Thursday, September 27, 2007

Open Fridge

I read about a movement to showcase an "open fridge", exemplifying the adage "you are what you eat". I decided to open our fridge, today on Thursday, September 27, to tell you what was inside.

We are always trying to eat as local as we can, and even though it's nearing the end of the harvest season, there are still many good local items available in terms of produce, dairy, eggs, fruit, grains, honey, and seeds for winter sprouting. Of course, root crops will be available at the farmers market for the course of the winter, and we have also purchase some bushels in advance to store in our house. Since we have just completed a bountiful apple harvest, the open fridge will display an assortment of homemade apple products.

We have not been able to find local sources for all our grains (e.g. rice), baking supplies (e.g. chocolate, vanilla, sugar), nuts (e.g. almonds), or other assorted items (e.g. lemon juice). We also won't ever have local coffee, but our compromise is to buy it green from a local fair trade supplier and roast our own within 1-2 days of drinking it. We grind it minutes before it's used so it's as fresh as it gets.

I also want to note that I have a small business doing "slow-food" vegan baking & catering, which accounts for the large selection of flours, nuts, chocolate chips, and baking supplies.

Open Fridge - main compartment:
- roasted vegetables (red peppers, potatoes, garlic, onion, carrots, sweet potato) all from our CSA
- assorted tomatoes (green zebra, red & orange cherry, yellow pear, Mennonite orange, longkeeper, Cherokee purple, Yukon red) all from our garden
- snow peas from our CSA
- eggplant (Italian Vittoria & Japanese) from our garden
- green beans (Cherokee Cornfield & French Filet) from our garden
- pears from our CSA
- prune plums from our CSA
- applesauce; apple cider; apple jelly from our wild harvest
- homemade blueberry sauce from organic berries from our CSA
- homemade mulberry syrup from wild harvest
- homemade black current & raspberry jam from our CSA
- pure amber maple syrup from our local farmers market
- arugula from our garden
- fresh herbs (basil, chives, oregano, thyme) from our garden
- fresh eggs (3 dozen!) from our backyard chickens
- homemade pickles using cucumbers from the local farmers market
- canned pickled beans from our garden
- local bee pollen
- organic ketchup
- nutritional yeast
- organic stoneground dijon mustard
- homemade wholewheat seed bread
- organic lemon juice
- traditional bread yeast
- chili (made from organic dried beans, our own tomato sauce & cayenne peppers)
- hummus (made from organic dried beans & garlic/cilantro from our local CSA)
- organic yogurt from a nearby farm (we also make our own sometimes)
- Braggs, tamari, miso and green curry paste
- flax and hemp oils
- soya margarine
- rice milk
- applebutter made at the local cider mill
- organic brown rice syrup
- hemp seeds (Canadian - from Manitoba)
- homemade "dragon" hotsauce from our hot peppers in 2006

Open Freezer:
- frozen fruit (blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, sweet cherries, peaches, red & black currents from our CSA)
- frozen fruit (rhubarb from our garden, sourcherries & mulberries from local harvest)
- bread & bagels made in our wood-fired oven
- tortillas organic wholewheat flax from the health food store
- apple cider from our local harvest
- green beans from our garden, peas from our garden
- roasted red peppers from our CSA
- shredded zucchini from our garden
- pear compote from wild harvested pears
- plum chutney from our CSA plums and garden produce
- yogurt starter
- fair trade coffee beans

Open Cold Cellar:
- home preserves (wild grape jelly from our garden; wild apple jelly from local harvest; tomato salsa & sauce from our tomatoes; peaches from local farmers market; applesauce from wild harvest; pickles made from local CSA cucumbers)
- organic carrots (our garden)
- four varieties of potatoes (purple, french fingerling, red, yukon gold) from CSA & our garden
- onions from our CSA and our garden
- 7 varieties of garlic (Saltspring, white Polish, red Russian, Chinese rocambole, Yugoslavian, suda artichoke, and elephant hardnecked) from our garden
- 6 kinds of squash (butternut, red & green hubbard, acorn, pumpkin, delicata) from our CSA

Open Cupboards:
- 10 kinds of dried beans (kidney, lentil, cherokee cornfield, soy, blackbean, black eyed pea, jacob's cattle bean, mung, adzuki, chickpea), and 2 kinds of lentils (green & red) all organic, from our garden, from our CSA
- 8 kinds of dried grains (couscous, bulghur, brown rice, quinoa, millet, buckwheat kasha)
- 8 kinds of organic flour all Canadian other than brown rice (whole wheat, all purpose, spelt, rye, oat, barley, brown rice, hemp)
- white sugar & brown sugar (yes, refined sugar made it into our house)
- chocolate chips & cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, vanilla
- dried tomatoes & kale from our garden
- dried fruit from our CSA (apples, pears, peaches)
- seeds for sprouting (radish, red clover, alfalfa, sunflower, wheatgrass, mung)
- dried basil, oregano, fennel, thyme, etc from our garden
- hot cayennes, jalapenos, and scotch bonnets from our garden
- organic Thompson raisins
- natural peanutbutter
- local honey
- homemade granola
- dried nuts (almond, walnut); and seeds (sunflower, flax, pumpkin, hemp, sesame, poppy)
- whole oats, wheatgerm, wheatbran
- organic popcorn
- nori sheets and rice paper wrappers
- dried spices, sea salt, black pepper
- dried herbal teas, yerba mate, and roasted chickory root drink

Herb Shares Delivered This Week!

I believe I had mentioned the 2007 Herb Shares earlier in this blog. The end of September is nearing, and the herb shares are nearly ready to be delivered. This share idea is based on the concept of the CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) where members buy shares in advance, so I know how much to grow & harvest, and then received their finished herbal medicinal products at the end of the season.

For $55/share members will receive:
- 3 bags of tea enough for 10-15 cups/each (Less-Stress; After-Dinner Tea; Women's Tea)
- 2 oz. echinacea tincture (boosting the immune system)
- 4 oz. sage cough syrup (to soothe colds, sore throats, coughs)
- All-Purpose Salve (for minor cuts, scrapes, and bruises)
- Migraine Wonder Oil (to ease migraines & headaches)

All the herbs are harvested at their peak. Beeswax for the salve comes from friends at a nearby farm who keep honey bees, and all the herbs are grown in our own gardens or purchased from nearby organic sources.

It's been a pleasure working on these herb shares, and I do hope the life-giving, healthful properties have been instilled into each product that was made carefully. I hope to do this project again next year, as well as include herb garden tours, and a monthly herbal e-newsletter.

Tours to Little City Farm

We have had a busy September (one of the reasons I have not had time to write here)!

We were happy to host a second open house event, as various friends, co-workers and neighbours were not able to attend our July opening celebration. We baked wood-fired bread, gave garden walks, explained the greywater system and peeked in the greenhouse, showed off the chickens, and toured our newly renovated bed & breakfast space in the second floor of our house. Thanks to all who came, and for the many lovely "farm warming" gifts, cards and well-wishes! We appreciate everyone's support so much!

We were also happy to tour a group of university students who are involved with a community garden project through WPIRG (Waterloo Public Interest Resource Group) at the University of Waterloo. This group of about 10 students has gotten together to grow their own product just north of the campus, and work communally to share the produce among themselves and other volunteers.

From this group, we met a woman who is also involved as an intern at the Ignatius Farm outside of Guelph (30 minutes from here), through the CRAFT farmer-internship program. She organized to bring the whole group of interns from her farm a few weeks later, also to tour our place. As several of the interns are thinking more of urban farming or small-scale market gardening/CSA, rather than large-scale farming, they had many questions regarding how we are managing to do things here in the city. We were so happy to meet them, and are going to visit their farm tomorrow to learn more about the great work done at Ignatius.

Apple Cider Pressing & Heritage Apple Tasting Event

In an earlier post I had mentioned the urban fruit tree project (fruitshare) - we had posted an add in the local paper about harvesting "forgotten" fruit trees around the city, gotten various good responses, and have been busy following up on the calls. So far, we have harvested about 10 bushels of otherwise unused apples, 3 bushels of which were beautiful eating apples that are now being stored in our greenhouse to savour throughout the winter months. 4 bushels we pressed into cider at our local cider mill. We can press 50 litres for a minimum charge of $18, which comes to about $0.36/litre (compared to $2-$3/litre in the store for organic cider!). Our four bushels made about 30 litres, which are unpasteurized, so need to be frozen, used, given away to friends, or turned into hard cider or vinegar. Last night I also canned several jars of wonderfully pink and sweet delicious "wild apple" sauce, harvsted from a forgotten tree in our local conservation area which we happened upon during a walk on the weekend. We are learning never to leave home without a few extra cloth bags, as you never know what you will find along the way that is ripe for the harvest.

On October 21, we have invited our friend Bob Wildfong to host a heritage apple tasting workshop at our place. He is a master gardener at our local pioneer heritage village, where he tends old heritage fruit trees, and grows heirloom varieties of vegetables to be saved for seed. He has also been involved for many years as program manager/president with Seeds of Diversity, a Canadian non-profit organization that is a "source for information about heritage seeds, seed saving, plant diversity, garden history, and your own garden heritage...It is a network of volunteer gardener-members across Canada who grow unusual and rare heritage plants as a preservation project. " We are very excited to host this workshop, and the description is as follows:

Savour over a dozen varieties of delicious heritage apples, and learn the fascinating stories behind them. Do you know which common apple variety was born in Ontario nearly 200 years ago? Have you ever seen an apple that weighs up to 2 pounds? What makes a good baking apple, a good saucing apple, and how can you choose the right varieties for your favourite apple recipes? Sweet, sour, soft, crisp - apples come in more varieties than any other fruit. Learn to appreciate a whole new side of your daily apple. Cost: Pay what you can as a donation to Seeds of Diversity.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Herb Share 2007

Fall is a busy time here at the homestead. We are harvesting the last garden produce; canning, preserving, pickling & drying foods; planting greens for the winter (in our greenhouse and raised bed coldframes); planning the garden for next season; gathering black walnuts; making apple cider; and (new for this year) preparing herb shares for our members.

Many of us already know all the benefits of eating/supporting local food. Now, we hope to have our community consider supporting locally produced natural medicine. The herb shares are a new project of a little natural herbal business "Homestead Herbals" that has grown out of my passion for natural healing, working with medicinal plants, and sharing this with the broader community.

Herb shares are similar to the concept of a CSA vegetable share - members purchase a share in the spring, and receive their harvest in the fall. Herb shares can take many directions (e.g. women's health; children's herbs; herbal first aid kit; chef's blend; aprodesiac). For this year our herb share is focussed on general health & well-being for the whole family and so include several teas, an all-purpose healing salve, a sage cough syrup, migraine oil, and an immune-boosting echinacea tincture.

All herbs for the shares are grown organically in our gardens, harvested at their peak, and created into natural health products with care. We have 12 share members this year, and are very happy to have such great support in this first year! Herb shares will be ready and shipped off or delivered locally by the end of this month.

Cob Oven Baking

We have a lovely second open house yesterday, despite cloudy drizzling weather. Thanks to all who came out to see our place, and for all your support and appreciation!

As anytime when guests come over, one of the features of the afternoon was fresh baking from the wood-fired cob oven. I try to bake once a week in the cob oven, especially during the summer months when I don't want to heat up the house. After baking breads, the oven is perfect for cookies, then granola, slow-roasting vegetables, and finally dehydrating fruit or tomatoes overnight. The result of oven roasted and dried roma tomatoes is stunning - rich, tart flavour, delectable colour, and all done on "residual heat", without running our electric dehydrator.

A few guests asked about our wheat-free recipes for the cookies, and the rolls. The cookies were our all-time favourite spelt chocolate chip cookies, and the rolls had a mixture of rye-oat-barley-spelt flour, and are a simple quick yeasted bread that always turns out perfectly! I like to add seeds (sesame, flax) to the mix, and sprinkle them ontop of the rolls just before baking. Here are the recipes. Enjoy!

Spelt Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 cup soy margarine
1 1/2 cups brown or white sugar
2 free-run eggs, or 2 Tbsp egg replacer
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups spelt flour (or all purpose is fine)
2 cups whole oats
1/2 cup unsweetened coconut
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/4 Tbsp baking powder
1 cup chocolate chips

1) Cream margarine and sugar, then add eggs and vanilla; mix well.
2) Combine all dry ingredients, other than chocolate chips. Add to wet and mix well.
3) Blend in chocolate chips.
4) Make 1/4 inch balls and flatten slightly.
5) Bake 10-12 minutes at 350 F on ungreased cookie sheets, or until golden.

Four-Grain Dinner Rolls
adapted from ExtraVeganza, by Laura Mattias (one of the best vegan cookbooks around!)

2 tsp dry traditional yeast
1/4 cup warm water
1 cup soy milk, heated
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup olive oil or vegetable oil
1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp white vinegar
3 1/2 cups flour (I use combination of rye-oat-barley-spelt)
Handfull of sesame and flax seeds, optional

1) In small bowl combine yeast and warm water and set aside.
2) In a separate large bowl, combine soy milk, maple syrup, oil, salt, and vinegar.
3) Mix 1 1/2 cups of the flour into the soy milk mixture, stirring well to combine.
4) Add the yeast mixture, combining all ingredients together.
5) Add remaining 2 cups of flour, stirring to form a soft dough.
6) Place in oiled bowl, and make sure all of the dough is lightly oiled.
7) Cover with clean towel and let rise for about 1 1/2 hours, until doubled.
8) Press down dough and divide into two halves.
9) Roll out one half of dough on floured board in a circular shape. Cut into 12 pie slices.
10) Roll each slice toward the middle, from wide end to pointed end.
11) Place on lightly greased baking sheets, brush with water and sprinkle on seeds.
12) Let rise again until doubled about 35-40 min.
13) Bake in preheated oven (400 F) for 12-15 minutes, or until golden.