Wednesday, 27 September 2017

How the Little Field was named


How big does a vegetable plot need to be to be called a field? With the average farm size in BC being about 350 acres, the field where we currently grow our vegetables clearly falls in the category of “little field”.  (In case you were wondering, there is no “big field” on the Commons.)

By way of comparison, the smallest regulation-size soccer fields are 50 yards by 100 yards, or 1.03 acres. 

The Commons Farm, which has 26 acres, with only a few acres under cultivation, falls in the most common farm size in British Columbia (about 37% or 7,250 farms).  Some 27% of BC farms have fewer 10 acres,  with many of these smaller farms located in the lower mainland, southern and eastern parts of Vancouver Island, and parts of the Okanagan in the southern interior. Only about 18% of BC farms have more than 240 acres.  

While total gross annual revenue generated by BC farms in 2016 was over $3 million, on average just under half of all farms earn less than $10,000 annually, and less than 6% generate a gross annual revenue of over $500,000. 

Saturday, 23 September 2017

Puffmaranth – Recipe for Popped Amaranth

If you remember how to make popcorn on the stove, this is basically the same technique.  You could also try putting some in a paper bag and popping it in the microwave for about 12-15 seconds.

6 Tbsp raw amaranth will yield ~2 cups.
  1. Heat a small to medium pot over med-high/high heat. Test if the pot is hot enough by adding a drop of water.  If it instantly balls up, dances around in the pot, and evaporates you’re good to go. 
  2. Once hot, add in 1-2 tablespoons raw amaranth (a thin layer across the bottom), then cover with a lid and quickly shimmy/slide the pot back and forth just above the burner.  If your heat is set correctly it should start popping within 1-3 seconds and finish within 10-15 seconds.  It burns very quickly! 
  3. Just as the amaranth pops are slowing, empty it into a bowl. 
  4. Replace the pan back on the burner to heat back up for 15-30 seconds. 
  5. Repeat the popping process until desired amount has been reached. 
  6. Let cool in the bowl. 
Tips:
  • Wear oven mitts!  The heat gets intense when you’re making multiple batches.  
  • If you don’t cover the pot, amaranth will pop everywhere
  •  It is crucial that your pot is fully heated.  If the amaranth doesn’t start popping within 3 seconds your pan is not hot enough. If the amaranth instantly burns your heat is too hot. 
  • Dump the amaranth into the bowl just as the popping is slowing down.  If you wait until it is completely stopped it will burn. 
  • If you’re using an electric burner you may have to slide the pot back and forth on the burner and not above it. 
  • If you let the popped grain fully cool you can store it in a sealed container in the fridge for at least a few weeks. 





Friday, 18 August 2017

Beautiful gluten-free amaranth - a forbidden crop

Have you started growing amaranth yet? If you visit the little field you will see this beautiful plant that can grow up to 8 feet high, making it both a lovely ornamental plant and excellent nutritional source of gluten-free food. Like quinoa, amaranth is not technically a grain but is the seed.  One plant can produce up to 60,000 seeds.
Amaranth was a key part of the diets of the pre-Columbian Aztecs, and it was used both for food and as part of their religious ceremonies. Sadly, when Cortez and the Spanish conquistadors arrived in the 16th century, amaranth crops were burned and its use forbidden. 
Amaranth has a protein content of about 13%, which is much higher than most other grains.  It has twice as much protein as a cup of long-grain rice (26 grams of protein in one cup).  It also contains lysine, making it a complete protein containing all of the essential amino acids.
It is a source of key vitamins and minerals - calcium, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus, and iron.  One cup of uncooked amaranth has 31% of the recommended dietary allowance of calcium, 14 percent for vitamin C, and a whopping 82 percent for iron. 
Amaranthus, collectively known as amaranth, is a cosmopolitan genus of annual or short-lived perennial plants. Some amaranth species are cultivated as leaf vegetables, cereals, and ornamental plants. Most of the Amaranthus species are summer annual weeds and are commonly referred to as pigweed.
This plant is hardy, preferring a high elevation, but can grow at almost any elevation in temperate climates if it has moist, loose soil with good drainage.  It can also survive in low-water conditions once the plants have been established. Considered a native plant of Peru, it is now grown around the world in countries including China, Russia, Thailand, Nigeria, Canada, the US, and Mexico, and has become a part of the cuisines of India, Nepal and the African continent.
More than 60 different species exist of this super food. The leaves of the amaranth plant are also edible. Commonly used in Asian and Caribbean cuisines, they can be stir-fried or chopped and added to soup. Amaranth porridge is a traditional breakfast in Peru, India, Mexico and Nepal. Popped amaranth is used in Mexico as a topping for toast that looks like tiny popcorn kernels and has a nutty taste.
It has been estimated that amaranth was first domesticated 6,000 to 8,000 years ago - and considering how easily and quickly it grows, that makes sense!
Amaranth is good for your heart - several studies have shown that amaranth could have cholesterol-lowering potential. For example, a 2003 study published in Guelph showed that amaranth has phytosterols, which have cholesterol-cutting properties.
Among its other impressive nutritional stats, amaranth is a good source of fibre, with 13 grams of dietary fibre per uncooked cup compared to 2 grams found in long-grain white rice.
In my next post I will explore some more of the history of this fascinating plant and how it was used by the indigenous peoples of the Americas.

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Zucchini Pie

You can never have too many zucchini recipes. This delicious recipe from Sharon Pattison can be made as a gluten-free dish and is tasty served hot or at room temperature.

2 cups shredded zucchini
1 onion diced
1/2 cup grated sharp cheese such as Gouda, Swiss, or old cheddar
1 cup flour or gluten-free flour such as chick pea, sorghum or buckwheat
1½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
3 eggs, beaten
½ cup olive oil
1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese

Mix dry ingredients together and mix with onions and zucchini. Fold in grated cheese. Mix eggs and oil and blend into zucchini mixture.
Pour into a greased pie plate. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese and bake in a 350 degree oven for 35 - 45 minutes or until a knife inserted comes out clean.
Let cool for 10 – 15 minutes before serving.

Monday, 7 August 2017

Comfrey

Comfrey
Many people are familiar with the benefits of comfrey tea as a liquid fertilizer for your garden.  Last month you could see its purplish blooms in our kitchen garden.

Native to Europe and Asia, comfrey is considered a master healer plant that can be used from everything from drawing splinters to easing backache.

I have just discovered that comfrey is also good for travel - it was believed the comfrey leaves in the shoe would ensure safety while travelling, and the leaves placed in a suitcase would prevent its loss.

Saturday, 5 August 2017

Chocolate Zucchini Cupcake Recipe

1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 3/4 cups sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup buttermilk (or sour milk)
2 1/2 cups flour
4 heaping tbsp cocoa
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp cloves
2 cups grated zucchini
1/4 cup chocolate chips
  1. Preheat oven to 325 F.
  2. Cream butter, then add oil, sugar, eggs, vanilla and buttermilk.
  3. Sift dry ingredients and add to creamed mixture. 
  4. Mix in zucchini and chocolate chips.
  5. Bake as cupcakes (24) or in 9x13" greased pan at 325 F.  Cook for about 30 minutes for cupcakes, or 45 min. for slab cake.  Cakes are done when they spring back to touch or toothpick inserted in centre comes out clean.


How the Little Field was named

How big does a vegetable plot need to be to be called a field? With the average farm size in BC being about 350 acres, the field where we...