetop and whisk 4 eggs in a separate bowl. When the spinach is nearly cooked down, add the eggs to the skillet and stir until they are cooked and blended with the spinach. Season as desired, sprinkle fresh cheese on top and serve.

Saturday

Cool and strain your beef broth. You’ve already removed the fat so you don’t need to chill it this time. Start your dinner by using any leftover vegetables you desire and slow cook them in the broth. When the vegetables are tender, take an immersion blender and partially puree the soup so that it’s thick and chunky. Serve with green salad if you still have greens left from the week or any leftover slaw.

Wrap-Up

So there you have it, a full week (or more!) of fresh, nourishing meals made from simple ingredients straight from the earth! Whenever you’ve eaten through all of this you can go shopping and repeat the menus, mixing them up or varying them in any way you want, or of course adapting your own favorite recipes to real food ingredients.

You get the idea. No plastic, cardboard, cellophane, preservatives, additives required–no factories involved and ideally, minimal distances traveled from ground to table. In our way of looking at it, eating locally and simply is an important aspect of slow living because it’s supporting better health, less waste and a more sustainable food supply.

Interested in learning more about slow living and the sustainable lifestyle?

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Don’t worry, we won’t bug ya…just really good content you don’t have to dig for!

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A Guide To Microgreens

A Guide To Microgreens

What are microgreens?

Microgreens are essentially young, edible leafy greens such as lettuce, beets, sunflowers, radishes, spinach, kale and many more, harvested at 1-3 inches between 2-21 days after planting. Different from sprouts, which are grown in water, microgreens are grown in soil and only the leaves and stems are eaten. Microgreens are an easy and delicious way to get highly concentrated nutrients, up to 40 times more potent than the mature plants.

Where do I get microgreens?

Having gained popularity in restaurants over the last few years for use in soups, salads, sandwiches and garnishes, savvy consumers are now becoming interested in having them at home. You can find them in grocery stores, but this is not ideal because 1) they are expensive 2) they are most probably in a plastic container (boo!) and 3) who knows how far they’ve traveled to get there. But you don’t need to buy them because it’s so easy and inexpensive to grow them at home. Here’s how you can have these tiny nutrition-packed meal boosters in your kitchen all year round!

A Complete Guide To Growing Microgreens

  1. Obtain your seeds. There are many sources and many to choose from. Just make sure you get untreated, organic and non-GMO. You can get them from our store (use the drop-down menu to select the Microgreens Sampler Pack). It’s a good idea to soak the larger seeds such as peas, beans or sunflower seeds for a few hours before planting.
  2. Fill a shallow container or tray with an organic seed planting mix. Sprinkle your seeds evenly over the surface and then lightly cover the seeds with a thin layer of soil and press down lightly.
  3. Use a spray bottle to gently moisten the soil. You may cover the container loosely with plastic (make sure there are a few air holes in the top) but this is not necessary.
  4. Place in a sunny window inside or a partially shaded location outside (if it’s warm) and wait, keeping the soil moistened with the mister daily. Don’t let it dry out.
  5. When the plants are 1-3 inches tall (anywhere from 1-3 weeks, depending on the plant), harvest by cutting the stems at soil level, rinse and eat!
  6. Start another tray right away to keep yourself supplied in these marvelous little superfoods!

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A Complete Guide to Growing Microgreens

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FERMENTING FUN: A Quick and Simple Guide to  Preserving Your Garden Veggies 

FERMENTING FUN: A Quick and Simple Guide to  Preserving Your Garden Veggies 

how-to-ferment-veggies-picklesFermented vegetables are not only an easy way to get your probiotics, but a quick  way to preserve fresh produce with minimal fuss. Although the foods need refrigeration once they are prepared and last several months as opposed to the year or more with canned goods, the simplicity of this process has us hooked!  

The only equipment you need other than the vegetables, a chopping board and a good knife are salt, water and jars with lids.

Almost any vegetable or combination of several can be cultured. Basically you just cut it up and put it in a jar with a brine (salt water), leave it for a few days until it ferments to your taste. One of my favorite go-to sites for fermenting is Cultured Food Life by Donna Schwenk. She has an entire section on fermenting vegetables here. Another great resource is Sandor Katz’s classic book Wild Fermentation. Check these out and try a few of these recipes. Once you get the idea, you can start experimenting and come up with your own favorite combinations of vegetables and flavorings. 

If you’ve never done this before, I recommend starting with carrots because in my experience they’re the most foolproof.

Fermented Carrots*

You’ll need:

  • Salt to taste (starting with 2 tsp)
  • 1 qt water
  • Carrot sticks (about 4-6 carrots) Herbs, if you’re inclined

Make a brine by mixing the salt and water until the flavor is a little bit too salty to taste. (It has to have enough salt for the fermentation and the flavor will mellow). Pack the carrot sticks into the quart jar and add the brine until they are covered by liquid. Add the herbs.

Leave the jar on the counter for about three days to ferment. They should taste bright and crisp. Then keep them in the fridge.

Tasting note:
Try adding a slice of fresh ginger or a garlic clove for more kick.

*You will also find this recipe in the new, up and coming “Bread and Beauty,” cookbook, a project celebrating and supporting Maryland’s  beautiful Montgomery County Agricultural Reserve, over ninety thousand acres of land dedicated to growing food!  Follow this link to get your own copy. Also a terrific gift idea for the foodies in your life. 

how-to-ferment-veggies

Here are a couple of tips for fermenting vegetables:

  1. Some vegetables tend to get mushy, especially if there is not enough salt. Place an oak or a grape leaf over the top of the vegetables before closing up the jar, making sure the water is still covering the leaf. The tannic acid helps keep them crisp.
  2. Cut off the blossom end of cucumbers before adding to the brine, which removes an enzyme that might keep out the crunch.
  3. Don’t be afraid to experiment, and if something doesn’t turn out to your taste, don’t throw it out too quickly. Lots of times it can work perfectly mixed up in a salad or soup.
  4. Fermented vegetables can last several weeks or even months in the fridge. There’s no danger of “bad bacteria” because the fermentation cultures the probiotics, or “good bacteria.”  Obviously if something tastes or smells bad, however, don’t eat it.
Healthy Homemade Mayonnaise

Healthy Homemade Mayonnaise

easy-homemade-mayo-ingredients

This simple, homemade mayonnaise recipe changes everything!

Eating store-bought mayonnaise is like eating chemical goo.

Mayonnaise is one of America’s favorite condiments. It’s at the heart of so many of our favorite things. I’m thinking about potato and egg salad, tuna salad and creamy dressings. And what’s that leftover turkey sandwich without (a lot of) it?

There was a time, though, when it was a guilty pleasure, especially back in the days when we were all terrified to eat any fats. Then we found out about Sally Fallon and Nourishing Traditions and realized that fats weren’t only okay, but we really need them! So we could have all the mayo we wanted. Right? But no, because every single one of the brands available in the supermarket were made from tons of creepy ingredients like those industrial vegetable oils and so many other things you couldn’t even pronounce.

So then we’ll just make it ourselves.

Right? Well, that sounds good, but every recipe I ever tried requires three hands. You hold the mixer in one, the bowl in the other and then you drop the oil in very slowly, one drop at a time. And if you put the oil in too fast (because it’s hard to manage all of this at once) your homemade mayo ends up being a nasty mess that you have to throw out. Eating mayonnaise as part of a real food diet was a problem.

That is, until I found THIS RECIPE, which is quick, delicious and never fails!

It’s truly like magic.

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In fact, the recipe is called “Magic Mayonnaise” and it’s in a wonderful book called The Hands-On Home: A Seasonal Guide to Cooking, Preserving & Natural Homekeeping by Erica Strauss.

(NOTE: For this recipe, you need an immersion blender. I have this one. If you don’t already have one of these, I promise you it is worth the small investment. I use mine every single day and consider it my number one kitchen tool.)

Homemade Mayo Recipe

MAGIC MAYONNAISE:

In a wide mouth pint mason jar, combine

  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup neutral flavored oil (I use a light olive or avocado for mild flavor and to get healthy fats.

Let the egg settle to the bottom of the jar, then insert the immersion blender all the way down and turn it on at medium speed. Keep it at the bottom so that it will pull the oil down and form an emulsion. When you see that it has become mostly mayonnaise, slowly pull the immersion blender up and out of the jar, pulsing as you go. Put a lid on the jar and it will keep for up to a week.

And that’s it.

Quick, easy mayonnaise you can make yourself in five minutes or less, with all healthy, delicious ingredients. So now go have that turkey sandwich with plenty of mayo. Life is good!

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easy-homemade-mayo

easy-homemade-mayo

Pin it for later!

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More planning, less plastic (#goals)

More planning, less plastic (#goals)

Just last week, I was on my way home from a meeting and knew I had limited time there before moving onto the next thing. I was STARVING, my lack of meal planning on both the breakfast and lunch ends had me kicking my low-blood-sugar self. Worst part was – this wasn’t a particularly isolated event. It happens more often than I’m proud of. Am I the only one?

For some reason – I don’t think so.

It seems to me that our go-go-go lives/mentality make it easy for us to skip meals left and right, depend on snacks (usually in single-use packaging) and eat out more often necessary, leading to inefficiencies all around as we waste time, money, and nutrition due to lack of planning. I don’t mean to generalize. I’m a single, freelancing/entrepreneur-ing, social, busy millennial who can “get away” with this lack of planning since no one else is depending on me, but for those with circumstances that match my own I’d say the meals prepped & prepared are few and far between.

I’ll also take this opportunity to say that I am in this buzzy way trying to promote my own brand that celebrates *slowing down*. The irony never escapes me, particularly since I have to face my lack of planning with my aversion to plastic and other waste-full conveniences like single use packaging. It’s a journey – a constant learning in being aware of our habits and how they affect what/how we buy. I’m grateful to Lady Farmer and our mission for forcing me to think about these things and change (even if ever so slowly)!

So – back to my low blood sugar car ride home. I remembered a sweet neighborhood grocery and prepared foods store where I could get something relatively healthy and also quick…I could pick it up then eat it at home in my limited time. I even had my reusable steel to-go container in the car with me! I was winning. I pulled into the lot and proudly grabbed my tote with my zero-waste supplies, and entered the store excited to blow everyone’s minds with how resourceful I was. The display of plastic to-go containers and tops waiting to be filled made me feel especially pleased with myself.

When I asked the nice woman behind the counter if she could please put the seared salmon in my container along with some roasted veggies, she looked back at me wide-eyed and worried, not sure if she could do such a thing. I internally eye-rolled as she got her manager, who (somewhat abrasively) told me that it was against policy but she would be nice about it just this once. She said something about it being against health code which I immediately wrote off as untrue, because how could it be? I did not understand why everyone was so upset, I expressed my gratitude, and merrily went on my way, kind of confused about why it had been such an issue but also – again – feeling very pleased and proud of myself.

As I thought about in on the rest of my drive home, however, it dawned on me why it could be a health code violation. Thinking about it from the producer’s standpoint, it occurred to me that they’re liable for all kinds of things from food temperature to food container contamination…and upon speaking about it with a few folks I know in the food industry, I realize that is, in fact, the main reason why it is ILLEGAL (at least in our state) to fill your own zero-waste container at a prepared foods carry-out counter. Isn’t that infuriating? Like – it makes sense – I’m sure something happened once that was awful and I’m sure the rule does keep a lot of us from getting sick. So not only do we have to fight with our own organizational challenges and reliance on the plethora of single-use conveniences around us at all times, but it’s actually AGAINST THE LAW to do what we’re trying to do (in this case, avoid plastic) because it’s deemed unsafe!

Jeepers. It sure bugs me. Especially since I completely understand both sides of the issue.

All I can conclude from this experience, my friends, is that there is serious work to be done. And perhaps the issue runs deeper – that maybe the entire industry of convenience, of prepared foods, of single-use experiences and items, of things that take little time and thought on our part, are actually causing the world harm and costing us more money than we can even be aware of.

So does this mean I must become expert meal-planner and packer extraordinaire? Ugh. OR – we could all just move to France where “convenience” and “to-go” are not words that you see often grouped with food. They plan, prepare, sit, and enjoy food there with one another, above most other things including buzzing about for the sake of busy-ness.

The likelihood of a French move or overhaul of our gastro-culture makes me realize I should probably just face the facts and look to change some of my own habits.

I’ll be sure to keep you updated here 🙂

love,

Emma

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This image as well as the featured image on this post are from @lifemadelight, a great zero-waste instagram account! The container I use is the exact same as the one pictured here.

 

 

PS – Please comment with your thoughts & observations! This is one of my fav conversation topics right now. I’d love to hear what the internet has to say.