Starfruit and Avocado Season

Today was another abundant harvest of starfruits and avocados (a green variety this time!). On my bike ride home from the downtown farmers’ market, I stopped by my favorite starfruit tree to harvest and then noticed down the street some big green avocados on the ground, so I scooped them up too. I also harvested some Ilex vomitoria var. pendula (Weeping Yaupon Holly), the North American cousin of Yerba Mate, which has the highest caffeine levels of any North American plant. The red blossoms are sweet edible Turk’s Cap Hibiscus. Finally, I also harvested moringa from my yard to dry the leaves and put in my smoothies.

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To report back on the Mexicola avocados from last week – they are by far my new favorite! I didn’t think I would enjoy eating the skin, but it’s really delicious. I can only imagine the antioxidant levels in that black skin. However, I have noticed that they need to be completely ripe before the skin is really good. When they’re ripe, they get slightly wrinkly and soft – with no stickers to peel off!

Eating Seasonally

It’s amazing how abundant Sarasota is! There always seems to be something blooming and something fruiting! Check out this week’s local fare:

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We’ve got a slice of banana boat squash, grown by a friend in Orlando; figs, bitter melon, Okinawan spinach, Roselle, jalapenos, sweet peppers, and lime basil from the Gocio school garden; starfruit, Nopal cactus, African blue basil from our neighborhood; avocado and passion fruit from Peter at the farmers’ market; eggs from local really free range chickens; Monstera deliciosa from my aunt’s house; and lemon grass from Roger’s garden. What a bountiful harvest! And they say you can’t grow food in the summer in Florida!

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The red arils of the bitter melonMomordica charantia, are edible, but the white seeds inside are poisonous.

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Starfruit, passion fruit, lime basil, African Blue basil, Roselle.

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Fall-Back Snack: Herbal Bites

This article originally appeared in BloomZine 11/18/2013.

As a dietitian, one of the suggestions I often offer my clients, friends and family who are interested in changing habits to eat healthier is to establish a few quick and easy, fulfilling yet healthy snacks. These healthy choices are your allies; have them on hand at all times. They are so important in maintaining a healthy diet because they are the ones that are there for you when you are at your weak points. When you just get home from work, starving, and haven’t even considered what’s for dinner. Having a fallback comfort snack that is actually good for you gets you through that rabid low blood sugar hunger to a point where you can actually think about the food choices you want to make. They need to be something desirable so that when you’re in the I-don’t-care-what-it-is-I-need-calories state of mind, you actually go for them. They’re a detail in the grand scheme of a healthy lifestyle, but especially for those transitioning to a healthier way of eating, an essential one.A few examples of what might constitute an emergency snack food are chunks of energy, apples with nut butter, or herbal bites, the recipe I’d like to share with you today. I learned how to make herbal bites in my Family Herbalist Classes at the scintillating Florida School of Holistic Living in Orlando. Originally dreamt up by herbalist, Rosemary Gladstar, as zoom balls which included eleuthero, guarana and kola for an energy boost, herbal bites require the same method but are open to whatever herbs you feel your body wants and needs. For example, they were shared with me as ninja balls: a tasty treat filled with adaptogenic stress-fighting herbs.

I love this recipe because not only is it a great tool to help us make better food choices, but it supplies a tasty way to get in some of those not-so-pleasant-tasting herbs. There are three basic components to the recipe: nut butter, local raw honey and powdered herbs and spices. I highly recommend seeking out a local apiary or beekeeper because there really is no substitute for local raw honey. Because the bees use the nectar of plants in the area, local honey can act almost as a vaccine does, with a tiny bit of the irritant, for soothing seasonal allergies. It is also full of antioxidants and possesses disinfectant, antifungal, anticarcinogenic and anti-inflammatory properties (Buhner, 189). With the decline in worldwide bees, we also need to do what we can to support our hard-working friends locally, bees and beekeepers, alike. In the same regard, sourcing herbs locally by growing an herb garden or supporting someone in your neighborhood  who does yields fresher, more potent herbs and also reduces our impact on the environment. With these sentiments in mind… the recipe.

Ingredients:

Ingredients used at a ratio of about two parts nut butter to one part honey to one part powdered herbs
Nut butter of choice
Local honey
Powdered herbs and spices

Method:

1. The base of the bites are simply your nut butter of choice (almond, sunflower, peanut, tahini) and local raw honey at a ratio of about two parts nut butter to one part honey to one part powdered herbs. Some herbal suggestions are spirulina powder, watercress powder (get dem greens), ashwagandha, astragalus, cacao powder, cinnamon, and clove.
2. Combine all the ingredients. Feel free to add crunch with chopped nuts, chia or flax seeds.
3. Dress it up by sprinkling unsweetened shredded coconut or hemp seeds and cardamom (as pictured) on top. They will keep well in the fridge about a week. Great for travel snacks, too!

Adding honey to the ground sunflower seeds and powdered herbs.
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Introducing Fermentation Fridays!

I am so very honored and excited to announce that I’ll be teaching at another venue – The Florida School of Holistic Living! In April, we will begin the Fermentation Fridays series. It will be so perfect to relax into the weekend with a fun evening of  talking fermentation and making delicious aged foods. We’ll be making two new ferments during each class, and participants will get to take home samples of our mouth-watering creations! You can register for the classes through the School at their site. Make sure to bring your jars! See class descriptions below.

For the love of fermentation! Photo credit: Sherry Boas

For the love of fermentation! Photo credit: Sherry Boas

Vegetable Ferments: Sauerkraut and Kim chi, Friday, April 19th, 6:30pm – 8:30pm

Become a master at the classic vegetable ferments – sauerkraut and kim chi! It’s not the canned, bland kraut you’ve seen at the store, and kim chi just might become your new favorite side dish. Fermenting foods adds flavor and eases digestibility, supplies probiotics, and preserves the harvest. Learn the benefits of traditional fermented foods and how to create them in your own kitchen. Bring two pint glass jars and lids and take home the kraut and kim chi we make in class.

My crock of homemade kim chi!

My crock of homemade kim chi!

Cooked Ferments: Tempeh and Sourdough, Friday, May 10th, 6:30pm – 8:30pm

Learn to make fermented delights tempeh and sourdough! Store-bought tempeh will never taste the same again, and your homemade breads and crusts will pack a new flavor punch with sourdough. Fermenting foods adds flavor and eases digestibility, supplies probiotics, and preserves the harvest. Learn the benefits of these traditional fermented foods and how to create them in your own kitchen. Bring a pint glass jar and lid and take home some sourdough starter of your own.

Tempeh we made at my food fermentation apprenticeship with Sandor Katz.

Tempeh we made at my food fermentation apprenticeship with Sandor Katz.

Condiments to Savor: Fermented Pickles and Aged Hot Sauce, Friday, June 14th, 6:30pm – 8:30pm

Spice up your dishes with delicious fermented condiments – fermented pickles and aged hot sauce. Many store-bought pickles aren’t fermented at all, but preserved in vinegar. You’ll learn how to make dill garlicky pickles the fermented way! All the best hot sauces are aged, and we’ll learn the techniques for making a savory, spicy treat. Bring a pint glass jars and and cup-sized jar and lids to take home the ferments you’ll create!

What will become aged hot sauce.

What will become aged hot sauce.

I hope to see you at one or more of these fun new classes, especially if you’re near the Orlando area. Don’t worry, we’ll still be doing classes at the Food Forest regularly, but it is fun to be able to teach at a new place and get the chance to meet new folks. Check out my class calendar to see the details on all of my upcoming classes!

Teaching My First Food Fermentation Class

Another dream came true this week. I finally taught my first food fermentation class! Held here at the Food Forest, we made kombucha tea, kim chi and aged hot sauce. With about twenty-five people in attendance, I was a bit nervous to begin, but once folks started talking a little, questions popped up, and before long I felt as though we were all friends learning together.

What a great crowd!

What a great crowd!

Ever since I did my first fermentation workshop/apprenticeship (of two) with Sandor Katz, I have wanted to share this knowledge and my ever-growing love of fermented foods and the culture that surrounds and is exuded by them. It seemed that I was always too busy, distracted or off on other adventures to do it. Finally, with the timing and setting ripe, it was easy to plan and execute, as well as being extremely gratifying. You know how it feels when you finally get to check a long-procrastinated item off of your list? This was like a life-goal check mark off my list! I feel so honored that the wonderful attendees were receptive to what I had to share and were willing to listen, ask questions and share their own experiences and knowledge. Thank  you to all who shared your presence; you are amazing!

Beginning the aged hot sauce.

Beginning the aged hot sauce.

And the best part… I have already planned fermentation class number two! March 23rd (my younger brother’s birthday) it will be sauerkraut, sourdough and fermented pickles. I hope to see some familiar and some new faces then, and I can’t wait for the new insights you share with me that day.

Photo credit: Liane Brust. Thank you for all your awesome help!

Photo credit: Liane Brust. Thank you for all your awesome help!

Winter Park Urban Farm Work & Learn, Massaged Kale Salad Take Two

I had a great time last Thursday leading a group of gardeners and veggie-lovers in making a raw massaged kale salad at the Winter Park Urban Farm. Judging by the “mmm”s and compliments to the meal, I’d say it was a success! I loved getting my hands dirty pulling weeds, harvesting vegetables and massaging kale for our meal; however, I think my favorite part was meeting all of the wonderful folks that attended! Here is what we did:

  1. Harvest or purchase fresh local kale. We used red Russian, but any variety will do.
Siberian kale from The Food Forest.

Siberian kale at The Food Forest.

2. Inspect for creepy crawlies or do a quick rinse.
3. Roll leaves “burrito style” and chop at an angle to get small pieces.
4. Add leaves to a large bowl, drizzle with olive liquid (the juice in your jar of olives). Alternatively, you could use olive oil and salt.
5. Massage! Really squeeze those veggies to get the cell walls broken and a wilted texture.
6. Add any other chopped veggies you’d like. We added carrots, snow peas, garlic chives, basil, rosemary, nasturtium, and probably much more. 
7. You can also make a dressing. I like tahini, lemon juice, apple cider vinegar, garlic, and mustard all mixed or blended together.
8. We then wrapped our massaged salad in a large kale leaf to eat as a wrap. You can also use a whole wheat flour or corn tortilla as a wrap.
Winter Park Urban Farmers and guests creating a delicious massaged kale salad wrap.

Winter Park Urban Farmers and guests creating a delicious massaged kale salad wrap.        Photo credit: Jennifer Moon

Thank you for having me Winter Park Urban Farm, and I’m looking forward to our next work and learn on March 14!

Massaged Kale Salad

With the bounty flowing from our garden this time of year (one thing to appreciate about Florida-living), I can’t help but enjoy delicious salads daily. I posted on my Facebook last night “Kale: It’s what’s for dinner” and it was!

Homegrown massaged kale salad.

Homegrown massaged kale salad.

An old friend asked me for some kale recipe suggestions. There are lots of great ways to enjoy kale: finely chopped in salads, juiced, steamed with garlic, in a fruit smoothie. However, my favorite way to eat kale is massaged. Kale is a bit tough, and the variety that I harvested from my garden last night, Siberian kale, is a bit prickly, so massaging is a way of giving the kale a wilted effect while still enjoying it raw. What began last night as an overflowing harvest of kale became, after some massaging, a healthy serving for my partner and I. He created a homemade dressing using tangelo juice, tahini, garlic, grated kumquat, olive juice, apple cider vinegar, and agave nectar.

The garden: arugula, kale and lettuce, and broccoli beyond.

The garden: arugula, kale and lettuce, and broccoli and red Russian kale beyond.

A close up of the vibrant lettuce and prickly kale.

A close up of the vibrant lettuce and prickly kale behind.

On to the recipe!

1. Wash and finely chop kale. I’ve found the easiest and quickest way to chop leafy vegetables is to grab a large handful and roll them in a cylindrical bundle the best you can. Then begin slicing finely from one end the the other. I found this youtube video which shows very nicely what to do; although, you don’t have to be as precise as he is in the video.

2. Add some kind of salt to the kale. You can use dressing, olive juice, sea salt, soy sauce, etc. Add it slowly a little at a time to taste until you get a feel for how much you need. You don’t want your salad to turn out too salty. Take into account the salt content of any dressing you plan to add.  The salt will help break down the cell walls of the kale to make it easier to wilt.

3. Begin massaging. With clean hands, dig into the kale, squeezing and massaging. It only takes a few minutes to become nicely wilted.

4. Finish salad. That’s your basic massaged kale salad. Add any other toppings you’d like such as lettuce, olives, carrots, tomatoes, peppers, onion, garlic, etc. I like to add crispy greens to go with it like lettuce, arugula, or bok choy to make it a more crunchy salad.

Enjoy!

Crockin’ Kimchi!

I calculated I’ve been a food fermenter for roughly six years now. For some time, I’ve had my thrifting eye on the lookout for a ceramic crock for making sauerkraut, miso, kimchi, kombucha or anything else you can ferment in a large ceramic vat. I’ve spotted them at antique stores, for which they charge a pretty penny, much out the range of my frugal budget. Well, my maternal grandma came for a visit last weekend, and what did she bring but the most perfect crock ever for me! I tried to contain my excitement as I helped unload it from her car, not wanting to assume that it was for me. As an “Oooh” came from my mom, my grandma told me she had found it for me.

My new baby!

My new baby!

After visiting the huge Asian market in Orlando Monday night, I was equipped to make some traditional kimchi, a first for me. I usually make a “kraut-chi,” a term coined by fermentation author, Sandor Katz, which is a blend of whatever vegetables and spices you desire and have available. It doesn’t have to “fit any homogeneous traditional ideal of either German sauerkraut or Korean kimchi… my practice is a rather free-form application of these basic techniques rather than an attempt to reproduce any particular notion of authenticity,” says Katz in his new book The Art of Fermentation.

The biggest kraut-chi batch we've made!

The biggest kraut-chi batch we’ve made!

So, on a very hungry aforementioned trip to the Asian market, I saw these beautiful jars of colorful kimchi, remembered a Richmond friend’s tasty recipe, and decided I needed to get the ingredients to make my own. I bought Napa cabbage, a daikon radish, two onions, and fresh ginger. I already had at home the other ingredients: garlic, hot chili peppers from the garden, carros, and sea salt. I followed the recipe in Sandor’s first book Wild Fermentation. First I made a brine of four cups water and four tablespoons salt. I washed and pulled apart the cabbage, used the mandolin to slice the daikon, carrot and onions and put them in the brine to soak overnight. Then this morning, I drained off the brine and added the ginger, garlic and chili peppers, all finely sliced. I transferred the whole mixture to the crock and added some of the extra brine to bring the liquid level up to the surface.

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Kimchi mixture in crock.

You want enough liquid so that when you push a plate into the crock, the brine rises above the surface. See photo below:

Plate and jar weight method.

Plate and jar weight method.

I draped a dish towel over it all to keep out dust, kitty hair or any interested flying things. Now, as Tom Petty says, is the hardest part, waiting. The yummy fermentation smells coming from the kitchen already make it difficult. Luckily we still have about half of the kraut-chi left!

End of the Cleanse

The final day of the Cleanse America event was on Wednesday, and I made it through the end! Before beginning, I thought that the hardest part would be bringing enough raw food to work with me to last me the whole day. But, as I mentioned before, the raw week I did before the 10-day cleanse boosted my confidence and know-how, and I think really prepared me for a longer period of rawness. I felt good up to the end, and even considered extending my raw diet for… two weeks?… a month?…

Well, due to the fact that it was my LAST DAY at my public health office job on Thursday, my wonderful coworkers decided to present me with a beautiful cake! Thursday being the first official non-raw day,  I had to partake. The sugary cake must have been quite a shock to my body after 10 days of living foods!

I have to admit, I was pretty happy to see my usual breakfast of oatmeal with tons of toppings on Thursday morning:

I did bring a raw lunch with me to work on Thursday, a recipe I created: Broccoli and “Cheese” (a mixture of Bragg’s liquid aminos, nutritional yeast, water and garlic powder).

Now, with birthday and departure festivities coming to a close, I am seeking a healthy balance in my diet. I don’t know that exclusive raw food is possible for me in the long-term; although, I think I could do it if I could slowly learn more recipes for my raw repertoire. I feel like my body is ready for a “building” period of wholesome mixture cooked and raw. Plus, I have some delicious Twin Oaks tofu to eat up before I roll out of town on Tuesday. Destination: Jacksonville, FL.

While I didn’t notice much physical change throughout the raw period, I have to trust it was a good cleanse and resting period for my body. I didn’t have a terrible healing crises or a lack of energy, I didn’t have any miraculous changes either.

Purple Morning and Raw Lasagna

I keep wondering to myself why I decided to quit my job and start wwoofing in the middle of summer. We’re enjoying what feels like the last of cool, dewy mornings here in Richmond; by 9 am, I can already feel the beginnings of the hot rays of the sun.

I went to a very inspirational Richmond Vegetarian Society meeting last night during which local foods activist, Ellie Sparks, talked to us about things we can do to help curb global warming. I found out about the Citizens Climate Lobby, which organizes citizens to put political pressure on elected officials to support “green” legislation. I am definitely going to look into getting involved with Citizens Climate Lobby.

On to the food! Good morning blueberry bear!

And I’d like to share what I made for dinner last night: Raw Lasagna!

It was crunchier than the real thing, but, I must admit, it was really good!! I got the recipe from Rawsome! It was very satisfying and had LOTS of flavor, probably due to all of the zesty Italian herbs.

On that note, I’d like to do a quick update on how I’ve been feeling. Today is day seven of the ten-day raw food cleanse, and I’m feeling great! I’m finding that I don’t need to eat nearly as much to feel full and I can go longer without eating than I can normally. (Normally I have to eat every hour on the hour, lest I feel lightheaded.) Prior research suggests that this is because when one eats a very “clean” diet of whole, easy-to-digest, organic foods with low residue, the mucousy lining in the intestines goes away. This lining is usually there to protect your intestines from bad things in your food. However, it also inhibits nutrient absorption. So, when you’re eating well, and the mucous goes away, you are able to absorb more nutrients from the food you eat, hence, you don’t have to eat as much to get the same amount of nourishment.

I feel more in tune with my body overall, and I feel like I’m getting better at listening to its subtle cues. I’ve discovered that when I’m full, I’ll almost feel a gentle “click” in my abdomen, a little cue that says, “Enough.” Like I said, it’s very subtle, but very obvious once I learned to hear it.

I’ve also tried to be more strict about my waking and bedding hours. I’m reading Perfect Health by Deepak Chopra, which suggests going to sleep between 9:30 and 10:30pm and waking at dawn without an alarm clock. I’m not quite up at dawn yet, but I have been regularly waking up at about 7am without an alarm and definitely going to bed before 10:30, usually around 10pm. While it has only been about four days since I’ve been observing these hours, I’ve noticed a huge difference! Not only do I feel like I have a steady energy throughout the day and I’m tired when it’s time to go to bed, I’ve noticed an almost magical flow about my day. I’m arriving places a few minutes early, or right at the perfect time. I’m fitting just enough activity and social interaction in my day, while still having enough relaxation and reflection alone time. Instead of brushing off half of the items on my to-do or to-be list, I’m fitting everything in without feeling overburdened. I highly suggest reading Perfect Health, or at least try paying attention to your circadian rhythm and see what a difference it makes. As Chopra posits, our bodies have only healthy desires deep down for bliss and balance!

As my yoga teacher said yesterday, “May anything that is not in line with your higher self simply fall away.”

Have a beautiful Sunday!