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Onion Expert

Dinner Parties and Sustainability

Blake Branen Rosencrantz - Friday, May 11, 2012
Have you ever had to plan a meal for a large group of people? The other day I found myself cooking dinner for a group of around 20 people.  The hardest thing about cooking for that many people wasn’t trying to find the time to do it, or even the cooking process itself – it was figuring out what to make. Normally when I make a meal for my family, the decision on what to make is easy. It’s easy to feed 5 people – I know that I can provide for my family quality, safe and nutritious food for a reasonable price tag. But that’s not the case when you are providing food for a large group of people.  All of a sudden you feel like you have to make a choice – do I splurge on the cost or do I provide a lesser quality meal? Do I serve steak or do I serve fishstick sandwiches? Okay – I would never serve my guests fishstick sandwiches, but you get the point. It really was tricky to find a perfect balance between the two. After the entire experience was over, I started thinking about how similar my dilema was to one we are facing world wide – how do we increase food production to feed the masses without sacrificing quality, safety and nutrition? Is it possible to double our food production without depleting our natural resources? Researchers say that they are expecting the population to increase to 9 billion people by the year 2050, that’s a lot of mouth to feeds compared to the current 6.9 billion people on the planet. We are going to have to increase our food production by 70% in order to feed everybody. And though I appreciate organic agriculture, it cannot by itself feed the rapidly growing population. We need to find a balance between organic farming and the dangerous over-use of some pesticides and chemicals. We should not put taboos on all fertilizers and pesticides, but develop safe ways to use them, that work with our natural resources and not against. It is my hope more farmers take a common sense farming approach – one that aims to make facilities and processes more sustainable through water conservation, waste management practices, or what be it. We may not have the solution to the world’s problem, but we should always be looking for news ways to produce more, quality produce without sacrificing safety or nutrition. It is clear that we cannot feed today’s world with yesterday’s agriculture. And it is certain that we cannot feed the world of tomorrow with the agriculture of today. But, I do believe that highly productive sustainable agriculture is possible, and the more we work together to find a solution the better our chances will be of finding one. I would love to hear your thoughts. What do you think the solution is for feeding a world of 9 billion people - Do you favor more on the side of locally grown organic produce? Or do you see a need in GMO’s  and the use pesticides?  

10 Ways to Add More Fresh Produce Into Your Diet

Blake Branen Rosencrantz - Saturday, May 05, 2012
            The health benefits of fresh fruits and vegetables are undeniable. The USDA guideline recommends 2 cups of fruit and 2 ½ cups of vegetables per day. Think about what you ate this week? Did you eat the daily recommended amount? Most people don’t eat enough fresh produce. A 2009 study by Kimmons found that only 1 in 10 Americans are meeting their daily fresh produce intake. What does a serving of fruits and vegetables equal? USDA sets a serving size for fruit or vegetables to be equal to about one-half cup. Greens like spinach and lettuce have a serving size equal to one full cup. One serving of sliced fruit is equal to one-half cup; however a single piece of fruit, such as an apple or an orange counts as one serving. The health benefits of fruits and vegetables are many, including: -          Increase fiber intake, protecting you from digestive issue and diseases such as diverticulosis -          Healthy weight / increased weight loss -          Boost in vitamins and minerals -          Possibly prevents types of cancer and chronic diseases. Here are 10 easy, delicious ways to add more fresh produce into your diet:
  1. Add chopped vegetables, such as tomato, onion, asparagus, pepper or spinach to you scrambled eggs or omelets.
  2. Eat fruit with you pancake, toast, or cereal
  3. Top your sandwiches with as many fresh vegetables you have on hand. Lettuce, onion, tomato, sprouts, peppers, mushrooms, olives… The options are endless!
  4. Bring along celery spear, asparagus, or carrots to snack on during the day
  5. In addition to lettuce, add more vegetables and fruits to your salads. Try mixing in orange slices for a nice tangy twist.
  6. Heating up soup at work? Bring some veggies to add to it. We suggest onions, mushrooms and carrots.
  7. In the mood for pizza? Try one with extra veggies. Not only will you be eating a little healthier, you’ll eat less because of the extra toppings.
  8. Roast vegetables while you cook dinner. Brush them with olive oil, set them on a baking sheet and let them roast while you prepare the rest of your meal.
  9. Skip desert and head straight for the fruit. Instead of grabbing a piece of pie, candy or pastry – slice up your favorite sweet fruit, such as strawberry and mango, and top it with a tiny bit of cream.
  10. Substitute ice cream for cottage cheese and frozen berries. This is one of the best ice cream substitutions around. And, it’s extremely healthy for you!
Do you have creative ways or tips for adding fresh produce into your daily meals?

How to Caramelize Onions Like a Pro

Blake Branen Rosencrantz - Saturday, April 14, 2012
Caramelized onions are easy to make. All you need is a little patience and a few onions. Now, caramelizing onions should not be confused with browning onions. Browning an onion can be done in a matter of minutes in a hot pan – but caramelizing, which can take 30 minutes or longer - develops a deep sweetness and an amber color that goes all the way through the onion. It takes longer – but it is so worth the time! How you slice the onions makes a difference on the final result. For caramelized onions that stop at nothing short of melting in your mouth, you will want to cut your onions into thin slice longitudinally, or from the root end to the stem. If you want your onions with a little more structure or firmness, slice them into thin rings. Ingredients
  • 1 large onion, sliced per your preference
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, butter, or a mixture of the two
  • Heavy pinch of salt
  • Optional additions for extra flavor:
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Fresh minced herbs, or dried herbs
  • A teaspoon of honey, agave nectar or corn syrup
Instructions:
  1. Heat a large sauté pan over medium-low heat. Add the oil/butter.
  2. Once the butter has melted and is hot, add as many onions to the pan as will fit in a ½” layer in the pan.
  3. Sprinkle the salt over the onions. The salt helps to draw water and dissolved sugars out of the onion. (When you salt the onions at the beginning, it will take longer to achieve browning because of the extra water it draws out, but ultimately, your onions will have a much better flavor and will brown more evenly if you add the salt at the beginning of the cooking process.)
  4. Cook the onions over medium low heat.
  5. Stir the onions every couple of minutes, and adjust the heat accordingly till you hear just a slight sizzlely sound. .
  6. Add in your optional ingredients, and continue cooking on medium-low to low heat, stirring frequently, until the onions are soft and anywhere from honey-colored to deep brown - depending on how caramelized you want them to be.
This process can take awhile depending on the amount of onions you have. Usually from 20 minutes to over a half our. Don’t worry; as long as you cook them slowly and stir them frequently, you will not end up with burned onions. Now that your onions are finished – try using them is this delicious side recipe we found on seriouseats.com – Roasted Brussels Sprouts with caramelized onions and bacon!      

15 Foods You Don't Have to Buy Organic

Blake Branen Rosencrantz - Tuesday, April 10, 2012
Shopping organic is the latest food trend to hit the market.  While some organic foods are in fact healthier for you, more often than not the only thing you get from buying organic is a more expensive food bill. You can save money and avoid pesticides by buying certain conventionally grown produce found in the regular grocery store produce section. Below is the current list of the "Clean 15" fruits and vegetables that are safe for you to buy. The list was determined by the Environmental Working Group upon examining the U.S Department of Agriculture's produce sampling tests. According to the organization, you can reduce your pesticide consumption by nearly 80 percent by eating the "clean foods" and avoiding the dirty dozen - the 12 most contaminated fruits and vegetables ( also listed below). Here are fruits and vegetables lowest in pesticides.
  1. Onions
  2. Avocado
  3. Sweet Corn
  4. Pineapple
  5. Mango
  6. Sweet Pea
  7. Asparagus
  8. Kiwi
  9. Cabbage
  10. Eggplant
  11. Cantaloupe
  12. Watermelon
  13. Grapefruit
  14. Sweet Potato
  15. Honeydew
Here are the 12 most contaminated fruits and vegetables:
  1. Celery
  2. Peaches
  3. Strawberries
  4. Apples
  5. Blueberries
  6. Tangerines
  7. Bell Pepper
  8. Spinach
  9. Cherries
  10. Kale/ Collard Green
  11. Potatoes
  12. Imported Grapes
Onions, as you may have noticed, are first on the list for foods you don't have to buy organic. At Owyhee Produce we could not agree more with that ranking. We don't market any of our onions as organic. Why? Because we practice common sense farming - we grow safe, high quality and nutritious food while enacting farming practices that protect the environment and natural resource.s Simply put - we do everything we can to make sure our onions don't harm the land or your health. At Owyhee Produce we could not agree more with that ranking. We don’t market any of our onions as organic. Why? Because we practice common sense farming – we grow safe, high quality and nutritious food while enacting farming practices that protect the environment and natural resources. Simply put –we do everything we can to make sure our onions don’t harm the land or your health. Here is a segment from John Tesh's radio show: Intelligence for your life, on how NOT to get ripped off at the supermarket. He discusses how buying organic is not always the best idea. Join the conversation! Does this list change your views on shopping organic?

Froerer Farms, Inc. Acquires New Land

Blake Branen Rosencrantz - Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Froerer Farms Inc., the parent company of Owyhee Produce, has made a new land acquisition adjacent to the Snake River in Oregon’s Treasure Valley. This purchase is a landmark moment for the Froerer family and an affirmation of its commitment to provide leadership in sustainable farming practices. Dedication to sustainability empowers Froerer Farms to grow and ship safe, high quality and nutritious food, while reducing negative environmental impact, 365 days a year.

Froerer Farms will be the second owner of this land since German born immigrant and entrepreneur, Fred J. Kiesel, originally homesteaded it in 1890.

With this acquisition Froerer Farms will have just shy of 4000 acres in production. The additional 1300 acres will allow the farm to increase onion plantings to 800 acres, a 200-acre increase. It will also allow for similar increases in plantings of most other crops grown on the farm, while assuring a 5-7 year crop rotation. Froerer Farms currently raises asparagus, beans, beets, corn, mint, onions, peas, and wheat.

“By rotating our land to onions and other crops only one time every 5 years or so, we are building higher organic matter into the soil. This way we use less water, few chemicals and fertilizers and can virtually eliminate fumigation,” said Craig Froerer, CEO of Froerer Farms, Inc. “A better crop rotation means less of an environmental impact, and frankly, to us, that is just common sense.”

In addition to the environmental benefits of crop rotation, Froerer Farms will care for the soil and help immunize its carbon footprint by using the organic soil product, Terra Fresh One, which helps to lower the farms overall input costs while boosting yields and increasing the quality of its produce. The farm is also working to create a better habitat for various waterfowl on the new land. Ponds have been added to increase wetlands available to the birds and other wildlife.

“It is great to share with people how our family runs a modern agri-business by being careful how we impact Mother Nature,” stated Shay Myers, General Manager of Owyhee Produce. “We are very excited to have the opportunity to work with our farm in marketing and packing for the fresh market.  It is our goal to prove that there is a difference in what you buy and who you buy it from.  On the store shelf my onions may look like the next, but they all come with different consequences and impacts.  Impacts to the your environments, your health, and your future”.

The Froerer family wants consumers to know that not all onions are equal. There’s a difference not only in quality and taste, but also in the farmers commitment to being a responsible steward of the earth. The acquisition of this land demonstrates how Froerer Farms and Owyhee Produce continuously seize opportunities to make their facilities and processes more sustainable: You can taste the difference.

Farmer: How Embarrassing

Blake Branen Rosencrantz - Tuesday, April 03, 2012

  Often times as I travel for business the person next to me leans over and asks, “So what do you do for a living?” For many people this is a simple question to answer; they are bankers, accountants, lawyers, doctors, entrepreneurs etc…  Me on the other hand - I am a farmer.

When I was in my teens, I thought I had the best life there was. I thought that farmers were great.  In fact, it wasn’t until I moved to Los Angeles at the age of 20 that I realized how “un-cool” being a farmer was. I would tell people I was a farmer and they would just kind of look at me and smile, as if I didn’t have a clue or anything.

It wasn’t until I started asking people who reacted that way, WHY that was their reaction?  The usual response - “so you have a few cows, chickens, and a red barn, that is… great.”

You see, for them, food came from the grocery store and what I did was more of a hobby than a way to feed people.  Because of that, during college I wasn’t sure if I was going to be a farmer. And I sure wasn’t going to tell people that’s what I wanted to be.

Then after college, when I had decided to come back to the farm, I started calling myself an agri-entrepreneur so people wouldn’t look down on what I did for a living as much.

It has taken me a long time to get here, but the fact is what I do for a living is actually pretty cool. I am not sure that “farmer” really alludes to the reality of what I do for a living either, at least not to an urban dweller, but it suits me.

It suits me because the other name I could call myself is “Agri-businessman”. To the same Angeleno (that’s what we call folks from L.A.) who looked at me blankly when I called myself a farmer, now as participant in agri-business  I looked like the destroyer of Mother Nature.  The word agri-businessman just had a negative feel to it.  My tractors may as well have been the machines in Dr. Suess’ Lorax that destroyed entire trees just to make a single toothpick.  So you see, being a farmer may have it downfalls, but so do the alternatives.  For now I would just like to communicate a little about what a “real farmer” does and let you help me decide what to call myself.

Today I run a business, along with other members of my family, which does 10 million dollars in gross annual sales.  We employ nearly 60 full time employees and we farm over 3700 acres.  We also drip irrigate a large percentage of our crops, saving 30% of Mother Nature’s Water, we rotate our 8 distinct crops on a 5-7 year rotation; this builds humus and reduces erosion, we have updated to tier 4 engines in our tractors, reducing fuel consumption by 25%.  I could keep going, but I think you get the point.

I run a big business but I try and make decisions like the guy with “…a few cows, chickens, and a red barn, that’s it.”   So what does that make me?

-- Shay Myers

Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food.

Blake Branen Rosencrantz - Saturday, March 31, 2012
People have been talking about something called KYF2 or Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food. For those of you who may have heard about it in passing, or are just hearing about for the first time – we want to share with you what KYF2 is all bout. KYF2 is a USDA nation-wide effort to help carry out the government's commitment to strengthen our local and regional food systems. There is a rising demand for local and regional foods, and folks across the country and looking to connect with the people who grow there food, and know where the food they are buying is coming from. This local/regional movement can be seen through statistics listed on the Department of Agriculture’s website.
  • The number of farmers markets has more than tripled in the past 15 years and there are now more than 7,175 around the country;
  • In 1986 there were two community supported agriculture operations, today there are over 4,000;
  • There are farm to school programs in 48 states, totaling more than 2,200 and up from two in 1996;
  • All 50 states in the U.S. have agricultural branding programs, such as "Jersey Fresh" or "Simply Kansas;"
  • As Governor of Iowa, Tom Vilsack started one of the first food policy councils. Today there are over 100 food policy councils;
  • And the National Restaurant Association declared "locally sourced meats and seafood" and "locally grown produce" as the top two trends for 2011.
Businesses are supporting the KYF2 and consumer local/regional food demand as well. In fact, Owyhee Produce has experienced it first hand. Just in the past month, our onions have been featured in local Walmart’s, Blimpies’ and Pauls Market’s.  Our community members in Oregon and Idaho were extremely supportive and excited to be able to buy our onions where they shop daily for groceries. Recently, KYF2 has released a  a new interactive map called the "Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food" Compass that highlights the thousands of rural and small-scale farming projects funded by USDA grants. The KYF2 movement is just now gaining momentum, but we feel that it  is only going to grow in support from communities and farmers nation wide. For more information on KYF2 – here is a short video by the USDA on the program.  

What Can Onions Do For Your Health?

Blake Branen Rosencrantz - Saturday, March 24, 2012
Three cheers for onions! We’ve all heard that an apple a day keeps the doctor away, but what about an onion a day? Recent studies show that onions prove useful in reducing and maintaining blood pressure. Not many people immediately think of onions as a health food, but like garlic, the onion has many attributes that prove useful health wise.The onion is a great source of quercetin, which is found mostly in the outer layers. One study showed that when people with hypertension took 730 milligrams of quercetin a day for 28 days, their blood pressure dropped between 2 – 7 points systolic and 2 – 5 points diastolic. This is compared to the no point change in the participants who were given a placebo.The researchers did not conduct tests to determine exactly how quercetin leads to the reduction in blood pressure, but so far they have speculated that the chemical reduces the body’s production of a blood-vessel constricting compound called angiotension.Other studies have found that just 2 – 3 tablespoons a day of onion essential oil can drop blood pressure by an average of 25 points systolic and 15 diastolic. Wow! These recent findings aren’t surprising. Ancient records reveal that onions have been used as far back as 4000 B.C. as a cure-all for tons of  illnesses.  In World War II, the vapors of onion paste were used to reduce pain and accelerate the healing of soldiers' wounds. Just type in “onion health benefits” into google search and you will find thousands of pages, all listing many benefits (some scientifically proven, some are just sworn home-remedies) Here are a few health benefits we found from juice-for-health.com:
  • Anti-inflammatory:  The anti-inflammatory agents in onion are useful in reducing the symptoms of inflammatory conditions such as arthritis and gout.
  • Diabetes:  Chromium in onion helps diabetics' cells respond appropriately to bringing down the insulin level and improve glucose tolerance.
  • Diuretic and blood cleansing:  Help counter fluid retention, urinary gravel, arthritis and gout.
  • Cholesterol:  Eating half a medium raw onion daily significantly helps to correct thrombosis, lower the LDL cholesterol and prevents heart attacks.
  • Immune booster:  The pungency increases blood circulation and causes sweating.  Useful in cold weather to ward off infection, reduce fever and sweat out colds and flu.
  • Anemia: The high content of iron in onion makes it beneficial for the treatment of anemia.
  • Ear disorder:  In some cultures, cotton wool is dipped into onion juice and put into the ear to stop ringing in the ear.
No matter how you spin it, onions are not only delicious, but extremely healthy too!
   

The Best Way to Store Onions

Blake Branen Rosencrantz - Saturday, March 10, 2012
Do you like to stock up on onions? If so, here are some tips on how to keep them fresh and store them longer.  You want to make sure that you are keeping onions in a cool, dry, and dark place with plenty of air movement. NEVER store onions in plastic. The lack of ventilation will reduce their storage life and speed of the process of rotting. No matter which way you decide to store you onions, one thing you should always do is “cure” them first. This means slicing off the top of the bulb and clipping the roots. After this has been done, you can store the bulbs in various ways. You can place them in nylon stockings or mesh bags, foil, bulk bins, crates and boxes. The best way is to keep them in mesh bags – or nylon stockings. This keeps them fresh but allows them to breathe at the same time. A second option for storing onions is to use foil. To do this, Cut a small square of foil and wrap it around each onion bulb before storing them in the crisper of your refrigerator. Onions that have been stored this way should be good for months. The only other time you need to store onions in the fridge is when they have been sliced or cut. If you chose to sore onions in a crate or bin, make sure you pack them loosely. If you pack them too tightly the onions that are at the bottom will bear all the weight of the other onions, causing them to get soft and rot prematurely. How do you store your Onions? Have you found a way that keeps them fresh for months at a time? We want to know! Share your tips with us by commenting below.

Will Onion Skins Become The New Super Food?

Blake Branen Rosencrantz - Saturday, February 18, 2012
What do you think of when you think of a super-food? They tend to be dark colored and very strong tasting – such as the blueberry or the latest super-food the acai berry. Even the onion bulb itself has been deemed a super-food by some. So where does the papery, dry, skin of an onion come into play? According to a new study published in Plant Foods for Human Nutrition, with proper preparation onion skins and trimmings could be excellent sources of antioxidants and fiber. The study reports that the brown skin and external layers of onion “waste” are rich in fiber and flavonoids, while discarded bulbs contain sulphurous compounds and fructans, which makes them useful sources of food ingredients that are beneficial to health. These are the nutrient groups that have propelled established super-foods to the top of everyone’s healthy-eats list. The study also noted that onion trimmings, unlike rare, exotic fruits like pomegranate and mangosteen, are a potentially sustainable vehicle for healthy compounds. We already generate millions of pounds of onion waste a day, so if we can efficiently convert them into digestible food, they'll be environmentally friendly. While research is still the works on the health benefits of onion-skins, there is a ton of established research on the health benefits of the actual, more edible part of the onion – the onion bulb. Cookeville Regional Medical Centers Pharmacology Director Dr. Op Walker talks about this ancient Super Food in the short video here While it’s doubtful that onion skin snacks will be hitting the grocery stores anytime soon, it is fascinating that something  we have been throwing away for all these years could potentially become a new health-food craze. In the meantime, remember an onion a day can help keep the doctors away. Just remember to brush your teeth afterwards, because you don’t want to keep everyone else away too!    

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