Sunday, January 17, 2010

Rutabaga Recipes

Thanks to Kim for this rutabaga idea. She cooks and mashes potatoes, rutabagas, celery root (also known as celeriac) with garlic.

People often grate rutabagas in raw slaw with cabbage, carrots, celery root, and onion with a typical slaw dressing OR in a Waldorf type salad with cabbage, apples, raisins, and nuts like walnuts with a lemony mayonnaise dressing.

Rutabagas are great cooked with meat in a pie crust pocket - called pasties in the upper peninsula of Michigan. They are also good in gratins cooked and mashed and combined with eggs, milk, cream, nutmeg, salt, and placed in a buttered casserole and topped with bread crumbs and or cheese and baked ina preheated 350 degree oven for about a half hour.

Rutabagas are worth befriending! They are a member of the brassica (cabbage) family, and are high in vitamins A and C and calcium. The rutabaga is one of the crucifers that are believed to be effective in cancer prevention. Many people are increasing their intake of rutabagas as they decrease their consumption of potatoes. Potatoes are a member of the solanum family and can irritate arthritis symptoms. Potatoes also have faster sugar conversion,and tend to spike blood sugar levels. This is a concern to people with type 2 diabetes. WE love potatoes, but if you have arthritis or blood sugar concerns, consider eating more rutabagas.

For more detailed recipes we recommend Asparagus to Zucchini by the Madison Area Community Supported Agriculture Coalition. We usually have copies available for sale.

Nutrient Dense Food

Years ago Dr. Arden Andersen, medical doctor and agricultural expert, introduced the term nutrient dense food. The USDA analyzes the quantity of nutrients in milligrams or micrograms in 100 grams of food. Andersen's research showed that food today has 15 - 75% less nutrition than that of fifty years ago. Think about eating a carrot; wouldn't you want the best nutrition and flavor possible?

Why has the quality of our food declined? Arden Andersen cites the farming practises of the 1930's as pivotal in the decline of soil health. Once nitrates were developed During World War I, farmers began using straight nitrogen, straight phosphorus, and straight potash - NPK, and neglected other nutrients. The use of the NPK model led to measuring success by volume, not flavor or nutrition.

"Nitrates are conducive to pathogens," states Andersen, "so the same companies that have promoted the use of nitrogen are also manufacturing the pesticides to kill the organisms that are going to be promoted by using fertilizer, so it;s a great business plan. And that's exactly what it has been. It has not been science at all; it's all about business."

What's Andersen's recipe for reversing this trend? Start with the soil. Stop using straight NPK and pesticides. Add calcium and minerals to the soil, not just the standard 15 minerals, but 60 - 80. Add carbohydrates for a positive carbon load. Today's conventional crops have a negative carbon load and release significant CO2 into the atmosphere. Continued use of conventional agriculture means increased problems. Roundup use today has almost three times the active ingredients of 20 years ago per acre.

Nutrient rich soils produce dramatic results: good yields in adverse conditions and fewer pests, for example. Proponents of nutrient density strive to increase nutrients. This higher percentage of dissolved solids such as carbohydrates, sugars,and protein correlate to better flavor, better nutrition, increased shelf life, and increased resistance to pests and diseases.

So, what are the Keppers doing?
* Ken has grown in accordance with organic standards since 1976.
*In the late 80's We stopped using any organic approved pesticides.
*We have added compost, kelp, and minerals.
* In 2007 we did the trace mineral test and added the standard 15 as needed.
* In 2009 we began adding 90 minerals through use of ocean additives.

For more information check Organic Connections and

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

What do Farmers do in Winter?

Amusing, isn't it, that many people think we vacation from from September's first frost until a Memorial Day planting. What do we do in that time?

Once there is a frost we begin harvesting fall root crops for winter storage in sand in the root cellar. Ken also starts making sauerkraut and cultured vegetables - old fashioned food preservation that enhances vitamins and creates probiotics that aid in digestion. And he makes LOTS, more than we can eat alone.

There is also fall cleanup - fix it, pick it up before it is frozen down until spring.

Once inside, Ken begins cleaning seed he has saved during he growing season.

We go through the evaluation of the prior season, and plan for the next one - contact buyers, chefs, CSA members, and seek new ones. Part of this is talking with other farmers and comparing notes on their seasons as well as our season.

I catch up on reading, and I flag items for future CSA newsletters. I also do tax prep and organize seeds and order the seeds we need for the upcoming season. Ken researches and reads most evenings. He also attends conferences - four this winter season. He is most excited that he was invited to attend the national biodynamic conference in New York state as part of the Viroqua regional group.

And in late January / early February planting seeds begins with onions, leeks, and celery. Then there is weekly planting and seedling maintenance. The new season begins!

Every Animal has a Job at Keppers

Everybody has a job here. Pigs dig. They are four legged rototillers. They clear garden spaces, fence lines, and future fields. They bring rocks to the surface (we haven't trained any pigs to pick the rocks yet). They turn leaves destined to be future compost. One year we did a side by side comparison. Leaves without pigs took one year. Leaves turned by pigs looked the same as the first pile in half the time.

Geese are the lawn crew. They also act as backup to watch dogs. Our geese successfully fought off a fox. Chickens eat weed seeds and insects - especially ticks. Their bedding is one component of our compost.

Dogs manage large rodents. Jack has killed raccoons and he has even killed skunks without getting sprayed - quite an accomplishment!

Cats take care of the small rodents. Mice and rats steal grain, and they chew tarps and egg cartons. In summer they will eat garden produce. We have two cats. Smoky is the younger, outdoor recruit. He believes that people come here to pat and fuss over him. He also likes to ride on a shoulder like a parrot as one of us goes about the place.

Hazel, the older calico spends her semi - retirement close to a warm cook stove or in a sunny window. In her day, she killed weasels- a good thing when there are chickens on the farm.

As Ken says, "Each animal should be working the farm."