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Salad Dressing Mixology

Our organic veggie members have been getting A LOT of leafy greens lately. It´s easy to run out of inspiration when making salads, but there are plenty of options and flavors. This is an easy guide to making the perfect dressing.Fresh lettuce + a good dressing + a few toppings = a delicious salad

Some of the toppings we love are: pumpkin and sunflower seeds, artichoke hearts, tomato, cucumber, grated carrot, apple, nuts, crumbled cheese, sundried tomatoes, citrus segments and homemade croutons.

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Super Easy Baba Ganoush

Hey guys! We have a lot of eggplant at the farm these days. We often do, it's one of the easiest things to grow around here, and once a plant gets established it will keep on producing for months. Other crops, like carrots, or lettuce, need to be planted every 3 weeks to keep the love coming. Now you may also now that I'm a mom of four busy boys. So when it comes to recipes, my main criteria are fast and delicious.

I made a killer baba ganoush dip the other day, and it was so easy, I just have to share.

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First, grab a bunch of eggplant, enough to fill a baking dish (or less if you don't want that much dip). Prick them with a fork. Then bake them at around 225 C until they're totally squishy. They'll turn dark, they'll deflate, and if you poke a fork in there, you'll know if its squishy or not. This should take about 30 minutes.

Now, if you have kids, it'll likely be time to go pick them up from school, or someone is having a crisis that you'll need to go tend to, so feel free to just take 'em out of the oven and leave them until you can handle them.

Then of course, if you're like me, you'll have a million other things to do, and your eggplant will just be staring at your from the top of the stove, wondering when you're going to finish the recipe. At this point, you should put them in the fridge because there just isn't time!

After a day or two, you'll realize, hey, the kids are at school, or in bed, and I've got some time on my hands, let's finish that baba ganoush.

So take them out of the fridge, cut them in half lengthwise, and scoop out the squishy flesh into a blender. Add a handful of sesame seeds (or tahini if you have it), garlic, olive oil (you can omit if you used tahini), salt, and lime juice (or lemon if you have it). Blend!

Now if you're a culinary genius and you have that kind of time, you can roast them on a grill to add a charred flavor. You can also omit the part where the whole roasted eggplants sit in the fridge waiting for you. After roasting the eggplant, just wait until they're cool enough to handle, and you can get right to the blending part!

Baba ganoush tastes even better after a day in the fridge, so make sure you make enough to save some for the second or third day.

Enjoy!

4 Tips to Enjoy Your Veggie Membership to the MAX!

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CSA (“community supported agriculture”) programs are a wonderful way to eat the freshest, highest quality, and most nutritious produce available in your area. Here are four tips to help you make the most of your program:

1. Be flexible and creative

A CSA share offers a wholly different experience in eating and preparing food than shopping with a list at a grocery store. With a CSA, you must be willing to relinquish a certain degree of control over what you eat because you never know exactly what you’ll get. Meals take on a life of their own and the process is wonderful!

2. Devise a strategy for handling extras

There will be some weeks, especially at the peak of the summer harvest, when you will wonder how it’s possible to eat that many vegetables before the next round arrives. The good news is you don’t have to. Focus on eating the produce that spoils first, such as salad greens, cucumbers, and tomatoes. Then wash, dice, and freeze the leftovers. or share with friends!

3. Read the farm’s newsletter diligently

A good CSA farmer is involved with his or her community. At Rancho Buen Día we send a weekly email to our members with a list of the vegetables they will be receiving, a recipe or two and storage or preparation tips about some of the less common produce that we harvest.

4. Visit the farm

Members are always welcome to visit the farm and to contact their farmers with any questions they may have. It strengthens the relationship between consumer and farmer – always a good thing – and encourages transparency. Farm tours are a lot of fun for kids, too, especially when they realise that the same vegetables they eat at every meal come from a place they’ve visited.

IMPORTANCE OF TEACHING KIDS WHERE FOOD COMES FROM

Today, many children only experience food coming from a grocery store. Reconnecting our children to food's origins can build their conceptual understanding of food sources, while also providing an opportunity to form healthy eating habits and learn about the environmental implications of growing organically or transporting food long distances.

Here are some ideas to help kids understand where the food they eat comes from:

Plant your own vegetable garden. A vegetable or edible garden can be as small or large as you would like or your space accommodates. Even having one cherry tomato plant in a container on your patio gives your child a chance to experience the growing and harvesting cycle of local foods. 

Consider eating one "seasonal" meal each week. This would mean only using fruits and vegetables that are in season, not grown in different climates and shipped from far away. If you shop at a local veggie stand or join a CSA, this is easy, because they only carry seasonal items. Older children might enjoy making a chart of when their favorite fruits and vegetables are available locally and can look forward to them.

Join a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) group. Many farms now offer locally grown, often organic, foods by subscription. A family purchases a "share" of a local farm and receives a bag, box or credit towards fresh fruits and veggies that they pick up each week.

Visit local farms with your children. They will get to see where the actual food is grown, and observe up close unpackaged foods and some vegetables they are unfamiliar with. They can even get to talk to the farmer. You can make a visit to the farm even more interesting by using a few of the following ideas:

Encourage conversations between your child and the farmer about the available fruits and vegetables. Older children can keep a journal.

Questions to ask:

- What kind of tomato/lettuce/etc. is this?

- When was this vegetable/fruit picked?

What produce will you have next week?

Engage young children in using their senses:

- What does the vegetable/fruit feel like? Is it bumpy or smooth? Is it hard or soft?

- What does the vegetable/fruit look like? What color is it? What shape?

- What does the vegetable/fruit sound like when you tap it? Is it hollow? Does it sound like a drum?

- What does the vegetable/fruit smell like? Does it have a strong smell or no smell?

What does the vegetable/fruit taste like? Do you think it will be juicy or dry? Sweet or salty? Let's go home and give it a taste.

Create a Veggie Stand “Scavenger Hunt”:

- Create a grocery list before going to the farm.

- Have your child help locate the items on the list.

- Use check marks or stickers to show the item as complete.

Consider a "extra" square for an item that the child can pick.

Reinforce the food education at home:

Have children compare produce from the grocery store with produce from the farmers market. Do they look the same? Feel the same? Smell the same? Taste the same? What are their favorite fruits and vegetables? Why?

Kids love having their say. Involving them in the purchasing process and food prep will get them excited to eat fresh vegetables and healthy meals!

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Composting: a quick-start guide

Ryan riding along....adding nitrogen-rich material to the compost pile!
Ryan riding along....adding nitrogen-rich material to the compost pile!

Compost is my favorite part of farming; decay is an absolute miracle of life! You start with a big pile of brush, that looks like garden refuse to most people, and you end with a warm, moist, sweet-smelling, black and crumbly fertilizer that boosts yields, strengthens plants against pests, and adds flavor to vegetables.

If you want to get started in your back yard, start saving your fallen leaves. Just rake them into a pile and leave them.

Next to your leaf pile, you'll want to lay out a thin, 20 cm layer of leaves, at least 1 meter by 1 meter.

When you have kitchen scraps (including paper towels, napkins, and coffee grounds), throw them onto your square layer. Grab a handful of leaves from the pile next to your layer and cover it to keep away flies and animals.

Whenever you do some weeding or pruning in your garden, add a new green layer to your compost layer cake. Cover with leaves. Rinse and repeat!

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It's a good idea to water your compost layer cake at least once a week. More is fine, less is fine.  Decay is a forgiving craft.

Tips: --don't worry too much about having perfect layers. It's just an easy way to get the carbon rich material (brown, dead leaves or grasses) next to the nitrogen-rich material (manure, or green leaves and weeds) to speed up decomposition. --Build your pile in the shade so that it stays moist. Cover with a tarp if you have one to lock the moisture in. --As you add layers, use a pitchfork or rake to pull material from the center towards the edge. You want to maintain straight edges, otherwise you'll end up with a dome instead of a flat cake. A dome will cause rain and water to run-off the pile rather than soaking-in, and microbes need that water!

Our new community recycling program at Rancho Buen Dia

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We asked the community to bring us carbon-rich material that they were otherwise throwing out. It's been a great success, and we now have a lot more to work with! Thank you! After working with the material, we've realised that we'd like you to keep sticks to a minimum. While sticks are compostable (on a scale of years rather than months), they make the pile a lot harder to work with. So until the day we have a bobcat tractor to do our heavy lifting, please send us stick-less garden refuse.

We are also accepting kitchen scraps. A lot of you want to minimize your garbage, but don't have space or time for a compost pile. You can bring those scraps to a bin we have set up right in front of the farm stand in Todos Santos and we'll add it to our compost piles, where it will go into making next year's organic vegetables even more nutritious!

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Sauerkraut Workshop

We are so excited! This Wednesday, April 6th, 2016 we are hosting our very first workshop at the farm. Nutritionist, Elizabeth Campbell will teach us hands on how to make sauerkraut and share in depth information on the health benefits of fermented foods and how to incorporate them into our lifestyle and diet. Join us - it's going to be lots of fun. Here are all the details:

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fermentation workshop

Quiz: How many days to harvest?

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Rhythm.

The whole world has a rhythm.  The rains fall in the summer.  The desert turns green.  Now in January, the desert is drying, turning yellow.  In March we'll feel the wet fogs roll in off the Pacific and we'll see the white Plumeria blooming in the desert, along with the yellow Palo Verde and the Mezquite.

Food used to be a part of that rhythm.  In the US, every household would plant in the spring after the snow thawed.  Spinach and lettuce would be the first to harvest.  Winter squashes and pumpkins wouldn't be ready until fall.

Here in Baja, the return of longer days marks planting time, so most people started to plant in January.  Other cultivars, that aren't sensitive to the shortening days, were able to be planted in September as well.

These days we are very cut off from that essential rhythm.  We have food imported from all over the world so that we can eat our favorites whenever we want them!

Here's a quiz to see if you can guess how many days of sunlight and water go into your vegetables!

  1. Spinach
  2. Zucchini
  3. Baby Lettuce
  4. A full head of lettuce
  5. Green beans
  6. Carrots
  7. Tomatoes
  8. Spaghetti squash
  9. Onion
  10. Green onion

Write down your answers (in days) on a piece of paper and then scroll down.  A month would be 30 days, two months are 60...

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Keep scrolling!

  1. Spinach  45 days
  2. Zucchini  55 days
  3. Baby Lettuce  30 days
  4. A full head of lettuce  50 days
  5. Green beans  60 days
  6. Carrots  60-70 days
  7. Tomatoes 120 days (that's four months!)
  8. Spaghetti squash  90 days
  9. Onion 120 days
  10. Green onion 50 days

How did you do? It takes quite some time and accurate planning for crops to mature and provide a steady supply of produce!

Introducing: Our Wheel Hoe

An old farmer was asked at a conference what his worst weeds were.  He named off two, and then grew quiet, trying to think.  Finally he said, "well, we don't let them get big enough for me to identify what they are".  That is the key to weeding a garden!  If we can get to them when they're little, it saves the energy and time it  would take to chop down or yank out a mature weed.  Also, getting them small, we avoid the weeds from going to seed and planting more of themselves. We worked for a while with a saddle hoe for tiny weeds; it's lightweight and cuts the weed just under the surface of the soil.  But now, we love working with our new homemade wheel hoe!  We may be just a little too excited about it, but hey, new tools are fun!  We put it together out of a kid's bicycle wheel and an old gas-powered cultivator's handles.

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Wheel hoe1

This baby allows us to weed an entire pathway with just two passes, which is a huge increase in efficiency compared to a traditional saddle hoe. We are always looking for ways to optimize our production methods so we can offer even more variety to our CSA members and veggie stand customers.

What do you think of our homemade wheel hoe? :)

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Wheel hoe2