Reading This Week

One of Paul's friends who is a sauerkraut-making foodie lent me his brand-new copy of Ferment for Good so that I could read it voraciously and tell him which recipes he should try. My answer? All of them. Sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir, kombucha, yoghurt? All here. But wait, there's more. Vegies, condiments, miso, kvass, labneh, pineapple wine, wild mead.. oh my goodness, what can't you ferment? Very little, by the looks of it. If you want to dip your toes into the world of fermenting, this is the book for you. You will no doubt end by diving right in and fermenting everything in sight. All I need now is a nice underground cave to store it all in..

Sharon Flynn's voice and stories shine through the recipes and a wealth of information. I love the suggestions of how to eat your ferments and what to pair them with.. this is sometimes a forgotten aspect of fermenting information. My only problem with this book is.. how can I avoid giving it back?

Botanist James Wong has done an extraordinary thing - he has written a gardening book with a difference. I can say this with authority because I have been reading gardening books for over twenty years now, and the planting lists are somewhat samey-samey. Homegrown Revolution is jam-packed with edible plants that are easy to grow in a cool climate (UK) that you have a) never heard of, or b) didn't know were edible.

For instance, it turns out that dahlia tubers and canna tubers are edible. Also hosta shoots and daylily flowers. There are also edible gardening-gold tips such as how to grow oyster mushrooms on a telephone book, plus a large number of plants that I have never heard of but will be looking up soon. I discovered that my Cape gooseberries are marketed in the UK as Inca berries and flown in from Colombia. Who knew? In my garden they self-seed all over the place. I eat them by the handful, but now I know I can make them into jam.

But wait, what about edible houseplants? Cardamom plants, the leaves of which can be popped into the chai mix or added to flavour rice. Vanilla grass to make your own vanilla essence, or Murraya koenigii curry leaves anyone? I am currently looking out for all of these..

This book I found at the library, and have already renewed the loan once as I avidly take notes. It is on my list of Books to Buy When I Have a Proper Income..


orchidwallis said…
Hello Jo
I am in the UK. I have never heard of nor seen Inca berries for sale, however I have seen Cape Gooseberries. So there is a bit of doubt here.

Jo said…
Inge, good to know! Maybe he made the rest of the book up as well!! I have to say, I have never seen Inca berries or Cape gooseberries for sale here in Australia at all, they just pop up in people's gardens here in Tasmania - must be a good climate for them. Still, assuming Mr Wong didn't make up ALL his information, it is still worth a read. Fuchsia berries for instance, he says are edible. I tried some today in a garden I was working in, and lo and behold they are quite tasty! To be honest, I hadn't ever noticed that fuchsias had berries before I read this..
Unknown said…
I love cape gooseberry's too and the kids - its a race who can get to them first. They also self seed everywhere here and no one complains.
Jo said…
Clarissa, yes, they are so good! Last year a friend gave me some pineapple ground cherries that are similar, but sweeter, without that sour flavour burst. They grow along the ground instead of up, so you can have two levels of food in the same space! I guess the point of the Homegrown Revolution book is to expand the range of edible crops that people recognise and grow. I find that very few people who come to my garden recognise Cape gooseberries or have ever tried them. It is wonderful to hand them one and see the expression on their faces when they pop one in their mouth! I am sure you have had the same experience:)
Beznarf27 said…
Hi Jo, Hopefully you can see this. I have some cardamom plants and would be most happy to give you one if you like. Send me an email as my blog is currently down Fran
Jo said…
Ooh, Fran, that would be fabulous, will do xx
Hazel said…
Haha! I was just about to reply to your comment on your last post about edible houseplants and tell you to look into work by James Wong, a British ethnobotanist- who's a bit of a hero of mine- because he writes about edible houseplants which are on my to-do list! But I thought I'd read this post first :-)

In the UK, cape gooseberries are an 'old' name but they are now sold in supermarkets as physalis. Clearly we Brits had a thing about gooseberries and tangy fruit- kiwi fruits used to be called Chinese Gooseberries. Not sure where he got Inca berries from but he lives in a trendy part of London, maybe they have fancier names there?!

I went to a talk he did when Homegrown Revolution came out; he's very good. Do you have daylilies (Hemerocalis?). They're very tasty.

I also saw him recently when he came to Oxford to promote his latest book How to Eat Better which tells you how to choose or prepare foods to increase their nutrient content- purple/darker is always better, try exposing mushrooms to UV light for a couple of hours (outside or on a windowsill in soggy England) to increase their vitamin D content, that sort of thing. Really interesting.

He's also written Grown for Flavour and the two books I originally discovered him through, How to Grow your own Drugs and it's sequel, about herbal medicine and home remedies. He made a TV series of that book and his tag line was 'I'm not a hippy, I'm an ethnobotanist'. My family like to point out I'm the opposite...

Sorry, long comment but do see if you can borrow any of his other books, I think you'd enjoy them.
Jo said…
Hazel, clearly we are kindred spirits! I have been really enjoying this book, and have ordered Grown for Flavour from the library. I heard that fascinating fact about mushrooms and Vit D on the radio recently. This seems to be a young man with a lot of good things to say! Never apologise for a long comment, I love all the stories I read here! I learn so much!
Fernglade Farm said…
Hi Jo,

Do I recall that you make your own yoghurt? Do you purchase culture or use your existing yoghurt, or a mix of the two? I make yoghurt here and backslop from one batch to the next, and the ferment is good for the skin as it appears to have kicked my eczema. Yoghurt is a long and complex story here... We have an ongoing battle between using the yoghurt maker for making sake or yoghurt. The sake slow cooks for weeks so the machine uses very little energy. I see the fermentation book has a Sandor reference at the bottom of the front page, and he's another fermentation enthusiast.

It is hard to know where to store all this preserved produce too? Beats us and I get that problem, and wonder how they used to do it in the old days. I recall that my my grandmother had an old school root vegetable and preserve store room at the back of the house in the shade so it kept quite cool during the summer. Potatoes and onions lived in there too in huge metal built in bins.

I picked up Cape Gooseberry at the local plant nursery a few years back and it is such a hardy and tasty plant. Actual gooseberries are ridiculously easy to propagate too, as they'll grow from hardwood cuttings stuck into the ground. Plants like that make us all look good, like we know what we are doing! I'm making it up as I go along!

The Chilean Guavas are ripe now and the tiny little berries taste like lemonade. Very nice and well worth the hassle of growing them.

Treaders said…
I have put that book on my Amazon wish list - thanks for the recommendation. My son and his wife love kimchi so much that's what they named their cat! Anna
Jo said…
Chris, I haven't made yoghurt for a while, as it kept failing to set properly. I think I have found the solution according to the Fermenting for Good book - like you I was backslopping from batch to batch, but apparently many commercial brands of yoghurt don't have a strong enough culture to keep doing that, and that is what I used. Solution, use a strong, local fermented culture, or buy one on-line. I will go buy the local biodynamic yoghurt as my starter culture and see how that goes.. great news about it clearing up your eczema - did you use it topically, or was ingesting it enough?

Love the battle over yoghurt and sake. Who wins that one? Chilean guavas! Love them! Had a hedge of them at my old place. They are in the book too. I have a bush I brought here but it isn't thriving and I need to move it. I think it needs more water than I have been providing to it as it is still small. Yes, love plants that make me look good!!

Anna, Kimchi is the best name for a cat I have heard in some time!!
Fernglade Farm said…
Hi Jo,

Raining cats and dogs here. Torrential in fact. Ingestion of the yoghurt appears to have done the trick, and incidentally, we read about the effect after we began all over again with the yoghurt making.

The exact same thing happened here with yoghurt batches. Something has changed in the system... I'm not entirely sure of the story, but the commercial batches have too few a diversity of bacteria (sometimes less than three varieties) from what I've been reading (as does the commercially sold cultures), and always have. Eventually something horrendous called a macrophage (a virus that targets specific bacteria) evolves to consume the small diversity of bacteria in your yoghurt batch. Not good, huh? In the old days culture contained a huge diversity of bacterial life.

The biodynamic yoghurt is a great idea. I purchased as many old school starter cultures that I could get my hands on and just mixed them up and started all over again. A dash of early summer pastured raw milk will have an even greater diversity of bacterial life and that is good if you can get your hands on the stuff. My mates stopped milking their cow about a month before I asked them for some raw milk. Oh well, there is always next year.

The other thing is that I now cook the yoghurt at 43'C for 11 hours and then leave that in the fridge for another 3 hours to congeal. It is complex this stuff and I do not bump or knock the product whilst it is either cooking or congealing.

What I take out of that yoghurt story is that food quality is declining. I'll be curious to read of your experiences with the new starter culture.

Jo said…
Chris, yes, I think with commercial food every ingredient has to be reduced to the lowest possible level to keep costs down.. and with pasteurised milk you are taking out all the natural bacteria (ok, this is probably a good thing with the big commercial dairy operations) and then adding back a very small number of registered bacteria so it can be listed on the ingredients panel. I like your idea of getting your hands on some reputable raw milk to use as a starter.. thanks for your yoghurt method. I'll be giving it another go soon.
In answer to your other question above about storing preserves. Well, passata stashed under the bed, apples under the hall table with the sauerkraut and salsa and pear butter squeezed behind the dishes in the kitchen cupboards. Oh, for a cellar!
Hey Jo, I'm really enjoying the book recommendations. I ordered a couple through the library and am waiting patiently!
I think the inca berry alternative title must be 'a thing' as I remember seeing one many years ago for sale in that big green boxy shed that sells such things - however it looked more like a ground cherry to me than a cape gooseberry. Anyway, cape gooseberries are well loved around these parts.

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