Growing the Rest of the Meal

Growing the Rest of the Meal

Whenever people become uneasy about the quality, sources or prices of food out there, there is a resurgence in people wanting to learn to grow their own food and in particular the ‘rest of the meal’ again. Our membership has jumped up 23% in the past year, and did the same thing the year before.

Vegetables and fruit are usually where we begin, and then we lead off into the storage vegetables and then the seeds and grains.

Over the years we have developed a range of basic storage crops that we grow every year, which includes potatoes of various kinds for different end uses , kumara [once again different kinds for different end uses , corn [both field corn for flour and posole etc., and sweet corn ], and other grains including sorghum, Essene Flax seed, amaranth, quinoa, .

Kaanga Ma has been our staple grain over the past few years and we are making wonderful posole and tortillas now, but with the addition of so many other grains into our trial beds this season (kamut, rye, hulless barley, naked oats, dinkle, purple wheat etc.) it will be interesting to see where we end up with grains.

Other storage crops include Austrian Hulless pumpkins for the seeds, main storage pumpkins like Chucks Winter, Butternut, Crown, Queensland Blue, Triamble, Iron bark, Kamokamo etc. (different varieties for different tastes, flavours and end uses…); dried soup beans and peas; root crops (which are essentially storage crops as well because they sit in the ground all Winter just waiting to be harvested and eaten) like beetroot, parsnips, scorzonera, carrots, turnips, swede, daikon, celeriac, even celery which, if established in Autumn will sit for harvesting all Minter. Main crop, long keeping cabbages could be called storage crops too. January King will sit all Winter, as will Savoy, and Dalmatian.

In far colder climates than ours these later crops are brought inside into root cellars to keep for the Winter.

Dried beans are a wonderful way to be growing the rest of the meal, it only takes the addition of tomato puree, roast peppers, possibly some bacon or mince, herbs, garlic and onions (all of which can be grown in your very own garden) to create a wonderful fully nourishing baked beans type meal. (Dried beans must be soaked before cooking for at least 24-48 hours in water with a little whey added to be easily digested, see Change of Heart or Nourishing Traditions.) Check out the info in either of these books or the You will see that all of our ancestors knew that all grains, nuts and seeds contained phytic acid and other anti-nutrients, and only ate them after either fermenting (sourdough bread), long soaking or sprouting. If we eat grains seeds etc. without processing in these ways, our bodies have to work hard to detoxify the grains and that takes valuable minerals and vitamins out of our bodies in the process. All of those techniques make the nutrition in the seeds and grains available to our bodies.

We have many special drying beans in our collection, see page 40 in the seed list and check out Mark Christianson’s article about his bean growout on page 62. It’s great to grow a soup bean, one for making baked beans and one for its shellout qualities, they make the best bean salads.

Don’t forget the Dalmatian Peas or Capucyjners – these are specific drying peas that came to this land long ago with the Dalmatian gumdiggers but have also been brought here by many Dutch settlers since then because all cultures travel the world with their own sacred food plants. Don’t for get the flaxseed either.

Over the years we’ve been growing these seeds and grains using Bio Intensive methods in 1.2 m wide raised beds. We have found that the harvest is totally dependant on three major factors. Firstly getting the crop planted at the right time for that crop. Secondly having good soil conditions, and thirdly having your bird control system sorted and in place, and in some climates having a green house to mature the seed heads and process the crop. Details of our bird control systems are in the Koanga Garden Guide, but essentially we have 6mm steel rods bent into a three-sided rectangle to fit over the beds and into the ground on each side of the bed, 1m apart to hold up the knitted long lasting bird netting. We grow grains in beds alongside each other so that 10m wide netting will cover three beds at a time, and have the beds 10m long. There will be 30m of grain under each net. Nets seem to be widely needed for rice, quinoa and amaranth, however Joseph harvested rye with no netting, so that will be another whole new learning curve and everybody will find a slightly different solution. We harvest around 500 – 1000g (1kg) per square metre of bed, depending on above three factors, especially the soil quality.

We are basically eating only our own grains these days and we find that without commercial flour we use our precious grains in many other ways than the traditional sourdough bread. I find it relatively hard work to grind these grains with our small stone hand grinder, so I sprout whole grains a lot, grind the sprouts and use them to make Essene Bread Rolls which are delicious. I love sprouting whole grains, then drying the sprouts and grinding in the corn grinder to make our version of couscous. The finer flour is used as bread crumbs or as flour in other patties etc. Recipes for all of this are in ‘Change of Heart’. We also put soaked whole grains such as kamut wheat, hulless barley, whole rye, or quinoa into our soups. All of these grains can also be served after soaking and long cooking as a part of the main meal, just as they are. Whole cooked grains are delicious served with spicy mashed pumpkin etc etc.

Our ancestors all grew these crops, or their own range of them, whatever that was, depending on where they lived… and there is no reason we can’t do it too. If we select seeds that were selected by our ancestors for ease of growing, threshing and winnowing by hand rather than the selections made by industrial agriculture to suit machine and immature harvesting etc. we can not go wrong. It is about being in a relationship with our food plants… including grains, and experimenting with strategies and techniques until we find what works for us. We have to move beyond waiting until somebody else can give us exact instructions that work every time. We must once again enter that process of co-evolution with our food plants!!! We are essentially creating a new culture here… we might as well enjoy the process!!!

Growing the grains and seeds is only the beginning of the journey – learning how to harvest the seed, mature the grains and prepare them for cooking is a whole new journey, and then cooking them another journey.

As Betsy from Bountiful Gardens (the home of Bio-Intensive gardening, where they grow loads of traditional grains) says: “It’s possible to hull these grains by hand… humans have been doing it for centuries! Millet and sorghum are a bit harder to hull than wheat since the hulls stick closer to the grains. You will have to experiment… shuffling over the grains on a tarp with flat rubber soled shoes sometimes works, or adapting a hand mill by setting the plates further apart, or rubbing between your palms with rubber gloves. Then winnow in a breeze or with a fine screen… if you can’t sift out all the hulls you can always rinse them out – float them off before cooking”.

As we gain experience with all these processes we will share them with you, in our catalogues and via the website.

Northland Rye – Joseph and Catherine Land

“We are traditionally maize growers but have realized the day would come to grow other grains. This is our second year so I only speak as a novice.

Last year a visit to Shiloh and Lani and family near Motueka inspired us to try growing rye, the seed for which they kindly gave us from their store. Really they should be telling this story as they have years of experience, while we are still beginners.

We opted for Autumn planting, which gave a late January harvest and so a better chance of dry weather than a March/April harvest. We were very impressed with the rye. It sprouted in 4 days and outgrew the weeds, eventually suppressing them totally. It slowed up through Winter and shot away in Spring reaching 6 feet in height, which we weren’t expecting. We were blessed with a dry January and harvested some beautiful grain.

Our root crop bins (soil cement walls and floor) are fairly empty at that time so we made a flail and threshed the grain in one of those. It worked alright for the small amount of grain we had but a bigger crop would need more room for both threshing and winnowing.

We saved nearly all that seed and have planted a bigger area this year, 400 sq metres, including a little wheat and barley. The rising prices of grain have certainly helped spur our enthusiasm. We’re looking forward to learning more.

Meanwhile this year’s planting is 10 days old (since sowing.. in April), 6 inches tall and going for it.”