This year, looking for something meaningful to do for Lent, I’m repeating what I did in 2009. I decided that on the Fridays in Lent I’d eat only what I’d grown. It is both a challenge and an opportunity in so many ways. Since I’m an experienced grower, this might appear to be easy, but February, March, and April are lean times in the garden, with stored supplies becoming low, and I would need to provide all my calories since, except for eating less on Good Friday, I wasn’t fasting. Besides knowing I could do it, I wanted to better understand what it would take if, as communities, we needed to depend only on local food supplies. Further from home I thought about the people in impoverished areas worldwide whose food supply was already limited to local production. I feel that if we truly want to help people feed themselves worldwide we need to first understand how to feed ourselves from local supplies. The only things that would be included in my meals that I hadn’t grown would be salt for the sourdough bread and fermented vegetables and pickling lime for the hominy. Anything in bold and marked with * is included on my new recipe page. See the recipe tab above and go there to learn how I prepared it.
That first Friday in 2009 my most important insight was the need for clean water. Without water I couldn’t prepare a meal. Fuel is an issue, but I’ll stick to food in this post. I grow Bloody Butcher corn to grind for cornmeal, so breakfast was easy. Although I usually make cornmeal mush with milk, I cooked it with water. I was fortunate to have honey from my bees, not a lot, but enough. I used the honey on the mush and in herb tea, but I could have done without it if necessary. The herbs for my tea were a mixture of bee balm, spearmint, and lemon balm. Sometimes I add sage and basil. Mississippi Silver cowpeas are the dried beans I grow for our table and I used them for lunch and/or dinner. Easter is late this year and the collards and kale are bolting now, but they have been an important addition fresh and dried. In 2oo9 I had what I called “fall ferment”*. I chopped the vegetables to a relish after they fermented whole in the crock. A dish of collards and fall ferment is good. In the photo above you see that, plus poached eggs and wheat tortillas. In 2009 I had wheat for tortillas and sourdough bread. I allowed some eggs both years because I had grown a small amount of the chicken’s feed. My supply of onions was running low this year, so I rationed them over the seven Fridays.
I didn’t have any wheat left to use this year, but I did have sorghum that I grew several years ago and hadn’t used. Using the eggs, I made sorghum noodles that we ate with tomato sauce*. Steamed collards completed that meal. Those leftovers went into a soup early the next week, along with green beans (home canned), garlic, onions, celery seed, and dried Jerusalem artichokes*. That soup was meaty in taste and appearance, I guess due to the sorghum noodles I had chopped up. It was so good I saved some for the next Friday’s dinner. Sweet potatoes have been a plus. Sweet potatoes, greens, and cowpeas are a good meal. Although I often have butter on sweet potatoes and cowpeas and vinegar on the greens, I easily enjoy them plain on Homegrown Fridays. I eat the greens (kale and collards) steamed, the cowpeas boiled and simmered, and sweet potatoes baked. I have never owned a microwave oven and believe it destroys nutrients in the food. Sally Fallon agrees with me on this in Nourishing Traditions.
One Friday I made a dish using masa (ground hominy) I had made from my corn. My plan was for tortillas, but that wasn’t working that day, so I layered the flattened masa dough with mashed sweet potatoes, boiled cowpeas, and steamed greens, lasagna style. I topped it with tomato sauce and baked it. You can mix any flour you make from your grain with water, roll it out, and use it this way with whatever you have to use as a filling. Last Friday I finally got around to shelling some black walnuts I harvested in September and used them as a topping on mashed sweet potatoes. I drizzled honey over that and baked it for about 20 minutes. Yum!
One thing that became a favorite quick lunch this year is soup made with butternut squash leather*. That plus dried kale or collards all cooked in water with maybe some leftover cowpeas was a great lunch. I also used zucchini leather* for the same purpose. Make some corn patties* and chop some into the soup. Raisins from our grapes were a welcome snack between meals and we even enjoyed some mead made from our own honey and grapes or elderberries. I discovered that my homegrown popcorn could be popped in a pan without adding oil. My staples this year were corn, sweet potatoes, greens, squash leather, dried tomatoes, and cowpeas, with a limited amount of eggs. If you find that interesting you should read The Resilient Gardener by Carol Deppe. This was an exercise for me to explore a homegrown diet. In reality we don’t have to do this alone. We live in communities and if we use our talents and resources wisely we can each do what we do best and share the surplus through our local economy.
I surprised myself at the variety of the meals I came up with. You might want to have similar meals, adjusted to your circumstances. Even if you don’t grow anything, a meal of only locally grown food could be a challenge in itself. If you do start to think about this, don’t be too hard on yourself and become overwhelmed. Long ago one of the first milestones I reached was to grow and can enough green beans for the year. Another was to be able to make spaghetti sauce with all the ingredients coming from the garden. Maybe growing all the parsley and basil you’ll need for the year, or the herbs for tea, is where you’ll start. These meals were not meant to supply any specific nutrients or calories for a day. Their goal was to be tasty, homegrown, and fill me up. My husband, a less adventurous eater, joined this project only for the evening meal and he enjoyed every one.
This week on Good Friday I’ll be preparing a soup made from cowpeas, sorghum, and dried tomatoes, peppers, green beans, Jerusalem artichokes, and hominy. I’ll add garlic and the last of the homegrown onions. My food is grown using biointensive techiques, feeding back the soil as I grow. I’ll spend time reflecting on the fact that I have the means to buy more onions and anything else I may need at the grocery store, although that food may not have been grown in a way that nourishes the earth. I’ll be mindful that buying food is not an option for many other people in the world, no matter how it is grown. It all comes down to the eating. What will we eat, and will there be enough for all.