Getting to Know: Grow Where You Are

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It is my favorite time of year: Market Season!  Woohoo!

This year, Project Generation Gap is implementing two community based incentive programs:  Wholesome Wave and My Market Club. We are doing this in partnership with Lilburn Farmers Market and Stone Mountain Farmers Market.

I reached out to growers in the Metro-Atlanta urban agriculture family and asked them to join us as vendors. I was seeking produce vendors who have ethical growing practices. Grow Where You Are answered the call!   They are highly respected in the Atlanta local food community.

Grow Where You Are's booth at the Lilburn Farmers Market

Grow Where You Are’s booth at the Lilburn Farmers Market

Although I met Eugene Cooke some time ago, I recently had the pleasure of visiting him and Nicole Bluh at their garden project located at Good Shepherd Church in Southwest Atlanta.  Oh my!!!! They are growing glorious food and therefore supporting growth in this community in many ways. Check out this arial shot of the space they transformed into The Good Shepherd Agro Ecology Center:

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They also raised the funds needed to create an outdoor laboratory located on the historical Atlanta Black Cracker Field. Their Indiegogo campaign explains:

We are creating an outdoor laboratory to explore the revitalizing influence of a living growing space and observatory in the Bush Mountain Community…. In the 1920s and 1930s during the height of the National Negro League and deep segregation in the south, the Atlanta Black Crackers utilized this site. Serving as a community center this space created an atmosphere of connectivity and fellowship through outdoor recreation. 

Development of this currently under-utilized 2 acre site will include an interactive native planting and historical vegetable and fruit mini-farm. Additions will be made to the existing campground which holds the annual Great American Backyard Campout. There will be information about the historical significance of the land as well as an art installation tribute to the Atlanta Black Crackers Baseball Team.

In addition to growing quality food and serving as a community advocate, Eugene is a contributing writer for Mother Earth News.  His wife, JoVonna, is owner and co-founder of MaituFoods, LLC, a vegan meal delivery service and vegan nutrition education hub. I purchased one of their really cool t-shirts. Get you one!

Nicole is a woman after my own “food as medicine” heart. Through ThirdMoon Botanica, she educates people about the powerful and necessary nutrition available in wild plants and how to harvest them.

I am so excited to have Grow Where You Are with me at the Lilburn Market. I scored a batch of their fresh green beans last week and they are to die for! This week I hope to bend Nicole’s ear and talk tinctures and oils. I’m heading to visit with the fine folks of the  Arcadia Moblie Market next week and I’d love to bring some southern comfort with me.

Come see me at the Market this season!

Tuesdays, 4-7pm,  Downtown Stone Mountain

Fridays, 4-8pm, @Good Shepherd Presbyterian Church in Lilburn.

One more thing:

The GWYA team is hosting an event that got my attention so I thought I’d share.

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Feening For Fennel

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It is quite common for people with lupus to have digestive issues and  last  Wednesday was the beginning of a nasty bout for me.  The timing was pretty bad: I had scheduled an aquaponics training for the very next morning and I  had some very excited farmers looking forward to it.

There was no way to mask the pain so it was great that I was in the company of likeminded  ‘food as medicine’ people: High Garden Center farmer George,  Dr. David Epstein, and Lois Peterson; a PGG board member who is currently furthering her study in  nutrition.

Dr. Dave suggested that I consider adding digestive enzymes pre-biotics  and pro-biotics to my supplement regiment. I was experiencing a flare (an auto immune crisis) so that was sound advice. Fortunately I have all of that on hand… including kombucha of course.  🙂

Lois suggested I go gluten-free and dairy free completely until things calmed down.  She also reminded me of the importance of bone broths when trying to  heal the gut. I grabbed Nourishing Traditions out of my office for reference.  Good thing I did! I had never considered putting wine in my broth! While I didn’t go there this time (with the turmoil in my belly I’ve decided to stay away from alcohol for the moment), I have filed that away under things I will certainly do in the near future. I cooked an organic bird slowly over the course of two days.  In addition I added loads of extras: a cinnamon stick, several garlic bulbs, onion, about 2 inches of ginger,  2 inches of turmeric, carrots and celery.

George sent me into the garden.

Grinning and Bearing it.

Grinning and Bearing it.

He mentioned a few plants that I might want to steep and drink as tea but for some reason I went right to the fennel, popped a few sprigs into my mouth. I have had fennel before in salads but have always remained pretty neutral on it. On this day, however,   I was actually craving it.  And I’ve been noshing on it every day since. Fennel has a licorice like flavor so it taste like candy to me. Eating it, was soothing.

After several days of running into the garden for my fennel fix, I decided to see why my body was asking for it.  After researching it further, it turns out it makes perfect sense.  Here are some of the benefits of fennel listed on juicingforhealth.com:

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Anemia:  Since fennel is rich in iron and histidine, it serves as a good natural remedy for anemia. The production of hemoglobin is increased as a result of the consumption of food containing iron.

Breast milk, secretion:  Lactating mothers can consume fennel juice regularly to increase the secretion of nutritious milk for their infants.

Cancer:  The high content of vitamin C, flavonoids and essential oils in fennel bulb all provide synergistic healing properties for the prevention of cancer.

Colic:  Colic happens because of an imbalanced intestinal flora.  The essential oils found in fennel are useful for rebalancing the flora for remedy of renal colic.

Constipation:  The roughage in fennel seeds act as a stimulant in the clearance of bowels.  By taking fennel juice regularly, it helps to rebalance the digestive tract, thus promotes regular bowel movement.

Diarrhea:  The essential oils in fennel like Cineole and Anethole help to remedy diarrhea. By taking fennel juice regularly, it helps to rebalance the digestive tract, thus promotes a healthy bowel movement.

Diuretic:  The diuretic property of fennel helps in the removal of toxic substances from the body through frequent urination. Thus, it helps to reduce inflammation that causes rheumatism and swelling.

Flatulence:  Excessive flatulence happens due to the highly imbalanced intestinal flora in the digestive tract.  Fennel has the capability to reduce the bad bacteria while increasing the good bacteria that help rebalance the digestive flora.

Hair health:  The sulphur content together with all the right amino acids and essential oils in fennel help strengthen hair and reduce hair fall.

High blood pressure:  The high potassium content in fennel helps reduce high blood pressure and thus decreasing the risk for heart attack and stroke.

Indigestion:  The essential oils in fennel increases the secretion of digestive juices, helping in reduction of stomach inflammation and in the absorption of nutrients from the food eaten. Since fennel also has anti-acidic qualities, it is used widely also as an antacid.

Menstruation disorders:  As fennel is an emmenagogue, it helps regulate the hormonal action in the female body, easing menstruation flow.

Vision health:  Fennel has unique properties that can help protect from eyes inflammation, as well as with other eye disorders which are directly or indirectly connected to muscular degeneration and aging.  Due to the anti-oxidants and the necessary amino acids in fennel, they help rejuvenate and prevent aging. The juice of fennel leaves when externally applied on the eyes may help reduce eye irritations and fatigue.

I am on the mend! Was it the broth? Kombucha?  Fennel?

I’d say all three.   I’d also say that I am healing my body with  comfort food, soda and candy.  Except it’s real food. And that just makes me giddy.

 

 

 

 

Natural High: Getting to Know the Farmers of The High Garden Center

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You know how you find something so special that you want to wait until the perfect time to share it with others?  That is how I feel about George and Krista High, owners of The High Garden Center.

I stumbled into their booth at a Farmers Market last summer and instantly knew I was on to something major.  I have met many really amazing farmers/growers from all over the Southeast that have changed the way I see food and my community. Meeting George and Krista went a bit deeper; I had found true kindred spirits.

They are passionate about community, education, and nutrient dense foods. I could not imagine a better fit for Project Generation Gap.

George and Krista

George and Krista are trusted advisors to health-conscious people who want to include a variety of plants in their everyday diet. They are lifelong nature lovers who grow and consume a wide variety of plants (some are wild) each day.

In 2012, George and Krista started creating customized “Gardens to Go” for people who don’t have green thumbs, or simply don’t have the time, energy, or space to maintain a garden. Their handcrafted portable planters give clients easy access to live culinary and medicinal herbs year round.

George and Krista sell live herbs, microgreens, pet greens, and handmade planters/pots at farmers’ markets in Gwinnett County, garden stores, and festivals around metro Atlanta.

An explorer at heart, George discovered at an early age that there are dozens of nutritious and edible plants in our own backyards. He has been picking, identifying, and cooking dishes containing culinary and wild plants ever since.

While serving in the military (he has served in the Army, the Coast Guard, as a civil servant for the Navy, and civilian employee on an Army base in Iraq)  George planned and ran the Community Garden at a Coast Guard base in North Carolina. He also served as the Wellness Officer for the Coast Guard Air Station from 1996-2002. George became a Certified Green Consultant in 2011 to assist others in living harmoniously with the earth.

George owns 6,000 music albums, the entire Danielle Steele book collection, and a John Deere tractor.

Krista is a former Environment Scientist, who reinvented herself in 2003. She became a freelance copywriter specializing in the health, wellness, and spirituality industries. For the past 10 years, Krista has written copy for alternative health and wellness gurus such as Dr. Deepak Chopra, Dr. Al Sears, Dr. Mark Hyman, Dr. Gerald Epstein, and Dr. David Blyweiss.

Krista is ambidextrous, believes there’s “a place for everything, everything in its place,” and enjoys most anything that contains caramel.

I  mean seriously. What is there not to love?

Connecting with this beautiful couple has been a game changer for our organization. The level of service we are set to provide to the community is mind-blowing.  Look forward to more information on nutritious/healing foods, classes and community events.

Speaking of great food, I made the most delicious soup yesterday! I decided that I would use primarily local, fresh, and seasonal food that I obtained from the market.  My oldest son’s girlfriend, Megan, is a very picky eater; I’ve made my personal mission to win over her belly.  She lifted her bowl for seconds!

Harvest Soup

3 tablespoons butter

I used a one HUGE sweet potato from the market and several smaller ones given to me by Ash-Lee farms.

I used a one HUGE sweet potato from the market and several smaller ones given to me by Ash-Lee farms.

1.5 cups chopped onions

5 cups cubed sweet potato

4 cups cubed butternut squash

sea salt and cracked pepper to taste

8 cups chicken broth

2 sweet but tart apples (I use fujis)

Cinnamon and Nutmeg to taste

1 cup of milk or cream

Yogurt

Saute’ onions in butter until soft and translucent. Add the sweet potatoes, butternut squash, chicken broth, salt and pepper to pot. Turn the heat to high and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium and cook until vegetables are very tender, about 15 minutes. Turn off the heat. Add the diced apple and either: mash the everything together by hand (for a chunkier soup) or  use a  blender to puree soup in batches (I use my Vitamix of course). Be careful not to fill the carafe more than halfway, the soup is hot and needs its space. 🙂  Pour the blended soup into a clean pot.  If desired, add a dollop of yogurt atop individual servings.

*Notes:

*I purchased everything (except the seasonings) from local farmers including the chicken to the make the stock, and the milk.

*I use raw milk because we digest it better. I suggest organic half and half or cream if purchasing pasteurized/homogenized dairy (so it will be creamy).

*My husband makes our yogurt but if purchasing, I recommend organic greek yogurt for a thicker consistency

*The veggies and fruits I used are all seasonal and fresh but it is ok to let Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods do your chopping for you. Typically not local, and REALLY expensive (I made close to a gallon of soup for around $6,) but trust me, I get it…do what you gotta do!

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Fried Green Tomatoes

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Let’s start off with a recipe shall we?

It is tomato season so I scored some beauties during a morning visit to my local farmer’s market. Inexpensive, and easy to make, fried green tomatoes are a tangy and satisfying salute to summer. Here’s how I made them:

Ingredients
4-6 firm green tomatoes cut into 1/2 inch slices
Himalayan sea salt
1/2 cup gluten free pancake mix
1/2 cup organic corn meal
turmeric
cayenne pepper
onion powder
garlic powder
1/2 cup organic almond milk
coconut oil
cast iron skillet

Salt the tomatoes and set them aside. Mix remaining dry ingredients in a gallon sized seal-able bag. Heat coconut oil (enough to cover the pan in a thin layer) on medium heat. I play with the amount of oil I use and my flame along the way (I mention those who cook on electric stoves in my prayers).

You must do this one tomato at a time:

Dip the tomato in the milk bath and coat it with batter. Place into hot oil. Sounds like a crazy thing to mention but this is about technique just as much as it is about anything else. You can fry more than one tomato at a time but be sure not to over cook the tomatoes. I suggest frying a tester tomato or two to get give yourself a chance to get into the groove. Since you are frying a vegetable, there is really no worries about it being ‘raw’ just ‘mushy’. And it the game of fried green tomatoes, mushy means you lose.

That’s it!

golden deliciousness!

golden deliciousness!

 

Sounds simple right? Well it is… But you must follow a few rules:

1)You must use green tomatoes. Not one bit of a single other color on the fruit. Test this theory and again, you lose.

2)The cast iron skillet is an ingredient for a reason. This is not optional.

3)Do not get lazy and add the salt to the dry mix. Salt the damn tomatoes. It matters.

4) I know paper towels do not make for sexy pictures but they are a southern cook’s staple. You must soak up the excess grease with paper towels. Period.

5). Gather you family as soon as the grease gets hot. These babies cook in minutes and are to be eaten as soon as they cool… just a little bit. Cold or old (and once they are cold they are old) fried green tomatoes are just ruined.

I made these last night and they were a hit with the crew.

I should mention that there was a bit of an issue in my kitchen. When I started heating the oil, the hubster started sniffing around.”That smells interesting.” Really dude? Was my corresponding look. “I mean, you sure you about that coconut oil? It smells a little sweet.” I don’t know if it was my ice glare or the telepathic “Get out of my kitchen!” but he quickly turned on his heals and left the room.

Yeah, I’m sure.

By now, I’m certain that a few old school southern cooks didn’t make it past the phrase  ‘gluten free’ in my recipe. I must admit the term is really is  overly played and if it weren’t for my gut telling me otherwise, I’d join them in eye rolling this blog.

But I have a funky belly.

And I’m Southern.

And I know how to take a dish taught to me by my momma  and make it so that I can eat it.

Besides, I’ve been playing with and in my food a lot these days.

The non-profit I run (surprise!), Project Generation Gap has partnered with Rancho Alegre Farm (you might remember me mentioning visiting with them last Fall). Our goal is to bridge the gap between traditional and technology; the tried and true and the new. I assure you, this is the best news you’ve heard in a long time. Well that’s probably not true but we are REALLY excited.

So let me tell you how I got to this point:

Over the years, I’ve learned so much about nutrient dense foods, the effects of a poor diet, disease maintenance, and  the importance of a solid exercise program. Along with my degree in Education from the University of Georgia, I’ve received certifications in both fitness and in nutrition.
I’ve also studied modalities rooted in culture and tradition: healing herbs, food preservation, fermentation, functional/natural movements… all have me reconnecting with nature.

While I admire the research and work that has gone into establishing ‘super foods’ and ‘the ‘dirty dozen’, I found myself feeling like food (and its healing potential)  is being complicated unnecessarily.

And that we are raising a generation of largely inactive and unhealthy kiddos who have no clue where their food comes from.

Not to mention the elderly, who have so much to offer in solving the above issues, are devalued and sometimes, abandoned.

About a year ago I had a conversation with my friend and client, Janice, in the sauna. We talked about this and many others issues that plague our society. She has had her own health triumph using food and has a passion for children and the elderly. It might have been the heat that gave us the confidence but in that moment, Project Generation Gap was born. You can read more about our story here.

Jaan and her mom.

Janice and her mom.

It didn’t take a long to realize that if we wanted to make a real change, we had to not only talk about good food, we had to grow it, share it and teach about it. Partnering with a farm has put us in a position to do just that.

One of the first things we decided to do was send some kids to farm camp. I got to experience Rancho Alegre Farm’s (RAF) first week of camp in June and it made me want to send every child I know! Pilar (the owner/operator) and I put our heads together and came up with a way to give 10 kids a great opportunity this summer. She agreed to reduce the fee for our sponsored kids. Great Beginnings (a local daycare center) is providing transportation to and from camp. Project Generation Gap is raising the funds. See what can happen when a community comes together?

Me, Lloyd of Great Beginnings, and Pilar of Rancho Alegre. Making it happen for the kiddos!

Me, Lloyd of Great Beginnings, and Pilar of Rancho Alegre. Making it happen for the kiddos!

We need your support. Please purchase a t-shirt! Every 5 shirts sold sends a kiddo to camp.

Cool, huh?

Stay tuned for updates on me adjusting to farm living… very Green Acres-esque. HA!

Good times.