Grain Growing

Info on our trials and fun in the grain growing department.

As I’ve talked about many times we grow our grains as well as our veges, and learning which are the best ones for us has been a lot of fun, a lot of frustration too at times….

Flour corn is still the easiest to grow lots of, and provides the greatest weight by far per metre of garden bed.  With eight –plants per square metre and two cobs on each plant we are harvesting quite good crops per square metre. I feel as long as we cook the grain in wood ash and reap maximum nutrition from the flour corn it is a valuable grain crop. We are really enjoying tortillas, and the posole which I’m using in soups stews and grinding as a topping for crumbles and pies. (Posole is the flour corn soaked and cooked in a wood ash solution).Tortillas are made by first making posole, grinding the posole fairly fine, rolling into balls and then rolling the balls flat between sheets of plastic with a rolling pin and then flipping the tortillas onto a hot plate. Then turning once the first side is cooked… They can be easily turned once the first side has cooked. Tortillas are gluten free and delicious and served with our home grown beans in a re fried bean dish we feel as though we are eating very well!

The Land’s bread is a mix of wheat flour and ground posole and together they make excellent bread, especially cooked in a camp oven in an open fire or wood stove!

We enjoy corn porridge in the winter but still prefer popped amaranth in the summer with loads of fresh fruit and home made yoghurt and ground linseed and pumpkinseeds.

Amaranth is also quite easy to grow however the problem comes with the birds.

If you get your amaranth in really early you may get it before the birds find it but you’ll be very lucky to achieve that. We find we mostly have to cover it. That can be a real problem, and for some may mean they don’t grow it. I had a good system when growing just enough for us at home but this year we have grown it as a community and that will pose a larger scale problem. I’ll let you know in the next issue how we handle that, the birds just found the grain today…..

Quinoa is easy to grow unless it turns really wet at harvest time. This year it is hot and dry and James is about to harvest a bumper crop from his 20 metre bed in the field garden. He successfully direct sowed his bed thus year and I think I would have to say I’ll never transplant mine again.  He direct sowed it quite thickly in late November and will be harvesting it in February.  He sowed it thickly and has not had to weed the bed at all. It looks fantastic and I’m very impressed. I think that is the ideal timeframe however we sometimes have wet Februaries! WE all love quinoa however we have found that home grown quinoa needs a long soaking time to get all the bitter saponins out if the grain. These saponins are taken off the commercially available quinoa by grinding the outside layer off the grain. Traditionally the grain was soaked for a day or so in running water… We’ve created a sort of net bag that we place under a running tap or in the stream for a few hours.

The crop is heavy one and after this years harvest we’ll record all weights of all grains and let you know what sort crops we are achieving… including Essene flax, and pumpkin seeds.

Millet also grows well here (albeit it must be covered from the birds but we do not have mill to take off the hull and I can’t see myself pounding it by hand each time we need to use it. If we had a hand huller I might reconsider growing it.

Sorghum is another grain we’re trialing here partly because you can harvest the grain as well as the juice from the stalks, which when boiled down become sorghum syrup, which is delicious. The grains are large and taste a lot like lentils, and do not need hulling however they do need bird protection.

Years ago we trialed Hulless oats here and decided it was too warm and humid. They got rust really badly. We tried them again here this year and some got the rust and some didn’t so we pulled out all the diseased plants and continued with the others and to be honest I’m impressed. They were easy to grow, the birds did not find them, although that may not be the case next season (they are low growing so would be easy to cover) and they are easy to thresh and prepare for eating. If I was growing a large amount I would invest in a grain roller so I could roll them each morning for breakfast …. Definitely one I’ll be trying again.

Finally we had been looking for years for dry land rice. We do not seem to have it in NZ so we finally decided to try some of the wetland rice we have available in the Institute catalogue from Yoshi. Yoshi has been growing rice here in Kaiwaka for many years now and has had a lot success. He is constantly trialing new ideas to improve his yields.  There is a lot of information about rice being grown in California in fields   just like corn, so this season we used Yoshi’s seed and planted a bed in my garden and one in James field garden. The plants are not as tall as Yoshi’s, however they are just beginning to send up seed heads and I’m very encouraged…  Of course a successful crop will mean we then have to find a huller before we can eat it!