There’s A Bin For That: Composting 101

It can sometimes be confusing where exactly is the best place to toss your waste. Between specific recycling bins, and plain old trash cans, where do you put your a-little-too-mushy vegetable waste? Coffee filter grounds?


functional, yet wonderfully aesthetic…

A composter, of course! Composting is nature’s recycling. Composting fertilizer not only contributes to reduced waste, but enhances plant growth due to it’s nitrogen rich bacterial flora. As vegetation piles up, the center of the pile gets hotter and hotter, promoting bacterial growth and breakdown.


cause we all need a little love to grow

What exactly can you compost? A good rule of thumb to go by: If it grows, it goes! A good compost pile has a solid mixture of “browns and greens”, such as

  • coffee grounds
  • vegetable scraps
  • wood chips
  • yard trimmings
  • leaves

Home compost bins, as well as ours at the farm, should avoid meat/eggs/dairy as these items are harder to break down, and can often smell and draw unwanted animal attention.



Your home/apartment/dorm doesn’t compost, you say? That’s where we come in. Here at the Microfarm students have access to compost piles that not only reduce their carbon footprint, but contribute to local, sustainable farming! Plants grown with compost ‘fertilizer’ are happier and healthier without using chemical support.

So, bring a trash bag on out to our next work day and start reducing!

IMG_0706 (1)

Want your own compost bin? Indoor bins (similar to trash cans, but completely sealed) are available at most hardware stores, and outdoor bins are also available for purchase or DIY! Just make sure to check local regulations regarding where/how large your bin can be.


your plants thank you.

Drying Herbs at Home

If you’re trying to save a few extra dollars, looking to add more flavor to your dishes, or even searching for a fun project to try, you should dry your own herbs! Home-dried herbs are so much more flavorful and fragrant, even compared to the “nicer”, more expensive herbs from the grocery store.


Photo courtesy The Jane Austen Cookbook

Photo courtesy The Jane Austen Cookbook

When I first had the idea, I imagined having to build racks, run string all through my  apartment, wear an apron and bonnet, and be the epitome of a medieval kitchen maid maid , much like the picture to the right. But there are actually a few ways to go about it, one being racks that were used in earlier centuries. Alternatively, you can hang bundled herbs upside down in your closet. For these two methods it is important to leave the herbs in a cool, dry place. Though these old-fashioned techniques can be fun and leave you feeling reminiscent of the 18th century, it takes up to a few weeks to completely dry the herbs and runs the risk of growing mold.

Luckily there is a third option: using the oven. Here I have dried some fresh basil, rosemary, and lavender from the microfarm, along with some oregano. First you will want to gently wash the herbs (minus the lavender) and pat dry. Don’t be forceful with the herbs when you dry them, or else they will lose some of their flavor. Once the herbs are completely dry, pluck the leaves from the stems. For the lavender and rosemary, though, I decided leaving them on stem would be easier.


Space the basil leaves evenly


Ooh la la-vender

Next lay the herbs flat on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Place on the middle rack of an oven heated to 170 degrees F. The important thing here is to keep the oven door propped slightly open (by inserting a dish towel or wooden spoon in the doorway) to allow ventilation. The herbs will dry in about 45 minutes, although large basil leaves may take about 15 minutes longer. You’ll know they are done when you can crumble them in your hands. You can store the herbs whole or broken down in an airtight container.





One Pot Spanish Chicken and Potatoes


Tired of the usual eggplant recipes, like eggplant parmesan? This recipe from Pinch of Yum‘s blog shows a new way to incorporate eggplant into meals and is fantastic way to sneak a few extra veggies into your diet. The tomatoes, eggplant, onion, garlic, and olive oil are simmered together then puréed to create a smooth and bold sauce. As a vegetarian option, omit the chicken and double the potatoes. Another great feature is this only requires one pot! Serve alongside rice, chips, and salsa made from the farm’s peppers.

Serves 6
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • 1 large yellow onion, sliced
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 5 ripe tomatoes, cut in half
  • ½ of a large eggplant*, skin removed and diced (2-3 cups)
  • 1½ teaspoon salt
  • 1½ lbs. chicken breast meat
  • 1 large Russet potato, sliced
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 teaspoon all purpose seasoning (I used poultry seasoning)
  • ½ cup fresh parsley leaves

*Get this at the farm stand! Though, I’d get 2-3 of our eggplants, since they run smaller than ones from the grocery store

How To

  1. Sauce: Heat the olive oil in a large, deep skillet over medium high heat. Add the onions and garlic. Scoop the juices, seeds, and flesh out of the tomatoes into the pan. Add the eggplant pieces and simmer the mixture for 5 minutes or until everything is soupy-like and softened and very good smelling. Place the scooped out tomato halves over the sauce, open side down. Simmer for a few minutes until the tomatoes have steamed and softened. Break them up in the pan and simmer for another 5-10 minutes to get all the flavors real nice and yummy.
  2. Blend: Transfer to a blender or food processor, puree until mixture reaches your desired consistency, and stir in the salt. Taste and adjust to you liking.
  3. Chicken and Potatoes: In the same pan, add one more quick drizzle of olive oil and add the chicken and potato slices. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and seasoning. Saute for a few minutes on each side until they are browned.
  4. Finish: Add the sauce back to the pan, cover, and simmer for 10 minutes or until the chicken and potatoes are fully cooked. Top with fresh parsley and serve with crusty white bread or rice.
  • Pro-tip: watch this tutorial on how to easily peel an eggplant.

One Day, Two Victories

Perhaps you have come to that point in school where you realize that having just one thing go as planned in your day makes it feel like the best day ever. But no need to go into a deep talk on how college teaches us to appreciate the small victories by making us accustomed to failure (ahem), because I am glad to announce that yesterday the Microfarm had not one, but two victories. One with the farm stand and the other with our butternut squash.


The first on-campus farm stand ran smoothly and turned out to be a hit! Faculty and students alike stopped by to see what we’re about and purchase our super fresh produce. We’ve got malabar spinach, butternut squash, Armenian cucumbers, jalapeños, bell peppers, okra, Thai basil, Swiss chard, rosemary, and a beautiful bouquet of flowers, all cut the morning we sell. Overall, the farm stand was a great success! *cue Borat voice*





Butternut Squash


Assortment of peppers

Buying local is in the handbook of how to be an Austinite, and this is as local as you can get, my friend. Now I love Whole Foods as much as the next person, but their definition of local is a bit wider-reaching than ours. More over, you can actually come and talk to us about how your food was grown. Get to know your farmer! Can I emphasize that enough?

Ok, on to the second success: Parmesan roasted butternut squash.

Using some of the squash I brought home from the farm stand, I popped it in the oven and ate it as a side with my leftovers. One thing I like about butternut squash is it, though having a very distinct flavor, can be very versatile and compliment several main courses. Even with simply roasting it you can add many different combinations of seasoning and toppings to fit your meal. For instance, I had left over pasta and salad, so I wanted something with an Italian flare and chose parmesan to flavor to squash (recipe below). Think about which foods you will be pairing the squash with. Is it something on the savory, protein-filled side? Maybe garlic with fresh rosemary or thyme fit well. Or is it a Latin dish? Maybe try a dash of chili powder and oregano. Or when in doubt, simple sea salt with fresh cracked pepper is always nice… Like I said the possibilities are nearly endless.



Serves 2 very generously

  • 1 large butternut squash
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese

How To

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Peel and dice the squash into 1″ cubes and place in a large bowl.
  3. Coat the squash with olive oil and then toss with the salt and pepper.
  4. Spread evenly on a greased baking sheet and sprinkle the cheese over the squash. Bake for 30 minutes, tossing half way.
  5. Before taking the pan out, turn the broiler on high and brown for five minutes. Be sure to keep an eye out in this step because the squash can go from golden to black in a matter of seconds. Serve immediately.
  • Pro-tip: Peel the squash with a potato peeler. Using a knife is quite difficult. Also, don’t forget to remove the seeds, which can be done by cutting the squash in half vertically then scooping the seeded part out with a spoon. Here is a nice tutorial.

As always, we will be having a workday 9-12 this Sunday and I hope to see you there. Cheers.

Grilled Okra


Don’t know what to do with all that okra you just bought from the Microfarm? Grilling okra is an easy and unique way to prepare it. I love okra, but sometimes its slimy texture can be unappetizing. Grilling at a high heat eliminates much of this sliminess and leaves the outside skin crunchy. Your options on seasoning it are endless, from simple salt and pepper to chili powder to Szechuan spice. If you’re at a loss for what to try, message me and I can help you with some more specific suggestions. Here, I’ve opted for a Greek seasoning that can be bought at any grocery store. This gives the okra a nice salty kick, but does not completely mask its natural flavor.

Try pairing these with other farmer’s market finds and have yourself a farmer’s market-themed grill fest with your friends. Grilling really enhances the flavors of whatever you are making, especially with fruits. Grilled herbed eggplant, grilled stuffed jalapeños, grilled bell peppers, grilled peaches, and grilled cantaloupe are just a few suggestions to get you started. Check out our Farm to Table page for more ideas.



Serves 4

  • 1 carton fresh okra
  • 3 Tbs olive oil
  • 3 Tbs Greek seasoning
  • Nonstick grilling or cooking spray

How To

  1. Thread the okra on 2 skewers, one going through the top end and the other going through the tail end. This helps to flip the okra on the grill with ease. Fit as many okra as the skewers will allow, leaving a small space between each, about .25″.
  2. Brush both sides lightly the the olive oil. You do not need to use all of the olive oil. Then moderately sprinkle the seasoning on both sides.
  3. Light up the grill to med-hi heat and spray with the nonstick spray. Lay the skewers on the heat and let sit 5-7 minutes per side, checking every few minutes. The okra are done when both sides show nice brown grill marks. Serve immediately.
  • Pro-tip: Okra do not re-heat well, so try to eat all that you made.

Farm Update

Hello Austinites

How are you dealing with this heat? I for real would like to know, because I’ve hardly left my couch. If I could, I would cry about the heat index and the fact that my skin burns even with sun screen, but I’ve sweated out every drop of water in my body and have none left for tears. I would like to bring back those handheld fans we all had when we were 10 and make them trendy again (if they ever were).


(Left to right) Kat Sanders, Shannon Howe, Stephanie Cornejo

I would like to give a shout out to Kat, Shannon, and Stephanie for volunteering their time at the microfarm this past week. They are a part of Americorps NCCC, a service organization based out of Mississippi, and they travel across the states providing help where needed. These ladies came ready to work hard and were master weed pullers. Their help really sped up our clearing of the front plant beds to make room for new herbs and plants. It was a pleasure hearing their story, and I encourage you to check out Americorps!


Remember, if you’re interested in purchasing our produce, we are currently selling at Hope farmer’s market on E 5th and Comal, open 11-3 on Sundays. The farm’s okra, eggplant, and butternut squash are looking particularly mouthwatering these days. But I have some *very exciting* news for those of you who might have a hard time making your way to East Austin.  The Microfarm will be opening a farm stand on the UT campus! Now healthy, organic produce will be even more accessible to students and faculty. I will make an announcement soon with the where and when details as they get solidified. Nothing would make us happier than to get to chat with you, so please stop by.



Malabar spinach pyramid


This could be you


Looks like a painting, no?


This could also be you

This may look like a weed, but it's actually edible and tasty on salads!

This may look like a weed, but it’s actually edible and tasty on salads!

Applications to become an intern with us will remain open until September 18, and interviews will be conducted on a rolling basis. Available positions and their duties can be found here. Also, the Micofarm’s work days will remain the same throughout the upcoming semester: Wednesday 5-8AM and Sundays 9-12PM. See you there.