What are Heirloom Tomatoes?

Have you ever tasted an heirloom tomato? If not, you are in for a real treat! If all you’ve ever eaten was those standard red hydroponic tomatoes you get in the grocery store you are missing out on a tasty, complex mouthful of luxury!

I remember the first time I tasted an heirloom tomato. I was making a romantic dinner for my fiance so went to the fancy health food grocer in the area. The produce department had been thoroughly picked through so the only tomatoes that were left were the organic heirloom tomatoes. They were 2 times the cost of regular tomatoes and were so ugly! They were all different colors, bumps in the wrong places and some of them were scarred from cracking. I was poor at the time so had not been buying organics either. Come to find out organic tomatoes also have a better taste as well. The person working there saw me debating whether or not to buy the tomatoes and assured me I needed to try them. In the end my romantic dinner was a hit because the flavor was amazing!

So, what is the difference between heirloom tomatoes besides appearance and taste? Heirlooms are grown from seeds that have been passed down from generation to generation and grow true to the way they were years ago. Some older than 100 years! Newer tomato seeds have been hybridized, or modified, so that the plants produce more, attractive fruit and are resistant to diseases. It’s the best way to feed a lot of people but the focus was not on taste. So heirloom tomatoes are higher priced for good reason. The plants produce fewer of them for the same amount of work.

Heirloom tomatoes come in an array of colors including red, brown, purplish, orange, yellow and green. Some even come with one color as a base with a starburst of a different color on the top. The darker colored tomatoes in the picture are called Purple Cherokee. They also come in all sizes, including small cherry. Good news for people with heartburn problems…… green and yellow heirlooms are lower in acid.

So if you haven’t tried an heirloom tomato yet, give it a try! It may end up being an addiction!

 

Expanding the Simple Life

Hello my blog followers. First I need to apologize for my long absence.   Over the last year our lives have completely changed here. As you well know from my posts I’ve been talking more and more about eating food in it’s rawest form and knowing where your food comes from. Well……..I started with growing my own food and have now expanded into an actual FARM!

It started with sharing my excess vegetables with my family, friends and co-workers who loved them so much they asked if  they could have more and would even pay for them. So, last summer I added more rows to my garden and started to sell. I couldn’t meet the demand of my snap peas, beans, cucumbers and summer squash. That’s when it hit us. We have a FARM!

I was already planning on getting chickens for fresh eggs, but so many of my vegetable customers asked about them I decided to sell eggs as well. Instead of buying a couple hens, we decided to buy 30! We have enough egg customers to cover all the excess eggs those hens produce.

The property we bought has fruit trees so the obvious next step was getting bees. We bought two hives and plan to buy 2 more this year. No honey yet but we already have customer lined up for the honey too.

As you can see we were a little overwhelmed by all this so I really didn’t have time to focus on this blog. Now that things are a little quieter I promise to dedicate time sharing my thoughts on living healthy in a more simple way. I don’t plan to spend a lot of time talking about the farm but if you want to follow what is happening there you can visit that blog at http://www.5280artisanfarm.com/.

 

 

My Favorite Radish Salad Recipe

Radish salad

The garden is coming up radishes!
I was never really fond of radishes but they are so easy to grow I just had to put some in the garden. Now I have so many I had to figure out the best way to eat them all. My sister shared this recipe with me and now I’m a radish lover.

Radishes originated in china and are related to the cabbage family. They are a great source of vitamin C, fiber and are tasty straight from the garden. They are spicy and have a lot of heat when they are young and very fresh. If you like a milder radish I recommend one of the white varieties. I grew Halestone Radishes this year.

Here is the simple, easy recipe:

1 cup radishes sliced
1/4 cup chopped red onion
1/4 cup chopped celery
1/2 cucumber cut into small chunks
Handful of fresh green beans cut into 1-2 inch pieces

Mix together and add:

2 parts lemon juice to 1 part olive oil.
A dash of pepper
a sprinkle of sea salt.

 

Enjoy

 

 

 

Gardening for your Mental Health

Gardening

Feeling depressed? Have I got a cure for you!

A study done at Bristol University and University College London found that soil can boost your mood giving you another good reason to get outside and grow some fresh fruits and vegetables!

Soil contains the bacterium Mycobacterium vaccae which is a good bacteria that causes increased release of Serotonin. The hypothalamus is responsible for your mood and requires a lot of serotonin. Gardening gives you contact with this bacteria and boosts your mood! Have you ever met an unhappy gardener? Honestly, I haven’t!

The same process also improves your immune system which proves, once again, that stress and anxiety are closely tied to your immune system.

So what better reason do you need to go play in the dirt?

Fear of Real Food

Vegetables

I was having lunch in the break room at work when a younger co-worker was commenting how she really wanted a burrito for lunch but only had a sandwich. I’m lucky in that my employer offers a selection of healthy foods for sale in the break room. Another co-worker told her they had burritos in the freezer section so she took a look. She read the package……”All natural, no preservatives, no additives, organic and non-GMO!” I thought to myself, sounds like a great lunch! To my surprise she put the burrito back and said, “I can’t eat this! I don’t know what the hell is in it!” I couldn’t believe the distrust of a food that basically told you it was REAL food.

I’m afraid that the younger you are, the less you know about your food! I watched some viral videos over Thanksgiving of people who stuffed their turkeys with ducks, chickens and Cornish hens as part of a new cuisine trend. What made them viral was the expression of younger people who were surprised when they were un-stuffing the turkey and thought that the turkey was pregnant! I hate to have to say this, but for those of you who don’t know……baby turkeys and chickens come from EGGS that are laid. They don’t get pregnant!

On April Fools Day a video went viral showing a man who planted a banana and kiwi together and theoretically crossed the two together. The stem grew and a banana grew at the end of it, but when he cut the banana open it was a kiwi! I can’t tell you how many people thought it was real!

I think everyone should go out to a farm to understand how things are grown and where the animals come from. Then, actually watch people cooking from the ingredients you find on the farm.  Now that’s real food.

 

Health from Food in its Natural Form

 

farm veges

For those of you have been following me, you know many of my posts come back to the same thing. There is no magic pill to a healthy diet. It’s all about eating food in its most natural form.  This New Year’s when you are deciding what resolution to make for your health consider the one that will be healthy no matter what you are trying to fight. Eating food in its natural form boosts your immune system and fights weight gain, diabetes, heart disease, cancer and all of the most concerning diseases.

Eat less processed foods and add more fresh fruits and vegetables. You don’t need that much meat to meet your daily protein requirements so eat a small amount of plain, non-processed meat.

I watched a tremendous show on PBS that you should see. It will make it clear for you. You can watch it online: http://www.pbs.org/show/in-defense-of-food/

Blueberries are the Favorite Superfood!

Blueberry

So you’ve heard that blueberries are a Superfood, but do you know what that means? That means blueberries are one of the healthiest foods for you, and if you ask me, one of the tastiest too!

Here is a list of possible health benefits you’ll find in blueberries:

  • Loaded with vitamins and minerals
  • Good for your brain
  • Good for your skin
  • Helps you lose weight
  • Prevents aging
  • Prevents cancer
  • Prevents heart disease
  • Increases Dopamine which make you feel good
  • Reduces pain
  • Prevents urinary tract infections
  • Prevents eyes from damage from oxygen
  • May reduce allergy symptoms
  • May help maintain blood sugar levels in diabetics

Phytochemicals in blueberries are responsible for most of these benefits. They are loaded with them!

When you buy blueberries you may want to buy organic. Pesticide residue is higher on blueberries than other fruits. Check the blueberries to be sure they are firm and free from mold before you buy them. Store them in the grocery store container and do not wash them until you are ready to eat them. Adding water increases the chances of mold during storage. If you buy a lot of blueberries you may freeze some. Spread them out on a cookie sheet making sure they don’t touch. This will keep them from sticking together when they freeze. Put the cookie sheet in the freezer. Once they are frozen hard, take them off the cookie sheet and put them in freezer bags.

Blueberries are native to North America so if you want fresh blueberries it’s fairly easy to grow them.  Blueberries are grown on a bush which can be planted anywhere in your yard. They make a nice hedge too. The trick to growing good blueberries is soil preparation. Blueberries need plenty of moisture so add compost and peat moss to your planting spot before you plant your bush.  Pinch off flowers the first year to allow the bush to expend its energy into growing thick and healthy roots and branches. In a couple years you will be rolling in blueberries!

There are so many ways to use blueberries.  Put them on your cereal, fruit salad, or green salad. Bake them in bread, muffins, scones or cobbler. Make pancake syrup out of them, juice them, add them to your smoothies or just pop them in the mouth fresh from the bush!

Melons Help You Lose Weight

Melons

I didn’t realize the variety of melons out there until I saw this pile of melons at the farmers market.  You are probably familiar with the watermelon, cantaloupe and honeydew melon, but have you ever seen a Galia, Canary, Xigua  or Casaba melon?

The good news is all melons are healthy for you. They contain a decent amount of Folate, Vitamin B6, Vitamin C and Potassium. They are low in sodium and virtually no fat.  What’s most exciting is they are only 50 calories per serving and a serving is a whole quarter of a melon! This is one of the greatest weight loss foods because it’s so low in calories and still makes you feel full due all the fiber.

Melons originated in Africa and Asia and eventually made their way to Europe. The vines are fairly easy to grow most anywhere in the United States. It’s necessary to water melons consistently so if you decide to give it a try I recommend using a timer drip irrigation system.

Pick a good melon by looking for any damage on the outside and feeling the skin for firmness. If it’s soft it’s overripe or bruised. Sniff the end of the melon. If it smells good and sweet, it’s ripe. For a watermelon, knock on the outside and it should sound hollow. Also the spot where the melon was touching the ground should be yellowish. If it’s still green, it’s not ripe yet.

I’ve tasted a number of these melons and still find the watermelon and cantaloupe to be my favorite. The others are not as sweet. If you don’t have a sweet tooth, and prefer a more complex flavors, give these other melons a try. You will probably really enjoy it and may even make them a regular part of your diet!

Hierloom Beans ….More Color and Flavor

Beans

I’ve always been a big fan of beans. They have virtually no fat, provide a high amount of protein, especially for vegans and vegetarians, are gluten free for people with celiac diseases and they are loaded with fiber and nutrients.

I really love the look of heirloom beans with the variety of colors and patterns. Although this picture shows a few different types you will be amazed doing an image search on the web. My favorite heirloom beans are Scarlet Runner and Cranberries.

You cook heirloom beans the same way you cook any bean:

Pick out rocks and foreign materials from beans, rinse and soak them overnight. You can speed up this process by boiling beans for 5 minutes, turning off the heat and let sit for an hour.

Rinse again and add 2 cups of water to each 1 cup of beans. Simmer beans for approximately 2 hours depending on the size of beans.

If you eat a lot of beans and want an easier way to cook them you can use a pressure cooker. There is one specifically designed for beans called the ez bean cooker.

Beans are usually cooked with a little salt and pepper, onion and sometimes garlic. They are also very good cold in salads when cooked with a firm texture. Heirloom beans look great in salads!

If you are a gardener you can appreciate these beautiful beans for what they are. These beans are over 50 year old but are becoming rare due to hybridization for higher yielding plants. You can grow these heirloom beans as easy as other beans but will result in fewer beans per plant. Eat them early in the pod or let them dry on the plant. The pods are multi-colored as well. They come in green, purple and yellow and are tender. Just like all other heirloom plants, you can collect the dried seeds and plant them year after year for a lifelong harvest. Don’t forget that beans add nitrogen to the soil so dramatically improve your garden while yielding a tasty meal.

Salads Better than a Single Vegetable

salad

There is nothing more attractive than a multi-colored salad. It’s interesting to take your fork and try a number of different tastes on one plate. Relative to crunching on a handful of carrot sticks, eating a salad motivates me to get my vegetables in.

Salads also have health benefits not found in a single vegetable.  Vegetables of different colors have different nutrients.  For instance, greens are high in iron and trace minerals, red and orange are high in vitamin A and C, and blue or purple are high in antioxidants. The deeper the color, the more nutrients they contain.  Mixing produce together can give you a nice balance of your daily requirements. In fact, there are some nutrients that are absorbed more readily with the aid of compounds from other foods. One example is a little bit of fat in your salad dressing actually increases the absorption of fat soluble vitamins and minerals from your vegetables.  A nice benefit from a little tasty dressing.

You may have heard of diets that have strict guidelines on what foods you can combine, limiting the eating certain foods together.  The thought was that some combined foods cause digestive stress and may not allow you to absorb correctly. There is no scientific proof of this and to the contrary, there are proven benefits to mixing foods together. If you still have concern, keep in mind that whenever you eat, everything mixes together in your stomach and a high amount of natural acid breaks down your food, regardless of what type of food it is. If you are having digestive issues with a certain food, assume you either ate too much or you have a specific issue with that particular food.  This is no reason to assume you are having eating combination issues, just stop eating that one food.

Focusing on single foods, single ingredients or the latest health craze will limit the variety of nutrients you take in or may cause you to take in too much of one thing.  There is a reason the USDA recommends a “well balanced diet”. The body requires so many different compounds to live day to day. So why not start with a healthy, colorful salad with a light olive oil dressing? It’s a simple way to a healthy you.