Vegan Miscellanies may well return full force next spring. Moving back into a house, and not one shared with anyone else, has got me all excited about gardening again. And from gardening follows cooking.
A few weeks ago I went to the Stratford Garlic Festival where I not only immersed myself in all things garlic for a few hours, sampling various garlic dips, jellies and pesto, acquiring a couple of garlic-related kitchen items and attending talks on growing and braiding garlic. I also left with a bag of Ontario-grown, organic, hard-neck garlic to plant. I learned there that the best time to put garlic into the ground is late September through early October, before any chance of frost. Fortunately our friend and future landlady, into who's house we are moving at the end of October, was kind enough to let us prepare our garlic growing plot before we even move in and while she is still living there.
My partner, Jihan, checking out the location of our garlic and pepper plot.
So last weekend, though rainy for much of it, we were able to go to her/our soon-to-be-home to dig up a section of sod in the most sunny, southerly portion of the yard for our garlic and pepper plot.
The plot dug up with much of the sod removed.
We had to stop short of removing all the sod from the plot last Saturday because of the rain, so we returned this weekend to not only finish that but also to construct a cedar wood frame for square foot gardening.
The frame put in place.
Divided into square feet with jute string, though I intend to create a better, more sturdy and durable wooden divider. A total of 42 square feet.
Garlic in the ground, covered by a thick layer of mulch for the winter.
We are so excited about this! The last time we tried growing our own garlic, in the fall of 2008, we had put it into the ground and covered it for the winter, but had to move out, for reasons I shall not delve into here, just as a few garlic scapes began poking out of the ground in the spring. We were unable to enjoy that harvest and, it appears, the tenants who moved in after us never did anything with the plot.
In this plot we have planted 58 bulbs of garlic, leaving just one square foot empty for something else. We are thinking of allowing 3 of the 58 plants to flower, both for the beauty of their flowers and for the bulbules/seed. We are not sure yet whether we will set aside up to a quarter of the yield for the following year.
In the northern/bottom rectangle, also 21 square feet, we intend to plant various peppers, from red finger chillies to jalapenos to scotch bonnet to bell peppers.
In the plot against the garage wall, on the other side of the walkway, we will leave the lavender in place and add pole beans and tomatoes (hopefully two or three heirloom varieties).
The yard has three more sections where we can garden -- another strip against the fence near the house for various lettuces (as it gets less sun), a small mound of about 4 square feet of herbs (sweet basil, holy basil, Thai basil, sage, rosemary, french tarragon), some of which are perennials, and a 63' plot (rough estimate) next to the house on the western side. It is this largest section we have not yet planned out, though we have some ideas. But we have the winter to plan that.
So with the move into a nice little house with lots of gardening opportunities, I may well bring this blog back to life with more frequent posts on our gardening (and other urban/local gardening-related issues) and our cooking (with occasional reviews of other local food-related issues). Look for more vegan miscellanies next spring!
Some time ago, listening to CBC Radio One's Here and Now, I heard food columnist Sarah Elton (the Locavore) talk about a Toronto chef using Red Fife flour for his baking. Red Fife is considered the grandfather of Canadian wheat and is a heritage wheat. It was sent, in 1842, to a Mr. David Fife in Peterborough, Ontario by a friend who got it from a ship in the Glasgow port originating from Danzig (see Sharon Rempel's Grassroot Solutions for more information on Red Fife and other Canadian heritage wheats).
Artisan bread made from Red Fife Wheat has
a hay yellow crumb, with an intense scent of herbs and vegetables
colored with a light acidity. The nose has notes of anise and fennel,
and in the mouth the bread is unexpectedly rich with a slightly herby
and spicy flavor.
Yum! The language in this description is reminiscent of that used by wine and, more recently, coffee and tea sommeliers. Could there be such a thing as a bread sommelier? Why the heck not? A bread sommelier would be a bread steward who possesses expert knowledge about fine breads and is responsible for serving them. A bread sommelier, carrying the wine, tea and coffee analogy further, should possess detailed knowledge of the breads in their stock, including: grains used, regions where the grains were grown, farms where the grains were grown, where and how the grains were milled, and even 'terroir' (that combination of soil type and microclimate that gives a grain and, by extension, a bread its character).
Anyway, getting back on track here, Jihan recently learned, from my mom, how to make her own homemade bread. I'm talking from scratch, by hand. No throwing of ingredients into a bread machine. My mom was quite well known, back in the small Mexican village in which we lived when I was a child, for her homemade Mennonite bread. It's not so much the ingredients as the technique that distinguishes her bread.
Now that Jihan has a foundation of homemade bread-making, a skill I hope to pick up from her very soon, we intend to build on that and use better flours, from better grains, to make even better, more wholesome, breads. From there we can expand to baking different types of healthy, organic, wholegrain vegan breads.
Because we are also becoming increasingly interested in both the locavore and slow food movements, as both contribute not only to individual health, but also to the health of communities and the environment, we want to, as much as economically feasible, use more local ingredients to make our own bread the slow way. To this end, we purchased some Red Fife flour at our local Bulk Barn today. Since it is somewhat expensive, I think we will generally have to mix it into standard unbleached flour rather making bread exclusively of it, though we do intend to make at least one batch purely with the Red Fife flour.
While at the Bulk Barn today, having just recently found out that most standard flours contain a variety of additives, I did some ingredient checking on at least two fairly standard commercial flours. Here are the ingredients in Five Roses All Purpose Flour: wheat flour, niacin, thiamine, mononitrate, riboflavin, reduced iron, folic acid, benzoyl peroxide, ascorbic acid, amylase. And in Cake & Pastry Flour: wheat flour, chlorine, benzol peroxide,
niacine, reduced iron, thiamine mononitrate, riboflavin, folic acid. Some of these ingredients are vitamins, but others are so-called conditioners, ingredients designed to produce a consistent dough that rises well.
Both sets of ingredients, the vitamin additives and the conditioners, disturb me. If we use whole foods with as many of their natural nutrients left intact, and we eat a variety of plant-based whole foods, there should be no need to add artificially isolated nutrients. As T. Colin Campbell emphasises in his seminal book, The China Study, the human body has evolved along with the rest of nature and therefore can best absorb nutrients as they are found in nature. Isolating nutrients to add back into all manner of foods, many of which did not naturally contain the nutrients added, nor in the same form, combination or ratio, is simply not the same as eating a variety of whole foods. Nor is ingesting isolated nutrients in the form of nutritional supplements in capsule, pill or powdered form the same. The body does not process nutrients in isolation the same as in whole foods.
The addition of conditioners disturbs me because, first of all, they don't belong in the natural product and may actually be unhealthy. Secondly, it reflects our inability or unwillingness to spend the time to learn a craft--we seek ease and instant gratification. Thirdly, it reflects an unwillingness to accept uniquenes, difference and diversity--we want everything to be familiar, uniform, homogeneous. How tedious and how boring! And how sad if you reflect on how these traits factor into other aspects of our lives.
Getting back to the organic Red Fife flour, we'll be sure to share with you our experiences with this heritage grain flour. I very much look forward to it.