The tomatoes are the only thing I’m weighing this year, mainly because they’re the major crop, taking up nearly a fifth of the whole garden. When Collin’s grown I won’t have to go so crazy with tomatoes, but while he’s still with me, I need to keep him well supplied with tomato sauces and salsa and ketchup, etc.
Over the weekend I canned our first batch of tomato sauce. I made six pints of a basil marinara (there was also an almost-full seventh pint that just went straight into the fridge). On Friday I plan to can a batch of spaghetti sauce. I figure about 24 pints total of various types of pasta sauces should last a full year, especially considering I’m also making tons of pesto.
Then, after I have 24 pints of sauce, I’ll make a few pints of pizza sauce, then move on to ketchup. We’ve already done some salsa. I made a 1 quart jar of lacto-fermented salsa, and over the weekend Collin made four little 4-ounce jars of fresh salsa. But, if the tomato harvest holds out, I’d like to can some salsa for the winter as well. We’ve got four different types of hot peppers growing, all doing extremely well. So I’ve got to use those up.
Then, if the tomato harvest is still going strong, I like to do some jars of tomato juice and vegetable juice, tomato paste, and finally, some canned whole tomatoes. And, of course, we’ve also been eating tons of tomatoes fresh!
On Sunday we ate our first corn-on-the-cob from the garden, and also our first cantaloupe.
I spent the entire weekend in the kitchen. Saturday morning I picked, blanched, and froze the day’s green beans, then picked basil and made a batch of pesto. Then I picked chard, made the stems into lacto-fermented pickles (that’ll take three or four weeks) and put the chard leaves into a double batch of pasta. I started dough for sourdough bread, and I baked a loaf of lemon zucchini nut bread (my current favorite zucchini recipe).
On Sunday I made the basil marinara, as well as rolling out the pasta dough I had started on Saturday, and hanging it to dry.
Of course, in addition to all of this was the regular cooking of all of our meals, from scratch of course. On Saturday I made tostados, which included rolling sixteen corn tortillas, cooking each one in the cast iron skillet, then frying each one.
I’ve been wondering about corn masa—wondering if there’s a way I can make it myself. I know it’s just corn and hydrated lime. Ironically, the process is explained in a book I just took out of the library called Wild Fermentation, by Sandor Ellix Katz.
Now why, you may be asking yourself, would I want to go through all of that trouble when corn tortillas are readily available and extremely cheap? And why is it not enough to buy the corn masa and just add water? Why must I soak my corn for hours, then cook for hours in a hydrated lime solution or wood ash solution, then rub off all the skins, then grind the corn, then make the dough, roll it, cook it, and fry it before eating it?
Probably because I’m just plain crazy. But maybe it has to do with this need to get back to the basics. There’s something important about being intimately involved in all aspects of my food production. In a spiritual sense I think we need to merge with our food--there has to be participation on many levels.
And besides that, if I do this myself, I can buy organic whole dried corn at Vitamin Cottage, and know I’m avoiding the genetically modified corn that’s in the masa from the regular grocer. Plus if I do one day go completely off-grid, I will have acquired knowledge that will be very useful.
Did you realize that without this process of soaking the corn in lime, called nixtamalization, the healthiest qualities of corn remain unavailable? Sander Katz says, “Specifically, it alters the ratio of available amino acids, rendering nixtamalized corn a complete protein, and making niacin in the corn more available to humans.”
You have to wonder what type of process led the ancient Aztecs to this process. It had to be a spiritual process, a communication from the corn.
I’m learning so much about plants these days. Actually it feels like I’m learning from plants these days. It’s hard to describe, but I can feel subtle shifts in my perceptions, in my way of experiencing the world, as I take in these different plant energies. I believe living foods share their intelligences with us.
I’ve been dreaming about plants incessantly. The one night last week (after eating an inordinate amount of tomatoes) I spent at least the first 2/3 of the night dreaming about nothing other than tomatoes. Tomato energy was coursing through me, and it wanted me to integrate that energy.
Lately, I’ve also been fascinated with the topic of fermentation, both as a food preservation technique and as a method of enhancing the healthfulness of foods.
So far, I’ve been experimenting with sourdough breads, homemade ginger ale, lacto-fermented beet juice, salsa, and chard stalks. I love the idea of inviting in the local wild yeasts and bacteria. It seems like another important way for me to participate with and merge with the local ecosystem. Eating the soil (indirectly through the plants), eating the plants, which express both the soil and the sun (and all local conditions), eating the local yeasts and the local bacteria. The only things missing are the local animals, and I hope to remedy that eventually.
We’ve become so disengaged from our particular place on earth. We’ve stopped interacting with place. Instead, place has become an insignificant backdrop for our purely human activities. We act as if we’re the only things that matter and we act as if we don’t need the earth. The reality, of course, is that we are both utterly dependent upon it and inextricably connected with all of it.
I’ve been learning so much lately. Everything is fascinatingly interconnected. It just occurred to me, for instance, this magical alchemy that occurs with corn and lime—it’s really a way to make earth and sky influences meet. Corn--all sugars and starches--a sky food par excellence, needs to merge with earth elements, in this case calcium, in order to confer its healthful qualities to humans. Left as a pure sky food it’s all carbohydrates—leading to human imbalances such as diabetes and metabolic syndrome. We desperately need to become grounded beings again, and we can do that through the foods that we eat.
I’m really starting to understand the sacredness of food, deeply understand the sacredness of food. Here I get to that point were words fail. Many people have called food sacred and for years I could nod my head that yes, of course, food is sacred. But now I know food is sacred, and I know it in a way that defies all description, in a way that is far deeper and more significant than I ever imagined possible.
Do you think the Aztecs might have recognized corn as a sky food? Do you think they intuited that earth and sky needed to meet? That earth and sky (lime and corn) meeting in a watery matrix would bring about the proper alchemy?
I’m thinking back to my dream in March about the patch of wheat. The message that came in the dream was that in order for earth and sky to meet, a plant must be able to express its true and full nature.
I wonder if over the past 10,000 years with all of our hybridizing and selective breeding of plants we haven’t created foods that overly concentrate sky energy? Hasn’t much of our breeding led to increased sugar and starch content?
And I’m curious—I’ll have to do some research—but do plant foods with naturally high sugar content favor soil that’s depleted in mineral content? Would sweet corn grown on healthily mineralized soil be less sweet than sweet corn grown in a typical, depleted field? I don’t know where I could find the answer to that, but I’ll have to do some poking around.