Category Archives: Blog

Two Thanksgiving Myths Dispelled

Hello all!

This is the last blog post before Thanksgiving 2014. We hope you all have plans for a wonderful and safe holiday filled with joyful family reunions and friendship. Try not to let the stress of cooking for everyone get you down. We thought we would help you impress your guests this year by arming you with the facts to dispel two common Thanksgiving myths.

 

Public Domain Image via USDA

Public Domain Image via USDA

Turkey Does Not Make You Sleepy

 

It’s a oft-repeated trope of Thanksgiving that the amino acid tryptophan in the turkey makes everyone drowsy after the meal. Tryptophan is an important amino acid, and it is necessary for your body to manufacture serotonin, one of the neurotransmitters primarily responsible for mood and sleep. Low levels of serotonin cause depression, anxiety, and mood swings. However, turkey is no higher in tryptophan than other poultry meats, and actually contains less than chicken. The real reason you get sleepy after a Thanksgiving meal is that you’ve just stuffed yourself full of a massive portion of food. Blood is rushing to your stomach and your body is expending energy to digest all of that delicious food, so your body makes you feel tired so you don’t over-exert yourself while digesting. Imagine a boa constrictor that has just swallowed a large animal. It’s certainly not going to be doing much exercise after a meal like that.

 

You May Never Have Tasted a Yam

 

The word “yam” is colloquially used as a synonym for sweet potatoes. Most people refer to the long orange-skinned potatoes in the grocery store as “yams”. However, yams and sweet potatoes are not even distantly related. To complicate matters further, potatoes themselves are not related to either yams or sweet potatoes. Potatoes are in the Solanaceae family, yams are in the Dioscoreaceae family (say that one five times fast), and sweet potatoes are in the Convolvulaceae family. Potatoes and sweet potatoes are both dicots, meaning they have two embryonic seed leaves, while yams are monocots (they have only one embryonic seed leaf). This means that yams and sweet potatoes are as distantly related as two flowering plants can be.

 

By Llez (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By Llez (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Yams are common in Africa- the top 8 of the top 10 world producers are African countries, followed by Papua New Guinea and Colombia. They are popular ingredients in African and Carribbean cuisines, due to their flexibility in culinary applications. They can be baked, grilled, barbecued, smoked, boiled, fried, roasted, or made into pie. Unfortunately, true yams are not nearly as common in the US, where they have been overtaken by sweet potatoes as a more common substitute.

 

Have a wonderful and safe holiday, everyone!

 

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An Iconic Autumn Squash

Hello Harvesters

 

This week we are introducing our Jack O’Lantern pumpkins for sale on our online market. We will offer them for sale right up until the day before Halloween (our last delivery day that week). To go along with this new product, this week we’re going to take a look at the many different uses for pumpkins, as well as their history in agriculture and food.

 

By Martin Doege (Morn), uploaded to English WP on 2003-08-21 (Own work) [GFDL 1.2 (http://www.gnu.org/licenses/old-licenses/fdl-1.2.html)], via Wikimedia Commons

By Martin Doege (Morn), uploaded to English WP on 2003-08-21 (Own work) [GFDL 1.2 (http://www.gnu.org/licenses/old-licenses/fdl-1.2.html)], via Wikimedia Commons

Pumpkins are a variety of winter squash, related to other cultivars like Butternut or Acorn squash. Their orange color and round, ribbed shape have become iconic symbols of the autumn harvest season. Pumpkins are native to North America and were an important source of food for native people and colonists alike. The squash has a wide variety of cooking applications- it can be roasted in chunks, pureed or mashed, and cooked into soups and pies. Growing up anywhere in the United States, it would be very difficult to avoid having pumpkin pie at some point in one’s life, as this dish is a massively popular fall delicacy. The coffee company Starbucks has capitalized on this tradition with their “pumpkin spice” latte (although, ironically, this drink doesn’t actually contain any pumpkin, and tastes instead of nutmeg, cinnamon, and ginger). The introduction of the pumpkin spice latte has led to a huge trend in food products flavored with the spices used for pumpkin pie.

 

By Frenchtowner [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By Frenchtowner [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Pumpkins also have deep cultural resonances for people in North America. There is a long tradition in Britain and Ireland of carving vegetables such as turnip and rutabaga into lanterns during the Halloween season. These lanterns were supposed to ward off evil spirits. Immigrants from the British isles brought the practice to North America, where they began to use pumpkins instead, due to their easy availability and larger size. The image of a big orange pumpkin in a field symbolizes the turning of the season and the end of summer warmth and long days. Many American children have fond memories of going pumpkin-picking with their families to prepare for Halloween lantern-carving.

 

When you get your pumpkin this year, send us your best Halloween lantern photos and we will post them on social media! Have a great week, Harvesters.

 

 

 

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The Harvest Moon

Hello Harvesters

For this week’s blog post, we’re going to take a break from the usual discussions of different types of veggies, cooking styles, and gardening to focus on an astronomical phenomenon that has been incredibly important to human agriculture over the millennia. Next week, on the 23rd at 2:29 AM, the plane of the Earth’s equator will pass through the center of the sun, an event known as the Equinox. For us here in the northern hemisphere, this is the autumnal (fall) equinox, while in the southern hemisphere it is the vernal (spring) equinox. On the equinox, the length of day and night are approximately equal (though day when they are exactly equal might be one or two days off due to light refraction around the edge of the earth).

 

"Harvest moon" by Original uploader was Roadcrusher at en.wikipedia - Transferred from en.wikipedia; transferred to Commons by User:Khayman using CommonsHelper.. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Harvest_moon.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Harvest_moon.jpg

“Harvest moon” by Original uploader was Roadcrusher at en.wikipedia – Transferred from en.wikipedia; transferred to Commons by User:Khayman using CommonsHelper.. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Harvest_moon.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Harvest_moon.jpg

The full moon closest to the autumnal equinox is known as the Harvest Moon. This full moon often appears orange due the refracted sunlight reflecting off the surface of the moon. The Harvest Moon is unique because of the very short time between sunset and moonrise over the next two or three nights. While at most times of year the moon rises about 50 minutes later each day, at the Harvest Moon this time shrinks to about 30 minutes, meaning that there is full light for an extended period after sundown. This is the reason for the name “Harvest Moon”- before modern technology, the extended light gave farmers the opportunity to catch up on the fall harvest long after the sun set on their fields.

5 Odd Facts about the Autumnal Equinox 

NASA, public domain image

NASA, public domain image

The Harvest Moon and autumnal equinox have taken on great cultural significance over the millennia. In Britain, the harvest festival has been celebrated near the harvest moon since before the spread of Christianity to the isles. In fact, the word “harvest” itself is derived from an Old English word, haerfest, meaning “autumn”. In revolutionary France, the monarchy was abolished on the autumnal equinox of 1792, leading the Republicans to declare the equinox “New Year’s Day” of the new Republican Era.

 

Do you have any plans to celebrate the Harvest Moon this year?

 

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A Cornucopia of Cucurbita (Say that 6 Times Fast)

Hello Harvesters

Pacific Northwest produce lovers have a love-hate relationship with our squash. Towards the end of the summer, it can be a bit overwhelming trying to consume all the zucchini and yellow summer squash coming out of our gardens without wasting any. It’s the season of trying to dump as much summer squash as possible into your neighbors hands while trying to avoid taking theirs, like a big game of hot potato (or hot squash, as the case may be).

"Cucurbita moschata Musquée de Provence - "Courge musquée" squash gourd" by fr:User:Spedona - fr:Image:Courge_musquée01.jpg. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Cucurbita_moschata_Musqu%C3%A9e_de_Provence_-_%22Courge_musqu%C3%A9e%22_squash_gourd.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Cucurbita_moschata_Musqu%C3%A9e_de_Provence_-_%22Courge_musqu%C3%A9e%22_squash_gourd.jpg

“Cucurbita moschata Musquée de Provence – “Courge musquée” squash gourd” by fr:User:Spedona – fr:Image:Courge_musquée01.jpg. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Cucurbita_moschata_Musqu%C3%A9e_de_Provence_-_%22Courge_musqu%C3%A9e%22_squash_gourd.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Cucurbita_moschata_Musqu%C3%A9e_de_Provence_-_%22Courge_musqu%C3%A9e%22_squash_gourd.jpg

 

Fortunately, the middle of September is when we start to see a transition from summer squash, like zucchini, patty, and yellow squash (generally of the species Cucurbita pepo), to more winter squash varieties like butternut and acorn (in the US, mostly C. moschata, with some C. pepo mixed in for good measure). Winter squash differ from summer squash in that they generally mature to the point where they have a hard and inedible outer rind before they are picked and eaten. This helps these hardy plants survive the colder weather of Cascadian autumn and winter. Their different physiology also gives them a different taste and different cooking applications. While zucchini is best sliced and sautéed (at least in my opinion), nothing beats a good mashed butternut squash with honey and butter.

"Cucurbita moschata Butternut 2012 G2" by George Chernilevsky - Own work. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Cucurbita_moschata_Butternut_2012_G2.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Cucurbita_moschata_Butternut_2012_G2.jpg

“Cucurbita moschata Butternut 2012 G2” by George Chernilevsky – Own work. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Cucurbita_moschata_Butternut_2012_G2.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Cucurbita_moschata_Butternut_2012_G2.jpg

 

Thanks to their hard outer rinds, winter squash varieties have extremely long shelf lives. If you buy a prime acorn squash in good condition, it can keep for up to two months if it is stored in a cool (around 50 degrees F), dry place away from direct sunlight. Just make sure not to store them in a refrigerator, as this actually makes the squash go bad more quickly. This comes in very handy for busy Seattleites who don’t want to waste their produce, and makes winter squash a great standby food that you can save for when you really need it.

 

Keep an eye out for this week’s recipe, which includes butternut squash (but I won’t give it away yet!)

 

Happy harvesting.

 

 

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Preparing Your Garden for the End of Summer

Hello Harvesters

As much as we would like to deny it, the end of summer is upon us. Labor Day marks the last gasp of summer festivities, and a warning sign for gardeners to start preparing for the colder season. We still have a bit of growing season left for fall crops like potatoes, spinach, cauliflower, and brussel sprouts, but it’s time to start planning ahead for how to protect and regenerate your garden over the winter.

By Alan Manson (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By Alan Manson (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

A great way to regenerate your soil over the winter is to plant cover crops. Cover crops are planted at the end of the growing season, and then tilled into the soil at the end of winter instead of being harvested. Erosion, planting, harvesting, and foot traffic inevitably damage your garden’s soil structure. Cover crops help to reverse this process by restoring aeration and drainage to your soil, as well as preventing nutrient leaching. Some crops, like clover, also help to fix nitrogen in the soil, which is critical for growing crops like tomatoes. At the end of the winter, when the cover crops are tilled under the soil, the organic matter acts like compost, restoring more nutrients to the soil and preparing your garden for another healthy growing season. Check out these pages explaining cover crops and helping you decide which one to plant!

Blossom_(2762263328)

“Blossom (2762263328)” by Harald Hoyer from Schwerin, Germany – BlossomUploaded by russavia. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Blossom_(2762263328).jpg#mediaviewer/File:Blossom_(2762263328).jpg

If you want to extend your growing season and get the most out of your garden, you may want to consider building a cold frame. Cold frames are small, insulated boxes with a transparent lid that act as miniature greenhouses. Most cold frames are small enough to fit on urban properties, as they are much smaller than traditional greenhouses. The lid allows heat from the sun to enter the frame, but prevents that heat from escaping by convection. It also protects the plants from the excessive moisture that we often experience in the Pacific Northwest. If you’re interested in building a frame, check out this page on how to build a good frame. This fall, try planting crops from the Brassica genus, such as cabbage, cauliflower, and Brussel sprouts, or radishes, lettuce and spinach in your cold frame. Let us know how it goes!

 

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Chickens at Home

As any regular farmers market shopper knows, a farm fresh egg is a wonderful thing! The taste of the yolk from an egg laid by hens who get to range freely and eat organic feed is so much better than the taste of eggs from large industrial farms, and you get the satisfaction of knowing you are contributing to a small farmer’s operation. If you’ve ever visited a farm, you know that chickens are funny little creatures that can be very entertaining to watch.

 

Did you know that if you live in Bellevue or Seattle, you can build your very own home chicken coop? In both of these cities, zoning regulations allow up to 6 birds for producing eggs at home, as long as you follow some basic rules. Here are some guidelines, tips, and tricks to keeping chickens at home.

Albertus Verhoesen, "Chickens and Park Vase", public domain

Albertus Verhoesen, “Chickens and Park Vase”, public domain

 Hens only!

A rooster crowing at sunrise is a romantic image when we think of farms in rural areas. However, a rooster blasting out an early morning alarm would not make the urban chicken-keeper very popular with her neighbors. If you want to keep chickens at home, make sure you get only female birds. Regulations prohibit keeping roosters in the city. If you discover a rooster in your home flock, it must either be slaughtered or moved somewhere where roosters are allowed, outside of the city. This can be accomplished by simply putting a listing for a free rooster on Craigslist or a similar website. Hens also make a bit of noise, but they are much more tolerable than roosters. The females sometimes squawk and cackle when they are laying eggs, but they will be completely quiet when it is dark outside, because they will be sleeping.

 Build a good coop

 

By Josh Larios from Seattle, US (DSC02753) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By Josh Larios from Seattle, US (DSC02753) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Chickens can roam free in your yard with supervision, but they are not the smartest of creatures, and if you let them roam unsupervised, they will find all sorts of ways to get into trouble. From cars to dogs to raccoons, there are plenty of ways for urban chickens to meet an untimely end. Chickens should always be kept in the coop at night. When you build their coop, make sure it is well sealed to ensure that rats and other scavengers can’t get into the feed or steal the eggs. Here’s a handy page on how other people have built their coops.

Create a barter economy!

Eggs from a home coop are a very valuable item in a neighborhood food bartering economy. Maybe your neighbors have a tasty garden vegetable you covet? Trade them some eggs! Maybe you need a hand with a project that might be a bit of an imposition? Eggs to the rescue! Trades like this help you bond with your neighbors and make a friendly, positive social environment in an urban environment that can sometimes feel isolating and individualistic.

 

Send us photos of your home coop!

 

 

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