Blog

Welcome our Nutrition Intern Chris!

Post by UNH Nutrition and Dietetics Intern Chris G.

This past Saturday I had the opportunity to participate in my first Public Nutrition Education internship with Seacoast Eat Local. Not only did all of my food samples go within the first two hours of market, but we had an excellent turnout-over 2,500 people showing up to the Wentworth Greenhouses!

The reason I took on this internship is due to the fact that as an undergrad Nutrition major, I believe it is of utmost importance to know where your food is coming from. Whereas most products in the supermarket are processed in a factory before placement on the shelf, buying and eating locally are both excellent ways of knowing our fruits, vegetables, meat, spices, and other products are fresh and minimally processed. 

Starting off this past weekend, I picked up some red potatoes from Emery Farm on Piscataqua Road in Durham, NH. These are not only easy to make, but additionally are delicious, can be paired with just about any protein source, and through minimal processing are beneficial to our health. The skin of the potato is rich in Potassium and Vitamin C, and provides ~2 grams of fiber per potato, depending on the size. Additionally, these potatoes you may have tasted were made with olive oil, which is high in unsaturated fat-the kind that is shown to lower LDL (bad cholesterol) while raising HDL (good cholesterol). 

Here is the quick, easy process I use to make potato wedges from scratch!

1. First off, I soften the potatoes through boiling for roughly 20 minutes (vary by size).


2. Once potatoes are soft enough to poke through with a fork, strain potatoes and allow to cool, and split each into fourths. On a baking sheet, drizzle olive oil (enough to lightly cover the pan), and season to your taste! For this recipe, I used a Rosemary/Parsley/Salt blend, however you can use your favorite seasoning.



3. Finally, bake wedges in a preheated oven at 450 degrees for roughly 15-20 minutes. The result should be a delicious potato wedge that melts in your mouth!



That is about all it takes. Again, using simple ingredients on cooking such as olive oil and herbs are a great measure to take in preventing intake of harmful additives which larger-scale manufacturers may use in their processed products. Enjoy!

 

A Spotlight on Camelina Oil

Camelina oil comes from the pressing of the camelina plant, also known as false flax. The oil was first used hundreds of years ago in Northern Europe for food, lamp oil, and medicine. However, after World War II, Camelina was replaced with higher yield crops. The Camelina plant is classified as a Brassicaceae and is related to broccoli and cabbage, the smell of the oil is similar to a subtle broccoli scent. The plant grows well in cold and arid climates and the rain fall and air temperature can have drastic effects on the oil content of the plant.

When compared to other oils like olive, canola, or sunflower, Camelina oil has a healthier balance of Omega-3 to Omega-6 fatty acids. It’s generally recommended for individuals to consume more Omega-3s than Omega-6s, and over consumption of Omega-6 fatty acids has been linked to heart disease and inflammation. The average western diet contains higher levels of Omega-6 fatty acids. Omega-3 oils are commonly found in fish and flaxseed, soybean, and canola oil and include EPA, DHA, and ALA (which Camelina oil is high in). ALA, alpha-linolenic acid, has been linked to a protective effect on heart health and proper nervous system function. The higher level of omega-3 fatty acids in this oil have also been linked with improving blood lipid profiles and reducing the bad cholesterol, known as LDL (Low-Density Lipoprotein).

Camelina has a high Vitamin E content in the form of tocopherols. These tocopherols allow the shelf life of the oil to be up to 18 months and also prevent rancidity and oxidation. The oil has a high smoke point which makes it perfect for cooking. The smoke point of Camelina oil is 475 degrees Fahrenheit! Vitamin E also acts as an antioxidant and assists in preventing free radical damage. The benefits of Camelina oil are not limited to the diet. The oil can be used in skincare as a moisturizer that improves skin tone and it can be warmed and used on the scalp to reduce dandruff and keep hair moisturized. Camelina oil is also used for biodiesel and renewable jet fuel production. This oil has so many uses from cooking to jet fuel, it comes as a surprise that more people don’t know about it. Coppal House Farm in Lee, NH is a local producer of cold-pressed, non GMO Camelina oil and they can be found at the Seacoast Eat Local Farmers’ Markets this winter.

 

Sources: 1, 2, 3.

A Spotlight on Microgreens

Microgreens are the young version of a vegetable or herb that are cut just after the first leaves develop. They are not the same as sprouts, sprouts are simply germinated seeds. Sprouts are grown in water whereas microgreens are grown in soil or peat moss. Most microgreens grow in 1-2 weeks, but some can take 4-6 weeks. The taste varies depending on the variety of microgreen, but it can be said that the flavors pack a punch. You can purchase microgreens from farms including Andy’s Edible Gardens and Stout Oak Farm. Microgreens can be grown year round, making them easy to find no matter the weather, and they are very easy to grow at home.

Microgreens are great to mix into a salad to up the nutrient density, sprinkled over avocado toast, or placed on the top of crostini just to name a few ideas. My favorite variety are cilantro microgreens, they taste amazing on top of a crostini with Baba Ganoush. Microgreens have not been around for very long, they actually originated in San Francisco in the 1980’s and didn’t gain popularity until the 90’s. The first varieties grown included beet, arugula, cilantro, basil, and kale. The different types of microgreens continue to increase and there are different varieties every year. They may have a shorter shelf life than their fully grown counterparts, but the nutritional value is much higher. Microgreens are high in vitamins C, K, and E and they also contain powerful antioxidants called carotenoids and polyphenols. This makes them a perfect snack during the peak of cold and flu season. What is your favorite variety of microgreen?

A Spotlight on Pierogi

This past Saturday at the Exeter Farmers’ Market located in Exeter High School, the pierogi being sold by Jaju stood out. Believe it or not, locally produced pierogi are rare if nonexistent in Seacoast New Hampshire, a google search even shows that not many local restaurants offer them on their menu. Jaju, out of Lynn, Massachusetts is the closest producer of them and offer a variety of fillings (vegan pierogi can even be special ordered according to their website), you can purchase them from these local stores. I was extremely interested in the varieties offered by Jaju and decided to purchase the sweet potato and caramelized onion variety, yum!

That led me on a search to learn more about them, their origin, and how they are made. Pierogi are a thinly rolled dough dumpling (similar to a ravioli or gyoza) and can be filled with a variety of fillings. Pierogi can be filled with savory foods like meats, potatoes, caramelized onions, cheese or even sweet foods like berries for a tasty dessert. The only variety I have ever tried are the common frozen potato, cheese, and onion variety that come to many people’s minds when the word pierogi is spoken. The common potato and cheese pierogi that many people are familiar with are actually referred to as “ruskie” pierogi.

Pierogi are one of the national foods of Poland and the word pierogi is Slavic for the word festival. It’s actually incorrect to call them “pierogies,” because the word pierogi is already plural. The tasty dumplings first popped up in Poland around the 13th century however, recipes didn’t start to appear in literature until the 17th century. Polish immigrants first brought pierogi to the United States over 100 years ago. The largest pierogi ever created was 92 pounds, and there is a Guinness Book record for making pierogi (in 100 minutes, 1663 dumplings were created)! Pierogi also spelled pyrogy are so popular in Canada, there is even a statue located in Glendon, Alberta dedicated to the dumpling!

Nutritionally, the pierogi varies depending on the filling, but the majority of the pierogi is carbohydrate. To be honest, most people are not eating pierogi because of their health benefits, mostly because of their flavor. Pierogi can be part of a balanced diet. When preparing the dumplings they can be pan fried or boiled depending on your preference and the filling. I pan fried the sweet potato and caramelized onion pierogi in a garlic butter sauce and served with shrimp and they were extremely tasty. Pan frying gives a nice airy, yet crispy texture to the dough which is a treat to bite into. It can be both difficult and time consuming to make these delicious treats from scratch if you are not experienced in the kitchen, but here is a recipe for homemade pierogi if you want to give it a try.

Consider the Effects of Pesticides on Your Food Choices

Blog post by SEL Intern and UNH Student Samantha Lent

Pesticides are substances used to repel or kill plants and animals that are pests to the crop. There are different types of pesticides: chemical pesticides and biopesticides. According to London Emergency Pest Control, some of the most chemical pesticides include organophosphates and carbamates. Biopesticides are plant-incorporated, biochemical, or microbial pesticides. All of these are highly used in agriculture, households, and even on ourselves with bug spray. The health effects of pesticides are still being researched, but their use has been in correlation with cancer, diabetes, and neurological effects.

Los Angeles Bed Bug Exterminator have listed out some benefits of pesticides are that they help control disease organisms. Pesticides can protect our homes and health by controlling insects like termites and in extreme cases of rodent populations. Also, they protect our drinking water and medical instruments. Additionally, we as consumers gain from pesticide usage by lower costs and a wider selection of food and clothing. This is especially helpful for the various parts of the world that fight for hunger, but it should be noted that food production is also negatively affected by pesticide use. Food is often lacking in nutrients, flavor, and other qualities after prolonged pesticide use.

Chemical pesticides are the pesticides that are most harmful to our health. A short amount of time with a large amount of these chemicals can result in poisoning. This increases the risk for farmers who frequently touch and breathe these pesticides in. This is where the research is unclear, but some studies link them to cancer, diabetes, and neurological defects. Chronic and low-dose exposure to pesticides increases the risk of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. Additionally, exposure to pesticides has been correlated with increased infertility in women and developmental issues in children. You should also be aware of pests inside your house that may infect your food. Kevin Scappaticci from Platinum Bat Removal acknowledges the importance of bats to the ecosystem of Michigan as they are a natural form of pest control. The problem starts when there are bats in the attic of someone’s home. They can cause structural damage and their feces contains a fungal spore that is toxic.

When possible, it is best to reduce exposure to pesticides, especially in groups that are more susceptible, such as pregnant women and children. At local farmers’ markets and farm stands, one-on-one conversation between the consumer and farmer is the best way to learn about how food was produced. The farmer is available to answer any questions on how the food was produced, and if pesticides were used. Purchasing organic foods is another way to make sure there are no unnecessary pesticides if the farmer is not around to answer questions.

Furthermore, pesticide use is being analyzed and regulated by organizations like the U.S Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the World Health Organization. Before the EPA allows pesticides to be used on crops, it sets a maximum tolerance for each treated food and if more than that limit is being used, then the government will take action. Make sure when you buy food you are aware of how that food was produced. Purchasing food that is free of harmful pesticides is the safest for you, your family, and your farmer!

Tasty Kale Guacamole

This guacamole recipe is a great way to incorporate more greens and nutrients into the diet in the up coming colder weather. This would be a wonderful holiday party dish served with tortilla chips, and kale is in season and can be found at your local winter farmers’ market right now.

Ingredients

3 cups chopped kale

4 ripe avocados

1/2 red onion chopped

1/2 jalapeño deseeded and chopped into small pieces

1/4 cup chopped cilantro

Juice of two limes

Salt and pepper to taste

 

Directions

Wash and massage the kale and then chop 3 cups.

Cut the avocados in half from stem to base and remove the seed by tapping with a knife. An easy way to get the avocado out is to slide a spoon between the skin and flesh.

Add the kale, avocados, chopped red onion, jalapeño, cilantro and lime juice to a food processor and pulse until smooth, if you want a chunkier dip you can also just mash with a potato masher or fork to your desired consistency.

Remove from the food processor and add to a bowl.

Mix in salt and pepper and any other desired spices.

Enjoy with tortilla chips!

Taking the Farmers’ Market Experience to Schools

Guest post by Maggie Morrison, Oyster River School District Sustainability Coordinator

There is an adage that you learn the many ways to navigate being an adult in kindergarten.  With a precious dollar gripped in their fists, 5 and 6 year-olds had a chance to visit a mini indoor farmers market at Mast Way Elementary School, in Lee.   Each of the four kindergarten classes got an introduction of the ways to visit a farmer’s market and purchase vegetables, fruit and flowers grown on local farms.   Four Durham and Lee farmers gave the children an opportunity to visit tables displayed with orange pumpkins, multicolored carrots, red crisp apples, shiny green and red peppers. Farmers from Teece, Do-Be-Doo, Pinewood Yankee and Tuckaway welcomed students as each classroom took turns visiting the market.  Now in its third year, this farmers market experience marks the end of a unit of study on farming and where your food comes from. New this year was a tasting table sponsored by Seacoast Eat Local. Unusual vegetables to a 5 year-old palate were offered by Shelly Smith, SEL program coordinator as an opportunity to be brave and try something new.  Students received a coveted sticker if they tried a bite of a watermelon radish, a slice of a crunchy kohlrabi, or a pea shoot.

Weeks earlier, children experienced the first field trip of their academic years by visiting Tuckaway Farm in Lee, NH.  Students walked up the road lined with farm equipment and the last vestiges of the farms’ crops. Students eagerly helped to shuck corn and beans while learning all about the importance of these “three sisters” crops used in indigenous farming.   A horse drawn wagon ride took them to a potato field where they got a chance to dig in the dirt to discover the round yellow orb of a German Butterball potato.

Back in school, Oyster River’s Sustainability Coordinator, Maggie Morrison ask if the students were farmers, only a few hands flew up.  “You’re all farmers!” Morrison enthusiastically explained. “On your visit to Tuckaway, you did the harvest work of the farmer.” Although simple in explanation, these experiences are what kindergarten teacher, Mary Ellen Webb hopes will take root as these students grow up.   “This experience will help a young generation of students become comfortable with visiting local farmers markets. We’re hoping that students will encourage their parents to visit local markets and support local agriculture.” As the days get shorter into the winter months, if one child’s visit to a local farm and farmers’ market has a lasting memory and transforms later to an interest in farming or a lifelong habit of supporting local agriculture, it will be a visit well spent.

For questions email [email protected]