An indoor agricultural evolution is in the making. That’s how some people see the surge of interest in growing leafy greens in greenhouses. No doubt about it, this approach to farming has increased dramatically in every corner of the country, even the South.
Not surprisingly, food safety has been one of the driving forces pushing indoor farming forward. Repeated recalls over the past several yearsof romaine lettuce contaminated by the potentially deadly E. coli O157:H7 pathogen grown in the Yuma, AZ, and Salinas, Calif., regions have been enough to have consumers shying away from the popular lettuce and often other leafy greens.
The most recent romaine outbreak just before Thanksgiving 2019, originating in thethe Salinas, CA, growingarea triggered yet more apprehensions about the lettuce.
Advice to consumers from the CDC just after Thanksgiving solidified those fears. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advised consumers not to eat any romaine at all from the Salinas growing area until the outbreak was over — unless it was grown indoors. That outbreak has since been declared over.
In effect, the CDC was giving greenhouse-grown romaine a food safety thumbs up.
“Hydroponically and greenhouse-grown romaine from any region does not appear to be related to the current outbreak,” said the agency on its December 2019 update about the outbreak in the Salinas growing area. It also noted that the lettuce might be labeled as “indoor grown.”
That came as welcome news to greenhouse growers — and also to buyers such as restaurants and other foodservice establishments that wanted to keep offering romaine to their customers. In many cases, demand outstripped supply.
“The more outbreaks we have, the more this trend will probably grow,” said Kirk Smith, director of the Minnesota Integrated Food Safety Center of Excellence, one of six centers around the U.S. designated by the CDC to strengthen the safety of the nation’s food system.
“There’s an upswing in interest in a big, big way,” said John Bonner, co-owner of Great Lake Growers. “I’ve seen consumers’ knowledge base about this increase. They like that it’s safer, fresher and lasts longer. It’s almost like ‘why wouldn’t you buy greenhouse salad greens.’ It’s a catalyst for change.”
Looking ahead, he believes indoor growing will happen on a bigger scale yet, although, as he quickly concedes:“It might take 20 years. “But it’s coming,” he said.
Ryan Oates, founder and owner of Tyger River Smart Farm in South Carolina, sees hydroponics as “the future of farming” because there are so many advantages to it, among them conserving water and nutrients. Also, you can do it year round.
“We’ll see more and more of it,” he says in a video on Tyger River’s website. “You’ll see a lot of crops moving in that direction.”
As for food safety, Oates said the biggest advantage is that you’re growing inside greenhouses, which allows me to keep things really clean. “It’s a lot easier to do that than growing outdoors.”
Because indoor growing is a controlled environment, the farmers don’t have to deal with wildlife, domestic animals, and birds flying overhead — all of which can contaminate the crops.
Bendon Kreieg, a partner and sales manager at Revol Greens said that the government’s advice on this is definitely helping.
“We are seeing an uptick in demand from retailers and restaurants because it has such a major impact on their business when they suddenly can’t serve salads,” Kreieg said.
A spokesperson for Gotham Greens, a New York-based operation with three locations in New York City, two in Chicago, one under construction in Baltimore, and more underway in other states, told a reporter that the farm has been selling out of its greenhouse grown leafy greens every day.
Janeen Wright, editor for Greenhouse Grower magazine, said that although the publication has always covered greenhouse cultivation of vegetables — as well as ornamental and nursery plants — it has been covering the vegetable side of the industry a lot more recently.
Referring to the romaine recalls in 2018 and 2019, Wright said growers have told her that the recalls have really helped them “get a name for themselves.”
“Unfortunately, all of these recalls will be a concern for consumers,” said Scott Horsfall, CEO of the California Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement. “The plantings (for romaine lettuce) are down but there’s still demand for it.”
As for whether greenhouse lettuces and greens will overtake field grown lettuces and greens, Horsfall doesn’t think that will ever happen especially considering the vast quantity of the crops that are field grown.
“I certainly haven’t seen concerns about this on the production side of the industry,” he said.
Even so, greenhouse farming is making important strides. During the 52 weeks ending Sept. 29, 2019, sales of produce marked as greenhouse grown increased 7.6 percent and sales of produce described as locally grown increased 23.2 percent, according to the latest Fresh Facts on Retail report from United Fresh Produce Association, a trade organization.
The “local” aspect is important because greenhouses are located in many regions of the country and therefore lettuces grown in them don’t have to be shipped across the country from Yuma and Salinas during the winter months. Because the lettuces and greens can be grown year-round they have an extra “local” advantage.
In the winter, more than 90 percent of the lettuces and greens in the United States are grown in the Yuma, AZ, and Salinas, CA, growing regions. Salinas is often referred to as America’s “Salad Bowl,” and Yuma, the “Lettuce Capital of the World.”
Yuma is home to nine factories that produce bagged lettuce and salad mixes. Each of these plants processes more than 2 million pounds of lettuce per day during Yuma’s peak production months, November thru March.
“It’s a long way from Yuma to Cleveland,” said John Bonner, co-owner of Great Lake Growers based in Ohio. He pointed out that the difference in distance between the two is part of why the lettuces and greens don’t arrive in stores and restaurants as fresh as they do when they arrive in establishments that are near his greenhouses.
In addition, consumers’ interest in locally grown food has risen dramatically. Some are even referring to the lettuces from the Yuma and Salinas growing regions as “corporate lettuce.”
Controlled-environment agriculture, another way to describe greenhouse cultivation when done according to certain standards, is helping grow the local food market. The USDA estimated they would reach $20 billion in sales by 2019, up from $12 billion in 2014.
Peace of mind about food safety is another important part of the puzzle when it comes to increased demand for greenhouse produce. A spokesperson for Gotham Greens agrees that the food safety scares originating from large-scale farms have buyers looking for lettuces and greens grown on a smaller scale and closer to home.
For the most part, greenhouse growers don’t use pesticides or other harmful-to-humans chemicals on their crops, and many follow strict organic standards.
Greenhouses: The indoor option When you think of farming, you think of soil.
In contrast, most indoor farming — or greenhouse growing — does away with soil. Instead, crops are grown hydroponically in controlled sterile environments.
In most hydroponic systems, plants are grown in nutrient-rich water, instead of in soil. The water is rich in phosphorus, nitrogen and calcium.
At the top of the list when it comes to the advantages of hydroponics is that it requires only 10 percent to 16 percent of the same amount of water to produce vegetables as conventional irrigation systems in outdoor farming. That’s because water in a hydroponic system is captured and reused, rather than allowed to run off and drain into the environment, according to indoor growers.
That’s especially important in areas where water is scarce. In California, for example, conventional outdoor agriculture accounts for 80 percent of total water use.
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations has been implementing hydroponic farming in areas of the world beset with food shortages. There are currently ongoing projects to establish large hydroponic farms inLatin American and African countries.
NASA has even gotten into the act. In the late 20th century, physicists and biologists put their heads together to come up with a way to grow food in space. They began by growing plants on the International Space Station, opting for hydroponices because it needs less space and fewer resources — and produces vastly higher yields — than growing in soil.
In 2015, astronauts actually dined on the first space-grown vegetables.
Although there hasn’t been much government funding for research on greenhouse agriculture, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) recently gave Michigan State University $2.7 million for research into indoor growing techniques. In addition to that, the researchers have won industry grants bringing the project total to $5.4 million.
A focus of the research will be gathering information on the economically viability of greenhouse growing.
Food safety and hydroponics Food-safety scientist Kirk Smith, who has been leading investigations into food safety outbreaks for many years, said one thing that has emerged in outbreak investigations is that E. coli contamination in produce almost always comes from irrigation water used on fields.
Making things more complicated, the Food Safety Modernization Act, signed into law by President Obama in 2011, has yet to establish definitive standards for agriculture water quality.
Another challenge beyond irrigation is washing the field-grown produce after it’s been harvested. That step is when using clean water is especially critical, otherwise contamination from one head of lettuce can spread to the rest of the produce in the factory.
Food safety scientists warn that even though a package of bagged salad greens that have been field grown says the greens have been triple washed, that doesn’t mean there’s no chance of some of the greens being contaminated. In the case of E. coli, for example, the pathogen can hold on tight and resist being washed away.
In contrast, most greenhouses use municipal water and many wash their greens with running water instead of dunking them into a tank. Some don’t even need to wash them since they never come into contact with any water simply because it’s the roots that are being watered, not the leaves.
Bonner said that his farm makes sure the water it uses is clean and tested.
“We have extensive testing for E. coli,” he said. “We’re monitoring it every second.”
As for farmworkers, Bonner said one part of the audit his company goes through is dedicated strictly to food safety and farmworkers.
“We’re in a building, and the bathrooms are right there,” he said. “And we have handwashing sinks all over the place.”
Because most greenhouse farms grow food year round, there’s no need to rely on a seasonal workforce. In Bonner’s case, the company works with a local Amish community whose young people are eager to work for his company.
In other cases where greenhouses are located in cities, farmworkers live in city apartments. This stability in housing and location gives greenhouse farms a stable workforce.
Nothing’s perfect Of course, there’s no guarantee that a foodborne pathogens will never occur in greenhouse settings.
And because most lettuces and greens are eaten raw, they don’t go through a “kill step” to kill pathogens that might be on them.
Many of the foods popular with indoor growers — lettuces, sprouts, fresh herbs, microgreens and wheat grass— carry the highest risk of outdoor produce, some of that because it grows so close to the ground.
That’s why prevention is so important, the greenhouse growers say. This would include paying attention to how water, tools, animal intrusions, pests and human handling plays a role in preventing food from being contaminated.
What is it about romaine? Romaine lettuce is “particularly susceptible” to E. coli, said Keith Warriner a University of Guelph (Canada) professor, in an interview with City News.
During research, Warriner said, scientists discovered that out of all the lettuces, E. coli likes romaine the best.
A study the food safety scientist conducted showed that extracts of romaine lettuce actually brought E. coli out of a dormant state when it’s in the soil. Once out of its dormant state, which can last up to a year, it can flourish.
Warriner describes several reasons why romaine is particularly susceptible. To begin with, the crop is mostly grown in Arizona and California. That’s cattle country, and irrigation water used on the romaine fields can become contaminated with bacteria from animal feces via water runoff and dust in the air.
Added to that, because both states have hot weather, the lettuce needs an abundance of water.
Warriner pointed out that even though other leafy greens like spinach and kale are also grown in the same areas, and under similar conditions, their leaves are, as he described them, “as tough as nails.”
Romaine is considered the most nutritious lettuce when compared to red leaf, green leaf, butterhead and iceberg.
Although it’s low in fiber, it’s high in minerals, such as calcium, phosphorous, magnesium, and potassium. It’s also naturally low in sodium. Another plus is that romaine lettuce is packed with Vitamin C, Vitamin K, and folate. And it’s a good source of beta carotene, which converts into Vitamin A in the body.
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This crusty French baguette recipe is easier to make than you think! Here’s a video tutorial showing how to make this classic crusty bread.
What’s better than a crunchy fresh French artisan baguette? (Almost nothing.) Well, here’s an easy baguette recipe you can make at home! It’s simple to make: there’s no special equipment required! And the only ingredient you need are all-purpose flour, yeast and salt. You will be absolutely amazed at the crunchy texture, tangy flavor, and beautiful long loaf. We have a long list of bread recipes (including our “famous” sourdough bread), but Alex and I agreed this one is our new favorite. The flavor is out of this world. Here’s what to do!
How to make this baguette recipe: an overview!
Here’s the basic outline of what you’re getting yourself into with this baguette recipe. The process spans 3 days! Day One takes 1 hour (just a few minutes of hands on time) and you’ll need about 3 hours on Day Three to shape and bake it. In between, you’ll rest the dough in the refrigerator for 2 days. This is the secret to the very best baguette flavor! Here’s an outline of what you’ll have to do:
Mix the dough, proof 1 hour, refrigerate (15 minutes active)
Equipment list for making a baguette (nothing special needed!)
This baguette recipe requires no special equipment! Compared to other artisan bread recipes like our sourdough, artisan, or even no knead, it’s got the smallest list of required tools. There’s no Dutch oven and no proofing basket needed. Here’s what you need!
Required tools for this artisan bread recipe
Sharp knife or lame for scoring the bread
Kitchen scale for measuring (optional)
All you need is all-purpose flour
Another feature of this baguette recipe is that all you need is all-purpose flour! Our other bread recipes use flour blends like whole wheat and bread flour. Baguettes are surprisingly simple: requiring only all-puprose flour, salt and yeast.
This recipe makes 2 loaves: halve it if desired!
This baguette recipe makes 2 loaves of bread. If you don’t think you’ll eat two in a few days, here are some options:
Make half the recipe. It works just as well with half the quantities: you can follow the recipe to a T.
Freeze the second baguette. You can freeze the second baguette for several months, then reheat it from frozen. It comes out a little crustier but the flavor is just as good! See the “Storage” section below.
Think ahead! A 2 day rest is required.
We said it once, but we’ll say it again. This bread requires thinking ahead a few days. You’ll need to rest the bread dough for 2 days in the refrigerator. Why?
The 2 day rest makes a complex, tangy flavor. Resting the dough in the refrigerator is also called “fermenting”. As the dough ferments, it develops a naturally tangy and complex flavor. (We also suggest this with our best pizza dough.) You can truly taste the difference!
It doesn’t have to be exactly 48 hours. There is some wiggle room, so don’t worry if you do about 1.5 days instead of a full 2 days on the rest time.
How to shape a baguette (video!)
The part of making this baguette recipe that requires the most technique is folding and shaping the dough. It’s easiest to learn how to shape the dough by watching. So, we made you a video! Here’s Alex demonstrating how to shape a baguette. We highly recommend watching this video before you start!
How to score a baguette
See those beautiful lines on the top of the baguette? Those are called score lines. Scoring is slashing the top of the dough with a sharp knife to allow it to expand when baking. Here are some things to know about scoring the baguette (also watch the video above):
Use your sharpest knife, or a lame. You’ll want the knife to be ultra sharp. We purchased a lame for this, since we make lots of bread recipes. But a knife works just as well!
Make shallow, diagonal overlapping cuts. You want to cut just the surface — if it’s too deep it collapses, if it’s too shallow it bursts. Make the pattern look like the one in the video above, where the cuts overlap diagonally.
Storage & reheating info for this baguette recipe
This baguette recipe has no preservatives, so the storage is different from a bread you might buy from the store. Since this recipe makes two loaves, you can freeze the second one and eat it later! It comes out a little crustier than the day of baking, but it’s still fantastic and the flavor is perfectly preserved. Here’s what to do:
Room temperature storage (2 days): Once you’ve baked your French baguette, it is best eaten within 48 hours. Store it wrapped in a towel at room temperature.
Frozen (3 months): Let the baguette cool to room temperature, then wrap it in aluminum foil and place it in a plastic bag. Freeze for several months.
Reheating: Preheat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Unwrap the baguette and add directly to the oven grate (from frozen!) and bake about 15 to 20 minutes until warmed through.
Ways to serve this baguette
There are so many ways to serve a baguette! Likely you already have ideas. Here are some of our favorites, including some ways to use stale bread:
On a cheese board. See above! Add a variety of cheeses, olives, nuts, and jam and you’ve got one incredible cheese board for entertaining.
With salted French butter. One of the very best taste treats: this baguette with salted French butter. Look for French or European-style butter at your local grocery.
With dips. Try it with our Spinach Artichoke Dip: it’s delightful.
Crostini. When it’s starting to go stale, turn it into Easy Crostini and top with toppings, or make Goat Cheese Crostini.
Garlic toast. Another idea for Day 2, make it into this insanely garlicky Garlic Toast.
Breadcrumbs or croutons. If you get to the point where it’s pretty stale, make it into breadcrumbs or croutons! You can also use it for panzanella or bread soup.
This French baguette recipe is…
Vegetarian, vegan, plant-based, and dairy free.
This crusty French baguette recipe is easier to make than you think! Here’s a video tutorial showing how to make this classic crusty bread.
500 grams all-purpose flour (4 cups)*
8 grams instant or active dry yeast (2 teaspoons)
12 grams kosher salt (2 teaspoons)
350 grams warm water (1 1/2 cups)
Day 1: Make the dough (15 minutes active, 45 minutes inactive)
Mix the dough: Combine the flour, salt, and yeast in a bowl or the bowl of your stand mixer. Stir to combine. Add the water and stir until a raggy dough forms. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface.
Knead the dough: Knead the dough by pushing with the base of your palm, then reforming it into a ball. Continue kneading for 8 minutes until the dough feels pillowy and has a smooth, stretchy exterior. If the dough is very sticky, add a small amount of flour while kneading. Resist the urge to add lots of flour. Alternatively: attach the dough hook to a stand mixer and start the mixer on medium-low speed, then allow the mixer to knead for 8 minutes.
Proof 45 to 60 minutes: After the kneading is finished, form the dough into a ball and return to the bowl. Proof until doubled in size, about 45-60 minutes. Divide dough into two equal pieces. Gently shape each half into a boule (ball shape) by folding the dough under itself. Place each dough into a separate covered container, with room for the dough to double in size.
Refrigerate 2 days: Place containers in the refrigerator for 2 days to ferment (this is where all the flavor comes from!).
Proof 1 hour: When ready to bake, remove the dough from the refrigerator. Place dough onto lightly floured counter and pull ends under dough to form a boule shape (watch video for this and all following steps). Repeat with second dough. Cover with towel and rest 1 hour.
Fold the dough & rest 10 minutes: After an hour, flip the dough over and pull out the left and right ends. Fold the ends into the center of the dough and gently roll into a log. Pinch the seams on the sides. Be careful not to press too hard while rolling to avoid deflating the dough. Repeat with second dough. Cover with a towel and rest for 10 minutes.
Pre-shape the dough & rest 5 minutes: Sprinkle the doughs with flour. Flip the dough and pat it gently into a rectangle. Fold in half and use the heel of your hand to pinch the seam and form a log shape. Flip and repeat the process. Repeat with second dough. Cover with towel and rest 5 minutes.
Shape the dough & proof 45 minutes: Place a clean towel on a baking pan and dust it heavily with flour. Starting from the center of the dough, use your hands to roll the dough into a long baguette shape the almost the length of your pan. Make sure to roll your hands all the way past the ends of the dough to create the tapered point. Carefully transfer the dough to the floured towel and tuck it on both sides to provide support. Repeat with second dough. Cover with a towel and proof for 45 minutes.
Preheat the oven: Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 475 degrees Fahrenheit. Place a cast iron pan or your thickest baking sheet on the rack just below and off to the other side of oven. You’ll pour water into it later to create steam.
Score the bread: After proofing, carefully move each dough out of the towel and transfer it directly onto the pan. Ensure the dough is straightened and dust it lightly with flour. Use a sharp knife or lame to score each bread 4 times at a slight diagonal, just overlapping pattern.
Bake at 475 degrees: Place the tray in the oven and add steam: cover your hand with a towel and very carefully pour 1 cup of water onto the cast-iron pan or baking sheet, then immediately close the door. Bake 16 minutes and then reduce the oven temperature to 400 degrees.
Bake at 400 degrees: Open the oven door and fan it a few times to release moist air. Bake for 23 to 25 minutes until golden brown. Cool on a wire rack at least 20 minutes before serving.
Storage instructions: Store at room temperature wrapped in a towel for up to 2 days. To preserve the second loaf, you can freeze it: wrap in foil and place in a plastic bag. Store for several months in the freezer. To reheat, bake from frozen for 15 to 20 minutes at 325 degrees Fahrenheit.
*If you’d like only 1 loaf, cut the quantities in half. The recipe works just as well!
I’ve been making my easy wild blueberry chia jam on REPEAT during this quarantine. It’s a cinch to make (not like grandmas jams😅) & has no added sugar (unless you choose to add some which is A-OK 👌). PB&Js are also a staple during this quarantine 😂 • • w i l d b l u e b e r r y c h i a j a m 1 cup frozen wild blueberries 1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce 1 Tbsp chia seeds Juice of half a small lemon Optional: 2-3 tsp maple syrup or honey Combine chia seeds & apple juice & let sit for 10-15 minutes. Meanwhile, add blueberries to a small sauce pot & cook over medium heat until blueberries start to burst, about 5 min. Mash with a spatula or fork while you continue cooking another minute or two. Remove from heat & immediately stir in apple chia mixture plus lemon juice. Mix well. Let sit a few minutes to continue thickening.