A Instagram page on food philosophy and affordable health through real food, developed into a series of zines by the same name.
Where Do Bananas Come From?
EAT SHIT & DIE
Chicken of Tomorrow
617. Batata (#sweetpotato but white on the inside and less sweet) harvest in Lares. As a very hilly place, the farmers develop terraces to grow in, calling back to a ancestral knowledge still visible through Central and South America in unused lands that still hold the shape of well developed terraces from generations ago. Developing level planting area allows for water to soak in and for a protection from erosion, once they are fully established. Traditional levels were developed with an a frame of sticks and, a string and a rock, and were used to level growing areas on entire mountain sides.
This is one of the 5 varieties that they planted here, figuring out which will best adapt to their area. The system that they shared with me, to develop good seed, is to plant a tuber, harvest and plant a vine, harvest and plant a tuber from that vine, and then harvest the vine of that last plant and use as your seed (5th generation). This adaptation produces seeds with much higher yields.
We also saw that the yield was higher the lower that we got on the hill. This was likely from a few factors. One, the bottom of the hill had collected the most erosion, specifically the smaller pieces of soil, leaving the higher side of the hill more clay like, and the lower side more loose, allowing the tubers to dig deeper and spread out more, making more and bigger potatoes.
Another factor is water. Produce is mostly water - a sweet potato is estimated 77% water - and so more water = bigger product. (Irrigated fields yield big potatoes that are higher in water content and lower in nutrition and flavor, while these unirrigated fields produce the most nutrition per ounce.) While water doesn’t noticeably pool on the surface, the water that soaks into the soil, waters the potatoes lower on the hill a little more due to gravity.
I saw similar results on other farms, growing roots at the base of a hill often means optimal growing conditions. Modern ag prefers flat land for big machinery, but learning to work with the landscape instead can produce the best results.
Most of these were for a CSA, but the ones i accidentally damaged during harvest made the best potato salad in the world.
616. Beautiful #sourdough breads made by beautiful farmers. Sourdough is completely affected by the environment it is made in, and so my first sourdoughs made in the tropics were super different than what I'm making in Virginia. Since my breads are simply flour, water, and salt, the biggest changing variables are the air and the energy that is put into the bread, which make a huge difference.
There was a big experiment a few years back to study this, they asked dozens of bakers from around the world to make sourdough from the same recipe with same exact flour, water, and salt, the only variables being themselves and their environments. The sourdough process, from started to loaf, takes a few weeks, and so while the physical ingredients remain the same, the affects of energy and environment compound. The resulting breads were vastly different, from dense to fluffy and from gray to red.
To develop a healthy starter, you start with flour and water and allow it to ferment, "feeding" the yeasts daily until the mixture is able to expand to double its size in 8 hours (due to carbon dioxide bubbles). Doing this in winter in Virginia takes me a week or two. In the mountains of Puerto Rico, it took one day for the mixture to nearly blow the top off the jar! The environment, so full of life, contains already powerful yeasts that are looking to ferment anything and everything, and near Puerto Rico's rainforest, it's even more intense.
Still, we stuck to the script and took time feeding the mixture to develop a few healthy strains, as opposed to the millions that shot it at first. But we were able to make our first bread in just 3 days.
Teaching this practice and skill to nearly a dozen people who work the land gave me so much joy - and to see how they received it, in love with the process and eager to make and share - waking up to start a new loaf every morning at sunrise. Café con pan is a Puerto Rican farmer tradition, one that has been exploited by big bread and coffee producers who don't care for the people's health. But with this, in a small but important way, they can take back their lives.
Second photo is the starter, super alive, after just 4 days.
615. Got back from Puerto Rico with @alexmatzke. Another amazing trip, learned and shared so much, the next few posts will be a little I learned from many amazing farmers.
Worked with my brother and sister at @proyectoagroecologicocampesino, building animal shelters and establishing growing areas. Gus is showing off a #sesameseed plant. They grow about 25 seeds to a pod.
Weather’s getting weird around the world and the Caribbean’s no exception. In Lares this is the dry season, which lasts about half the year. But when I say dry, that usually means a few days go by without rain, since the wet season means some rainfall almost daily. The dry season offers scattered light rains, so more controlled irrigation. Usually.
Nowadays things are more intense. The spans without rain are longer and when rain does come, it comes harder. Meaning the ground dries up and then hard rain rushes down, causing erosion and if you’re not prepared, rain isn’t collected by the land.
Design can help. Developing trenches can help control water, retaining and distributing accordingly, but they’re a pain in the ass to dig large-scale into a rocky hillside. Planting certain plants can help too - bamboo and bananas are great water reservoirs, collecting water when it’s wet and sharing water when it’s dry. Leaving some areas to remain wild forrest helps too, also holding the water for surrounding areas. Many farmers are implementing these tools, poco a poco (little by little), in efforts to develop what should’ve been developed generations ago. But as one farmer told me, climate change is not going poco a poco. And many farmers’ fight to develop a truly healthy landscape to provide food for people consumes their entire lives. The only thing unsustainable about sustainable farming is farmers themself.
Drought tolerant plants are becoming more necessary. Sesame seeds are a great example. We also discussed crops like sorghum, which stood tall in my garden when everything else died, and did the same here in PR. But capitalism won’t receive drought tolerant crops with open arms, they’re not cash crops - so the responsibility is on us all. Please follow and support @proyectoagroecologicocampesino.
614. Scarlett runner #beans post 2 of 2. When @alexmatzke and I harvested, we had waited a lil too long for some of the pods and they shriveled up. Of what we collected, half were still fresh and green, and and half were mostly dry. We took them all and processed accordingly. For dried beans, you don’t want to shell too early, they have to completely dry out to 1) take in all the nutrition from the drying shell and 2) to make sure that they don’t mold. So I left them for a few weeks, in the pod, in a paper bag. Drying by airflow allows them to dry with the most nutrition intact (as opposed to sun drying or other methods). Then shell them and move to a jar without a lid to completely dry before moving to any sealed container.
This is the result of dozens of pods: one small, half filled jar. This is because in one 6 inch pod, there are only 4 or 5 beans. Beans that shrink as they dry. To fill up a single 2 pound bag of beans, you need hundreds of pods, and dozens of plants. So I get way more food from eating them fresh in the pod. These dry beans will be saved as drought tolerant seed for next year.
The fresh beans I ate raw in salads, I cooked, and I pickled (photo 2). Fresh they are super sweet - most beans can be enjoyed green, some are less sweet and more starchy, others have more woody pods, but technically any bean can be eaten as a green bean. Most of our “green beans” in cans are black beans, based on economics, mostly. But these make really great, huge green beans.
I pickled these the lactofermentation method of just soaking in salt water, and I’ll crack them open soon.
Beans (and all legumes) are important for restoring the health of the garden. Even if I had lost the harvest I would be fine with the free, organic, and efficient fertilizer that the plants put into the ground. Through bacteria that lives on their roots, they synthesize nitrogen from the air and distribute it into the ground, spread out for all the other plants. So the last thing I want to do is pull out this plant, or till us the soil and let the nitrogen escape. Instead, I just harvest, pull the vines off the fence, and lay them to rest until spring.
613. Scarlet runner #beans post 1 of 2. Picked these gorgeous pink & purple beans in huge green pods with @alexmatzke a couple weeks back before first frost.
Indigenous Americans famously paired pole beans with corn, because the beans provided the nutrition that the corn need. But what’s beautiful is that the beans need the corn too. They need something to climb up, and corn or sunflowers are great candidates. They are sisters. These beans struggled at first, when I threw the bean seed with sunflower and corn seed, only the beans came out.
So they did what climbing vines do when they have nothing to climb - send out shoots that spin around reaching for whatever they can get. They won’t produce leaves or really grow until they can find something to grab onto, so they grow just a few inches at a time, spinning and spinning forever.
Without a corn coming up, I built them a trellis instead, a very rudimentary tripod of sticks with twine, and as soon as they grabbed on, the plants got huge. They scaled the trellis in a few days and leapt from the top of it to the nearby fence, and soon completely covered 25 feet of fence with a hundred pods coming out.
So when I say do-nothing gardening, I’m not saying we do nothing at all. The farmer’s duty is to navigate the natural world and see what they can do to produce more food, but modern agriculture has just tried to do the same thing we’ve always done, just with a different set of ethics than we’ve had before. I did not water these, fertilize them, or weed around them. But I didn’t abandon them either. I planted them intentionally, scattering them in the area I wanted with the companion plants I wanted. I cut back and then suppressed the surrounding plants with straw and leaves. And when I saw the plant struggling, I adapted, but while having the health of these plants, their plant friends, the future plants, and the world at large kept in mind.
But like my potatoes, (post 608) I waited a little too long to harvest and so many of the beans dried up, the green ones could be eaten fresh, frozen, or canned, and the dry ones were shelled for seed and dry beans, which I’ll follow up with in the next post.
Alex took pic 2.
612. Leaving town for a minute so I pickled the last #butternutsquash, peppers, and onions that were left on the shelf. I lost a few batches of pickles this year when doing the lacto-fermentation process of just submerging them in salt water. My understanding is that my salt content was too low, since the batches affected were the foods high in water content.
As osmosis moves the salt from the water into the food, for a beet or green bean, there was still left over salt in the solution. When pickling eggplants and cumbers, though, they leeched out water, diluting the solution, meaning now they were just floating around in water, and mold was allowed to develop. This means that I either need to add more salt to watery veggies, or add something else that will keep the veggies preserved when the salt level of the water drops. Vinegar is a perfect solution.
So these are not just preserved in vinegar as I did with cucumbers (post 607), they are still fermenting by good bacteria being allowed to develop in the salt water solution, I just added some vinegar to the mix as a safety, lowering the pH and restricting the spectrum of bacteria that can survive.
I put this together super quick - it took 10 minutes and it will last for a year - and it holds the freshness of the farmers market, adds the health of fermentation, and will be ready to eat straight out of the jar, to be added to rice, pasta, tortillas, salad, any quick meal.
This is my first time pickling butternut squash, but anything can be #pickled, providing lasting cheap health, and so I want to test every option I can. Recipe below.
611. I made #mead, honey wine, and it's so good! This is probably the easiest alcohol to make, which is why it's likely the first booze that was ever intentionally made.
Alcohol is super important, as a community factor, a medicine, an enlightenment tool, and as a builder of nations. European cities (and early U.S. cities) would not have been able to survive without beer, the most trusted clean water source for the developing metropolitans. However, alcohol today is the white bread version, the health pasteurized out and replaced with sugar water and chemicals. But homemade, it's a very important part of human life.
Honey is a glob of antibiotics and will never expire. It will crystalize in bottles, and to stop that you cook it. And so they started cooking honey to make it shelf stables for months or years, and in the process, the enzymes and yeast colonies inside the honey are destroyed. Because of this, most of the honey on the shelf is not actually honey anymore, but rather thick sugar water with food coloring. Raw, unfiltered honey is necessary to make mead, and should really be your only honey source if possible.
It took me a while to try making alcohol because home brewing is mostly done by bros that turn their garage into a lab, using tubes, bottles, and powders to make the drink, adding yeast packets and then powders that fix the problems that the yeast packets create, and waiting months. That's never appealed to me. It makes a predictable brew that you can trust will have a consistent flavor and results, similar to white bread made with yeast packets.
Here was my (successful!) attempt at making the sourdough equivalent of mead, using little more than honey and energy.
Stories of the first mead suggest it was honey left out in the rain in Egypt, and left to ferment. Again, honey alone will not ferment, but adding water can activate the yeasts inside. So really it's just this easy. But over the millennia, people have developed different techniques to control the brew.
Continued below. (Mead inspiration came from conversations of every brew from whiskey to jelly-packet wine with @dapperhistorian).
Received this from the van we helped load that headed down to help the Caravan. “On December 10th, hundreds including many faith leaders gathered at the Tijuana/San Diego border for the "Love Knows No Borders" peaceful demonstration only to be met with armed US military, Border Patrol and Homeland Security (Federal) Police.
Kneeling in front of the now blocked and heavily militarized zone dozens of faith leaders and demonstrators were arrested during this demonstration in solidarity and support of the recently arrived migrant caravan.
After the arrests the gathering was dispersed by police leaving behind only law enforcement and someone seeming to be a vigilante wielding an American flag who was not forced to leave with the group being dispersed.” @survivalmedia photos by @wambuigichobi
609. #Cornbread originated as a vegan health food, and the European palate for dairy and sugar changed it to what it is today. The earliest American cookbooks (late 1700s) wrote about using “Indian meal and flower" (flour), and adding sugar, eggs, and milk, some used butter, others used yeast or pearlash to lighten it, and a couple even added nutmeg or other spices.
This is a hell of a flex for the 1700s, to be putting so much gluttony into one food, which is why these books existed. Poor people weren't throwing out money for books (1/5 of the U.S. wasn't even allowed to read), especially not cookbooks. They were written by wealthy people with respected taste, for wealthy people to buy, so that wealthy people could stunt on their wealthy friends at dinner parties. But the food itself being cooked by slaves and servants.
The wealthy people of the U.S. have forever had a fetish for Europe and so there's a long history of slave holders sending slaves to France (where restaurants and high-end cooking in Europe began) to learn the European cooking style, and then return to the States to cook for them.
Europeans notoriously despised corn early on, first deciding it was only fit to feed their animals (an incredibly insulting treatment of a food considered a gift of the Gods, and surprise surprise, we feed our animals mostly corn today). Later, they decided it was only fit for the poor, shipping it to Europe for use as the poor person's bread or porridge. But it was finally accepted and appreciated, to an extent.
They cut it with dairy and sugar to sweeten it, added eggs and leaveners to make it rich and light, and then added wheat flour and spices to disguise the corn flavor.
On the flip side, cornbread started as a meal. With the focus being the honoring of maize. To sweeten it, add fresh sweet corn. To make it richer, corn oil. To lighten it, fill with sunflower seeds. But show off how great this gift is.
I don't want to argue that this cornbread is better than conventional cornbread, but rather suggest that it serves a different purpose.
Continued below. (Dope new clay pan by @lspressman)
608. @alexmatzke picking and our last #sweetpotato harvest. We waited too long to get a few of our foods collected and paid the price. NATURE DOES NOT WAIT. Nature does not know wtf time is nor does it give a shit about your obligations. Nature does not operate on a calendar, it cannot be predicted, and it will constantly surprise you. But one things is for sure, when nature is done, it’s done. And if you weren’t ready, you missed it.
So I see my gardening less as a plan of action, and more of a practice in patience and paying attention. There are clues of when things are ready, and my goal is to sync up as much as possible with Nature’s cycles of when it wants things to be planted, harvested, or tended to.
Some of the things I missed this year include: my clover seeds never came. My winter greens did not sprout. I didn’t harvest all my dandelions in time. I missed planting my second corn crop. I didn’t harvest my sweet potato leaves in time and they all completely wilted, and I didn’t harvest all my purple potatoes in time and they turned to mush.
Things didn’t sprout for a number of reasons, birds, no rain, too hot. And by “not harvest in time” I mean when you wait too long things get bitter or tough and woody. Or if you wait too long into the cold, your plants can basically implode.
When the temperature dips to freezing (32), even for a moment, it can freeze the water inside of plant cells and rupture them. Micro climates mean that this can happen sooner for one side of your yard than the other, or that you might be lucky enough to prolong your harvest even a few weeks from surviving one cold night. Some root veggies will also turn to mush from first frost, while other might last until there is a hard freeze (multiple hours of freezing temperature). This was realized as my purple potatoes turned to complete mush by now but some of my sweet potatoes survived. A couple had tips that had turned to mush, meaning they’re a little hardier, but nothing is safe from the extremes.
On the other hand, some stuff survives the winter. On the bottom right you can see my green onions that will last all winter, i shoulda planted more. More lessons added to the list.