Once again, I decided to observe Homegrown Fridays, eating only what I’ve grown on the Fridays in Lent. Anything you see in bold followed by * is listed on the Recipes page of this blog (click on the recipe tab at the top). This year was more of a challenge because of other commitments. I started two weeks early so I could get in seven Fridays and even at that, two of the Fridays were actually Thursdays. I finished early so that I could be off on another adventure. If you’re reading this the first week in April, 2012, I’m at Tillers International in Michigan finding out more of what they do there while my husband is taking a class in timber framing.
The delicious dinner you see in the photo was one of my meals. It consisted of kale harvested fresh from the garden, Arkansas Razorback cowpeas, and three varieties of sweet potatoes–Ginseng, Beauregard, and purple. When I have no “homegrown only” restrictions, I would probably put butter on the cowpeas and sweet potatoes and vinegar on the kale. I enjoyed the natural flavors of that food without butter and vinegar.
I had dried a variety of things in my solar food dryers last summer and had looked forward to using them for Homegrown Fridays this year. I made a soup using as many of them as I could*. Dinner one Friday was polenta topped with tomato sauce*. Cooked Mississippi Silver cowpeas accompanied that meal. Polenta is just another name for cornmeal mush that has been cooked a little longer and let set to thicken. I cooked it in a crockpot the day before, then put it in the refrigerator. At dinnertime I put tomato sauce over it and heated it in the oven. When I cooked the cornmeal and water for polenta, I added dried onions. I froze some, which made an easy lunch to heat up on another busy Homegrown Friday.
I was fortunate to have peanuts this year and made peanut butter for the first time in my GrainMaker mill. I had better luck grinding raw peanuts than grinding roasted peanuts to make peanut butter. I made it twice and, although I’m sure I’d get better at it with practice, it’s a whole lot easier, and less cleanup, to just eat the peanuts as they are. The folks in Biosphere 2 grew peanuts with the intent to press them for oil, but decided to just eat them as a snack. Peanuts were one of their main sources of fat. Their two year experiment with eight people living in a completely sealed environment and producing all their food is documented in the book Eating In: From the Field to the Kitchen in Biosphere 2 by Sally Silverstone. I made peanut butter to have with carrots from the garden. That day I also made sorghum crackers. Recalling a recipe for greens in peanut sauce from the cookbook Simply in Season, I made a version of that with my dried collards. I put peanut butter with the dried collards and water while it cooked. We ate it as a vegetable for dinner, but I liked it better as a sandwich filling for a meal another day. It would have made a good dip.
I made “bean burgers” for the first time. It’s something that’s long been on my “to-do” list. I used cooked cowpeas, reconstituted dried onion and dried sweet pepper, and minced garlic. The cowpeas were boiled until really soft. I mashed everything together and made it into patties that I topped with tomato sauce and baked. Breadsticks made with sorghum flour were served with that.
One day lunch was home-canned green beans cooked with dried cabbage and onions. Sorghum patties (made like corn patties*) rounded out that meal. A couple lunches were sweet potatoes, peanuts, and raisins. Peanuts, raisins, and popcorn were great to have among my choices of homegrown food. Last summer I dried grapes for raisins by cutting the grapes in half and drying them in the solar dryers. The seedless grapes were best for that. Popcorn was popped in a pan with no oil for a snack some days. Just be ready to shake the pan a lot to prevent burning. When limiting your diet like this, it is good to plan for something quick to eat if you are really hungry and you still have to plan dinner. Peanuts, raisins, and popcorn filled that need nicely and could be taken along if I had to be gone somewhere.
Breakfast was the easiest meal and always the same. I had cornmeal mush made with my Bloody Butcher Corn. I sweetened it with honey from my bees and added hazelnuts, which were great. You can read about my hazelnut harvest in my last post. My black walnut trees seem to bear alternate years and didn’t drop nuts in 2011. The staples in this homegrown diet are cornmeal, sweet potatoes, cowpeas, and greens. I had sorghum and wheat for additional flour and the dried vegetables were much appreciated, especially tomatoes and onions. I had some naturally fermented sour pickles and garlic that I chopped up and added to cowpeas for lunch one day. Herbs, dried and fresh, add diversity to the flavors. I was happy to harvest fresh celery leaves in the garden. The parsley I used was dried. Eating this way makes you really appreciate each additional flavor and texture. You might be interested in reading about my 2011 Homegrown Friday experiences.
I drank water or herb tea. Currently my herb tea blend consists of spearmint, bee balm, lemon balm, and basil. On these Homegrown Fridays my husband and I often opened a bottle of mead made from our honey and grapes or elderberries. We feel very fortunate to have such bounty from our garden. At the same time, we are mindful of those in the world who don’t know where their next meal is coming from. We hope that our work here will help towards the understanding of what it would take to feed others. The learning is in the doing. I hope some of you will try a Homegrown Friday or two at any time of the year. It is definitely an experience.