Tag Archives: mother earth news

No-Knead Sourdough Bread Works Great!

Regular readers of this blog know that I’m a rank amateur when it comes to kitchen matters. I can grow food well; it’s the cooking part that stumps me. But I’ve embraced my fears/inadequacies and have been embarking on a trail into the unknown: cooking from scratch.

I think I’ve mastered making bread from scratch – or rather, I can make bread that I’m happy with, even if it maybe wouldn’t win any medals at the county fair. But sourdough bread – which I think is much more nutritious than regular bread (read previous blog entries) – has somewhat eluded me.

With this in mind, I tried a no-knead recipe from Mother Earth News (December 2012/January 2014), and it works great! See: http://www.motherearthnews.com/real-food/no-knead-sourdough-bread-recipe-zmrz13djzmat.aspx

I can attest that the no-knead sourdough recipe in Mother Earth News works great. If I can do it, you can, too! That's corn meal sprinkled on the top, by the way. (Photo by Jim Ewing)

I can attest that the no-knead sourdough recipe in Mother Earth News works great. If I can do it, you can, too! That’s corn meal sprinkled on the top, by the way. (Photo by Jim Ewing)

Part of the problem I’ve been having, I think, is that I haven’t been feeding my starter enough, and I’ve kept it out. If I had fed it until it was robust, then put it in the refrigerator, that probably would have done better.

My old water kefir sourdough starter kind of went limp; so I threw it out and started another starter that I had ordered online – one meant for gluten-free grains. It started off OK, though I used regular organic all-purpose flour; but I left it out too long without feeding it enough and it developed mold.

I researched what to do and was told that you can scrape off the mold and it will recover if you feed it enough. So, I did that — for a week …. scraping of mold, feeding it; scraping off mold, feeding it… Seemed like all I was doing was feeding the mold. So, I threw it out (into the flower bed, so it could return to earth).

But when I came back inside, I noticed there was still a quarter inch of starter clinging to the bottom of the jar and it actually looked pretty good — bubbly — and smelled good — fruity. So, I thought, what the heck, and fed it with quarter cup of flour and quarter cup of filtered water.

Well, it came back great guns! And it’s now fed and resting in the refrigerator. I’ll probably pull it out in a week or two (remembering to feed it once a week), and cook some bread with it.

Meantime, I had started another batch of water kefir sourdough starter (see previous blogs). Since I keep water kefir going, I thought, why not? It’s free.

So, I put two tablespoons of active water kefir with one-quarter cup of flour and quarter cup of filtered water and refed it with flour/water every 12 hours for a week. When the jar was full (Friday), I made my sponge and followed the recipe in Mother Earth News.

I also went out and bought a three-and-a-half quart stainless steel dutch oven (stainless because I bake so much now, I get tired of scraping off dough that’s like concrete). And I bought a spritzer that holds olive oil that deposits a fine spray for cooking surfaces. That’s a big help, too.

I’m quite pleased. If I can make it, so can you. Give it whirl! (And,yes, the corn meal on the top adds a little pizzaz.)
Jim PathFinder Ewing is a journalist, author, and former organic farmer now teaching natural, sustainable and organic agricultural practices. His latest book is Conscious Food: Sustainable Growing, Spiritual Eating (Findhorn Press). Find Jim on Facebook, follow him @EdiblePrayers or @OrganicWriter or visit blueskywaters.com.

Saving Our Planet One Seed At A Time

Aug. 24, 2012
Saving Our Planet One Seed At A Time
As summer continues to blaze, some of our early-planted varieties will start to bolt, or produce seeds. This offers an opportunity for organic gardeners not only to save the seeds but share them with others—and help save our planet.

Giant transnational seed companies are buying up small seed companies globally and discontinuing their lines of stock in favor of bioengineered seeds they can patent. As the 2008 documentary film “Food, Inc.” noted, with the development of such genetically modified organisms (GMO), for the first time in history, these biotechnology giants are becoming the architects and “owners” of life.

With seed “ownership” and fewer natural, openly pollinated seeds being sold, food-plant biodiversity suffers. Couple this with conversion of open land to farming monocultures (where farmers grow only selected plants such as GMO corn or soybeans and use herbicides to kill all other plants), and loss of habitat thanks to urban and suburban growth, and extinction of whole plant species is under way.

Seedhead News reports that of all types of commercial veggies grown at the turn of the century, only about 4 percent still exist today. Just three grain crops—rice, wheat and corn—make up more than half of all the food consumed globally. By contrast, when Europeans touched foot on North America, Native Americans used up to 5,000 different species of food plants.

Food’s future is not bright unless we reverse these trends. Practicing seed saving, sharing seeds with friends and neighbors, and supporting seed-saving libraries that conserve local and native species are a few of the ways we can do that. Not only will you help the planet by collecting your organic, heirloom and nonhybrid, open-pollinated seeds, but you’ll improve your own garden over time.

Drought? Blight? Insect damage? Keep the seeds of the plants that survive, and they’ll likely pass that resistance to their offspring.

Who Owns Food?

• America’s seeds are owned by a handful of corporations that have bought up the seed stocks for food. Here’s a chart complied by Mother Earth News: http://bit.ly/KQZ22o.

• An iPhone app called ShopNoGMO helps consumers avoid buying genetically engineered food. Find it in the Apple iTunes store.

• Seed Savers Exchange offers an online database on how to collect seeds from various wild and domestic plants, including fruits, vegetables and flowers. Visit bit.ly/JWTfJp.

Here are a few seed resources:

• Seed Savers Exchange: seedsavers.org

• Native Seeds/SEARCH in Tucson, Ariz., publishes Seedhead News: nativeseeds.org

• Learn how to start a seed lending library: richmondgrows.org, search for “seed lending” if necessary.

Jim PathFinder Ewing is a journalist, author, writer, editor, organic farmer and blogger. His latest book titled Conscious Food: Sustainable Growing, Spiritual Eating (Findhorn Press) is in bookstores now. Find Jim on Facebook: http://bit.ly/cuxUdc or follow him @edibleprayers or @organicwriter or visit blueskywaters.com.

‘American Way of Eating,’ ‘Abundance’ offer food for thought

March 9, 2012

Deceptive weather a gamble on growing organic food

This freakishly warm weather is prompting people to want to plant in the garden, but I would advise caution.
Historically, here, even avid gardeners don’t plant until Good Friday, which this year is April 6.
Normally, in central Mississippi, we often have a cold spell in April, and sometimes even heavy frost the week after Easter.
Lots of gardeners wait much later, until the first of May, so that the plants are assured of good growing in warm soils. However, as organic growers, we usually plant earlier rather than later so that we are toward the end of our growing season when bugs are at their height.
Bottom line: Now is a good time to “start” plants indoors, or your carport, or outside on a table or, as mentioned last week, in a wheelbarrow – so that you can pull plants indoors if cold weather comes.
But if you want to plant in the soil now, recognize that it’s a gamble. Unless the plants are cold weather plants, such as lettuces, kale, cabbages, chard, etc., cold soils and adverse weather can stunt plants or develop disease so they don’t produce well.
Now is a good time to read good books about food, farming and the like, and I’ve got a couple to recommend.

First is The American Way of Eating: Undercover at Walmart, Applebee’s, Farm Fields and the Dinner Table by Tracie McMillan (Scribner, 2010, $16).
McMillan, a journalist, went “undercover,” to so speak, to live off the wages and live the lifestyle of a farm worker, a grocery clerk and a restaurant server. Her report is mesmerizing, highly readable, at times heartwarming, sometimes horrifying, and often perplexing, leading to the question: Who came up with this system and isn’t there a better way?
American Way of Eating is a powerful piece of journalism about the behind-the-scenes reality of our food system.

Abundance, welcome! People concerned about the environment and the future of humanity are pounded by negative messages, but as Bryan Welch says in his book Beautiful and Abundant: Building the World We Want (B&A Books, 2010) that may
work against finding solutions.
“Imagining a positive vision of the future strikes the alarmed mind as a trivial distraction,” he observers.
A Kansas rancher and publisher of Mother Earth News, Welch makes an analogy with the modern world as a motorcycle rider midway in an unexpected, ever-tightening curve. The natural inclination is to slow down, conserve, cut
back, but therein lies disaster.
“Motorcyclists, mountain bikers, skiers and steeplechasers all learn the same lesson: When you are moving forward with a lot of momentum you have to focus beyond the short term challenges. You need to be thinking ahead. You need to picture yourself past the coming obstacles. You have to visualize the successful outcome. Then your reflexes can take care of the short term.”
Is it possible for someone concerned about the future of the planet to have a positive outlook?
Welch doesn’t pull any punches. He readily admits the seemingly insurmountable problems facing humankind – resource depletion, population expansion, species loss, deforestation, global warming, economic malaise.
But he turns these issues on their head, saying that the way past them is to take a new perspective. He poses Quaker-style “queries” to lead the reader. He believes “if we ask the rights questions, they could guide us down a new path.”
To wit:
•Is it beautiful? (to engage human imagination);
•Does it create abundance? (to entice innovation);
•Is it fair? (so no one is marginalized, all can share);
•Is it contagious? (so it can “go viral” or create a “tipping point” for change).
I won’t give away any more of the book. I will say that it’s exceedingly rare to find someone with such business acumen and belief in the free enterprise system to be posing questions and seeking answers about the future of humankind in such a thoughtful, egalitarian way.
Perhaps that’s why this book out of the nation’s breadbasket by a prairie sheep-and-goat farmer/writer/publisher hasn’t vaulted to the top of environmental debate (it’s too sane!).
It’s not a book to skim, as the real cream rises in your own thoughts mulling it over.
Maybe I’m biased, but I believe the great heart, soul and conscience of America resides in rural areas. Too few books reflect that. This is one of them.

Jim PathFinder Ewing is a journalist, author, writer, editor, organic farmer and blogger. His latest book titled Conscious Food: Sustainable Growing, Spiritual Eating (Findhorn Press) is in bookstores now. Find Jim on Facebook: http://bit.ly/cuxUdc or follow him @edibleprayers or @organicwriter or visit blueskywaters.com.