They’re specifically designed to taste better.
Last October we started noticing these itty bitty honeynut squash popping up at our local Trader Joe's and in Blue Apron boxes. The super sweet, handheld butternut squash was the brainchild of Chef Dan Barber of Blue Hill and Professor Michael Mazourek of Cornell University.
After some bumps, rewrites, and testing, plus a collaboration with seedsman Matthew Goldfarb, the seed company Row 7 was born.
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The company was created by both chefs and vegetable breeders collaborating to create organic and non GMO seeds that produce better tasting veggies.
Instead of just making produce that is pretty looking or transportable, or that will keep for a while (what grocery stores need) They are working to make vegetables that are more flavorful, sustainable, and healthy.
Think potatoes so creamy you can skip the butter and squash so sweet you’ll never need sugar, plus the health benefit of double the beta-carotene.
"Good flavor and changing the food system go hand in hand," Barber told Food & Wine. "When you select for flavor from the very beginning, you’re also selecting for qualities like nutrition. And you’re selecting for soil health, too, because you’re seeking out varieties that thrive under organic conditions — the systems that produce the most delicious food. It turns out being greedy for good food is a pretty good way to improve our diets and our landscapes."
The seed collection includes seven new varieties of upgraded veggie favorites. All of the seeds can be ordered directly on the website and ship to the United States and Canada, excluding the potatoes which won't ship until April 1 within the United States.
Three varieties of squash are available, all somewhat inspired by the original honeynut. Robin’s Koginut Squash ($4.95) is the largest of three, ripening on the vine from green to bronze like a tomato would. The squash becomes sweet, smooth, and can easily be stored.
The 898 Squash ($4.95) is the most similar to the original honeynut, boasting similar concentrated flavors and high amounts of beta-carotene. These seeds produce an upgraded version that lasts longer, and is even tinier.
The other veggie varieties include the Habanada Pepper ($3.50) a habanero lookalike with all the flowery flavor, without any of the heat. We expect them to be delicious in our Habanero-Apricot Chicken Sandwich.
Row 7 also released seeds for the Upstate Abundance Potato ($9.95), which is advertised as a potato so creamy, nutty, and buttery, you won’t even need the butter and The Badger Flame Beet ($3.50), all the flavor and color of a beet without the earthiness. The last seed available is the 7028 Cucumber ($3.50) which is more disease resistant than the average ‘cuce and holds a much stronger flavor.
Our in-house gardening expert, Community Manager for the Cooking Light Diet Matthew Moore, says, “If you're someone who uses these specific veggies regularly in your kitchen, it's a good deal. If you're an experienced gardener and know what you're doing, your money will be well-spent.” Moore adds that squash and potatoes should come back yearly, and you can use the technique of overwintering to ensure your peppers will last you year after year.
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At Heritage Harvest Seed, we specialize in rare & endangered heirloom vegetable, flower,herb and ancient grain seed. Our main goal is preserving these time honoured cherished heirlooms for all to enjoy.
Heirloom Seeds, also called Heritage Seeds, are open pollinated varieties that are usually at least 50 years old. Heirloom seeds have much more genetic diversity than modern varieties and are well known for exceptional taste, aroma and higher nutrient content.
2021 Seed Catalogs & Seed Suppliers
One of the most popular garden seed catalogs is Park Seed. They always have a great selection of both flower and vegetable seeds, and some great herbs as well. Prices are affordable, and seed packets have plenty of seeds. Seed is always fresh, and we get good to excellent germination rates from them. Shipping is fast, usually just a couple of days from order to in my mailbox! Highly recommended. They also offer some live plants as well.
Burpee has always had one of the most colorful catalogs, and a wide selection of seeds. They are especially good at their vegetable selections, so all you veggie gardeners, take note! Their new varieties are the ones to beat each year! Besides Burpee’s seeds, they also offer plants and garden supplies. Burpee is an all around great company!
Annie’s has over 600 varieties of Non-GMO, organic heirloom seeds. They carry both flower and vegetable seeds, and have fast shipping if you are anxious to get started! We are big believers these days in organic foods, and we love anything that carries a history with it.
As recommended by a reader, this company needs to be added to our list! Not only do they have an extensive seed catalog, they have lots of tips and resources there as well. Johnny has a longstanding reputation as a quality company in the gardening community! Oh, and it’s an employee owned company!
Pinetree Garden Seeds was one of the first garden seed catalogs I ever used. They specialize in smaller packets for the average home gardener, at smaller prices. Most of us will never need the hundreds of seeds in the average seed packet, so why pay for it? They have a good selection, fast shipping and good customer service.
Renees Garden has grown into one of the most trusted suppliers of seeds for organic and heirloom varieties… So if you crave a little history with your salad, this is the spot for you!
If you grow flowers and want antique varieties your grandmother grew, this is the place. I love the idea of nostalgia in the garden…so did Thomas Jefferson, one of the most eminent gardeners in our country’s history. This is one of our favorite garden seed catalogs!
Seed savers is a non profit company that is a wonderful source of information on heirloom and open pollinated seed, as well as one of the top suppliers for such seeds. Not only does the free catalog list all their seeds, their sites educates us on why it is important to save heirloom varieties. This is a time honored company and trusted company worth looking into if you wish to preserve our heritage plants!
Going organic in the New Year? Seeds of Change is a one of the best seed catalogs for your veggie garden. Great selection of 100% certified organic seeds.
Fedco is a seed cooperative, meaning it is owned by gardeners and employees, not an individual. It also happens to specialize in cold hardy seeds… So all of you who live in the Northeast, (or a cold climate like it) here is your resource!
This is a family owned business that has a stellar reputation for quality and customer service. They do not sell any seed that has been genetically modified, and they specialize in fine and rare seeds, herbs and goods for the gardener cook. Love their amazing selection!
Our last selection is a specialty seed agent in the U.S. for the oldest family owned Italian seed company. They sell gourmet vegetable seed for those who want authentic Italian cuisine. They have over 500 varieties, many of which are certified organic. And best of all, they have recipes for their vegetables too! This is a great choice for any gardener looking to “spice it up” a bit this year.
Order some catalogs today, or visit their online catalogs for faster service, and start dreaming of your spring garden!
Where to Buy Plants Online
A great source for top quality gardening plants, especially bulbs, is Dutch Gardens. They’ve been around for ages!
Burpee also has a large selection of plants, from vegetable & herbs to perennials & flowers.
If you want to order top quality, affordable perennials and shrubs, I highly recommend Bluestone Perennials. I have ordered from them again and again, and never been disappointed. Check their internet specials often!
White Flower Farms has top of the line plants for decent prices, and partners with the like of Family Circle and BHG.
And believe it or not, you can get some decent plants, bulbs & seeds from Amazon!
Looking for indoor plants? Three of our favorite sources are The Sill, Urban Stems and Bloomscape.
Where to Buy Gardening Supplies
If you are in need of any gardening tools or supplies, (seed starting kits, grow lights, greenhouse accessories, garden tools, even fertilizers!) we’ve put together a few lists on Amazon:
And again, Burpee has a huge selection of gardening supplies.
Be sure and check out our post on Top Garden Tools!
We hope you enjoyed our list of our favorite and what we think are the best 2021 garden seed catalogs! We think you may also love our post on 18 Awesome DIY Greenhouse Plans or Small Storage Shed Ideas & Projects on our sister site, OhMeOhMy!
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Since 1975, we have grown, saved, and shared heirloom seeds and led a movement to protect biodiversity and preserve heirloom varieties. At the heart of our organization is a seed bank that houses a collection of 20,000+ rare, open-pollinated varieties. With gardeners like you, we can get these seeds where they belong—in gardens and on tables everywhere, for generations to come.
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Gardeners of all skill levels enjoy trying new crops and varieties, and many look to mail-order seed companies to add to the adventure. “Nichols Garden Nursery always has something new and interesting, plus they continue to carry my old favorites,” said a veteran gardener from the Southwest. A Mid-Atlantic gardener noted, “The family warmth of Nichols shows in the care they take with each order, and they have taken a stand against treated and GMO seed.” A gardener from the Midwest with more than 20 years of experience summed it up this way: “When I’m looking for old-world heirlooms or just plain fun, Nichols Garden Nursery is my favorite.”
Those in search of undiscovered garden pleasures often find them in packets from Renee’s Garden, which is also a valued source for garden-worthy annual flowers. “The Renee’s Garden catalog introduced me to favorite new crops, including ‘Trombetta’ squash and ‘Garden Babies’ lettuce,” said an experienced gardener from the Southwest. A Midwestern gardener with 20 years of experience praised Renee’s “combo packs” that include three varieties of lettuce, squash, tomato or pepper.
Unusual seeds, with nate kleinman of experimental farm network
P ARSLEY THAT WAS BRED not for its leaves, but as a root crop. Or a winter squash (above) with vivid green flesh, instead of orange. And perennial onions called potato onions that multiply. These are just a few of the wonders of genetic diversity I’ve been poring over in the new 2021 listings from the nonprofit seed cooperative called Experimental Farm Network, whose founder is here today to officially kick off seed-shopping season with me.
Last year, during catalog season, I was introduced to Nate Kleinman, who’s co-founder of Experimental Farm Network, a non-profit cooperative of growers, whose mission includes the core belief that agriculture can and should be used to help build a better world. I asked Nate back to my public radio show and podcast to widen our palette of possibilities to try this year from seed. Besides unusual varieties you may wish to make room for, he also suggested some other lesser-known sources whose catalogs warrant a browse.
Read along as you listen to the January 11, 2021 edition of my public-radio show and podcast using the player below. You can subscribe to all future editions on Apple Podcasts (iTunes) or Spotify or Stitcher (and browse my archive of podcasts here).
Seed shopping, with nate kleinman
Margaret Roach: Hi, Nate.
Nate Kleinman: Hello, Margaret. Happy to be here.
Margaret: Yeah, so we’ll jump right in [laughter]. To give people the history of Experimental Farm Network, I’ll share the link to our chat last year, so they can dig a little deeper in the transcript of that show, so we don’t repeat ourselves. But very briefly, it’s more than a seed catalog really it’s much more than a seed catalog. So what’s the quick elevator pitch on what you do?
Nate: We started in 2013, and our purpose is to facilitate collaboration on sustainable-ag research, and especially plant breeding. We are really focused on developing perennial staple crops to help with fighting climate change. Things like perennial grains, perennial oil seeds, perennial vegetables—and the seed company side is what funds our work. We don’t really reach out and seek grants and much in the way of donations. We’re really focused on being a sustainable, non-profit cooperative through seed sales.
We really rely on, exclusively on, selling seeds, and we do a number of other projects as well. We work on rematriation projects, returning seeds to the people from whom they came originally. We do quite a bit of food justice work, and at the beginning of the pandemic, we started an organization called the Cooperative Gardens Commission, which worked all of last year to provide free seeds to folks and to help facilitate resource sharing, to get people the resources they need to grow food themselves.
That continues. The collective that that is running Cooperative Gardens Commission is still going. We just released our 2020 report, a 44-page document on our website, Coop Gardens dot com. [Graphic below with seed donors shouted out.] EFN just released started our seed catalog the other day.
Margaret: Not that you’re busy or anything [laughter]. We’ll give the links to all of that, all of those different things, as I said.
I know I shouldn’t have in the introduction, probably even have mentioned that green-fleshed winter squash, because I think it’s already sold out. [Laughter.] But when I saw you post a photo of it on Instagram a while back, split in two, and there it was, and kind of looked like a butternut, but it was green inside, and I thought, what in the world? I think it hails from Guatemala or something, but it just spoke to me about, and that’s why I got back in touch with you. It just spoke to me about all these oddities and wonders of genetics and that you have these growers, breeders, selectors, curators, people caring for all those genetics. Tell us about some of the other wonders of the world that are in the catalog this year.
Nate: Thank you. We’re very excited about that one. We really just wanted to get it out there, and I can’t say I expected it to sell out in the first day. I knew it would be popular, but that exceeded all my expectations, and it is a truly beautiful, a beautiful squash.
This year, we released I think 146 things that we had never had in the catalog before. Some of them nobody has had in any catalog before, so we’re really excited about that. We have quite a few in the grains category this year, including a number of upland rices, or lowland rice that will grow in dry areas and in Northern areas.
We have a rice from Poland, another couple from Japan, one from Russia. We’re just thrilled to be offering these, because rice is really a great crop, and it’s actually something that homesteaders can grow on a relatively small scale and still produce a lot of calories themselves. [Below, an upland rice in the field.]
We’re very excited about some landraces and breeding populations, things that a lot of other seed companies are not going to sell because they’re not predictable. They’re not going to be uniform, but the diversity that’s in those varieties is critical to food security in the future. With the changing climate, we need to really double down on adapting as many crops as we can to our changing climate.
We have things like some beet mixes with a lot of diversity in there, including one that is a perennial leaf beet mixed population that came originally from a breeder in Ottawa, Ontario. We are very excited about offering some horseradish seed for the first time. That’s something that’s really pretty special. [Laughter.] Most people only grow horseradish from roots, and Luther Burbank very famously offered $1,000 to anyone who could provide him an ounce of horseradish seed, because he knew nobody would ever do it.
Margaret: I know. I was going to say, Nate, I think I’ve had my horseradish like 30 years, and I don’t even think I know what its seed would look like. It flowers every year, but do you know what I mean? I don’t even know its seed.
Nate: Exactly. They just, they produce very little seed, but once you get a few plants, once you get a few seeds, then you grow some from seed, the plant is more inclined to produce seed in the next generation. We were pretty amazed when we heard about this story and it’s just, it’s really quite awesome.
Actually, that’s another one that’s sold out really fast, but we’re going to have more of that next year, we hope. One thing that’s pretty cool is that somebody who manages the garden at the Luther Burbank House in Santa Rosa, California, was one of the people who put it in order on the first day for some of that horseradish seed, kind of taking it full circle.
Margaret: You have like a pink celery. You have a poblano pepper that’s been bred and selected for years by, I believe, a grower in Zone 3, Colorado, but it’s a poblano pepper. I think you call it an Alpine Poblano [laughter], speaking of terms that don’t really go together. I mean, all of these things, again-
Nate: That is a grower, Casey Piscura [of Wild Mountain Seeds] in Colorado, and they are growing some amazing things, doing some really fantastic breeding work. Peppers and just tomatoes, just some really beautiful things that we’re just thrilled to have in the catalog.
Margaret: There’s a huckleberry originally from Africa [below] that’s grown as a leaf vegetable. I mean, who knew, right?
Nate: Exactly. I’m super-excited about that one. A friend of mine is a farmer from Eritrea in Maryland, and she grows this as a vegetable. She grows a number of African crops primarily for people who can’t find these vegetables, but they’re culturally important and beloved. One of them is this Njama Njama, it’s called, and it is a garden huckleberry, but it is a beautiful leaf crop.
It produces tons of leaves and tons of berries, too, which do have uses themselves, and there’s so much diversity in that population. She’s gotten seeds from a number of different sources and pooled them all together. We think that there’s breeders out there who are going to have a lot of fun selecting from that population too, and it’s really a beautiful crop. These dark, dark purple berries. We found a few out in the field that make green berries as well, that ripen green.
There’s so many, like all of the diversity that exists in tomatoes, there’s a lot of that in some of these wilder species, but this has been domesticated and grown as a crop in Africa for who knows how many years.
Margaret: Last year when we spoke, we talked about other perennial edibles, like beach plum and passionflower, and rhubarb and plantain. You have a perennial onion that you’re working on, but from seed. It’s something I’ve heard of before, and I think Southern Exposure Seed Exchange, for instance, sells potato onions, which they’re loosely called, as bulbs in the fall, but you’re working with it from seed, yes?
Nate: Yes, and actually that has been our bestseller so far this year, but we have a lot of seeds, so we have not run it out of that one yet [update 1/8/21: seed ran out the day after we taped this show]. That’s from a grower, a friend of ours named Andy Hahn in Colorado. He was working with a population that was developed by a guy named Kelly Winterton in Utah. That was the Green Mountain Multiplier Onion, it’s called, and it is that it is a potato onion that is a form of perennial onion.
It somewhat resembles a shallot, usually a little rounder and stouter. They come in different colors. There’s yellow ones and white ones and purple-skinned ones. Potato onions used to be very popular there, in part, because they keep for a long time. They can be grown just like garlic, planted in the fall, and they’re incredibly winter hardy and just delicious.
They’re packed with flavor, but because they’re a little bit more… They require a little bit more work, like garlic does, it’s not something where you’re going to go to the farm store and buy a big bag of tiny little onion sets and put them out in your garden. You’ve got to do the work yourself and store them yourself. They’ve sort of fallen out of favor over recent decades.
But there’s an increasing interest in them, especially for people who are growing at a smaller scale. Chefs are really interested in them as well, but there’s just not a ton of diversity out there. We’re really excited to have this population from seed, and every packet you get is going to produce different-looking perennial onions. This one we’ve had for a couple of years, but we’re really excited to have a larger crop this year and to get as many people growing these as possible.
Margaret: If I sow the seeds late winter this year, and I plant them out, the seedlings out, will they bulb up by fall or will they take till a second year? What’s it sort of life cycle?
Nate: Well, the thing about the diversity in these is that they might do different things. Each seed might behave differently from the one next to it, but in general, most of these are going to produce a bulb their first year. If you plant them, if you start them early and then grow them through the year, you might be able to harvest a bulb by midsummer or late summer.
You might harvest the bulb by fall, and then you can store them indoors over the winter, potentially, and plant them out early next spring. Or you can just keep an eye on them and leave them in the ground. The summer heat is really the one time when you might want to bring them in, when you might have to bring them in.
In my experience of growing potato onions, that’s sort of the most challenging time, but I’ve had ones that I’ve forgotten about and left in the garden, and they’ve just stuck around.
Margaret: Cool, and some of the common names are hilarious for them. They call them sometimes mother onion or pregnant onion [laughter] or hill onion, because they get like a little aggregation of bulbs, don’t they?
Nate: Absolutely, and that’s actually the Latin name. They call them Allium cepa, which is the Latin name for onions in general, but then the variety is aggregatum, and that’s what they do, they aggregate.
Margaret: And then there’s that parsley root, and that is something I have to say, I’ve never seen before. I’ve seen celery root, obviously a lot of other root vegetables, but I’ve seen among… I’ve seen celery versus celery root, but what is this, and where did this come from?
Nate: Parsley root is really a fantastic vegetable. It’s been grown in Europe and the Middle East for a long, long, long time, but we just don’t have much interest in it here.
I actually am very lucky that the supermarket near me in Southern New Jersey has a really good produce section, and whenever they can get it, they actually get parsley root and offer it there as a vegetable, bundled up just like carrots.
Every time I see it, I buy one or two because I just love it. I love to eat them raw. I love to cook it up just like I would carrots or parsnips. The flavor to me is somewhat intermediate between a carrot and a parsnip, but it has its own distinct parsley flavor. It’s nutritious, and it has this real sweetness to it, and makes a fantastic soup. You can bake it in the oven. You can make little fries with it. It’s just a really a great vegetable.
The one that we’re selling is a Polish accession that came to us from Wild Garden Seeds in Oregon, Frank Morton’s company. It’s a wonderful landrace. There’s some diversity to it, but we’re really excited to get more people growing this and enjoying this wonderful crop, great storage crop, too.
Margaret: In this past crazy year, the year of madness, dry beans sort of became a thing. And to a lot of culinarily inclined people, they always were. I mean, I eat beans every day, and I’ve been cooking them for a million years from dry beans, but now they’re a hot commodity. But a lot of gardeners, even experienced gardeners who have grown green beans, have never grown dry beans. You have some standouts. Tell us about one of them.
Nate: We love beans. We absolutely love beans, and it’s hard to pick just one, but we offer quite a few this year, more than we ever have before. Absolutely beautiful beans, bush beans that can be grown on a large scale and harvested with a combine. We have a pole beans that work as a dry bean, beans that work as both a green bean and a dry bean, which is always great.
One of the ones that I want to highlight is the landrace dry bush beans, the Lofthouse Landrace dry bush beans [above]. This is a really diverse population from Joseph Lofthouse in Utah. They are desert-adapted. A lot of them are short-season, but the diversity in there is really staggering. You can see the pictures there at EFNseeds dot com. They come in just an array of colors and forms.
That diversity is so important. If you’ve had trouble growing beans, starting with something like that, that’s so diverse, it just means that you can start with a packet of seeds and what you end up with, if you grow them and save your best ones for two or three years, it’s not going to look like what you started with, but that’s O.K.
You’re going to have something that’s adapted to your garden and your climate. And beans, they really multiply exponentially. In just a couple of years, you can be producing pounds and pounds of food for yourself, for your family, for your community.
Margaret: Many times so far in this conversation, we’ve mentioned the word diversity, and we’ve talked about letting things go to seed and having your own sort of population adapted to your area, etc., like you were just speaking about. I guess we should just really quickly explain that’s how… And because you talked about your goal of an Experimental Farm Network in the beginning as partly to deal with climate change to face the rigors of climate change.
That’s how plants—by making a seed population, growing out to seed, reproducing sexually, and adapting within that new population, the next generation, the adaptations that can occur after generations and generations—that’s how plants for millions of years have survived the rigors of what’s come down the pike, right? I mean, that’s their way.
Nate: Absolutely, and farmers have played a huge role, and all of the crops that we grow are the result of farmers doing work and gardeners doing work, just saving their best seeds and selecting them. That’s how we have the amazing diversity of food that we have today.
We want gardeners to lean into that because this is not something that you needed degree in to do. Anybody can do this. We’ve been doing this as a species for 10,000 years now, and it’s really amazing to see the kind of things that have come out of somebody’s small patch of ground. A lot of the things that we’re offering are coming from small growers, small breeders, who don’t make a living at this. They pursue it as a hobby, but they’re doing some of the most path-breaking breeding work out there now, because they’re not beholden to some big corporation that’s paying their bills or a university that that is reliant on grant funding or government funding.
There’s the freedom out there to do what you want to do and to produce something that you think is valuable for yourself and for your community and for other growers as well.
We’re offering some things this year that really you just would never see from another company, like an F2 hybrid, that was just the next-generation seeds from a commercial F1 hybrid. It’s a savoy cabbage, and the seeds are going to produce a savoy cabbage. We know they’re not all going to look the same, but it’s going to work in your garden.
We’re selling seeds for a cross between one of our favorite squash, this incredibly diverse Nanticoke landrace [above] from the indigenous people on the Eastern shore of Maryland and Southern Delaware, that crossed inadvertently at our farm years ago with a Bolivian squash from a group called the Ese Ejja people in the Bolivian Amazon. The squash is called Jemi [below], and the first-generation where all these beautiful pink squash with light pink stripes on the side.
We have no idea what the next generation’s going to look like, and we couldn’t possibly grow out all the seeds to find out, but by getting them out there to people who knows what is going to pop up and in four or five, six, seven, eight generations, what new varieties are going to come out of these populations? We’re trying to free these seeds and get them out there and get as many people playing with them as possible.
Margaret: Yes. So tell us, then, let’s spend the last few minutes that we have… You know so many, you network so widely. Your experimental farm network is a collaborative cooperative non-profit. You have different growers participating, and you’re showcasing different people’s work. Then you also know a lot of people who have their own seed catalogs, and you’ve named a few of them, a few breeders and so forth along the way.
What are some of Nate’s people to look at, whether it’s for companies that have a social-justice focus, or what are some that we might not know about that you think we should go to their websites? I’ll give all the links. You don’t have to have all the URLs, if you don’t [laughter].
Nate: I love that question. That is one of my favorite things about being in this small-scale, organic seed movement is that we consider other seed companies our colleagues, not our competition. We trade seeds with them. We trade notes with them. We grow seeds for them. They grow seeds for us. It’s a really collaborative industry, and we’ve learned so much since we joined it just a few years ago. We only started as a nonprofit in 2014. We only started our own seed catalog in 2018.
But some of the ones that I wanted to highlight are Truelove Seeds, which is another company that’s based in Philadelphia. Our friend Owen Taylor, who’s a board member of Experimental Farm Network, started this company. Owen’s doing absolutely amazing work with growers from traditionally marginalized communities that are just so underrepresented in the seed world, but so many of the seeds that we’re growing come from people in those communities. The work he’s doing is really inspiring, and the seeds that Owen has available are just amazing. His catalog launches, I believe, Friday January 8.
There’s another company that is still pretty small, but is doing great work based in West Virginia. Our friend, Mehmet, runs a company called Two Seeds in a Pod that focuses on Turkish heirlooms. He’s a Turkish-American, just beautiful, beautiful seeds and fruit that I’ve never seen before. Watermelons with the most beautiful seeds you’ve ever seen, in addition to the fantastic flesh and sweet flavor.
We’ve started working down in Maryland with a group of farmers called the Ujamaa farmers group, and one of them is a man named Michael Carter Jr. The Carter Brothers is his farm project and they mainly grow produce, but they also have a small seed company. Those are in particular seeds that are from Africa and seeds that are popular in the African diaspora, some really, really cool stuff, moringa seeds and managu and edible celosia—beautiful flowers that also are grown for their edible leaves. Most people don’t know that celosia is actually a food plant in Africa.
Margaret: I had no idea, so if you have-
Nate: That’s a cool one, and I also just want to highlight the Cooperative Gardens Commission that I mentioned. We relied on donations from seed companies for all of the donations that we sent out. We had 257 seed hubs around the country in 41 different states. We sent free seeds to all those seed hubs, who further distributed them out to people in their communities.
We think we got seeds to about 12,000 gardens last year after just starting this organization in late March and starting to send seeds out in early May. We had about 20, 25 seed companies donated seeds to that, and all of those are… I can’t list them all.
Margaret: Well, Nate, I mean, we could just go on forever. I love it. I love the suggestions, both at Experimental Farm Network, as well as some of these others, and I hope I’ll talk to you again soon. You can keep teaching me, widening my palette, so thank you.
Nate: I would love to. It’s an honor to speak to you and to your audience. Thanks so much.
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M Y WEEKLY public-radio show, rated a “top-5 garden podcast” by “The Guardian” newspaper in the UK, began its 11th year in March 2020. In 2016, the show won three silver medals for excellence from the Garden Writers Association. It’s produced at Robin Hood Radio, the smallest NPR station in the nation. Listen locally in the Hudson Valley (NY)-Berkshires (MA)-Litchfield Hills (CT) Mondays at 8:30 AM Eastern, rerun at 8:30 Saturdays. Or play the January 11, 2021 show using the player near the top of this transcript. You can subscribe to all future editions on iTunes/Apple Podcasts or Spotify or Stitcher (and browse my archive of podcasts here).
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Side Note: I deeply regret buying a hydrangea from Walmart. It only bloomed one year, then promptly died the next. A replacement one faired no better. If I had just spent the extra money on a decent hydrangea variety meant for my climate, I would be enjoying the flowers now instead of feeling bitter and envious of my neighbours beautiful hydrangeas. Lesson: buy shrubs from an actual greenhouse.
Side Note Two: The price difference between your greenhouse and the big box store is often less that you would expect.
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20 Dietary & Pantry Staples Currently In My Daily Routine (Foods & Snacks I Eat Every Day In My “Modified Carnivore Diet”).
In a recent podcast with Max Lugavere and Crosby Tailor, I describe that, contrary to popular belief, you don't have to eat less “volume” to lose weight or feel full. In fact, you can eat more and feel more satiated with a strategy I call “volume” eating, a strategy for which the actual amount of space the food takes up on your plate is not necessarily the same as the number of actual *calories* in that food.
What do I mean by this? Well, lately, I've been integrating a few pantry staples into my meals that are incredibly satiating to me and even pretty large and voluminous-looking on the plate, but extremely low calorie. In truth, I like to eat and I usually eat three big “looking” square meals a day, and furthermore, I like to feel full, but I am somewhat selective about what I put on my plate and quite conscious of my caloric load.
One perfect example that you'll readily recognize is the fact that carbohydrates and protein are around 4 calories per gram while fat is around 9 calories per gram. This means that while 100 grams of fat on your plate may take up just as much space as 100 grams of carbs or protein, the carbs or protein will be about 400 calories, while the fat will be about 900 calories, and that adds up quite fast! In contrast, 100 grams of, say, sprouts will be about 29 calories!
Anyways, I am definitely not here to tell you that you should not be counting or paying general attention to calories. While calories can be a contentious topic, it's important to recognize that calories *do* matter, and they matter quite a bit if you're under- or over-consuming them significantly. As a result, understanding both caloric density along with nutrient density and volume (e.g. the fiber, water, and generally “filling” nature of a meal) can be a really valuable life and body composition hack.
A few of my go-to, voluminous, and quite filling foods I've been consuming of late include organic pumpkin puree, sea moss gel, and carbohydrate-free, calorie-free noodles made of Japanese yam fiber. Curious how I integrate these into my meals or the other pantry staples I've been eating of late? Then keep reading!
How I Eat
Let's start here…
…I eat what many people these days would call a “modified carnivore diet,” though, in reality, it's just an omnivorous diet that is somewhat selective in the type of plant-defense compounds that are included, particularly because, well, I have a sensitive gut and that's what works for me. Basically, this means I eat mostly meat, organs, fish, and easy-to-digest plants while avoiding most dairy, grains, and more difficult-to-digest plants.
In my article “Demystifying The Carnivore Diet: What’s The Problem With Plants & Is An All-Meat Diet The Answer?”, I point out that, in a nutshell (heh), all things considered, if I were to eat the type of modified carnivore diet I describe above, I would not only consume nose-to-tail animal sources, organ meats, bone marrow, and bone broth, but I would also add:
- Small amounts of root vegetables and tubers, along with pureed, mashed, or canned pumpkin and sweet potato purees, preferably skipping the skin of these compounds and any excess fiber.
- Homemade fermented yogurt or homemade kefir made from goat's milk (more digestible than most cow's milk) or coconut milk mixed with L. Reuteri strain probiotic, as I describe here.
- Raw, organic honey as a sweetener, along with bee compounds like royal jelly, propolis, and bee pollen.
- Small, antioxidant-rich, low-sugar berries such as blueberries, lingonberries, bilberries, and blackberries.
- Bitter and tannin-rich teas and organic coffee.
- Dried, organic insects such as ants, crickets, grasshoppers, and caterpillars.
- Very limited amounts of (but some) seeds and nuts, if tolerated by the gut and prepared via ancestral practices such as soaking, fermenting, or sprouting.
- Nutrient-dense vegetable powders that offer plenty of phytonutrients to sprinkle on everything above, but without excess roughage and fiber, such as powders from Kuaui Farmacy or Dr. Thomas Cowan’s heirloom vegetable powders (use code BEN to save 15%).
Since writing that original article, however, my routine in terms of pantry staples and additions I include in my diet has changed just a bit, so in this article, I'm going to fill you in on 20 pantry and kitchen items in my protocol that go a bit beyond the basic foundation of my diet, which, again, is still largely nose-to-tail style organ meats, poultry, meat, pork, seafood, shellfish, and bone broth, all of which I then “dress up” with the items below. Finally, should you want to know my “meat sources” for the carnivore stuff, read this article.
20 Dietary & Pantry Staples Currently In My Daily Routine
1. Sea Moss Gel
What it is: Sea moss is a red micro-algae native to the coasts of North America, Europe, and the Caribbean that today is often harvested and protected in pool farms, and is available for consumption in a variety of forms, such as dried, ground, or pills. There's also a gel form, which is a recent discovery of mine, and is made by rehydrating dried sea moss and then blending the strands — with the result a jellylike substance.
Sea moss is one of the most powerful plants and highest mineral-dense superfoods out there, containing 92 out of the 102 minerals that our body needs and sea moss gel retains that mineral content. It's an antibacterial/antiviral that supports a healthy thyroid, improves metabolism, promotes great digestion, eliminates excessive mucus in the body, strengthens the immune system, and increases energy. Sea moss gel is also great to have on hand if you're thinking of starting in on a carnivore diet — which can cause major diarrhea issues — as it bulks up the stool enough to stave off the worst of the initial digestive distress.
How I use it: The gel ain't cheap. So I'm a bit selective with how I use it. It tastes pretty good salted and wrapped in a nori wrap with a bit of fish, and can also provide a creamy, full texture to a smoothie with far fewer calories than, say, coconut milk or yogurt. One interesting use is the Jamaican Irish Moss Drink, also known as a “love potion,” which is made with a blend of non-dairy milk, nutmeg, cinnamon, and vanilla. The full recipe, and other sea moss gel ideas, are here.
Where I get it: The brand I personally use for sea moss gel is “Akasha Superfoods Sea moss gel” (use code BEN10 to save 10%), recommended to me by my friend Drew Canole. It's a good, clean, organic variety that comes in a couple of different styles/flavors. I'll vouch for 'em.
2. Bone Broth
What it is: A South American proverb says, “Good broth will resurrect the dead,” and while that may be something of an overstatement, bone broth is probably the most nourishing liquid food out there. Bone broth is made by simmering the bones and connective tissue of animals and has been used by traditional societies for ages for benefits like healing injuries, fixing gut dysfunction, and building muscle, while adding a natural source of minerals and electrolytes to your diet. Bone broth contains high levels of glycine, a nonessential amino acid that can improve neurological functions by enhancing memory.
Bone broth is also a no-brainer to work in daily —you can drink it, put it in your smoothie, or cook with it—and it's relatively inexpensive. For more on bone broth, check out this article and this podcast episode.
How I use it: I have a cup of bone broth literally every day with lunch, 365 days a year, usually topped off with a host of Dr. Thomas Cowan's Vegetable Powders, such as dandelion, burdock, ashitaba, etc., and a touch of sea salt, black pepper, and turmeric or cayenne pepper. I also often use bone broth as the base for my morning smoothie, and as the primary stock for any soups or stews I make.
Where I get it: Broth from the grocery store—often labeled as “stock”—is prepared using harsh, high temperatures and accelerated cooking techniques, resulting in a watery, non-nutrient-dense, non-gelatin-rich broth. But there are a couple of brands of bone broth that I like and recommend the first is Kettle & Fire Bone Broth and the second is Belcampo Bone Broth (use code GREENFIELD20 to save 20%). Both are made from the bones of organic, grass-fed meat, without preservatives, chemicals, unnatural flavorings, or flavor enhancers.
3. Pumpkin Puree
What it is: Don't save your pumpkin for Thanksgiving. Pumpkin puree, which is quite literally the pureed form of roasted pumpkin, may fight cancer, improve eyesight, boost immunity, and keep your skin looking young. Puree made from the pumpkin fruit (yes, it's a fruit, because it has seeds), is rich in the antioxidants alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, beta-cryptoxanthin, and others, which may protect your cells against damage by free radicals. Pumpkin puree is particularly good for reducing caloric load as it is made up of 94% water, with less than 50 calories in a cup.
How I use it: For a dessert, I'll simply sprinkle a dollop of puree with Ceylon cinnamon, sea salt, and a touch of raw honey. I also like to have a couple of tablespoons on the side of my lunch plate, and toss it in smoothies too (along with that sea moss gel). It's not half bad sprinkled with bee pollen and coconut flakes too.
Where I get it: My favorite pumpkin puree is Farmer's Market Canned Organic. The only ingredient in there is certified organic pumpkin, the cans have a special BPA-free liner, and you can order a 12-pack to stock up.
4. Nori Wraps
What it is: Nori is a dried edible seaweed made from red algae that has been eaten for centuries in China and Japan. Thanks to the rocketing popularity of sushi, nori is widely consumed in the U.S. as the wrap for sushi rolls. Nori, commonly found that sushi-wrap sheet form—though it can be eaten fresh—is thought to be the only vegetable that contains cobalamin, a type of vitamin B12, in the form that’s actually bioavailable to humans (since cobalamin is otherwise only traditionally found in meat products, nori is particularly beneficial to vegans/vegetarians). Nori may also have cancer-preventing and anti-allergenic properties thanks to a sulfated carbohydrate called porphyran.
How I use it: Any salad, fish, or occasional rice dish (e.g. a bit of white rice with some wild salmon for dinner) I consume is nearly always neatly wrapped like a sushi hand roll in a nori wrap, which is my go-to substitute for tortillas, grain-based wraps, etc.
Where I get it: I like Emerald Cove Nori, which you can get toasted or untoasted, because it's cultivated from certified organic nori spores cultivated in an aquatic environment free of pollutants like nitrogen fertilizer.
5. Kanten Noodles
What it is: I don't hold back when I talk about why pasta is basically a disaster for your body, but there's a reason people crave it, and I get it. My hands-down favorite pasta alternative is Kanten noodles. As with nori, Asia was a step ahead (okay, thousands of years ahead) of the U.S. with this pantry staple of mine. Kanten noodles are made from a soluble plant fiber called glucomannan, derived from a red algae known as tengusa (sea moss gel, nori, and now Kanten…are you getting the message yet that red algae is packed with nutrition?).
Kanten noodles contain zero everything —gluten, wheat, fat, sugar, starch, calories, and net carbohydrates—meaning they're like the ideal volume-eating food. They're high in fiber and work for any kind of diet, from paleo to kosher to vegan. You can also get the noodles in different varieties like fettuccine and rice to mimic any sort of starch base you'd normally eat.
How I use it: There is a host of Kanten noodle dessert and snack recipes in my Boundless Cookbook, but my primary use of Kanten noodles is, with lunch, I heat them up in bone broth, add a bunch of spices to the noodles, then eat like a guilt-free pasta dish. Great with sardines or other small, cold-water fish and wrapped in those nori wraps too!
Where I get it: I stock my pantry with Miracle Noodles (use code BEN for 15% off). They're not available in the store, but you can order any variety online. You can check out my full review of Miracle Noodles, along with an ABC News story, here.
6. Wild Blueberries
What it is: Wild blueberries are not the blueberries you will find in those plastic containers at your local Shop ‘n Save. Native to Maine, Atlantic Canada, and Quebec, wild blueberries are also not a single species rather, they're a collective of biodiverse plants with differences in size, color, and flavor, lower in sugar and higher in nutrients than the big, plump ones you'll find at most grocery stores.
Wild blueberries are far smaller — generally about a third of the size — than commercially available blueberries, but are way bigger in terms of health benefits. They're a nutritional powerhouse, with all sorts of other good things in them like fiber and micronutrients, anthocyanins (the compound that gives them their blue color), and all sorts of antioxidants, which help with recovery.
How I use it: One bag kept in my freezer gives me a quick and easy dessert that pairs well with a small chunk of dark chocolate. I also like to occasionally substitute a bit of the ice in my morning smoothie with some frozen blueberries, and for a real treat, occasionally “substitute” frozen cherries.
Where I get it: Again, the blueberries you get in the store are an entirely different thing than wild blueberries. I pick my own berries and stock up the freezer so that they're available anytime. If you don't have a place to pick nearby, you can order frozen wild blueberries that will arrive by next-day air.
7. Raw Honey
What it is: Honey is produced by bees from the secretions of plants or other insects. Bees extract the nectar from the flowers of the plants, and then once ingested, the nectar mixes with the bee's natural enzymes and is stored until the bee returns to the hive, where it is then regurgitated into another bee's mouth (yes, really), often multiple times until it is deposited into the honeycomb. The bees then use the motion of their wings to evaporate the nectar, and the thick, sweet food substance that results is honey.
Like blueberries, the honey you'll find in the grocery store is, in most cases, a completely different product than what you get in the wild, original form. The health benefits of raw, organic honey are well-known as a way to strengthen the immune system and add healthy sweetness to tea or any food. Honey may in fact be the world's perfect sweetener as it, interesting enough, actually stabilizes your blood sugar along with providing a hefty helping of energy. (Though check out this post to learn how I think moderation with honey relates to spiritual fitness.)
How I use it: Call me crazy, but my favorite use for raw honey is to drizzle it over a bit of pork fat, beef suet, or other savory, fatty meat treat for just a slight hint of sweetness. Sometimes I also drizzle it over the pumpkin puree, with a bit of sea salt and Ceylon cinnamon.
Where I get it: My favorite brand for all things bees is Beekeeper's Naturals. Their raw honey has no refined sugars, dyes, or dirty chemicals. You can save 15% on raw honey from Beekeeper's Naturals with code BEN.
8. Bee Pollen
What it is: Honey is not the only way to take advantage of your local beehive, though—bee pollen should be right next to the honey on your pantry shelf. Bee pollen is flower pollen that is collected, mixed with salivary secretions, and packed by worker honeybees into the honeycomb cells to function as the primary food source for a beehive.
The extensive health-promoting properties of bee pollen, including antiviral, anticancer, antibacterial, and antifungal, and others, have been well-studied. Bee pollen is rich in vitamins and minerals, such as magnesium, calcium, and B vitamins. And, believe it or not, bee pollen contains more protein (gram-for-gram) than chicken or beef, making it a perfect source of energy and endurance for vegans and vegetarians who include it as part of their diet.
How I use it: I regularly sprinkle this stuff on smoothies, yogurts, and pumpkin mash for an added crunch.
Where I get it: You need to be careful with bee pollen because it can be laden with contaminants such as pesticides. I also go with Beekeeper's Naturals for my pollen because there are no cheap fillers or pesticide residues. (Save 15% with code BEN.)
9. A Good Salt
What it is: Salt is one of the oldest and most widely-used seasonings and, while it's a household staple, salt is now available in so many forms that you could theoretically have an entire pantry shelf full of salts. So, what even is salt? In its natural form, salt is a mineral—composed primarily of sodium chloride—known as rock salt or halite. Salt is the main mineral constituent of seawater and the reason you can float around in the ocean (salt increases water's density without changing its volume).
You've probably been told in the past that salt intake should be limited, and I've talked extensively about how this is a fallacy. There's no real evidence behind that protocol and, in fact, reducing your sodium can negatively impact your heart health, cognition, insulin resistance, and balance. The right kind of salt (more on that here and below) can contain 80+ trace minerals and restores your natural electrolyte balance.
How I use it: Frankly, I use salt in everything—smoothies, cocktails (yes, cocktails), coffee, water, salad, you name it. I even travel with a ziplock bag of salt in my fanny pack to add to any restaurant meal.
Where I get it: While I advocate for more sodium, it can't be any kind of salt. Refined salts are stripped of their minerals and often contain bleach and heavy metals. I go through bags and bags of Colima High Mineral Sea Salt by Ava Jane's Kitchen because it's 100% unrefined, organic, and chemical-free, and it tastes amazing. I'm also a fan of Celtic Salt (save 15% with code BEN).
10. Unsweetened Coconut Flakes
What it is: Coconut, the fruit of the coconut palm tree, is one of the most important crops of the tropics. Native to the Pacific and Indian Oceans, coconut has a long history as a vital source of nutrition and hydration. Coconut flakes are made by cutting boiled coconut meat into flakes that are then dried. Sugar is then often added, which is what you want to avoid when you're stocking your pantry—look carefully at the ingredient list!
Unsweetened coconut flakes deliver a big dose of healthiness along with the delicious, nutty taste of fresh coconut. They're a helpful addition to the diets of vegans and vegetarians because coconut flakes contain a good amount of protein. Coconut flakes are also an effective means of upping your iron and zinc intakes, both of which are important in supporting your immune system. Finally, unsweetened coconut flakes provide dietary fiber, which keeps things moving properly digestion-wise and also may lower your risk of heart disease, diabetes, and certain types of cancer.
How I use it: My number one use for these flakes is sprinkled on top of my morning smoothie or on yogurt or stirred into kefir, typically along with a bit of bee pollen. If you read my new Boundless Cookbook, there's a fantastic raw cheesecake recipe that incorporates these as well.
Where I get it: Coconut flakes are one of the pantry staples I can trust to get at the grocery store, namely Trader Joe's. Their unsweetened coconut flakes are USDA-certified organic and cheap, too. If you don't have a Trader Joe's nearby, Amazon can deliver just about anything.
11. Keto Bricks
What it is: Keto bricks may not look all that appetizing they really do look just like, well, bricks. But as a source of quick, dense nutrition, they're a good staple to have on hand in the pantry, because they're high-energy, high-calorie, and ketogenetic friendly. The ingredients in keto bricks include raw organic cacao butter, vegetable-based protein (should be soy-free), pure medium-chain triglycerides (MCT) powder, ground flaxseed, raw organic cacao nibs, and salt.
How I use it: These bricks are 1,000 calories of solid fuel, so it's pretty rare that I mow one down in one sitting. Heck, I'll sometimes take nearly a week to eat one bar, simply cutting or biting a chunk off for added low-carb crunch in a smoothie or on yogurt. But for any hunting trips or long excursions where I just need one form of solid fuel and want to simplify, this, along with good pemmican or fermented beef sticks (use code BENGREENFIELD10 to save 10%), is my go-to.
Where I get it: I get my keto bricks from Keto Savage because they don't add any cheap fillers or loads of sweeteners, and only make their bricks from the highest-quality ingredients.
12. Cacao Tea
What it is: Cacao tea is made from the shells (or husks) of cacao beans after they're separated from the cacao nibs (the inner part of the bean). When the shells are steeped in hot water, the result is a tea with a chocolate aroma and taste it's a healthy way to get that rich flavor profile without sugar, gluten, dairy, or the calorie load of a Snickers bar. The tea from cacao sheels shouldn't be confused with hot cocoa—while cacao and cocoa both come from the cacao bean, cocoa is highly processed.
Cacao tea contains a gentle stimulant called theobromine, so it's a good alternative to coffee if you're taking a break from caffeine or it's too late in the day for you to go full-on with the coffee. (You can actually find out if you're a fast or slow caffeine metabolizer with a home DNA test like 23andMe, which will help you decide what time to ditch the coffee each day.) Cacao is also packed with antioxidants, which may have positive effects on cardiovascular health, immune response, and diabetes risk.
How I use it: I bounce back and forth between this and the Kion organic coffee, often drinking cacao tea three to four mornings a week or in the afternoons. I like to make it in a French Press, and sometimes add a touch of Four Sigmatic chaga, cordyceps, or reishi mushroom extract to it, along with a touch of stevia, sea salt, and cayenne pepper for a “spicy mocha” type of experience. The leftover nibs from steeping in the hot water can also be dried or dehydrated then pulverized in a blender to make a fantastic meat rub, which is one tactic I include for unique rubs in the new Boundless Cookbook.
Where I get it: I stock up on MiCacao Cacao Tea because it's organic and free of preservatives and artificial flavors. Their cacao is sourced from South American farms that adhere to the highest quality standards in the industry.
13. Dairy-Free Dark Chocolate
What it is: If you crave your chocolate in solid form, dairy-free dark chocolate is the best bet for a pantry staple. Chocolate also comes from the beans of the cacao tree, but the base of chocolate is the nibs of the bean rather than the husks of cacao tea. The nibs are ground to separate the liquid, or chocolate liquor, from the fatty portion, the cocoa butter. The liquor is then made into cocoa solids, which together with cocoa butter and sugar make up dark chocolate. I go dairy-free because I try to stick with fermented dairy for the longevity benefits you can listen to this podcast for my answer to the oft-asked question “What's The Deal With Dairy?”.
Dark chocolate is rich in iron, copper, magnesium, zinc, and phosphorus, along with flavanols, which may help to protect the heart against cardiovascular disease. Flavanols have also been linked with improved cognitive performance and memory–including word recall, visual memory, and episodic memory.
How I use it: Ahh…chocolate. It's rich. It's sugary. It's somewhat addictive. So I'm careful with my chocolate consumption. But I'll occasionally break off a piece and add it (for extra crunch) to smoothies or yogurt, though I've long since given up my evening habit of smearing chocolate with nut butter for a snack, as I've nearly completely sworn off all seed and nut butters.
Where I get it: I can't pick just one kind of dairy-free dark chocolate, because there are so many delicious options out there, but my favorites are Hu, Taza, Eating Evolved Primal Dark Chocolate, Honey Mama's, and Lakanto.
14. Vegetable Powders
What it is: Vegetable powder refers to vegetables–harvested at the peak of their season and flavor–that have been ground into a fine powder after being cooked and then dehydrated on low heat to retain the most vitamins and minerals. The powders offer a quick, shelf-stable way to get a dose of nutrition (so you don't need to worry about that spring mix molding away in your fridge).
Packaging is important when it comes to vegetable powders. To retain freshness, the container should resist the penetration of moisture and be resistant to normal fluctuations in temperature.
How I use it: Along with the Kauai Farmacy herbal superfood powders below, I put this stuff on just about everything — on meats, salads, marinades, smoothies, bone broth, and even just straight from the jar with a spoon into my mouth. If I had to choose my favorite flavor, it's probably the “low oxalate greens” or the “ashitaba,” both of which I discuss in my podcast with Dr. Thomas Cowan here.
Where I get it: You can make your own by dehydrating vegetables and then pulverizing them, but it can be difficult to get the powder to a fine enough consistency and to get the flavor right. I stock my pantry with Dr. Cowan's vegetable powders (use code BEN to save 15%) because there is nothing but vegetables in the glass jar, aside from those that have fine Celtic sea salt, which — as you already know — is a plus.
15. Superfood Powders
What it is: Superfood powders are not unlike vegetable powders in terms of how they are produced the foods in the powders are cooked and/or dehydrated on low heat before being finely ground. Superfood powders are more varied in their composition, though, going beyond vegetables to include a wide variety of other health-promoting ingredients such as herbs, fruit, and cacao.
How I use it: See above re: Thomas Cowan's powders. I pretty much use all these powders the same way, except for the high-energy “Endurance” or “Cacao-lena” Kauai powders, which I'll sometimes stir into my coffee or into a french press with the MiCacao tea for a bit of extra antioxidants and energy.
Where I get it: Not long ago, I had Doug Wolkon of Kauai Farmacy on the podcast to talk about his superfood powders, among other topics. I'm a big fan of the Kauai Farmacy herbal superfood powders because Doug and his wife are dedicated to sustainability, quality, and transparency. (You can use code GREENFIELD15 for 15% off Doug's superfood powders.)
16. Hot Sauce
What it is: Hot sauce is generally a blend of peppers such as habanero and poblano with vinegar, water, salt, garlic, and other spices. Unfortunately, many commercial brands also contain sugar, which in my opinion is entirely unnecessary for a smokin' hot sauce.
Peppers, which belong to the nightshade family of vegetables, have a number of notable health benefits. For example, a single poblano pepper contains a quarter of the recommended daily value of Vitamin B2 (or riboflavin). And since most hot sauces have less than 10 calories per serving, they're a great way to kick up the flavor and heat of your meal without increasing your caloric load.
How I use it: Any meat dish or fish dish, or even the Kanten noodles described above are quite typically drenched in a hot sauce. I'm a sucker for spice and use Joey's on nearly every lunch and dinner. I go through a lot of this stuff, along with the Primal Kitchen condiments below.
Where I get it: Joey's Hot Sauce has four flavors (including a Truffle Hot Sauce!) of organic, small-batch hot sauce with no sugar. I keep my pantry stocked with it and give it out to dinner party guests. You can save 20% on Joey's with code BEN20.
17. Mustard, Ketchup & Mayonnaise
What it is: Condiments are yet another regular dumping grounds for added sugar, but when they're made the right way, they can definitely be a healthy pantry staple. So what are the right ingredients? Let's start with mustard. Mustard is sourced from the pungent, somewhat bitter seeds of a mustard plant, with several flavor varieties out there such as Dijon, “classic” yellow, and whole grain. Mustard seeds have a host of health benefits, including anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory properties.
Then of course there is ketchup. Of all of the sugar offenders, ketchup is the worst condiment out there. It's no wonder that kids want to add ketchup to everything. A good ketchup can be healthy — particularly for men, considering it may reduce the risk of prostate cancer and increase sperm count — if it's made with tomatoes, vinegar, seasonings, and spices, but you have to read labels closely to avoid the sugar.
Believe it or not, mayonnaise, not ketchup, was the top-selling condiment in the United States in 2020. This high-fat condiment made from egg yolks, vinegar or lemon juice, and spices and flavorings, is popular on sandwiches and in pasta and potato salads. Recently, more nutritious formulations for mayonnaise have become increasingly popular, like my favorite (see below) which contains healthy avocado oil.
How I use it: There are so many options with these condiments, but my own top uses are primarily drenching any vegetable dishes with Ranch or Caesar, adding a dollop of mayo to my Kanten noodles, making a “secret sauce” for lettuce burgers by stirring together the ketchup and mayo, using the barbecue on just about any grilled dish, and dipping my meat in their Dijon mustard (meat dipped in mustard is a great guilty pleasure).
Where I get it: Primal Kitchen's mustard, mayonnaise, and ketchup all contain only high-quality, organic, natural ingredients and there are no sugars to be found. (You can use code BEN to save 10% at Primal Kitchen).
Finally, there are a handful of pantry staples that I use a bit less frequently, but that still have a place on my shelf, namely…
18. Tahini Paste
What it is: Tahini has been around since medieval times, and while it is a traditional Middle Eastern condiment, it is now consumed worldwide. Raw, hulled ground sesame seeds, which are chock-full of iron, calcium, and protein are the base of tahini. Tahini paste is low in carbohydrates, high in fiber, and a great source of healthy fat.
How I use it: To limit my omega-6 and polyunsaturated fat (PUFA) intake, I don't use seed or nut butters much at all, but for something to drizzle quite lightly on a salad or meat, I have to say that something about the sesame-ish taste of Tahini just agrees with me, and I like the savory flavor it can add to a dish. Just go easy on any seed and nut butters, please. It's a notorious staple in a healthy diet that is very often overconsumed.
Where I get it: I'll be honest…I was a little skeptical when I heard about the Tahini Goddess tahini paste. Their flavors include Caesar Style, Spicy Chili, and Chocolate, and while I love chocolate (see above), I don't know how I feel about it in tahini. I found the taste to be really interesting, though, and I like that Tahini Goddess only uses 100% Humera sesame seeds roasted slowly over low temperatures. You can use code BEN at Tahini Goddess to save 10% if you want to try it out.
19. Baruka Nuts
What it is: I learned all about Baruka nuts when Darin Olien was on my podcast in 2020, and they're now unquestionably my favorite nut. Baruka nuts grow on the Baruzeiro tree (native to Brazil), and they taste like peanut butter without the chance of fungus.
Baruka nuts can't be eaten raw because they're loaded with defense mechanisms such as phytic acids and oxalates. However, when Baruka nuts are roasted, you can reap the benefits of flavonoids, tannins, anthocyanins, antioxidants, and amino acids. They're also high in fiber and protein.
How I use it: Again, to limit omega 6's and PUFA's, I'm super careful with nuts and seeds, and rarely eat by the handful as many do, straight from the bag. I'll occasionally sprinkle these on a salad or smoothie, and for a real treat, soak them to get them nice and soft and make a raw Baruka nut cheesecake out of them. That, frankly, is in my opinion one of the best recipes in my Boundless Cookbook.
Where I get it: Darien Olien's Barukas Nuts (use code BGF to save 15%) have 6 grams of protein and three times the antioxidant power of other nuts. The company is also committed to sustainability, planting a tree for every five pounds of nuts sold.
20. Kion Bars
What it is: Sugar content is sky-high in many popular energy bars. “Healthy” energy bars are also loaded with calories — not a good choice if you're looking to grab something from the pantry to go. Not only is the sugar content and calorie count problematic, but those bars often have high preservative levels to keep them shelf-stable for years. Finally, those bars you're grabbing at the checkout line probably contain crappy protein like soy and whey protein isolate, both of which can cause negative health consequences such as autoimmune problems and allergies.
My energy bar pantry staples are from Kion. They're made from whole foods including honey, almonds, cocoa nibs, grass-fed gelatin, baby quinoa, chia seeds, and coconut flakes. Kion bars have just the right amount of protein (11 grams) from organic rice protein and organic pea protein isolate. The ingredients in the Kion bars support energy, muscle gain, and fat loss.
How I use it: Keep 'em in the freezer and sprinkle them on top of the occasional ice cream treat. Pre-workout, down one with a cup of black coffee for a huge boost of energy. And they're pretty dang good sprinkled on top of smoothies too. Addictively good.
Where I get it: I eat Kion bars because they contain only clean, natural ingredients (no nasty, unhealthy chemicals) and they're stable in extreme conditions, making them ideal for pantry-raiding before last-minute adventures. If you want to try Kion bars, you can receive a 20% discount on your first order when you use code BGF20.
If you dig the ideas and pantry staples above, then you'll be pleased to know that just about every single one is worked into the pages of my new Boundless Cookbook.
What is the cookbook, exactly?
The Boundless Cookbook is chock-full of never-before-seen recipes, Greenfield family kitchen secrets, and even guilt-free, healthy desserts. People have been asking for this cookbook for years—after all, it’s one thing to learn about the foods that optimize your body and brain and another thing to know how to prepare said foods. Better yet, it works in a host of the staples you've just read about and teaches you how to easily weave them into recipes for taste-bud delight and nutritional goodness.
How about you? What foods, snacks, brands, and daily pantry staples are part of your own pantry, refrigerator, and food or snacking routine? Have you tried any of the same that I use? Do you plan on reading my new cookbook? I'd love to hear your thoughts, questions, and comments below!
What's so bad about genetically modified foods?
The resurrection of a mammoth canola oil thread has brought this question to my mind. In that thread, people distrust the safety of canola oil because it comes from a genetically modified plant. I don't understand why people have such a negative reaction when the subject of GMOs is brought up. Doesn't everything we eat come from GMOs? In the modern day fruits are sweeter, vegetables larger, animals more docile, and foodstuffs of all kinds are cheaper than they ever have been thanks to increased productivity from selective breeding.
Speaking as a non-scientist and non-farmer, it seems the only difference between doing these manipulations in the barnyard, the greenhouse, the orchard, or the test tube is the level of precision and speed involved. When Europeans first landed in the Americas, an ear of maize was the size of your little finger. It took thousands of years of laborious selective planting for that finger-sized ear to turn into today's high-yield sweet corn. You think if those early farmers had access to modern agricultural GM technology, that they wouldn't have used it without a second thought? Bring on the modern GMOs I say. How else are we going to feed everyone on this overcrowded little dirt ball.
So for those opposed to GMOs, what am I missing? To you, what is the fundamental difference between the traditional and scientific approaches to genetic modification?
I haven't seen the canola thread yet, but I offered some of my reasons for serious concern about how genetically-modified foods are being introduced (forced) into our diets here
Clicking the will recommend this comment to others.
There's a lot of artificial/engineered food out there now, and who has time to become expert in each one?
Just the fact that it's on the grocery store shelf isn't a good enough motivation for me to want to switch to an engineered food.
Anything our grandmothers couldn't have eaten doesn't get moved into the "food" column without there being a reason why I want to eat that specific thing, and I haven't bern lusting for GMO corn tortillas.
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I'm glad to hear you won't eat those ridiculous square apples either. Red delicious!
GMO is not the same as selective breeding.
GMO introduces artificially modified DNA into the natural environment. Once introduced it cannot be eliminated. Insects will cross pollinate with neighbouring crops, animals will eat the plants, bigger animals will eat the animals. there is no way for us to predict the long term effects of such changes.
AS opposed to a "natural" mutation?
I can't speak to the health impacts of GMOs but the handover of power to large agro-chemical companies who develop these products worries me greatly. From the farmaid.org website:
"Most GE crops hitting the market are developed by multinational companies such as Monsanto, Syngenta, Dupont and Dow Chemical to increase their sales and push their related pesticides. For example, Roundup Ready crops are all engineered to withstand Monsanto’s toxic herbicide Roundup. With Roundup Ready alfalfa and sugar beets on the market, Monsanto can expect increased profits from its new seeds, as well as increased sales of Roundup herbicide to douse all those new seeds.
GE crops are also patented, which grants several privileges to corporate seed giants. For example, companies have repeatedly restricted independent research on the risks and benefits of GE products, which is perfectly legal under patent law, but severely limits objective examination of the efficacy and safety of GE crops. If that weren’t bad enough, patents have given companies the power to pursue lawsuits against farmers for illegally “possessing” patented GE plants without a license. Monsanto has famously sued thousands of individual farmers for patent infringement when their fields were contaminated with GE genes.
With the power to own and patent genetics, seed companies can demand even more control over the market as a whole. The seed industry has suffered enormous concentration of power in the past few decades, with at least 200 independent seed companies exiting the market in the last fifteen years and four companies now controlling over 50% of the market. This consolidation means farmers have far fewer options for seed varieties. Meanwhile, farmers have seen the sharpest rise in seed prices during the period in which GE crops rose in prominence."
Summer at Anson Mills
Now that the Gourdseed corn is laid by and the gold rice we planted is ripening in the fields, hot August afternoons find us dozing under a ceiling fan on the porch of our Carolina beach house, traveling backwards in time to discover historic foods of the Old and New Worlds—foods that will play well together on a table spangled with late afternoon light.
We might sail from old Spain with conquistadors bound for the Americas to track the odyssey of Spanish flatbread traditions and a white wheat, called Sonora, into central Mexico and then on to California. We gather Sonora seeds from a California field and plant them in South Carolina, along with an American heirloom bread wheat called Red Fife. We mill, then blend the two wheats to send their flavors soaring and enhance their baking properties. This new flour, which we call Trigo Fuerte Flatbread Flour, makes ethereal scratch wheat tortillas and quesadillas.
In a 15th century Native American coastal community, we find hominy corn and masa. We eat native corn flatbread that cradles just-caught fish and searing, hot green chiles. We follow America’s native cuisine—and the trail of its ingredients—as they wind through a European settlement and arrive, almost intact, into the 21st century. Enroute, in the Appalachian Mountains of the 19th century, we watch the rise and fall of a yellow hominy corn called Henry Moore. Taken by its charms, we grow, harvest, and dry this corn ourselves, then bring it home where we make fresh masa. From this masa we press and griddle up rustic, deep-yellow tortillas that have a flavor that astounds. We chop cabbage, roast tomatillos and chiles, fry fish, and dive into one of the most appealing and enduring foods that we know: fish tacos.
A carriage tour of late 18th-century Southern plantations puts us within striking distance of the ultimate pimento cheese and its time-honored companion, Southern wheat crisps. We taste aged farmhouse cheddars, hoop cheese, farmer’s cheese, potted cheese—and select the finest. We pick sun-ripened sweet peppers from the garden. From Virginia to Alabama, we visit wheat fields and discover Red May, the perfect crisping wheat. We haul these ingredients home and make an unrivaled pimento cheese and crisp, thin wafers from Red May that are regal enough to be its companion. The pimento cheese and crisps—and a bottle of creamy champagne—accompany us on a choppy midday sail along the coast.
Our final journey takes us to the port of Savannah in the 18th century. We bring new crop Red May wheat and harvest ripe Georgia peaches from their orchards on the Sea Islands into our kitchen. For an afternoon gathering three centuries later, we create a Red May Graham streusel-topped peach crisp, timeless and divine, a study in textures and a celebration of Southern flavors. As the crisp bakes, it fills our house with intoxicating aromas, and through the oven window we watch it bubble and brown to perfection: We are witness to the rebirth of classic Southern cuisine the way it was meant to be.