Fermenting fomenter

A bonus for me as an intern last year was a copy of Wild Fermentation by Sandor Ellix Katz and over the summer it was my little bible for fermenting just about anything I could get my hands on. Katz delves into the historic significance of fermentation, something that is practised by most cultures around the globe, as well as briefly examining the science of live cultures. He also looks at the health benefits of live cultured foods and why ferments have gone out of fashion as our food system increasingly relies on mass production and standardization.

All the fermented foods we find commonly are listed, with recipes for sauerkraut, sourdough, beer and wine featured, but there’s also a host of lesser known cultures such as amazak√© (sweet Japanese rice drink), injera (spongy Ethiopian flat bread) and kombucha (sweetened tea fermented with a SCOBY – symbiotic community of bacteria and yeast) covered as well. A basic list of resources is included for obtaining cultures that won’t just happen to be hanging around like the koji mould, Aspergillus oryzae, needed to make miso. Experimentation is strongly encouraged and fermenting can be a pretty exciting process; flavours develop over time, you can taste as you go and if you’re like me and don’t really follow recipes that strictly, every jar tastes different.

Over the course of the season I mostly used lacto-fermentation, one of the simplest fermentation methods (vegetables + brine + time) that can be ready in less than two weeks, for a few batches of kimchi and innumerable jars of mixed vegetables. Just before I left Quebec we put a batch of elderberry wine on using elderberries found on an urban forage – thanks to the Gatineau council for planting elderberry in public spaces we were able to harvest just enough for the recipe – but there are many recipes I plan to try in the future.

I found fermenting to be an easy process with tasty results and I’d encourage anyone whose ever thought about it to give it a try; it can be as simple as filling a jar and letting nature go!

Farm City

Making better use of urban spaces has been an inspiration for me since I first visited Northey Street City Farm in Brisbane in 2004. There are many community gardens around the world that either allocate members their own plot to work or simply have a one size fits all model where everyone contributes and works a common area. In urban environments of the western world, it’s much rarer to find an individual who has taken the step from gardening, growing vegetables and maybe raising chickens, to farming, where more livestock are involved and butchering them for human consumption is definitely on the agenda. Significant barriers to people include time (livestock need regular and consistent care), resources (animals also need food), and access to land, since it’s not always easy to find a bare block that can be used with the blessing of the land owner.

Novella Carpenter¬†had gardening in mind when she rented an apartment in the heart of Oakland, a city with nearly 400,000 inhabitants, on the west coast of California. She transformed an overgrown city block into a food producing oasis and then wrote a personal account of her experience growing fruit and vegetables while raising bees, chickens, geese, ducks, turkeys, rabbits and finally two pigs on an almost abandoned site adjacent to her apartment building. It makes for an absorbing and entertaining read as armed with a can do attitude, plenty of enthusiasm and a shoestring budget she learns how to keep poultry alive amidst dog attacks, get her rabbits to breed like rabbits and dumpster dive enough food for her ever growing pigs. Novella’s approach reminds me of my own where if it sounds like a good idea you should try it and you’ll figure out everything else you need to know as you go along. City raised bacon anyone?

 

food not lawns

Taking advantage of the household library I’m currently about half way through Food Not Lawns and loving it. A handbook for turning urban spaces into food producing landscapes with a focus on doing it and recycling, reusing and re-appropriating land and materials in the process.

Food Not Lawns or How to turn your yard into a garden and your neighborhood into a community by H.C. Flores, published 2006 by Chelsea Green Publishing Company.