The Dirt

Time to Talk Turkey!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Food, food, and more food--how could we love any holiday as much as we love Thanksgiving? While we're no fan of relentless holiday music in October, we're more than happy to start planning our favorite meal of the year as early as we can. Our farmers have been planning even earlier--raising heritage and broad-breasted white turkeys on pasture, under wide blue Texas skies for months now. Katie and Colby Smith and Kay and Jim Richardson use rotational grazing methods, and the turkeys play their part, fertilizing the fields to grow rich, nutritious grasses for the next generation of animals. This method of farming requires no chemical fertilizers or pesticides, and because the animals are healthy and living in the open air, they need no antibiotics to grow and remain disease-free. And for that, we are very, very grateful. 

The time is now to reserve your bird for Thanksgiving. Visit Smith & Smith Farms and Richardson Farms at the markets or online to reserve your raised-right Texas turkey. Both farms sell out every year, so it's not too early to start planning!

And if you're looking for someone to do the cooking for you, our friends at Fresa's Chicken will be roasting up turkeys from Richardson Farms--all you have to do is serve it!

Kids: Get Your Hands Dirty!

Monday, October 27, 2014

by Bianca Bidiuc, Grow Local School Garden Manager

Gardens can answer some of kids’ biggest questions, such as “Where does my food come from?” “Is nature important?” Growing food has been proven to be an effective way to change behavior and attitude towards healthy food choices and the environment. There are demonstrated connections between growing your own food and positive attitudes towards fruits and vegetables. Get kids in the garden, and before you know it, they’ll be checking the planting calendar on their own, eating a cucumber straight from the vine, and even cooking with the food they grew themselves! School gardens, in particular, empower and inspire kids to act on their own behalf and make healthy food choices, leading to lifelong habits of eating and cooking fresh, healthy, fruits and vegetables. Using multiple senses to touch, taste, see, hear, and feel all of the plants, soil, water, and wildlife in gardens can create a rich learning experience and encourage kids to reconnect to the source of their food – and nature! 

  • Here are a few simple, fun ways to get kids involved in the garden:
  • Include them in designing the garden space as an art project
  • Give each kid a unique regular task to encourage responsibility and ownership
  • Keep a garden journal to measure, observe, and draw changes
  • Planting and getting your hands dirty is an important part of the hands-on fun
  • Observe and learn about helpful and harmful bugs
  • Taste and cook in the garden – keep kitchen utensils on hand!
  • Have a harvest party and invite parents, staff, and neighbors to celebrate
  • Learn about saving seeds to get ready for the next year’s garden!

Want to learn more about how to use school gardens effectively? Join us on Thursday, November 13, 6:30-8pm for a School Garden Leadership Training II, which will focus on how to use the school garden in the classroom. Want to hear about best practices and successful activities? Interested in tips for classroom management in the garden? Got a favorite lesson to share? Come out to a fun evening event to share ideas and be inspired by other teachers, parents, and staff who use school gardens. Food is provided, and you’ll have a chance to enter a raffle to win school garden supplies. Get more info and register here.

Root Veggies—the 2 for 1 Veggies!

Friday, October 24, 2014

by Joy Casnovsky, Program Director The Happy Kitchen/La Cocina Alegre®

Many root vegetables, such as beets, when first discovered by humans, didn’t really have any beet root at all—the leaves were just eaten. After time, humans selected for plants that yielded larger, starchier roots and –voila- today we grow beets and other root vegetables primarily for their starchy root and not necessarily their greens. However, the greens are incredibly nutritious with vitamins A, C and K, folic acid, calcium and iron present. Root vegetables that are still attached to their greens are fresher because the greens only stay fresh for a week or two once picked. That being said, root vegetables store very well when the greens are removed, hence why beets, turnips and rutabagas are popular in northern climates where the winters are harsh and food is preserved in root cellars. Here are some tips to get the most bang for your buck and veggies!

  • Whenever possible, choose root vegetables that still have their greens attached. Look for greens that are still green and intact, not yellowing.
  • If you do not plan to prepare the root vegetables as soon as you buy them/harvest them, separate the root and the greens. Wrap the greens in a moist cotton towel or paper towel, put in an open plastic bag and store in the crisper. When the towel is kept slightly moist, the greens will keep for at least a week, perhaps more if they’re extremely fresh.
  • Store the roots in a dry, cool place or in the crisper of the refrigerator.
  • The stems are also edible! They can be chopped up and cooked first, before the greens, to help them soften. While they will never be as soft as the greens, they add more texture to the dish.
  • Chop up the stems, greens, some onion and garlic. Heat olive oil in a pan and then add stems and sauté for about 4-5 minutes on medium heat. Add onions and sauté for another 3-4 minutes. Add garlic and sauté for a few minutes more, careful not to burn the garlic. Add a bit more oil or turn the heat down if too hot. Add the greens and let cook for one or two minutes, or until bright green. Most turnip and beet greens are tender, so they do not need to cook long! Serve the greens as a side dish, or throw into an omelet or frittata.

Eat Wild!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Before the advent of freezers and modern preservation techniques, one of the few ways to keep food for longer than a few days was to ferment it. Many of your favorite foods and drinks are probably fermented. Think: sourdough bread, cheese, wine, beer, mead, cider, chocolate, coffee, tea, pickles, sauerkraut, kimchi, salami, miso, tempeh, soy sauce, vinegar, yogurt, kefir, kombucha. A happy coincidence is that fermented foods are rich in probiotics, enzymes, vitamins, and minerals. Unlike pickles preserved in a vinegar brine, fermentation captures beneficial yeasts and other micro-organisms from the air, which begin work on the sugars and starches naturally found in the food, converting them to lactic acid, which then acts as a (tangy, tasty!) natural preserving agent. Because fermented foods are nutritional powerhouses, we're sharing some of our favorites, along with some ideas for enjoying them! 

Intrigued and want to learn how to brew your own probiotic, fermented beverages at home? Check out our upcoming class and think beyond kombucha!

Plain Goat Yogurt:

  • Strain in a cheesecloth-lined colander for 30 minutes and use as a sour cream replacement in dips.
  • Strain for 12-24 hours and add fresh herbs from the garden for a more cheese-like spread.
  • Use to replace some of the fat and dairy in your favorite baking recipes.

Lacto-Fermented Pickles:

  • Dill pickle juice is the secret ingredient in our favorite potato salad.
  • Sauerkraut juice can be made into beet kvass, a fermented tonic/drink (which also makes a good cocktail ingredient).
  • Roll up pickles in a veggie sushi roll or spring roll (make sure they are well-drained).


  • Make a quick tapenade with chopped olives mixed with with herbs, garlic, anchovies, lemon juice and olive oil.
  • Olives are always good in salads--we love them tossed into a marinated chickpea salad.
  • Who are we kidding, we eat them by the bowlful!

Miso Paste:

  • Make an Asian-inspired salad dressing with miso paste, fresh ginger, rice vinegar and a touch of toasted sesame oil.
  • Mix a spoonful with some mirin, fresh grated ginger and rice vinegar to make a sauce for grilled fish.
  • Stir some into tahini spread and enjoy on crackers or rice cakes.


  • Use in place of or in combination with other liquid in smoothies.
  • Use in place of buttermilk for ranch dressing.
  • Use in place of buttermilk in your favorite baking recipes.

Doggone It to Summer!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Time to break out your pup's favorite Halloween costume--SFC's Doggone It to Summer is right around the corner! This year's costumed dog parade is this Saturday, October 25th at the SFC Farmers' Market Downtown, with Austin-local celebrity judges, pooch-friendly prizes, a pet adoption, and 'Yappy' Hour for all the costumed canines to unwind over homemade treats (it's hard work looking so cute all the time!). Texas Gas Service will generously sponsor a face painter and balloon artist to add a little extra fun for the kids! So help us this year in saying goodbye to summer and hello to all the beautiful fruits, veggies, and family-fun that fall season brings to Austin every year!

Bike for Food!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Food Day inspires Americans to change their diets and our food policies. Every October 24th, thousands of events all around the country bring Americans together to celebrate and enjoy real food and to push for improved food policies. This year, as part of Food Day in Austin, the City of Austin’s Sustainable Urban Agriculture and Community Garden Program, Sustainable Food Center, and the Coalition of Austin Community Gardens are hosting a tour of community gardens on Saturday, October 25th!

This free, friendly-to-all-ages, open-house style tour provides the opportunity to visit an inspiring array of gardens throughout the Austin area where participants are growing food and growing community together. Get on your bike, in your car, or on your feet and check out this showcase of urban food-growing strategies! Enjoy visiting with gardeners, kids’ activities, and the opportunity to get your hands dirty by helping at a work day along the way: Adelphi Acre Community Garden is breaking ground on Saturday as well!

To join the bike tour, please meet at Blackshear Community Garden at 2011 E. 9th St. at 12 pm. We will bike to six community gardens (approx. 32 miles total). Route maps will be handed out on site. The bike tour will visit Blackshear Community Garden, Greater Mount Zion Baptist Church Garden, Good Soil Community Garden, Homewood Heights Community Garden, Boggy Creek Farm, and will culminate at Festival Beach Community Garden.

Click here for bike route.

Happy Anniversary Cocoa Puro!

Friday, October 17, 2014

by Tom Pederson, Owner, Cocoa Puro

October 24th is our 10 year business anniversary. I fondly remember walking up to Suzanne Santos and some volunteers with a small cooler of my chocolates under my arm, offering them a taste, and asking if I could be at the market. Suzanne said, "When can you start!", and we joined the SFC Farmers' Market soon after to begin our venture as a small family business. We sold out on our very first day at the market and that gave us the confidence to continue. Since then, I've made over 3 million Kakawa Cocoa Beans by hand, and been at the market almost every single Saturday offering many innovative chocolate items for sale. It's been very gratifying to receive the support of Austin shoppers who come to the market on Saturdays to support local goods. Thank you for all you've done to make that possible.

Grow Local’s “JUST SEEDS” Initiative

Wednesday, October 15, 2014


Grow Local is spreading the word about the mighty seed! Seeds are an integral part of our national and local food systems, as well as our cultures and traditions, and nothing is more impressive in the natural world than tiny seeds that create entire plants from almost nothing. We want you to discover the magic of the seed, why it is so important to know where your seeds come from, and how to save your seeds – so we started the JUST SEEDS initiative! No matter your experience with seeds or seed-saving, we have activities for you to become better acquainted with nature’s impressive seeds. Check out below for how to get more involved with seeds this fall.

Take our Seed Saving Basics class – Join SFC’s Grow Local team for this "Just Seeds" workshop and learn all about seed-saving for beginners. Add another layer of sustainability at your home or community garden by preserving plant diversity, developing seed stock that is resilient and better adapted to our particular climate, and sharing your seed bounty with the Austin community! This class covers the basics of seed saving including the fundamental reasons for saving seed, seed saving guidelines and processes, and easy seeds to save. Register Here:

Attend the Fall Seed Swap Potluck – Grow Local would like to invite all local farmers, home or community gardeners, or any other type of seed-lover to bring your own saved seeds, transplants, or harvest from your gardens and/or a tasty, local dish for this year's Fall Seed Swap Potluck. This will be a time to mingle with members of the seed saving community and share gardening experiences. Even if you don’t currently garden or save your own seeds, we will have a seed saving demonstration and plenty of seed saving resources to get you started! Since this seed swap potluck is the day before Halloween, be sure to bring PUMPKINS or any type of squash for jack-o-lantern carving and a seed saving demo for cucurbits. Also, feel free to dress up in your Halloween costume! The best costume will win a prize! RSVP Here:

Save Seeds from your Halloween Pumpkins – Follow the easy steps below to save pumpkin seeds from your Jack-O-Lanterns, and cook them up for a tasty treat.

1. Preheat oven to 375° F (190° C).

2. Separate any pumpkin seeds from the pumpkin flesh. The best way to do this is by hand, or by using an old (cleaned) comb that you wouldn't mind getting dirty. If it is difficult to remove those fleshy bits on the outer pumpkin shells, here are some tricks:

  • Soak the seeds in water for a few hours, and then strain the seeds in small batches into a mesh strainer. With your hands, stir the pumpkin seeds around in the mesh strainer and let the mesh catch the remaining pulp. When you slide the seeds out of the strainer, they should be pretty clean.

3. Pat seeds dry with a paper towel and spread out on a baking dish. Although no seasoning is necessary, this would be the time to season your pumpkin seeds with:

  • a little bit of curry powder, cayenne pepper, or chipotle flakes for a spicy, savory edge.
  • a little bit of cinnamon, clove, or nutmeg for a sweet treat.
  • regular old table salt or sea salt for added salty flavor.

4. Throw the pumpkin seeds in the oven for 20 minutes, or until golden and crunchy. Allow to cool before eating!

Cry No More: Plant Some Onions!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Garlic Chives
originally published in the Austin American Statesman

Our current view of onions has been shaped by their effect on our tear ducts, their supposed similarity to ogres (Shrek: “We both have layers”), and their unfortunate ability to ward off possible mates via breath odor. However, ancient Egyptians once worshipped the modest onion for its concentric rings and spherical shape symbolizing eternal life, eaten in large quantities by ancient Greek Olympians to lighten the balance of their blood, and transformed by Native Americans onions into poultices, dyes, and syrups. Quite the heroic root!

A quick glimpse of the onion’s extensive health benefits should convert us all into onion-lovers. Phytochemicals improve the ability of Vitamin C to boost the body’s immunity, and chromium assists in blood sugar regulation. They also contain quercetin, a cancer-reducing compound, as well as other heart-healthy compounds that help reduce inflammation and heal infections. The best news? Now is the time to get some onions in the ground in your garden!

Onions are either bulbing or bunching. Bunching onions are also known as green onions and are grown more for their foliage than underground bulb. Onion seeds can be planted directly into the ground throughout October, while onion starts or sets should be planted October to early November. We recommend planting from sets rather than direct seeds due to their higher success rate. Plant the bulb part of the sets 1 inch deep, with 4 to 5 inches between each plant and in rows 12 to 18 inches apart. Since onions are a root vegetable, they need to be grown in raised beds or in mounded rows at least 6 inches high. Varieties that do well in Central Texas are: Bulbing – Contessa, Grano 1015Y, Red Burgundy, Southern Belle (red), White Bermuda; Bunching/Green – Evergreen White, Green Banner.

Healthy onions require rich, well-drained soil that is covered in a layer of soft mulch. Bulbing onion stalks tend to look healthy even if under-watered. However, if the plants are too dry, they will develop stunted bulbs, so be sure to water during drought conditions; 1 inch per week is sufficient. Also be sure to cut or pull any onions that start to flower – onions are biennial plants, so this should only happen after two years, but extreme conditions can trigger bolting.

Harvest bulbing onions 100+ days after planting and bunching onions after about 65 days. When onions mature, their tops will become yellow and begin to fall off. When this occurs, you can bend the tops down to speed up the final ripening process. Loosening the soil will also encourage drying, which is necessary for successful storage. After harvesting your onions, let them cure on dry ground, being careful not to bruise the sensitive flesh, and allow them to dry for several weeks before storing. Onions should be stored at a dry, 40-50 degrees F in braids or with the stems broken off.

When cutting onions, you can reduce tearing and crying by leaving the root intact when you peel off the outer layers because the root has the highest concentration of sulphuric compounds that make you cry when cutting. Caramelized onions compliment just about anything from omelets to pizza. They are called “caramelized” onions because through the slow process of cooking, the sugars become caramelized and transform the onion slices into powerhouses of sweetness and flavor. You can make a batch and then store in the refrigerator for up to a week to have on hand to add to your dishes.

Caramelized Onions


  • 2 lbs. onions (any kind)
  • 3 Tbsp. butter or olive oil, or a mixture
  • Salt and pepper to taste


Slice onions into ¼ to 1/3 inches. (If they are not cut thinly enough, they won’t cook down fast enough and if they are too thin, they will nearly dissolve.)

Heat the butter/oil in a deep skillet or sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add the onions. Stir to coat in the butter or oil and cook. Stir every five minutes or so.

A lot of moisture will be released during the first 20 minutes or so of cooking them. After 20 minutes, lower the heat and continue cooking, stirring often, until the onions are golden. The cooking will take nearly an hour in all.

Season with salt and pepper.

Ideas for uses:

-Use as a pizza topping

-Use as a vegetable in a frittata

-Sprinkle warm caramelized onions on top of roasted vegetables

-Make a caramelized onion and cheese panini, or grilled cheese

The $20 Challenge

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Joy Cooking

by Joy Casnovsky

Is it possible to make a balanced meal for 4 for under $20? It sure is and The Happy Kitchen/La Cocina Alegre® will show you how!!

I first started off with what we already had in our pantry and then built the meal around that—canned salmon, lentils, homemade (frozen) chicken stock, and quinoa. I then augmented what I needed by purchasing the following from the SFC Farmers’ Market East: red bell peppers, eggs, onions, carrots, sweet potato and a loaf of whole wheat bread. I had the following pantry staples that I didn’t need to buy: olive oil, salt, pepper, apple cider vinegar, tomato paste, bay leaves and cloves. I also used fresh parsley from the garden.

Guess what? The total price of the meal comes out to $19.11, which is $4.78 per person. How many drive-thru meals or sit-down dinners can you have for that price!? The best part was that after I portioned out the 4 servings of the salmon patties, quinoa and lentil soup, there were leftovers! So really, this meal can feed a hungry family (providing seconds) or the leftovers can be stored for another meal, thus decreasing the per person cost of the meal that much more.

Click here to watch a video of Joy cooking this dinner!

A few notes:

  • The price is based on per oz or per unit of food; I included the price for each ingredient, not just what I had to purchase.
  • The recipe calls for celery, but to keep things seasonal, I opted to add bell pepper in its place. Also, to increase efficiency in the kitchen (and while shopping), I was able to use the carrots and bell peppers in both the salmon patties and soup.
  • I usually have homemade bread crumbs already made and in the freezer, but this time I didn’t. Hence, the whole wheat bread purchase. Homemade breadcrumbs are easily made and are a great use for stale bread, bread heels or bread that you can’t eat fast enough before it spoils.
  • The price of the meal decreases to $13 when you make your own chicken stock or vegetable broth, have a garden (free parsley and bay leaves!) and use left-over bread or crackers for crumbs.