Category Archives: Have You Tried It?

Corn: A Classic Taste of Mexican Heritage

As the days lengthen and temperatures rise, there is one produce-section star I anticipate with great delight.  My mouth waters and my eyes begin to search the produce sections, road-side stands and back-yard BBQ’s for that sweet and fresh treat… roasted corn on the cob!

The Street Food of Mexico

Photo courtesy of tumblr.com

Elcote, Mexican-style corn on the cob. Photo courtesy of tumblr.com

For the ultimate corn experience however, you will need to head to Mexico, where corn on the cob, or elote, is commonly sold from street carts and adorned with everything from butter, chili, and lime to mayonnaise, cumin and sharp cojita cheese.  If you can’t travel south, try making it yourself with one of our favorite recipes.

Organic Farming in Mexico

Mexico organic farmers plant 17.2 million acres in corn, mostly for human consumption (think of the fresh corn tortillas ubiquitous at mealtimes).  While conventional farming experiences the ups and downs of GMO politics and global price fluctuations, the organic farms of Mexico are part of a more stable and growing industry.  According to Research Institute of Organic Agriculture (FiBL), Mexico is estimated to have more than 169,570 organic farmers, considered the third largest country for organic farmers (behind India and Uganda) with approximately 1.2 million acres in production in 2012.

The History of Corn

Photo courtesy of Natural Resource Conservation and Policy.

Photo courtesy of Natural Resource Conservation and Policy.

We in the U.S. have come to embrace corn and think of it as our own; a true-blue, U.S.A. flag-waving country-bred person is proudly called a “corn-fed American.”  And although no American summer event is complete without the complimentary presence of that juicy yellow treat, it is Mexico who has the deepest cultural relationship with corn.  It is a relationship that goes way back, back to its now-extinct grass ancestor “teosinte.”  Research indicates that corn (or maize) was domesticated and grown for food as far back as 7-10,000 years ago in Central Mexico.  In fact, the phrase “true corn-fed American” should probably refer to the Central Americans whose empires and cultures were built on the nutritious, high-yielding and high-energy food staple, corn.   The Mayans, Toltecs, Aztecs and others thrived on and highly revered their main crop.

Where to Buy Organic Corn Ingredients

High Quality Organics sells 100% organic corn silk, syrup, starch and corn flour and maintains great relationships with its Mexican farmers. Our customers use corn flower in baking blends, soups and snacks.  As a popular gluten-free option, be on the lookout for organic corn;  a rock-star of produce stands and health food aisles alike.

A is for Alfalfa

This month it’s all about getting’ your green on!  As spring greens up our landscape, and our Facebook sustainability tips green up our lifestyles, adding greens like Alfalfa into our smoothies, soups, sauces and snacks can give our health a major boost.

Alfalfa Close UpAlfalfa is one of the ingredients we are able source locally, from farmers right here in Northern Nevada.  It is similar to wheat and barley grass (items we’ve featured in our blog earlier this month) in that it’s nutrient-dense and antioxidant rich.

Alfalfa Powder Nutrition LabelAlfalfa is rich in saponin, a component that combines with alfalfa’s fiber to act as a binding agent and provide certain circulatory health benefits.  Containing eight essential digestive enzymes and amino acids, an alfalfa supplement can help with maintaining a healthy and balanced life.

alfalfa root depthBesides the incredible health benefits of this plant, Alfalfa has a great backstory as well.  “Alfalfa” is an Arabic word meaning “Father of All Plants-” quite the label!

As a legume (and not a grass), this plant sends roots up to 30 feet deep to find inaccessible nutrients, which it brings to the surface to share with the other plant friends in its ecosystem.  Like all legumes, Alfalfa stores nitrogen in small nodes along its roots, to be released as needed or when the plant has dried at the end of the season.  For this reason, Alfalfa is often used as a “cover crop-” a crop planted in a fallowed pasture that benefits the soil for the next season’s crop.

Barley Grass – An Emerging Health Food Being Studied by Many

After a long, cold winter, there is nothing quite like the site of the first blades of sprouting grass, greening up the world (and not yet long enough to have to mow!)   Just in time for spring, this month is all about some of our favorite greens and what makes them so special.

barley-grass2Barley grass has many of the same health benefits as our previous blog-topic, wheat grass.  It is grown, harvested and produced in many of the same ways but has some very specific health benefits.  Compared to the extremely powerful health benefits and taste of wheat grass, barley grass is more subtle (though may be higher in nutrients) and therefor may be an easier choice for those wanting to begin incorporating grasses into their diet.

You may have heard the tales of the cancer-fighting and curative powers of grasses.  What is it that makes these greens so powerful?  Barley grass is the most studied of the grasses, thanks in part to the research of Dr. Yoshihide Hagiwara, president of the Hagiwara Health Institute in Japan.  His studies show that barley grass tea significantly lowers LDL cholesterol (the bad kind) and increases circulation.

Nature's Way Barley Grass 9 oz Pwdr - Swanson Health Products copyWhile much research is left to do, Yasuo Hotta of the University of California at La Jolla has found that barley grass contains a powerful anti-inflammatory substance called P4d1.  This substance is shown to repair DNA in cells and prevent carcinogenesis, aging, & cell death. This substance, P4d1, prevents and treats pancreatitis, stomatitis, inflammation of the oral cavity, and dermatitis, & also lacerations of the stomach and the duodenum. According to Hotta’s research, barley grass is a more effective treatment than steroids and has few (if any) side effects.

Other studies show that Barley Grass is an effective treatment for ulcerative colitis, where low levels of friendly bacteria in the gut are linked with inflammation of the large intestine and digestive problems.  Regular intake of barley grass increased helpful bacteria in the digestive track and reduced the presence inflammation-inducing chemicals in the bowels.

Besides the medicinal properties of the grass, what can it do for your diet?  According to nutritionist Gillian McKeith, barley grass offers more protein than a sirloin steak, five times the amount of iron as broccoli, seven times more vitamin C than orange juice and 11 times more calcium than milk.

High Quality Organics sources barley grass (species Hordeum vulgare) from the USA and China, and is featuring this bright green, fragment as a monthly special.  Jump on the bandwagon and green up your health regimen!

Have You Tried: Wheat Grass – A Clean, Lean, Green Nutrition Machine

By Stephanie Rayburn, Sales Trainee for High Quality Organics

Photo courtesy of FitSugar.com

Photo courtesy of FitSugar.com

Walk into a juice bar or café these days, and you may be surprised to hear the person in front of you order a round of shots for the group.  Shortly, you see the fresh squeezed juice shots are delivered to their table-  small cups of almost neon-green liquid, usually with a small wedge of orange for chasing.  You may observe a variety of expressions on the faces of the juice-drinkers, as they either sip or bolt down the juice, possibly grabbing for their orange wedge chaser or cooly passing it up.  From the pleased look on the experienced wheat-grass drinker’s face to the skeptical and possibly grossed-out look of the rookie juicer, your interest may be piqued enough for you to step up to the counter and have your own first wheat grass experience!

wheatgrass-powder-212x213While some like the potent, fresh-squeezed taste of the young wheat plant Triticum aestivum, many prefer to glean the health benefits of the plant by adding the dehydrated powder to smoothies, soups and other treats.  Wheat grass powder is a common ingredient in protein drink mixes, health bars, snacks and whole-food vitamins.

Although the supplement was introduced in the 1940’s, it is quickly gaining in popularity as a powerful super food.  And it’s no wonder- the grass shoots contain an extremely high concentration of nutrients such as vitamins A, C and E, calcium, iron, magnesium, amino acids and chlorophyll.

Organic Wheat Grass Powder Supplement Facts

Charles Francis Schnabel, an agricultural chemist in the 1930’s, conducted a series of experiments with young wheat Ggrass and was the first to market the powdered dried in cans labeled “Schnabel’s Powdered Grass.” Among the many health benefits of wheatgrass touted by Schnabel and others are: the immunity boosting, detoxification, and aid in digestion by killing harmful bacteria. Others have used the green to fight cancer, anemia, diabetes, constipation, infections, skin conditions, ulcerative colitis, joint pain and many other health problems.

While the grass can be grown slowly over winter in temperate climates, it is often grow in a greenhouse in just eight to 12 days.  The grass is harvested when it is around seven inches high, immediately juiced and consumed or dehydrated into a powder.

High Quality Organics sources certified organic wheat grass powder from China. When we’re not selling it, we’re busy experimenting with it.  Here are some of our favorite uses: smoothies, salad dressing, guacamole. Other ideas include adding it to hummus, pesto, vegetable dip, baked goods (you’ll have to add extra sweetener to compensate for the wheat grass flavor), soups and sauces.

StephLakeTahoe

Steph is passionate about organics and the sustainable agriculture practices the industry encourages. With experience from the Peace Corp and National Forest Service, she brings a diversified and resourceful skills set to HQO’s growing customer service and sales team. On the weekends you can find her hiking in the pines of Lake Tahoe and enjoying the music and craft beers of Reno.