dedicating the dar bar

As some phyte clubbers know, we’ve been working on a new bar flavor for a couple weeks now, and I’m grateful to all those who tried the versions 1.0 (not enough lemon), 2.0 (a little too salty), and 3.0 (still not quite lemony enough, but a great pre- and post fuel for the Charlottesville 10 Miler, it turns out). With all the good feedback in our pockets, we cranked out version 4.0 over the weekend, and can’t wait to share it with you!

Powered with organic pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, and chia, this bar is different than our others in that it’s sweetened with organic figs instead of dates, and sparked up with lemon zest. I’ve been struggling with what to call this tart little powerhouse for days, literally lying in bed tossing out possible names.  The obvious “fig & lemon bar” just seemed to boring and literal alongside “superstar” and “mighty mint” not to mention that we’re proud of the fact that figs are actually NOT among the first two ingredients, naturally making the protein content higher and sugar content lower than most commercially available bars. So, what to call it?

The snark in me wanted to play on the old “Fig Newton,” which is of course owned by Nabisco which is of course owned by Mondelez International, which, as I have noted before, is a global candy & junk food behemoth that spent almost $3.4 million lobbying the U.S. Congress between 2012-2016 (source: Center for Responsive Politics).  In case you want to know why so many public school vending machines are stocked the way they are…

Inspired by #InternationalWomensDay, I thought Rachel Carson would be a more apt scientist than Newton to be associated with good phyte foods (though I’ve got nothing against gravity, don’t get me wrong). But “carson bar” was a bit of a confusing mouthful, and “rachel bar” just reminded me of Jennifer Anniston’s face. And who wants that?

Then, one night last week, as I struggled to sleep (I had an unusual coffee at Brazos at lunchtime, okay? okay?), it hit me. The perfect name, honoring a woman in my life who has inspired me with her unflagging energy, kept me humble with her honesty, and always pushed me to strive for better.

I met Dar back in 2008, when I had just started working for the darlene wolniknational Farmers Market Coalition (FMC).  She worked at the time for a partner organization in New Orleans (market umbrella), and I had just been hired into a big position for which I was probably seen as too young, too unknown, and too inexperienced. I will never forget first meeting her skeptical self in that small Comfort Inn lobby in Los Angeles, and the energized discussions that bordered on arguments we would have there, on the windy streets of San Francisco, and just about any city where we met for a project collaboration or conference, including her hometown of New Orleans and right here in Charlottesville. She had been an environmental activist in Ohio before becoming embedded in the the movement to develop and restore thriving local economies. Geez, she was intimidating! The woman devoured books! She seems informed about everything! She never went to college (she didn’t seem to need to), but a wry brilliance emerged in even the most casual of conversations. When did she sleep? The woman was a dynamo who happily and humbly saw her role as a foot soldier in the pursuit of social justice and environmental sustainability. How could I keep up?!

Through the years, we would plot, plan, write, dream big, gripe, and seek solace about state and national politics together. We offended each other. We forgave each other. I was impatient. She was patient. I would offend her again. She would forgive me again. When I stepped away from FMC after having Fionn in 2012 and gradually stopped working with her on one project or another, I realized it was her verve I missed the most. Though even I didn’t recognize it at the time, it was, in part, her indefatigable “good enough isn’t good enough” energy that inspired good phyte foods.

Aside from working now herself for FMC part-time, she publishes almost daily on a blog she runs called Helping Public Markets Grow, where she recently gave good phyte foods some props. She maintains a local history web side called French Quarter Block by Block,  and of course manages to do what people do who live in the French Quarter- have fun. Laugh. Walk around. Talk to strangers.

Though I see her infrequently now, we can still talk on the phone for hours. She is one of those rare people who mails random snippets of wisdom for no particular occasion, miraculously knowing exactly what you need to hear when you need to hear it. 

Oh, and in Spanish, Dar is the verb “to give.”  Gracias, Dar. For all you’ve given me. In your honor, good phyte foods will donate 10 cents from every dar bar sold to the Urban Agriculture Collective of Charlottesville.

ingredients: organic pumpkin seeds, raw organic sunflower seeds, organic dried figs, organic chia seeds, organic raisins, locally grown organic kale, lemon extract, organic lemon peel, himalayan pink salt, vanilla extract 

superstar & mighty mint bars

This is the perfect portable “treat” for the kiddos (you don’t have to tell them that there’s little bits of kale inside), or a great chewy re-fuel after a workout. In slightly more than 200 calories, each bar is a good source of protein (10 grams!), iron, Vitamin E, fiber, magnesium, phosphorus, copper, & manganese, a very good source of Vitamin K, and contains about 1,900 mcg of omega-3 fatty acids from four kinds of seeds. Since just enough certified organic raisins and dates are used to hold the bars together, it wouldn’t technically be lying to call this a “chewy raisin bar” for the little ones particularly wary of new foods.  This is nutrient density at it’s best! 

mighty mint omega bar

Flavors include superstar (vanilla rosemary) and mighty mint (cacao nibs with peppermint)

Ingredients (superstar bar): organic raw sunflower seeds, organic raw pumpkin seeds, organic seedless raisins, organic medjool dates, organic flax seeds, organic chia seeds, raw hemp seeds, local organic kale, sea salt, vanilla extract, lemon extract, fresh rosemary


Order here.

Mint Mayhem

Minty Superfood Saucers with Kale (Beta)

We have a small bed in our garden that gets full sun, drains very quickly, and has come to be known as the “death bed.” This is partly an homage to Patton Oswalt* as well as an admission that every time we’ve attempted to plant even heat-loving vegetables there (sweet peppers, eggplant, and basil), each are met with a stunted, slowly dessicating demise.  So when I came into a chocolate mint plant at a Master Gardener sale a couple years ago, I knew exactly where to put it.  I discovered chocolate mint about 15 years ago, on the organic farm where my husband and I both once worked (when we had spry knees, hideous tan lines, and could be bribed into long hot hours of heirloom tomato transplanting with cans of Natty Boh). There, it sprawled vigorously along the outside walls of the greenhouse, out-competing other weeds. Sometimes, at the end of a hot day, I’d grab a sprig and rub the crushed leaves on my neck so that I could hide from my own stench for a while. It made a refreshing, richer-than-peppermint sun tea, too, which I guess is what I should have been drinking more of instead of Natty Boh. In any case, no one who has ever tried to grow a little mint will be surprised when I say our little chocolate mint turned the death bed into a vibrant purplish-stemmed jungle of fragrance, even creeping several feet out into the lawn. Even I can’t drink this much tea.

Thus, my inspiration for a Minty Kale Superfood Saucers was born. I had debuted the saucer at City Market this past Saturday, but wanted to experiment with new flavor that didn’t come out of a bottle, or resort to adding cacao nibs. Who wants to risk a potentially napless afternoon with an energetic toddler simply for a snack that had even a tiny bit of caffeine? Caffeine can be mommy’s little helper, sure; but only when it’s in HER hands.

If you haven’t heard my empty calorie rant, or my frustrations with “energy bars,” then I will only say briefly here that these saucers, like all my experiments, are designed to have a significant amount of vegetables (organic kale from Brightwood Vineyard & Farm) and lots of healthy essential fats from whole food ingredients. No isolates, syrups, sweeteners, unpronounceable preservatives, gluten, nuts, or dairy.

After getting some feedback from vegans on Saturday, I made a few changes in this beta recipe (Mint Modification V1.0), that allowed to me make a completely raw, vegan version. That means the texture is slightly different, with the sunflower seeds, chia, and flax more thoroughly puréed. Nevertheless, I am always looking for ways to improve size, texture, shape, and other attributes in order to make things most appealing to kids. Who cares how many vitamins are in something if it never gets to their mouth?

Ingredients: organic raw sunflower seeds, organic pumpkin seeds, organic unsulfured apricots, organic medjool dates, organic flax seeds, local organic kale, organic chia seeds, organic virgin coconut oil, chocolate mint, sea salt, organic vanilla extract

By now I understand why most energy bars are in opaque packaging. They are ugly, and I lack the food-porn photoshopping skills or hipster craftiness to make them look sexy with a little jute twine and parchment paper. Little help, anybody?

Until I find the magic packaging solution for these, each bag has four saucers, which are about 100 calories a piece and packed with vitamins and healthy fats from seeds. Order here for pick up at ACAC downtown on the mornings of Tuesday June 2nd or Thursday 4th. Add a comment if neither of those times work for you and you want to arrange another meet-up.

If you want to be notified of about what’s fresh week to week, subscribe here for email updates.

*If you have read this far and are afraid to raise your hand and ask what the heck Patton Oswalt has to do with gardening, well, he doesn’t. But please watch his “Death Bed” stand-up sketch after the kids have gone to bed. There are rather superfluous F-bombs.

Seedy Apricot Saucers (with Spinach)

Have you been duped in the confusing profusion of “energy bars”? Well, I decided I had been duped for the last time a few days ago, trying to choose the “least bad” option for my little guy at the at the store, as he Go-Go-Gadgetted his arms toward everything within view of the shopping cart. Even the best of commercially available ones (those without some kind of rice syrup or other liquid sweetener) are still composed mostly of dried fruits, with some seeds thrown in for texture. Of course they will give you “energy” if they are mostly sugar! This recipe is better for two reasons: Even by weight, seeds predominate, lending a lot of omega-3 fatty acids, protein, and minerals. Secondly, I managed to sneak a decent amount of spinach in there. In retrospect, I laughingly admit that these would be much prettier with some goji berries.  See my post on Seedy Superfood Saucers regarding goji berries. Go ahead and add about 1/2 cup of them to the recipe below if you fancy.

Note: There are two options with this recipe. The traditional bar size is made in a 9 by 13 inch baking pan, while the saucers use a 24 cup mini muffin tin, which might require two batches. Alternatively, you could have it both ways by using a square 9 by 9 inch baking dish and simply use the remaining mixture for the muffin tin.

Seedy Apricot Saucers (with Spinach)
Yields 20
Not too sweet, these "space saucers" are mostly seeds, with just enough dried fruit to hold them together. Your little one will never guess they also contain spinach!
Write a review
Cook Time
25 min
Cook Time
25 min
134 calories
12 g
0 g
9 g
3 g
2 g
29 g
36 g
3 g
0 g
6 g
Nutrition Facts
Serving Size
Amount Per Serving
Calories 134
Calories from Fat 77
% Daily Value *
Total Fat 9g
Saturated Fat 2g
Trans Fat 0g
Polyunsaturated Fat 3g
Monounsaturated Fat 3g
Cholesterol 0mg
Sodium 36mg
Total Carbohydrates 12g
Dietary Fiber 5g
Sugars 3g
Protein 3g
Vitamin A
Vitamin C
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your Daily Values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.
  1. 4 medjool dates
  2. 8 dried Turkish apricots
  3. 3 tablespoons extra virgin coconut oil
  4. 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  5. ¼ teaspoon sea salt
  6. 1 1/2 cup (about 3-4 ounces) fresh spinach leaves, packed down (this should equal at least 1/2 cup purée)
  7. ½ teaspoon ground ginger
  8. 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  9. 1 1/2 cups raw pumpkin seeds
  10. 1/2 cups unsweetened shredded coconut
  11. 1/2 cup sesame seeds
  12. 1/2 cup chia seeds
  13. ½ cup whole brown flax seeds
  1. Preheat oven to 300 F and line a 9” x 13” metal cake pan with parchment paper, OR grease the cups of a 24 cup mini muffin tin with coconut oil.
  2. Put the pitted dates and apricots in a metal or glass 1 cup measuring cup and pack down. Add about 3 tablespoons hot water and let soak for 5 minutes.
  3. Add the soaked dates and apricots (along with the liquid) to a food processor. (I use a Nutribullet). Add the spinach and blend to a smooth purée.
  4. In a small saucepan on low heat, whisk together the coconut oil, vanilla, and puree mixture, mixing till well combined for just a minute or two. Do not bring to a boil. Remove from heat and whisk in the ginger,cinnamon, and salt.
  5. In a large mixing bowl, stir the pumpkin seeds, shredded coconut, flax seeds, and chia together.
  6. Pour the liquid mixture onto the dry ingredients and stir together thoroughly.
  7. For bars: spread the mixture into the parchment paper-lined metal pan and press down until you have an even thickness.
  8. For saucers: Spoon the mixture onto the greased mini muffin tin and press into each well, patting down firmly so that the mixture comes flush with the top in each one.
  9. Bake at 300 F for 25 minutes. Remove from oven, let it cool completely on the counter, and then transfer to the refrigerator for one hour (or overnight, if it's late!) before moving onto the next step.
  10. For bars: Cut into 20 rectangles.
  11. For saucers: place a cookie sheet on top of the muffin tin and gently flip it over, setting the sheet on a counter before lifting the upside-down muffin tin.
  12. Store bars/saucers in a sealed container in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks (though they will probably last much longer if you let them!)

Black Bean Energy Bars

These are a great standby for the lunch box or snack bag, and are completely adaptable. Baked apples or other soft fruit can substitute for the peach, and avocado, seed/nut butter, or any other “binder” can substitute for the butternut squash. Have fun, and let me know how you tweak this recipe!

1 ½ cup cooked black beans
1/2 cup cooked butternut squash
¼ cup honey
¼ cup ripe peach
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
1 teaspoon of cinnamon
¼ teaspoon sea salt
1 1/2 cups of oats
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup ground flax seed
1/4 cup chia
1/4 cup dried figs, sliced
1/2 cup sunflower seeds

In a food processor, combine beans, squash, honey, peach, extract, spice, and salt until smooth. Add the oats and dry base ingredients and pulse just to combine. Add stir-ins and pulse again just to combine. It should be a spreadable consistency. If it’s too dry, add 1/4 cup of water; if it’s too runny, add an additional 1/4 cup of oats.

Grease 13×9 pan with 1 tablespoon oil, then spread mixture into pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 15-18 minutes. Once cooled, slice into 16-18 bars, depending on your size preference.

Nutrition Information
These bars are low in cholesterol and sodium, while being a good source of dietary fiber, Vitamin A, magnesium and phosphorus; and a very good source of Manganese. Estimated Glycemic Load: 12. Click here for complete nutritional details for this recipe.