Friday, 18 August 2017

Beautiful gluten-free amaranth - a forbidden crop

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

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Zucchini Pie

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

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

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

Monday, 7 August 2017


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

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

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

Saturday, 5 August 2017

Chocolate Zucchini Cupcake Recipe

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

Friday, 4 August 2017

Can you guess what this is?

Chocolate Zucchini Cupcakes

If you visited the mid-week market this week, you might have been lucky enough to try one of Sharon's delicious cupcakes, a wonderful way to use up the plentiful zucchini.  Recipe to follow!

Seed collecting

Seed collecting is an important part of our work.  Here Sharon is carefully separating seeds of poppies.

Crocosmia lucifer

Crocosmia lucifer is in full bloom in the kitchen garden...

First crop of apples - Transparents

Dan Jason's Greenhouse

We were very taken by Dan Jason's main greenhouse.  In addition to the beautiful wooden curve frame, it has seating benches and a large wooden oval table in the centre, making it a perfect spot for teaching, meetings, and celebrations.

Having a larger greenhouse on the Commons would be wonderful, especially if it were to incorporate seating and a table.

Sunchokes (Helianthus tuberosus)

I f you visit the little field, you will see a big clump of sunchokes.   More commonly known as Jerusalem artichokes, they are not related ...