Amaranth & Sorghum experiments

 

Ok an up date on my experiments with Amaranth and Sorghum growing and processing and it isnt good news I’m afraid.

My two different amaranths drying

All those months of nuturing and waiting came to nothing really, the amaranth didn’t really develop much seed at all, it looked promising but I realized after threshing the dried plants that if I started to winnow it there wouldn’t be anything left, I had a sneaky suspicion that this would happen it just isnt a long enough season here in Tas for the seed to develope before the frost wind and wet winter sets in because we have a very short season here. So anyway I just winnowed a bit of the bigger material off and kept the rest it ended up being mostly the dried flowers them selves not the seed, I though I could be used like the dock (Rumex sp.) seed flour I make which have a tinny seed with mostly the sheath or little wing around the seed.

I made cookies with the red amaranth, I will call it flour and the color was great it came out like using red beets and it was fine used like that it doesn’t have not much flavor but it has good texture, I haven’t used the other one yet but assume it will be good like this too so it isnt a complete loss.

 In the first picture above you can see the process I use to thresh my plant material you can use this process to do anything dried, so first I hang the plant upside down until they were completely dry then I put them on a big tarp I then fold one side over it all and stomp and scuff around on it so the seeds separate from the bigger woody bits this process is called threshing and after this you can push it through a strainer as well to just refine it a bit more before winnowing, if you were extra keen you could put some music on and have a bit of fun with it. Wear a face mask or a cloth over your face when doing this because it is very dusty and you don’t want this in your lungs I can tell ya! cough cough……

Then in this next picture you can see the end result in the jar and in the back ground you can see the bamboo basket I use to winnow my threshed plant materials, I put a bowl full off the threshed amaranth on the basket then I stand out in the wind you need something flat and stiff to flap with and then in the other hand you hold the basket and you shake back and forth and kind of toss up wards um like when you toss a pancake it is hard to explain and you flap with the other hand vigorously and this removes the finer bits you don’t want. If you are trying for only seed you just keep doing this until there is only the seed  left in the bottom of the basket, you can also winnow things by just pour the threshed material very slowly from one basket or bucket to another in the wind or a fan and it will blow away the fine bits and leave only the clean heavier seeds in the bottom of you basket, I kind of do both.
My grandmother taught me how to do this when I was young I used to pick black currants on our farm for pocket money and you have to winow all the sticks and leaves out in a similar manner.

Amaranth drying

It was the same with the sorghum it looked so promising as a plant but just didn’t grow a flower spike at all and the weather was knocking it over so I harvested the lower stems and decide I would give the syrup a go, the rest of the plant went into the compost bin. Once I de leaved all the stems I needed to figure out how to get the juices out I don’t have a cane crusher so I tried my juicer but it didn’t like that at all so I crushed some of the stems using my noodle/pasta maker it kind off worked but it took bloody ages and was messy as I only did about 2 cups full which took an hour and I thought I better try it to see if it is was even worth doing the whole lot so I simmered it until it thickened only leaving me a table spoon full of syrup but it was enough to try and thank goodness I didn’t do all those stems because I don’t like it, it reminds me of Stevia which I just don’t like.

So all in all at least I can say I tried, the amaranth was at least usable but I don’t think I will grow these again just not the rite climate here next I will try quinoa again and make more of an effort with it I didn’t have my raised beds when I tried this last time and I know that quinoa grows here in Tasmania at least.

So I think the moral of this story is if you don’t try you will never know! Happy experimenting! 🙂

Advertisements

Acorns Awesomeness!

Well I finally got around to grinding some of my new season acorns so I can finally do this blog Yah!
Our acorns (Quercus sp) were late this year I normally get my lot of acorns from parliament lawns on Invasion Day 26th January in Hobart but not this year there wasn’t any on the ground yet so over the next coupler months I had to keep an eye out  a bit closer to home which meant New Norfolk.

Roast Acorns (Quercus sp.)

There is one public park and the council chambers grounds that have lots of different Quercus species in them in New Norfolk and on a trip to the doc I noticed heaps on the ground so I went into the council chambers and asked at the counter if I could rake up some of their acorns, all three people behind the counter looked at me with confusion written all over the faces  and the bloke said sure knock ya self out what are you going to do with them? I said I eat them, oh he said and that was it I could see they had put me in the looney bin category with those few words so off I went back outside imagining what they were saying once I left, I grabbed my rake and bin out of the back of the car and headed for their trees.

 

Ground roast Acorn (Quercus sp.) flour

I did get some strange looks but I didn’t care the bounty surrounding me was driving all thoughts of anything else but yummy acorns from my mind, I racked up a big bin full dragged it back to the car trying not to become road kill with acorns on top and headed home well I think there were a few foraging stops on the way which is usual.
I sat and peeled the skins off over a week or so and then leached the tannins out of them by soaking and changing the water everyday for about 8 or 9 days this can take less or more time depending on the species and the individual tree, and I read you can put them in a cotton bag and hang them in your toilet cistern so when you flush if you flush that is they will get fresh water over them every time, or if you live near a stream you could tie them to a stick in the running water you may need to cover them with wire so rats cant eat them, I’m going to try this one day, once leached I dried well and roasted in a very hot oven until they are crispy and dark brown almost burnt.
I store them like this as once ground the flour can go rancid so you need to store in fridge and my little fridge is full of ferments so I grind as I need them, I use the ground acorns as a hot drink on its own or mixed with malt and I use it in cakes, biscuits and breads.
Since grinding this lot I have used them for the first time in a fermented bread mix which turned out so good and I made biscuits for my mum when she visited, she liked them which was good these also had Dock (Rumex obtusifolius) seed flour in them too, they were so scrumptious adding acorns to cooking really adds richness and depth and makes thing taste chocolaty they are one of my all time favorite wild free food.
The fermented bread is just whole meal wheat and spelt flour, river water, acorn flour a little salt made into a runny batter and let naturally ferment then you poured this mixture into a frying pan like a pancake mix and cooked. I don’t use recipes for this you can just use what ever you like.

The acorn and dock seed cookies where a basic cookie recipe but you just substitute some of the  flour in the recipe with the acorn and the dock seed flours not too much, you only need like half a cup of the acorn flour to make it really nice it can be to heavy if you use to much, you can use more dock flour no problem. Oh one warning once you grind the acorns I use a coffee grinder you ned to sieve it because every now and them you can get big bits and I can tell ya they aren’t to good on the old teeth!

The Problem With Wood Blewits

Ok I just wanted to share this important information with all you mushroom forager or wanna be mushroom foragers, I’m talking about the Wood Blewits (Lesista nuda) a gorgeous yummy mushroom that I have posted about here a few times.

Wood Blewits (Lepista nuda) at the bottom of picture.

On one of my latest forays I was lucky enough to come upon a direct example of how people get poisoned when foraging for wood blewits, I say lucky here because to me there is nothing like first hand experience, you can read about it look at all the pictures under the sun which is all good but it is no replacement for first hand experience so I’m sharing mine here in the hope it will add to your collection of helpful information about this particular species.
So I was strolling around picking wood blewits with basket and knife in hand and I came across this one mushroom under a tree very close to the other wood blewits when I grabbed the cap and sliced through the stem something just didn’t feel rite it is hard to explain this feeling you get, experienced mushroomers will probably know what I’m talking about.
Foraging is an instinctual thing as much as a well researched logical thinking thing and thats why I believe when foraging you need to be very present and aware of your surroundings not just chatting away to friends or listening to music etc here silence is golden and may save your life.
This mushroom just felt wrong to the touch it was like denser or something and it didn’t have that beautiful flowerery smell that wood blewits normally have so I put it in a separate place until I got home, when I got home I put it on a piece of paper to do a spore prints I use half white and half brown paper so I can see all the ranges of color, I suggest if you are picking mushroom until you get really confident and even after that for species with toxic look alikes, you leave them over night or for a few hour on paper to see spore prints before eating them, just make it a part of your routine you can still cover with a cloth so they don’t dry out no problems.
And wow I was quiet chuffed at the result and very grateful I didn’t eat it! ….. the spore print was indeed brown the wood blewits spore print is white to soft pinkish, so what could it be I had a fair idea what it was as you SHOULD study and become familiar with all the look alikes of all the mushroom you are hunting for and intend on consuming, it was the Cortinarius violaceus, it was very simalar to the wood blewit and I can see why people mistake them, so be warned here in Tasmania they DO grow together! So be careful. See pictures below.

This is the Wood Blewits (Lepista nuda) Sorry no picture of the spore print but it is soft pink or white so very different to the Cortinarius violaceus.

Cortinarius violaceus, Wood Blewit look alike, see spore print is brown, the cap is a darker, the stem is thicker, it smells and feels different to wood blewits.

Early Winter Wonderings

Hi all, well it is cold and wet outside and my body is giving me curry renforcing the seasonal change.

I sat up most of the night crocheting my eight years on and off of laboriously hand spun wool into a poncho I was hoping it would be ready for this winter and it will be in a coupler more nights finally, I just finished an alpaca wool poncho as well, I have been spinning wool on and off depending on the old body for years now, I bought an old antique spinning wheel many years ago I have two actually my antique one and a different version of a wheel made by someone out of pine, I just love spinning when I can it’s very relaxing once you master it that it, it really bring it home how hard people used to work to make everything they didn’t just go down the shop and by a wool jumper they had to make it from scratch it is very humbling and very satisfying to create something from scratch.
I still have a few more boxes of wool left and am going to try to spin a lot of it to make mats, it doesn’t have to be fine spun for this so should be easy and I will try to felt some too, these are good jobs for winter.

Anyway I woke up late aching and tiered to the sound of Mr crow and his mates cawing outside my window, some hate crows but I love their glossy blackness and their intelligent piecing shiny eyes oh and I just love their low pitched drawling talking as it isn’t really a song, it makes me smile. After brekie I decided to just cook one thing today and do a blog and this is it, I cooked a hot apple chutney with some beautiful old fashioned apples my friend dropped in for me the other day. I’m not a big apple eater but am trying to find ways to use them as there are so many here in Tassie they grow wild everywhere and there isn’t many yards that don’t have an old apple tree in them so they are always in abundance. I cant eat the high acid apples I like the golden delicious and the lady in the snow fresh to eat but these ones my friend gave me are an old late season apple one is high acid and one doesn’t have much flavor or I would call it savory they are both great for cooking and the chutney turned out great sorry I didn’t write the recipe down I just chucked everything I had around into it, apples, onions, chilly, tomatoes, mustard seeds, bay leaves, cloves, paprika, smoke water, seaweed,vinegar, sugar, salt and pepper cooked until soft and thickened and bottled.

My Amaranth is drying well it should be ready to blog about soon, I also will be updating my mushroom list with a new edible mushroom after this, it was a hard one to identify to 100% I knew the genus but the exact species is a bit harder I can’t seem to find much literature in relation to Tasmania on what species I think it is. I think it is Ramaria myceliosa,  it grows in rings under the Pinus radiata here and after talking with others online and researching it I decided to try it as usual I tried a little bit and the next day a bit more and then the next day a bowl full, these are really nice in flavor but are harder to harvest and very fiddly to clean  they get a lot of rubbish in amongst their branches that you have to carefully pick out. They are nice so worth doing a few times a season, there isn’t many other mushrooms out at this time of year.

Now having said all of that there are a few species in this genus that can apparently make you sick as in effecting the digestion system diarrhea and stomach cramps etc, so please be careful to Identify the species in your area and do your own research before trying ok.

Coral fungi (Ramaria sp.) lightly fried in olive oil.

My other note on mushroom is that the Wood Blewits (Lepista nuda) and the Grey Knight (Tricholoma terreum) both dry well I wasn’t sure they would but they turned out good, they both rehydrate well the wood blewits are better than they grey knight which dry to virtually nothing because they are so small.

Fresh & dried Wood Blewits (Lepista nuda)

The other new thing I did recently was to cook up a Stinging nettle (Urtica sp.) and Salsify concentrated soup and then I dried it to use it like a cuppa soups or to flavor meals like a seasoning. It worked well and I will be experimenting with similar dried recipes in the future, This one was just onions, salsify root, nettles, salt, pepper and water all simmered until tender and reduced then blended, dried and crumbled up and put in glass jar.

Stinging nettle & Salsify soup stock flakes

Finally ready to hibernate.

Well I can’t believe how busy autumn and now going into early winter has been, I thought it would have slowed down way before now but this had been my busiest season of foraging yet but I do think things a dwindling off now finally.

It has been over whelming at times and unexpected but I’m not complaining, we have had two really nice sunny days here and or though I was suck inside unwell for the majority of it I got out today to go for a little forage before the rain settled back in.

I picked several mushroom species three of which I believe to be new edibles for me that I will blog about shortly along with the usual suspects Slippery jacks (Suillus luteus) and Wood Blewits (Lepista nuda). 

Today I want to just do a catch up because I feel like everything it is getting away from me a bit, I recently receives Sandor Katz new book The Art of Fermentation, and as I expected it is great I’m only half way through and it has already inspired me to try two new ferments and one new recipe, the first was fermenting the good old Sweed and Burdock (Artium lappa) I just cleaned chopped and poured a brine mixture with a few spices and bay leaves over the veggies which were packed tightly into a big jar and with my river pebbles to hold everything under the brine they sat for two weeks or more and they taste fantastic!

Fermented Swede & Burdock roots

Finished fermented Swede & Burdock roots

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The second one is Amaranth stalks, they aren’t ready yet I will share when they are and tell you how they turn out.

Kombucha mother candy syrup

The new recipe which I’m really exited about is from kombucha mother candies….. these are so good, for those that make kombucha there is always the problem of what to do with all the extra scobies (kombucha babies/new mothers) even after giving heaps away to friends, I had a jar full in the cupboard so I gave this recipe ago, I changed the recipe slightly you can dry the candies once cooked but this was to much on my teeth so I added water and left mine as a syrupy desert, so chop the mother up into bit size pieces put in pot add a heap of sugar same as weight as chopped mother and I added water, simmer all this until the mother pieces are softish and thats it you could add spices if you wanted I added a very small piece of star anise, I’m so wrapped with the taste the recipe says you can soak and cook out the vinegar but I didn’t and I love it, it is sweet, tangy and a bit sharp but in a scrumptious way ! If only I had some fresh coconut cream it would be perfect…… sorry the picture is dark it was late!

 

I also did my first mushroom ferment ever.

I fermented the Grey Knight (Tricholoma terreum) just the mushrooms and brine again pebbles to hold under the liquid and wait until they all float, it worked but I just don’t really like the flavour, I shared picture below just out of interest, you can do this with any mushroom that is edible raw I’m not sure on whether this process can be used for mushrooms like the wood blewits that have to be cooked before eating so check if you are going to give this ago, you could start be doing some bought button mushrooms to see what they are like.

Pickled Grey Knight (Tricholoma terreum)

Finished mushrooms

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I have about five ferments that have to be feed regularly on the go my sourdough a ginger bug, ginger bug cake mix, and a flat bread sourdough that I just leave in a crock and use as I need too.

For those that have done sourdough it is a strait forward sourdough with spelt and whole meal stone ground flour and water left to grow its own yeast it sits in a crock in my kitchen and I feed it every day and from this I take some of the mixture about 2 cups full and I mix this with a heap more flour and water until it is a stiff dough I knead it a bit and put back in crock and this just sits on bench and I use when I want bread with a meal. I fry a bread to have with my duck eggs in the morning.

My ginger bug is just grated ginger sugar and water that has fermented I feed my bug every morning a table spoon of grated ginger and a table spoon of dissolved sugar. I just use this to make sodas and I add it to my kombucha and water kefir as well and for the first time a ginger bug cake mix.

I remember as a child my mother making what is called a friendship cake when I looked it up it was hard to actually find how to make the actual starter but in the recipes for the cake they were feeding it with ginger so I assumed the starter was just a ginger bug and experimented, I put a bit of my active bug in a crock and added wholemeal flour and spelt flour until it was a pancake batter consistency and then I fed this every day with a bit of ginger bug and more flour until there was a fair bit of mixture then I finally added enough flour to make it a cake batter thickness and then to this I added some stewed fejoa and apple and let it sit until it rose in a cake tin and baked in my oven for about an hour it turned out fabulous, very gingery and spicy, I have another one on the go and I think through winter I will just keep this going it is nice to have something sweet but warming through the colder months.

Ginger bug cake with stewed feijoa and apple

The other new thing I did with my ginger bug was to add it to fujoa to make a soda, this is the first time I have tried fojoa, the ladies at the bushy park market had them for sale they were locally grown so I bought some and I recon they are the closest thing to a tropical fruit we will get down here I think they are related to the guava and they are so sweet and yummy. I have bought a few more bags since then every time I go past and I’ve just been eating them but I ended up with too many to just snack on and they were ripening fast so I decided to try making a soda with them, and as a lot of good recipes that spring from just needing to utilize to much of something that is going off it turned out great. I chopped them in half poured boiling water over them and let that cool I then strained this into a nice bottle and added the ginger bug. You could second ferment this if you wanted which means just putting a tiny bit of sugar in a bottle adding liquid and capping so the fizz builds up and moving to fridge, I just drink mine flat that’s how I like it.

I killed my last rooster this week too, I made a roaster and wood blewit stew but before that I cut the breasts off marinated them in Kilkenny beer and cooked I had them with wood blewits (Lepista nuda), young chickweed (Stellaria media) and bitter cress (Cardamine hirsuta), sourdough flat bread and baby zucinni pickles, so good!

Yummy rooster breast, wood blewits, bittercress, chickweed, flat bread and pickles

So I’ve cover my sourdoughs, ferments, cakes, soda and teased you with the idea of new mushies for the taste buds and I finally feel like I’m ready to hibernate it is getting really cold and wet now and it will be harder and harder for me to venture outside this body doesn’t like this cold weather but having a freezer full of mother nature’s scrumptious bounty to sustain me certainly helps, if I could just fix this bloody leaky roof!