Monday, March 16, 2015

processing food issues

I came across this article about what's in food these days that either doesn't appear on the label or is cunningly disguised as something far healthier and more natural than it is. It really is quite scary and certainly an incentive to keep away from processed foods. There aren't many in my diet these days anyway, but the article increased my determination to only buy locally grown fresh fruit and veg, preferably at the market, to avoid the chemicals used to prolong the supermarket shelf life of the same.

After Marion's comments about how little probiotics are actually in yoghurt I'd been thinking about trying fermented foods, especially as I kept seeing references to a Facebook group about it that a former colleague is in. Admittedly I was initially planning to buy some sauerkraut from the healthfood shop, but whenever I thought of it they were out of stock. Probably just as well as I then came across this article which explains how much better home made is. So I thought I'd have a go at making sauerkraut, from homegrown cabbages no less! Granted they were rather pathetic specimens, as brassicas and hot dry weather don't mix very well, but still homegrown none the less. A quick trawl of the local op/charity shops produced a suitable vessel (a re-purposed ceramic coffee crock!) as I couldn't find anything at home the right shape/size. As it has a lid it'd do fine to store the finished product in too. Unfortunately I hadn't taken into consideration just how hot it has been and didn't add enough extra brine over the top so it dried out and went icky, but lesson learned and at least it was with cabbages that would've probably ended up on the compost heap anyway! I'll definitely have another go although I'll wait for cooler weather.

Then in one of the urban homesteading email updates I get I spotted a mention of making apple cider vinegar and how easy it was. Given I use quite a bit of this I promptly googled to find a recipe and came across this one. As our apple trees have been busy shedding handfuls of squitty little apples that are way too small to normally be bothered with along with several half-pecked larger ones each day it seemed worth trying the scraps method as let's face it that's all you're left with once you've cut away the wormy/bruised bits. I'm planning to use the vinegar for the rosemary hair rinse I make, once I've got making it properly sussed hopefully I can bottle up enough to use in the kitchen too, but I might use more edible looking apples for human consumption! I started it off a couple of weeks ago and it has a very distinctive vinegary smell so fingers crossed.... I'm now hoarding more bits of apple in the freezer ready for the next batch!

I was hoping our tomato crop would increase now we seem to be regularly getting a bit more rain at last, they've been a bit slow this year, but it doesn't look promising. I want to get some frozen either whole/halved or as passata for use later in the year but so far we're eating them as fast as they ripen! I generally don't use tinned tomatoes when I'm cooking for just me & Phyllis, but when we've got Joanne & Oscar here too they get used fairly regularly. I should probably just buy some from the market to cook up then at least I know they are local.

We have (okay, Phyllis has...) spent the last few weeks peeling and chopping peaches by the basketful - my role in this is mostly collecting/picking them. Our trees really seem to have appreciated the pruning they got and have been absolutely laden. Many fall off already going brown and/or split, but they are so tasty they are worth cutting up for the good bits. The freezer is gradually being stocked up with a stack of 2ltr containers of stewed peaches plus we've bottled some. Joanne made a batch of chutney but it is a tad spicy for Phyllis so I made a milder second batch, once we'd scrounged some empty jars! We've given away several bucketloads, as well as a similar quantity of quinces. As the quinces are much harder to peel and cut that task falls to me.

The grapes have been prolific this year too - I've tried making some grape juice, but I'm not a big fruit juice drinker so there's little incentive to go into mass production! Joanne has made some grape jam, but I'd rather make something less sweet... Anyway there are plenty volunteers to take the fresh fruit off our hands, including the blackbirds!

It is good that we have a community of friends around us keen to share surplus garden produce. There is very little that gets wasted here. We have a regular supply of free free-range eggs coming in, and locally caught fish for Phyllis. Those we supply with fruit tend to bring us jars of whatever they've made with it in return. Home 'grown' honey, olive oil and firewood are supplied by family so we really are in the thick of an alternative economy here.

The EcoCentre, where our local TimeBank has a physical base along with several other community groups, now has a seed swap stand - bring along your surplus seeds you've collected and swap them for others, or put a koha in the box if you don't have anything to swap in. We've only had it going a couple of weeks and it is building up nicely. The great advantage of swapping seeds is you know they are plants that have obviously done reasonably well locally. We also have some plants for sale on the trading table, again ones that are surplus to requirements in one place ready to be re-homed.

Keeping things local and enabling locals to support each other towards a more regionally self-sufficient state is a big part of the kaupapa here. We're vulnerable in the Far North to being cut off from the rest of the country by flooding and regular landslips, and despite recent promises of upgrading bridges in the region (oh what it is to have a by-election that could change the balance of power in the government!), people are waking up to the fact that we need to be more self sufficient up here, more resilient. Being able to feed ourselves and each other regardless of whether the main highways are passable or not is a big part of this. We're resource rich really, we just need to be better organised at distributing what we have locally, and it not having to head down to Whāngārei or Auckland to come back again like the milk does!

Maybe the revolution is just a bag of groceries (rather than a t-shirt) away....

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