Thursday, February 17, 2011

What Are Those Crazy Greens?!

Frequently people visit the Farm to Family Market or the Farm Bus and are curious what those crazy looking greens are! They are creasy greens, an old-time staple southern food in the mustard family which used to be foraged wild, but are now cultivated. Old-time country folks get really excited when they see them and buy them up by the trash bag full!  They thrive in colder weather, and are hardy in the snow, and are often the only fresh green thing growing in Virginia snow-covered winter fields. Eating local in January and February can be challenging, but try adding creasies to your shopping or foraging list.

Creasies are nature's answer to our winter need for vitamin C. Wild foods forager,
Euell Gibbons, reported in his book Stalking the Healthful Herbs,  "100 grams of winter cress contain an impressive 5,067 I.U. of v Vitamin A and 152 milligrams of vitamin C! By comparison, the same weight of raw broccoli spears rates only 2,500 I.U. of vitamin A . . . and oranges (which of course are universally acknowledged as a good source of vitamin C) provide a comparatively measly 50 milligrams of C per 100 grams! " That's a pretty hefty punch. I find myself craving them, and many people also say the same thing, "Gotta get me some creasies!" Creasies remind me a lot of watercress for their dark green peppery flavor, which my mom used to take us foraging for, only these grow in sandy soil, not in the wetlands.

We get our creasy greens from Hanover County, VA.  Sam, our greens farmer, has been farming for a long time, as has most of his family, and his face is brown from the sun and wind. He's a man of few words, but has a big smile and laughs a lot.
In the summer, Sam has the prettiest okra, and delicious sweet potatoes in the fall. He grows greens for us in the wintertime, hardy creasies, kale and collards. Unfortunately the kale and collards have been burned and stunted by the frigid cold wind this year, but the hardier creasies have survived. Sam is confident that once the weather mellows, we'll have another round of the collards and kale before Virginia's heat hits. I enjoy visiting with Sam when he comes by, and I feel his pleasant energy goes straight into the food he grows, giving it a special nourishment.

Nibbled raw, creasy greens have a spicy, peppery flavor, similar to watercress or arugula. When cooked, that peppery flavor dissipates. To prep, rinse them thoroughly before using, to get all the sand out, carefully separate the intertwined plants, and trim off the larger stalks. Depending on how you are going to use them, and if you like stalks, you can use them whole, or strip off the leaves. I usually trim off the larger stems, and either give them to the chickens or see if the dogs want to eat them. Chickens in particular really love anything green, and go crazy over them this time of year.

They can be chopped up and used raw as garnish, or in fresh salads, as many of the farm to table restaurants we work with in the Richmond area serve them. Their peppery goodness works especially well with eggs, and make an excellent addition to quiche, egg salads and deviled eggs.
You can add them to sandwiches, like you would watercress. Or my favorite, is braised greens, recipe below.

The Maytag is a key kitchen gadget here in the South.
Take your greens for a spin on the gentle cycle!
You can  cook them slowly, southern-salad-style, with side meat for flavor, as you would collards (the Southern use of the word "salad" for something cooked still confuses me.) Tim Vidra, who writes the RVA blog, E.A.T. has a great post and recipe on how to cook them this style. He includes a handy hint on how to get all the sand off the greens - take them for a spin in the washing machine!  These southerners love to use their washing machines to cook with. The old wringer washer in our market used to belong to one of our Mennonite farmers, who made butter in it!

If you are interested in growing creasy greens, you can get seeds from Southern Exposure Seed Exchange.

Here's the greens recipe I like to make. Modify it according to your dish, ingredients handy and your mood.

1-2 tablespoons olive oil, coconut oil or meat drippings (bacon, sausage, steak etc)
2 bunches fresh greens, about 8 cups, washed, de-spined and coarsely chopped. You can also sub kale, collards, mustard or turnip greens, or a mixture of winter greens.
1-2 cloves garlic, chopped and/or 1 Tbs ginger, julienned
1/8 cup water or vegetable or chicken broth or stock
Sea salt and coarse grind pepper
Optional seasonings: add a shake of Sesame oil, apple cider vinegar, tamari, Braggs Liquid Aminos, Chinese 5 spice, or cayenne pepper
Optional toppings: toasted sesame seeds, chopped almonds or walnuts, toasted pumpkin seeds

1. Heat oil or drippings in a large skillet over medium-high heat and add greens and garlic/ginger, stirring to coat with oil. Stir occasionally until greens are barely wilted and still have a green color, just a few minutes.
2. Add vegetable broth or water and stir, allowing greens to steam until barely tender. Salt to taste.
3. Add seasonings and toppings as desired and serve.
Serves 4.


Saturday, September 25, 2010

End of Summer -- by Mom -- Marty Miles

Here's a special guest blog post, by Suzi's Mom, Marty Miles. Mom helps out on the blog when Suzi is buried under some sort of vegetable, its pumpkins this week.  Marty lives in Northern NY, on the Canadian border half the year, and the other half of the year just outside of Ashland, VA, near Richmond.

Fall is here at the Lake, the leaves are turning color and some places here in the North Country have already had their first frost. Everyone with a garden is scurrying around picking everything that the frost would damage. They are canning, pickling and freezing as much as they can for the winter.

I had lunch with a friend this week. Their beautiful new home is built on the forty acres where Rick’s family has farmed for several generations. I parked out beside the house and came in through their garage, which was full of tomatoes spread out to ripen. They had winter squash of many varieties and a huge pail of acorns saved for the wild turkeys this winter.

We took a tour of their gardens and I was amazed at how many gardens they had and the diversity of the vegetables and fruit that they raise. The field out by the road still had a lot of pumpkins waiting to be picked. I saw sunflowers nodding their heads and some corn that hadn’t been cut. The wild geese or turkeys will enjoy that. There were several apple trees just loaded with apples...some will be preserved for the winter, but there will be some for the deer, too.

I saw a patch of rhubarb, a field of strawberries and Beth mentioned the many quarts raspberries that they picked. I saw a raised bed of lettuce and Beth told me that they keep it mulched and covered from the weather and they will have it well into the winter. They did the same with their carrots, which are quite hearty and will stand a lot of cold weather.

All of their gardens are fenced, which I assume is to keep out the rabbits and deer. There were grape vines growing on many of the fences and Beth told a wonderful story about the wild turkeys jumping to reach the grapes. Some were able to fly up and balance on the wire to feast on them. I wish I had taken my camera, so you could see what a wonderful place they have. I got to take home a bag filled with winter squash, which just happens to be my favorite fall vegetable.

I can remember visiting Suzi’s Auntie Mae Otis on the farm. They always had a huge garden. Mae’s mother-in-law, Elsie Otis, and two of her elderly maiden daughters, Alice and Agnes, lived on the farm as well. All of them were outstanding cooks and there was always some sort of baked goods to be enjoyed when we visited. I have lots of recipes in my cookbook from the Otis’...Date Roll Cookies, Whoopie Pies, (Oh, those Whoopie Pies! They were over two inches thick and were sooo good.), and Alice’s End of the Garden Pickles, which brings me to the Otis recipe for today. These pickles use ten different vegetables from the last of the garden and are some of the best and most colorful pickles you’ll ever eat.

Alice’s End of the Garden Pickles

1. Salt the following vegetables and soak overnight in ½ cup salt and 2 quarts of water.
1 cup chopped green pepper
1 cup chopped red pepper
1 cup chopped cabbage
1 cup chopped green tomatoes
1 cup chopped cauliflower

2. Drain well.
3. Cover with water and cook together until tender crisp (Watch them carefully so that they don’t overcook. They are going to be cooked some more later on.)
1 cup sliced cucumbers
1 cup chopped celery
1 cup sliced carrots
1 cup sliced onions
1 cup cut green beans
4. Drain
5. Mix all of the vegetables together.
6. Add:
2 tablespoons mustard seeds
1 tablespoon celery seed
2 tablespoons turmeric powder
2 cups vinegar
2 cups sugar
7. Simmer 10 minutes; pack in sterilized pint jars and seal.


Last week I made some borscht for my granddaughter who has been begging for it. This recipe uses some more of those end-of-the-garden vegetables we have been talking about.

Borscht comes from Eastern European countries where potatoes, cabbage and beets are staples of their diet. Cold borscht is made from young beets chopped, and boiled with their greens. The mixture is cooled and mixed with sour cream, soured milk or yoghurt. Raw chopped radishes and cucumbers are added and it is served chilled with dill or parsley. Sometimes they added hard-boiled chopped eggs. There are many different ways to make hot borscht. Some start with a rich meat base, while others are just made with vegetables. What goes into your borscht depends on the country of origin and what you like.

I found it interesting that in some areas borscht is known as a sour soup. Sometimes it is made from fermented wheat bran and other times it is left to sit several days until it naturally sours. Today we ‘sour’ our soup with the addition of vinegar or lemon juice.

I don’t know the country of origin of this recipe and, although it does call for the juice of a lemon, it is not a sour soup. All I know is that it is easy to make and is wonderfully delicious with a dollop of sour cream on top. This recipe comes from Muriel Blaisdell, a friend who is now teaching at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio.


4 tablespoons butter
1 large onion, chopped
1 large clove garlic
¼ head of cabbage chopped
2 large beets, peeled and cubed in ½ inch cubes
2 large potatoes, peeled and cubed in ½ inch cubes
1 stick of celery, chopped
1 green pepper, in ½ inch pieces
4-5 cans of beef broth
Juice of one lemon
1 teaspoon chili powder
Salt and pepper
Cook until vegetables are tender

Serve with sour cream and yogurt and crusty bread.


I can’t wait for the fresh cabbage from the garden. A cabbage salad or coleslaw made from new cabbage tastes so much better than those made from the cabbage in the grocery store at other times of the year. I have at least four or five different recipes for salad made from cabbage. This fall I found a new one in a Pillsbury Great Grilling know the ones that they have at the checkout in the grocery stores. Actually I was looking for different recipes for cooking fresh vegetables on the grill when I found this recipe for Asian Cabbage Salad with Peanut Butter Dressing.

You may know of the Asian Cabbage Salad made with toasted Sesame seeds and slivered almonds. You crumble up some chicken flavored Ramen noodles in the salad and use the flavor packet in the dressing. It makes a delicious crunchy salad and if you have never tried it, you can find the recipe online. This salad is very similar, but it has peanuts to go with the Ramen noodles and uses peanut butter in the dressing.

After I made the salad and whipped the dressing together, I looked at the dressing and thought to myself, “This was a big mistake.” But I had gone that far and I put it together. It was wonderful and my family loved it. Here it is for you to try. (note from Suzi: I reminded Mom that ramen noodles are processed food, and we hemmed and hawed, and we decided that since MOST of this salad is fresh, this can be considered a transitional food for those who are making the move to fresh and local. And yes, it is delicious.)

Asian Cabbage Salad with Peanut Butter Dressing

¼ cup rice wine vinegar
¼ cup oil
¼ cup creamy peanut butter
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon tamari sauce (like San-J wheat free)
Seasoning packet from the Ramen noodles
1 (3-oz.) pkg. chicken or oriental-flavor Ramen noodle soup mix (Suzi prefers the Koyo brand, no msg and less sodium = healthier ramen once in a while, but we are still not advocating living on processed food)
2 cups shredded green cabbage
2 cups shredded red cabbage (I didn’t have red cabbage and used all green, but it would look prettier with both)
1 cup shredded carrot
⅓ cup chopped fresh cilantro
⅓ cup sliced green onions
½ cup chopped peanuts (I got my peanuts home and discovered I had honey roasted, so that’s what I put in. I doubt that it matters.)

1. In medium bowl, combine all dressing ingredients including contents of seasoning packet from soup mix; beat well with wire whisk.

2. Place noodles from soup mix in small bowl; break into small pieces.

3. Put the cabbage, carrot, cilantro and onions in a large salad bowl and mix well. Add the dressing and toss well. Just before serving, fold in the dry noodles. Sprinkle the peanuts on top.

4. You might like to add some garlic and ginger, and something hot—red pepper flakes, Tabasco, or chilies-for zing, and a little honey or maple syrup for just a touch of sweet in place of the sugar. You can also add some grilled sliced chicken breast to make the salad into a main dish.

I hope you enjoy these end of the garden recipes. Love, Mom.

Monday, August 23, 2010


Last summer, one of my sisters-in-law called me up and told me that a still small voice whispered in her ear and told her to give all of her canning gear to me. I said, sure! Bring it on! Who am I to argue with the voice of God!

A few days later, my mother-in-law, Pat, showed up at our house, and her truck was filled to the brim with canners, a pressure cooker, more mason jars than I had ever seen of all shapes and sizes, rings, lids, and any and all contraptions you can possibly use to can and preserve with. I was ecstatic – at that point in my life I was embracing anew the joys of home canning and preserving, having a certain amount of time to devote to it, and having a plethora of fresh veggies to deal with. That was the first summer we did the veggie bus, and we did it out of our house. My husband turned our porch into a walk-in refrigerator. It was INSANE!! We had vegetables EVERYWHERE!!! Needless to say, there was many a day I was on a mission to save the tomatoes, or the peaches, or the peppers from over ripening and feeding the compost, and I was indeed grateful for the canning gift from God/Melanie.

Armed with the Ball canning book, and a hot line to Mom, I made pickles, canned tomatoes and the most beautiful canned peaches I have ever had. Opening them up in the cold of winter was like rays of golden sunshine.

Then I received a great spaghetti sauce recipe from Melanie via Facebook, and I promptly made a dozen quarts of it. It was really another gift from God, because it combined all of my surplus veggies together. That canned sauce saved a LOT of veggies, and me time and energy all last winter. Every time I used it in some way or another, my husband would say, “This is good, when did you make this?” and I would proudly say,” last summer!”

I love looking at my jars of canned goods when they sit cooling on the counter in my kitchen. I feel satisfied, although I may be hot and tired, and that I have done good work, and accomplished something. I write the date, and then “Love + Gratitude” on them. It makes me happy, and when I give a jar away to a friend, they always smile when they see the words.

I try to write “love + gratitude” on as many things as I can. I had them written on my checks, so I can send my bills good energy it makes paying them easier. I notice my friends are starting to write the words “love + gratitude” on things too. Today, the day after I drafted this blog, Joyful, one of our volunteers came in with her water bottle and it says:

Dr Matsuro Emoto, the Japanese scientist and author of Hidden Messages in Water and other books, photographs water crystals that have specific emotions directed at them. He has scientifically proven that the words “Love and Gratitude” are the two most powerful loving words we have and have direct impact on whatever they are directed at, whether animate, or inanimate. You may have seen Dr. Emoto in the film, What the Bleep Do We Know. If you get the opportunity to see him lecture, go.

Here's a short video that explains his work and demonstrates the profound effect our words and emotions have on water.

A couple of years ago when I lived in NYC I had a music/performance project called “Reverend Suzi and the Shanthi Gospel Project”  which involved crystal singing bowls, drums, flutes,  Tibetan gongs, bowls and longhorns, and other crazy performance art depending on the venue.  We dressed up in wonderful costumes and once we got invited to play at the United Nations, at 2 in the morning on the Spring Equinox for Earth Day. . It was post 9-11, and the area was in lock down, so it was just us and security.  Guillaume projected videos on the UN building while Steve-O dj’d off the I-pod. Jeff wore his alien outfit. It was a wonderful night.
Later we were lucky enough to be invited to play at one of Dr. Emoto’s lectures in NYC and I was honored to meet him. I think of him as a personal hero.  At the lecture, he told a story about some school children who did an experiment with him, using fermented jars of rice. The first jar of rice they gave loving, grateful thoughts to. The second jar, they gave thoughts of hatred, and the third jar they ignored completely. Guess what happened!  The first jar of rice that was loved, fermented beautifully. The second jar,  that was hated, started rotting after a couple days. The third jar, which had been ignored, turned black, putrid and rotten almost immediately. Ignoring something or someone is the worst thing you can do.

That story, and the beautiful photographs of water crystals that Dr. Emoto takes, really inspired me to devote consciousness  about the energy that I project towards people, things and situations. Sometimes when I am alone in our farm market I meditate on the vegetables, sending them love, gratitude, vitality and Reiki. I hope it helps them be especially delicious. I imagine our customers eating happy food. I try to have a spiritual approach to everything I do, especially the mundane, or difficult tasks. It makes everything easier. What is the alternative?

Spaghetti Sauce
Ingredients are approximate – vary according to your personal taste (-:

1/2 bushel tomatoes (5 gallon bucket I like to mix up the varieties – Hanovers, heirlooms, romas)
3lbs chopped onions
4 sweet peppers
3 hot peppers
1 box garlic - @5-6 cloves
1 lb mushrooms (if you like them)
1  handful fresh  or Tbsp dried Oregano
1 handful fresh or Tbsp dried  Basil
10 small cans or 5 large Tomato paste (more or less depending on how thick you like it)

1/2 cup honey or sugar – depending on how sweet the tomatoes are
1 cup olive oil
¼-  cup salt more or less to taste


Get your tomatoes. You can order a box of them from your local farmer, farmer’s market, or pick them from your backyard. It’s OK if your tomatoes aren’t perfect, for this project, so see if you can get a deal on some that aren’t picture perfect.  Core, and peel bad spots, and cut tomatoes into pieces. I blend them in small batches in the blender for a few seconds, with the fresh herbs, just until chunky. You can also squish with your hands, foley mill or food process. Don’t overdo it with the blender or food processor – it will be too juicy. I have a K-tec blender that I love and use every single day and it was worth every single penny.

Saute onion, garlic, mushrooms together with olive oil. If there is left over oil,  mix it into the sauce once you add the tomatoes. Once vegetables are done,  add the tomatoes and cook until as thick as you want.

Add to sterilized jars (I sterilize mine in the dishwasher) and water bath 10-15 minutes.
Write “love + gratitude” on the lids, along with the date.
Yields: 5-6 qts.

 You can, of course, use this to feed a crowd of people, instead of jarring it up.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Zucchini! Nature’s Own Xerox Machine! by Mom (Marty Miles)

Here's a special guest blog post, by Suzi's Mom, Marty Miles. Marty lives in Northern NY, on the Canadian border half the year, and the other half of the year just outside of Ashland, VA, near Richmond.

Dear Suzi,
Back in my other life, between raising a family and retiring, I listened to a lot of folk music. One of my favorite records was Middle Age Middle Class Mama Songs by Mary Lu Walker. One of my favorite songs on this record was Zucchini!(listen here!!)

Having had a garden all my life, I could truly appreciate her thoughts on this prolific vegetable.

In the spring of the year when all danger of frost
Is gone from my gardening plot,
I planted ten seeds, just two to a hill
And now this is what I have got-

Zucchini! Zucchini!
A versatile vegetable dream.
An Italian delight that grows in the night, 
Tender and juicy and green

Farm Journal, Sept 1966
So what can one do with this multiplicity of squashness? Actually you can do a lot. Choose squash that are fresh from the garden and no longer than eight inches. Once of our family's favorite recipes came from the Farm Journal magazine a long time ago. This magazine came every month, full of tips and stores for the farmer, but in every issue there was a section for the farmer's wife,including a page or two of recipes that I looked forward to with great anticipation. I have never tried a Farm Journal recipe that wasn't a success. In later years I purchased almost every cookbook that they published, including the Let's Start to Cook Cookbook I got for you. (These cookbooks are available on Amazon, Ebay and vintage booksellers, as well as flea markets and yard sales. Grab them if you see them! sml)

Squash and Vegetable Saute
3 TBS butter
3 cups sliced zucchini, yellow summer squash or a combination
3 cups shredded cabbage
3/4 cup chopped green or red pepper
1 1/2  tsp. salt
1/8 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp oregano
1/4 tsp thyme
1 Tbs vinegar

  • Melt butter in skillet (I use my Dutch oven.) Add squash and cabbage. Cover and cook over medium heat for about 5 minutes.
  • Uncover; add green or red pepper. Cook over low heat, turning occasionally with a spatula, until squash is tender, about 10 minutes.
  • Stir in seasonings, herbs and vinegar. Adjust to taste. We like a little more vinegar than this recipe calls for. Makes 6 servings.
This miracle squash grows twelve inches a day,
Multiplies geometrically. 
Ten little seeds are all that you need
To feed five hundred and three.

Zucchini! Zucchini!
From nature's own Xerox machine,
An Italian delight that grows in the night, 
Tender and juicy and green.

So you search every day and you're sure that you've found
Every zucchini in sight.
Next morning you'll find ten or twelve on the vine
That sneakily grew in the night.

And no matter how hard you search, you always miss one. When you find it, it's at least twelve inches long and what could you possibly do with it besides throw it in the compost? I had this conversation with a friend of mine and she gave me this recipe:

Ellie's Stuffed Zucchini
You'll need a squash that will fit in the largest baking pan you have, turkey roasting pan or broiler pan. I have used longer squash and cute them in half so they would fit, but it's harder to scoop out the middle and stuff them.

  • Cut the zucchini in half lengthwise. Put it in the pan, cut side up,with a little water and boil until the center of the squash is soft.
  • Let it cool a little so you can handle it. Scoop out the center, leaving just the skin and about 1/2 inch of squash so the skin maintains its shape. Be careful you don't break the skin.
Cook to a paste:
  • The squash that you scooped out of the shell.
  • a quart of tomatoes, either fresh or canned.
  • A cup of fresh mushrooms, coarsely chopped. Or use a can of mushrooms, drained.
  • Chopped onion.
  • Chopped garlic
  • The recipe calls for celery salt, but it would probably be better with some finely chopped celery.
  • Salt and pepper.
  • It takes forever to cook to a paste, so you can add some crumbled crackers or dry breadcrumbs to help thicken.
  • Stuff the filling back into the shell.
  • Put bacon strips on top.
  • Bake on a cookie sheet, or in roaster or broiler pan. Just be sure the pan has sides.
  • Bake at 400 for 15 minutes.
  • Sprinkle some Parmesan cheese on top.
  • I have a note on my recipe that says it warms up beautifully.

Zucchini for breakfast, zucchini for lunch
Zucchini for snacks in between.
I have cooked it for days in thousands of ways
In dishes unheard of or dreamed.
Boiled or scalloped, French fried or stuffed
It's turning my fingernails green!

And last...Zucchini Bread. Sorry, my recipe must be in Virginia. Maybe one of you will send your recipe to Suzi to post. I just have to tell you about the first time i ever had Zucchini Bread. Our chapter of Adirondack Mountain Club hiked in to John's Brook Lodge, in Keene Valley, NY for a weekend mountain climb. John's Brook Lodge has two rooms, the kitchen and dining room on the right and the bunk room with 6 or 8 bunks on the left. the kitchen has one of those wonderful old cast iron cook toves, where we cooked blueberry pancakes for breakfast. We were preparing dinner the first night, when my friend Jane pulled Zucchini Bread out of her pack. It was round, cooked in a Bundt pan with powdered sugar sprinkled on top. Mmmm! It was so delicious that we couldn't stop eating it. But imagine! Carrying Zucchini bread in your pack all two miles into camp!
Later that night came great shrieks and screams from your bunk. The mice were out playing and one had run across your face! (and everyone made fun of me forever )-: sml.)

I think that was the trip whereall the kids went wading in John's Brook, and one fell in. Was that you Suzi? or Crystal? (It was Kim. slm)

Zucchini! Zucchini!
If I see another I'll scream.
An Italian delight that grows in the night,
Tender and juicy and green.

I'm sure you'll find lots of other ways to enjoy your zucchini, and other summer squash. We enjoy it sliced and fried in butter. And don't forget to put some in your ratatouille. One summer we had a surfeit of zucchini and tomatoes, so I cooked up a canner full of tomatoes, zucchini, onions, celery and Italian herbs. I canned many pints of it and they made wonderful gifts to friends and family.


Saturday, July 17, 2010

Mushrooms Can Save the World, and You too!

I love mushrooms. I have loved them ever since I was a girl reading fairy tales and learned that mushrooms had magical abilities. There is something secret and mysterious about them that appeals to me.. Early on I learned to enjoy them as food. My mother took classes on foraging wild mushrooms, and used to take us on mushrooms walks in the woods where I had visions of Hansel and Gretel and Snow White and the Dwarves hiding behind trees.

As a licensed massage therapist and during my time working in the health and wellness department at Ellwood Thompsons Local Market here in Richmond, I had the opportunity to learn from experts about the amazing healing benefits of mushrooms.The more I learn about mushrooms, the more enthralled I am with them, and the more I know that they really DO have magical abilities.

Scientist and researcher Paul Stamets, founder of Fungi Perfecti, calls them myco-medicinals. Stamets probably knows more about mushrooms than anyone. He believes that they can save the world(in no less than six ways which he explains in a brilliant video. According to Stamets,  mushrooms are closer relatives to humans than plants, and have an inherent intelligence within them. I believe it. Mushrooms contain some of the most potent medicine found in nature, and recent scientific studies confirm what ancient shamans and medicine men have known forever. The medicine is both in the fruit body, the part that we eat, and in the mycelium, the tiny threadlike network of cells that lies under the fruit body.

They are being used to treat cancer, HIV and AIDs, fight smallpox, detox livers, inhibit diabetes, arthritis and inflammation, ease anxiety, and boost our immunity. They are anti-viral, ant-oxidative, anti fatiguing, anti-fibrotic, anti microbial and can help reduce the negative effects of chemo and radioactive treatments. Nutritionally, mushrooms contain protein, are low in calories, and pack a punch of B-complex vitamins and essential minerals like selenium, copper and potassium.

Stamets also works with the United States Department of Interior to clean up oil spills using oyster mushrooms, and is currently working on the BP Gulf spill (he also worked on the Exxon Valdez clean up.)  His statement on the situation, and what he proposes we do to deal with future spills is the most realistic and positive thing I’ve read about the whole disaster. He has patents to control termites, fire ants and other destructive insects using fungi. He invented packaging for his mushroom health supplements called a Life Box, which infuses the box with spores and seeds, which when planted, will grow trees!

Mushrooms, seemingly pricey by the pound, are really a bargain, when you take into consideration all of the above. A portion weighs only a few ounces and a couple handfuls will put you back a few bucks. I happily stuff my face with them every chance I get. I tell myself that I am healing me in every possible way. Better to dine on delicious mushrooms today, than be sick tomorrow, eh?

A few months ago we got our first oyster mushrooms from Dave and Dee’s Homegrown Mushrooms in Sedley, Va. I was in awe of them. They were so beautiful I took about 100 pictures of them. I posted on Facebook that we had them on the veggie bus, and people literally came flying by moments later. They are called oysters because they resemble an oyster shell. They are velvety, with a robust sweet flavor. We have the oysters from time to time, and this week we have both oysters, and shiitakes, which are also incredibly good for you in many ways and also good for the environment.

Select fresh, firm, well-shaped mushrooms that are free of spots, mold and slime. Refrigerate unwashed mushrooms in their original pack or in a paper bag, don’t use plastic. Use them right away for maximum excitement and flavor, but most varieties will keep up to a week. Clean them with a damp cloth or soft brush, or quickly rinse in cold water and pat dry. They do not have to be peeled.

Mushrooms can be prepared in many ways, but it is important to cook them, as that releases the healing power in them. Raw mushrooms will not be digested, and just pass through our bodies so we don’t get any nutrition or health benefits from them.

Sautéing mushrooms are one of my favorite ways to cook them, fast and easy. I like to use this Asian style recipe below as the mushrooms become almost crispy in texture and it really showcases the flavor of them mushrooms themselves instead of any sort of sauce they might be part of.

Sautéed Oyster Mushrooms
• 1 tablespoon olive or coconut oil
• 1 pound small oyster mushrooms (any large ones cut into 1-inch pieces), stems trimmed
• 2 teaspoons coconut or apple cider vinegar
• ½ tsp sea salt

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until hot. Sauté mushrooms with 1/2 teaspoon salt until golden, about 8 minutes. Add vinegar and sauté until evaporated, about 1 minute. Season with salt, then transfer to a plate to cool. Serve at room temperature. These can be made ahead of time, and kept room temperature for up to 4 hours.

Roast mushrooms with Vegetables by Dave and Dee
This recipe is one of Dave and Dee's favorites. Easy and delicious, this recipe makes a perfect meal in itself.

5-10 small, low starch potatoes such as Yukon Gold
3 raw beets
3-4 carrots
1 lb. Dave and Dee’s Oyster Mushrooms
2-3 small yellow squash or zucchini
1-2 medium onions
Olive Oil
Cracked Sea Salt and Pepper to taste
  • Wash and peel carrots, beets, and onions and cut into bite-sized pieces (a large dice). Wash and dice potatoes and squash/zucchini as well, and toss all vegetables together in a large bowl. Add a couple of tablespoons of olive oil, salt and pepper to taste, and toss again until well-coated.
  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  • Tear the oyster mushrooms off the root and toss them lightly in with the rest of the vegetables until coated with oil. 
  • Lay the vegetables in a single layer on a cookie sheet (you may need two cookie sheets to ensure your vegetables aren’t piled on top of each other). 
  • Cook in the oven for 45 minutes to an hour, or until vegetables are tender and starting to caramelize. IMPORTANT: Turn the vegetables every 15 minutes and re-salt as needed during cooking.

Shiitake Mushroom Pate with Truffle Oil
I  love mushroom pate, and make this during the holidays or when I want to impress my friends. This is easy to veganize, substituting vegan spread for the butter. I like to use the gorgeous cultured butter from grass fed cows we have here in the market from Mountain View Farms. It’s a delicious and decadent way to get those omega 3 essential fatty acids!

This takes about 50 minutes to make and needs at least 2 hours in the refrigerator for the flavors to fully come together (or overnight). It will keep well for a few days refrigerated.

1 lb. Shiitake mushrooms (also try with Portobello or porcini)
1/2 an ounce of dried porcini mushrooms (optional)
½ c stick of butter
1/2 cup of extra-virgin olive oil
2 Bay leaves
½ tsp thyme
½ tsp oregano
3 cloves of garlic
1 cup of dry white wine (Sauvignon Blanc works very well)
Salt to taste (start with 1 and a quarter teaspoons; keep tasting)
Freshly-ground pepper to taste (I like to put in LOTS)
1 tsp white or black truffle oil

• If you are using the porcini, boil exactly 1 cup of water, and soak the dried porcinis in it for at least 20 minutes
• Brush the mushrooms (do not rinse them in water). Remove the stems, cut off the end where they're attached to the ground and chop them in small pieces with the. You can use a food processor if you want, but make sure the pieces don't get too small.
• Cook them covered in a skillet with the herbs, the drained porcini (keep the water they soaked in) and the chopped garlic for 30 minutes on a low flame. Every now and then lift the cover and add some of the wine and some of the porcini water. The liquids should be all used up before the 30 minutes are up.
• After 30 minutes of simmering, remove the lid. If still too wet, let the moisture evaporate: It should look like a thick sauce, not watery at the bottom. Don't burn it. Turn the burner off and remove the bay leaves.
• If you like a finer consistency, chop it finer with an immersion blender or in the food processor before adding the butter.
• Melt butter. I prefer not to use microwaves in cooking, as it changes the molecular structure of food, and renders it void of nutrition. The butter should not cook, just melt. Add it to the pate and stir it in vigorously.
• Add truffle oil if you want repeat invitations to the dinner you're taking it to. Truffle flavor does not like high-temperatures, so add it always at the end for maximum flavor.

Place the pate in a bowl and refrigerate it before serving at least 2 hours, the flavors will meld and concentrate.


Thursday, July 8, 2010

Cha Cha Chiles!! Stuffed Pablano Chilies with Goat Cheese and Sausage

I was very excited when we got the Pablano Chilies in last week. They are one of my favorite peppers, slightly smoky, rich and mild to medium hot. You can actually taste the flavor nuances of the pepper, instead of just having the HHHHHOT! sensation you get with other peppers.

When we were young, my dad always planted a whole bunch of different kinds of hot peppers, and he encouraged us to EAT THEM!!! until tears rolled down our faces. Since then, I am a lover of hot sauce and all things hot and spicy, although I save the scotch bonnets and Vindaloo for my brother, John. He carries on Dad’s pepper loving tradition, growing the hottest peppers he can, and canning delicious salsa every summer.

When Pablano Chilies are dried, they are called ancho chilies, which means wide pepper in Spanish. When they dry, they become wide and heart shaped <3 I like that. The heat of the pepper is in the membranes and seeds, so if you want them less hot, make sure to take all of them out. I advise you to use kitchen gloves when working with any chili, to avoid burning reactions with your eyes or other mucus membranes.

This recipe is really easy, and you can modify it to fit what you find in your local market, and to your personal eating style. It’s easy to veganize. You could use any type of pepper you prefer, but I like Pablanos, because they are spacious and easy to stuff. Any type of soft cheese, or non-dairy cheese works. I’ve made it with goat cheese, fromage blanc with sundried tomatoes, or herbs. My favorite was using the peach pepper spread we sell in the Farm to Family Market made by Mountain View Farms. (The sweetness of the peaches really complimented the peppers!).

I stuffed my peppers with Polyface hot Italian sausage, but any type of sausage you prefer will work, even links. To veganize, use your favorite vegan sausage.

You can cook these on the grill, or bake them, but grilling really brings out the flavor of the peppers.

6-8 Pablano Chiles (plan 1-2 per person, depending on size of peppers)
Soft cheese (see above suggestions) or non-dairy alternative
½ onion, chopped. I like a sweet onion, a candy, Vidalia or Texas, but suit your taste
1 lb sausage
Extra Virgin Olive oil

Heat oven at 400, or get grill going. Heat a swirl of olive oil in skillet over medium heat and cook onions then add sausage, (crumble loose sausage, and cut links into small bites), until sausage is brown and onions translucent, then simmer 2-3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Drain sausage.

Wash peppers. Wearing gloves, make a “T” shaped slit in the pepper and remove membranes and seeds. You can also cut them in half.

Stuff peppers, alternating with cheese and sausage. Stuff the sausage in with clean hands, and use a knife or spoon to stuff the cheese.

Place in a pan, alternating top to end so they fit. Bake until soft, about 25 min, you can finish the last few minute under the broiler to “blacken” and bring out flavor.

If you grill the peppers, which we recommend for maximum flavor, grill 5 or 6 minutes at medium, then stuff. Mark says that if you have a gas range, you can skewer them and roast them over the flame, and then stuff them.

Pablanos and other peppers can be stored in airtight containers or bags, and frozen. You can also dry them.

Sunday, July 4, 2010


Rhubarb continues to be popular here at the Farm to Family Market, and we've had a couple local chefs come in to get some. We hope the pie-eaters at Sine were happy with their Rhubarb Pies. Chef Todd from Mezzanine and I had a great conversation about rhubarb earlier this week, and he wants to remind everyone that rhubarb is not just for pie, or crumble. He says be adventurous with it, and pair it with meat and poultry. (Watch here for some recipes from Chef Todd coming soon!)

After I wrote about the Rhubarb ice cream we made when I was a kid, Mom dug into the deep recesses of her brain and came up with this:

We always had home made, hand cranked ice cream at Christmas and the 4th of July. We haven't made it in years and I suppose most people don't use the old hand cranked freezers any more but the new methods surely don't taste as delicious and creamy.   I got out my old cookbook with the covers loose and pages tattered and spotted and found my ice cream recipe. The recipe is in the 1955 version of The Good Housekeeping Cookbook. ( note from Suzi -- hand crank ice cream is still popular! White Mountain crank freezers are available at the Blue Ridge Mountain Ice Cream Maker store. Maybe Mark will find one at a flea market someday soon. If you want non-dairy/vegan ice cream, try a recipe from Vegan Scoops)

Here's the ice-cream (Don't you have brain freeze thinking about it!)
This recipe is for a 2-qt freezer. Our old one was bigger so I made 1 1/2 times the recipe. Then we got a 6-qt freezer and I had to figure out the amounts all over again. Do your math so the recipe fits your freezer. You can add whatever kind of fruit you want, but we are having rhubarb ice cream here.

 1  1/2 cups milk
3/4 cup sugar
2 tbs. flour
few grains salt
2 eggs or 3 egg yolks
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 cups heavy cream

 1 1/2 -2 cups fruit

In double boiler, scald milk. Mix sugar, flour, and salt; stir in enough milk to make a smooth paste. Stir the paste back into the hot milk in the double boiler. Stir until thickened. Cook covered, 10 min. Beat eggs slightly stir in milk mixture; return to double boiler; cook 1 minute. Cool; add vanilla, cream and fruit. 

I would make some rhubarb sauce. The recipe is below. Drain it and add between 1 1/2 to 2 cups of drained rhubarb. Freeze in 2-gt. or larger crank freezer until difficult to turn, using 8 parts crushed ice to 1 part ice-cream salt.

To Ripen: When ice cream is firm, draw out water from freezer; wipe off and remove lid. Take out the dasher and give the kids spoons to scrape the ice cream off (this was our reward for all our hard work cranking away and my favorite memory - Suzi); plug opening in lid. Pack ice-cream mixture down; re-cover. Repack freezer as follows: If serving within 2 hours, use 1 qt. crushed ice to each 1 cup ice cream salt.; if holding ice cream longer, use 2 qt. ice to each 1 cup salt; cover with heavy cloth. Makes 1/1/4 qt.

You can see it's a lot of work. Johnny and Suzi would help Dad crank. With all that work, you can see why we got a bigger freezer. 

Add whatever fruit you want-- right now fresh peaches, nectarines, blueberries, blackberries, plums and apricots would be delicious. Strawberries and rhubarb are classic together. Adjust your sweetener according to the sweetness of your fruit, which can vary. You can also freeze fruit, even rhubarb. Just wash, cut and pack in some plastic bags then freeze. You will be able to enjoy wonderful fruit treats next winter and impress your family and friends.

One year at Christmas I added 1 1/2 cups of crushed raspberries that we had picked the previous summer and frozen, sweetened with 1/4 cup of sugar. It was delicious.

 Here's the rhubarb sauce recipe, which is tasty on its own. It would taste great on top of vanilla ice cream, or lemon, or mix it into Moogurt with some granola. You can use it as a sauce for meat and poultry.  Let me know how you end up using it. This is the sauce that keeps old folks young and active. My sister-in-law Marguerite who is 85 eats it every day, and still mows her lawn herself.

Rhubarb Sauce

4 cups rhubarb
1/3 cup orange juice (or you could use peach or apple cider)
3/4 cup sugar (or 1/2 cup local honey) adjust sweetness for the tartness of your rhubarb and your palate
1 tsp cinnamon

Cook until done.

 Canoe Trip Rhubarb Cake

Mom packed all the ingredients for this legendary cake in a pack basket and cooler and we paddled down the Oswegatchie River on a week long canoe trip.  Partway through, she pulled out her rhubarb, and whipped up this stellar treat like an Adirondack Martha Stewart using a reflector oven (here's some info from the Scouts, who also like to use them.) It was very exciting for my friends on the trip and I don't remember having any leftovers for the woodland creatures. 

It's an easy-peasy cake to make, not especially nutritious, but it is festive and nourishes your soul which is also important and can make up for white sugar on occasion. I've made it for rooftop parties on Manhattan's Avenue B and Southern potlucks in RVA and it wows them every time. The pan practically gets licked clean. I can remember watching 4 people scraping away at the pan with spoons at a 4th of July cookout.

5-6 cups raw rhubarb (cut in 1 inch piece 

1 box yellow or lemon cake mix *

 1 cup sugar

1 (3 oz.) pkg. strawberry or raspberry gelatin dessert  ** 

1 1/2 sticks melted butter

1 1/2 cup water

Put rhubarb in 9 X 13 inch baking pan. Mix sugar and jello. Sprinkle over rhubarb. Pour dry cake mix over rhubarb mixture. Pour water over all. Melt butter and pour over top. Do not mix! Bake 25 minutes at 325 degrees. Cool and serve.

* Use a gluten-free box cake for GF version. I like Gluten Free Pantry.

** Use vegan gelatin dessert like Natural Desserts Jel Dessert, and vegan "butter" like Earth Balance