Real Food
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Home Brewing Kombucha

mother
Pixabay/timolivermetz

What is all the hype about this funky tea known as Kombucha? Kombucha most likely started in China and spread to Russian over 100 years ago. It is often called mushroom tea because if the scoby that forms on the top, resembling a mushroom. Scoby is actually an acronym for symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast.

Kombucha contains multiple species of yeast and bacteria along with the organic acids, active enzymes, amino acids, and vitamin C. According to the American Cancer Society "Kombucha tea has been promoted as a cure-all for a wide range of conditions including baldness, insomnia, intestinal disorders, arthritis, chronic fatigue syndrome, multiple sclerosis, AIDS, and cancer. Supporters say that Kombucha tea can boost the immune system and reverse the aging process." I will caution you however that there is little scientific evidence to support such strong claims.

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For us Kombucha is fun to make, and is highly recommended among many of my holistic friends. It is naturally fermented with a living colony of bacteria and yeast, which is helpful for digestive health. I think it smells a little strong, but is actually pleasant tasting.

Instructions for Making Kombucha Tea

Ingredients

14 cups water
1 cup sugar
8 tea bags
1 cupstarter tea or vinegar
kombucha culture

Directions

1. Combine hot water (14 cups for 1 gallon) and sugar (1 cup) in the glass jar you intend on using to brew the tea. Stir until the sugar dissolves. The water should be hot enough to steep the tea but does not have to be boiling.

2. Place the tea or tea bags in the sugar water to steep. Use 8 tea bags for a gallon of tea. I prefer the flavor of green tea, but you can also use black tea. Try to find an organic tea. If you use loose tea leaves use 4 tbsp for a gallon of tea.

3. Cool the mixture to room temperature. The tea may be left in the liquid as it cools. Once cooled remove the tea bags.

4. Add starter tea from a previous batch to the liquid. If you do not have starter tea, distilled white vinegar may be substituted. If using vinegar use 2 cups for a gallon of tea.

5. Add an active kombucha scoby (culture).

6. Cover the jar with a towel or coffee filter and secure with a rubber band. Ants can smell sweet tea a mile away.

7. Allow the mixture to sit undisturbed at 68-85°F, out of direct sunlight, for 7-30 days, or to taste. The longer the kombucha ferments, the less sweet and more vinegary it will taste.

Keep the scoby and about 1 cup of the liquid from the bottom of the jar to use as starter tea for the next batch. You will have the “mother scoby” that you added and a new “baby scoby” that will have formed on the top. You can reuse your mother scoby, and gift your baby.

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The finished kombucha can be flavored, or enjoyed plain. Keep sealed with an airtight lid at room temp for an additional 7 days with added fruit if you like a fizzy drink like soda.  Otherwise store in the fridge to stop the fermentation process.  These little bottles of “hippy tea” have been popping up all over grocery stores for about $3 a bottle, but you can make it at home for about $1 a gallon. I'm not sure that it's a cure-all, but at worst you have a delightful and affordable probiotic.

Melissa Souza lives on a 1-acre, organically managed homestead property in rural Washington State where she raises backyard chickens and meat rabbits and grows plums, apples, pears, a variety of berries, and all the produce her family needs. She loves to inspire other families to save money, be together, and take steps toward self-reliance no matter where they live.


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.

This Indigenous Corn Pinole 'Smoothie' Recipe Packs a Punch

pinole drink resize

Pinole smoothie by Renee Benoit

Pinole (Pin-Nole) is my new favorite smoothie. It’s a Southwestern food staple made out of native corn that has been roasted and ground into a fine powder. From my experience I have found that it’s best when mixed with milk and sweetened with honey for a creamy drink much like a milkshake. It can also be added to other foods as a supplement or thickening agent or even eaten alone. Try it when back packing or hiking just like Native Americans did when they were on the go. It’s light weight and durable and doesn’t mold or rot if you keep it dry.

Pinole has been a staple food for a very long time in northern Mexico and the southwestern United States but corn wasn’t always the familiar corn we’re used to. Archeao-botanists believe that corn was developed over thousands of years from “teosinte” grass. Teosinte was cultivated in Mexico and Central America and selected to eventually become corn as we know it. It’s not common but farmers in Mexico still let wild teosinte plants grow around the edges of their cornfields because they believe that it makes the domestic corn plants 'stronger'. Early types of corn then made their way through trade to the Southwest U.S. by 4,000 years ago.

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Corn teosinte, Photo credit: Nicolle Rager Fuller, National Science Foundation

Back in the days when travel was on foot or horseback, Pinole was the preferred food. It was easy to carry because it was dry and needed only a little bit of water to be satisfying and nutritious meal.

It’s a concentrated source of vitamins, minerals, fiber and antioxidants. Just two ounces of pinole provides 7 grams of fiber, 40 grams of complex carbohydrates, and 100 milligrams of anthocyanins; a specific antioxidant that may help reduce rates of cardiovascular disease and cancer and boost cognitive function.

Let’s make a Pinole Smoothie!

Making pinole is very easy. Just add 3 tablespoons (more or less to taste) pinole to 8 ounces of liquid of your choice: milk or nut beverage is best in my opinion but fruit juice is also very good. I tried mixing it with water but found too bland for my taste so experiment with what tastes best to you. I mixed mine with soy milk because I don’t tolerate cow’s milk very well. It was delicious.

You can add a bit of raw sugar, honey, cinnamon or vanilla. I found that honey mixes well. If you use raw sugar let it sit for a while until the sugar dissolves otherwise you have a crunchy texture! You can also blend it with ice in a blender for an iced drink. You can also add any jam that tastes good to you.

Pinole makes a great supplement! You can also add it to hot cocoa, hot cereal, pancakes, waffles, cakes, cookies, muffins, or pudding. You can also sprinkle it over ice cream or yogurt.

The great thing about Pinole is that it’s a food stuff that is derived from grains that are adapted to the environment and that means another way to tread lightly on Mother Earth.

You can buy pinole from Ramona Farms in Sacaton, Arizona.


Renée Benoit is a writer, artist, ranch caretaker and dedicated do-it-yourselfer who homesteads a small ranch in the southeast corner of Arizona near the Mexican border. Connect with Renée at RL Benoit, and read all of her MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts.


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts.

Making Hemp Milk Is Easier Than You Think

Hemp Milk DIY

Photo by Amanda Nicklaus

Recently I watched a comedy bit about the overwhelming amount of milk choices offered in coffee shops, and while it was quite exaggerated, humor is rooted in truth: there are a lot of plant-based alternative “milks” available in coffee shops and grocery stores, and trying to make a decision can turn into a much more complicated choice than necessary.

What’s more, often people choose plant milks because they believe they are healthier than cow’s milk, but if one reads the nutrition label on cartons and bottles of plant milks, they will see a lot of extra ingredients added, including cane sugar. If you are like me and are not trying to get your daily sugar dose in your milk, you might be frustrated at the offerings of your local co-op or grocery store. There’s good news, however: it can be incredibly easy — and cheap — to make your own plant milk.

How to Affordably Make Hemp Milk

There are plenty of seeds, nuts, and other plants you can try your hand at: soy, coconut, almond, cashew, macadamia, rice, oats, flax, even quinoa and pea. But my favorite, and one of the easiest to make from scratch, is hemp milk. Hemp milk has more healthy fats and proteins than many other plant milks (and no, it cannot get you high—hemp seeds do not contain THC). It has a slightly nutty flavor and creamy yet subtly chalky consistency.

And hemp seeds are incredibly affordable: 12 ounces of hemp seeds can cost between $10-15, which is a lot of milk: about 12 cups, which is a much better deal than the standard plant milk quart-sized carton which is about four cups of milk. So if you buy hemp seeds in bulk, you’re getting an even better deal.

Hemp Milk Recipe at Home

Hemp milk is amazingly easy to make: just mix hemp seeds and water in a 1:8 ratio respectively in a blender for at least one minute. If you want it creamier, strain it through cheesecloth to catch any residual seed particles. That’s it! You can also make it sweeter if you do like your milks sweetened, and the beauty of it is that you can control what type and how much sweetener you use; monk fruit or maple syrup is generally healthier than refined cane sugar.

Sometimes when homesteading and trying to accomplish ambitious DIY goals, we overlook the simplest things, or think that something is much more complicated than it is and save it for special occasions. I’ve bought hemp seeds twice in the past couple of months and have used hemp milk nearly every day! Before making my own, I was buying a couple of cartons of hemp milk almost weekly. It is so empowering to find simple swaps to make and cut down on your weekly grocery budget. Plus, it tastes so much better knowing I’ve made it myself, and that it is always fresh! Making hemp milk is just one more way to feel connected to the earth and all it has to offer.


Amanda Nicklaus is a writer and aspiring urban homesteader based in Minneapolis. She spends her free time trying new recipes, going to farmers markets, and writing about everything she learns. Read all of Amanda’s MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts.

The Basics of Starting a Homestead Canning Business

 

Marie's products feature prominently on sales location Photo credit by Rosemarie Garrison

Few things in a baker's kitchen rival the smell of hot fresh bread coming straight from the oven. As hot loaves are being carefully pulled from the oven racks, most will have already decided what they'd like to put on a slice or two.

In my opinion, homemade bread at the peak of freshness deserves a spotlight all its own. I would not want to risk spoiling the experience by putting too many ingredients on the bread. Instead, a light touch of butter with fresh jam hits all the right notes!

It just so happened that one morning while enjoying a simple breakfast of toast with jam, I noticed that the delicious jar of mulberry jam was getting close to half empty. Concerned, I wondered if I would be able to order another jar, because my son had purchased the jam from another city four hours away. I noticed a website address printed on the lid of the jar. After leaving an email through the website, I received a prompt reply with phone numbers for further communication. I was very hopeful that I would reach someone personally and that the company was still in existence.

Marie's Story of a Home Jam and Jelly Business

Meet Rose Marie Garrison, owner of Marie's Jelly Jams & Herbs. Marie operates the canning business from her north Florida homestead. Before starting her business, Marie had been making jams and jellies for family and friends for well over 35 years. Over the phone, Marie shared with me that she had not seriously considered the idea of going into business, because she was satisfied with making the jams and jellies and giving them away as gifts, for free.

It was not until friends and family, especially her kids, suggested that Marie start selling her jams and jellies, that she began to seriously consider turning something that she enjoyed into a business. From there, Marie received the necessary training and licensure to operate her delicious homestead canning business.

Marie began her business selling jams and jellies at a local Farmer's Market. Marie answered a few  questions that I had about her business and I learned interesting pointers. I have shared that information below, along with basic considerations when starting a homestead canning business.

In 2014, Marie contacted a local neighborhood improvement association, which guided her through the necessary preliminary steps to open and operate her business. Although a Cottage Food License permits preparation of products from a home kitchen, there are times when Marie will use a local commercial kitchen to prepare and package large quantities of products.

Marie grows her own fruit, herbs and peppers in her backyard garden. She's especially fond of a particularly cold hearty variety of lemon, known as a Meyers lemon. The fruit is added to some of her products for taste and acidity. When it comes to pesticides, Marie prefers a general purpose pesticide, mixing crushed garlic, water and a mild liquid soap solution, which she adds to a sprayer.

Not shy about foraging, Marie will ask neighbors who do not appear to be fully utilizing their fruit trees if she may take some of the fruit. Oftentimes, those casual contacts will become reliable sources of seasonal fruit for her operation. Marie will source tropical fruits, such as mangoes, from relatives living in areas where the fruit grows abundantly.

When I asked Marie if she could change anything about the canning business, she simply answered, "more jars." She further explained  that the lack of jars and lids are sometimes unavailable, due to the increasing popularity of home food canning.

I was curious if Marie was satisfied with current size of her business and wondered if she had considered scaling the size of her business up or down? Marie said that she's perfectly happy with the size of her business as it is. She has 40 flavors of jams and jellies and occasionally will offer special flavors for a limited time or make custom recipes to suit individual customers.

When it comes to her business, Marie has always preferred quality over quantity. This core principle has served her well with repeat business and strong customer relationships.

Listed below are 10 foods which have long expiration dates:

  • White Rice
  • Honey
  • Salt
  • Soy Sauce
  • Sugar
  • Dried Beans
  • Pure Maple Syrup
  • Powdered Milk
  • Hard Liquor
  • Pemmican

Considerations When Starting a Homestead Canning Business

Name. Carefully select a name which best suits the product and/or communicates some aspect or philosophy of the business.

Licenses. Obtain all necessary licensure.

Add a complimentary mix of products to jump start sales. Photo credit by Rosemarie Garrison

Products. Fruits and pickled vegetables are ideal foods to start with, due to their high-acid pH values. The higher pH value foods are safer and have longer shelf lives. Also consider adding a customized mix of seasonings to shelf-stable foods, like salt. Combining other shelf-stable ingredients to create an original recipe of seasoning salt. Keep in mind that products may not stay as shelf-stable once other ingredients are added.

Sourcing.You may be able to grow your own fruit and vegetables for your products with adequate land space for your operation. Raised beds and pots may address poor soil conditions. Vertical gardening may allow certain plants to be grown in tight spaces.

Negotiate acceptable pricing at local retail and wholesale farmer's markets. Follow best practices when selecting quality fruits and vegetables. Keep in mind that a gently bruised tomato may be perfectly acceptable for use in some marinara sauce recipes, but totally unacceptable when used in pickled tomato recipes. Negotiate your best price according to quality and use the degrees of ripeness of quality produce wisely.

Demand. The extent of which there is favorable response to the product. Collect data to get an idea of the potential demand for your canning business.

Sell-ability. Factors which make the products highly attractive to customers and their ability to be sold.

Profitability. Product profitability depends on many factors. Primarily, the overall cost to produce the products versus the actual sales generated by the products. Profitability factors may be influenced by demand, associated business costs, availability of products, past, present and future sales performance should be carefully considered.

Keep business and personal banking accounts separate. Photo credit by Pexel 

Feasibility. Generally, the product is feasible if the effort required to produce the product is adequately rewarded. Each person's feasibility threshold is different. Ask yourself are the products relatively easy to obtain, produce and sell repeatedly?

Seasonality. Are there known seasonal sales periods characterized by high or low sales? Are there ways to offset poor sales or capitalize on the profits? Plan and prepare for these periods accordingly.

Marketing. Consider broad and narrow approaches to effective marketing opportunities. Monitor Google search and other factors influencing customer accessibility. Make sure that labels are visually appealing and appropriate for the product and provide customer service contact information.They should also include any necessary product information, as well as any promotional information about the product as desired.

Online Sales. Use a visibly attractive, highly functional website. Promote/act on favorable branding opportunities.

In Person Sales. The shop should be set-up to perform and function well and its appearance should positively reflect the brand. The shop should always strive to be customer friendly.

Location. Choose the best possible location for your type of business. Make sure that your signs are performing their jobs well at all times. Make adjustments as necessary.

Customer Service. Adopt a "customer first" approach with many aspects of your business. Strive to make the entire process as seamless and as satisfying as possible for customers. Make every attempt to resolve any issues with courtesy, fairness and respect.

Hardware for Business. Consider all available sources to purchase quality phones, cell phones, tablets and computers which support your business. You may find suitable used or refurbished models with acceptable data options for typical business functions, performance, capability, etc. Select the quality and design of packaging, printed custom labels with contact information. Choose your best delivery /or shipping methods. Select mobile pay terminals that accept different payment types. When starting out, carefully/conservatively order custom printed paper, packaging, labels, receipts, etc. If possible, you may want to use standard, non-customized paper products at first. This allows time to work out any kinks in the beginning stages of the business. Later, you may choose to invest more in this area of the business.

Software for Business. Start with a quality website that is visually appealing, organized, with well-spaced text and has a shopping cart feature. Use high quality, well-lit digital images. Select an effective business and tax software for all record keeping. Make sure to keep business and personal banking separate by establishing a business bank account. Compare mobile payment terminals that accept and link multiple forms of payment to your cell phone, tablet, computer, etc.

If a homestead canning business is what you desire, give it your all. Learn all of the safety concerns regarding home canning, experiment, have fun and you will be on your way. Wishing you much success and may your favorite jam jar never reach the half empty mark, but always stay half full!


Monica White is a freelance writer, member of the Georgia Air National Guard, and an avid runner and cyclist who loves the great outdoors and all things DIY. She divides her time between Tampa and her central Florida property, where she's growing a self-sufficient homestead. Connect with Monica on her outdoor lifestyle blog, on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Read all of her MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts.

Daily Bread: The Delectable, No-Knead Lahey Method

Homemade loaf

Daily bread. Few two words evoke such primal survival instincts, elicit universal ties to humanity or just make your mouth water, depending on who you are. They might conjure spiritual stirrings, bringing to mind the staff of life. You might recall your grandmother in the kitchen or salivate at the mere thought of your local bakery. For some the institution of bread and its associated rituals runs deep in their lives while for others, it is just another carb.

Around the globe and across time, most cultures have eaten a version of this staple to the extent that their bread has become part of their cultural identity. For many, this part of the meal is as integral as, yes, water. On the contrary, most Americans lack any semblance of reverence for the lovely loaf. Until I discovered The Lahey Method recently, I was like most Americans.

What is the Lahey Method of Bread Baking?

My Bread: The Revolutionary No-Work, No-Knead Method by Jim Lahey (published by W.W. Norton & Company) offered such an easy process of making bread that I couldn’t resist giving it a try. It especially appealed to me since my chronic wrist tendonitis takes kneading - and all of its related baked goods - off of my kitchen “to-do” list. Instead of all of the aerobic effort required by kneading, this method takes time and a little forethought. If you can manage those, you’ll be richly rewarded with surprisingly tasty loaves.

Mind you, I’ve had inklings of how enriching it can be to incorporate bread into your diet. We even tried growing wheat at the farm to make our own flour. When the ripe harvest of winter wheat was picked clean kernel by kernel by marauding deer and turkey, I rethought the romantic notion of crop-to-table. I’ve also had the privilege of glimpsing the paramount place bread can hold culturally. When I lived in France, bakeries brimmed with lively conversation as lines spilled out doors at day’s end when 9-to-5ers popped in for their daily loaf en route home to dinner. Baguettes along with traditional loaves of all shapes and sizes were snatched up with enthusiasm.

Back at home we have a renowned chef in our family, John Pisto of Monterey, California, who gifted my boyfriend the aforementioned cookbook which has enriched our meals with the staple that was missing from our menu. As Jim Lahey puts it, Good bread should be a masterpiece of contrast, crackling as you bite through the browned, malty-smelly crust, then deeply satisfying as you get to the meaty, chewy crumb with its distinct wheaten, slightly acidic taste. If that sounds appetizing to you, by all means try his method. Even loaves that I thought would be failures - when my attempts at following his steps strayed from his approach - yielded bread fitting his lofty description if I just kept going and got the loaf into the oven.

So, are you ready? Go to the source for his specific instructions, featured in his book replete with savory and sweet loaves, novel and traditional varieties and recipes that incorporate bread into sandwiches, soups and even desserts. He says: “The book is all about learning to bake with the Lahey approach, not robotically following instructions”. What follows is my interpretation of his approach.

No-Knead Bread Recipe Using the Lahey Method

Ingredients you'll need

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups bread flour      
  • 1 ¼ teaspoons table salt        
  • ¼ teaspoon instant or active dry yeast          
  • 1 1/3 cups cool water
  • Wheat bran, cornmeal or additional flour for dusting   

Directions:

Step One

Mix all ingredients into a bowl large enough to allow the mixture to at least double, making sure that the dough is very sticky to the touch. Cover the bowl and let it sit at room temperature (ideally 72 degrees), out of direct sunlight, until the dough has more than doubled and the surface is bubbly. This will take 12-18 hours. The fermentation occurring during this slow rise will impart the flavor, so be patient.

Mixed bread ingredients

First dough rise

Step Two

Generously dust a work surface with flour. Scrape the dough onto the board or surface, using floured hands or a bowl scraper to nudge and tuck the dough into round, or the shape of your baking vessel (mine is oval).  The dough will be very sticky and resemble batter as much as dough. Do not add flour to this loose, sticky mass. Just shape with floured hands.

Pouring out the dough

Dough shaped on towel

Step Three

Place a cotton or linen tea towel (Lahey cautions against terry cloth) on your work surface and generously sprinkle with wheat bran, cornmeal or flour. Gently transfer the loaf to the towel, seam side down.

Confession: I’ve combined Steps two and three, pouring the dough “batter” right onto a liberally dusted cloth/ towel and coaxed the shape more by folding the dough in and over on itself than by tucking alone. This reduced handling and avoided transferring and flipping the loose mass that tends to have a mind of its own.

Fold the ends of the towel loosely over the dough to cover it and place it in a warm, draft-free spot for 1-2 hours allowing it to nearly double. If you gently poke it with your finger, making the indentation about ¼ inch deep, the impression should hold.

Wrapped loaf for second rise

Step Four

A half-hour before the end of the second rise, preheat the oven to 475 degrees F, with the rack in the lower third position, and place your heavy cooking pot in the center of the rack. Lahey bakes the bread in what he calls “an oven within an oven”. He says to use an enameled cast-iron (Le Creuset), seasoned cast-iron (Lodge) or all-ceramic (Emile Henry) pot.

Confession: Lacking these pots, I use an oval ceramic casserole dish inside an enamel camping cookware roasting pot and have had success. Lahey says “don’t feel too uptight about any of this”, and encourages improvisation once the basic method is understood, so I trust he’d approve.

Step Five

Using pot holders, carefully remove the HOT preheated pot from the oven and uncover it. Unfold the tea towel, lightly dust the dough with flour or bran and quickly but gently either lift with your hands or “pour” the dough, inverting it into the pot. Cover the pot and bake for 30 minutes.

NOTE: Several times I’ve had the dough stick to the towel. Be not afraid: dust your hands with flour or coax the dough off the towel with a baking spatula and just keep going. Don’t worry if it is not neat and tidy. These loaves not only have flavor and texture, but they may develop personality, too! Fear not.

dough ready to bake

Step Six

Remove the lid and continue baking the bread 15-30 minutes more, until it achieves a deep chestnut color but isn’t burned. When done, carefully remove the loaf from the cooking pot with a heatproof spatula or pot holders and place it on a rack to cool thoroughly, about an hour. Resist tearing or slicing it until it is completely cool.

Freshly-baked bread loaf

Et voilà! Lahey suggests that you take your time with your first bite. He says: “Think of the first bite as you would the first taste of a glass of wine: smell it (there should be that touch of maltiness), chew it slowly to appreciate its almost meaty texture, and sense where it came from in its hint of wheat. Enjoy it. You baked it, and you did a good job”.

After you’ve delighted in the delectable fruit of your labor and wonder how to keep it fresh lacking an old-fashioned bread box, I’ve found that reusable beeswax wraps work great for preserving your homemade goodness.


Sarah Joplin has worked in art sales and publishing for more than 25 years. Having grown up on 50 acres near the Missouri River, Sarah’s extensive travels have made her appreciate her modest farm in Mid-Missouri all the more. Read all of Sarah’s MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts.

Beet Kvass: A Fermented Drink

Beet kvass is a fermented, Ukranian drink that gives us not only probiotics and digestive enzymes, but is a key aid in detoxifying the body.

in glasses
Photo by Celeste Longacre

Fermenting anything heightens its nutritional value and adds beneficial microorganisms that are loved by our gut biome. And beets, as it turns out, are powerhouses of nutrition.

Beets have been known to fight inflammation, boost stamina, prevent cataracts, help indigestion, improve blood circulation, aid gall bladder complaints and help to prevent macular degeneration. They also defend against free radicals, help to prevent blood clots, minimize arthritis, bronchitis, diabetes and chronic pain as well as increase the body's oxygen uptake. It has even been suggested that beets are anti-cancer. They are particularly useful in the excretion of toxins

Beets contain substances that aid in the body's Phase 2 detoxification process. This is the step that our bodies use to bind unwanted toxic substances with particular nutrient groups. This process takes the toxins and makes them water-soluable which allows them to be excreted in the urine.

Beets are also high in vitamin C, iron, manganese, copper, magnesium, potassium, flavonoids and phosphorus. Some say that their phytonutrients have the particular job of destroying disease processes.

Beets were originally grown for their greens. One of the first mentions of their use is found in Assyrian texts written around 800 BC where they were reported to be part of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon. It wasn't until the 1500s that they began being grown for their root. In 1747, Germans Andreas Sigismund Marggraf along with his student, Franz Achard, developed a way to extract sugar from beets. This became important when Napoleon Bonaparte got cut off from imports by the British blockade and announced an embargo on their products. The production in the United States took off after we placed an embargo on Cuba — our major sugar producer.

All of the benefits of beets are not only available in beet kvass, but are enhanced. It can be made quite inexpensively and quickly. It's best to use only organic ingredients.

Beet Kvass Recipe

Ingredients

  • 2 large or 4 medium organic beets
  • 1 clove organic garlic
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt or Himalayan pink salt
  • 1/4 cup home made whey* (optional)
  • 1 quart jar
  • good quality water; no chlorine or flouride

Directions

1. Wash beets and cut them into chunks. Don't grate them as this would produce an alcoholic drink. Be sure to include the rough part just under the stem.

cut into chunks
Photo by Celeste Longacre

2. This is the most nutritious part of the beet and you don't want to leave it out, even though you wouldn't serve it to guests, because you are not going to be eating the beets. Place the beets in the jar along with the garlic, salt and whey, if available.

with salt, whey & garlic
Photo by Celeste Longacre

3. Fill with water leaving an inch of head space or air at the top. Seal firmly. Place on the counter for three days, shaking several times a day. Then, move the jar into the refrigerator.

done
Photo by Celeste Longacre

4. To serve, strain the liquid into glasses. 

If you are not used to ferments, start slow. A tablespoon a day would suffice. You can increase the amount slowly until you can have all you want.

Homemade Whey

You need to have access to raw milk to make whey. If you do, simply leave it on the counter until it separates.

separating whey
Photo by Celeste Longacre

This takes from three to seven days depending on the temperature in the room. Then, strain it through cheesecloth placed in a strainer over a bowl. The whey will drip through and the curds will stay in the cheesecloth.

in cheesecloth
Photo by Celeste Longacre
the whey
Photo by Celeste Longacre

You can add some chives or dill or other herbs to the curds and make a dip.

Since I began drinking fruit and beet kvass six years ago, I haven't been sick a single day.


Celeste Longacre and her husband, Bob, have lived sustainably for more than 35 years. They grow almost all of their vegetables for the year and preserve them by freezing, canning, drying and using a home -built root cellar. Celeste ferments much of the couple’s produce and makes her own sauerkraut, kimchee, and fruit and beet kvass. She is the author of Celeste’s Garden Delights and writes a gardening blog for The Old Farmer’s Almanac. For more information, visit Celeste’s website, and read all of her MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.

The Marvelous, Magical Tepary Bean

tepary beans resize

Now that we are going to make Arizona our new home, I have set about to learn everything I can about this desert climate and what plants thrive here. You can get only so much information from a book or online. Being in the field and seeing the actual plant is the best thing one can do. So, we decided to make a trip to the Sonora Desert Museum near Tucson and we were pleased to see they had many plants with clear identifying placards. Without actual plants to look at with identifying markers, I would be up the creek without a paddle because there are so many varieties of plants that have similar characteristics which makes it hard for an amateur botanist like me to figure out what’s what.

In addition to being able to identify non-edible plants I also want to know what edible foodstuffs grow well here. Luckily, there are many food plants that native peoples have developed over thousands of years and those plants are adapted to drought conditions and do very well.

One of the crops that the Tohono O’Odham people have developed is the Tepary bean (Tep-Pah-Ree). It’s a bean that is high in protein and fiber with many nutrients. A quarter cup dry has 410 calories, 1,910 mg of potassium, and 21 grams of protein among other things. Tepary beans come in white, red, brown and black. They are small and hold their shape in cooking like the Pinquito bean from the Santa Maria area of California.

The recipe I offer here is from Ramona Farms in Sacaton, Arizona, and is a traditional Tohono O’Odham meal. You can't buy the traditional beans, corn or wheat berries on Amazon or at your grocery store. One of the best places to buy them is straight from the grower:

Traditional Poshol

This dish is very, very easy to make and qualifies as a one-pot meal. It is hearty, satisfying and simply delicious!

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. tepary beans (dry, cleaned, rinsed)
  • 1/4 cup whole wheat kernels - uncooked
  • 1/8 cup dried roasted sweet corn - uncooked
  • 1/4 onion (diced or left whole to be fished out after cooking)
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 2 big pinches of cumin (or more to your taste)
  • 1 dried red chile pepper (whole)
  • 4 strips bacon fried & crumbled (optional, if left out this will be a vegan meal)

Directions:

1. Sort and rinse beans.

2. Put all the ingredients in your pot or crock pot and add water to cover plus 2 to 4 inches.

3. Bring all ingredients to a rapid boil for 30 minutes. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 6 hours (or until tender). This works very well in a crock pot. If you use a crock pot set on high for 6 hours or until tender.  Either way, take a look from time to time and add more water if the beans are not covered.

A little bit about Ramona Farms: From the ancient traditions of their desert farming heritage Ramona Farms offers wholesome, nutritious and delicious foods as their contribution to a better diet for all people in a world of dwindling wholesome food choices and water resources.

Ramona and her husband Terry have been farming on her home reservation, the Gila River Indian Community, for over forty years. The products they offer are part of their tradition and are grown without pesticides or herbicides and are non-GMO. These foods have been the cornerstone of their community’s diet for thousands of years. They do not sell seed. They share their food with you and ask for your cooperation in respecting and honoring their crops and products.


Renée Benoit is a writer, artist, ranch caretaker and dedicated do-it-yourselfer who currently lives in a 26-foot travel trailer with her husband, a cat, and two dogs while they travel the Western United States in search of beautiful, peaceful vistas and hijinks and shenanigans. Connect with Renée at RL Benoit, and read all of her MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts.


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts.







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