Friday, June 29, 2012

Found A Nest Amoungst the Nettles

Roaming around the many acres of Cricket Creek Farm are the guinea hens. In France, les pintades are commonly domesticated for their wonderfully flavored meat and very rich eggs. Guineas are amazing grazers and ours live entirely free-range and farrol on grass, bugs, and grubs, and they roost about 15 feet high in the maple tree overlooking the creek just south of our house. Guinea eggs, having such a rich yellow yolk and very little white, is something that I have wanted to try to some time, especially after working at Dancing Cow Farm in Prineville, Oregon where they kept a flock rotated on pasture and had a market for their eggs. However, when we were there, the guinea hens were not laying. Guineas hens have a short laying cycle and are not vigorous layers, which is why there eggs are so praised.

Last week I got to thinking a lot about their eggs and I started to become more aware of their alarm calls. All birds squawk when they retreat from their nest after they have laid an egg to ward off predators and attract attention to them instead of the nest. So, I have been listening to their squawks, and watching the hens move about the land around the creek. My awareness led me right to a nest, and I was so excited when I found it amongst the stinging nettles. The stings were worth it! I took a half dozen and looked up a recipe.


I Poached guinea eggs with lots of sauteed vegetables and butter from the farm. These eggs are so delicious.  And I have continued to enjoy them. I needed to know whether or not I wanted to raise them in the future, and I certainly will for both meat and eggs. Guinea fowl also keep tick and mosquito populations down, all the more reason to have their presence. I didn't mention how loud they are.......but it fits in well with all the pigs, cows, and chicken sounds at the farm. Its just better if they live aways away from your bedroom window. Its worth it. Yum!

And on another note, the guinea hens have continued to lay in the same nest. I was unsure if my disturbance caused them to find a new area, but I think they were okay with sharing a little. We don't have a tom on the property, so even if these girls wanted to be broody, there will be no chicks hatching at this farm. So if you ever get the chance, try a guinea egg. They are the best eggs I have ever had, and I have had chicken, duck, and guinea. I here good things about turkey eggs though, and I have not tried those yet!

Summer Beet Salad - GAPS-legal

Summer Beet Salad


This time of year brings the first harvest of root vegetables and the first harvests of basil from either your garden or your local farm. The last storage beets and onions or the first beets and onions of spring are wonderful in this recipe, which is inspired by a Russian Beet Salad. I brought it to our weekly Thursday potluck to share with the farm crew and community members that came out that week. All of the vegetables came from our CSA share from Caretaker Farm, and the basil was from my garden.

1 bunch of medium sized beets or 2 bunches of small beets, peeled and chopped
1 bunch of scallions or first spring onion, minced
1-3 garlic scapes, minced
1 large handful of fresh basil, chiffonade

For the dressing:
3 tablespoons of cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil, plus a little more for drizzling on top before serving
5 tablespoons of raw unfiltered apple cider vinegar
juice of one lemon or lime
zest of one lemon or lime
a pinch of freshly ground clove
a pinch of cayenne
1 teaspoon of freshly ground caraway
a good sprinkle of unrefined, finely ground sea salt

Once the beets are peeled and chopped, place them in a pot and fill with water until the beets are submerged. Turn on high until it reaches a boil, and then turn down and allow to remain at a steady boil until the beets are very tender when punctured with a fork. While the beets are cooking, finely chop onions and chiffonade the basil, and set aside to add to the beets. Drain beets and allow to cool. If desired, place the beets in a bowl of ice and water to cool down faster. In a separate boil mix in the remaining ingredients, adding the olive oil last and whisk until well combine. Poor the dressing over the beets, onions, and basil, and mix until well combine. Allow this to marinate at room temperature, or place in the fridge and take our an hour before serving. It is best when it marinates for several hours to bring out the flavors of all the herbs and spices. Enjoy this summer beet salad

A word about Oxalates

Beets are a wonderful nutrient-rich vegetable that is wonderful to eat this time of year, when the changing seasons brings time of renewal and cleansing. Beets are very high in iron and essential minerals. Beets build the blood, cleanse the liver, and strengthen the heart. Onions are a cure all for illness and strengthen the immune system. Consuming extra virgin olive oil, or any good fats, with mineral-rich vegetables helps your body absorb the minerals.

Preparing the beets by boiling is very beneficial to our health and is a very bio available method where the vitamins and minerals are easy to assimilate. Beets are very high in oxalates, which is an anti nutrient found in many vegetables, nuts, and seeds. Oxalates bind with calcium in the body to form calcium oxalate which deposits in the tissues. When it deposits in the tissues of our body, this can cause kidney stones and often can be the root cause to inflammation and pain in the body. Oxalates also reduce the absorption of minerals and blocks the absorption of iron. By boiling beets and draining off the water, the oxalates are removed. Beets should rarely be consumed raw because of the extremely high oxalate content. So when your remember your grandmother boiling your vegetables and beans for a long time, this is a recognition of those traditions as having a rhyme and a reason, that now aligns with what science is uncovering. For more information about how to absorb all the nutrients in your vegetables a good place to start is this link.