FireRoot Apple Cider Vinegar Tonic – the troll chaser


Half Hill Farm’s FireRoot Apple Cider VInegar Tonic – the troll chaser

Our small organic apple orchard here in Woodbury, TN will never produce enough apples for market, but with a little help it will be enough to make some amazing apple cider vinegar tonics!

A famous example that inspired our farm’s first seasonal apple cider vinegar tonic is Rosemary Gladstar’s recipe for Fire Cider. We call our tonic FireRoot, a spicy decoction of certified organic horseradish, onion, garlic, ginger, turmeric, orange, lemon, cayenne and black pepper in organic apple cider vinegar & mother lightly sweetened with local honey.

Half Hill Farm’s FireRoot apple cider vinegar tonic is just one way our farm honors traditional folk remedies. Each ounce of prevention will chase your trolls and light a fire under whatever’s thrown your way. FireRoot is available in both 8 oz and 16 oz bottles online or in our retail store in the Arts Center of Cannon County starting Thursday February 2.

Better health and well being
Apple cider vinegar has been used for centuries as a natural folk remedy for indigestion and a host of ailments. Research shows daily use of 1-2 tbsps naturally lowers morning blood sugar levels in people with diabetes, dramatically lowers mealtime glycemic levels associated with chronic diseases, helps people lose weight and may satiate appetite. There is some evidence showing anti-cancer properties, but the mechanism is not well understood. Less is known about widely reported uses as a cold and flu prevention, but it is suspected that apple cider vinegar’s alkalizing affects in the body helps prevent cold & flu. Using apple cider vinegar to decoct ingredients like garlic, ginger, and turmeric certainly helps increase the tonic’s antimicrobial and antiviral potential.*

To make FireRoot, our farm starts with all organic ingredients and unpasteurized apple cider vinegar that contains the mother, the naturally occurring probiotic yeast and bacteria that ferments the cider into vinegar. This will appear as a light sediment, so shake well to get all the botanical goodness in every serving!

How to use FireRoot Apple Cider Vinegar Tonic
If you’re a fan of bold flavor, take a tablespoon of FireRoot every day before or after your biggest meal. By using FireRoot with food, you can also lower your intake of salt and fat. Here are a few suggested uses below. Check back for recipes using FireRoot!

  • Blend FireRoot with flax oil or coconut oil to make an amazing salad dressing!
  • Spice up your chutney recipe by replacing the vinegar with FireRoot.
  • Use FireRoot in place of butter or salt on steamed vegetables or beans or blend into marinades for meats.
  • Blend with Bragg’s, sesame oil, and lemon juice to make a tangy dumpling sauce.

FireRoot is our farm’s first seasonal tonic release this year. Follow us on Facebook or Instagram to learn when other tonics will be available.

* Please consult your doctor before using any of our products for health purposes. These statements have not been reviewed by the Food and Drug Administration. Our products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

Kombucha starter kit – how to make kombucha at home

If you regularly drink kombucha you already know the many health benefits of this fizzy fermented beverage. Did you know you can make it yourself? Our new kombucha starter kits are everything you need to brew your own organic kombucha at home! Our kits include:

  • 1 SCOBY (symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast) in 1 cup of kombucha mother
  • 1 cup of organic raw sugar
  • half ounce of organic Assam black tea
  • a 2 gallon glass crock
  • a cover and string
  • a one-page instruction sheet

HOW TO MAKE KOMBUCHA AT HOME
Order your kombucha starter kit from Half Hill Farm online. Each kit comes with more detailed instructions, but here are some basics for home brewers:

  1. Bring 1 gallon of water to a boil, turn off heat and add half ounce of loose black tea. Let steep for 4 minutes, then strain out tea and dissolve a cup of sugar in the tea.
  2. Pour into clean glass crock, cover and allow to cool to room temperature.
  3. Open SCOBY pack and pour all the contents into the crock, cover and secure with string. (TIP: make sure your pH is 4.0 or lower to prevent bad bacteria and molds. You can lower the pH with more kombucha mother. Cheap pH meters will work for a while as long as you keep them calibrated.)
  4. Allow to sit on the counter out of direct sunlight for 7-14 days. Use a straw to gently push aside SCOBY to pull a sample. When it is sour enough, it is ready for flavoring and bottling. (TIP: If you see defined patches of green, brown, white or black fuzzy spots on the surface of your SCOBY, toss the entire batch and start over. The perfect kombucha fermentation temperature range is 75-85 degrees. Do not stir during fermentation. You will see an explosion of yeast as brown strands followed by them falling to the bottom as a thin new SCOBY forms on the top. It may appear cloudy at first and begin clarifying close to the end. You can use thinner cheese cloth, but risk contaminants slipping through and landing on your SCOBY. Use fabric that does not prevent the air flow needed for your surface fermentation.)
  5. Remove SCOBY and at least 1 cup of mother per gallon of new kombucha you want to make later and set aside in a clean bowl covered with a napkin.
  6. Strain the kobucha to remove large strands of yeast or pieces of SCOBY. Flavor with organic cold pressed juices of your choice starting with a cup of juice per gallon to taste.
  7. Pour into pressurized bottles (do not use glass designed for vacuum such as canning jars). Cap and allow to sit at room temperature for 2-5 days during which time a secondary fermentation will increase carbonation (it will also decrease sweetness, increase alcohol and increase yeast and form a small SCOBY – control this with refrigeration). Place in fridge to stop fermentation and enjoy! (TIP: beer bottles work but can explode if secondary fermentation goes too long. Use flip-tops, or swing-top bottles instead. They are expensive but well worth it.)

Want to keep it going without needing to buy more SCOBYs and mother? Take the SCOBY and mother you set aside in step 5 and repeat the entire process using your new SCOBY and mother! It’s that simple.

Need to replace your SCOBY and mother? We have you covered. You can order Half hill Farm’s SCOBY’s with mother through our online store or our retail store in the Arts Center of Cannon County.

Health benefits of kombucha: By transforming a Southern staple beverage of many meals (sweet tea) with the natural process of fermentation, you reduce your sugar intake while aiding in digestion with the introduction of organic chemicals that are increasingly missing and eliminated from packaged and processed foods. The primary organic acid in kombucha responsible for helping the body process blood sugars is the acetic acid (vinegar) you smell and taste as “sour.” Another acid that helps the body detoxify by binding to fat soluble toxins in the liver and making them water soluble and easier to flush out in urine is gluconic acid. Look up more benefits these two acids play in your health and well being. Digestion is also aided with a healthy balance of probiotic bacteria used to ferment the alcohol to various organic acids. These good bacteria help bring your gut’s biome in proper balance.

Got any questions? Leave them in comments. We are happy to help spread the culture and appreciation of fermentation, better health and well being!

RECIPE: Shiitake mushroom soup


A 5 lbs. mid-Winter harvest of organic Shiitake mushrooms from Half Hill Farm.

Once your Shiitake logs from Half Hill Farm start producing mushrooms, you can dry them, store some in the fridge for a couple weeks, or eat them! That’s exactly what we did using the following recipe and an unexpected January harvest.

There’s a lot you can do with your Shiitake mushrooms and a lot of good stuff it will do for you. One recent study, for example, shows medicinal compounds in Shiitake mushrooms can eradicate HPV, a virus that causes 99% of all cervical cancer, 95% of anal cancer, 60% of oropharyngeal cancer, 65% of vaginal cancer, 50% of vulvar cancer, and 35% of penile cancer. Here’s more research on this and other mushrooms we grow, and here’s our recipe for how to make some Pho-tastic Shiitake mushroom soup.

Shiitake Mushroom Soup

  • 2 cups chopped Shiitake mushrooms
  • cubed tofu
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 4 tbsps of fresh grated ginger
  • chives
  • cilantro
  • 4 cups chopped Napa cabbage
  • rice noodles (or rice & quinoa)
  • 8 cups of chicken or vegetable broth
  • soy sauce (or Bragg’s) & lemon to flavor

You can use either rice noodles or a little rice and quinoa. Either way, cook these first and set them aside. You won’t need much – about a total of half a cup if using rice/quinoa.

Put a little olive oil in the soup pot you plan to use and cook your cubed tofu. When complete, stir-fry the chopped garlic cloves and ginger with the cooked tofu. This takes a couple minutes. Now add the broth, mushrooms and either noodles or rice/quinoa. Let this simmer for 20 minutes and then add the Napa cabbage and let simmer for five more minutes before serving.

Place a little chopped cilantro and chives in a bowl and fill the bowl with soup. Add a generous squirt of soy sauce or Bragg’s and a squeeze of a couple lemon wedges and enjoy!

RECIPE: Red Reishi and Turkey Tail mushroom extracts


2 1/2 quarts of Red Reishi extract made at Half Hill Farm. Purchase our 1:1 dual extracts.

Red Reishi (Ganoderma lucidum) and Turkey Tail (Trametes Versicolor) mushrooms have been widely known for their medicinal value for centuries. Today, new studies reveal anti-cancer and anti-viral properties of high concentrations of polysaccharide K (PSK – an approved cancer drug) and lesser studied triterpenoids in both mushrooms. Last year, the FDA approved a $5 million study focusing on use of Turkey Tail PSK adjunctive treatment for stage four colon and lung cancers after promising results from an NIH study on breast cancer patients.

Many people mistake these two particular mushrooms as edible. Some websites actually prescribe so many grams of these dried mushrooms. The fact is, you cannot fully digest these medicinal mushrooms. The protein-bound polysaccharides can only be extracted through a several hour decoction process while triterpenoids typically are extracted over several days in an alcohol solution. You certainly won’t die eating these mushrooms, but the best way to realize the full health benefits is to create a single or dual extract.

SINGLE EXTRACT (DECOCTION): A typical decoction is a 1 oz of dry mushroom to 1 cup of water. A single decoction will extract water solubles such as polysaccaharide K (PSK) and beneficial polypeptides (PSP).

  • 1 oz dried Red Reishi or dried Turkey Tail mushrooms
  • 2 cups of distilled or purified water

Take 1 oz. of the mushroom of your choice and place them in 2 cups of water. If you are using Reishi you will need to chop it up as close to 1 inch squares as you can. You can break it up into small pieces. Boil for 3-4 hours, reduce to between a light boil and simmer after the first 30 minutes. At the end, remove the mushrooms. You will then want to filter out any pieces of mushrooms. Your two cups should have reduced to close to a cup, including whatever you can squeeze out of your mushrooms.

Jar and store in the fridge for about 1 week before discarding. Take 2-6 teaspoons twice daily. Reishi is very bitter and best in coffee or soup broths.

DUAL EXTRACT: To extract antifungal, antibacterial, antiviral triterpenoids and other medicinal compounds present in the fruit body of the mushrooms, you will need to take the mushrooms from the first process and place them in a high proof alcohol for a month and blend them using proofing formulas.

OTHER USES: Our first use for these extracts is 1 tablespoon in 16 oz. soup servings we are making for Vince’s mother who was recently diagnosed at age 72 with stage IV lung cancer.

You can put 2 teaspoons of either extract in coffee and tea, or slightly more in soup, stews, or water you use to cook things like rice or even larger recipes calling for fluids.

WHERE TO GET: Growing your own medicinal mushrooms and following the steps above is the most affordable way to get extracts. We offer 1 foot logs inoculated with either mushrooms through our online store or larger logs for pick up at our farm in Woodbury, TN. This is the most economical way to grow your own. It takes several months for the logs to fruit and will produce seasonally for 3-5 years.

PURCHASE NOW: Our farm makes quality dual extracts of both Turkey Tail and Red Reishi mushrooms using distilled water and USDA certified organic alcohol (USP). Buy our Turkey Tail or Red Reishi extracts online.

Ganoderma Lucidum dual extract

Research on Turkey Tail (Trametes Versicolor) mushrooms

Research on Red Reishi (Ganoderma lucidum) mushrooms

DISCLAIMER: I am a farmer. I am not a doctor. Please consult your physician before using any of our products for health purposes. These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. Our products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

RECIPE: Cherokee Kenuche Ball – Hickory Nut Soup

We have a few mature Shaggy Bark Hickory trees on the property at Half Hill Farm that cover the ground each Fall with lots of nut husks. The nut is viewed as the best of America’s Hickory trees, and the squirrels here love them.

I was curious if there were any old Native American recipes using the nuts and came across some very obscure references to Cherokee Kenuche balls, ground up Hickory nuts (shell and meat) formed into a fist-sized ball that stores well through the Winter and is used on special occasions in soups by the American Cherokee Tribe. I can imagine many food uses and plan on putting a small grape-sized ball in our coffee maker in the morning.

The aroma of Kenuche is meant to guide the ancestors back to special family gatherings where it is served as a side dish. My guess is that memories of gathering and processing the nuts with older family members who have since passed is how ancestors are connected with this very special dish. After the time consuming process of crushing the nuts earlier today, I imagine this was a task for older family members and children who helped pick out larger shells before crushing them. It’s a beautiful side dish with a rich heritage that I’m guessing has less than 40 references online, including books.

Here is how you can make your own Kenuche. We could only gather about 100 Shaggy Bark Hickory nuts because the squirrels favor this nut over everything else. I crushed each one with a hammer. Half of them were bad, so I ended up with only 50. I picked out the larger shell pieces and left the rest in a bowl. I then took a small mortar & pestle and mashed the shells and meat into an oily paste. It’s OK and easier to leave the shells, and this is how it was traditionally done (but in a large hollowed wooden bowl).

Form the resulting Hickory nut paste into a Kenuche ball using wax paper. I find wax paper keeps the oils in the ball instead of sticking to your hand. Kenuche balls are usually the size of a fist, but ours was the size of a plum. You might need 300-400 nuts for a fist-sized Kenuche ball.

You can store Kenuche in the fridge or freezer until you’re ready to use it. Our ball was about 2 ounces, so I simmered it in a half quart of water for about 30 minutes until the nut meat was dissolved into a creamy sauce. A normal sized Kenuche ball would use about a half a gallon of water. I then strained the creamy broth through a sieve and discarded the small shell pieces and added hominy to the resulting broth. We added mushrooms and let this simmer. You can add venison or pretty much anything (brown sugar and maple syrup will make a sweet version and compliment the nutty flavor), but traditional Kenuche soup is the broth with hominy.

Life is all about having the patience to crack a tough nut to get to the good stuff. If your traditional gatherings are starting to focus more on the hollow and commercial aspects of life, who’s bringing what to the table, try infusing traditions that bring people together and create memories of those who have passed. You just might bring more to the table in a humble bowl of soup than you expected.

RECIPE: harvest, brine and roast organic sunflower seeds

Sunflower seeds are a great byproduct from flowers we plant to attract bees and other pollinators to the garden. Here’s how we harvest, brine and roast them to enjoy all year.

When to harvest (3 large flowers yield 1 lbs. of seeds):
First, it’s important to harvest them at the right time. Too soon and you might not have fully developed seeds. Too late and you might lose a lot to birds and squirrels. You will want to cut the flower heads when the seeds are plump, have dark stripes and the green leaves protecting the pedals start to slightly brown. If birds and squirrels are eating them early, you can cover the heads with a mesh bag until you are ready to cut them. You will also want the seeds to be dry enough that they fall out when you rub them. You can leave the heads in a protected place to dry more if you need to. To remove the seeds, simply rub them into a bowl and then rinse out the excess plant material.

Brine and roast:

  • Place your seeds in a salt brine (about 2 cups of salt per gallon of water) and let the seeds soak for 12-24 hours. Put a plate or bowl on top of them to fully submerge floating seeds.
  • Drain and remove the seeds. Lay them out on napkins to remove excess moisture. Do not rinse or remove the brine in anyway.
  • Evenly cover cookie sheets with the seeds and place in the oven at 300 degrees for 30-45 minutes until seeds are crisp. For more seasoning, you can lightly oil your seeds. I like mine very salty and add more salt to the brine step.

RECIPE: Garlic Scape Pesto

Around the end of May through mid June, some of our organic Western Rose garlic (and most any hard-neck garlic) send up flowering shoots called scapes. This usually means the bulbs are forming and that harvest is not too far behind.

We cut the scapes off to force the plant to send its energy to the bulb, remove the flowering top and use them much like chives in food. They have an amazing fresh flavor that isn’t as strong as garlic.

Here’s a very simple recipe for garlic scape pesto we enjoyed (pictured above). If local growers have them, they’ll be at your farmer’s market right now. We hope to have more next year.

1/2 cup garlic scapes
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/4 cup pine nuts
3/4 cup basil
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp fresh lemon juice
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Toast pine nuts in a skillet. Blend toasted pine nuts with garlic scapes, cheese, basil, and lemon juice in a food processor adding olive oil until smooth. Salt to taste.