Follow Your Food: Fields Farm

 

Organic agriculture goes back millennia, with roots as deep as any human tradition. Our connection with how to select, cultivate and prepare foods has evolved over generations of farmers and meals from the family hearth. That natural evolution eventually led to a point where the goal of food production rose above the level of subsistence, where technology allowed farming to become a smaller piece of our larger anthropology. Inevitably consolidating agriculture led to a smaller number of farmers growing over larger acreage. Farming then became less a natural development and more a field of study. Of course this has allowed the concentrated field of agricultural science to make profound discoveries in areas like crop genetics and advanced breeding techniques which matriculated  into large yields and global food distribution. However, in the creation of any industrial system there are unforeseen externalities; details that were either overlooked or not accounted for. For years now people have been talking about the ills of the “conventional” food system, and how it is a broken model. Stacks of articles have been written about how modern agriculture has contributed to land degradation, pollution, biodiversity loss, obesity, diabetes, inequality… the list goes on. One source of these problems, a factor that is easily overlooked, again, is that the greatest externality is a loss of knowledge. Yes, of course there is more research going into food than ever, but the kind of knowledge we are missing does not come from a classroom; the form of knowledge that faded comes from the land, and from each other.

That is how organic farming emerged as a movement. In the midst of consolidation, there were those among rural and urban populations who realized that they felt disconnected. What they were disconnected from was, and is a cultural heritage between people, the land, and food grown in it. This movement emerged then, and continues to this day, as a populous voice seeking to rewrite the modern definition of agriculture to include those details that were overlooked as seeds started to be bought through growing corporations, instead of shared between a community of growers. In a sense, the farmers that emerged during the organic revolution were pioneers on quest to journey back into human history and reconnect with the heritage of traditional farming.

Fields Farm has long been a curator of mindful agriculture here in Bend, beginning a quest for creating sustainable land. Jim and Debbie Fields began their journey into farming 27 years ago when they purchased their 10 acre plot, nestled right outside the heart of Bend. It began as a small gardening experiment, their initial goal was simply to connect with their roots and build a lifestyle around living off the land. Over time Jim an Debbie began to grow their hobby into a business by implementing a small CSA. They only started with 8 members, but Jim’s philosophy is to ‘start small, grow slowly and observe a lot’, much like natural adaptation in plants. By 2006 they had grown their CSA to 68 members, engaged in two farmers markets, and finding their way to sell some produce wholesale.

Over the years their growth as a business has meant that their knowledge of farming has grown along with it. What began as a backyard homestead has evolved into a goal to feed the Bend community without a carbon footprint. Jim reached this goal by holding to his same curiosity that drove he and Debbie closer to the land in the first place. Over years of observing the services plants provide to the ecosystem, they became more attuned to what the land needed to give back to complete the nutrient cycle. This led them to building their own foundation of soil health through composting non-commercial plant organic matter; however, further inspection of the wider community revealed that this process did not have to end with the 10 acre boundaries of Fields Farm. So, Jim approached Deschutes Brewery and gave them a way to recycle their wasted hops and spend grains back into the soil to foster new life. Instead of contributing to methane pollution in landfills, Deschutes contributes their organic wastes towards growing food for the community. Now, those gasses are taken out of the atmosphere and added to a soil amendment strategy that reduces more than just the farm’s carbon footprint. This example right here is how Jim and Debbie Fields are writing organic farming into the modern context of community, taking us closer to the old days when agriculture was the beating heart of human culture.

27 years of farming has imbedded a lot knowledge at Field’s Farm, extending from carbon neutrality to season extension, to crop rotations. Jim and Debbie have realized that this information contributes diminished service if it stays locked in their own brains; because, as mentioned earlier, the cultural heritage of farming is shared around the community. Without the help of caring, and insightful neighbors, there is no way that a beginning farmer can know what experience doesIf you talk to most any young farmer around Bend, they will go on about how much their operation has learned from the wised counsel of Jim and Debbie Fields. Currently Jim offers consultation services to aspiring growers in the area, a way of helping them learn from what years of experience have taught him. Knowledge not only enrichens the lives of producers, but for consumers as well. This is why Fields Farm hosts tours on site for school groups, so that the next generation of consumers grow up knowing where there food comes from, how it was grown, and why that is important.

Our world is so concerned with the pitfalls of humanity, that we forget that the objective world exists in our collective ability to care. Fields Farm cares, and through their individual work, the community is brought closer around the identity of healthy land and good food. Food is the foundation of knowledge and, no matter how far we stray away, will always be origin of culture. So, I guess my piece in this is to call to you to explore your origins by caring about your food as Jim and Debbie do.

Follow Your Food: Thai Chicken Larb

In my last post I talked about how food is a vehicle to connect with culture outside of our own, and did a recipe on Thai Red Curry to bring some eastern flavor into our Kitchen, and the curry was just awesome. Also, this time of year there is a lot of fresh, brassicas growing, which means cooking dishes with sharp mustard flavors and Asian origin. So, naturally, this time around I wanted to continue the Thai trend. It is also the advent of regional spring lettuce season. Crisp, turgid lettuce leaves provide the perfect vessel for wrapping up a lot of flavor without soaking in juices. Now, I am not opposed to wiping my plate clean with a hearty piece chunk of baguette; but for the sake of the spring, the juicier, the better!

The lettuce I am using comes from this week’s produce box. These mixed varieties of romaine and red leaf come from James of Radicle Roots Farm, which is a sustainable market garden located just 12 miles outside of Bend. Their philosophy is simple, “healthy soil grows healthy food, which is the underlying principal for cultivating a reciprocally sustainable agrarian system. As first generation farmers, their goal is to bring vibrant energy and a passion for future generations to our local food system. I will write more about James and Radicle Roots at a later date, once I can get out to the farm with him and dig into his operation. But for now, let his lettuce speak as a testament to their quality care and fresh produce.

I was talking with James this Tuesday when he came by to drop off his produce for the week, and inspired me on the idea of using his lettuce as a wrap. So I set off to find a good recipe for lettuce wraps, and found one that incorporates Thai Larb (or Laap).  Larb is the national dish of Laos and has been incorporated into the culinary  tradition northern Thailand where there ay many people of Laotian descent. It combines raw or cooked minced meat, spices, mint, basil and is often served on lettuce leaves. It is traditionally a spicy dish, where spice adds complexity into the flavor of a dish. Southeast Asian meals derive their spice from capsicum chilis, cumin, garlic, and ginger. The watery lettuce leaves counterbalance the heat, and cool your palate at the end of a bite. This provides a rather refreshing physical experience to dining on a warm, sunny day. Since it is not quite pepper season in the high desert, I brought in spice with red chili flakes, garlic from Groundwork Organics and ginger from Bob at Tumalo Fish and Vegetable Farm. And because it is the aforementioned spring brassica season, I chopped up some of Windflower Farms asian greens to add some mustardy zest into the mix.

I pulled my recipe from one I found by Williams Sonoma. Due to what I had in the pantry, and what is available seasonally, I made some adjustments. No doubt it is good with or without amending the original format.

Ingredients:

  • 6 Tbs soy sauce
  • 2 Tbs rice vinegar (I used apple cider vinegar, since that is what is in my pantry)
  • 2 Tbs Asian sesame oil
  • 1 Tbs Asian fish sauce
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • Juice of 1/2 lime
  • 2 Tbs vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced green onions, white and light green portions
  • 1 1/2 Tbs peeled and grated fresh ginger
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes (I would also recommend finding a red thai chili to cook in)
  • 1 1/4 lb ground chicken (I used chicken thighs, which I diced up myself)
  • Lettuce leaves for serving
  • Bean sprouts and fresh cilantro and basil leaves for serving
    • I did not have either the basil or the sprouts, but I did add in sliced hakurei turnips from Windflower Farm as a garnish, which was spot on

Cooking Directions:

  1. In a bowl, stir together the soy sauce, rice vinegar, sesame oil, fish sauce, sugar and lime juice. Set aside.
  2. In a wok or large fry pan over medium-high heat, warm the oil. Add the green onions, ginger, garlic and red pepper flakes and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add the chicken and cook, stirring occasionally, until the chicken is no longer pink, about 5 minutes. Add half the soy sauce mixture and cook 1 minute more.
  3. In a wok or large fry pan over medium-high heat, warm the oil. Add the green onions, ginger, garlic and red pepper flakes and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add the chicken and cook, stirring occasionally, until the chicken is no longer pink, about 5 minutes. Add half the soy sauce mixture and cook 1 minute more.
  4. To serve, spoon about 3 Tbs. of the chicken mixture into a lettuce leaf, top with bean sprouts, cilantro and basil, and wrap the lettuce around the filling. But that is just the recommended serving style. To do this family style, I put all of the add ons on a few plates and allowed for self serve. Put the the remaining soy sauce mixture alongside in a small bowl for dipping

This dish is just amazing, and I cant even imagine how much better it would be if I had some basil, bean sprouts and thai chilis on hand…

 

Eating Smart

Written by Jenni Hepburn for Agricultural Connections

Fresh Food for a New You: Foods for a Healthy Detox

Your average detox diet typically involves a week or more eating very little and feeling terrible, but does it have to be that way? Really, there’s no reason why a supposedly healthy detox should involve starving yourself; instead, load your plate with fabulous fresh produce, and make it an enjoyable experience instead of a miserable one.

The Problem with Detox Diets

The word “detox” used to be linked mostly with alcohol or drug withdrawal, and while that definition of the word is still in use, many people also associate the word with restrictive diets that supposedly rid the body of harmful toxins. However, there’s no scientific evidence that the body benefits from detox diets, and in reality, many of the popular detox menus are unhealthy, and some are downright dangerous. For example, the “Master Cleanse” involves ingesting nothing but a drink made from lemon juice, maple syrup, and cayenne pepper—for ten days. Many people who try cleanses like this one experience nausea, dizziness, fatigue, headaches, muscle aches, and vomiting, because cleanse menus tend to be dangerously low in calories, essential vitamins and minerals, and fat and protein. There’s nothing healthy at all about restrictive cleanses like these; they’re really just crash diets in disguise.

The Healthy Way to Detox

So, is there any benefit to a detox? Sure—as long as you approach it in the right frame of mind. A detox shouldn’t be about getting rid of toxins; in fact, your liver, kidneys, and immune system do the job of eliminating waste and toxins just fine. A restrictive cleanse might result in weight loss, but at best it’s only water weight, and at worst, may be lost muscle mass due to protein restriction.

Instead, think of detox as a way to make a significant and long-lasting change in the way you eat, by eliminating processed and nutrient-poor foods from your diet. A healthy detox diet should include plenty of fresh, unprocessed food, rich in nutrients, with protein and fat along with complex carbohydrates, and lots of water. Many cleanse menus eliminate things like dairy and wheat products, and this can actually be beneficial, since many of these foods are processed, and add extra fat and sugar to the diet. In short, consider a detox diet as a way to remove unhealthy processed foods from your diet for good, and make a permanent transition into clean and healthy eating.

Try a berrylicious smoothie at breakfast: Add a banana and some almond milk, and load up your blender with a variety of different berries to pack vitamins, minerals, and fiber into a smoothie. It makes a delicious and nutritious start to the day, with added chia, flax, or hemp seeds for healthy fat and protein.

Enjoy a green lunch: Leafy greens of all kinds are the ideal detox staple, with high levels of essential vitamins and minerals like potassium and calcium, and vitamins A, C, and K, along with fiber and a little protein. The perfect detox salad should include plenty of greens, along with a serving of garbanzo or other beans for protein. Choose an oil-based dressing, like a simple lemon juice or balsamic vinaigrette—many vitamins can only be absorbed in the presence of dietary fat.

Have an evening fish feast: Many cleanse and detox diets reduce protein intake to dangerous levels, which can lead to loss of muscle mass. Buck this unhealthy trend by including lots of fresh fish in your detox menu, especially wild-caught salmon, which is high in omega-3 fats and low in mercury. Other good options include fresh tilapia, trout, and black sea bass.

Helpful herbs: Herbs like basil, chervil, chives, and cilantro are great way to add fresh flavor to salad greens, and dill, ginger, and fennel are perfect for infusing steamed fish. Try lining a steamer with leaves of kale or spinach, top with fresh dill and lemon zest, then rest fresh salmon filets on top. Turn the fish once during the cooking time, and the herbs will impart some amazing flavor to the fish. Many herbs, with their pungent aromas and strong flavors, are high in phytochemicals, the plant compounds that give vegetables and fruits their vibrant colors, and are believed to help protect against cancer development.

 

Sources

American Cancer Society. “Phytochemicals.” Accessed June 3, 2014. Description and overview of phytochemicals.

CBS News. “Do Detox Diets Work? Are they Safe?” Accessed June 3, 2014. How to detox safely.

Detox. “Guide to Medically-Assisted Detox.” Accessed June 3, 2014. How long does the process take?

Gourmet Sleuth. “Salad Herbs.” Accessed June 3, 2014. Fresh herbs for salads.

The Herb Information Site. “Herbs with Seafood Dishes.” Accessed June 3, 2014. Matching herbs and fish.

The Master Cleanse. “The Lemonade Diet.” Accessed June 3, 2014. About The Master Cleanse.

Washington State Department of Health. “Healthy Fish Guide.” Accessed June 3, 2014. A guide to the healthiest fish.

Checking Out Chard

Written by Jenni Hepburn for Agricultural Connections

Rainbow Chard

There are lots of great reasons to eat locally—the food is fresher and tastes better, and buying locally-produced food helps support area farmers and stimulates your regional economy. When you buy local food produced in-season, you’re also getting fresh produce that packs a much more powerful nutritional punch. Fresh rainbow chard is a gorgeous riot of color with crisp leaves and crunchy stems—full of nutrients and a great flavor that pairs well with a wide range of foods and seasonings.

Nutritional Profile and Health Benefits

Chard is one of the most nutrient-rich vegetables in the world, with high levels of many different vitamins and minerals. Just one cup of cooked chard provides between 10% and 60% of the daily requirement of nearly a dozen different nutrients.

Vitamin K: Needed for healthy bones, and may protect against heart disease.

Vitamin A: An antioxidant that helps protect against certain eye diseases.

Vitamin C: Antioxidant that boosts the immune system and is necessary for collagen production. Also enhances iron absorption.

Magnesium: Important in bone health and regulation of metabolism.

Copper: Enhances antioxidant activity, required for collagen production, and helps protect against anemia.

Manganese: Needed for healthy bones and skin, and plays a role in regulating blood sugar.

Potassium: This mineral is an electrolyte, and is essential to heart and nervous system function. It’s also important for regulating blood pressure and may help protect against the development of kidney stones.

Vitamin E: An antioxidant that helps protect against heart disease.

Iron: As a component of red blood cells this mineral is used to transport oxygen around the body.

Choline: Essential for healthy nervous system function.

Vitamin B2: Important for energy production, and helps protect against anemia.

Calcium: Essential for bone health.

As a leafy green vegetable with stalks in vibrant rainbow hues, rainbow chard is also full of plant-specific compounds called phytonutrients that have additional benefits. Phytonutrients in rainbow chard include syringic acid, beta-carotene, and lutein.

While the exact way in which some phytonutrients benefit health are not yet firmly established, it is thought that many of these compounds help repair DNA damage, reduce inflammation, improve cellular metabolism, enhance the immune response, and have antioxidant activity. Many studies indicate, for example, that carotenoids like beta-carotene help protect against heart disease, and that even a single daily serving of leafy greens can reduce the risk of cancer and heart disease. Other studies show that eating foods that are high in lutein helps prevent age-related macular degeneration, an eye disease that leads to vision deterioration and can cause blindness. Finally, syringic acid helps regulate blood sugar by slowing down the conversion of complex carbohydrates into simple sugars.

Ideas for Cooking with Rainbow Chard

Chard varieties are highly versatile. Just like spinach and kale, they can be used in a wide variety of ways, and in countless different dishes. Most varieties taste fairly similar, regardless of stalk color—a little sweet and very slightly bitter, similar to spinach but with a milder flavor. Flavors that go well with chard of all kinds include garlic, shallots and onions, vinaigrettes, cream-based sauces, and lemon. In general, anything you can do with spinach, you can also do with chard, but the cooking time for chard is slightly longer.

There are two schools of thought when it comes to cooking with chard. One says that the leaves should be treated in the same way as spinach, and the stalks in the same way as asparagus. The second doesn’t differentiate between stalks and leaves; instead, just chop the greens together, and chop the stalks more finely than the leaves to even out the cooking time. Choosing a method depends on personal preference and the dish you’re preparing—for some you may prefer to omit stalks, as they are somewhat tougher than leaves.

Some quick-and-easy ideas for cooking with rainbow chard include:

  • Chopped raw chard can be added to salads, and pairs well with lemon-based vinaigrette.
  • Use chard instead of spinach in vegetarian lasagna.
  • Add chopped leaves and stalks to egg-based dishes like frittata and quiche.
  • Sauté with garlic and olive oil, add toasted pine nuts, plate, and then dress with lemon juice. Alternatively, add grated parmesan and red pepper flakes in place of the pine nuts. Both options are perfect as a side dish or tossed with cooked pasta.
  • Add finely-sliced stalks and leaves to chicken, pasta, or white bean soups, and simmer for a few minutes just before serving.
  • Top pizza with a mixture of sautéed chopped chard, onions, and pancetta or bacon.
  • Use the leaves (minus stalks) as wraps for spring rolls or as a substitute for vine leaves for stuffed vine leaf recipes.
  • Try raw chard leaves in place of lettuce in lettuce leaf wraps.

 

Sources

101 Cookbooks. “Chard Recipes.”  Accessed April 4, 2014. Healthy chard recipes using all-natural ingredients.

JM Hirsch, for The Food Network. “Off the Beaten Aisle: Rainbow Chard.” Accessed April 4, 2014. Cooking with chard.

Kwikmed. “Complete Video Guide to Heart Disease.” Accessed April 4, 2014. Dietary guidelines for cardio health.

Rita Klavinski, for MichiganStateUniversity. “7 Benefits of Eating Local Foods.” Accessed April 4, 2014. Why it’s better to eat local.

The World’s Healthiest Foods. “Swiss Chard.” Accessed April 4, 2014. Nutritional information for chard varieties.

United States Department of Agriculture. “Phytonutrient FAQ.” Accessed April 4, 2014. Information about plant-specific nutrients.

True Star Health. “Swiss Chard.” Accessed April 4 2014. Chard: Preparation, uses and tips.

Not Your Mother’s Hummus

Well, actually, this is my mother’s hummus. She made some for me today and it’s bright, acidic, and garlicky. It’s a variation on Lime Cilantro Hummus, and it’s really kind of a mix between a Latin-style bean dip and Mediterranean hummus. What makes it a bean dip? The garbanzo beans. What makes it a hummus? Again, the garbanzo beans. There’s no Tahini, which makes it lighter than most hummus and a rather guilt-free.

In today’s version, my mom made her own tweaks and additions.  She subbed Jalapeno chili flakes for the cayenne, used regular salt instead of garlic salt, and added the bottom four inches of a leek. She also used already-cooked dried garbanzo beans.

Even as I write this, I’m waiting to be done so I can go have a few more corn chips with this delectable dip. So, go make some for yourself! It’s easy, delicious, and could be a great addition to many meals.

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Ingredients from Ag Connect: Cilantro, garlic, leeks

Happy Accident

I know it’s been a while since I posted anything, and you can blame it on the end-of-winter-waiting-for-days-to-be-longer hibernation. But last night I cooked a dinner that just has to be shared. It was part design, part accident. As it turns out, you can’t go wrong with good mushrooms, good Parmesan, good pasta, and a good veggie-roasting routine.

Now, I don’t cook  with recipes often. They take too much time and planning for me. So what I’m about to share comes with the caveat that I probably couldn’t recreate it exactly if I tried tonight.

I started with almost a whole pound of sliced Shiitake mushrooms. I sauteed with butter and olive oil (butter for flavor, olive oil to raise the burning temperature). The mushrooms were sauteed with a little crushed red pepper, tarragon, and garlic for probably 10 minutes. I then added a medium pinch of flour to thicken, a splash of veggie broth for flavor, and about a cup-and-a-half of milk. Meanwhile, I cooked the whole wheat pasta.

Once the sauce started to boil and thicken I added some Parmesan. Well, a lot of Parmesan. I stirred that in and got a creamy, but not too thick, mushroom sauce. Then I drained the pasta, tossed a bit more Parmesan (the rest of the container I had…) into the noodles, then let them fall into their creamy fate for a final minute of cooking.

On the side I served roasted carrots and parsnips (cut into chunks, toss liberally with olive oil, salt, and pepper, put on baking dish in single layer, and bake in 400-degree oven for 15 minutes).

With a little parsley on top of the pasta, and the still-slightly-crunchy-in-the-middle veggies, I got what turned out to be my new favorite meal. It was full-flavored yet totally simple and comforting. Lots of protein and vitamins, yet delightfully meat-free. Umami, spice, texture, and indulgence all wrapped up in one tidy meal.

Ingredients from Ag Connect: Shiitake mushrooms, Italian parsley, Parmesan, carrots, and parsnips.

A Model of Versatility

Acorn squash is one of those amazing food items that can be used in both sweet and savory dishes. If you roast it and scoop out the flesh, it can be used in squash pancakes or waffles, which are delicious with walnuts, maple syrup, and bacon (if you’re me, you toast the walnuts and cook the bacon to crispy deliciousness then put both right inside the batter). The squash is also delicious as a hash, with any and all of your favorite hash ingredients.

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However, my all-time favorite way to cook this winter treat is to stuff it.

I cut mine in half and roast it until it’s almost cooked through. I then add a mixture of already-cooked wild rice and sauteed goodies. This could include MANY different ingredients, and I often use it as a way to use whatever I have in my pantry or fridge. Some of my favorite ingredients include shredded carrots, dried cherries or cranberries, celery, toasted walnuts, apple, yellow onion, chopped up kale or chard, garlic, and maybe even shredded beets or parsnips. Almost any combination of these ingredients is sure to result in a flavor-packed, textural, hearty dish.

Once I’ve stuffed the squash, I put it back in the oven to finish cooking and get everything nice and hot. Depending on your preference, this can be served as a main course or side. Either way, it will warm you up from the inside out, and make excellent use of winter-time ingredients.

 So, if you’re looking to experiment with some new applications for this gorgeous gourd, try any of these ideas and enjoy!

 Ingredients from Ag Connect: Acorn squash, carrots, apples, beets, garlic, kale, chard, yellow onion, parsnips, bacon, flour and eggs for pancakes.