Monthly Archives: March 2013

DIY All-Natural Egg Dyes

By Angela Keyser, Marketing Manager

DIY Easter Egg Dye

It’s almost Easter and if your family is anything like mine, that means Easter Egg dying is fast approaching.  Instead of using artificial colors this year, why not try to create some beautiful “made-from-Mother-Nature” colors from your very own pantry or refrigerator.  They’re not only all-natural and safe, making them can be a lot of fun.

First, you need to decide what colors you want to make and how you’re going to make those colors. There are several options.:

Red – You can make red with chopped cranberries, pomegranate juice, red onion skins or your favorite red tea.

Pomegranate created almost a brown color.  I used 1 cup pomegranate juice and 1 tablespoon vinegar.

Pomegranate created almost a brown color. I used 1 cup pomegranate juice and 1 tablespoon vinegar.

I used the dried skins of 3 red onions, 1 cup of boiling water and 1 tablespoon vinegar. The egg sat in the solution for several hours.

I used the dried skins of 3 red onions, 1 cup of boiling water and 1 tablespoon vinegar. The egg sat in the solution for several hours.

Pink – Beets or avocado skins make beautiful pink colors.

For a beautiful magenta color, I used 1 chopped beet, 1 cup of boiling water and 1 tablespoon vinegar.  This was one of the best dyes and I'll definitely use it again.

For a beautiful magenta color, I used 1 chopped beet, 1 cup of boiling water and 1 tablespoon vinegar. This was one of the best dyes and I’ll definitely use it again.

Orange – Paprika will give you a vibrant orange.

Paprika was a little temperamental. I don't know if it was the egg or the paprika that didn't want to cooperate! I think I maybe used too much paprika.  My recommendation would be to stick to the 1 tablespoon to 1 cup boiling water and 1 tablespoon vinegar ratio.  It did create a beautiful orange color.

Paprika was a little temperamental. I don’t know if it was the egg or the paprika that didn’t want to cooperate! I think I maybe used too much paprika. My recommendation would be to stick to the 1 tablespoon to 1 cup boiling water and 1 tablespoon vinegar ratio. It did create a beautiful orange color.

Yellow – Chopped carrot tops can make a beautiful bold yellow while turmeric powder will give you a mustard  yellow.  You can also use chamomile tea, green tea or chopped orange peels.

Tumeric was another one of my favorites.  A beautiful yellow color was created using 1 tablespoon tumeric powder, 1 cup boiling water and 1 tablespoon vinegar.  You have to let the egg sit in the dye for several hours to get a bold yellow color. Totally worth the wait!

Tumeric was another one of my favorites. A beautiful yellow color was created using 1 tablespoon tumeric powder, 1 cup boiling water and 1 tablespoon vinegar. You have to let the egg sit in the dye for several hours to get a bold yellow color. Totally worth the wait!

Green – Chopped kale leaves and matcha tea powder (which is green tea powder) make green.

I couldn't find pure matcha tea in my grocery store so I had to use a blend. The results were still nice but I'd love to see what pure matcha would create. I'm guessing you'd get a beautiful grassy green color.  I used 2 teabags, 1 cup boiling water and 1 tablespoon vinegar.

I couldn’t find pure matcha tea in my grocery store so I had to use a blend. The results were still nice but I’d love to see what pure matcha would create. I’m guessing you’d get a beautiful grassy green color. I used 2 teabags, 1 cup boiling water and 1 tablespoon vinegar.

Soft Yellow/Green – Chopped spinach, green apple skins or fennel tops will create a soft yellow/green color.

I wanted to give Spinach a try since I had it in the fridge.  I finely chopped 1-2 cups of packed spinach and added it to 1 cup boiling water and 1 tablespoon vinegar.  I found with some foods boiling the food in the water helps release the colors better.  The result was a very pale yellow/green color that intensified as it sat in the fridge the next few days.

I wanted to give Spinach a try since I had it in the fridge. I finely chopped 1-2 cups of packed spinach and added it to 1 cup boiling water and 1 tablespoon vinegar. I found with some foods boiling the food in the water helps release the colors better. The result was a very pale yellow/green color that intensified as it sat in the fridge the next few days.

Blue – You can use chopped purple cabbage or blue berries for blue. Some red onions will give you more of a blue color than a red as well.

Blueberries were a little funky in color but I still liked it. I used approximately 1 cup of blueberries, 1 cup boiling water and 1 tablespoon vinegar.

Blueberries were a little funky in color but I still liked it. I used approximately 1 cup of blueberries, 1 cup boiling water and 1 tablespoon vinegar.

The red cabbage is a tricky one. While it appeared to have barely worked after sitting in the solution for several hours, after the egg came out of the dye and sat in the refrigerator over night, it became a BEAUTIFUL Robin's Egg blue! A complete surprise to say the least! I used about 1/4 of a red cabbage, chopped very fine (1-2 cups), 1 cup boiling water and 1 tablespoon vinegar.

The red cabbage is a tricky one. While it appeared to have barely worked after sitting in the solution for several hours, after the egg came out of the dye and sat in the refrigerator over night, it became a BEAUTIFUL Robin’s Egg blue! A complete surprise to say the least! I used about 1/4 of a red cabbage, chopped very fine (1-2 cups), 1 cup boiling water and 1 tablespoon vinegar.

Purple or Lavender – Red wine, grape juice or Red Zinger tea make purple or lavender.

Grape juice was really cool! The sugars in the juice formed crystals on the egg so it looked like I put glitter on the egg! I simply heated 1 cup grape juice and 1 tablespoon vinegar to a boil, let it cool slightly and added the egg.

Grape juice was really cool! The sugars in the juice formed crystals on the egg so it looked like I put glitter on the egg! I simply heated 1 cup grape juice and 1 tablespoon vinegar to a boil, let it cool slightly and added the egg.

Brown or Gold – Coffee grounds, brown onion skins or dill seed make brown or gold.

The brown onion skin eggs are a family tradition -- my blind grandma made them every year. So, it was extra special to finally learn how to make them. I used the dried skins of 3 brown inions, 1 cup boiling water and 1 tablespoon vinegar.  The result was a beautiful golden color that could be mistaken for orange.

The brown onion skin eggs are a family tradition — my blind grandma made them every year. So, it was extra special to finally learn how to make them. I used the dried skins of 3 brown inions, 1 cup boiling water and 1 tablespoon vinegar. The result was a beautiful golden color that could be mistaken for orange.

The ground coffee (I used instant) created a gorgeous chocolate-looking egg. I added 1 tablespoon coffee grounds to 1 cup boiling water and 1 tablespoon vinegar.

The ground coffee (I used instant) created a gorgeous chocolate-looking egg. I added 1 tablespoon coffee grounds to 1 cup boiling water and 1 tablespoon vinegar.

2012-02-27 08.44.45

Once you determine what ingredients you have to make the various colors, you’re going to want to make sure you have the following:

–       Lots of large bowls

–       Lots of hot water (boiling in most cases)

–       Vinegar

–       Measuring spoons

–       Large covering for your table

–       Some plastic gloves for keeping your hands free of food stains

–       Cooling racks

–       And PLENTY of hard boiled eggs!

Powdered Dye Recipe Guidelines

For dyes using a powder (paprika, turmeric, or teas) you’re going to want to combine 1-2 cups of very hot water with 1-2 tablespoons of vinegar and stir.  Then, add 1-2 tablespoons of the powder to your water and vinegar mixture and mix thoroughly.  Add your hard boiled egg and let it steep for anywhere from several minutes to several hours. If you’re looking for very bold colors, plan to keep the eggs in the dye for several hours — placing them in the refrigerator to keep the eggs at a safe temperature.

Chopped Food Dye Recipe Guidelines

For dyes using food (carrot tops, beets, cabbage) you’ll want to grate or finely chop 1-2 cups of the food.  Boil it in 1-2 cups of water and let it steep in simmering water for several minutes.  The longer you let the food steep, the deeper the all-natural dye color usually gets.  After you’ve achieved your desired color, strain the food from the water and add 1-2 tablespoons of vinegar. Stir and then add your hard boiled egg and wait.

The results of the egg dying after a few hours of being out of the solution and in the fridge.

The results of the egg dying after a few hours of being out of the solution and in the fridge.

I hope this blog post inspires a slight reinvention to a long-standing tradition in your home at Easter time.  Dying eggs the natural way is fun, safe and a great way for children to learn more about food. If you used all-natural egg dyes this year please share your recipes, tips and photos!

From all of us at High Quality Organics, we wish you and your family a Blessed Easter, Happy Passover and very Happy Spring!

Vanilla (Spice, Not Ice Silly!)

By Stephanie Rayburn, Sales Trainee for High Quality Organics

Plain ‘ol Vanilla?  Actually, Vanilla is quite an exciting flavor:
 exotic, well-traveled, a little mysterious- and has a great story to 
tell.

Photo Courtesy of Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden

Photo Courtesy of Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden

You may know that the lovely vanilla bean, pieces of which you see
 speckled throughout your scoop of ice cream, actually comes from an
orchid.  The potent oils of the dried black pod and bean are known to 
calm, soothe and make delicious and versatile deserts.

It is thought 
that the Totonaco Indians of Mexico were the first to cultivate the
 pale white orchid flower.  As the Aztecs and then the Spaniards came 
to rule the region, the secrets of the vanilla bean were carried 
outside the tropics and into the greenhouses of European royalty.

Melipona Bee Courtesy of Pollinators.comAlthough the vanilla bean quickly became a trendy drink for the rich
 (a pre-cursor to the vanilla latte, perhaps?), it remained rare and 
difficult to procure. The key to the successful propagation of the
orchid is the special symbiotic relationship with the Melipona bee. In keeping with the sweet and pure reputation of Vanilla, the 
stingless, dainty bee mysteriously buzzes in to pollinate the orchid 
on the one morning a year that the flower blooms. The bloom, if not 
pollinated, wilts and drops after just a single day and the
 opportunity for vanilla bean production is lost for a full year.

It was not until the mid-1800’s, when a 12-year-old boy from the 
French colonial island of Reunion discovered the method of hand
 pollinating the Vanilla orchid, that the bean became widely
 cultivated.

Vanilla Bean & Powder from iFood.tvA global fervor for the flavor has led to the cultivation
 of over 60 varieties of Vanilla orchids; from the rich, spicy Tahitian variety to the 
highest quality Madagascan vanilla used in Bourbon.

The uses of this fragrance and flavor go beyond just pleasing the 
pallet and the nose; vanilla has long been utilized as a soothing and sensual tonic with many health benefits.  Keep calm my friends, and reach for the Vanilla!

StephLakeTahoeStephanie (often referred to as Steph) is from many beautiful places, including East Texas (she still lets the occasional “ya’ll” slip), Oregon, Arizona and West Africa, where she served in the Peace Corp.  She is most in her element when traveling and exploring, and is loving her current adventures in ‘The Biggest Little City’ she’s ever lived. 

Steph is passionate about organics and the sustainable agriculture practices that the industry encourages, but her favorite part of being on the High Quality Organics team is the wide range of fun characters she gets to work with! Steph has a twin sister (fraternal) and an older brother who live in the area; her mom is a self-taught herbalist, and HQO’s biggest Facebook fan.  On weekends you can find her hiking in the pines of Lake Tahoe and enjoying the music and craft beers of Reno.

A Rookie’s Recap of Natural Products Expo

By Stephanie Rayburn, Sales Trainee for High Quality Organics

I had a “lightbulb on” moment as our marketing manager and I pulled up to the Natural Products Expo West; dropping off gallons of our HQO-special lucuma ice cream. As we drove into an organized chaos of cars, people, fork-lifts and pallets piled high with products and equipment I said, “Ohhhh… Now I get it…!”

ExpoWest Logo

Expo West was bigger, better and more awesome than anything I had previously envisioned! The next several days were a whirl-wind of high-energy excitement and hard work.  As I passed out samples of the ice cream and our crowd-pleasing Organic Masala Chai tea, made contacts and scanned badges, I also observed the art of networking, as showcased by our ever-on-point sales team.

I quickly learned to carry a stack of business cards around as I hunted for the best snack samples — almost everyone uses organic spices and vegetables in their products and many companies are growing and looking for new suppliers.  I met several of our current customers and got to taste for myself what they did with HQO ingredients; products that I had only known by item number, like “24 decorticated cardamom,” took on a new life for me in the delicious treats I sampled.

Numi Savory TeasSince I shamelessly frequent the organic and bulk (read “yuppy and hippy”) sections of grocery stores, I was surprised to find so many products at the show that were not yet on my radar.  How about Numi’s vegetable teas? Carrot curry tea… “Not quite soup, but more than tea!” Yuba, a tofu alternative with amazing texture and an appealing, less-processed and more natural look. Also, coconut everything! Coconut oil, nectar, butter… coconut dried, pressed, spreadable, drinkable, crunchy, creamy, hot, iced… YUM! Chia seeds were huge, both the black and white types that HQO brings in.  New crackers and chips were around every corner, featuring flax, sesame, and hemp seeds.  Powdered greens and dehydrated vegetables were popular in bars and raw snacks,  some made with HQO-created proprietary spice blends.  Interesting new botanicals, such as the mineral-packed South American root “maca,” the tropical super-green called Moringa, and kava, a South Pacific drink known for its relaxing effect. There was quite a bit of interest in and knowledge of lucuma, our showcased ice cream flavor- good job HQO for being ahead of the curve on that new trend!

The Expo was, at times, over-whelming and exhausting- but most of all, FUN! We have the best industry, full of people who love to exchange ideas, care about the health of their customers and their planet, and who look at buying and selling as simply creating win-win situations.  I came away from the Expo understanding that the most important thing HQO does is fulfill a need for our costumers, allowing them to in turn serve their customers with delicious and healthy products.  As we packed up the booth, our marketing manager was already analyzing, reflecting and scheming about next year! Onward and upward!

StephLakeTahoeStephanie (often referred to as Steph) is from many beautiful places, including East Texas (she still lets the occasional “ya’ll” slip), Oregon, Arizona and West Africa, where she served in the Peace Corp.  She is most in her element when traveling and exploring, and is loving her current adventures in ‘The Biggest Little City’ she’s ever lived.  She is passionate about organics and the sustainable agriculture practices that the industry encourages, but her favorite part of being on the High Quality Organics team is the wide range of fun characters she gets to work with! Steph has a twin sister (fraternal) and an older brother who live in the area; her mom is a self-taught herbalist, and HQO’s biggest Facebook fan.  On weekends you can find her hiking in the pines of Lake Tahoe and enjoying the music and craft beers of Reno.

Emerging Opportunities in Morocco

February marked the first time High Quality Organics visited Morocco. From the vast changes in scenery – harsh dessert to lush plains – to the diverse cultural experiences – almost ancient-like villages to modern-day cities – the visit to Morocco gave us great insight on unique organic partnerships this country has to offer.

Morocco Map_WordAtlas.com

Morocco is a country on the northwest coast of Africa.  It’s agriculture industry employs approximately 40% of the population and accounts for 15% of GDP. Most of their and trade is with Europe but they receive a good amount of agriculture imports from the U.S. Because of Morocco’s fairly temperate climate, the country is able to produce a wide variety of agriculture products from wheat and barley to olives and oranges.

We sought out Morocco because of the new relationships we’ve been fostering with some innovative organic farmers. We wanted to meet them in person and learn more about their family and farm. Below are some highlights from the trip. We hope you enjoy!

Wild Herb Collection

The first part of our trip was dedicated to driving five hours east of Casablanca, to the Atlas Mountains where over 50,000 acres of wild rosemary grows at 3,200 feet.

The area is owned by the government and closely monitored by the Ministry of Agriculture to ensure it remains a sustainable and economic resource for the local villages.

The land is divided into parcels and local families bid to collect rosemary on the plot for three years.  The plots are then divided into three sections and collection can only occur on one section per year.

Each permit holder is not only expected to harvest the rosemary sustainably (leaving at least five centimeters of the plant and only collecting 15kg of product per week) but also maintain a portion of the road that gives access to the wild rosemary crop.

The rosemary is collected by hand from May through September daily.  At the end of the week, the family uses donkeys to transport the material to a collection center where they are paid.

Approximately 50% of the local families’ income comes from the collection of seasonal herbs and the remaining comes from raising animals such as sheep and goats.

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Organic Farming in Morocco

The second part of our trip was dedicated to meeting with a farmer, Santis, who grows a wide variety of products on 40 acres of cultivated fields leased by the Moroccan government for 40 years.  Santis is a second-generation farmer with a great passion for sustainability and innovation.

Our first stop was to his onion fields where he showed us a very practical way he stores onions.  Instead of using up precious warehouse space, the farmers in Morocco build these onion caves: essentially a man-made ditch using rock walls and a straw roof and then covered in plastic.  We were skeptical at first but after closer inspection, they clearly keep the onion in excellent condition.

Then it was on to the hot pepper and peppermint fields and greenhouses where you can see some of the bitter orange plants they grow.

Throughout our visit we witness the considerable investment Santis has made into an underground irrigation system. It always amazes us to see the sophistication and genius our growers put into their operation. With our focus on long-term contracting, they’re able to dedicate resources into significant capital investments that end up providing more consistent, high quality product for our customers. It’s a partnership we’re proud to be part of.

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Five Learnings from BioFach 2013

HQO’s VP of Supply Chain, Toby Eck, and Senior Buyer, Just Gates, traveled to BioFach last month to meet with suppliers and gather insight on global organic trends.  BioFach is one of the largest global events dedicated to the organic … Continue reading