22 July 2010

Are you throwing away the best part?

Just thought I’d stop in very quickly (I know you are probably thinking there is no such thing as ‘just a few words’ from me!) with just a few short words. Hasn’t the beetroot been beautiful in our boxes these last few weeks? Beetroot always is so wonderful, but something about having it local and fresh makes it all the more beautiful! So – what does everyone do with their beetroot greens (the leaves on top) and the stalks that lead off the beet bulb to the leaves? I’d love to hear from you in the comments section with your favourite beet green and stalk/stem usage suggestions. Hopefully everyone makes great use of these parts of the beets and doesn’t just lop them off and toss them in the compost. Although they still have use in the compost in breaking down into rich hummus to feed our gardens and restore our soil – they are equally beneficial for our body. Very nourishing and quite tasty. In actual fact, the stems and greens have a higher nutritional content than the root bulb! So if you are throwing the stems and greens away – you’re throwing out the best bit! Don’t believe me? Check out some info on beet green nutrition here.

Beet greens are closely related to spinach and kale, so you use them as you would these ingredients. You can use them raw, lightly steamed, in stir-fries or make some tasty combinations out of them on their own with a few spices added. Lots of wonderful beet green/stalk ideas here. Be sure to store your beet greens in your fridge, in a salad leaf crisper container as they will wilt if left loose in the fridge – just as salad leaves do.

This morning in our kitchen, we did a little experimenting with the beet greens and stalks through our slow juicer. The result was wonderful. I wasn’t really expecting a whole lot of juice out of them – I was surprised at how much juice came out! I thought I would share with you our result. It actually created a cappuccino froth effect as well! Raw Cappuccino – who would have thought it!

Raw Winter Sunrise Cappuccino – serves 4

• 1 bunch of beetroot leaves and stalks
• 1/2 large bunch of kale, stalks, stem and all
• 4 carrots
• 2 large stalks of celery
• 3 apples
• 3 thin slices of a large ginger knob (you can add more if you would like more zing!)
• Juice all through a slow juicer making sure to alternate tougher leaves/stems with softer apple pieces or the like – it’s kinder to your juicer
• With a spoon, hold back the froth of the juice and fill a tall glass to within 2″ of the glass top
• Spoon froth onto top of juice to fill glass
• You can even dust with cinnamon or nutmeg for a more authentic ‘cappuccino’ feel!

• Drink immediately and feel your body sing!

And does anyone have an abundance of oranges and kiwi that they are wanting to find a nutritious use for? Here’s the answer:

East Coast Winter Rainbow – serves 4

• 6 oranges (peeled)
• 10 small kiwifruit (peeled)
• 2 carrots
• 1 small beetroot
• Two large handfuls of wheatgrass and chia seed sprouts (if you don’t have these, then still go ahead and make the juice, but the green food boost of these is wonderful)
• 3 thin slices of a large ginger knob (again, you can add more if you would like more zing!)

• Juice all, drink immediately and feel the energy boost!

18 July 2010

Welcoming ‘Sprinter’ in our gardens

I've been thinking to write an article titled "How is your garden growing?", with some suggestions on how we can be tending and caring for our gardens, soil and plants through this restorative and restful period of the year. I was planning to share with you how over-grown and neglected our little garden space has been over this period and how desperately we needed to get out into our yard and tend to our gardens. But as I now do actually sit here to write, there has been a shift in our gardens. Haven't the last few days been very unseasonably warm? Yesterday, our family actually frolicked around in the yard in short sleeve tee shirts! Dare I say that we may be approaching that un-official season of 'Sprinter'? I think it appears that we may well be heading into this time of our year.

My plan for this article was to share with you one of the primary focus’ we should have in our gardens at this restorative time of year. Our soil. Sustainable Gardening Australia (SGA) has a beautiful section on soil; Healthy Soil - boring, but important!

Haven't we had a very wet Winter? One of the wettest I remember for a long time. And whilst this higher rainfall is wonderful for our commercial farmers around the country, it has made getting out and about in our own little patches, for those home space gardeners of us - a little difficult, especially if you have a yard like us, that has turned into a mini swimming pool with all this rainfall!

Over the past few days whilst amongst our garden space; removing spent plants, pottering and tending to the renewing of this space - I have discovered many little Winter treasures that have been quietly growing and producing along their way through Winter. We have dandelion chicory, rocket, sorrel, geraniums, cape gooseberry, mandarins, spinach and chards, winter salad leaves, beets, a few missed pumpkins from our Autumn harvest that were hiding under the over grown Winter garden, brassica's that are finally looking like they may produce some veggies for us (after nearly being wiped out by multiple attacks of the white cabbage moth caterpillars!), some wonderful winter shallots, beautiful celery, various Winter herbs and a MOUNTAIN of worm wee! Isn't worm wee just the most amazing nutrient boost for the gardens! We have a very basic, but very effective homemade worm farm and I am planning for you, that the article following this one, will be a piece about how to create your own worm farm with free materials! You will need to purchase the correct type of worms for your farm, but there are quite a few folk on our local LETS community that offer a tub of worms for a very reasonable shell rate. Around 20 shells I think when at most local hardware stores, the worms to start the farm (just the worms by themselves, no farm materials) are around $100, from what I have been told. If you do not as yet have a worm farm yourself, but would like to use some of this nutrient rich worm wee on your gardens during this restorative time - to feed your soil, then there are also many folk on the CC LETS network that offer a 1-2L bottle of worm wee for around 2-4 shells. If you are not a member of LETS - why not? It is such a wonderful community where you can share in a very generous, friendly and supportive community of folk, and have access to many new and exciting things one may not otherwise be aware of. Just this week we ate our first yacon from a community member and have some tubers to plant once they sprout!

So, I have digressed...let’s get back to the topic at hand… restoring our gardens during this restful time of year. I once heard some very wise words "never feed your plants - only ever feed your soil" - and soil is what it is all about in this restorative time of year, well, it's always about the soil I guess, but in this restorative time of year, we need to put the focus of our energies into this aspect of our gardens. The SGA website has a wealth of information about soil. The link to their index of soil info is here.

I have a great little book simply titled 'Grow Vegetables' - this Australian version is wonderful. My favourite part is the section that has a month by month plan of what the home gardener wanting to produce their own vegetables, needs to be doing at that particular time. At the moment, as you would guess, most of the advice stems around restoring our patch and nourishing our soil. Some of the mid-Winter suggestions are; clear away remains of any plants that have finished cropping, spread well rotted compost over beds, PH test soil (some great info here on SGA about adjusting the acid/alkaline balance of our soil), cover selected areas with whatever material you prefer to start warming the soil and avoid soil becoming water logged, dig over garden beds. If we have been hard working little home gardeners, we may well be harvesting; cauliflower, brussels, leeks, kale, radishes, salad leaves, cress, mibuna, mizuna, parsnips and celeriac, along with other Winter herbs. To stay on track with our produce, now is the time to; plant garlic, sow onion seeds, plant out our first shallots and onions if it is not too wet, buy seed potatoes and start to 'chit' them, 'force' rhubarb and order seeds. The SGA site has a great month by month section as well, which details tasks to undertake at the relevant time of the year. Check out June and July to see what we should be doing now in our gardens and once you've accomplished all that, have a nice warm cup of herbal whilst you read and prepare for the tasks of August!

15 July 2010

Co-op Events

We are very pleased to announce some events coming up in the near future for co-op members, starting with:

The first KIWI FRUIT WINE making session this Saturday, in a joint venture between FIG and the Firescreek Winery. This is the first of an ongoing process spanning at least eighteen months, so let us know if you would like to be part of the small team making occasional trips to the winery for the wine making process. RSVP a.s.a.p. to fig.centralcoast@gmail.com.

Next, a COMMUNITY HARVEST & PRUNING DAY will be held at the end of this month. Bring your families and a picnic, and enjoy a day amongst the vines at the Kiwi Fruit Farm.

When: 11am until 3pm, Saturday 31st July

Where: Ourimbah. Full details provided upon your RSVP.

What to bring: Picnic, seats or picnic rug, hats, gloves, water to drink. Whilst we will be picking the remaining fruit, the main focus will be on pruning, and a list of equipment to bring, if you have it, will be provided. Bring a bucket to take home some kiwi fruit!

RSVP: yes please! Send an email to fig.centralcoast@gmail.com.

Families who have attended this activity before have enjoyed it immensely. This will probably be our last community day at the vines this year, so please make time to come along if you're able, even for part of the day...

2pm, Saturday 7th August
Please email your expression of interest for the tour of a local working Aquaculture system, both large and small, on the northern end of the Coast. There is a maximum limit on attendance at this event so we suggest our members respond quickly.

Details will be announced shortly for an early Spring Farm Tour for co-op members. Bring your families and a picnic lunch, meet the farmers and learn about how some of our food is grown. Enjoy a day in the fresh air up in the Mangrove Mountain region of the Central Coast...

That's all for today...

10 July 2010

Green juices

Here's another article by our Guest writer, on the health-giving properties of Green Juices:

Our family has recently begun a love affair with green juices. The inspiration came from the youngest member of our family having a slight obsession with the Spirulina smoothie from Charlie’s. We’ve recently been journeying more and more into raw food creations and green foods seemed like something wonderful to start including in our family diet. I know this is no big revelation, green juices and smoothies have been around forever, but I thought I would share with you some great combinations we have come across as well as share our enthusiasm for this very simple and yummy way to get so much goodness into our bodies.

The FIG bulk fruit orders are a great (and economical) way to stock up on produce for use in smoothies and juices. Storing the produce can sometimes be a juggling act – we know that, but last bulk fruit order when I looked at two fridges overflowing with fresh food and a bulk fruit order still to be packed away, I was grateful for our 105L icebox that sits unloved for most of the year until we pack it up and head off on a long awaited camping adventure. So dust off those old eskies, squeeze a second hand fridge into that spare space in the laundry (you can always find these on the side of the road or being thrown out by some relation somewhere who is trading theirs up) and stock up at the next bulk fruit order! Here’s how you can use anything green in the bulk orders or from the abundance of nutritious, local and organic greens we are blessed to receive in our boxes each week.

For wonderful raw inspiration, I always head over to Kristen’s Raw – a wealth of raw food information with wonderfully simple and tasty recipes. Kristen and hubby have just welcomed their little ‘monkey’ into their family, so her updates may be a bit less regular now, but the archived info will have you reading for years anyway. Kristen kept a wonderful online pregnancy journal about High raw food intake whilst growing a bub in the womb. Very inspiring journey. Anyway, back to all things green – Kristen’s blog is full of lots of wonderful green combinations; Plant blood, Green Juice and her Cayenne spiced green smoothie – just to name a few. If you spend some time looking around Kristen’s site, you’ll come up with a never ending list of ‘want to try’ recipes for a variety of raw foods, but also many wonderful smoothies/juices – green or otherwise. The Whole Life Nutrition Kitchen is another great recipe inspiration source, in particular (and back to subject!) we liked their Winter Green Smoothie recipe. Ours resulted as a Winter red smoothie, because we had red cabbage on hand, not green – but that brings me to my next point….

Recipes are great for inspiration and guidance, but that is really all they are. And for something like a green smoothie, once you have followed a few recipe’s you really get the hang of various nourishing and tasty combinations. The only rule with green smoothies is; “If it’s green – chuck it in!”… and even then, if it’s not green and you still want to chuck it in… then do so. But the main aim is to have predominantly green foods in these types of juices/smoothies. In a Westernised society, we are exposed daily to environmental pollutants, free radical damage and stress level impact – it’s just a part of living in the world we do, no matter how ‘clean and green’ we try to live, this fact is a reality. The benefits of green juices and green foods are that they are extremely cleansing to the body and are full of health beneficial anti-oxidants. A major part of our common place Western diet is extremely acidifying – green juices and foods offer a beautiful alkalising balance to this. There is a really eye opening list of acid/alkaline foods on this link. If you would like to read more about the benefits of green juices, there is some nice info here, or you can just google ‘health benefits of green juices’.

I thought I would share with you some tips and tricks that we have picked up along our green juicing journey;

• If it’s green, chuck it in. This means cucumbers, celery, apples, kale, cabbage, carrot tops, spinach, rainbow chard….. and all the rest I haven’t thought of whilst typing this list!

• If possible, juice with a slow juicer. Traditional style juicers that can conveniently ‘juice whole apples’ may seem like they are great, but because of the power and pressure needed to juice that whole apple, the machine and the fruit get very hot – this in turn depletes the nutrient content of the juice. Slow juicers (this link is to just one type of slow juicer available) result in a much more nutrient rich juice.

• Always include some spices, especially in Winter, but always, spices are good. We juice a small, thin 1cm piece of ginger into all our green juices. You can also add cayenne pepper, cinnamon, tumeric, cloves, whatever you are feeling inspired to include. Here’s some words about foods/spices to ensure we include in our Winter diet. And be sure to check out the ORAC scale - the information in the ORAC scale about the anti-oxidant levels in foods that we so commonly over-look is quite amazing.

• Juice what you can and then put the juice into the blender with fruits or vegetables that you want to drink whole; we often blend kale, kiwi fruit (how blessed we are to have the amazing local goodness of wild growing kiwi fruits!) and sometimes bananas (fresh or frozen) into our green juice. Blending is also a great way to add in your spices, you can even just blend the ginger into the juice. Be aware, with blending the ginger in, as opposed to juicing, gives a lot more ‘zing’ to the juice, so be mindful of how much ginger you use in this way!

• If you do ‘juice’ as opposed to ‘blend’ stiffer leafy greens such as kale or cabbage, be sure to do so as single leaves and alternate with other produce such as a stick of celery or a wedge of apple – it’s kinder to your juicer, especially if you are using a slow juicer – they start to complain a little if you try to wedge through a whole handful of kale greens all at once!

• Feed the dispelled pulp from the juicer to your chookeys - they’ll love you and you’ll be rewarded with golden, creamy yolk eggs from healthy ladies!

• For optimal nutrient content from your juices – make and drink. The juice will start to oxidize and deplete in nutrient content shortly after juicing.

Grow some wheat grass to include in your juices. It is super easy to grow and such a powerful, healing, cleansing, alkalising green food. The link above gives a great guide to growing the wheatgrass, although their beginning soak instructions seem lengthy. We have just been soaking the wheat-berries for 24 hours, drain, sprout for 24 hours then proceed as the linked instructions suggest. Be sure to ‘juice’ the wheatgrass as opposed to putting it into the juice via the blender. The human digestive system cannot digest grass, but the juice is extremely beneficial for our bodies.

• If you want to add some extra protein to your juices, when you put your juice in the blender, add 1-2 scoops of rice protein powder, 1T of ground hemp seed (available from Gnostic Hemporium at Woy Woy), or 1T of chia seeds. There is a good comparison here between different varieties of protein powders.

And remember, in the words of the very inspiring David Wolfe in Food Matter’s “Drink your food and chew your juices!”

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PS: If you would like to invest in a second fridge to hold all the extra produce you may go through in making up green smoothies and juices every day, but don't want either the high purchase or running costs, maybe you'd be interested in knowing what Maree has set up in her home. Maree and family are totally off the grid, relying on solar only for their electricity. To lessen the power used by the normal power-hungry fridges, they bought a cheap chest freezer and purchased a freezer-to-fridge conversion thermostat, here. Works perfectly, on very little power, and now they're thinking of purchasing another, to store all the fruit & vegies they go through!

03 July 2010

More courses and information

Well after that superb article on Kohlrabi this week, it seems there may not be any next Monday! We were under the impression they would be available for a few weeks however perhaps the next crop just isn't ready yet. If we do happen to find some, they'll be on the extras table.

The severe frost earlier this week has affected local green leafy vegetables so some adjustments will need to be made to the orders over the weekend, as usual! The red mustard greens will be turning up again and some of the co-op members wonder how to prepare them. Kel, the farmer, advises they can be eaten in salads but if you don't like the "heat", can be sauteed or popped in stir frys or any dish you would normally use spinach and silverbeet in, and it loses the bite.

This is the time of year for citrus and and we have chemical free oranges, mandarins and lemons coming in from Mangrove Mountain, Dooralong and Hawkesbury districts, as well as lemons, limes and grapefruit from co-op members. Vitamin C is important for general health and wellbeing, especially so at this time of year to help ward off or lessen the impact of colds, so keep up with the oranges and the kiwi fruit we have at present from Ourimbah, which is an excellent source of Vitamin C. If you would like some kiwi fruit in larger quantities, please see us at the desk to arrange.

In keeping with passing on information to our members about learning to grow their own food - the freshest and the best option of all! - we are pleased to advise of the following:

~ Workshops at Purple Pear Organics, via Maitland, are being held on Propagation and Seed Saving on 24th July and Making Compost and Worm Farming on 25th July. As Purple Pear make some of the best compost in the world, book in and learn their methods!

~ Permaculture Design Certificate held over five weekends at Purple Pear, beginning 7th August.

~ TAFE Outreach, Wyong, is going to be running some free courses in growing your own food, Permaculture, Eco Food Shopping and many others and enquiries can be made with Kerry on 4350 2370. These fill up fast so ring asap.

~ Interested in Aquaponics and growing fish and vegies in your backyard? One of our highly talented FIG members runs Tank To Table Aquaponics and will be holding an information session for FIG co-op members on a Saturday in August, with workshops following in Spring for those who want to take it further. Please email your expressions of interest in joining us on the day to fig.centralcoast @ gmail.com (minus the spaces).

We have added in some new links on the left in regards to buying seeds and growing information and update the blog quite regularly, so please call back soon and have a look around.
See you at the co-op....