So here on the farm we have shared meals and take turns cooking. In the winter months, it is quieter and we take a break from making breakfasts and folks fend for themselves in the mornings.  This week we started back up with community breakfast since we are getting back into our busy season. To kick off our first week teammate Laura made an amazing local quiche with a homemade crust that was so yummy we just thought we had to share! Check out the recipe for her spinach, bacon quiche with a potato nutmeg crust below!

Spinach Bacon Quiche

Makes one 9 inch pan
Ingredients:
1/4 lb bacon
2 cups lightly packed baby spinach
4 eggs
2 cups milk
1 cup cheese
1⁄2 tsp black pepper
1 medium onion, minced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp salt
1 quiche crust
Chop the bacon into small pieces and cook in a frying pan. Add in the onions and garlic and continue to
saute. Once everything is cooked, stir in the spinach until it wilts and the water evaporates.
Beat the eggs and milk together with the salt and pepper. Add in the cheese, and the sauteed bacon
mixture.. Pour everything into the quiche crust. Bake a 325 for about an hour, or until nearly firm. Cool
for one hour before serving.
You can also make this a day ahead and either reheat or serve cold. If reheating, slice the quiche while
cool, then reheat for 10 minutes at 375.

Crispy Potato Nutmeg Quiche Crust

Makes one 9 inch pan.
Ingredients:
4 cups potatoes, shredded
1 cup all purpose flour
1 egg
1⁄2 tsp nutmeg
1⁄2 tsp salt
Rinse the shredded potatoes in water and squeeze out the starch until the water runs clear. Squeeze as
much water out of the potatoes as you can. Mix well with the other ingredients, and press into a buttered
9-inch pie pan. Bake at 400 F for 20-30 minutes, or until lightly golden. Add quiche ingredients and
bake at a lower temperature until the quiche is done.

By Laura Killingbeck

Over the years we’ve been making a variety of breads with wild yeasts.  But lately our sourdough starter hasn’t seen a lot of action.  Luckily, this Fall our friend Jen Snyder popped by the farm and gave us a fresh starter and a fresh start at crafting sourdough loaves.  After an afternoon of dough lessons, she set us loose to experiment, and since then the microbes have been thriving.

Below is the master recipe she taught us, along with some of our local variations.  We have been drying lots of local cranberries for use in recipes like these, and this year started making a little bit of acorn flour as well.  Bread recipes are fabulous carriers of all kinds of local dried fruits, nuts, and herbs.  We’ve also been inspired lately by Lu Yoder’s bicycle powered wheat grinder, which he uses to make bread  from local wheat.   

For more in-depth information about sourdough, please see the book Tartine by Elizabeth Pruiett and Chad Robertson.  The following recipe is adapted from Tartine.

Snyder Style Sourdough Master Recipe

This recipe calls for an existing sourdough starter, and it makes two loaves.

Day 1 Starter:

Ingredients:

1 tbs sourdough starter (your “mother” from the fridge)

100 g flour

100 g water

Cover with a cloth, mix well and let develop 8-12 hours at warm room temperature.  The starter is active when you can drop a small amount in water and it floats.

Day 2 Dough:

Ingredients:

200 g active starter

700 g water

1000 g flour

20 g salt

50 g water, divided

Mix the starter and 700 g water together to incorporate.  Add the flour and mix into a shaggy mass.  Its important not to add salt at this stage because it interferes with the way the gluten is forming. 

Cover with a cloth and let rest for 30 minutes.

Sprinkle the salt over the dough, and add the water.  Incorporate with your hands.  Cover and let rest 30 minutes.

Every 30 minutes for the next three hours, wet your hand and gently pull the dough up in quarter turns, and then continue to let rest.  If you have anything to add to the dough (spices, nuts, fruits, etc) do so in the beginning of this process, and fold them into the dough.  For dried nuts or dried fruits, reconsitute in water before using.

Next:

Sprinkle some rice flour and wheat flour on a board and put the dough on it.  Split it into two equal portions and let sit 20 minutes.

Fold the dough on four sides into a round package and turn the seam down.  Build surface tension by pulling the ball towards yourself from different angles in a round sphere.  Line a round colander with cloth, sprinkle rice flour over it, and put the sphere inside.  Let rest 3-4 hours.

Bake in the covered combo oven at 450 F for 20 minutes.  Uncover the combo oven and bake another 20 minutes.  (Total baking time is 40 minutes.)

Remove and cool on a wire rack.

Snyder Style Sourdough

Wheat Bread with Cranberries and Pecans

This recipe calls for an existing sourdough starter, and it makes two loaves.

Day 1 Starter:

Ingredients:

1 tbs sourdough starter (your “mother” from the fridge)

100 g flour

100 g water

Cover with a cloth, mix well and let develop 8-12 hours at warm room temperature.  The starter is active when you can drop a small amount in water and it floats.

Day 2 Dough:

Ingredients:

200 g active starter

700 g water

500 g all purpose flour

500 g whole wheat flour

20 g salt

50 g water, divided

1 cup chopped pecans, soaked in water, then drained

1 cup chopped cranberries, soaked in water, then drained

Mix the starter and 700 g water together to incorporate.  Add the flour and mix into a shaggy mass.  Its important not to add salt at this stage because it interferes with the way the gluten is forming. 

Cover with a cloth and let rest for 30 minutes.

Sprinkle the salt over the dough, and add the water.  Incorporate with your hands.  Fold in in the cransberries and pecans.  Cover and let rest 30 minutes.

Every 30 minutes for the next three hours, wet your hand and gently pull the dough up in quarter turns, and then continue to let rest.  If you have anything to add to the dough (spices, nuts, fruits, etc) do so in the beginning of this process, and fold them into the dough.  For dried nuts or dried fruits, reconsitute in water before using.

Next:

Sprinkle some rice flour and wheat flour on a board and put the dough on it.  Split it into two equal portions and let sit 20 minutes. 

Fold the dough on four sides into a round package and turn the seam down.  Build surface tension by pulling the ball towards yourself from different angles in a round sphere.  Line a round colander with cloth, sprinkle rice flour over it, and put the sphere inside.  Let rest 3-4 hours.

Bake in the covered combo oven at 450 F for 20 minutes.  Uncover the combo oven and bake another 20 minutes.  (Total baking time is 40 minutes.)

Remove and cool on a wire rack.

Snyder Style Sourdough

Acorn Wheat Bread

This recipe calls for an existing sourdough starter, and it makes two loaves.

Day 1 Starter:

Ingredients:

1 tbs sourdough starter (your “mother” from the fridge)

100 g flour

100 g water

Cover with a cloth, mix well and let develop 8-12 hours at warm room temperature.  The starter is active when you can drop a small amount in water and it floats.

Day 2 Dough:

Ingredients:

200 g active starter

700 g water

500 g  all purpose flour

450 g wheat flour

50 g acorn flour

20 g salt

50 g water, divided

Mix the starter and 700 g water together to incorporate.  Add the flour and mix into a shaggy mass.  Its important not to add salt at this stage because it interferes with the way the gluten is forming. 

Cover with a cloth and let rest for 30 minutes.

Sprinkle the salt over the dough, and add the water.  Incorporate with your hands.  Cover and let rest 30 minutes.

Every 30 minutes for the next three hours, wet your hand and gently pull the dough up in quarter turns, and then continue to let rest.  If you have anything to add to the dough (spices, nuts, fruits, etc) do so in the beginning of this process, and fold them into the dough.  For dried nuts or dried fruits, reconsitute in water before using.

Next:

Sprinkle some rice flour and wheat flour on a board and put the dough on it.  Split it into two equal portions and let sit 20 minutes.

Fold the dough on four sides into a round package and turn the seam down.  Build surface tension by pulling the ball towards yourself from different angles in a round sphere.  Line a round colander with cloth, sprinkle rice flour over it, and put the sphere inside.  Let rest 3-4 hours.

Bake in the covered combo oven at 450 F for 20 minutes.  Uncover the combo oven and bake another 20 minutes.  (Total baking time is 40 minutes.)

Remove and cool on a wire rack.

By Laura Killingbeck

Acorns have a long history as human food.  They were eaten widely by Native Americans, and are still a food source in a number of places around the world.  Acorns are used globally in breads, sweets, pastas, and acorn tofu.

This year we had an amazing acorn season. Every time I walked across the farm, I passed so many on the ground that they started to drive me NUTS! I knew that acorns were edible, but I had never eaten them before, and I didn’t know how.  I decided to to do some research, and some trials, and figure it out.

The first person I consulted was my mom, who has her own history of eating acorns.  She is an expert forager, and each year finds something new to gather and eat from the forest.  She actually had some homemade acorn flour in the freezer from a previous year, and let me start experimenting with it, before I had finished my own batches from Round the Bend.

Acorns do require significant processing before they are truly edible.  The main issue with acorns is that they contain a high quantity of tannins.  Tannins are phenolic compounds found in most plants.  In small quantities tannins are fine to consume, but in large quantities they can cause digestive upset.  Luckily tannins are water soluble, so they can be leached out.  This is why all methods of acorn processing require some form of grinding the acorns and submerging them in water—this leaches out the tannins and is the primary factor that makes acorns edible.

Acorns are a world in and of themselves.  There are many different varieties, with different flavors and characteristics.  Within varieties, there are also individual trees that are more flavorful and productive.  For a great guide to acorn varieties, I recommend the book Acorns and Eat’um by Suellen Ocean.  This book also contains a link to what I believe is the single best YouTube video ever created—if you watch it, let me know!

Basic Guide to Making Acorn Flour

  This is the method I used to make acorn flour:

  1. Gather acorns from the ground.  You want whole acorns, with no insect damage.  If they have a small sprout, that’s okay. 
  2. Rinse them well, and soak them overnight in water.  This causes them to swell.
  3. The next day, drain the acorns and roast them in a convection oven at 400 F for 30 minutes, or until the shells split.  Your goal is to dehydrate the acorns so they shrink, while simultaneously splitting the shell so its easier to open.  Roasting also makes the shell more brittle and easier to remove.
  4. Let the acorns cool, then remove the shells with your hands.  I found that after soaking and roasting, they were easy enough to just pop open in my fingers.
  5. Put the acorn meat in a blender with some water and grind it into a paste.
  6. Pour this paste into a jar, and add at least three parts water to one part acorn paste.  The more water, the better.  Store this in the fridge.
  7. As the acorn paste sits in the fridge, it will sink to the bottom of the jar.  Once a day for two to three weeks, pour the water off the top and replace it with fresh water.  This leaching process removes the tannins from the acorns.  The acorn paste is ready when it no longer tastes bitter.
  8. When the paste is ready, spread it on a sheet in a dehydrator and dehydrate it until fully dry.
  9. Crumble the dried acorn paste into a blender or spice grinder and grind into a powder.
  10. Sift the powder with a flour sifter.(See two variations of acorn flour below) 
  11. You did it!  This is acorn flour!  Use immediately, store in the fridge for up to three months, or freeze for up to a year.

We used this acorn flour to make sourdough acorn bread, as well as acorn cornbread.  The acorn flour imparted a rich, dark color, and slightly nutty flavor.  It does take time to process, but most of it can be done as a group activity.  I had a lot of fun gathering acorns with Desa and Geoff’s two-year-old daughter, Nia.

There are also many ways to make acorn processing more efficient.  Derek Christianson of Brix Bounty Farm mentioned a tool that you roll across the ground that gathers nuts inside it—perhaps this could work for acorns.  Lu Yoder, our neighbor who creates bicycle-powered farm tools, discussed the attributes of his homemade shelling and winnowing machines.  If you want to incorporate acorns into your daily diet, there are certainly tools that make this process easier.

I enjoy the flavor and color acorns provide in bread recipes, and I love the fact that acorns literally “fall from trees”.  I don’t have to prep any soil, prune, or do anything at all—the acorns just come to me, falling from the sky!  In the end, no matter what tools you use, or what recipes you make, part of the joy of eating acorns is in the magic of finding something wild and edible right under your feet.

Honey Gold A-Corn Bread

This recipe is a Round the Bend Farm original!

Makes one 9 inch pie pan.

Ingredients:

2 cups masa (fresh ground nixtamalized corn)

1 cup acorn flour

2 eggs

2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp sea salt

¼ cup honey

½ to 1 cup milk (quantity is variable based on moisture content of masa—start with ½ cup and increase from there)

¼ cup butter or lard, melted

¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 425 F
  2. Mix ingredients together until fully combined.  Batter should be only just pourable.
  3. Grease a 9 inch pie pan and pour in the batter.
  4. Bake until firm in the center.  Moisture content affects baking time—check after 20 minutes, but you may need to bake for longer.
  5. Cool before cutting.

Acorn Loaf Bread

You can also replace five to ten percent of wheat flour with acorn flour in most bread recipes.  We have been doing this with our artisan sourdough loaves.  The acorn gives the bread a rich, dark color and hint of nuttiness.

By Laura Killingbeck

There’s nothing like the smell and flavor of real corn, baked into cornbread or roasted on a skillet as a tortilla. Corn has been grown and eaten in these ways for thousands of years throughout the Americas. Unfortunately, in many areas, genetically modified, chemical-dependent corn monocultures have given this plant a dicey reputation. But older corn varieties, grown organically on small farms and cooked using traditional methods, are a beautiful expression of corn’s real and wonderful legacy in the human diet.

Many small farms are able to integrate some type of field corn into their planting rotations. This corn must be grown to maturity, dried, husked, and shucked before the corn is ready to enter the kitchen as a sack of dry corn kernels.

Once the corn is in this form, it requires further processing. At this point your two options are to grind it into flour, or nixtamalize it into a dough often referred to by its Spanish name, masa. Nixtamalization is a process of cooking the corn in an alkaline substance, usually hardwood ash or lime. This removes the pericarp (seed husk) of the kernel, which is unpalatable. Mature corn pericarps also inhibit the absorption of niacin in the human body. When people eat large quantities of mature corn without nixtamalization, they can suffer from serious nutrient deficiencies. Nixtamalization also changes corn’s consistency in a way that is essential for certain recipes like tortillas. For these reasons, we generally nixtamalize whole corn before using it as food.

Below is the wood ash nixtamalization recipe and cornbread recipe we use at Round the Bend Farm in Massachusetts. For a nixtamalization recipe using lime, as well as a traditional tortilla recipe, please see this article in the Tico Times.

Nixtamalized Corn with Wood Ash

Any wood ash used in this recipe should be hardwood, with no residues from toxic materials or construction waste. Different types of woods burn into different qualities of ash. You can research the ideal wood type growing in your area, or try what you have from your wood stove.

At Round the Bend Farm, we use a variety of hardwoods sustainably harvested from the property. We burn this wood during the winter in a wood stove, and the ash falls below the stove into a tray. When the tray is full, we remove it and pour the ash through a fine sifter into a five gallon bucket. We store this for use in nixtamalization. The alkalinity of your wood ash will vary depending on the type of wood that made the ash. This is a conservative recipe that calls for a lot of wood ash—you very well may be able to try a few batches and find that you can use less ash.

This recipe makes 15 cups of whole corn. You can reduce or increase the ingredients within their ratio as necessary.

Ingredients:

15 cups whole, dry field corn

15 cups hardwood ash, sifted

Water

Instructions:

DAY 1

  1. Rinse the corn thoroughly in water. Remove any particles, floating pieces, dirt, or corn silk.
  2. Cover with at least four inches of water and let soak 12-24 hours in a covered pot.

DAY 2

  1. Drain the corn, rinse again, and add nine liters of water. Mix in hardwood ash.
  2. Put the corn and ash water on the stove and bring to a boil.
  3. After the corn reaches a rolling boil, reduce the heat to a strong simmer and cook 30-60 minutes, until the corn is tender and skins are separating and dissolving away from the kernels. The corn should be easy to bite into, but still have a bright white point in the center. The kernels should be firm and intact with the germ and tip still present.
  4. Take the corn off the heat and let it rest for at least one hour.*
  5. Drain the corn into a sturdy metal colander and rinse well with water. You need to make sure all the ash is rinsed off of the corn—otherwise the final product will taste sharp and chalky. Rub the kernels between your hands and/or against the holes in the colander to remove all the clear kernel skins. Again, use plenty of water. Once the corn is thoroughly rinsed and cleaned, it is called nixtamal. When you grind nixtamal, it forms a dough which is often referred to as masa.

*We have tried many variations of this resting time, including letting it sit overnight, or not resting at all. Letting the corn rest in the alkaline solution after boiling is thought to further transform the starches and give the tortilla a better structure. Do what works best for you.

Uses:

Nixtamal can be used whole in soups, casseroles, salsas, and side dishes; it can be ground for tortillas, corn crusts, or made into cornbread, polenta, tamales, or atole. When stored in consistent, good quality refrigeration, whole or ground nixtamal keeps for up to a week.

Grinding Nixtamal into Masa—Tools and Scale

The simplest way to grind nixtamal into masa is with a Corona Hand Mill. This is a basic, widely available plate mill that crushes the corn into a fine paste. This works well on a small scale.   It can work fine on a larger scale if you are willing (and able to) invest the time and labor into hand grinding.

At Round the Bend Farm, we have been using an electric Fabio Leonardi Tomato Miller to grind nixtamal into masa. This machine was originally designed to process tomatoes into sauce, but it also works to pulp and separate other soft cooked fruits, vegetables, legumes, etc. For medium and large batches, this machine is much more time efficient than using the hand mill. However, it does take more effort to put together, clean, and break down than the hand mill, so for small batches (say a gallon or less of corn) the hand mill would be my first choice. For everything larger, I would use the Fabio.

I have not yet read of anyone else using this machine for nixtamal. One very, very important factor in the use of the Fabio for grinding nixtamal is that the corn MUST be cooked softer than you would normally cook it if it were to be ground in the Corona Hand Mill. Each kernel must be soft, with no white spot in the center. If it is too firm it will clog the machine, which is very difficult and time consuming to unclog. I have not personally noticed any disadvantages to “overcooking” the corn for use with the Fabio. Within the tradition and literature of corn nixtamalization, it’s often noted that proper cook time—specifically not under OR overcooking—is essential to the formation of proper dough elasticity for tortilla masa. However, this has not been a problem for us so far using this method, and we get fragrant, flexible tortillas.

There are other electric wet mills on the market, but I have not used these so I cannot comment on them here. The scale of your grinding tool is a primary consideration for realistic utilization of nixtamal.

Nixtamalization and Efficiency

So, you’ve probably noticed by now that nixtamalizing and grinding corn is a bit of work. However, when you consider the full spectrum of post-harvest processing for other grains like wheat, rye, etc, corn is really probably one of the easier grains to process on a home or community scale.

Whether you are nixtamalizing corn at home or for a restaurant or larger organization, it is essential to manage efficiency of the process. Otherwise, it will simply be too labor intensive (expensive, difficult, and/or frustrating) to include in your basic pantry. The ways to manage efficiency of nixtamalization are:

  1. Investing in the right scale of grinding equipment to fit your needs—hand or electric, large or small.
  2. Cooking and grinding the corn in large batches. You can batch up to the size that will be eaten within a week if you are refrigerating the nixtamal, and much longer if you are freezing or drying it. My own experience is with weekly refrigeration. If you do this whole process just for a single meal, you will probably give up on corn! But if you do the process once and use it for many meals, it’s worth it.
  3. Making nixtamal and masa consistently (say, once a week every week, or once a month every month) in order to build skill and rhythm with the process, as well as to most effectively incorporate corn into reliable dishes that you enjoy and look forward to.
  4. Honing your corn variety for storage, flavor, and ease of nixtamalization. Corn varieties respond to nixtamalization in very different ways—some take a short time to shed their pericarps and soften, others take hours. These differences are also affected by how the corn was stored. You ideally want to grow or source corn that responds well to nixtamalization, and keep growing and sourcing this same variety in the long term. I have found that buying dry corn from different farmers yields extremely different cooking scenarios, masa consistency, and flavor. You want to hone this to make it better and more predictable.
  5. Considering easier post-nixtamalization corn recipes. Bless the hearts of Latin American women everywhere who have long made individual tortillas and tamales from nixtamalized corn! These are amazing foods and worth making. They also take a lot of skill and practice, and are time consuming to produce post-nixtamalization. There are other traditional recipes like cornbread (or in Latin America, variations of tamal asada or pozole) that are easier to make, especially when you are starting out with nixtamalization. They are also delicious.

As always, if you live in an area with an ongoing tradition of nixtamalization and utilization of corn, go visit the folks who are doing it and check out their process! This is the best way to keep local food traditions and local plant varieties alive and thriving.

Honey Gold Cornbread Recipe

This is a recipe I developed at Round the Bend Farm, and it is our base recipe for cornbread made with nixtamalized corn. It’s easy to make and responds well to added ingredients and variations (see bottom of recipe). It is a thick, cakey cornbread.

Makes one 9-inch pie pan.

Ingredients:

3 cups masa (fresh ground nixtamalized corn)

2 eggs

2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp sea salt

¼ cup honey

½ to 1 cup milk (quantity is variable based on moisture content of masa—start with ½ cup and increase from there)

¼ cup butter or lard, melted

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 425 F
  2. Mix ingredients together until fully combined. Batter should be thick but pourable.
  3. Grease a 9-inch pie pan and pour in the batter.
  4. Bake until firm in the center. Moisture content affects baking time—check after 20 minutes, but you may need to bake for longer.
  5. Cool before cutting. Serve plain, or with melted cheese or jam.

Optional Variations (tested and approved!):

–Add ¼ tsp ground nutmeg

–Add ½ tsp dried sage

–Add 1 cup caramelized onions

–Add 2/3 cup finely chopped, cooked bacon; use the bacon fat from cooking as your lard in the recipe

–Replace 1 cup of masa with 1 cup of acorn flour

By: Nilsa Garcia-Rey

I first started gardening with my grandmother in the Bronx where she lived with my grandfather in Kingsbridge Terrace. They lived in a fine old apartment house made of fieldstone that faced the Hudson River. The building may have once been a grand stone mansion, because it also had a nice sized backyard shaded by tall trees where my grandmother had several small garden beds mostly with herbs. She also kept box turtles there that she would bring back from visiting us in “the country.”

Our family had moved from Queens to Croton-on-Hudson where we lived in a newly built house on an acre of land, 4 miles from the village in a woodsy setting on Mt. Airy. Croton was famous for its Dam, the second largest “handmade” structure in the world after the Pyramids of Egypt according to local lore, built by Italian masons in the early 20th century, that held the water supply for New York City in a large reservoir behind it. Croton was also a railroad hub, a major stop on the Penn Central Line, and my father joined the legion of mostly men that commuted to the city every day. On weekends my grandparents would visit us and sometimes we would visit them. I loved visiting them in the big city, a concrete neighorhood with a large public playground and lots of kids. Their neighborhood was in a hilly section of the Bronx and we had to climb long cement stairs to go anywhere. It was such a different world from our quiet life upstate.

My grandmother’s garden seemed haphazard to me and semi-wild, unlike the landscaped yard my parents were carving out of their hillside in Croton, butressed by retaining stone walls my father helped build on the weekends, and lots of evergreen shrubs as was the style in the 50’s. My parents weren’t interested in growing vegetables, that was the domain of first generation immigrants, but they allowed my grandparents to have a small kitchen garden in our backyard, where they grew tomatoes and peppers. Abuela didn’t have many tools, a shovel, maybe a hoe. Her hand tools were all old kitchen utensils, a large spoon and a dull carving knife. I loved helping her dig in the dirt with a spoon that I could easily hold in my small hand. I learned to plant seeds, mostly cilantro and basil and all kinds of beans. I now find it ironic that I first learned about gardening in New York City, even though I lived in a rural setting an hour away. It wasn’t until I left home that I had my first garden, during the “back to the land” years, and I never stopped gardening, whether in a backyard in Cambridge, or a rooftop in the South End of Boston or a plot in a community garden.

I now find myself on this unique and wonderful farm in South Dartmouth where I am growing herbs and flowers, mostly for medicine but also for the many pollinators that are so important to our local eco-system. I came to Round the Bend Farm as a volunteer helping Ashley grow produce, and I fell in love with the land and what they were all doing there. All of our activites are interrelated, all organic waste is composted or fed to the animals.There is great attention paid to what grows wild and naturally and we try to follow the principles of permaculture using no-till methods when possible. As the season finally begins I am excited to be planting new beds of plants I have just learned about. I will experiment and find out what grows and what doesn’t. I will discover which perennials will thrive and come back next year. I wil dig up burdock and dandelion roots to make aromatic decocotions. I will forage for St. Johns Wort in the woods behind the tiny houses. I look forward to sore muscles, a good tan and dirty fingernails. And I still have my grandmother’s spoon.

Check out the article by Laura Killingbeck about Nilsa Garcia-Rey and her amazing herb garden at Round the Bend Farm. This article was originally published in the North America Permaculture Magazine 

 

By: Benoit Azagoh-Kouadio

The springtime turn brings out one of our favorite vernal vegetables at Round the Bend Farm (RTB): Nettles!

Infamous itches, riling rashes, and bristly burns, who does not know the common “Stinging Nettle” from the many motherly admonitions and filial fears it inspires? Here at RTB, we value the lowly nettle for the princely powerhouse of nutrition and medicinal majesty it hides beneath its fearsome bite. Emerging from perennial roots, both cultivated and wild, nettle is one of the first spring herbs to pop from the field, forest and garden. High in iron, protein, potassium, silica, vitamins A, K and C, these spritely spring greens make good eating for just about everything alive — soil, plants, animals …and especially humans! Medicinally, nettles have profound effects on the human body. They work towards reducing inflammation, potentiating the immune system, improving kidney and adrenal function, and aiding the body’s ability to detox. At RTB, we like to see the kitchen as the meeting place of gastronomy and pharmacy, and in that respect nettles are one of our favorite guests.

How does one cook these little green medicine boxes in hiding? Traditionally, nettles are often prepared in the same way as spinach — washing, cooking or drying all being sufficient ways to remove the “sting” and by so render them MUCH more palatable. These two simple recipes below (which we use at the farm) add a new, adaptable and easy-to-do take on this most misunderstood herb.

Nettle Pesto

5 thick, hand-held bunches (approx.) Stinging Nettles, washed and separated from any thick or woody stalks (*) (**)

2-4 Tbs pine nuts, sunflower seeds, almonds or walnuts

1/2 cup olive oil

2 large garlic cloves

Salt, pepper or spices to taste

Instructions:

  • Place all ingredients in food processor.
  • Blend until desired paste-like consistency achieved.
  • Store short term in fridge, or freeze in plastic containers for consumption throughout the year.
  • Use it on everything!

  * Younger plants and new growth are more tender and tasty.

** Feel free to use your inspired creativity to add other early herbs to this mix. At RTB, we have an abundance of the equally virtuous chickweed, and other cool weather leafy greens such as arugula and radish tops could add a piquant blast of pungent flavor to this healthy spread. In the late summer when nettles return, we like to add the last bits of our basil plantings for a more traditional taste.

Nettle Infused Cider Vinegar

A quantity of Stinging Nettle… as much as you can fit*

Organic Unpasteurized Apple Cider Vinegar

Instructions:

  • Fill a glass vessel — at the farm we use 1 qt and 1/2 gallon wide mouth Ball canning jars — as full as you can with fresh stinging nettles [cutting or tearing them may be helpful but no need to worry about removing the stems]
  • Pour the apple cider vinegar into the jar until it reaches the top and the nettles are completely covered.
  • Fasten the lid and leave the jar on a shelf or sill to infuse for at least 1 month.
  • Decant the infused vinegar and use a gourmet touch on all your cooked dishes or as mineral-rich, fortifyingly scrumptious base for salad vinaigrettes.

* Again, feel free to experiment and add other early herbs into the mix. Is that garden tuft of chickweed calling you? Young dandelion greens in the meadow? Onion grass? The first sprigs of oregano and thyme? Why not!

By: Laura Killingbeck
Dragonfire tincture is a blend of three special medicinal herbs–turmeric, tulsi, and black pepper– that work in harmony with each other to reduce inflammation and support the immune system.  Turmeric is used widely in western medicine as well as traditional practices, to treat chronic and acute conditions.  Black pepper increases turmeric’s bioavailability exponentially.  Tulsi, also known as Holy Basil, has also been used medicinally for thousands of years, and is recognized for its ability to reduce inflammation and help the body adapt to physical and emotional stress.
I began growing turmeric and tulsi eight years as part of an organic agroforestry system at Rancho Mastatal Sustainability Education Center in Costa Rica.  I started growing turmeric because I loved its vibrant color, and tulsi and later black pepper because I felt mesmerized by their fragrance and flavors.  I loved these plants and wanted to be around them.  As the years went by, I read more about their incredible medicinal properties, and started using them in teas, salves, and other medicinal preparations.  Dragonfire tincture became one of my favorite medicinal recipes with these lovely plants.
Dragonfire tincture is a made mostly from herbs that I grow organically in Costa Rica, supplemented with herbs from other organic growers.  I hope to be able to supply all my own hand grown herbs soon for these tinctures.  I dry the herbs in a solar dehydrator and make the tincture in small batches based on standard medicinal ratios.
People take this tincture when they want extra immune support, or to reduce inflammation.  One special benefit of this type of tincture is that its very easy to use and has a longer shelf life than many other types of herbal preparations.  You can keep a bottle in your medicine cabinet and have it there when you need it.

By: Laura Killingbeck

Friendly Dragon Pepper Mixes

Most people stock spicy chile powder in the kitchen.  But what about a mild chile pepper powder?  Peppers come in an array of flavors and colors that make delicious, fragrant, powdered spice.

Red Friendly Dragon Pepper Mix

Use any sweet red peppers, like lunch box peppers or bell peppers.  You can use just one variety, or mix and match.

Wash the peppers and remove the stems and seeds.  Chop into pieces one inch or less.  Spread flat on a tray in a food dehydrator and dehydrate at about 125 F for 12 hours or until brittle.  Remove from the dehydrator and put the pieces in a spice grinder, nutrabullet, or other grinding tool.  Grind until powdered.  To get the finest texture, sift in a flour sifter.  Store the pepper powder in a glass jar.  It should retain its color, flavor, and a beguiling fragrance.

This dish is a wonderful way to get nutrient-dense beef liver into your diet. Shaun used grass-fed beef liver from Paradox Acres in this recipe. We recommend using a trusted grass-fed source to get beef liver.  Liver is loaded with a wide spectrum of vitamins, minerals, proteins and fat. It is particularly rich in the key nutrients that help keep our brains healthy too.

Ingredients –

1 small head of garlic chopped,
1 medium onion diced,
1 beef liver cut into pieces,
3 tablespoons of fresh rosemary,
1 tsp of fresh thyme (process rosemary and thyme in a food processor or ninja),
1/4 c. Dijon mustard
4 tbs beef tallow ( or butter)

Instructions – 

Heat rendered beef tallow and cook the beef liver. Add in the onion and garlic and cook until soft and herbs (add herbs when the garlic and onion are almost done). When all cooked and cooled slightly place all ingredients in a food processor and add in dijon mustard and salt & black pepper to taste. Process until smooth then put in a glass dish & place in fridge to cool & solidify up.