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
575. Within the ideas of permaculture farming include creating growing zones in your land. Zone 1 represents the stuff closest to the house which needs the most maintenance - like your greenhouse or herbs. Zone 5 is your trees and established landscapes that will do their thing almost entirely without your help, and then zone 6 is the part of the land you don’t touch. You let Nature take over and you learn from it.
In my tiny garden I don’t practice growing in zones, but I still try to learn from what Nature does instinctually. So I let most “weeds” grow until I am certain they are interfering with my other plants, i.e. vines. This comes with discoveries that periodically completely change how I grow things. This is an important practice that I think every grower should take part in because no two gardens are the same. In the same yard you’ll get different amounts of sun and rain, different types of soil, and different microclimates. If your yard makes even a slight valley, that’s enough to collect cool air and make frost come sooner. Shade makes a spot dramatically cooler and concrete makes a spot dramatically hotter. Plant berry bushes next to your gutters and water them pop off!
So with my no-work garden it’s been a lot of this watching and learning, and I’ve learned so much!! Not only is it doing incredible with very little work or money, but I feel like it’s doing way better than when people spend hours a day in their garden. I look forward to taking it large scale.
My most recent discovery is that I’m growing #sorghum completely by mistake. Remember how I have been spreading bird seed to get rid of the mosquitos? Turns out some got spread into the wgarden too - a decent amount really, and it’s sprouted. I thought they were corn until they developed this seed head that I had to google, and they are actually grain sorghum, also called milo, that came up with no help at all. This is because this ancient grain from Africa is super drought tolerant, so while the rest of my garden is doing well, these are doing great!
(Sorry it’s so quiet!) I wanna tell y’all about the Puerto Rican farmers I’ve been working with. PAC (@ProyectoAgroecologicoCampesino) which roughly means the Rural Agroecology Project is a an amazing group of farmers and community members dedicated to bringing good food and sustainable living to Puerto Rico, especially those living outside of the major cities. They asked that I make this video because people have for the most part forgotten about Puerto Rico, although over 9 months later there are still thousands of families still in the dark. This is the longest blackout in US history and the second longest ever, not to mention everything that has been happening well before Maria.
They’ve been working incredible hard for their communities across the island, doing everything they can to support recovery and growth. And they want to offer these helps at little to no cost to community members. Their workshops cover everything from seed saving to sustainable building to fermenting and preserving healthy foods, and they are free to the community, hosted by volunteers. These workshops have convinced non growers to grow, and conventional growers to grow more naturally. They are working to build seed banks and tool shares, as well as expand their community library, these endeavors will bring about powerful change, but need our support. Please consider continuing to contribute how you can at the link in my bio. Thank you.
573. #Tamales have a history nearly as old as corn itself (7,000-12,000 years) as they were invented as a portable and storable way to eat prepared corn. The story goes that they were invented in wartime - as many of the world's most innovative inventions are - in order to stock the armies with food on the go.
The process is beautiful - cook corn inside what it was brought into the world in, making the final product a more complete meal. You see this in Puerto Rican pasteles that are bananas cooked in banana leaf and in asian cuisines that have bamboo shoots cooking in bamboo leaves, but short of figs cooked in fig leaves, or grapes cooked in grape leaves, there are few foods out there quite as perfect as tamales.
At one time, corn was a staple for hundreds of millions of people throughout the Americas from the southern end of South America all the way to about the Canada-U.S. border. Journals written by Europeans noted that to get to some small villages, they burned down six square miles of corn fields. Corn was everything, nearly every meal included it and all other foods were extras, to be used as fillings, sauces, or sides for a corn based meal.
There are (were) thousands of types of corn, all colors of the rainbow and adapted to all terrains from tropics to desert to mountains. And so there are thousands of variations on how to make tamales. Depending on the water content of the corn you might have added more or less water, depending on the animal availability you might add stock or butter or lard (both butter and lard coming from Europeans, so neither are original, but still are often considered integral today.) And depending on what's around you, you might add meats, poultries, fish, nuts, frog, bugs, beans, fruit - anything you want.
With the modern convenience of a blender, making tamales is actually really easy - even though still a bit labor intensive. Many are made with cornmeal or a corn flour, but tamales de elote are made with fresh sweet corn straight off the cob.
First you need to dissect the cob. Peel back the leaves, trying not to rip them, lay them out flat and press them down with a heavy pan/book to flatten them. Continued below.
572. My Hopi Blue #Corn is developing ears! When the plant gets about 2/3 if it’s final height, it sends up tassels, the male reproductive organ with pollen. Then a few days later a husk develop and starts to develop a cob, and sends these out. These are the silks, the female organ of the corn. Each string is from a single kernel, reaching out into the air to grab onto some pollen. They each have little hairs (zoom in) to help grab pollen that will then transport them down to the kernels (seeds) on the cob. If you’ve ever seen corn that was only half full of kernels, it wasn’t fully pollinated.
To ensure complete pollination, I plant them close together so they pollinate each other. 4-8 in a tight circle about the size of my hand. Beans grow up the stalks, tying the bundles together and replenishing the Earth with the nitrogen used to make the corn.
On the large corn fields were plant them far apart, enough distance for people and harvesting machines to go through, and so manual pollination can become necessary.
Each plant develops one ear of corn, sometimes 2. So it’s not something to take for granted. I used every part of the corn. I will save some kernels for next year - I’ve grown them in a special drought tolerant manner that will make stronger plants next year. I’ll eat some fresh and grind the rest for the most amazing blue tortillas. I’ll roast them in the husk for extra flavor or save the husks to cook other things in. It’s like aluminum foil that gives flavor and nutrition to your food without killing the environment. I’ll use the cob in my rocket stove, just 3 cobs enough to cook a meal on. And these, the silks, I’ll save for medicine.
A powerful diuretic, they are great for kidney and bladder health. They are used to treat everything from kidney stones and UTIs to bed wetting, with immediate results. Harvest and use fresh or dry and save them all winter. I have a big jar full in my fridge from a bbq last week, a single ear of corn giving enough for 4 or 5 doses of tea. I particularly use it when I fast to jumpstart my digestion and clean out my kidneys (my body’s filter system). Drink diuretics regularly to keep everything working as it should.
Sacred Ponca corn is recognized and protected by federal law and so for years the Ponca Nation ingeniously plants it in the proposed path of the Keystone XL pipeline. This is an image by my partner @alexmatzke from last week, as in a historic moment, the Ponca Nation was transferred back a small part of their land by farmers in Nebraska. Now this spot is protected by law, but we know how well U.S. law has treated Indian Nations in the past. And we know how little we seem to care about water in this country.
This variety is known as the Ponca Trail of Tears Sacred corn, because it was brought with the tribe when in 1877 the were forced out of Northeast Nebraska and escorted by military guard 500 miles South into Oklahoma. Refused permission to return to their homes, some slipped away and joined tribes back in the north.
There are, or were, thousands of varieties of corn, every color of the rainbow, every size and shape, according to the land and the people growing it. Similar to how Champagne grapes only legally grow in Champagne, France or how key limes were regular limes dwarfed by the Earth of the Florida Keys, many corns are only able to be grown in certain areas, in certain ways. And so we have lost countless varieties of corn - literal thousands - from the displacement, forced migration, and murder of the peoples who held this knowledge. Many Trail of Tears variety seeds of corn, or beans, or tomatoes could not grow in the new locations the tribes were forced into, and are only saved by returning to that land. There are stories of tribes that have safeguarded just a few kernels of seed for well over a hundred years, holding on to the last tread of their culture, trying again and again to produce more, but the often very poor soil quality of reservations produces nothing.
On top that we have climate change, destruction of soil flora, infestation of gmo corn, and the extinction of pollinating bugs, to name a few of the issues, standing in the way of continuing to produce ancient crops. But on the most basic level, the corn and its people were taken from their home, and their home destroyed, lets not let it happen again.
This Sunday come try El Machete, a Piña Colada Mead by @BlackHeathMeadery as a fundraiser for farmers in Puerto Rico.
#Mead is alcohol made from honey, and likely the first alcohol that humans ever consumed. After people discovered and began harvesting bee hives, a hive was left out in the rain and the water caused the honey to ferment, making mead. Almost all honey bees come from South Asia, so this is likely the first source of the drink. The beverage was so great it spread around the world and was known as the Nectar of the Gods.
There's one bee that originated in Europe and that's the honey bee that was spread through the U.S. Since there were no bees here before that, Native Americans named it the white man's fly, meaning if you saw a bee in the Americas, settlers were close behind. The bee is now the most important pollinator we have in American agriculture. And we spend a ton of energy trucking thousands of bees around the country to suit our agricultural needs.
Black Heath Meadery is a local shop that cherishes the magic of mead and so they take care of their own hives to help bring the stuff to our community. They offered to host a fundraiser for the farmers I've been working with in Puerto Rico and have made this special Piña Colada mead for the benefit.
The piña colada is the national drink of Puerto Rico. It translates to 'strained pineapple' because of the fresh pressed pineapple used to make it. Early stories say a Puerto Rican pirate invented the drink in the 1800s but the famed drink we know is from the rise in the hotel industry 1950s. The piña colada is made with pineapple, coconut, and rum, all 3 heavily produced by the island, and became the national drink in 1978.
Here in Richmond we're lucky enough to have the Black Heath Meadery making their own piña colada from small batch grilled and smoked pineapple, coconut, and some of the best mead in town. With a beautiful sweet and smoky summer love, El Machete might honestly be the best thing they've made! Come enjoy it with us on Sunday, listen to tunes by Puerto Rican DJs @rattanicus and @billycrystalfingers, and enjoy some great Puerto Rican food by @freekinricanrva. Come through!!!
569. #Cinnamon is tree bark. To harvest, you cut a square of the inner bark and allow it to dry, causing it to roll up into the sticks we know.
Cinnamon originated in Sri Lanka (island country in the Indian Ocean), once called Ceylon, and so Ceylon cinnamon is known as true cinnamon. Ceylon cinnamon can't grow much outside of the island (this part of the globe is a sweet spot for spices - half the world's spices come from India), but similar trees can grow worldwide, making them much cheaper. The little cinnamon sticks we’re used to are called Cassia, which has a similar flavor, but it is technically a different spice. I also have Chinese cinnamon in my cabinet which is a foot long and looks like an actual tree branch. And a few other varieties exist, but most of the world's 'cinnamon' is cassia. You can identify true cinnamon sticks by looking at the shape. When ceylon cinnamon rolls up, it rolls like a spiral, but when cassia rolls, it looks like a scroll.
This is a thick chunk of cassia I got in the U.S. Virgin Islands, from a stand with just a few fruits that have come back since Hurricane Maria’s devastation. It was hand harvested from someones tree and has a deep rich smell with a slight spicy flavor. Ceylon cinnamon has a very light smell, the bark is thin and flaky, and the flavor is sweet and citrusy.
Because cinnamon is bark, it can be as old as a bag of mulch and still sold. This is the case for many #spices, and so they’re easily shipped worldwide. In fact, the U.S. gave up on growing its own spices years ago and instead focuses the majority of farm land to corn and soy. So even though we CAN grow various spices, we don't, and instead we make trash commodity corn to make enough money to buy spices. The U.S. is both the biggest consumer of and importer of spices in the world. Something is wrong with that.
And spices don’t “expire”, they still degrade, breakdown, and lose flavor and nutrition, especially if they're ground.
This smells fresh and real, like Nature. See what spices you can grow where you live, only then can a market for local cumin or turmeric powder arise. These are the steps we need to take to fix this broken food system.
568. Sprouted quinoa, 5 seed, #sourdough loaf. #Bread makes up a lot of my diet - it makes up a lot of the diets in this country actually. the single most eaten type of food in the U.S. is the sandwich, so clearly, we eat a lot of bread. So it would be safe to assume that we all can make our own bread then, no? It’s surpassingly rare, though, because the convenience of sliced bread has erased that need from our brains. I couldn't until about 2.5 years ago and now I make on average one loaf a week. I feel like that's how it should be if I'm going to choose to eat so much of the stuff.
But we also are terrified of bread. Whenever I tell people that I believe bread is one of the most important foods to know how to cook, they said things like "bread is unhealthy" and "bread makes you fat" and "I can't learn how to make bread because then I would eat it all." We have had a fear of bread for generations, as the first highly publicized 'diet' written in english came about in the 1800s and it spoke bad about bread and good about lots of meat. People like to hear good news about their bad habits. This was followed by the caveman diet, the Atkins diet, the south beach diet, the paleo diet, the ketogenic diet, the whole 30 diet, and I'm sure plenty more I'm not familiar with, diets that shame the food we have survived on since the beginning of farming, and champion the foods killing us and the Earth. And so now we are afraid of bread.
But really we have just confused the word bread to both mean "the substance of life for nearly every culture of the last 10,000 years" (so including corn breads, rice breads, etc) and "the trash that is processed and mass produced and sold at dollar stores nationwide."
Bread is not unhealthy, but maybe the bread we think of is. I try to make my daily bread as healthy as possible, and so if I am going to make it most of my diet, it automatically makes my entire diet healthier. Sourdough was the first wheat bread, as our ancestors ate it. Bread made with added yeast is only 150 years old. Sourdough is the most digestible, readily acceptable by the body, bread that exists. Continued below.
567. Rain is such a beautiful thing, nutrients are falling from the sky and providing life for us. I’ve always had a love for rain - the sound, the feeling, the smell - but it is truly my favorite moment of Nature.
Watering your plants with a hose is just watering your plants, trying to give them water to force them larger, in the process making them weaker, more tasteless, and more dependent, not to mention lacing them with chlorine/flourish/lead etc.
But there is considerable transformation in every rain. Plants that have become rigid start to droop, relieved by the rainfall, their roots growing fat with the rich water.
Seeds buried deep in the Earth swell until they burst, shooting up towards the source of that rain. Ripe seed heads release their seeds in comfort knowing the wet season awaits.
Worms deep in the ground shoot for the surface for a drink. Birds perch up under shelter, eyes peeled for where those worms might be coming up. As soon as the rain slows they race to the ground for their fill in bugs and seeds.
Just as quickly the sky unleashes thousands of gallons of water, the plants and animals and all the life that thrives races to absorb it.
My small trench filled with this rain, giving everyone an extra moment of euphoria. Fast water destroys, slow water creates. Every parking lot we pave and tree we cutdown speeds up this water. And so the strength of that water is accelerating.
When lightning rips through the sky, one of the most spontaneous, and incredibly powerful forces of Nature, it explodes through the atmosphere. The air expands so rapidly it produces the booms of thunder. When connecting with the ground it can set the Earth ablaze at 50,000 degrees, 5x the heat of the sun.
Yet as it barrels through the sky, the most amazing thing occurs, the atmosphere is heated so quickly that bonds are broken and nitrogen is released, and falls from the sky.
Nitrogen is one of the most important nutrients for plant growth, it is the most heavily depleted by our crops, and the most heavily synthesized and poured in chemical form into our soil. But in Nature, everytime this giant electric strike rips through the sky, plants flourish a little more.
566. Plant things you eat and eat things you can plant. Planting funky peppers and okra is dope, but also make sure you plant the essentials. Visiting my mom today, pulling up #onions for dinner. Onions and garlics are essentials I make sure get in the ground every year because without a doubt, we will be eating them. So without a doubt, we should growing them. And considering that they are some of the most essential antibiotics our diets, I want them to be the best they can be. More than 2/3 of the entire country’s onions come from the west coast, and about 2/3 of the country’s garlic comes from China.
This can happen because they both have long shelf lives and are durable enough to be shipped and stored well for a while. But it also means that barely anyone here knows what fresh garlic and onion is like. Fresh garlic really tastes fresh, it has the same pungency with a sweetness and tenderness. As it sits and cures it becomes more potent and less complex. That is the garlic we get at the store.
Fresh onions are juicy and super pungent. And the green tops are hollow, oozing with antibiotic sap. Chopping them up to be used raw as green onion on a dish, covers everything in the sweet, nearly fruity, onion-y sap for a food experience you just can’t get with 2 month on dried onions from Oregon. And that sap is fresh health straight from Nature.
Feel free to grow the exciting stuff too, it’s fun. It’s part of the thrill of growing your own food - having something you can’t find at the store. But also plant the boring stuff, it’s sustainable. Throwing down 40 onion seeds (a single $3 packet of sets) gives you a whole year worth of onions.
By the way, I’m writing zines again on various topics to be released this summer. Any topics anyone would like to see a zine written about?