Baking with Wild Caught Sourdough is …

  • MAGICAL because you are capturing these invisible creatures, feeding and caring for them, and then asking them to work for you to make something delicious
  • INSPIRING because it allows your imagination to take flight, creating new and different breads, muffins, biscuits, cookies, pizzas, tamales, noodles, hush puppies, cakes, crackers, pancakes and pie crust
  • HEALTHY because Wild Caught Sourdough Starter is made from natural yeast which requires a long fermentation to rise and this is what creates the immune enhancing, macro-biome promoting, and nutrient rich properties
  • ECONOMICAL because of its long shelf life … it has natural preservative qualities so you don’t waste and don’t need to refrigerate
  • MUCH MORE FLAVORFUL — compared to commercial yeast breads which taste like kleenex tissue, natural sourdough is tangy, rich, deeply delicious and actually becomes more so the longer it sits out
  • MOOD ALTERING — not only because of the different kind of candida that it produces, but also just the slow, rhythmic kneading, the waiting, anticipation and reward that baking with sourdough provides. It can enrich your life!

Each time I bake with my wonderful Sourdough Starter which I named Audrey II (after the insatiable plant in Little Shop of Horrors) it is an adventure. There are so many things I can do with it. This past week I made a delicious pizza. This weekend I will be baking Challah for my Church’s Fellowship Hour. I’ll be baking two loaves — just as is done for Shabbat, representing the double portion of mannah given to the Israelites in the wilderness so they would not have to forage on Shabbat. The braided form which we now associate with Challah, was not used until Medievil Times. Challah made with Wild Caught Sourdough Starter seems to me somehow more traditional, as it is natural yeast, as opposed to commercial yeast, which wasn’t available until the 20th Century. The recipes and form vary, but always incorporate eggs, giving the bread full flavor, fine grain and a golden hue.

New Year’s Challah with 6 Braids

Why Organic Seeds? It really IS so important!

Is it really important to buy organic seeds, rather than non-organic? Are non-GMO seeds also organic? And what about organic hybrid varieties? And can an organic seed be treated? Is that so bad? These questions confound even experienced gardeners these days.

Conventional commercial seed propagation methods utilize chemicals and other treatments that can leech into the soil, migrate to other plants, drain off into the ground water and eventually water supply, affect pollinators in a very profound way and, affect your health as well.

Using conventional non-organic seed, even if it is non-GMO or untreated, is a poor start to an organic garden and can have lasting effects. This is why organic certification takes so long and is so expensive — the soil has to be redeemed from conventional assaults, and that typically takes 3-5 years, depending on the history of the growing area, surrounding areas, and type of soil and rainfall.

More and more, people are recognizing that organic produce not only tastes better … it is better — healthier, with more vitamins, nutrients and protein than conventional produce. But it is also important to grow your herbs and flowers organically, and for that you also need organic seed.

Hybrids, by the way, are not genetically modified. They are simply produced using natural methods. Many heirloom varieties began as hybrids that have been “stabilized” so that they are now “open-pollinated” — in other words seed gathered from them will grow true to the parent as long as no cross-pollination has occurred. So hybrids are not wrong, they just are not yet of the stability that you can save the seed. Also, most modern hybrid varieties are created for the convenience of growers and grocers, not for superior flavor or other characteristics that home gardeners value.

Certified organic seed cannot be genetically modified, so anytime you purchase certified organic seed you are also purchasing non-GMO seed. But that seed might be treated to ward off fungal diseases when sown in cold wet soils. The “fungicides” most commonly used by such commercial growers are Thiram, which has been around for decades, and Apron and Maxim, newer brands. You should know a seed has been treated if it is brightly and unnaturally colored — hot pink, for example. You should not handle such seed with bare hands. These chemical coatings can cause kidney and liver damage when used over time, and they are acutely toxic to fish, so runoff can be poisonous to the environment. And since their purpose is to protect vast growing fields, a home gardener does not need them, and an organic gardener should never use them.

But more recently, systemic pesticides have become common among commercial growers. Known by their scientific name as Neonicotinoids, they are pushed by Bayer, Sygenta and Monsanto and have now unquestionably been linked to bee death. You see, this type of systemic poison not only affects the plant it produces, it leaches and migrates in the soil to surrounding plants. So importing just one beautiful flower from your local nursery can create a toxic zone in your otherwise organic garden. Some commercial nurseries have pledged to, or stopped altogether, offering plants that are grown with neonicotinoids. We encourage you to ask your local nurseries what their practice is.

So, that brings us full circle as to why Organics matter. They are healthier and safer for you and the planet and all God’s creatures. This is why CherryGal Heirloom Seeds has gone ALL ORGANIC for the 2017 season, and we never offer treated seeds. In fact, we are signatories of The Safe Seed Pledge. Happy Gardening!

 

Nature’s Pharmacy … Turmeric

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I recently went face down on some wet leaves chasing my dogs. Not fun for a 67 year old. I was actually very lucky – nothing broken. But I was in tremendous pain in my face, shoulders, knees, ankles — basically everywhere. I was concerned about inflammation so my friend and neighbor who is a nurse gave me an aspirin (haven’t had any in the house for over ten years). Turns out I don’t tolerate aspirin – it gave me tremendous gerd all night long (oh yeah, that’s why I stopped having it in the house). So I turned to my spice cabinet.

Turmeric, which is the leading spice in curry (which I love and eat lots of) is a pain and inflammation reducer. So, in addition to my beloved curries, I am now including turmeric in everything I can, even if only an insignificant dash that doesn’t add to the flavor. In so doing, I am building up the curcumin (the active component) in my system.

Just a few delicious ways you can easily incorporate turmeric in your diet (aside from yummy curries):

  • Toasted/grilled cheese on bread with turmeric sprinkled on top
  • Squash or carrot soup with a healthy (literally) dose of turmeric
  • Scrambled eggs with turmeric
  • Dips for vegetable crudites
  • Smoothies and lattes (recipes abound on the Internet)
  • Yogurt based sauces for vegetables, fish, chicken, beef and pork
  • Cooked rice of any type is improved with turmeric added
  • Marinades or rubs for meats
  • Salad dressings
  • Add to cooked/roasted vegetables such as cauliflower, carrots, potatoes
  • Add to the spice brine for homemade pickles

I encourage you to start incorporating this incredible spice in your diet on a daily basis. Also research for yourself the many peer-reviewed studies of its effects on cancer, diabetes, depression and many other illnesses and be amazed. And if you have a special way to use turmeric, let me know!

Regional Comfort Foods — Boston Baked Beans

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Boston Baked Beans From Scratch

Boston Baked Beans are iconic with their namesake, but their origins are actually Native American. Those indigenous peoples schooled the Pilgrims on survival and the wonders of baking beans, teaching the intricacies of such recipes back in the early 1600s! When Boston became a trade exporter of rum (made by the distillation of molasses), molasses were added to the beans and left to cook in brick ovens overnight on Saturdays. Barley and corn were combined to make the traditional Boston Brown Bread which was served after Church with the beans. By the way, this also earned Boston the nickname of “Bean Town.”

I have a full cast iron Dutch oven of beans cooking in the oven right now. They have been there since around 11:30 am (it is now 2:40) and I hope to have them for supper tonight. It is really such an easy recipe, I am amazed that more people don’t cook this from scratch. But like Sourdough Bread, because it takes a lot of time, folks think it takes a lot of effort — which it does not.

If you have a ham hock (like that leftover from your Thanksgiving ham) or a piece of salt pork, 2 bags of Navy beans, and various condiments, you can whip up the makings and put them to work for you in a few minutes and then enjoy them baking in your oven for 7 hours. (Yes, that’s how long it takes). But the aromas are divine, and season your Saturday, while you do things like raking leaves and cleaning out the chicken coop!

Here’s the very simple recipe:

Prep 2 bags of Navy Beans by one of two methods (or something in between)

Method 1: Put beans in large pot with LOTS of water to cover and let sit overnight. Okay, you’re not going to do that one.

Method 2: Boil the beans in water and apple cider for a few minutes and then let sit covered off heat for an hour. That’s a winner.

Then put the beans and liquid in a Cast Iron Dutch Oven with about a cup of black strap (non-sulphured) molasses, and appropriate (to taste) additions of Apple Cider (and/or Balsamic) Vinegar, real maple syrup, brown sugar, mustard, Worchestershiire Sauce, salt. Add a meaty ham hock and an onion studded with 6-8 cloves. Put in a 350 oven for about an hour until its bubbling, then turn heat down to 250 and check/stir/taste/adjust seasonings every hour for an additional 6 hours (7 hours total). Before serving, remove the ham bone and return any meat still on it to the pot. Similarly, remove the onion and chop up and return to the pan.

You can freeze in small portions and enjoy every time the snow falls, contemplating the harrows that our forefathers endured in those Bostons winters, and if you have the energy, make some brown bread to enjoy with it!

If you have any hacks on this traditional recipe, I’d love to hear them!