Forms of cacao

Raw cacao and the cacao health benefits

The Cacao Bean

Ted talk on the cacao bean

Ted talk with David Wolfe about chocolate



I remember when my grandmother picked dandelions many years ago. She would equip herself with a knife and a white plastic bag and would disappear for a couple of hours. She knew exactly when to go pick them and how to cut them in order to minimize the work involved to prepare them. When she came back the bag resembled a big stuffed pillow. She would ask for our help in cleaning and separating her find. The dandelions were to be cleaned and processed the same day in order to get the ultimate benefits.

So if you’re a longtime dandelion picker or just beginning,  you will find the post “Dandelions as Food and Medicine“, written by herbalist and forager Sarah Lawless very educational. Sarah’s blog “Fern & Fungi”  is a treasure house on foraging.  Discover what is growing all around us!

My neighbor’s backyard is not only big but also dandelion heaven. The flowers are a beautiful deep yellow and very big. She is elderly, so rarely uses her yard. It is all fenced in, no dogs, and no pesticides.  So I have her permission to forage as many dandelions as I want. Looking from my window at these beautiful flowers I went to pick a few and decided to make this jelly. This is a very easy and fun project to do with kids. It will become one of their favorite activities to look forward to in the spring and learn to appreciate this amazing power flower!


4 cups water
4 cups dandelion blossoms 
1/4 cup plus 1 1/2 teaspoons ( 1/2 package) powdered pectin
4 1/2 cups granulated sugar
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
rind of 1/2 lemon cut in very thin strips


Bring water and dandelion blossoms to a boil in a medium saucepan. Reduce heat to medium, and simmer for 3 minutes. Remove from heat, and let stand for 10 minutes. Strain through a fine sieve into a measuring cup, pressing solids. Discard blossoms.

Combine pectin and 1/2 cup sugar in a small bowl. Bring dandelion liquid and remaining 4 cups sugar to a boil, stirring constantly to dissolve sugar.

Add the pectin mixture, stirring constantly to dissolve pectin and sugar. Add lemon juice and rind, and boil for 1 minute. Skim foam from the surface. Let cool slightly.

Pour mixture into an airtight container. Cover with a lid. Refrigerate until set, about 4 hours.

Colorful carrots can make an amazing side dish, both in presentation and taste. Easy and quick to prepare, these can be roasted in the oven or grilled on the barbecue. I had some place on my pizza pan so I decided to add finocchio. Turned out great!

colorful carrots (cut in even sized pieces)
finocchio (cut in even strips)
olive oil,  balsamic vinegar, salt, pepper, garlic,
parsley, and or any other spice you like
bread crumbs


put cut carrots and finocchio in a pan

add oil, balsamic vinegar and all spices
toss until well coated

add bread crumbs

line a pizza pan with parchment paper and place carrots and finocchio

drizzle a little more olive oil  all over

place in 350* oven on roast for 30 minutes or until tender

(if you don’t have the roast option on your oven, roast for 15 minutes on one side
and turn over to roast another 15 minutes on other side)

serve immediately, garnished with parsley, if desired

Featured Image -- 3157


This is a perfect snack! Sweetened with the natural goodness of banana and dates, these muffins are moist and full of nutrition. A great gluten-free option, the almond flour used in this recipe provides more protein and monounsaturated fats (aka the good fats) than most other processed wheat flours. Top with pumpkin seeds or raisins and you have a yourself a satisfying snack that will fuel your body. 

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Snakeroot Organic Farm

Originating in central Asia, and spreading east and west via the spice and silk trade routes during the Middle Ages, today garlic is used worldwide. Of the several types of garlic, soft-neck artichoke types are the ones most often found in grocery stores. It has a higher yield and more domesticated flavor. This is also the type that can be woven into braids.

At Snakeroot Organic Farm we chose to grow a special garlic, the red German Rocambole variety. Rocambole is a stiff-neck type that cannot be braided. They have a purplish cast to many of the bulbs and excellent half-wild flavor.


Garlic should never be stored in the refrigerator, as the typical refrigerator humidity and temperature mimic springtime soil conditions, and garlic responds by sprouting. The ideal storage temperature for garlic is between 60°-70°F, or at room temperature in a well-ventilated container. Good garlic should keep for months. Bulbs which show softening of any of the cloves should be used immediately or discarded.


To get the best flavor from your garlic, add it to cooking during the last 10 minutes before serving.

Garlic may be dried in the home by mincing the cloves in a food processor and spreading them out in a warm oven or home dehydrator until dry. These garlic crumbles are excellent in stir fries or sauces or sprinkled on buttered bread and placed in the oven to make a delicious garlic bread.


Any garlic can be planted with some measure of success, but since all garlic propagates vegetatively (instead of from seed), starting with a garlic that has been acclimated for several generations to the area where it is to be grown gives the garlic grower an additional advantage.

Furthermore, since most garlic sold for culinary purposes is not identified as to variety, the garlic grower has no way of assuring what kind of garlic is being purchased. As with many commercially produced vegetables, yield per acre is given precedence over flavor.

For these two reasons, it is always best to purchase locally grown garlic for your garlic growing projects. That way you will know it has been acclimated to this area and you can ask about the variety characteristics.


There are two ways to plant garlic: planting cloves or planting bulbils. (For an explanation of bulbils, see “Harvesting Garlic”, below.) When planting either cloves or bulbils, planting is done in mid October in central Maine, or about four weeks before the ground freezes regularly. The idea is to plant early enough for the roots to begin to form yet not so early that the top growth will emerge. Any top growth will be winterkilled and is thus a waste of the plants energy. Add compost to the soil well before planting, as this will be the last time you fertilize the ground before harvesting your garlic.

A heavy 4-6 inch layer of mulch of straw or pine needles or shredded leaves is added after planting. Each of these mulches allow the garlic spears to emerge unhindered in the spring. (Unshredded leaves will work, but must be removed before early spring top growth starts or else the matted leaves will prevent most of the garlic spears from emerging properly.) The purpose of the mulch is to even out soil temperatures, protect the garlic from too hard a winter freeze, and prevent heaving of the garlic out of the ground during repeated thaw-freeze cycles. Later in the summer, the mulch acts to retain soil moisture needed for the bulbs to size up.

Planting cloves: The most common planting method is to plant garlic cloves. Break apart a garlic bulb into its cloves. Notice which end of the clove is attached to the bulb; this is the root end, usually the most blunt or least pointed end of the clove. It is important to plant each clove with the root end down. Break the cloves apart in the house shortly before planting time, then head out to the garden with a bucket full of cloves to plant. Cloves are planted by pushing them into the soil about two inches deep, about six inches apart. In general, the larger the clove you plant, the larger the bulb of garlic you will get.

Planting bulbils: There are two ways to plant bulbils, depending upon what crop you want. Some people are looking for a spring harvest of garlic grass, so they plant their bulbils very close together in the fall. In spring, the emerging shoots are cut off and added to salads, sauces or omlets. Of course this is the end of the havest year for such a planting.

On the other hand, if you are looking to havest garlic from your bulbil plantings, plant them about one to two inches apart in rows about two inches apart. Push them underground about an inch, and cover with a light mulch. In July, harvest the garlic rounds that result and either use them like garlic if they are large enough, or re-plant them in the fall using the isntructions above for planting garlic cloves. The following year, these rounds will produce regular garlic bulbs. The size of rounds varies from 3/8 inch to 1 1/2 inches and look very much like a small onion.


If you planted garlic cloves, the leaves on the stalk will begin to die (turn yellow) in late July. Harvesting is done when there are four or five green leaves left on the plant, usually early August. Delaying harvest beyond this point makes the garlic hard to clean because the outer wrapper leaves have started to dacay. Also, late harvested garlic usually does not store as well.

Scapes are the curly-cue tops of the garlic plant that appear in early July. If left to mature, they will straighten up and form heads of from twelve to twenty chickpea-sized mini-bulbs called bulbils. These bulbils may be used as is like miniature garlic cloves, or may be saved to plant in the fall.

Scapes may be cut off as soon as they form to use as garlic scallions while you are waiting for your garlic bulbs to mature. In China, these are a delicacy called tsuan-tie (swan-tie), and of course are available only a few weeks of the year. Many folks chop and freese these for later use.

There are two schools of thought about harvesting the scapes from your garlic plants. One says that since the plants energy will be divided between enlarging the underground bulbs and growing the aerial bulbils, by cutting off the scapes before the bulbils form more of the plants energy goes into the garlic bulbs. The other school of thought suggests that by essentially cutting off half the plant during its growth you shock the plant which negates any beneficial effects. At Snakeroot Organic Farm, we do some of our garlic each way, partly because we sell the scapes at farmers markets during July. We have noticed little if any affect this has on the bulb size, and believe many other factors such as soil fertility and moisture, planting clove size and weather have greater affect on bulb size.

If you planted bulbils, they will not form any stalks. Instead they will have several grass-like leaves up to a foot long, which will die back in July. This is the time to harvest the rounds! What you will find is marble- to golfball-sized rounds that resemble small onions in that they are not divided into cloves. These rounds may be eaten like garlic cloves or saved to plant again in the fall. If planted, they will then give you regular garlic bulbs the following year.


Growing Great Garlic by Ron Engeland is a good book on all aspects of the history and growing of garlic.

If you would like to discuss any aspect of garlic, feel free to write, call, email, or stop by the farmers market anytime.


Snakeroot Organic Farm offers garlic bulbs and bulbils from late June until December.

Garlic scapes (the curly tops) are available from mid June to mid July only.

lupini beans


Thanks to a great blog Olives & Okra, you will find everything you need to know about the lupini bean. From the history of the bean to the method of preparation.

We ate lupini beans around the holidays when I was growing up. I always thought of lupini beans as an Italian food, but lupini beans are popular in Mediterranean, European, Middle Eastern, and South American cultures. Depending on where we lived in the country, lupini beans could be hard to find. Lupini beans are readily available in the northeast but not so easy to find here in the south until the last few years. I pick up a jar when I find them, and when they are affordable (prepared lupini beans can be expensive depending on where you buy them). Now that dried lupini beans are becoming popular here, we can make them at home. The process is a bit lengthy. Preparing dried lupini can take longer than a week, but it is well worth the wait. We no longer wait for the holidays to enjoy lupini beans. We snack on them all the time.

There are a number of websites that provide instructions on preparing lupini beans. Each offers a different approach. Some pre-boil the beans after the first overnight soaking. Others soak the beans until the toxins are gone, then boil them and add the salt last. Others use the water bath canning method to preserve lupini beans. I bought several bags of dried lupini beans, and I tried several methods before coming up with my own method. The instructions below work the best, I think. I also wrote to the folks at Fresh Preserving (an excellent source of information) about the appropriate canning method to use for preserving lupini beans.


  1. Lupini beans, or lupin, are the yellow beans of the lupinus genus plant.
  2. They belong to the pea family.
  3. Lupini beans are second to soy beans in protein.
  4. Lupini beans are high in fiber.
  5. Unprepared lupini beans contain potentially harmful bitter alkaloids that can poison you.
  6. Lupini beans are considered an ancient food. It is believed that the edible lupini bean was first enjoyed by the Greeks. Lupini beans were cultivated by the ancient Romans and were considered food of the poor. Ancient Egyptians also consumed lupini beans.
  7. Lupini beans are consumed today, mostly in Mediterranean, European, Middle Eastern, and South American cultures.
  8. In the United States, lupini beans are typically sold prepared  in a salty brine.

Dried Lupini Beans Before Soaking | Olives-n-Okra


Consult the guidelines below before you get started. This will help make sure that the lupini beans are safe to eat and properly stored.

  1. Depending on preference, lupini beans can be pre-boiled before or after the soaking and brining process or not at all (see Step 1). I like the beans to be a little firm, so I don’t cook them if I plan to eat them right away. (The beans can be eaten immediately after the brining process is complete.)
  2. Canning salt should be used in the brine instead of table salt. Table salt leaves a white milky sediment in the jars (see Step 2).
  3. Soak the lupini beans in glass, aluminum, cast iron, or any material that will not absorb toxins. Do not use a plastic colander or container to rinse and soak the beans. Plastics will absorb the toxins and can be released into the contents of the colander or container when it is used again.
  4. Rinse the lupini beans and soak in fresh brine at least twice a day (see Step 2). Brine also helps keep bacteria from developing. Refrigerate the beans.
  5. Pressure canning is the only safe method for canning lupini beans. Lupini beans are hot-packed in preparation for pressure canning (see Step 3).



To make four quarts of lupini beans in brine, you will need the following ingredients:

  • 2 pounds of dried lupini beans
  • canning and pickling salt (4 pound box)


To properly prepare two pounds of dried lupini beans, you will need the following equipment:

  • metal colander
  • 8-quart metal or glass  sauce pot
  • ladle
  • 4 quart wide mouth mason jars
  • dissolvable labels and a permanent marker
  • home canning utensil set (jar funnel, jar lifter, lid lifter, bubble remover and head space tool)
  • secure grip jar lifter and handler
  • 23-Quart Pressure Canner and Cooker



Pour the dried lupini beans in a large metal colander. Pick through the beans with your fingers and discard discolored, shriveled, or partly shelled beans. Dried beans are usually picked over before they are packaged, so you probably won’t find a large number of defective beans. You will also notice that the beans are pale or white and have a small opening on one end. Rinse the beans thoroughly with cool tap water. In an 8-quart stock pot, add beans and cover with four quarts of cool tap water. Soak beans overnight or for 24 hours. Drain the beans and rinse well. The lupini beans are reconstituted—they are yellow and the clear pliable outer casing is noticeable. Clean the pot and lid with warm soapy water to remove any toxins that might remain.

Preparing Lupini Beans for Soaking Collage | Olives-n-Okra


IMPORTANT: Lupini beans are naturally toxic. The beans contain bitter alkaloids and require an extensive soaking and brining process to remove the toxins.  This is the most important step in preparing lupini beans. Any toxins that remain in the lupini beans will make you sick. You may notice an odor during the soaking process. This odor is caused by the toxins. It will eventually fade away as the toxins are released from the beans.

Add the beans back to the clean stock pot and fill with four quarts of cool tap water. To prepare the brine, add one tablespoon of canning and pickling salt per quart of water (4 tablespoons) to the lupini beans. Cover, and refrigerate the lupini beans overnight. Drain and rinse the lupini beans twice a day. While the lupini beans are draining, clean the pot and lid with warm soapy water. Add the lupini beans back to the stock pot with fresh brine. Repeat this step until the bitterness is gone.

NOTE: It generally takes about 7-9 days to remove all of the bitter alkaloids from the beans, that is, if the beans are rinsed and put in fresh brine twice a day. If you nibble (don’t swallow) on a lupini bean around day 3 or 4, you will notice that the beans are a little tender and extremely bitter. The bitterness decreases substantially around day 5. Continue the soaking, rinsing, and brining process until all bitterness is gone. You can decrease the number of days that it takes to complete this process by draining, rinsing, and brining the beans two or more times per day. It will still take a good 5-9 days to safely remove the toxins.


Once all of the toxins have been removed and there is no longer a taste of bitterness, drain and rinse the lupini beans again. The lupini beans can now be eaten or used in a recipe. Lupini beans will last several weeks in the refrigerator if not processed in a pressure canner. To eat lupini beans, pop the bean out of the casing through the small opening. The casing is also edible, but it’s overly chewy.

Pressure Canning Lupini Beans Collage | Olives-n-Okra

To store the lupini beans in Mason jars, you will need to process them in a 23-Quart Pressure Canner and Cooker. I use 4 quart wide mouth Mason jars to can lupini beans. Wash jars and lids in hot soapy water and keep hot until ready to use. Put beans in a large stock pot; cover with cool water by 2 inches. Bring lupini beans to a boil; boil 2 minutes. Pack hot lupini beans into hot Mason jars using a jar funnel, leaving about 1-inch head space. Add one tablespoon of canning and pickling salt to each quart jar. Ladle hot cooking liquid over beans, leaving 1-inch head space. Remove air bubbles using bubble remover and head space tool. Adjust lids and rings. Process quart jars at 10 pounds of pressure for 50 minutes. Follow manufacturer’s instructions for the use and care of a pressure canner. When beans have been safely removed from the canner, and are cool enough to handle, write the date on dissolvable labels and press labels on jars. Processed lupini beans should be good for about one year. Store in a cool, dry place.


Lupini beans are second only to soy beans  in protein. Nutritional information for this lupini bean recipe is as follows:

Serving size: 41 g; Services per recipe: 22; Calories: 160; Fat: 3g; Saturated fat: 0g; Trans fat: 0g; Carbohydrates: 9g; Sugar 2g; Sodium: 460mg; Fiber 6g; Protein: 14g; Cholesterol: 0mg.

Prepared Lupini Beans | Olives-n-Okra