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Aug 252014
 

This year I grew a lot of purple food, which all seemed to come ripe at the same time. Here we have: eggplant (two varieties), red basil, thai basil, black cherry tomatoes, Iko peppers, red russian kale, red curly kale and blueberries. Other purple/dark red food that I grew: red okra, blackberries, black currants, red lettuce, red peppers, black beans, red popcorn & cherokee tomatoes (the best tasting tomato I ever grew….)

Purple Food

Purple Food

 

Jun 152014
 

This year, I’ve decided to keep track of how much I harvest each month & see if it is enough or too much for a three-person heavy veg-eating family. My first planting was March 21.

Salad greens – 3+ kg

Here we have all sorts of lettuce including red leaf, oak leaf, green leaf, red romaine, plus nasturtium leaves and flowers, borage flowers, and spinach. For lettuce, I harvest the leaves, not the whole heads. I seem to be able to harvest leaves from a head of lettuce for about 4-6 weeks before it needs to be pulled and eaten. I have found that for a family of 3 heavy salad eaters, we need about 6 or so active heads of lettuce (that is, heads from which leaves can be harvested). So let’s say each human head needs two salad heads. As for spinach, about 5 plants per person every week seems about right. One can harvest a few leaves at first, but they mature so quickly, the whole plant must be picked within a week or so. My family seems to eat about 100 g of salad greens per day. During this time, even though I picked a lot of salad, I still had to buy one head of lettuce from the green market (ran out of garden lettuce). I also ran out of spinach — that’s to say, I didn’t plant enough.
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Snow Peas – 1.2 kg

I planted about 10 rows double rows of peas starting in late March and ending May 1. A double row means a trellis with peas planted on both sides of it. Since late May — about 2 weeks — I’ve harvested only from the first 3 double rows of snow peas. They are incredibly tasty. Three double rows equals about 100 plants and about 1m2. I estimate that each m2 (three double rows) will give about 2 kg of snow peas over about 3-4 weeks. I’d say a generous portion for one person is about 50g of peas. So 2 kg means about 40 individual servings of peas over about 20 or 30 days. So for 2 people — that’s peas every day; for 3 or 4 people — peas every other day. This is not a problem for me. If the peas keep going we will be eating peas every other day for the next 6 or 7 weeks. That might be too much…

In simple English: 100 pea plants produces 2 kg of snow peas harvested over 3 or 4 weeks.

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Strawberries 3.5 kg

I planted 15 plants last spring. These 15 plants became 30 plants. And then they became 45 plants or maybe more. Let’s say there are 50 plants. The mother plants give bigger strawberries than the daughter plants. There are still many more to be harvested. farm_0619_straw_IMG_1298

Asian brassicas / greens (savoy, tatsoi, hon tsai tai, pac choi, joi choi, bekana) – 750 g

Growing these tender little babies is a constant struggle as they are clearly the most favorite food of the SLUG. Even a good old Polish radish won’t distract them from these delicious greens. Picture shows 100g of greens. Not pictured is Savoy — a great green! These grow best in raised beds.

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Brassicas & chards (kale, collards, mustard greens, chard) – 2 kg

Quite early in the spring I was able to harvest quite a lot of chard and mustard greens which were planted last summer. I am pretty much the only person in my family who eats this stuff.  I love the brassica family! No picture yet…

Sep 132013
 

For a few years now, I’ve been making tempeh because I couldn’t find it for sale in Poland. For the last month or so, I’ve been making it and selling it to the Kooperatwya Dobrze here in Warsaw. This week I documented the process to to show people how tempeh is produced, and also just to assess how much time and money it costs to make.

Making tempeh starts Monday night and ends Thursday morning.

MONDAY

Crack and soak the beans

Of course we start with organic, GMO-free soybeans. 1000 kg of soybeans makes about 1600 g of tempeh. Interesting, huh? That means that 37,5% of tempeh is — well, what is that white stuff exactly? It’s the mycelia of fungi Rhizopus oligosporus and Rhizopus oryzae! (I apologize for referring to then as bacteria and mold in the past.)

The first step is to separate the husks from the beans. The husks must be removed because Rhizopus oligosporus/oryzae cannot penetrate the husk. The husks are separated with a loosely-set grain mill, which cracks them and in so doing removes the husk.  If you don’t have a grain mill, you’ll have to remove them by hand after the beans have soaked or you could try to find soybeans that are already de-husked. I have not yet been able to find these in Poland (organic non-GMO de-hulled soybeans).

The beans are put into water. At this time, some of the husks float to the top and can be skimmed off.

The beans are left to soak overnight.

TUESDAY

Wash the beans

By morning, the beans have expanded and more husks have floated to the top. These husks are removed. The next step is to partially cook the beans — this means about 30 minutes. As they cook, a foam forms and yet more husks rise to the top and are removed. As you can see, removing the husks is he beans are placed in a colander.

Dry the beans

The beans are spread out on a flat surface on clean lint-free cotton material, such as pillowcases or sheets. It takes at least 4 hours for the beans to dry. Wet beans prohibit the growth of Rhizopus oligosporus/oryzae and encourage other kinds of growth — the kind we don’t want. So it is important for the beans to be completely dry.

Inoculate and pack the beans

By the evening, the beans are ready to be inoculated. All 1000g of beans are placed in a big pot or bowl. To this we add 2 Tablespoons of Rice Vinega and 2 teaspoons of Rhizopus oligosporus/oryzae starter. Any kind of vinegar can be used, just make sure the acidity is no greater than 5% acidity. I once used white Polish vinegar (acidity 10%) and killed the spores. Vinegar creates an acidic environment in which other fungi and bacteria cannot grow.
Next we pack about 500g of the beans into 1 gallon-sized / 3-liter-sized zip-locked bags. The bag has already been punctured with many tiny holes spaced about 1 cm / .5 inch apart. By using zip lock bags, the tempeh can be removed without destroying the bag, and so the bags can be reused many times.

This step takes about 30 minutes.

Incubate the beans

The bags are placed on some sort of rack that has holes or space to create airflow. I use a shelf from Ikea and a rack for drying cookies. These are placed in a box, or some other insulated space with a light bulb — approximatey 40-60 watts usually generates enough heat. We need a fairly constant temperature of between 26-30 C. Lately, I have been using a cabinet in my desk. It’s painted black and does an excellent job holding the heat. The tempeh goes on the top shelf and the light on the bottom. The tempeh is not placed directly under the bulb where it is very hot.

WEDNESDAY

The beans must “cook” for 24-36 hours between 26-30 C. The temperature should be monitored during this time. I no longer use a thermometer (because mine is broken) so I had to develop my Temperature Sense. In this case,  the door is nearly closed the first 8 hours and open the rest of the time. It is better to err on the cool side. If the temperature is too high, the spores are killed and the tempeh is ruined. It’s important to have air flow around the tempeh.

THURSDAY

The tempeh is done. Each 500g bag of soybeans yields about 820g of tempeh. Removing and sectioning the tempeh takes about 30 minutes. The tempeh is then delivered to the co-op Thursday afternoon.