UCCE Sonoma County
University of California
UCCE Sonoma County

Posts Tagged: leafy greens

Your Hand is Not a Hammer

Winter seems to drag on forever, doesn’t it? In October I can’t wait for winter. I am tired of being hot and sweaty. I am tired of eating tomatoes. All I really want to do is eat leafy greens, stay inside by the fire, and read a good book. Now that it is January. I am tired of leafy greens and long for a tomato. The reading by the fire part I am still enjoying. I won’t say I have spring fever, but I am definitely feeling the call of the land.

            This happens every year in January. I can feel a certain buzz throughout my body that I can still only by doing something farmy. What is a farmer to do when the weather does not allow outdoor farmy activities? I do a couple of things to calm my inner worker bee. The first thing I do is I plant tomato seeds. I plant more than just tomatoes. I plant all sorts of things: peppers, eggplant, celeriac, and broccoli raab. I have to keep myself under control because more than once I have started seeds too early, only to have the plants ready well before the soil is dry enough to work up for planting. Seedlings that are over mature at planting time never reach their true potential. So it is better to wait a few weeks rather than grow a bunch of plants you should never plant in the first place.

            The second thing I do is make sure all my equipment is ready to go. I want to be able to capitalize on weather breaks and work up some ground, and maybe even plant some things like carrots, beets, or lettuce. I change the oil in all the tractors and do whatever the owners’ manual says in terms of lubrication and adjustments. Once the tractors are done I start working on the implements I attach to the tractor. I always start with the tools that have a gear box, like mowers and tillers. I check all the fluid levels and replace the fluids if the manual tells me to. I like to adjust the drive chains on the tiller, and January is a good time to replace any worn out leaky gaskets. This year I get the fun job of replacing all the tines on both of my tillers. (Actually, this is not fun.) If you have ever had to replace tiller tines you know what I mean. I have 72 rusted bolts just waiting to frustrate me. Hello, liquid wrench.

            While I am talking tools I should pass on two items of farm wisdom that I always find valuable. The first one is: grease is your friend on the farm. The second is: your hand is not a hammer. I was told these gems by an excellent farm mechanic, and I do my best to take them to heart. Whenever I use a piece of farm equipment I grease it first and when I need to beat on something I try to find the appropriate beating tool and preserve the integrity of my hand. This is especially true when working with wrenches to loosen stubborn nuts and bolts. Use a mallet to tap on that wrench not the palm of your hand that is unless you really want to have carpel tunnel syndrome.

Every tool in the farmer’s and gardener’s tool shed needs a little love once in a while, so take the time this winter to oil all your wooden tool handles with linseed oil and make sure you sharpen all those hoe blades. Spring is coming and so are the pig-weed, lamb’s quarter, and whatever other weeds you have that make you crazy. Sharp tools will make the job of killing all those weeds easier and faster. The sun is shining, but the soil is cold so get out to your tractor shed and tool shed and do a little work on your tools so you are ready to go once planting season gets here.

Posted on Tuesday, January 29, 2013 at 10:49 AM
  • Author: Jim Muck
Tags: leafy greens (8), spring (7), tomatoes (21), tool maintenance (2)

A big bowl of dark leafy greens and ...

We all know that eating dark leafy greens is good for us, right? So that’s why for lunch lately I’ve been on a health kick to eat a big bowl of dark leafy greens topped with a lean protein source. I have, however, been subject to some good-natured ribbing around my office regarding my lunch selections. So I decided to research my lunch ingredients, and why I, as well as my inquisitive co-workers, already know it’s something of a power lunch, in the most nutritious of ways.  First, the base of my lunch: a mix dark leafy greens (today it’s spinach, baby bok choy, and red and green chard). 

The USDA describes the following general health benefits by eating your vegetables:

  • Eating a diet rich in vegetables and fruits as part of an overall healthy diet may reduce risk for heart disease, including heart attack and stroke.
  • Eating a diet rich in some vegetables and fruits as part of an overall healthy diet may protect against certain types of cancers.
  • Diets rich in foods containing fiber, such as some vegetables and fruits, may reduce the risk of heart disease, obesity, and type 2 diabetes.
  • Eating vegetables and fruits rich in potassium as part of an overall healthy diet may lower blood pressure, and may also reduce the risk of developing kidney stones and help to decrease bone loss.
  • Eating foods such as vegetables that are lower in calories per cup instead of some other higher-calorie food may be useful in helping to lower calorie intake.

And specifically, dark leafy greens are nutrition-dense, with loads of vitamins (Vitamin K, C, E and B), minerals (iron, potassium, magnesium and calcium) and fiber. Additionally they contain beta-carotene, lutein and zeaxanthin, which aide in disease prevention. 

Second, the toppings. I’ve left this part for the end, because those co-workers of mine thought you might not still be reading if I let you in on my super power lunch protein choice, so here it is: a can of herring. 

Surprised?  Yep, herring is really good (I already like herring, but I love the lemon pepper variety), and there’s no need to add dressing, just dump the whole can on your salad! Sardines, smoked oysters and tuna — all on the “Good alternative” or “Best Choice” list on the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch — are also delicious. They’re also very convenient and relatively inexpensive, especially if you stock up when they’re on sale. Fish is a super-food of protein choices, evidenced by the USDA Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010:

“Mean intake of seafood in the United States is approximately 3 1/2 ounces per week, and increased intake is recommended. Seafood contributes a range of nutrients, notably the omega-3 fatty acids, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Moderate evidence shows that consumption of about 8 ounces per week of a variety of seafood, which provide an average consumption of 250 mg per day of EPA and DHA, is associated with reduced cardiac deaths among individuals with and without pre-existing cardiovascular disease.”

A recent USDA paper says fish consumption is especially beneficial to pregnant and lactating women: “increased maternal dietary intake of long chain omega-3 fatty acids, in particular DHA from at least two servings of seafood per week during pregnancy and lactation is associated with increased DHA levels in breast milk and improved infant health outcomes, such as visual acuity and cognitive development.”  (See complete February 2012 article.)  And, just as I was getting ready to submit my blog, an article entitled “Brainpower Tied to Omega-3 Levels”  appeared in the NY Times. How’s that for timing!


All this is not to say that chicken breast, tofu or beans are to scoff at, but do you get your USDA-recommended two servings of fish a week? What about that recommended two servings of chicken breast? Or tofu? Even beans don’t get a mention of how many times a week you should eat them. And for this I get razzed by my co-workers. Hmmph—bon appetite!

Posted on Monday, March 5, 2012 at 10:07 AM
Tags: fish (7), healthful eating (12), leafy greens (8), lunch (1), vegetables (52)

Research helps ensure safety of leafy greens

Four years ago, a multi-state outbreak of E. coli O157:H7 in fresh baby spinach gripped the nation. Nearly 200 people in 26 states came down with the disease. Two elderly women and a 2-year-old boy died.

The outbreak was also devastating for the industry. The contaminated spinach was traced back to Central California, where growers produce 80 percent of the nation’s leafy greens. Scientists, farmers and regulators worked together to restore public confidence in products that are widely considered part of a healthy diet.  Regulators and farmers created the California Leafy Green Marketing Agreement to establish a culture of food safety on leafy greens farms and researchers worked to close gaps in the body of scientific knowledge about the sources of E. coli O157:H7 in the region.

In 2006, UC and USDA researchers were already designing a four-year study of the possible sources of E. coli O157:H7 near Central California fresh produce fields when the high-profile spinach outbreak occurred. This month, data collection from rangeland and farmland, steams and irrigation canals comes to a close. The team of scientists is now analyzing the data to reach conclusions that will help prevent future food contamination.

Preliminary results reflect a diversity of E. coli O157:H7 carriers near Central Coast farms, according to Edward (Rob) Atwill, a UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine specialist in waterborne infectious diseases and co-principal investigator of the study. Early on, free-ranging feral swine were implicated as carriers of the deadly bacteria, but it wasn’t known whether there were other sources in the environment. The researchers collected 1,233 samples of wild and feral animal scat from 38 Central Coast cattle ranches and leafy greens farms that were adjacent to riparian, annual grassland and oak woodland habitat. Eighteen of the samples were found to contain E. coli O157:H7.

The scientists found the bacteria in

  • 3 of 60 brown-headed cowbirds
  • 5 of 93 American crows
  • 2 of 95 coyotes
  • 1 of 72 deer mice
  • 10 of 200 feral swine

E. coli O157:H7 was not found in scat samples from deer, opossums, raccoons, skunks, ground squirrels, or other bird and mouse species.

“Our goal over the next nine months is to finish analyzing this very large and comprehensive dataset and to identify various good agricultural practices that reduce the risk of foodborne pathogens for the produce industry,” Atwill said.

Research helps prevent contamination of fresh leafy greens.
Research helps prevent contamination of fresh leafy greens.

Posted on Wednesday, October 27, 2010 at 7:04 AM
Tags: E. coli (7), leafy greens (8), produce (13), Rob Atwill (4)

Food safety input collected in Monterey Co.

Food safety authorities were in Monterey County earlier this week gathering information from farmers, conservationists and scientists about new rules regulating the fresh produce industry, according to a story in the San Francisco Chronicle.

UC Cooperative Extension was represented by the director of Monterey County's UC Cooperative Extension office, Sonya Varea-Hammond. She is pictured at the meeting with the director of the Food Safety Project, Jim O'Hara, in the The Packer.

The Monterey forum was the fifth in a series offered by the Food Safety Project to gather comments and input to send to the FDA in May. The Packer story said the Food Safety Project "worked with the University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources during the forums."

The new rules being considered at the meeting, according to the Chron, are separate from food safety legislation now being considered by the Senate. However, they are similarly a reaction to a growing number of fruit and vegetable related food-borne illnesses.

"A lot of what they're talking about seems too expensive to me," the story quoted  Kevin McEnnis, owner of a 20-acre Santa Rosa farm. "I'm concerned that they're not as interested in our interests. We just don't have a lot of clout."

The safety of fresh produce the subject of Monterey County forum.
The safety of fresh produce the subject of Monterey County forum.

Posted on Thursday, April 29, 2010 at 10:58 AM

New food safety law could hurt small farmers

A behind-the-scenes battle is raging in the Senate over how to regulate small and organic growers without ruining them - and still protect consumers from contaminated food, according to a story published yesterday in the San Francisco Chronicle.

The crux of the legislation gives the Food and Drug Administration greater authority to regulate how products are grown, stored, transported, inspected, traced from farm to table and recalled when needed.

Small-scale producers may face compliance with tough laws.
Small-scale producers may face compliance with tough laws.

Posted on Wednesday, April 28, 2010 at 9:52 AM

Next 5 stories | Last story


University of California Cooperative Extension, Sonoma County
133 Aviation Blvd Suite 109, Santa Rosa, CA 95403  Phone: 707.565.2621  Fax: 707.565.2623
Office Hours:  M-F, 8am-Noon & 1pm-4pm

Like us on Facebook: UCCE Sonoma                        Follow us on Twitter @UCCESonoma 

Webmaster Email: klgiov@ucanr.edu