June 9, 2015

The Break That Wasn't...

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For the last six months my family and I have been in a sort of stasis. A forced hiatus from everything in order to heal physically, mentally, and spiritually. Collectively we've endured loss of lives that felt like blows to our spiritual bodies, and then the largest battle yet of our lives to fight a feeling of helplessness when our eldest child almost succumbed to a stroke and aneurysm. 
Recovery for our daughter and for us has come in many forms. This includes scaling down activities that we'd normally participate in to focus on more immediate things. For instance for me it's taking a break from the physical act of growing and documenting efforts to grow. Hence the large span between posts here, which in the broad scheme of things I am not at all sorry about. That being said, I am very thankful for the outcome of breaking from it all. Our child is on the mend and very blessed to have come out of this ordeal in the best ways possible. With time and hard work her life and ours is returning to a 'New Normal'. 

I say 'new normal' because after declaring to the world and most especially those in my family and food justice circle that I would not lift a finger to grow anything this year, I've found that I'm having to back track on that verbal diarrhea just a bit. All it took for my change of heart was a walk through the hardware store for plumbing supplies. Spring hadn't arrived and there were asparagus crowns on sale along with horseradish [which I passed on and am now kicking myself over]. With some assistance from my lovely daughter and as part of  her PT and OT we prepared a new perennial bed for the asparagus, 25 strawberry plants, and 8 rhubarb volunteers. The next week after recovery (soreness from unused muscles) I took a walk through the garden to assess our hard work and found that it wouldn't be too much trouble to sow some peas for the hubby. The next thing I know the energy to dissect the main 24x18 foot garden bed into four sections with wider paths and weed barriers [Yes to cardboard, newspapers, & wood chips] came upon us. After which we planted two types of peas and greens that were a couple years old and hoped for the best. It's been well over a month now and the peas are more than up and they are flowering and holding their own. In other words I did not trellis them at all ��. Besides peas we've been busy finding volunteer lettuces, Daikon radish, Orach, Tomatoes, Walking onions, Sage, Sorrel, Tatzoi, Mizuna, and a Squash plant. These most welcomed guests have adjusted well to their move into new orderly spaces. 

Through this process my loved ones and I have somehow found healing energy from growing together. Literally!! With these simple gifts despite the adversity of our lives this last year; life has found a way to continue its journey unattended, and without our permission. There is a lesson there! I feel that despite the toughest season in our lives, if we are willing, we can do more than we think we can. We don't need permission to stretch out our roots and reach for the sunlight. I realize we have what we need to succeed if we just start from where we are instead of waiting for the "perfect" foundation. The perfect foundation is more than likely right under our feet and if we're diligent the power(s) that be will make sure that we flourish and bear fruit.

Happy Planting and Growing!

A photo posted by @mizqtinaj on

November 17, 2014

Adding Beneficial Cultures

A photo posted by @mizqtinaj on

One of the simplest, easy peasy, no-brainer, ways of adding beneficial cultures, vitamins, and nutrients into your diet is to ferment your foods. One of my favorite ways to add these cultures is through beverages like Beet Kvaas which I wanted to share with you today. The recipe couldn't be simpler but the benefits to my gut health, my skin, hair, and nails is why I'm excited to share this today. Beets are not on the favorite foods list of most people I know, but I'm glad to now admit that today they are one of mine.

To describe to you how difficult it is to get a full grown adult to sip or sample a food with beets is worse than taking a five year old for shots. These folks feel like their life will end if they imbibe on this sometimes crimson root vegetable. But I never give up and the smell and my incessant teasing usually wins out and I hear a "Not bad!" and all is well that ends well. Yes I feel accomplished and it may seem a little sick to them that I gain so much joy from exposing them (by being pushy) to such wholesome food choices. I do it because I get excited about the newness to foods that have been around for eons but due to lack of exposure/previous bad experience/and access issues, have been out of the realm of possibility for people I know. Not long ago I was right there too. There was no way I was going to consume in any form or fashion a dirty tasting veg heated up in a microwave that actually bled onto everything it came into contact with. I have not so pleasant memories nightmares of a tin-like taste and the imagery conjured up included a very dusty can at the back of the food shelf at holiday times when we were hard up for anything that could fill our bags. (Really not so great a memory)

Well fast forward several years later and well into my adulthood and realizing necessity being the mother of all intervention, :) I found that our diets lacked greenery. More specifically trying to find and consume foods that naturally contained beneficial vitamins such as folate which I had been taking in pill form due to chemo treatments for myositis. So since I grew real tired of pills and I knew how to grow edible things in general, beets found their way into my garden bed. I was amazed at how prolific they were and the lushness of the greens so similar in color and texture to chard that I had been coming to love. I felt compelled to research recipes that included beets and figured someone out there had to have one decent recipe that I could use to choke down some beets. Not only did I find one amazing recipe after another, I began to experiment with fermentation and stumbled upon a way to leech the nutrients from beets into a palatable and drinkable form, Kvaas!

Wikipedia defines the drink thusly, "Kvass is a fermented beverage made from black or regular rye bread.[1] The colour of the bread used contributes to the colour of the resulting drink. It is classified as a non-alcoholic drink by Russian and Ukrainian standards"

The family is not as fond of drinking their beets as I am as a byproduct of consuming it will cause changes in the color of solid and liquid bodily waste. [red pee can make you freak out] However, that does not stop me from partaking of it at all. It is the best all natural energy drink that I have found that works for me. Beyond outward benefits like skin/hair and the like there are other healthful changes internally that have come with adding simple pure foods like and especially beets into my diet. Fermentation is becoming a buzzword these days and I quite like that. Especially beyond beer, wine, and cheese, people are starting to reach back for simple yet impactful food histories (myself included). There was something to the way grandma and gramps lived and even though it wasn't included in their food story, I'm glad to have found Kvaas. I hope someone out there tries this simplistic flavorful approach to eating the misunderstood beet.

Simple Beet Kvaas Recipe
1 - Medium sized beet or 2 small beets
1 - 1 quart mason jar
1 - Tsp of sea salt (please no caking agents)
1/2 - Tbsp citrus peel (orange or lemon)
1 - Tbsp chopped ginger 
Enough filtered water to fill the jar.

Thoroughly wash beets and cut into cubes.
Combine all ingredients into the mason jar.
Fill with filtered water up to a 1/2 inch from the top of the jar.
Cover with the lid and place on the counter of kitchen or in a cabinet where it is around 70 degrees. If your home is cooler try wrapping in a towel and place near a heat register.
Now let this kvaas sit for 3 to 4 days. The liquid should be bubbly and effervescent and very flavorful. Strain and place the liquid into the refrigerator.

NOTE: Save a tablespoon of the liquid and return this and the leftover beet citrus mixture to your mason jar adding 1/2 tsp of salt and filtered water just as before. This will create your next batch of Kvaas. After the second batch the beets have been leeched of their nutrients and the remaining pulpy veg is not very tasty so I advise composting it. Also, if making sauerkraut and other fermented veg like the salsa pictured above, use a tablespoon of the Kvaas for a vegetable based starter.



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