Dear Friends and Supporters,
Our "Flatmaking and Kasha Workshop, Potluck, and Slide Show" evening on Saturday went off well. Only 15 attended in all (about half the number at the Green Tea in the Garden event in July), but this made for a more relaxed evening, and most stayed for most of the time. The event netted $240, including a substantial contribution from long-time supporters Hans and Nancy Samelson. Much more is needed to support the upcoming publication of the Russian translation of SUSTAINABLE VEGETABLE GARDEN by John Jeavons and Carol Cox. But it's a start, and we hope a newsletter mailing planned for next month will inspire an outpouring of donations.
The seedling flatmaking exercise proceeded as planned on my deck, despite the intermittent light rain. Volodya Loginov had previously sawn the redwood siding and interior wall paneling salvaged during our late spring/early summer remodel into pieces the proper dimensions for Ecology Action-approved flats. To minimize water damage to the flat bottoms, he also cut pieces of thick polyethylene to size. On Saturday, flatmakers Vladimir, Kristi, Karey, and others expertly pounded nails to make the flats, producing enough so that there are some available for local gardeners to buy @ $12, all proceeds to BfR. (There are also materials left for you to make your own -- just let me know when you're coming over!)
After a short introduction, Volodya then presented information on the value of sprouting wheat. (His comments were professionally interpreted by Vladimir Bolotnikov, our most experienced editor who contributed much to both editions of our Russian translation of HOW TO GROW MORE VEGETABLES). Drawing on his educational background in food science, Volodya explained how the qualities that make a grain product marketable (if refined, it will have a long shelf life, for example) should be balanced off against the natural product's qualities of being more delicious, nutritious, and easily digested.
With regard to sprouted wheat, in the sprouting process the wheat berry's composition is altered: the germ (nucleus) increases from 6-10% to 25% of the volume, the nutrients decrease from 60% to 25%, and the shell and water content increase somewhat. Although the nutrients are smaller in quantity, they increase in quality, being transformed from carbohydrates to natural sugars. The vitamin, hormone, and enzyme content and energy value are all greatly increased, and they become more digestible since their proteins have been converted to predigested amino acids. (For more info on sprouted grains, visit http://www.rosicrucian.com/zineen/pamen043.htm, and http://www.naturalhub.com/natural_food_guide_grains_beans_seeds.htm, from which I quote: "In the middle ages of Europe, there is some suggestion that wheat soaked in hot water, and left overnight by the fire to soften ... was as common as leavened bread.")
Then came the cooking lesson. Volodya lives very simply, in Kurganinsk, near Krasnodar in the Kuban, an agricultural region in southern Russia . He has never owned a blender. However, recently he started experimenting with one while visiting friends in an ecovillage near St. Petersburg, using it to grind up his grains after sprouting them, then cooking them as kasha (porridge). While visiting me he has continued refining his technique, and described his current recipe thus to the group:
For one person:
1) More than cover 1 1/2 cups of wheat berries with
water for 24 hours. Watch the berries swell!
2) On the second day, pour off the remaining water.
(I use a sieve for this purpose.) Rinse (moisten)
and mix the grains twice a day for one or two more
days. (Mixing the grains exposes more of them to
the nitrogen in the air.)
3) Measure the grain, add double the volume of
water, and grind the sprouted grains in the blender
for 1-3 minutes (depending on speed). Watch the
blender to make sure it doesn't overheat, depending
on the amount you're grinding.
4) Add 1 T or more of sweetened condensed milk to the
grain/water mixture and and cook 30-40 minutes to
the desired texture. This milk is preferable to any
other milk, according to Volodya, as it gives the kasha
a delicious taste. Boiling at a higher temperature
lends the kasha more of a "baked" taste.
5) Serve and enjoy!
Which he did, and we did.
Tips and comments: Hard red wheat has better flavor than the lighter-colored spring varieties. "Kashi" made of 7 grains is available, e.g. at Country Sun Natural Foods in Palo Alto, but some of the grains won't sprout as well as others. Buckwheat is a favorite Russian grain; we'll try this one soon (Vladimir Bolotnikov brought some as a present.) Amaranth is highly nutritious, and in Volodya's experiments we've added some that I grew last summer to the wheat kasha and also cooked it on its own. It's easy to sift and winnow: you're invited to come check out the process, as I've saved some for this purpose. (We didn't do this on Saturday, since it was a rainy day.)
The potluck offerings balanced well, and people seemed to enjoy sampling them in my newly expanded and redecorated kitchen and dining area. To begin the program, soprano Doris Williams sang several beloved American songs, including "Stairway to Heaven," "How I Loved You," and "It's a Grand Night for Singing," accompanying herself on my antique English piano in the living room. Then, aided by Natalya Lukomskaya, another highly qualified interpreter who has helped out in many ways in the past, Volodya described his own work.He has been teaching composting at children's camps on the Black Sea not far from where he lives, and is gardening Biointensively at home with volunteers (including growing seedlings for sale). He also discussed some of the efforts of environmentalists in the northern Caucasus to prevent a gas pipeline from being built across a nature reserve there. My slide show followed, with gardening and art shots of St. Petersburg, Bryansk, Moscow, Novo-Sin'kovo, Chirchik, Nukus, and Novosibirsk. (The fascinating snapshots of the Nuratau Nature Reserve and Brichmulla Forestry Farm villages have not yet. been made into slides)
Those of you who live nearby and were unable to attend are invited to call or write me and arrange to drop by, have a look at various items for sale, tour the garden (and help transplant seedlings if convenient!), peruse one or more of my photo albums, and have a cup of tea. Sale items include: the abovementioned flats, tree collard cuttings; turnip and rutabaga, seedlings; seedlings of the compost crop combination of wheat, favas, rye, and vetch; fresh Swiss chard; a rug from the Caucasus (!!!), Russian handicrafts and icons, a Japanese lantern, two small lamps in perfect condition; and "earth from space" tees and sweatshirts, inscribed "All One Planet" in various languages (most in children's sizes). (These shirts were made as a fundraiser for "Peace Child" productions in Santa Cruz and are in perfect condition. You may also order them from me @ $5 for tees, $10 for sweats, plus postage and handling, or as a premium for a $50 donation; write for available languages and sizes).
Bay Area list members, please continue to watch this space for dates of mini-workshops/fundraisers planned for future Saturday evenings: Local Soils and Soil-Testing with Fran Adams, Tool-Sharpening with Kevin Stevens, and Cooking in Harmony with the Earth with Kay Bushnell.