We wish you a happy, healthy, and peaceful holiday season. Enjoy some of these favorite memories and traditions shared by the staff of 21 Acres.
Veleda – Event Staff and Volunteer@21Acres
My younger sisters and I used to sneak out of bed and peek to watch my mother sewing dolls for us on her treadle sewing machine. We saw where she hid the projects and would check the progress daily, until she removed the completed dolls to a better hiding spot until Christmas. We were always very “surprised” to find the now -dressed dolls under our tree. I still have one of those dolls.
In order to allow more time for gift exchanging and enjoying on Christmas morning,, I discovered that my kids were delighted to each have a box of their favorite breakfast cereal wrapped and under the tree among other gifts, to be eaten as each was ready. This became a tradition which each of them now carries out with their own families.
Deb – Adminstrator@21Acres
Throughout my childhood, every Christmas Eve, we went to my Grandparent’s home for dinner. On the way there, we always looked for a house bordering the freeway with a large blue star high above their roof (a bit of a competition to be the first to announce the sighting!). Returning to my hometown (the Olympia area) as an adult with my own children, “progress” had replaced the home with a strip mall, but much to my delight, the strip mall continued to put up the star and my children learned to look for it as we traveled between their grandparent’s homes for Christmas Eve and then back to our home in Woodinville. To this day, the star is there and for me, it represents the spirit and magic of Christmas –God’s love, peace, safety, family, tradition and giving. Hoping to share the star with my grandchildren in the coming years.
Liesl – Market Manager@21Acres
Christmas as a child was always spent at grandma’s house. She had a beautiful stone fireplace where the stockings were hung and always picked a tree that reached the ceiling; I thought they were bigger than life. When Christmas morning came, my sister and I were always up early, very early. There was a strict policy to not wake Mom and Grandma until 7:30. Until that time we could look in our stockings, but never unwrap the presents under the tree. My sister and I would slowly pull each item out of our stockings, always ending with an orange in the toe. Then just before 7:30, we would repack the stockings so we could open them all over again with the rest of the family. The suspense and untethered joy of Christmas morning is a rare ]gift; be blessed this holiday season!
Brenda –Public Relations & Communications @21 Acres
Celebrating Sinterklaas – For those of you who know me well, you may know this is a Dutch tradition for the Vanderloop/Jacobson family. The wooden shoes go outside the front door the eve of Dec. 5, in celebration of St. Nick’s birthday, and they are magically filled in the morning with treats and a gift. A few things have changed over time, I used to get chocolate “fairy food” left in the milk chute when I was little at home in Wisconsin; As the kids got older, treats changed from chocolate to craft beer, my son 🙂 and chocolate to a vintage classic book, my daughter :). Some years, St. Nick actually plans ahead, as he has to use pony express to deliver to the ‘kids’ no longer at home. And yes, there are a baby pair of wooden shoes awaiting a new grandchild next year!
Amanda – Local Foods & Nutrition Education Coordinator @21Acres
During the holidays of 1999-2000 I was living in Salzburg, Austria. When it comes to Christmas, you really can’t hold a candle to how well the Europeans celebrate the season. From shopping for hand made gifts at traditional outdoor holiday markets, to sipping Gluhwein while listening to traditional Christmas carols (Silent Night was written in Arnsdorf, Austria in 1818), Europe really is a magical place this time of year – especially in the small towns like Gimmelwald, Switzerland.
After we finished fall semester finals, a handful of classmates and I boarded a train heading for the Swiss Alps. We first arrived in Interlaken, Switzerland. Then boarded a smaller train to ride further into the mountains. Upon arrival, we walked a short distance to a cable car tram that took us literally up the mountains to the very small village of Gimmelwald, population 100. We spent two nights in the appropriately name Mountain Hostel run by an American couple. The woman was from Eugene, Oregon – she and I bonded over our Oregonian-ness.
The hostel had a kitchen for us to use, but having arrived with just our backpacks and only a few snacks, we were in need of groceries. The next village up the “road” was home to the only grocery store at that elevation. In fact as I remember the store wasn’t much larger than our market at 21 Acres. We made our purchases and soon discovered that walking back in the deep snow was going to be challenging. The shopkeeper suggested we rent sleds from a nearby shop. So, down we went on traditional wooden sleds – the ones with the steering on the front that you maneuvered with your feet. A couple of us doubled up so the person in the back could manage the groceries. Amazingly we and our groceries all arrived in one piece! As the evening continued the previously overcast and periodically snowing sky opened up. The view from the hill just next to the hostel looked right at Mount Eiger and Jungenfrau two of the tallest peaks in the Alps. Words can not describe the holiday “perfectness” of that scene, of the whole day really.
If you ever get the chance to be in Europe during the holiday season, do yourself a favor, drop everything, tell your family members here in the US you’ll send them a postcard or call, and just go! Froliche Weihnachten (Merry Christmas, Austrian German) my friends!
Scott – Permaculture Specialist@21Acres
My mother’s growing Catholic enthusiasm has made the end of December a very significant time for our family growing up. Each year our family buys a Christmas tree in early December that gets covered in heirloom decorations our family has been accumulating since long before I was born. Last year I made hoshigaki ornaments, gifted them to loved ones, and added them to our tree in my futile attempt to give it life. On Christmas Eve, we usually go to a late night mass and then drive around at midnight to admire lights and decorations in residential areas. We then return home, go to sleep, and wake up to soft sounds of Christmas carols, gift exchanges, and homemade meals. My most memorable experience during Christmas was nothing like the tradition I had grown up with when in 2012, I pedaled to Mexico with a caravan of circus vagabonds far away from the family and friends I grew up with. As the end of the 5,126 year long cycle in the Mesoamerican Long Count Calendar approached, I participated in my first Vision Quest, fasting without water for 100 hours in the dry Mexican jungles surrounding the ancient temples of Palenque. A consistently calm, warm, and sunny climate throughout that December made a suddenly severe transformation into torrential rains, winds, and flooding on the day of solstice. My tent and home was swept away by a river while I stared in amazement at thousands of indigenous Mayans drenched and rejoicing around a skyscraping bonfire in the pouring down rain all night long. Stepping outside my traditions helped me better understand others around me with more compassion and that events and disparate yet convergent gatherings, regardless of whether they are called Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Yule, Saturnalia, or Solsticio can have a profoundly significant impact beyond my imagination.
Our regular customers know Jen, Meghan and I are familiar faces in the Farm Market. We work hard to source quality produce and have a wealth of knowledge when it comes to what is in season, where it was grown and how it can be the highlight of your dinner tonight. Fewer of you may know we are privileged to spend a few hours each month working alongside our farmers here at 21 Acres. During our time on the farm next to John, Mary and Pepe, we inevitably learn heaps about the seasonal challenges facing our farm, tricks of the trade to organically manage pests and humility in the face of growing food sustainably. This July all three of us ladies helped out with the copious amount of weeding taking place in the fields and refined our definition of “weeds.”
In and among the 150+ crops grown on the 21 Acres Farm grow a variety of weeds constantly in need of a pulling. However, for those who know what to look for, several of these “weeds” have long shown up on the plate at mealtime. All three of us had the chance to try or cook with one in particular: purslane.
Purslane is a common plant found widely throughout the world and is all too often classified as a weed. Having tried purslane in several different recipes, we Market gals advocate eradicating this “weed” by eating it! A member of the succulent family, purslane is crunchy, tart like a lemon and has high levels of pectin, which make it great for thickening soups and stews. (Check out Chef Asako’s soup recipe below).
Not only a delicious and versatile ingredient, purslane is a powerhouse when it comes to nutrition. It is high in vitamin E, (six times more than spinach), and a huge source of omega-3 fatty acid. Purslane is also a wonderful source of vitamin C, magnesium, riboflavin, potassium and phosphorus. Amanda Bullat, the 21 Acres Sustainable Food and Nutrition Education Coordinator, adds, “the nutrition content of wild or “weedy” greens is well above our more cultivated greens. As mentioned above, the high content of omega-3 fatty acids coupled with the vitamin E and C as anti-oxidants also make purslane a great anti-inflammatory food. Help for those who suffer from chronic join pain, muscles soreness/stiffness, skin conditions, and many autoimmune conditions.”
Have I enticed you to give purslane a try? First, check your garden. You may very well find it growing in your own yard. If you need an Organic source, stop by the 21 Acres Market. We are harvesting most days the Market is open (Wednesday-Friday, 11-6, and Saturday, 10-4).
Thanks to our staff and wonderful customers we have a starter list of recipe suggestions for purslane. Check them out and let us know if you find a favorite. Here are some beginning ideas for giving purslane a try and see the recipe below for a tasty soup:
- Toss fresh into salads for a crisp tart addition to your greens.
- For an Asian flavor, chop and sauté purslane with a bit of soy sauce.
- Pepe recommends using purslane instead of spinach in a flank steak dish he makes. Start by sautéing seasoned flank steak. Then simmer in blended pepper, tomato, garlic and onion. Roughly chop and toss in the purslane for the final 2-3 minutes.
- The high water content is great for a low fat pesto. Cut the oil in half and substitute purslane for ½ the herb in your recipe. I tried this with our 21 Acres lemon basil…my oh my!
- Toss with your morning eggs or stuff in your omelet.
- Thicken soups or stews naturally – a delicious recipe that showed up on the 21 Acres Deli menu is shared below
RECIPE: Purslane and Grain Soup – From the 21 Acres Kitchen
(Serves 3 to 4)
Purslane –1.5lbs (become about 1# after cleaning)
Onion — 1 each
Garlic — 1 clove
Tomato — 3 each (about 1 lbs)
Tomato paste (optional) 1TBS
Grain (Barley, Spelt, Rice…) (Cooked) — 1 cup
Salt — 1tsp
Red pepper flakes
Chicken/Vegetable stock 3 cups
- Clean and cut off bottom of the purslane. (Cut the harder root and stems off and use the only soft part of purslane).
- Small dice onions and garlic. Peel tomatoes by poaching and roughly chop them.
- In a soup pot, fry garlic and onions. Add purslane and fry them for a minute.
- Add tomato and tomato paste.
- Add grains, stock, and salt. Cook until it thickens a little.
- Season with salt and pepper to adjust flavor. Sprinkle with red pepper if you like spicy.