Harvesting & Drying Medicinal Flowers via This Organic Life

Using flowers for medicinal purposes is a fun way to bring the natural world into our medicine cabinets. Flowers like echinacea, calendula, nasturtium, lavender, red clover, chamomile, and yarrow are relatively simple to grow (all you really need is some space, sun, and soil) and boast many benefits. They can be used in teas, topical creams and salves, herb-infused oils, tinctures, and for many other purposes to heal, calm, strengthen immunity, and heal many ailments naturally.

If you grow some of the flowers mentioned above - or others that possess medicinal properties – read on to learn how to harvest and dry them.

 

Harvesting

Harvesting & Drying Medicinal Flowers via This Organic Life

Harvesting flowers can be a delicate venture.  It’s best to follow these guidelines when harvesting:

  • Harvest at midday (they may begin to close up later in the evening and won’t be fully open again until midday) and on a dry day/when flowers are dry.
  • Harvest flowers just before they reach maximum bloom, before they begin to wilt and thus lose their potency.
  • Clip flowers at base, leaving no more than 1″ of the stem.
  • Collect in a paper bag or other container that will keep the flowers protected for the period that you are harvesting.
  • Get back to where you will process/dry them as soon as possible. Don’t allow flowers to bruise or wilt and be careful not to keep them in an airtight container as this will cause decay more quickly.

 

Drying

Harvesting & Drying Medicinal Flowers via This Organic Life

Dehydrator

1.) Arrange flowers on dehydrator so none of them are touching.

2.) Dehydrate at 90-100°, checking every hour or so to see how they are progressing. Depending on the amount you are drying and the size & moisture content of the flowers, it can take anywhere from 2-10 hours.  I dried these calendula flowers at about 100° overnight and then some, so it ended up being roughly 10 hours.  

Air Drying

Air drying flowers is a simple method that requires little work but more time:

1.) Spread flower heads out facedown on a dish towel, paper towel, or even an old window screen laid out so there’s airflow underneath.  

2.) Store them out of direct sunlight, in a space that is cool and well-ventilated.

3.) Rotate flower heads every so often until they’re dry – may take just a few days up to a week or so.

However you choose to dry your flowers, be sure – 100% – that they are dry, dry, dry before you store them.

 

Storage

Harvesting & Drying Medicinal Flowers via This Organic Life

Once flowers are completely dry, remove from dehydrator and store in a paper bag, mason jar, or other container of your choice.  You can store the whole head of the flower, or pluck the petals off the flower and store only the petals.  This is completely up to you! I like using the whole flower head as it all contains medicinal properties that I don’t want to lose.

Store in a cool, dark place.  Some flowers will maintain their properties longer than others, but a general rule I practice is to use them within one year of harvest.  They are similar to herbs and spices in that they can likely still be used beyond that period (if stored properly) but will lose potency and benefits. 

 


 

Harvesting & Drying Medicinal Flowers via This Organic Life #flowers #medicinal #herbs #herbal #calendula #natural #healing #health #wellness

 

Wellness Profile: Apple Cider Vinegar via This Organic Life

 

It’s likely that you’ve been hearing about the wonders of this mysterious elixir for some time now.  It’s also likely that you are slightly grossed out by the idea of drinking something whose primary descriptive word is vinegar.  

But wait!  Despite some people’s recommendations, you don’t need to down a shot of apple cider vinegar to feel its positive effects.  In fact, it’s best consumed mixed into a “cocktail” or smoothie or mixed into your diet gradually throughout the day (think: salad dressings). 

Anyhow, apple cider vinegar.  This stuff is seriously good for you.  It’s been linked to many wondrous health benefits, a few of which I will expound upon below.  But first, let’s talk more about what this cidery vinegary business is.

 

What is Apple Cider Vinegar?

Apple cider vinegar (or ACV as I’ll call it) comes about through the fermentation of apples.  Throughout this process, sugars within the apples are broken down by bacteria and yeast.  The first stage of fermentation turns these sugars into alcohol.  It is in the second stage that the alcohol becomes vinegar.  

Not all apple cider vinegars are created equal.  If you are not making your own, I recommend Bragg’s brand ACV.  Bragg’s is unfiltered, raw, and organic.  You want it unfiltered because the weird-looking particles that show up at the bottom of a bottle of unfiltered ACV are important!  They are the live cultures and enzymes that are very important for the health benefits mentioned below.  You want it raw because pasteurization kills these enzymes.  And you want it organic because non-organic apples are one of the top crops for pesticide residue.  

 

Health Benefits:

Good for Digestion

The key ingredient in raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar is apples, which are a great source of pectin.  Pectin is essential for good digestion and encourages growth of good bacteria.

 

Alkalinizes the Body 

This is important, *y’all.  You’ve maybe heard the hype about alkalinizing your body and how this is critical to health.  Well, long story short, our bodies tend to be more acidic (overly so) because of our diets high in processed foods and other inflammation-causing eats.  So for many of us, our goal is to make our bodies more alkaline, which in turn reduces inflammation, helps our digestion, and makes us healthier overall.  

Contrary to popular belief, vinegar actually helps alkalinize the body.  Vinegar is acidic outside of the body, but once in the digestive tract, it becomes alkaline (source).

*I can say this because I’m from Tennessee :)

 

Aids in Weight Loss

Regularly consuming ACV before meals can actually help manage weight.  Carol Johnston, PhD, associate director of the School of Nutrition and Health Promotion at Arizona State University and lead author of a recent study on ACV and weight loss explains, 

“Acetic acid, the main component in vinegar, may interfere with the body’s ability to digest starch. If you’re interfering with the digestion of starch, less is being broken down into calories in the bloodstream. Over time, that might cause a subtle effect on weight” (source).

 

Helps Acid Reflux 

Simply put, acid reflux is when stomach acid rises up into the esophagus and sometimes, unfortunately, it can go up into the throat or mouth.  It is estimated that anywhere between 10-20 million people in the US suffer with acid reflux (source).  If you are one of these people, or even if you aren’t but you’ve dealt with episodes of acid reflux or heartburn before, you know how debilitating it can be.  

I’m fortunately not one of these 10-20 million, but I’ve definitely had times when I’ve eaten some things that aren’t so great for me and have had intense feelings of acid reflux.  As I covered above, apple cider vinegar actually has an alkalinizing – or neutralizing – effect on the stomach, so taking some if and when you suffer acid reflux can tame the acid in your stomach.  Just a couple of teaspoons to 8 oz of water can ease the pain in no time.  

Again, this feels counterintuitive since we all associate vinegar with acid.  Trust me, if taken properly (do some more research!), in moderation and with water and food (not on a completely empty stomach and also – no shots!  I’ve heard of people taking ACV “shots” – aka a large amount at once all by itself - and this has never ended well for me) it can be quite healing for your body.

 

Mediates Candida & Yeast Infections

Candida is an overgrowth of yeast that is harmful to the body.  The natural enzymes in ACV can help mediate this overgrowth that is also connected to yeast infections, sugar cravings, inflammation, nail fungus, fatigue, and many other health problems.

 

Home & Beauty Benefits:

Cleansing Hair

When used as a conditioner for hair, ACV works wonders! Just mix a couple tablespoons in a bottle of water and rinse your hair with it at the end of your shower.  It will balance the pH of your hair, thus helping close the pores and making your hair shinier and smoother.  I’ve been using this for a while now and love the simplicity of it and how great it makes my hair feel.

 

Cleaning Spray 

With its natural antibacterial properties, apple cider vinegar makes a great cleaning solution. Mix 1 part ACV to 2 parts water in a spray bottle or other container of your choice and you can pretty much clean the whole house with it!  

This is a cheap, eco-friendly, safe, and effective way of cleaning your home.

 

Treat Acne & Cleanse Face

Simply mix 1 parts ACV to 4 parts water and apply to face, then rinse.  Taking ACV internally also helps cleanse the body and regulate digestion and other issues as discussed above, which can in itself clear up acne.  

I began using ACV in my own attempt to clear up acne.  I can’t say it was all thanks to ACV, but my acne I’d suffered with for several years that no medications could get rid of was cleared up very quickly after beginning to take ACV in conjunction with other lifestyle changes.

 

Pin it:

Wellness Profile: Apple Cider Vinegar via This Organic Life #acv #applecidervinegar #alkaline #health #wellness #naturalhealth #weightloss #remedy #realfood #eatclean #alternativemedicine

 

Do you have any other benefits of apple cider vinegar that aren’t on this list?

Share in the comments below!

 

 

Sources:

http://www.livestrong.com/article/508833-is-apple-cider-vinegar-a-probiotic/

http://www.care2.com/greenliving/10-benefits-of-a-properly-alkalized-body.html

http://www.prevention.com/weight-loss/weight-loss-tips/how-apple-cider-vinegar-could-slim-you-down

http://www.livestrong.com/article/531375-does-drinking-apple-cider-vinegar-affect-your-bodys-ph/

How to Make an Herb-Infused Oil from This Organic Life

 
Herbs are great for so many things: teas, salves, cooking, tinctures, lip balms, and adorning our homes with beautiful aromas.

In honor of my upcoming grand opening of Original Organics Herbal, my Etsy shop in which I’ll be selling handmade herbal products from organic & wildcrafted ingredients including lip balms, natural sunscreen, essential oils perfumes, and more, I’m sharing how to make an herb-infused oil to be used in such products. 

 

Where to Get Herbs

It’s surprisingly EASY to make an oil featuring your favorite herbs.  The “hard” part is having access to high-quality herbs.  Here are a few ways to come by herbs for your herb-infused oil:

Grow Them

Many herbs are actually quite simple to grow as long as you have the space. If you’re new to gardening, starting an herb garden is a fun and rewarding (and easy!) entry point into this sometimes daunting world.  Pots also work decently well but over time herbs like to be planted in the earth so they can come back year after year (if they’re perennial) and/or stretch their roots far and wide.

Wild Forage

Perhaps surprisingly to you, many herbs or plants that are healthiest and most medicinal can be found growing wildly!  If you have access to land where the owner(s) will let you forage, you can find a myriad of goodies – from red clover to raspberry leaves, dandelion to nettle – nature abounds with some of the most nutrient-dense plants around.  One option is to contact local farmers to see if they would let you forage around their property.  Some of these farmers may even have an excess of herbs like comfrey that are used to companion-plant within apple orchards and make a wonderful addition to any skincare product (and this also happens to be the herb I’m featuring in this how-to)

Purchase

When I’m not able to grow my own or forage for herbs for my products, I source them primarily from Mountain Rose Herbs.   

They have a wide variety of high-quality herbs in bulk at affordable prices.  Here’s a quick peek at some of their herbs in the “A” section:

Bulk Herbs at Mountain Rose Herbs

 

I also purchase Starwest Botanicals from Amazon.  Like Mountain Rose Herbs, Starwest Botanicals has a wonderful assortment of bulk herbs, many of which are organic and at a discounted rate.  Also, if you have Amazon Prime, you can get free 2-day shipping on their items!

 

Making an Herb-Infused Oil

There are two primary methods to making an herb-infused oil.  One is the solar method, which uses the sun to infuse the oil over time.  Another method is by heating rapidly over the stove, which takes place in a couple of hours.  The method I’m covering in this post is the solar method, because it’s just so darn easy!

 

Ingredients/Materials

How to Make an Herb-Infused Oil from This Organic Life 
32 oz glass jar (like these

Cheesecloth (like this)

Dried herbs of choice (I used comfrey for this recipe)

Extra virgin olive oil (like this)

 

Directions

How to Make an Herb-Infused Oil from This Organic Life1.) Finely grind thoroughly dried herbs (oil & water don’t mix, so be sure all moisture is out of the herbs) and fill clean jar with desired amount (see step #2 for herb:oil ratio).

 

How to Make an Herb-Infused Oil from This Organic Life

2.) Using a ratio of 1:2 (Herb:Oil), add oil to the jar, covering the herbs fully and being sure that the oil goes at least 2″ above the herbs.

 

How to Make an Herb-Infused Oil from This Organic Life

3.) Cover jar with lid tightly and place in a sunny windowsill.  Shake the jar a couple of times per day.  If the herbs soak up all the oil, simply add more.  Allow herb to infuse for 2-6 weeks, or until you notice the oil taking on the color and scent of the herb.

 

4.) Once your herb-infused oil is ready, strain herb material using a cheesecloth so only the oil remains.  Store oil in sterilized jar in a cool, dark place for up to 1 year.

 

 

How to Make an Herb-Infused Oil from This Organic Life

 

 

Cilantro Garlic Cauliflower Rice via This Organic Life

This. rice. is. great.  Okay, let me clarify something right away, though.  This will not taste like rice as we/you know it.  What makes this rice, well, rice is how we are preparing it, the texture and style it takes on, and how we decide to treat (eat) it as a food.  There, now let’s move on.  

So, as I was saying. . . this is great rice.  Part of why it is so great/lovely/delicious is that it’s cauliflower. AND IT’S RICE.  I have always sort of appreciated cauliflower for it’s white broccoli-ness (I really did have a friend that, upon seeing cauliflower for the first time, exclaimed, “I didn’t know they made white broccoli!”) but haven’t done much with it other than munching on it raw in salads or sautéed and/or roasting it for the occasional (read: every night and for leftovers, too) curry dish. 

Needless to say, when I heard you can do other things with cauliflower that involve disguising them as non-cauliflower, I was pretty excited to jump on board.  When I heard you can rice-ify cauliflower. . . well, it was a good day.  THEN, when I learned how easy it is to make, I decided to share my recipe and experience with you lovely folks.

 

Ingredients

Cilantro Garlic Cauliflower Rice via This Organic Life

1 head cauliflower

1 small bunch cilantro, diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/4 onion, diced

1 tbsp coconut oil, for sauteeing 

Salt & pepper, to taste

 

Directions

Cilantro Garlic Cauliflower Rice via This Organic Life

1.) After washing and draining cauliflower, tear into small florets and put in *food processor (half at a time for easy processing) & pulse until it looks rice-like, like this:

*Note: if you don’t have a food processor, don’t give up!  You can still make cauli rice by grating larger florets (so easier to hold/manage) of cauliflower until they look like this:

 

Cilantro Garlic Cauliflower Rice via This Organic Life

This picture shows some of my florets a bit large-ish. I pulsed the food processor a few more times to break up the pieces and create more of a small rice size.

 

Cilantro Garlic Cauliflower Rice via This Organic Life

2.) Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon (-ish; you can add more or less as you like) of coconut oil on low in sauté pan/skillet.  

Cilantro Garlic Cauliflower Rice via This Organic Life

3.) Once pan is heated, first add garlic & onion to sauté for a few minutes, then add cauliflower rice from food processor & remaining ingredients (cilantro, salt & pepper) and sauté for another 5 minutes or so until rice begins to turn a slight golden brown color.  

I happen to think the more the cilantro, the better for this recipe.  So 1 small bunch really means as much as I can handle.

And you’re done!

Feel free to eat alone or top with your favorite curry dish.  Double, triple, quadruple the recipe to your heart’s content.

Cilantro Garlic Cauliflower Rice via This Organic Life
How do you enjoy cauliflower?
Did you try this recipe? What did you think?

Share in the comments below!

 

Guide to the Best Homesteading Resources via This Organic Life

 

This guide is for homesteaders, gardeners, creators, healthy-livers, homemakers, farmers, do-it-yourselfers, sustainability enthusiast (ers), and anyone that dreams of being one of these “-ers.” 

Below you will find online resources like guides to local farms and co-ops, the best gardening books, recommended homesteading blogs, and where to shop for all your homesteading needs.

 

Online Guides/Resources

Local Harvest - find the closest organic farm, farmers market, or other suppliers of local products.

Eat Well Guide – similar to Local Harvest; search for a variety of stores, farmers, co-ops, organizations and other sustainably-minded local folk.

Better World Shopper Guide - see how some of your favorite companies & products rank in the topics of human rights, the environment, animal protection, community involvement, and social justice.  

Garden Planner – lay out your garden plan online and choose from lots of veggies, fruits, and even buildings to add in to create a visual of how your garden will look.

Vegetable Growing Guide – the Old Farmer’s Almanac shares this plant-by-plant resource of commonly-grown vegetables.  In it you will find the USDA Hardiness Zone each plant does well in, what kind of soil it likes, sun exposure, and other pertinent growing details.

Homesteader Hub - THE place for homesteaders to connect with other homesteaders, livestock breeders, feed mills, certified kitchens, and more to foster community and learning.

 

Books

General Homesteading/Self-Sufficiency/Rural Living:


Gardening/Farming:


Cooking:


Preservation & Fermentation:


Natural Building/Renewable Energy


Simple Living:

 

Shopping

Mountain Rose Herbs - For high-quality herbal supplies from teas to bulk organic herbs & spices to basically any ingredient you need to make your own natural products.

zulily - This online shopping hub may not look very homesteader-friendly at first glance.  But dig a little deeper and you’ll find deals on gardening supplies, kitchen gadgets, organic clothing & snacks, and other goods for the natural life at a fraction of the typical cost.  You may not hit the jackpot right away, but check back every couple of days and they refresh their inventory with new brands from Juil shoes to Synergy Organic Clothing to Burts Bees Baby and even Carhartt

Johnny’s – One of my favorite sources for organic seeds, Johnny’s also has some of the best farming tools – from stirrup hoes to row cover to natural pest management materials, it’s an organic farmer’s best friend.

Green Polka Dot Box - Join this buying club that gives access to healthy, non-GMO products at great deals.  It features organic food, natural body products, and even things for your pets!

Vitacost - Offers wonderful deals on overstock natural goods including supplements, shampoo, food, and essential oils.

Amazon – Amazon is actually a wonderful resource for homesteading tools – from canning supplies, to gardening tools

Craigslist - I’m pretty sure this is a well-known resource.  But in case you haven’t heard of Craigslist, it’s like an online classifieds that includes listings for local job opportunities, used items for sale,  real estate for sale or rent, and even potentially the future love of your life.  

Freecycle - Like Craigslist but everything featured is free!  People share things on here that they would otherwise put on their curb like old furniture, random car parts, etc.  There are some great finds on here depending on where you live.

 

Blogs

The Prairie Homestead

Fresh Eggs Daily

Nourished Kitchen

Faulk Farmstead

Attainable Sustainable

Homestead Honey

Untrained Housewife

Common Sense Homesteading

Voice from the Bush

Blue Yurt Farms

Five Little Homesteaders

Ever Growing Farm

Little Mountain Haven

 

Cream-15Off 3

Strawberry Rhubarb Fruit Rollups (Healthy & Homemade) via This Organic Life

Rhubarb is one of the happiest sights around a garden in spring.  It tends to be the first colorful edible that produces after the snow melt, the first sign that spring is really here, the first non-green colored goodness.  Its lovely bright pinks and tangy bursts of flavor are welcome breaks in the dreary and drab following winter.

When I think of rhubarb, I think of rhubarb crisps, cobblers, pies and other home-baked goods.  This year, though, instead of heading right for the oven, I decided to turn my sights toward my food dehydrator.

 

What else is rhubarb good for?  A healthy version of the ever-popular fruit rollup!  I’m so excited to share this recipe with you, because not only is it delicious and healthy at the same time, but it’s also incredibly easy to make with three basic ingredients: rhubarb, strawberries, and honey.

 

Strawberry Rhubarb Fruit Rollups

Strawberry Rhubarb Fruit Rollups via This Organic Life

Ingredients:

3 cups rhubarb (chopped, prior to cooking down)

2 cups strawberries

2 tablespoons honey


Directions:

Strawberry Rhubarb Fruit Rollups via This Organic Life

1.) Wash & chop rhubarb into small, even chunks

2.) Put chopped rhubarb in saucepan with enough water to cover it and heat on low for about 10 minutes, until rhubarb is softened

3.) Once rhubarb is softened, drain as much water as possible from pan.  Then let cool so it isn’t too hot to touch and strain the remainder of the water from rhubarb with a cheesecloth (this is the kind I use).  

Strawberry Rhubarb Fruit Rollups via This Organic Life

4.) With an immersion blender (I love this one), blend the rhubarb until it is soft and creamy, then add strawberries and blend until both are well combined.  Do the same with the honey until the entire mixture is blended fully.

If you have a food dehydrator:

5.) Pour onto food dehydrator (like this) and spread evenly across tray to about 1/4″ thickness.  This for me was the hard part!  I used a silicone spatula to help spread evenly.  Dehydrate at 130° for about 4 hours, or until the leather no longer feels moist to the touch and is a bit sticky and able to peel off the tray easily.

If you don’t have a food dehydrator:

5.) Pour pureed mixture onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.  Cook at 200° for about 2-3 hours.  The amount of time it takes to dehydrate will depend on how much moisture is in the puree.  If it has more moisture, it will take longer to dehydrate.  Remove from oven when the fruit leather no longer feels moist to the touch and is a bit sticky.  If it is easy to remove from the parchment paper, this is also a good sign that it’s ready.

*Important: If the leather dehydrates for too long, it will become crunchy, like fruit chips rather than leather.

Strawberry Rhubarb Fruit Rollups via This Organic Life

6.) Tear into pieces (as large or as small as you want!) and roll loosely.  (To make 8 fruit rollups, I tore the two trays of dried fruit that this recipe filled into 4 pieces each).

Enjoy stored in an air-tight container for up to a few weeks – if you can even wait that long to eat them all :)

Makes about 8 fruit rollups 

Strawberry Rhubarb Fruit Rollups via This Organic Life

 

Strawberry Rhubarb Fruit Rollups
Yields 8
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Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
4 hr
Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
4 hr
Ingredients
  1. 3 cups rhubarb (chopped, prior to cooking down)
  2. 2 cups strawberries
  3. 2 tablespoons honey
Instructions
  1. 1.) Wash & chop rhubarb into small, even chunks
  2. 2.) Put chopped rhubarb in saucepan with enough water to cover it and heat on low for about 10 minutes, until rhubarb is softened
  3. 3.) Once rhubarb is softened, drain as much water as possible from pan. Then let cool so it isn't too hot to touch and strain the remainder of the water from rhubarb with a cheesecloth (this is the kind I use).
  4. 4.) With an immersion blender (I love this one), blend the rhubarb until it is soft and creamy, then add strawberries and blend until both are well combined. Do the same with the honey until the entire mixture is blended fully.
If you have a food dehydrator
  1. 5.) Pour onto food dehydrator and spread evenly across tray to about 1/4" thickness. This for me was the hard part! I used a silicone spatula to help spread evenly. Dehydrate at 130° for about 4 hours, or until the leather no longer feels moist to the touch and is a bit sticky and able to peel off the tray easily.
If you don't have a food dehydrator
  1. 5.) Pour pureed mixture onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Cook at 200° for about 2-3 hours. The amount of time it takes to dehydrate will depend on how much moisture is in the puree. If it has more moisture, it will take longer to dehydrate. Remove from oven when the fruit leather no longer feels moist to the touch and is a bit sticky. If it is easy to remove from the parchment paper, this is also a good sign that it's ready.
  2. *Important: If the leather dehydrates for too long, it will become crunchy, like fruit chips rather than leather.
  3. 6.) Tear into pieces (as large or as small as you want!) and roll loosely. (To make 8 fruit rollups, I tore the two trays of dried fruit that this recipe filled into 4 pieces each).
  4. Enjoy stored in an air-tight container for up to a few weeks - if you can even wait that long to eat them all :)
This Organic Life http://www.thisoriginalorganiclife.com/
 

 

7 Reasons to Join a CSA via This Organic Life

Top image

What is a CSA?

CSA stands for Community-Supported Agriculture.  A CSA farm is a farm that grows produce (and perhaps fruit, herbs, flowers, and other items) for a set number of members who “subscribe” to receive a share of in-season items every week in the growing season.  Here in Minnesota, our CSAs typically start in early June and run through October.  Usually a share can feed a family of 4 the veggies they’d eat for a week (give or take), but this depends on the farm and the size of the share they offer.  It also depends on how much you eat vegetables!  

CSA members typically pay up-front for their vegetables with the understanding that they are investing in the farm as members.  This means that if something happens to a crop (like the unthinkable destruction via pests or disease), they agree that they’re in it with the farmer and usually, the farmer makes it up to them in other ways with other crops that are abundant.

 

Why Join a CSA?

1.) Eat Healthy

Assuming you’re eating the produce that comes in your CSA share, you’re giving yourself a nice dose of high-quality, nutrient dense food.  Not only is it healthy to eat your veggies, but

Marinated Kale & Veggie Salad

having a wide variety as found in CSA shares is also an important contributor to health. 

Though there’s been speculation about whether organically-grown food has a higher nutrition content than conventionally-grown food, we know that the presence of antibiotics and chemical pesticides in our food has a negative impact on human health.  Some studies have found that organic vegetables have a higher antioxidant content than their conventionally-raised counterparts (source).

 

2.) Experiment with New Foods

Kohlrabi. Mizuna. Celeriac. (And bears). Oh my!

You may get some crazy-sounding veggies that you’ve never heard of, but (at least to me) that’s part of the adventure!  How often do we go to the grocery store and pick out the same things week after week, make the same dishes, and stick to what’s familiar?  I know I can get stuck in that rut, which is exactly why I love CSAs.  You get what’s in season, and with that, you get the excitement of working with and eating foods you’ve never tried before or rarely come into contact with otherwise.  

Don’t worry, most CSAs share recipes in their weekly newsletters.  I also recommend the cookbook From Asparagus to Zucchiniwhich has recipes listed by vegetable to help with cooking farm fresh veggies!

3.) Save Money

While a CSA subscription may feel like a lot of money up front (and it is), with the average CSA costing around $400-$600 for an 18-20 week subscription, you end up only spending around $30 per week on vegetables.

Also, since your vegetables are fresher than fresh, they will often last longer than store-bought produce, leading to less waste.

There are also other countless, invaluable benefits, including the 6 other ones I’ve highlighted here :)

 

4.) Know Where Your Food Comes From

BeanOnce commonplace, knowing where our food comes from is now a novelty that can be hard to come by.  If you aren’t able to grow your own garden or simply can’t grow enough to meet your family’s needs, joining a CSA (or shopping at farmers markets!) is the next best thing.  Not only can you participate in some of the growing of this food, but you can trust and know that it’s in good hands from seed to harvest.  

Of course, this requires a bit of research on our part as consumers, and not all CSAs are created equal, but once you find one that resonates with your values and expectations, you can dine in peace.

 

5.) Support the Local Economy

This is an important one for many.  It has been found that at least twice the amount of money stays within our local communities when we buy products locally vs. not locally (source).

We can build strong local communities buy supporting local farmers, artisans, and other creators/producers that contribute to meeting our needs.  If there is an option to purchase something locally rather than a “Made in China” product, please consider the local item, even if it may cost a bit more.  The money invested locally always comes back around and is an investment not just in the company or person we’re purchasing from, but also in our own families.

 

6.) Build Community

One of my favorite perks of being a CSA member (or in my case, a CSA farmer), is the focus on community.  CSAs started so that consumers could really connect with the farm and the farmers, to really know where their food is coming from and how it’s grown.  Being a CSA member means you are literally a part of the farm.  

While some farms invite members to engage more or less than others, there are usually opportunities for connection including a harvest festival or potluck at some point throughout the season, times when you can volunteer on the farm (often in exchange for a chunk of change off your share!), and weekly newsletters that keep you connected to the happenings on the farm.

 

7.) Preserve & Store Your Own Food

Aside from the sense of productivity and accomplishment preserving our Picklesown food can give 
us, it is also a practical thing to do for health, financial, and preparedness reasons.  

Preserving excess produce from the farm when it’s in abundance is a great way to be able to enjoy things like tomatoes year-round without buying them from places like China.  

Many methods of preservation also enhance healthfulness found in foods, as fermented foods like sauerkraut and pickles are high in probiotics.

 

Do you know of other benefits of joining a CSA?  

Please share your stories & ideas in the comments below!

 

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Win a Sustainability Survival Kit from This Organic Life


I’m so excited to introduce my June giveaway in collaboration with lots of my amazing fellow homestead bloggers.

The best part about this giveaway is that you have a chance to win not only what I am giving away, but you can visit the 16 other blogs listed below to enter to win their homestead giveaway prizes as well!

By entering below, you will have the opportunity to win my Sustainability Survival Kit, which includes the following goodies:

Reusable Bamboo Travel Utensil Set: http://amzn.to/QU4ibj

Set of 5 Reusable Produce Bags: http://amzn.to/1jUw0kc

Set of 4 Stainless Steel Drinking Straws: http://amzn.to/1qLz1bq
 

Enter to Win:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Terms & Conditions:

One winner will be chosen via random.org. This giveaway ends at 11:59 PM on Monday, June 9th, 2014. This giveaway is for the 3 items included in the Sustainability Survival Kit provided by This Organic Life.  You must enter separately for a chance to win the other items from blogs participating in the Amazing Homesteading Giveaway (See below for more details).

The winner will be contacted by email and will have 48 hours to respond with his/her full name, address, and phone number. There is no purchase necessary to win. This giveaway is open to US residents only.

 homesteadgiveaway

Be sure to visit the other blogs participating in this giveaway for chances to win other awesome homestead resources and materials:

Blue Yurt Farms - Two gardening books
Eat Play Love More - Great stainless steel containers
Ever Growing Farm - Two books from Root Simple
Faulk Farmstead - Two great inspiring homestead books
Green Eggs and Goats - Two useful homestead books
Grow a Good Life - Great kitchen scale, perfect for canning
ImaginAcres - The perfect start to your herbal tea garden
The Jahner Farmstead - Canning supplies
Learning and Yearning - Amazing enrichment products for your garden
Linn Acres Farm - Two farming and preserving books
Little Big Harvest - Amazing mandoline slicer and grater
Reformation Acres - Super-handy immersion blender, your choice of color
The Toups Address - Lodge pre-seasoned grill pan, perfect for all kinds of meals
Timber Creek Farm - Pewter & sterling homesteader charm bracelet, handmade in the US
Whistle Pig Hollow - Handy stoneware grease keeper (perfect for bacon grease!)
Winterstead - Beginner’s guide to homemade holistic health & beauty

 

Good Luck!

 

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Mountain Rose Herbs

Mason Jar Blender via This Organic Life #masonjar #canningjar #thingstodowithmasonjars #makeyourown #diy


Another Amazing Thing to Do with A Mason Jar:

Mason Jar Blender via This Organic Life #masonjar #canningjar #thingstodowithmasonjars #makeyourown #diy

A few notes:
This likely won’t work with every blender.  I tested the mason jar/blender combo by putting ice & water into it and testing on low.  Once that worked, I tested it on high and then finally added the smoothie ingredients and all was well!  

 
Resources:

     

 

Mountain Rose Herbs

 

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Healthy Homemade Rosemary Garlic Crackers via This Organic Life

Crackers make the heart grow fonder . . . or something like that.  Really, crackers are one of my favorite semi-guilty pleasures.  Thanks to this healthy recipe, though, the guilt is minimal, especially because making your own crackers saves on grocery bills as well.  

This recipe combines just a few simple ingredients that many of us likely have laying around our kitchens already to make delicious rosemary garlic crackers.


 

Ingredients

Ingredients:

3 cups whole wheat flour

8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter

1 cup plain yogurt

1 tablespoon (or as much as you fancy!) dried rosemary

2 cloves garlic

1.5 teaspoon salt

steps 1

1.) Start by adding the dry ingredients – flour, rosemary, salt – to a mixing bowl and mixing (with a whisk or mixer) until well combined.

2.) Then add in the the wet ingredients – yogurt, butter at room temperature, and minced garlic – and mix once more.

3.) This is just a lovely progress picture :)

4.) Now, once the ingredients are all combined, you should have a nice stretchy dough.  At this point, shape the dough into a ball, place into a bowl, cover with a tight lid, and let rise at (warm) room temperature for about 10 hours.

steps 2

5.) After your dough rises for about 10 hours, divide it into several small portions, then roll each portion out on a flat, floured surface to about 1/8″ thickness (for heartier crackers) or 1/16″ thickness for more typical crackers.


6.) Using a pizza cutter, cut the dough into about 1″x1″ squares (or whatever size you’d like your crackers to be!) Continue this until you’ve cut all your dough into your cracker shapes.  Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 450° and prepare baking sheets by either lining them with parchment paper or applying butter to them.

7.) Using a fork (or chopstick as I’ve done here), *poke the squares with several holes (*note: this photo shows only 1 hole if you want a cute mock Cheezit look.  I suggest adding several holes, like poking with a fork 3 times).

8.) Carefully arrange your soon-to-be crackers on the baking sheets, about 1/2″ – 1″ apart.

9.) Brush a bit of melted butter to the tops of your cracker squares.

10.) (not pictured) Bake for about 8 minutes, or until crackers are a slight goldish-brown color around the edges.  Let cool, remove gently from pan, and store in airtight container for up to a couple of weeks. Most importantly . . .

Enjoy! Healthy Homemade Rosemary Garlic Crackers via This Organic Life

 

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