Category Archives: Have You Tried It?

All About Sage

By Angela Keyser, Director of Marketing for High Quality Organics

When I ask you what herb reminds you of Thanksgiving, most of you will probably say sage.  This perennial herb, native to the Mediterranean, is indeed quite popular at Thanksgiving. Often added to a stuffing or roasted turkey recipe, sage has a wonderful, slightly sweet and citrusy smell.  Some say it smells camphorous, cleansing or purifying and it can linger for some time – good if you enjoy the smell, not so good if you don’t!

The botanical name for sage is ‘Salvia’ which, in Lattin, means “to heal” or “to save.” The reason sage was named this way is because it’s essential oils contain antioxidant and antimicrobial properties. (Sage is an excellent source of vitamin A, C, E and K  – important antioxidants for health and wellness.)

Sage has been used for centuries not only in cooking but for medicinal purposes for many things including healing the common cold or flu and soothing insect bites.  The Native Americans believe it wards off evil spirits and the Arabs believe it helps with immortality. At one time, the Chinese regarded sage so highly they would trade up to four pounds or sacks of tea (camelia sinensis) for one pound or sack of sage leaves to make tea. (While sage tea isn’t commonly found in most grocery stores, you can find it online.)

The sage plant is quite easy to grow, will weather over the winter and is fairly drought tolerant. So, it’s a great herb to try if you’re new to (or not so good at) gardening.  It’s leaves are soft and blue-greyish in color and the plant can have delicate purple or blue flowers, depending on the variety.

Sage is an extremely versatile herb to use in the kitchen. Here are just a few delicious ways to play with it in your everyday cooking:

Steep in hot water for tea
Infuse in water with blackberries
– Added to ice cubes (fresh only)
Eggs
Flavoring for white bean dishes
Infuse with salt
Rub on poultry, pork or lamb
– Incorporate into sausage
Savory flavor to bread or rolls
Simple syrup for cocktails
Savory flavor for homemade crackers
– Soups and stews
– Vegetables or potatoes

Have You Tried It: Buckwheat

Buckwheat Field

Buckwheat Field

Buckwheat is actually not a wheat or grass but a member of the sorrel family. It originated in Southeast Asia and is primarily grown as a cover crop. (A cover crop is commonly used during “off-season” growing to protect and enhance the soil.) It’s a short-season crop that loves acidic soil and lots of drainage making it perfect for mountainous regions and sandy soils.

Buckwheat is used for its seeds, which look like little pyramids, and is gluten-free so it’s a great food to try if you or someone in your family has wheat allergies.

Buckwheat Groats (Seeds)

Buckwheat Groats (Seeds)

One cup of cooked buckwheat has about 155 calories and about 18% of your daily recommended value of fiber.  It also has 6 grams of protein and is a good source of iron and magnesium.

Probably the most familiar product using buckwheat are buckwheat pancakes, as buckwheat is often milled into flour and used in bakery items.  But, soba noodles, a popular Asian noodle, are made from buckwheat as well.  We’re also seeing buckwheat used in cereals, crackers and granola bars.

Products we found in our local grocery stores using buckwheat.

Products we found in our local grocery stores using buckwheat.

There are lots of ways you can cook with buckwheat.  For example, buckwheat flour can be substituted for about 50% of your all-purpose flour in cookie or muffin recipes. Click here to learn more about baking with buckwheat flour.

Buckweat groats (the seeds) can be heated with some hot water or milk and combined with your favorite fruit or sweetener for a hot cereal in on a cold morning. It’s also great in soups and stews or in salads.

If you’re interested in purchasing bulk quantities (50-pounds or more) of certified organic buckwheat, please contact us via www.HQOrganics.com. To learn more about buckwheat, read these informative articles:

Buckwheat 101 by the Washington Post

Buckwheat flour in backing and cooking by the L.A. Times

Buck-wild for buckwheat by the Wall Street Journal

Dr. Perricone’s No. 5 Superfood: Buckwheat via Oprah.com

Yerba Mate: The unexpected rise of a cherished South American tea

By: Patrick, McComas, Director of Global Sales

Patrick McComas, Director of Global Sales, visits an organic yerba mate plantation in South America.

Patrick McComas, Director of Global Sales, visits an organic yerba mate plantation in South America.

I had the awesome opportunity to travel to South America last month and meet our hard-working organic yerba mate growers.  The trip not only included fascinating tours of the yerba mate fields and manufacturing facilities but also an education on the beloved tradition of drinking yerba mate and, of course, sampling of a plethora of yerba mate beverages!

Yerba Mate’s Health Benefits

A yerba mate leaf.

A yerba mate leaf.

For those that aren’t familiar with yerba mate, it’s a tea-like beverage and is made by steeping the leaves and branches of an evergreen holly tree that’s native to South America.  It’s been consumed by the majority of South Americans for generations and has several health benefits:

  • Yerba mate tea is very high in antioxidants. In fact, it has about 90% more antioxidants than green tea. Because of its high antioxidant levels, yerba mate is believed to have significant immune-boosting properties. Click here to read about them.
  • While the caffeine yerba mate provides increases mental energy, clarity, focus and physical performance, it doesn’t cause any of the uncomfortable side effects such as headaches, stomachaches and jitters associated with drinking more common caffeinated beverages.
  • A study by the University of Illinois links yerba mate to the prevention and destruction of colon cancer cells. Click here to read about the study.
  • South Americans have long used yerba mate tea as a traditional herbal remedy against digestive ailments and to manage weight. Read more about how yerba mate helps manage weight here
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Here you can see the large Pinheiro Araucaria trees towering over the yerba mate plantation.

Growing & Harvesting Yerba Mate

Our organic family farmers in South America have been growing yerba mate for over five generations. They learned from the natives over a hundred years ago and have been working hard to preserve the natural ecosystem for yerba mate ever since.  For example, yerba mate needs to be grown in very specific soil with a healthy dose of shade.  The Pinheiro Araucaria tree provides this vital shade that allows the yerba mate trees to thrive. 

I had the opportunity to harvest some mate by hand, learning how to carefully clip the leaves and branches without creating long-term damage to the tree.

I had the opportunity to harvest some mate by hand, learning how to carefully clip the leaves and branches without creating long-term damage to the tree.

It’s also important to allow the yerba mate trees to grow in-between harvests. Over the generations, our farmers have learned to utilize a variety of harvesting techniques (hand, hand-trimmed, and hand-cut at various places and angles on the branches) to preserve the tree.  They then  wait two years before they go back to a tree they’ve harvested from. This ensures the yerba mate can re-grow and continue to provide a plentiful harvest as efficiently as possible.  Maintaining a proper growth and harvest cycle also balances the flavor and nutritional value of the mate. 

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The oven used to remove almost all the humidity from the air and the tea is extremely hot.

After harvesting, the mate is loaded onto a tarp, wrapped tight and delivered to the processing facility where it is fire-dried using Eucalyptus tree logs in a gigantic wood oven.  The heat produced from the fire passes through a large chamber containing mate leaves, drying them and taking the most of the moisture out of the air.  The majority of the smoke produced from the wood-fired ovens is transferred through a chimney out of the facility and never reaches the yerba mate.  The mate is then transferred to the mills where it is cut for loose leaf (gourd drinkers) or tea bags.

Green, Aged & Roasted Mate

During my trip I was able to watch three different types of yerba mate being processed: green mate, aged mate and roasted mate. 

Just a few of the various mate drinks I sampled.

Just a few of the various mate drinks I sampled.

Green mate is simply freshly harvested yerba mate. It’s been recently picked (within days and commonly processed the same day it’s harvested) and is relatively untouched other than allowing it to be quick fire air dried, milled and packed. It tastes similar to a very subtle green tea.

Aged mate is dried and stored for a few years (usually 2-4) before being consumed. The harvesting and processing is the same as green mate and simply stored for a few years before being consumed. When properly aged, some teas develop a whole new level of flavor (just like wine) and yerba mate is no exception. The aged mate has a beautiful nutty color and combines the flavors of green and black tea with natural smokey notes to create a lovely balanced refreshment.

Even the gas man drinks yerba mate on the job!

Even the gas man drinks yerba mate on the job!

Roasted or Toasted mate is my favorite and is by far the most popular yerba mate in South America. It can be made from either green or aged mate and includes a roasting step – usually in a coffee roaster. The taste, I think, is unbelievable! Full of malty and caramel flavors, this is a full-bodied tea that’s perfect iced or hot. In South America, they drink it at all hours of the day in a variety of forms: iced with lemon, blended with lemonade, whipped into a latte, and more.

I hope this little overview of yerba mate was informative and sparked your interest to give it a try.  It’s found in most grocery stores in the tea isle or ready-to-drink beverage section. It’s also starting to show up in a wide variety of blends like Tazo’s Cocoa Mint Mate. I’d love to hear if you’ve tried it and, if so, your favorite way of enjoying this emerging beverage.

If I can answer any questions about yerba mate or assist you in wholesale supplies, don’t hesitate to email me at info@hqorganics.com. Or, you can always post a question here or on our Facebook page.

Happy Sipping!

Patrick McComas, Director of Global Sales for High Quality Organics

Patrick McComas, Director of Global Sales for High Quality Organics and tea expert.

Patrick McComas has been with High Quality Organics for over 3 years. He began as a Senior Buyer with our Supply Chain team and evolved into sales after a few years.  His breadth of knowledge on all ingredients – especially tea – makes him a vital asset to HQO and a fascinating dinner guest! When Patrick isn’t sharing the latest details about an uber exclusive tea plantation in the remote hills of Sri Lanka, he’s creating some amazing music with his bands.  Patrick was a manager in the early Northwest Micro Brewery scene, including the first certified organic Brewery, Laurelwood, earlier in his career.  His love for teas and spices began when he would work experiment with spiced beers, or create his homemade hot sauces. (Beware of his ghost chili sauce; homegrown and beyond hot!)  Patrick is married and the proud father of an 18-month old who keeps him laughing after even the hardest days at work.

Lucuma: The Superfruit of the Incas

Click on the image below to learn about lucuma, a superfruit native to Peru. It’s full of nutrition and provides a sweet taste, perfect for milk-based products like ice cream, smoothies, puddings and yogurt.

High Quality Organics provides certified organic lucuma, direct from family farmers in Peru.  Contact us today to learn about wholesale availability (50-pound orders or more).

2012_10_4_HQO Lucuma_FINAL copy

 

 

Rosemary Peach Infused Lemonade

2013-07-05 18.43.09Summertime is full of fun, seasonal cuisine. Watermelon, strawberries and, of course, fresh herbs! This delicious rosemary and peach infused lemonade is a favorite among our staff and sure to quench your thirst on a hot summer afternoon.

There are two ways to make this delicious beverage: 1) homemade lemonade or, 2) store-bought lemonade.

Option 1: Homemade Lemonade
1 cup lemon juice (about 8-12 lemons)
2 cups rosemary infused simple syrup (recipe below)
3 cups water
2-4 cups ice
1 cup peach puree (about 2-3 peaches)
 
Combine lemon juice, rosemary infused simple syrup, water, ice and peach puree. Stir and serve.
 
Rosemary Infused Simple Syrup
1 cup of sugar
2 cups water
3-4 tablespoons dried lavender OR about 5-8 sprigs of freshly chopped rosemary
 

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Combine sugar and water in saucepan and heat over medium-high until sugar is dissolved.  Remove from heat and add rosemary. Steep for 10 minutes to an hour, depending on flavor desired. Strain rosemary before adding simple syrup to lemonade.
 
Option 2: Store-Bought Lemonade
1 quart of organic lemonade 
1 cup peach puree (about 2-3 peaches)
5-8 sprigs of fresh rosemary chopped
 
Combine ingredients and let steep overnight. Strain and enjoy!

Lemon & Mint Infused Water

2013_7_3_LemonMintWater_1Many of us are experiencing record-breaking heat around the country. Stay cool and comfortable with this super simple infused water recipe.  It’ll not only quench your thirst but it will give you a great jump-start to your morning or a welcome pick-me-up to your afternoon.

Lemon and mint have numorous medicinal benefits which we encourage you to research. (For legal reasons, we can’t tout them here but you can easily find out through a quick web search.)

If you don’t have lemons on hand, oranges are a great match to mint.  If you’re not a lover of mint, peppermint is a perfect substitute. Don’t be bashful, explore various combinations of herbs and fruit as there are many, many options!

 

Infused lemon mint water in six easy steps.

Infused lemon mint water in six easy steps.

Step 1: Gather your ingredients: water, 1-2 sprigs of mint and the juice of 1-2 lemons (@1/4-1/2 cup).

Step 1: Gather your ingredients: water, 1-2 sprigs of mint and the juice of 1-2 lemons (@1/4-1/2 cup).

Step 2: Add your strained lemon juice to the water.

Step 2: Add your strained lemon juice to the water.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Step 3: Remove the mint leaves from the stem.

Step 3: Remove the mint leaves from the stem.

Step 4: Tear the mint leaves over the water and add them to the water. (You want to tear them over the water so all the essential oil from the mint goes into your water, not onto your cutting board.)

Step 4: Tear the mint leaves over the water and add them to the water. (You want to tear them over the water so all the essential oil from the mint goes into your water, not onto your cutting board.)

 

 

Step 5: Give the water a quick stir.

Step 5: Give the water a quick stir.

Step 6: if you want to be super spiffy - totally optional - add some lemon slices.

Step 6: if you want to be super spiffy – totally optional – add some lemon slices.

Ta-da! We're pretty sure you'll drink more water with this delightful infusion of lemon and mint. Enjoy!

Ta-da! We’re pretty sure you’ll drink more water with this delightful infusion of lemon and mint. Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

Lavender Infused Lemonade

Pour over ice and enjoy!

Put your herb garden to great use this summer by adding some of your favorite herbs to lemonade or water.  Below is our super simple recipe for lavender infused lemonade. Enjoy!

There are two ways to make this recipe: 1) use store-bought lemonade or, 2) make your own homemade lemonade (water, sugar, lemons).

Option 1: Store-Bought Lemonade Infused with Lavender

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Option 2: Homemade Lemonade
1 cup lemon juice
2 cups lavender infused simple syrup (recipe below)
3 cups water
 
Lavender Infused Simple Syrup
1 cup of sugar
2 cups water
3-4 tablespoons dried lavender OR about 4-5 sprigs of fresh (torn)
 
Combine sugar and water in saucepan and heat over medium-high until sugar is dissolved.  Remove from heat and add culinary lavender. Steep for 10 minutes to an hour, depending on flavor desired.

For more great ways to use herbs with lemonade, visit this great blog post by Design Mom.