• Tomatoes Keep Your Heart Healthy

    This month we celebrated Valentine’s Day, and while that’s really just a chocolate, Hallmark Holiday, let’s talk about keeping your real heart healthy. Most folks have heard that tomatoes are a great source of lycopene. Lycopene is a powerful anti-oxidant that can protect against degenerative diseases. It can prevent damage in cells and help them function better. High levels of lycopene in your system can reduce your risk of cancer, heart disease & macular degeneration.

    The is one super food that actually gets better with cooking. They lose a bit of their vitamin C, but the lycopene is much more available for the body to use & the antioxidants aren’t diminished by cooking.

    I tend to look at study’s done with a bit of skepticism, but it’s hard to argue with the positive health effects of tomatoes. However, in order to gain these benefits, you have have a consistent diet of super foods. Ketchup on your fries at the Friday night fish fry isn’t a healthy source for a serving a tomatoes. Shoot for 10 good servings a week of tomatoes to protect your body against cancer, promote eye health and keep your heart strong by lowering your LDL cholesterol.


    Fresh Tomato Salsa


    • 2-3 medium sized fresh tomatoes, stems removed
    • 1/2 red onion
    • 1 clove garlic, minced
    • 2 serrano chiles or 1 jalapeño chile (stems, ribs, seeds removed), less or more to taste
    • Juice of one lime
    • Chopped cilantro
    • Salt and pepper to taste
    • Pinch of dried oregano (crumble in your fingers before adding), more to taste
    • Pinch of ground cumin, more to taste


    1 Start by roughly chopping the tomatoes, chiles, and onions. Be very careful while handling the chile peppers. If you can, avoid touching the cut peppers with your hands. (I often use disposable gloves or hold the peppers with a plastic sandwich bag.) Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and hot water after handling and avoid touching your eyes for several hours. Set aside some of the seeds from the peppers. If the salsa isn’t hot enough, you can add a few for more heat.

    2 Place all of the ingredients in a food processor. Pulse only a few times, just enough to finely dice the ingredients, not enough to purée. If you don’t have a food processor, you can finely dice by hand.

    3 Place in a serving bowl. Add salt and pepper to taste. If the chilies make the salsa too hot, add some more chopped tomato. If not hot enough, carefully add a few of the seeds from the chilies, or add a little more ground cumin.

    Let sit for an hour for the flavors to combine.

  • We Got The Beets!

    You’re either going to love ’em or hate ’em. Originally, just the leaves or beet greens were eaten. And when I say originally, I’m talking way back before the Roman empire. It was the Romans who dug up the sweet red root & cooked it.

    From a super food standpoint, beets are great source of a phytonutrient called betalains.  Many of the betalains in beets function as an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory. Though it is interesting to note, that we humans vary greatly in our response to betalains. Some folks have a higher capacity for absorbing and metabolizing betalains in beets than others. Another benefit is the support of detoxing. The betalains in beets have been found to ‘hook up’ with the toxic cells, neutralize them and them make them water soluble so they can easily find their way out of the body. It’s like match.com for good cells and bad cells.

    But the beets don’t stop there. They’re also high in fiber, Beetsimmune-boosting vitamin C and essential minerals. Drinking beet juice can help lower your blood pressure and boost your stamina when working out.

    Beets are actually two great super veggies in one. The root, that we already covered & the beet leaves. The greens on younger plants are among the healthiest part of the plant. They’re loaded in nutrients and even have more iron than Spinach. They can boost bone strength and strengthen your immune system. They can be easily eaten raw as part of a salad or lightly sauteed with other greens like spinach or swiss chard.

    Best way to cook or eat beets?

    • Grate them raw into your salad
    • Juice them raw
    • Lightly  steam them
    • My personal favorite – Roasted. Cut into smaller chunks, tossed in olive oil, lightly salted & placed on a cookie sheet & roasted in the oven at 425 for 15 minutes until they’re soft.
  • Super Foods – Asparagus

    Super Foods is a fancy buzzword for food that contains extraordinary nutritional potency and health forming benefits far beyond normal food. Or in other words, real food, not that processed stuff. Each week we’re going to talk about a “super food” that we grow here. What it is, why it’s so good and how to cook it. But not some fancy recipe that takes 20 other ingredients. I’m all about simple, healthy & FAST.

    We’re stasparagusarting with Asparagus. It’s one of the first foods of spring, and packed with nutrients. It’s a good source of fiber, folate, vitamins A, C, E & K as well as chromium, a trace mineral that enhances the ability of insulin to transport glucose from the bloodstream to the cells.

    It’s packed with antioxidants, and glutathione, a detoxifying compound that helps break down carcinogens. It also contains high levels of the amino acid asparagine, which is a natural diuretic. And yes, eating asparagus makes your pee smell.

    While I’ve eaten asparagus raw, there are ways to cook it to maximize the benefits of all it’s nutrients. You can roast, grill or stir-fry it – simply lightly coat it in olive oil, season with sea salt & pepper & grill for 2-3 minutes, roast for about 5 or stir-fry until it’s al dente, but not soft.

    For grilling, I prefer the larger spears, for roasting or stir-fry, the thinner ones work better.

    Here’s a few other quick serving ideas to add asparagus to your meal:

    • Add chopped cold asparagus to your salad
    • Chop & add to your omelet or eggs. (I usually fry the asparagus up for a minute & then add the eggs for a colorful scrambled eggs)
    • Toss freshly cooked pasta with roasted asparagus and olive oil. Add in some of your favorite spices like thyme or rosemary.

    In Spring, there’s nothing is better than adding fresh asparagus to any meal. This year, we’ll be adding another 1,000 crowns to our asparagus patch to keep up with the demand for this super food.


  • You Can’t Ride Papers

    That was an expression I learned at horse auction about 30 years ago (ya I’m old). At the time, I was obsessed with owning a Registered Quarter Horse and one of the 4-H leaders told me, “You can’t ride papers”, which basically means, finding a horse that was good, was more important than if it was registered (had papers).

    This time of year, I get a bit obsessive about the weather. All the planning I did in February, while it looks good on paper, has to play out in real life. You can’t ride papers either when you’re dealing with Mother Nature. So we take what we’re given & deal with it. This weekend we were supposed to transplant the tomatoes & peppers. Based on the 10-Day outlook with the weather dipping into the 30’s again on Tuesday, we’re going to hold off on that.

    Last night I knew we were going to have a bit of rain coming so we adjusted our planting schedule & seeded some more spinach. While everything is mapped out before the season starts, you just have to roll with the changes. Normally our last date of frost is May 11th and we may not get frost on the 19th, but I’m not going to take a chance with your tomatoes & peppers.

    Here’s hoping for sunny days, slow showers and great growing season! And if that doesn’t happen, we’ll work with what we’re given.

    10-Day Outlook


  • Something Pretty

    Farmin’ is really about numbers. How much to plant, how much to harvest, how many days in the ground, how many days the produce will store, how much to charge and I could go on forever. Really just lots of different numbers that at the end of the year you try to make them work out in your favor. This will be my fourth CSA season & so far, probably the most I’ve paid attention to all sorts of numbers. What things cost to produce, what we sell things for, what the tractor costs to fix, where can we get by with less expense, what crops are profitable and which ones aren’t?

    Some days you have to cut your losses, this year we’re looking at not raising a batch of organically fed, meat chickens. The cost to raise them and have them processed, just gets to the point where it’s not profitable, not to mention hard to sell $4 a pound chicken when Festival Food sells them for .99 cents on sale. Occasionally we get asked if we have organic fed eggs, and we do…but we’re only raising them for ourselves. I ran the numbers on layer chickens and just couldn’t figure out a way to do it in a smaller scale that was profitable. And probably I’m sure some of that is my own fault. To do it “right”, ie. make money at it, you’d need to turn over your chickens every two years, not to mention have lights on them in winter to encourage year ’round production. Sure they could be raised humanely, on some pasture, but free range? Not gonna happen with 3 dogs here.

    Right now, we have 5 chickens – 3 were new that were raised from chicks last year, 1 was the sole survivor of another farm’ s chicken massacre (not sure what animal got them all, but Red is our little fighter) and 1 Sultan who came from a neighbor girl who raised her for a County Fair chicken – Farah is her name, she’s pretty…and that’s all she’s got going for her right now. Being a fancy breed, she’s not much for egg production. The last time she laid an egg was probably in September of last year. If I was good with numbers, she’d be Chicken Booyah by now. But sometimes, it’s just nice having something pretty to look at.


  • Helpin’ Out the Pollinators

    I’ll admit it, 20 years ago I never even thought of the importance bees and other pollinators have. They were just something that was taken for granted…they did their job & everyone was happy. Until they stopped showing up for work. There’s many theories about why they’re dying, and I can’t fix everything, but I can help out the ones we still have.

    While we don’t have our own hives, our neighbors do – it was a project that our neighbor wanted to share with his son. So while his bees come over to our place & do their work, it’s my job to make sure they’ve got a nice variety to munch on.

    The 3 acres that surrounds our gardens is in a conservation program for another couple of years. This land is covered in prairie grasses & wild flowers, but to me that’s not enough. We’re also planting a variety of flowers this year to add more food to their plate. Years ago, when I just gardened, I used to think, if I can’t eat it, why would I grow it? Now I realize, it’s not just about me, it’s about keeping the bees & butterflies happy.

    Here’s some baby Marigold’s:

    Baby Marigolds

  • Starting to See Green

    No, not outside yet. Though the highs this week in the 30’s & 40’s will sure be a welcome change from the frigid temps we’ve had. The green I see is in the form of baby onions. The flats planted in February have sprouted and are starting to stretch their legs. They will have several “hair cuts” before they get planted out in early May. This keeps them controllable when raised indoors & under lights & also helps build up stocky leaves.

    Things are still moving pretty slow around here yet. In two weeks we’ll start our tomatoes & peppers under lights and then in April will be more planting of seedlings like cabbage, kohlrabi, lots of herbs like chives, mint & parsley and even seeding the hoop house for summer production.

    For now, I’ll just enjoy the slower time, while planning out the Summer’s work. Oh don’t get me wrong, there’s not a lot sitting around here…oil needs to be changed on all the engines we use, knives sharpened, tools readied, but ya we’re itchin’ for Spring and ready to play in the dirt.

    Onion Seedlings

  • It Smells Like Dirt

    Onion Trays

    This weekend I got to play in dirt for the first time in a long time. We start all our own seedlings, this way we can control the variety we grow, what they’re grown in (organic seed starter) and how they’re started. We don’t have a greenhouse (yet), but what we use is the walkin cooler. I bring a heater in there, attached to a thermometer, and shelves with lights that are on a timer. It’s not perfect, but it works well enough for now.

    Onions were what I started this weekend – we’re doing them a little different this year too. Instead of just sowing them in flats, we’re planting about 5 seeds per plug & then the whole plug will be transplanted. It took a little more work on the seeding end, but transplanting should go quicker now.

    After I moved all the planted trays up to the cooler, with the heater on, it was a balmy 75 degrees in there…and it smelled like dirt.

    Onion Trays