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306. How can we keep our food safe AND healthy? | Melissa Kagiyama | Key to the Mountain | Missoula, MT
29th December 2019 • GREEN Organic Garden Podcast • Jackie Marie Beyer
00:00:00 01:27:43

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Melissa Kagiyama from Key to the Mountain I buy all my food from local farmers and then cook it.

How do we connect with you?

I love sharing with everyone

so grateful you are all listening

again, my name is Melissa Kagiyama

want to share

just hit the contact us

I respond to all emails!

I love getting requests for new food and flavors

have an Instagram key_to_the_mountain

On Facebook at Key to the Mountain

Are you a millennial born between 1980-1995?

Yeah Millennial!


Today is Friday August 2, 2019!

So I am so excited to introduce my guest today who I met at the Farmer's Market when I was in Missoula for the 1/2 Marathon in June. And she gave me something that not only did I love but helped me complete the Missoula 1/2 Marathon standing up! From Key to the Mountain in Missoula Montana here's rockstar millennial Melissa Kagiyama!

I have had guest come on and talk about food they cooked from the farmer's market. You said when you first moved to Missoula, you were blown away by the quality of food available at the farmer's market and then you started cooking with it. People often wonder about those things. I am more the organic eater at my house and I feel like you as we were saying the pre-chat that you struggle with water. 

Tell us a little about yourself.

I really appreciate all our local farmers that are doing all that work. We cook it so we can preserve that amazing food that we grow for all year.

Tell me about your first gardening experience?

A brief background, grew up not cooking, eating everything from a can, not cooking dinner, which is a way a lot of millennials grew up, with both parents working, it takes a lot of time to cook fresh food so we didn’t eat a lot of fresh food. 

When I got into college, I got really exhausted all the time, I felt like something wasn't right, like I was sick, I went to the doctor. 

I was sleeping like 16 hours a day because I was so tired. Going to the doctors telling me I’m fine and it was all in my head, was very discouraging and disempowering. I said, I’m gonna find something out and I'm gonna do something about it.

After much searching I found indian holistic medicine called Ayurveda what that is in a nutshell is directions on how to live and eat on a balanced life

Tells you how much to 

  • eat
  • exercise
  • sleep

Ayurveda: It's really about entire lifestyle


Really for me, what shocked me so much was about the food I was eating, I thought for me if I was eating canned green beans, I was getting my vegetables, but that is not necessarily true sometimes its true it depends

I felt completely healed, I learned all this knowledge about how to eat. I finished my degree really great! I started teaching, so at this point I was 

cooking all my food

basically really simple recipes

  • salad
  • spaghetti

But I was actually cooking my food. A book I really love is Mark Bittmans’

How to Cook Everything―Completely Revised Twentieth Anniversary Edition: Simple Recipes for Great Food

How to Cook Everything―Completely Revised Twentieth Anniversary Edition: Simple Recipes for Great Food

That’s where I learned how to cook

I really recommended that book

I started teaching and I taught music

I had all sorts of kids

  • young
  • old
  • poor
  • rich

whatever background

I noticed after lunch I couldn’t teach the kids, they weren't focused. They were acting crazy bouncing off the walls. For me I personally decided it was because of what they were eating. 

I felt the same thing happening to me in my childhood, eating food that wasn’t actually supporting me was happening to my students.

Then I moved to Montana, when I got to the farmer’s market I was like imagined! I was like:

This is what food is supposed to be! When you get something fresh from your garden!

I felt even better

We have such a short growing season and I wondered how can we take this amazing high quality food and keep it for the whole year?

So we’re a really high quality food manufacturing company


We believe everything we do we feel food should, that food should not just fill your belly but it should

  • make you feel amazing!
  • help you think clearly!
  • empower you in everything that you do!

Everyone in the food chain should benefit from eating 

Taking from the earth, so we source locally, we really trust our Montana farmers and organically that’s always better all the way! All the way through the chain till we get to the person who is eating the food so we are supporting that person to living a healthy organic life!

That's sort of a long answer to my first gardening experience but that's how we came to be!

That's why I love millennials so much! I think that what you are doing is so important. It reminds me of this little cartoon I saw on Facebook it's these 2 carrots talking to each other and the once carrot says, why do they call you food and me organic?


Also Andrea Catherine who used to come on my show and talk about Ayurvedic healing and taught us some of those tricks and how to eat from the Farmer's Market. What I got fromMelissa was this EnerGHEE, and I also had this packet of gel I bought. I loved this so much more it was natural, it was easier to carry and just so fantastic for the half marathon!


I was surprised to hear you say, I find I have a hard time at 2-3 in the afternoon. I get a lot of sleep, I go to bed early and get up early. We have our first potatoes from the summer finally because we have been eating store potatoes and are so excited to have garden fresh food.

Let me start with that since you are talking about it.

The EnerGhee is like a snack bar but it's actually food

  • walnuts
  • raisins
  •  and GHEE which is clarified butter

Ayurvedically it's actually super healing for your digestion

  • heals your gut and 
  • boosts your metabolism

Super healthy been around for thousands years. It's getting popular with 

  • KETO
  • Whole 30 diets

We've taken food and blended it in the proper proportions. Taken the food so you don’t need a ton of one thing to get you through the day

you get protein from the walnuts so you don’t need more protein

that’s just a misconception that a lot of people have

You also get the sweetness from raisins which are also natural! 


easy to digest

balanced portions of real food

people love it

it’s flying off the shelves

we put it in some grocery stores and we struggle to keep up with the orders

we do a lot of jam

so, we get all of our produce from local farmers

we don’t put a ton of sugar in our jams, so what other manufacturers do

First if you are gonna make this at home

your gonna mix some:

  • fruit
  • sugar
  • lemon juice
  • pectin maybe
  • boil it
  • can it

What manufacturers do is they add sugar, extra sugar is much less expensive then fruit, 

you only need so much sugar but if you add extra sugar you increase your profits.

that’s what manufacturers do

sometimes add water

that super dilutes the products

by doing that it’s so watered down 

more pectin

corn starch


by then it has not got enough flavor so that's where the natural colors and flavors come in

we argue food is already flavored

high quality food

don’t need to add flavors

  • jams like you make at home
  • barbecue sauce
  • relish

plenty more products in the works

same ideas that there’s no fillers because we want to eat food.

How does it stay on the shelf? Isn't the reason so it will stay preserved?

I get that question a lot, I have to be careful how to answer this? When you are making food to preserve at home, it’s going to last years and years but because of the sugar, so for example, honey is shelf stable and never goes bad because it’s sugar. 

sugar is a natural preservative

but you only need a certain amount of sugar. I think 60% is is a good safe amount of sugar, you don’t need 90% which is what so much on the store shelves is!

Yes you do need sugar but not that much sugar, that said a lot of our jams are low sugar and we do use a low sugar pectin which has calcium but that's just because we are going extra low sugar. If you are making jam at home you are going to get that high quality super flavor of how it's supposed to be made.

And the flavors of the jams are:

Flathead Lake Brandied Cherry

Wild Huckleberry Habanero Jam

Just Peachy Jalapeno Jam

Huckleberry Chipotle BBQ Sauce


It's basically what relish should be. 

whatever you have at the end of your garden season

  • squash 
  • cauliflower

doesn't matter

  • take it
  • chop it up
  • put it in a brine
  • put it in your jar

great way to use leftover vegetables

it's very creative. So delicious because it's actual vegetables, anything home canning would do.

Brian Moody AERO MT

Yesterday, I did an interview with Brian Moody From AERO about cooking things using up vegetables in the garden at the end of the summer! I think listeners will be interested in how to use food from the farmer's market and things they are making!

Mike's bread Cottage Foods December 19, 2017

One of the most downloaded episodes on my show is Ed Evanstan from Helena talking about the new cottage food bill.

Enabling people to sell value added products to the farmer's market, the start has to be a hand to hand sale, can't go in the store and you are example of someone who started out that way and now has a business solving a problem that a lot of us have that food that gives you energy and enables you to live a healthy life. 

people ask me, when you are eating organically, is so expensive how do you justify that?

how can you put a price on your health?

I would argue to take a look at your priorities and decide what you think what is most important.

This is a choice that individuals should make

do you value

  • your health
  • your self
  • the earth
  •  nice cars
  • big houses?

You probably hear my opinion when you are eating well, you're gonna save so much money on medical bills and you are going to have so much more energy to go out in the world and create value and therefore create more money for yourself.

You are not going to pay for more food, it’s almost hard for me to wrap my head around that

I used to think that way

But it's more about how can I create myself to be the best version of myself to create more prosperity for myself. Then I can afford not just what I want but the other things including the houses and cars

You don’t have to choose between those, but it starts with taking care of ourselves.

Another thing you were talking about processed food.

processed just means cooked, so we have to be careful how we think about that

changed some sort of way, if you get lettuce from your garden, and you chop it up, you have just processed that lettuce

if you spear some fish and it’s almost raw you have processed the fish. 

Over-processed food

What happens, what you are talking about, you’ve shortened the word is over-processed food

what we are getting on the shelf sometimes is overly processed is it has extra preservatives, the reason why that happens is its meant to be safe, I’m all for safe food.

First I’ll talk about we’re overcooking our food

I’ll give you an example.

In order to make pickles, I don’t recommend starting with pickles because it's a really big process because vinegar is added.

If you are going to go to the farmer's market to sell something I would start with, I would do a jam or baked good

there’s a couple other simple recipes that you can do, that are not super risky, so they’re very easy to get into the market. 

With pickles you have to send them to a processing authority and they send them back to you how to cook them, to make sure your food is safe. Which is awesome, I'm all for safe food. But when I sent in our squash pickle

They sent the squash pickles back:

I have to cook them for 18 minutes and when I did that, they got shriveled up, basically all the life and nutrients is cooked out of them. The reason for doing that is they are thick you have to cook them a certain amount, so you have to make sure that anything potentially hazardous is cooked out of the pickles

food safety

laws are to keep us safe which is really good. 

But when you cook something at home you’re probably gonna cook them for 6 minutes, maybe 15 minutes top, you will preserve all of that nutrition. I am an advocate for cooking this at home, just follow the recipe and you’ll be fine!

The other thing that we do is add a whole bunch of preservatives, I'm saying we as a society, so that the product will last a really long time.

When you cook these foods at home, they'll stay fresh for 2 years.

Our season for growing until we get to the next season is only one year so it doesn’t even need to last 2 years. But putting all those preservatives lets it be on the shelf, it last forever, it's great for shipping really far, there are so many reasons to do that. But we don't need to do that , it doesn’t support our health. When you put preservatives in excess in products it's killing any potential bacteria that can grow in the food but when you eat that you are killing stuff in your gut health. 

When we eat food hopped up on preservatives you are doing that. 

If you make it yourself or buy form your farmer’s market

bigger manufacturer practices

label you can see what’s in it then your good to go!

Awesome, have you ever thought about teaching at the Good Food Store they have that classroom there. I think people would like to learn this and then they would say this is too much work and they would by yours.

Interesting idea, usually at the farmer’s market I explain and people say, oh, that makes sense so it becomes sort of an easy sell because people understand the value that they are paying for!

something I’ve learned that kind of surprised me and I love sharing it

when you look at the label, we pretty much all know that whatever is first in the ingredients is what is the most in the product so what we are starting to do as a culture

want to make sure that food is the first ingredient not sugar. 

What manufacturers will do is split the sugar

I'm a big label reader. 

What the label might say is it might be blueberry jam,

  • blueberries
  • corn syrup
  • sugar
  • brown sugar
  • sucrose

Separately they are less then the blueberries so they split up but if you put them together it’s still sugar!

That is not always the case!

Sometimes for example there is sugar and brown sugar in cookies is for flavor

You can tell if it’s very neutral sugars you wonder why is it being split into different sugars.

You can also look at the added sugars. If one tablespoon of someone's jam if the sugar content is 18 grams there’s no way blueberries is the first ingredient!

an interesting thing about labels

what I have found, I'm not that big of a manufacturer yet, it’s like the wild west in labeling, you can almost put anything you want on your label and there’s no one enforcing it or verifying it. 

So if I did put more sugar in that blueberry jam but I did list blueberries as the first ingredient, it's not like there is someone in the kitchen actually measuring what sugar I am putting it. What they tend to do...