Monday, May 24, 2010

May 2010: donuts, sauerkraut, mycelium, garlic

I've been trying to write a blog post about what I didn't learn at university (where I studied agricultural science). But it turns out that there is so much I didn't learn, that my post got completely out of hand, and my brain short-circuited.

So, while that post sits on the back burner until I can wrangle it into manageable instalments (or something), I thought I'd post a few tid-bits about how May 2010 is coming along so far.  

The autumn frosts keep coming, which doesn't seem to bother the chervil at all:

The comfort food also keeps coming, which is starting to take a toll on my waistline, but that's just too bad. This week I tried my hand at making donuts. They were very nice:

I feel like a strange cross between Sarah Connor and Martha Stewart. In Terminator 2, Sarah Connor can see TEOTWAWKI coming, and she responds by frantically trying to warn people. The authorities respond to Sarah's warnings by locking her up in a mental institution, where she lets off steam by doing chin-ups.

I, too, see TEOTWAWKI coming (courtesy of Peak Everything, climate change, environmental disasters, overpopulation, economic collapse, etc), and, like Sarah Connor, I've been frantically trying to warn people ... but they basically ignore me. I have to admit, being ignored is better than being locked up in a nut house, but it's still stressful, seeing the end of civilization looming, and feeling utterly powerless to do anything about it (beyond taking measures to save oneself from the worst effects of the collapse).

I can't do chin-ups (like Sarah Connor), so I let off steam by baking instead (like Martha Stewart). I find baking very meditative, and it has the added bonus of producing delicious comfort food, which makes me feel very happy (for, oh, at least 5 minutes).

Still on the food front, I decided to have a go at making sauerkraut. I've never actually tasted sauerkraut ... in fact I've never even seen sauerkraut, except in photos, so making it seemed a little bit daunting.

Everything I've read makes sauerkraut sound totally foolproof, but nevertheless I decided to follow an extra-foolproof recipe, which uses fresh yogurt whey to inoculate the cabbage with lactobacillus bacteria. (By all accounts, fresh cabbage generally brings its own lactobacillus to the party, but when it comes to microorganisms, I prefer to err on the side of caution).

My large jar of shredded, pounded, salted cabbage has had three days of fermentation on the bench now, and the mixture is expanding, as the recipe said to expect. Now I just have to figure out what to do with the finished product.

The mushroom-growing experiment I mentioned previously is coming along very nicely: we now have a fairy ring of mycelium! So far it's only a very small fairy ring, immediately surrounding one of the mushrooms I placed in a tub of compost, but from small fairy rings, big fairy rings grow. (Mycelium networks can grow to acres in size - like this one in Oregon, which has spread over more than two thousand acres. Amazing).

Here's my mycelium:

We recently planted four containers with garlic - 60 cloves in all. We planted them closer together than is normally recommended, following the general principle espoused by gardening elder John Jeavons (author of "How to Grow More Vegetables Than You Ever Thought Possible on Less Land Than You Can Imagine"). Only time will tell if they manage to bulb up successfully, but they're coming along nicely so far:



  1. Mushrooms are one of the freakiest life forms I have ever come across. A giant network under the ground filaments that occasionally shoot up tasty delicate fruit ...

    As for the doughnuts, what can I say? Too delightful.

  2. You missed out chocolate when talking about comfort food!! (says she who has chocolate on her brain at the moment).