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AISD + JBG - REVOLUTIONIZING THE SCHOOL LUNCH, ONE CARROT AT A TIME

02/23/18 — Heydon Hatcher

**major contributions by Lindsey Bradley from AISD

Thanks to the Farm Fresh Fridays initiative by the Texas Department of Agriculture, JBG and AISD have partnered for a little over two years now. Can you believe it? It feels like just yesterday when Mike Mo, our wholesale manager, was crunching numbers and seeing if the collaboration was even feasible. Farm Fresh Fridays is a way for Texans to celebrate the role that agriculture plays in our community’s overall well-being. As a direct result, it's also redefining cafeteria food. All kids at AISD schools enjoy entrees every Friday featuring JBG’s seasonal organic produce!

Lunch scenes at AISD. Photo by Scott David Gordon.

Over 30 million students in our country rely on school meals every day, making the seemingly-humble school lunch a very important meal - and an opportunity for us as farmers. With farm-to-school efforts taking off around the country, school lunches provide an important access point to these kids, not only nourishing future generations and fostering healthy diets, but also introducing students to the food system, in general.

Acquainting some kiddos with a brussel sprout. Photo by Scott David Gordon.

AISD REVOLUTIONIZES LUNCHES

Last school year AISD introduced seasonal menus - fall, winter, spring - to offer more variety, introduce new recipes and offer seasonal produce when available. Talk about gourmet! This included Farm Fresh Fridays, in the fall they featured JBG sweet potatoes, in the winter, greens (like collards and kale) and spring, carrots. AISD is determined to expand food access, nutrition education and sustainability. AISD Executive Chef, Louis Ortiz, and his team work closely with the district dietitian to ensure that all recipes are compliant with USDA regulations. Additionally, the school system has created even stricter guidelines through a clean label initiative with the Life Time Foundation, where they committed to eliminating what the Foundation has identified as the Harmful 7, from their menus.

Perusing the school lunch options from a higher vantage point. Photo by Scott David Gordon.

Speaking of AISD Executive Chef, Louis Ortiz... he joined the district with more than 20 years experience in restaurants, as an instructor at Le Cordon Bleu Texas Culinary Academy and as a culinary trainer for H-E-B Central Market. Since joining AISD, Louis has helped evolve the cafeterias into desired dining destinations. AISD has a greater focus on cooking from scratch, has introduced more global flavors + plant-based options and offers many hands-on training opportunities for kitchen team members to enhance their culinary skills.

Chef Louis Ortiz. Photo by Scott David Gordon.

Not only does AISD utilize our veggies in their Farm Fresh Fridays, but also in their sampling events. Remember when Mike Mo and Ada ventured over to Perez Middle School for the National School Lunch Week baba ganoush tasting last October? Well, they also do a tasting event during Earth Week. They will be sampling JBG radishes districtwide during the week of April 16-20 in celebration of our fair planet Earth. The point of these samplings is to expose students to new foods and educate them on the local food system. It will be similar to the baba ganoush sampling, the only difference is they will be keeping it simple with just raw radishes, not included in a recipe.

Baba ganoush sampling. Photo by Scott David Gordon.

Ada and Mike Mo settlin' up their tabs at AISD. Photo by Scott David Gordon.

The folks at AISD have been revolutionizing the way kids eat lunch. Augmenting seasonal prepared food menus with salad bars and even a small fleet of Nacho Average Food Trucks! The original trailer opened at Anderson High School in 2015; however, this one is stationary. AISD introduced their first mobile Nacho Average Food Truck last March and will be welcoming the second mobile truck this March. These mobile trucks rotate to a different AISD high school daily, currently serving breakfast tacos in the morning and a global nacho theme menu for lunch. They have a third truck coming later on this year that will be used for events, athletics concessions, etc. The Nacho Average Food Truck was named and the wrap design created by students at Anderson High School. As for salad bars, all AISD elementary, middle and high schools offer this option daily. Elementary schools offer a modified made-to-order, while middle and high schools offer self-serve options.

Tasting at the cafeteria. Photo by Scott David Gordon.

“A Feast for the Eyes”

Not only does AISD revolutionize palates, but also thought patterns around food with fun veggie-centric activities. This past October, AISD hosted a district-wide art contest as a celebration of National Farm to School Month. The guidelines encouraged elementary school students to create artwork honoring local farmers and the use of local produce in the school cafeteria. The students were asked specifically to focus on carrots since carrots from JBG will be provided this spring during Farm Fresh Fridays. The winning artwork is to be used as promotional signage and displayed in all cafeterias throughout the district during Farm Fresh Fridays. Kind of a big deal, right? The schools received over 200 submissions - and the three winners: McBee Elementary fifth-grader Zara Lopez-Pina placed first; her brother, McBee fourth-grader Javier Lopez-Pina, placed second; and Natividad Ignacio, a Jordan Elementary fourth-grader, placed third. Congrats to these artistic kiddos! Feast your eyes, and peruse the winning artwork below.

The winning artwork!

We are thrilled to continue this partnership for another year of nourishing the burgeoning minds of our younger Austin community. It’s truly fascinating and inspiring to see how AISD is changing the way that students dine on their watch. Keep eating your veggies, folks! ‘Til next time!

WEEK 8 IN PHOTOS

02/23/18 — Heydon Hatcher

Readying for the first transplant sale weekend! Photo by Scott David Gordon.

The transplant sale is upon us! The first instalment is this Saturday, 2/24. Before you head to the farm, don't forget to check out all of this year's transplants online. We are elated to be offering a vast array of herbs, fruits, and veggies. Our menu continually ameliorates and diversifies year after year, so don't miss it!

We are finishing up spring planting and captured the process of transplanting potatoes below. Check it out and get excited about some delicious summertime spuds!

Becky at the helm. Photo by Scott David Gordon.

Farm traffic. Photo by Scott David Gordon.

Scarlet turnips. Photo by Scott David Gordon.

Transplanting spuds. Photo by Scott David Gordon.

Getting potatoes in the ground! Photo by Scott David Gordon.

Temo getting the rows ready for the transplant 'taters. Photo by Scott David Gordon.

Our transplant crew having a quick 'tater tossin' break. Photo by Scott David Gordon.

Working side by side. Photo by Scott David Gordon.

Bunched carrots. Photo by Scott David Gordon.

Carrotexture. Photo by Scott David Gordon.

Grooming the vineyard. Photo by Scott David Gordon.

Harvesting spring onions. Photo by Scott David Gordon.

Spring onions. Photo by Scott David Gordon.

Temo covering up the spuds with soil, so they can grow. Photo by Scott David Gordon.

Some of the transplant varieties. Photo by Scott David Gordon.

Seeding. Photo by Scott David Gordon.

GRAPEFRUIT GIN SOUR

02/22/18 — Heydon Hatcher

Recipe and Photos by Nadia Tamby

Quick PSA: Interested in grabbing some grapefruit with your CSA? Place a citrus bulk order here before they are gone for the season!

Over the holidays, I visited my parents (who have been living in South Africa for a couple years) and came back with an appreciation for South African gins that are infused with unique aromatics and herbs. I tried a number of gins that were distilled locally with fynbos (a general term for the many shrubs that grow in the Western and Eastern Cape regions) and while I love a good G&T, sometimes I like making something a little more involved. While I’ve been obsessed with South African gin, any gin you like will work in this recipe. I used lavender bitters to accompany the florals in my drink (protea and hibiscus in the gin, and elderflower liqueur as the sweetener), but you can play around with that depending on the gin you use.

I used this beautiful bottle of protea (a type of fynbos) and hibiscus-infused gin and I wanted to create a smooth cocktail that played off the floral notes of the gin without overpowering it. I love making egg white drinks because of the texture, but feel free to leave out the egg white if you aren’t up for it. The sweet-tart flavor of Texas grapefruit is perfect for this drink and I love the pale pink hue of it as well. Enjoy!



Ingredients:
  • 1.5 oz fresh grapefruit juice
  • 0.5 oz fresh lime juice
  • 0.5 oz St. Germain elderflower liqueur
  • 2 oz gin (your preference)
  • 1 egg white (freshest egg you can get!) – optional
The set-up

Garnish:
  • A slice of grapefruit (cut this slice before you juice it for the drink)
  • 1-2 dashes of lavender bitters (or bitters of your choosing, go with something light – not angostura bitters) - optional
Equipment:
  • Stainless Steel Cocktail shaker
  • Small Sieve
  • About 1 cup of ice for shaking the drinks
  • A kitchen towel you’re not afraid to get a little dirty
Instructions:

The egg white is optional, but your drink will look and feel completely different with it. If you are able to eat raw egg, I highly recommend it. I promise your cocktail will not taste like eggs! Since the egg is raw, I recommend the highest quality, freshest eggs you can get your hands on.

Crack your egg and separate the white from the yolk, being careful not to break the yolk into the whites, or else your drink will not have the desired smooth frothy mouthfeel you’re looking for. Drop the egg white into your cocktail shaker and remove the white stringy part of the egg white if it is in the shaker (just pinch it out with your fingers). It usually stays attached to the yolk, but just in case, you want to remove it because you certainly do not want to have that texture in your gin sour. If you aren’t able to remove it, make sure that you pour your drink through a sieve first.

Add all the other ingredients to the shaker while stirring, adding the lime juice last. If you add the lime juice first, you may “cook” your egg whites, a little like ceviche – you don’t want that.?

Close the shaker (without the ice, at first) and if you are not an experienced cocktail shaker… I suggest doing this with a kitchen towel wrapped around the shaker, and over a sink, just in case! Without the ice, the egg whites will create bigger volume and frothiness (this is why I like to do it over the sink…sometimes it leaks out a bit as the pressure in the shaker increases). Shake for about 30 seconds and then add the ice to the shaker. Shake for another minute or so very vigorously.

Pour the drink in a glass through a sieve (use a spoon to push more egg froth through the sieve if needed). I find that I need to rock the shaker back and forth a couple times to get all the liquid out. Garnish with a slice of grapefruit and add a couple drops of bitters to elevate your drink even more. If you use a dark-colored bitter, use a dropper to carefully drop the bitters onto the foam. Use a toothpick to swirl it in to create a beautiful pattern on the top.

Protea in the Cape region.

CSA BOX CONTENTS WEEK OF FEB 19TH

02/20/18 — Scott

CSA Box Contents Week of Feb 19th

Large Box
Beet, Red
Brussels Sprouts
Carrot, Orange
Carrot, Rainbow
Citrus
Greens, Collards
Greens, Dandelion
Greens, Mustard
Greens, Spinach
Herb, Parsley, Flat
Onion, Spring Yellow
Radish, Watermelon
Turnip, Rutabaga
Medium Box
Beet, Red
Brussels Greens
Carrot, Orange
Citrus
Greens, Chard, Rainbow
Greens, Kale, Curly
Herb, Parsley, Flat
Lettuce, Romaine
Onion, Spring Yellow
Turnip, Rutabaga
Small Box
Beet, Chioggia
Brussels Sprouts
Carrot, Red
Greens, Chard, Rainbow
Greens, Collards
Herb, Cilantro
Radish, Watermelon
Individual Box
Carrot, Red
Greens, Collards
Greens, Kale, Curly
Radish, Watermelon
Turnip, Rutabaga

OUR TOP 5 TRANSPLANT VARIETIES THIS SPRING!

02/16/18 — Heydon Hatcher

We’ve got the Transplant Sale on our minds as the first weekend of the three-weekend event quickly approaches (2/24!). We have a vast spread of crop varieties available to you this year, a selection that we continue to diversify over the years. Why do we offer and grow so many different varieties of crops here at JBG, you might wonder? Seed variety and seed preservation are important because of the trend to seed domesticate, or in other words, select seeds that are advantageous to humans, but simultaneously dwindle and simplify crop variety banks over the years. This practice has put us in danger for many reasons, but the main one being (in the words of J. Ray): “ Varietal decline threatens agrodiversity. We know this—the less biodiverse any system is, the greater the potential for its collapse. In shriveling the gene pool both through loss of varieties and through the industrial takeover of an evolutionary process, we strip our crops of the ability to adapt to change and we put the entire food supply at risk. The more food varieties we lose, the closer we slide to the tipping point of disaster.” Thus, seed variety/preservation is not only delicious on our plates and in our palates but integral equally to our future and agricultural survival. So, get to farming, folks, and grab some of those Ark of Taste varieties to expand our horticultural horizons and ensure a future for those at-risk crops facing extinction!

We also spend ample time poring over seed catalogs in order to select the crops most suited for our Central Texas soil and climate. This is all in an attempt to set your backyard garden aspirations up for success in the coming months. We will additionally be offering a Gardening Workshop (in conjunction with the March 3rd Transplant Sale) with farming masters, Becky and Brenton, just in case you want to brush up on some farming pro-tips. So, don't dally, grab your tickets here and expand your gardening know-how ASAP! Just in case you need some ideas for your garden, scroll down for some of our favorite varieties. 

Transplant spread. Photo by Scott David Gordon.

Here are the top five favorite varieties we’re growing this spring:



Holy Basil

Basil is always a crowd favorite, and this year we decided to cultivate 5 varieties of it. Holy Basil, otherwise known as Tulsi, hails from India and has been traditionally used as a medicinal herb. Vastly integral in Hindu worship and the Ayurvedic school of medicine, this herb has been thought to heal a gamut of ailments such as heart disease, upset stomach, asthma, and day-to-day anxiety. Dry the leaves and use it in tea, or throw the leaves into your next stir-fry for a peppery taste. This wonder herb has innate insect repellent qualities, and because of its anti-inflammatory properties, can also be used as a salve for snake and scorpion bites.

Holy Basil flowering. Photo courtesy of Eat Your Yard Jax.

Sungold Tomatoes

Tomatoes are essential to a bonafide summertime backyard garden, and this year we are offering around 18 different types. The Sungold is one of our more beloved nightshades. With its saccharine sweet taste and compact size, this is sure to be a family favorite. You don’t even need to cook these ‘maters, pop ‘em in your mouth as a snack or toss ‘em into your salad. These fruits thrive in the heat and will grow in clusters, so make sure to stake this crop. We'll be selling cages at the sale, so you don't have to worry about additional supplies!

Sungold beauties. Photo courtesy of Bonnie's Plants.

Ginkaku Melon

This brilliant yellow Korean melon is sure to turn heads at the kitchen table. With white stripes running down the length of this smooth, oblong fruit, the meat on the inside is crisp and bright white accompanied with an extremely sweet taste. This melon is perfect for dessert or a summer respite. Thriving in the sweat-soaked months of summertime, this cucurbit crop grows in a serpentine and branching manner but can also be trained to climb.

Korean melon, sliced for snacking. Photo by Scott David Gordon.

Winterbor Kale

This frilly, almost blue in hue, leafy green is not only delectable but an absolutely beautiful sight out in the fields. This kale’s dense leaves paired with a mildly sweet flavor is perfect for smoothies, salads, and wraps. Plus, it’s a rich source of vitamin K, A, C, and B6! Cold-tolerant and extremely hearty, this is sure to be the green to jumpstart your green-thumb tendencies.

Fields of kale! Photo by Scott David Gordon.

Lunchbox Pepper

This pepper is exceptionally sweet and grows in a dazzling mixture of red, yellow, or orange. Its miniature size is irresistible, and might potentially be your kiddos gateway veggie to a world of healthy snacking. Not into snacking raw vegetables? Don’t fret, these nightshades shine as a sauteed side plate or thrown on a salad for that sweet pop.

Lunchbox peppers. Photo courtesy of Johnny's Selected Seeds.

Peruse our vast menu of transplants online and come and grab your favorites on Saturday, February 24! We can’t wait.

WEEK 7 IN PHOTOS

02/16/18 — Heydon Hatcher

Montana and Becky working on the tractor. Photo by Scott David Gordon.

Another week and another batch of beds getting prepped and more fields getting planted. Our greenhouse is filling up quickly with flats of a wide array of crops for you to transplant in your own backyard garden this spring. Our annual transplant sale is taking place February 24, March 3, and March 10.

Are you an amateur farmer and feel like you could use a couple pro-tips for your burgeoning gardening hobby? Don't feel daunted, come to our farmers' workshop on March 3 at the farm. You can grab transplants after you brush up on some horticultural intel from the best in the biz - Becky and Brenton.

Getting Becky's tractor started. Photo by Scott David Gordon.

Wattering transplants. Photo by Scott David Gordon.

Becky on the tractor cruising through the fields. Photo by Scott David Gordon.

Prepping beds together, fertilizing and shaping. Photo by Scott David Gordon.

Harvesting greens. Photo by Scott David Gordon.

Transplanting spuds. Photo by Scott David Gordon.

Transplanting spuds. Photo by Scott David Gordon.

Lettuce head, sitting pretty. Photo by Scott David Gordon.

Getting transplants in the ground. Photo by Scott David Gordon.

CAESAR SALAD TWO WAYS

02/15/18 — Heydon Hatcher

Recipe and Photos by Megan Winfrey

A good Caesar salad is a true thing of beauty. I'll happily scarf down just about any Caesar salad - boxed, buffet, I'm not picky - but made with fresh, quality ingredients, that simple iconic salad becomes a work of culinary art.

Any Italian restaurant worth its salt will have a Caesar salad on the menu, which is why I will always order one at a new place. In my experience, when that Caesar salad is really really good, the rest of the meal will be too.

Surprisingly enough, making a restaurant quality caesar at home is simple. The secrets are anchovies and lots and lots of lemon. If the thought of anchovies grosses you out, I implore you to give them a try! You've certainly ingested anchovies without knowing it, as they are a key ingredient in many dressings, sauces, and soups. They bring a sharp, salty bite and an umami flavor that is both slightly fishy and earthy. Start with anchovy paste, and pretty soon you'll be eating anchovies out of the can...if you're anything like me. Also vital to the perfect caesar is fresh, crisp, organic romaine - which is where our CSA share brings it all together.



Caesar Salad Two Ways

For both salads, start by making the dressing.
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced or microplaned
  • 1 tsp. anchovy paste
  • Zest & juice of 1 whole lemon
  • 1 tsp. dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp. Worcestershire
  • 1 cup mayonnaise, preferably organic or homemade
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • Sea salt & ground black pepper
In a medium bowl, whisk together garlic, anchovy paste, lemon juice and zest, dijon, and Worcestershire. Add the mayo, cheese, salt & pepper and combine with the whisk. Adjust seasoning to taste, cover, and set aside.



FRESH:

Wash and chop the romaine and lay it out to dry, or dry with a cloth as much as possible. In a medium-large bowl, add the romaine and any add-ins you like such as grilled chicken, shrimp, steak, tofu, or croutons.

Add about 2 tbs. of Caesar dressing and toss thoroughly, so everything has an even coating of dressing.

Top with more freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano and anchovy fillets (unless that's not your bag)



GRILLED:

Prepare your grill by cleaning the grates. You don't want last weekends BBQ to taint the flavors of the delicate romaine.

Light the grill and heat to about 350 degrees.

Gather bunches of romaine, still attached at the base, and drizzle with olive oil.

Place on the grill with direct access to the grates. Keep an eye on them the whole time, rotating to get an even char on each side.

Once the romaine is slightly charred all around, pull off the grill and onto a large serving platter.

Squeeze a couple fresh lemons over the whole thing, a generous shake of sea salt, and big drizzles of the Caesar dressing. Last, top with another layer of the grated Parmigiano-Reggiano.

Toss to coat.

I like to eat this salad by grabbing the base of the romaine with my fingers and taking in the whole bunch in about two bites. Of course, you could put a few bunches on a plate and cut into it with a knife and fork, like a civilized person.

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