I taught a kimchi workshop this past weekend- rather a 'creative kimchi fermentation experiment workshop'. Piles of beautiful soaking vegetables all over the counter: cherry belle radishes, cauliflower, napa cabbage, bok choy, white scallions, dill, orange carrots, purple top turnips, cucumbers, and spicy peppers.
All were chopped, shredded, grated, or put in whole to the ferment. Delicious!
Spring is finally here! The garden is starting to poke it's head out of the dirt again, thankfully. I've missed my dirty fingernails and toes. thankfully- they're back :)
As soon as the beautiful weather last week hit, we were outside turning the compost and inspecting the garden. It looks AWESOME! So many of the little guys are coming back: chamomile, valerian, yarrow, garlic, onions, strawberries, chives, parsely, cabbages, kale, lilies, and sage. 4 beds got a good inch of compost added onto the top, and the compost got a good aerating. (Smelly from the winter, though. but, much better now :) )
I've been hard at work cleaning out the garden workroom adjacent to the garden. It's tidied, swept, vaccuumed, and slightly organized. (There's always more to be done!) My roommate Nick & I set up a great little growing nook in the garden workroom- a huge energy efficient grow lamp over a table with all my little starts on it. I've planted so much already! But now must take a small hiatus as I've run out of potting soil and cell packs. ha!
Here's a short list of what I'm REALLY excited about this season:
We planted hard red winter wheat as a cover crop in 3 of our beds (on the right in the picture above) this year. Cover crops are an important part of organic agriculture: they add nutrients back into the soil, prevent nutrients from leaching out of the soil, and, keep the soil in place. In the spring, we will turn them under, where they will decompose back into dirt.
wheat grass, 3 weeks old
wheat berries, germinating in the soil
The wheat was provided by Sarah Kavage's project Industrial Harvest. In it, she distributed 1000 bushels of hard red winter wheat to the Chicago community, for free. She says, In short: "Industrial Harvest is an artistic gesture of Herculean proportions about nourishment, food systems, and the City of Chicago. " Read a bit about her project, it's quite inspirational and informative. Question the role of wheat in our society, think about it's connections to the past, the present, your life, and the future. Ponder how this staple crop that was once grown by individuals is completely detached from any individual in the nation's food system. It's quite a fascinating staple crop to be sure. The biggest part of the Industrial Harvest is the connection of the impersonal wheat purchase directly to the community of the people of Chicago. The wheat that she gave away is to be used to nourish others, forming connections in our communities by breaking bread together, literally.
Eco was donated 4 bags of flour from the 20 tons that Sarah purchased, and 1 50lb bag of wheat berries. Most of it went right back out into the community- some of you probably have some on your shelf or have already baked it into delicious things to share. (Remember to forward your photos of how you nourished others with the flour to firstname.lastname@example.org). The rest :about 2 lbs of wheat berries, and 15 lbs of flour were kept at Eco. The berries were planted, and the flour was used in baking endeavors by community members for potlucks, breads, and more.
There are so many things to do with wheat berries:
As a staple crop, it's extremely high in protein, carbohydrates, and nutrients. Read about wheat on Wikipedia, some recipes and info on how to cook whole berries, a recipe for wheat berry pudding, instructions on how to make malt from wheatberries and then into beer, and info on how to grind your own fresh flours. Or, you can use it as a cover crop for your garden/farm- it's one of the best and most common green manures to use in Illinois.
Our wheat was sown by a school group of 7th graders from Chicago's Waldorf school learning about agriculture this block.
The garlic we're planting is from one of the farms that the co-op buys from- Nichol's Farm and Orchard in Marengo, IL. The garlic is a hardneck variety that was given to the owner of the farm 20 years ago by "some italian guy". They don't know the name of the variety, but the quality of the garlic is amazing. The cloves are fat and succulent, very spicy and juicy. Quite like what garlic should be.
Garlic is planted in the fall. The head of garlic is broken up into cloves, each will become a new garlic plant. The larger the clove, the larger next year's head. The cloves are planted 2-3 inches below the soil, where the chill, moist dirt initiates chemical reactions in the clove to begin growing again. The garlic pushes out of the ground to begin growing again. When it gets too cold, the garlic dies back and goes dormant for the frozen winter. We mulch over top of the garlic to keep it a bit more protected.
The latin name for hardneck garlic, Allium sativum var. ophioscorodon, tells you a lot about how the plant grows. Garlic is in the allium family, and is related to all onions, shallots, chives, and scallions. This family produces long, flat, lance-shaped leaves with parallel veins, usually in the spring and early summer. The results from the summer's photosynthesis are stored underground in a sulfur-rich bulb for next year's growth.
The garlic sprouts again in the early spring, sending out a false flower 'scape' in late May and early June. Growers trim off the scape to encourage larger bulb production. The scape is also known as 'green garlic', and is a delicacy of early summer that whets our appetite for the garlic to come later in the season.
If the scape isn't trimmed off, the fleshy white part will develop into a fluffy round white or purple flower. The flowers, after pollination, will develop into heavy bulbils (think very small cloves of garlic) that droop to the ground. Once in contact with the dirt, the bulbils send out roots and begin to grow next year's round of garlic.
The leaves die back mid-July, siphoning the rest of the plants nutrients down into the bulb for next year. Here the mature garlic heads are pulled from the ground for eating, as they are at their largest. They are tied or braided together for a few weeks of curing- hung in an airy and dry place to develop thick dry skins for longer storage.
Part of the harvested heads are planted again for next year, and part stored or processed for winter and spring eating.
The medicinal properties of fresh garlic are intense-anti-bacterial, anti-microbial, and anti-fungal. It's compound allicin is reputed to have properties of a weak penicillin, yet the body does not build up a tolerance to it, so using it copiously and often is perfectly fine. It's a great body and blood tonic, keeps away mosquitoes and vampires, and meshes with other food flavors perfectly.