Growing 16 – Guerrilla Gardening

Seed Bombs
How they work – Seeds are wrapped in nutrient rich soil or clay. They get a head start for germination (especially good if planting into poor soil). Keeps them in a state of ready-to-go dormancy.

How to make them
Basically you will need to soak seeds that are ecologically suitable overnight. Then combine them with a soil or compost medium which can hold a ball shape. Shape them and dry them. They should store well for a year or so.

Please see:
http://www.wikihow.com/Make-a-Seed-Bomb
http://www.seedfreedom.net/

How to use seedbombs
When you are ready, simply toss or place them in the location where you want the seeds to grow. They can be planted in shallow soil or placed on the top. Water is needed to moisten the seedbombs and get things moving. Rain is good!

Seedbombs are a well-known tool of guerrilla gardeners but they can be useful even within your own private garden and plant pots.

See this link for guerrilla gardening tips and links:
http://www.guerrillagardening.org/

Maintaining Herb Meadows
If you want your herb meadows to live in harmony with your neighbours then you will need to do a little maintenance now and then. The council will strip ivy (and roses) from tree trunks sometimes and they will strim back any plants that stray from your pit or geveltuin.

One spring and summer, I tended a lovely collection of miniature wild geraniums in the pavement cracks beside my first treepit. I thought they looked great and no one stepped on them. But they were removed by a street worker because they were outside of the treepit. Street workers have a job to do and they don’t have time to check on these things.  So re-home any interesting pavement crack plants, before they get the chop!

What are you doing to keep people, animals and litter off your herb meadows? Does it work? Is it possible to allow for different uses of your herb meadows (bikes, dogs & herbs)?  Have you tried adding signs? If so, what did they say and did they work?

To weed or not to weed?
We meet this issue often. Should we leave some ground covering, beneficial weeds to protect the soil and retain moisture or should we clear the plot completely so that only the wanted herbs are obvious? I experimented a little on my street, leaving Chickweed as ground cover and inter-planting with some great home grown herbs.

A neighbour thought the whole plot was weeds and demolished my well-loved green spot in seconds, with a garden hoe. So I shall continue control the weeds in my tree pits, until the planted herbs look big and obvious.

Some treepits are full of well-tended, attractive and insect benefiting “weeds”. The biggest ones like this in my neighbourhood have hand written signs tied to the tree trunks, stating that the pit is cared for and by whom. Good examples can be seen in Amsterdam on the corner of Hugo de Vrieslaan and Linneausparkweg and also along Balistraat (in Oost though they are in many areas). The plants can be up to 1.5m high and look like wild flower meadows.


Sour cream

Sour cream is cream which has been fermented at room temperature. The cream proteins have been broken down by microbes making it slightly sour (acidic) and full of probiotic bacteria. Sour cream is a great partner for herbs such as chives and wild garlic. This is probably the simplest of ferments to make yourself.

I will add photos as soon as possible. This recipe is super simple so if you would like to try, download the instruction sheet and start fermenting for a far healthier version of cream!

Amasake

Amasake is a traditional Japanese fermented sweet rice drink or pudding, which is incredibly easy to make – provided you have access to some Koji (rice grains, inoculated with the fungus Aspergillus oryzae). We in Amsterdam are incredibly fortunate to have Deshima Freshop on Weeteringschaanscircuit, which sells biodynamic quality Koji. That is where I buy my Koji starter.

Amasake makes a sweet ferment, so I see this as an occasional treat, not a healthy food. The fungus simply breaks down cooked rice into sugar. Amasake smells interesting of Aspergillus which is a type of food mould. This ferment keeps well in the fridge for a couple of days but I rarely manage to leave it that long – it just tastes so good!

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Valerian on my roof terrace

Valerian Amasake Hot Chocolate
You may know that I love the taste of chocolate and that I grow Valerian on my roof terrace. Valerian is in flower at midsummer, so when I need a good night’s sleep and I wanted to use some Amasake, I make the sweet, tasty, soporific Valerian Amasake Hot Chocolate. Yum!

How to make Amasake
1. Cook 2 cups of rinsed basmati rice (or similar) in 4 cups of water (lid on pan), until the rice is well cooked, fluffy and has absorbed all of the water (adjust water proportion if using different rice). Remove from heat.

2. Set the rice aside (lid on) until it cools to a temperature that is easily tolerated by your finger (60°C is optimal).

3. Now gently stir 1/2 cup of dried Koji (innoculated rice) into the warm cooked rice.

4. Put the lid on again and wrap the pan in a couple of clean tea towels or simply place it in your oven (cool and turned off). This is to maintain some of the warmth so that the Aspergillus can grow at a reasonable rate. Less heat = less fermentation. Too much heat = dead Aspergillus so no fermentation.

Koji rice - Full of Aspergilus oryzae and ready to grow when mixed with warm cooked rice!

5. Leave it to ferment for 12-24 hours. Stir the rice and Koji mixture very occasionally. It will become progressively more runny and sweet to taste as the fermentation proceeds and the Aspergillusbeaks down the rice starches into sugar.

6. When the sweetness of the Amasake is to your liking (max 24 hours) boil it to stop the Aspergillus from growing further. This is an important step to avoid fermentation turning the rice starch into alcohol (even in the fridge this fermentation will slowly occur).

7. I like to blend my Amasake at this point, or just before boiling. I use my little electric hand blender. You may prefer the natural consistency. Both taste as good. Allow to cool before refrigerating or eat warm as soon as prepared.

8. Use as a pudding, sprinkle in ground ginger, cardamon, cinnamon or drizzle with honey. Eat hot or cold. Thin with water to your preferred drink consistency or spoon it to eat. Use in place of yoghurt or buttermilk in muffin recipes and similar. Uses for Amasake as a natural sweetener are almost endless.

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Thick, sweet, Chocolate Amasake!

Valerian Amasake Hot Chocolate
1. Pour just less than a mug full of Amasake into a small saucepan.

2. Add a splash of water, a sprinkling of tiny fresh Valerian flowers (about 10) and 1 – 1 1/2 teaspoons of cacao powder.

3. Stir gently as you bring the mixture to the boil.

4. Simmer for a minute or two and then allow to cool to a comfortable temperature before pouring into the mug.

5. Enjoy!

The king of fermentation is Sandor Ellix Katz. He has done a great job in teaching people how different fermented foods can be made. Please visit his website and buy or borrow his wonderful books if you have even a passing interest in fermented foods!

Bread Sticks

Yeast fermentation
Leavened bread has bubbles in it. As the bubbles rise through the bread dough, they cause the dough to rise. Gluten in the dough traps some of the bubbles. When we bake the bread, the heat stops more bubbles being formed and it sets the bubbles as the dough dries. The bubbles in bread are formed by sugar digesting yeast (Saccharomyces Cerevisiae ), tiny micro-organisms which convert some of the carbohydrates in bread flour into carbon dioxide and alcohol. We don't taste the alcohol in bread because the baking heat evaporates it away.

For more information about the science of yeast fermentation, see this link: Kids discover.com

Bread Sticks
These bread sticks are chunky and have more than a hint of wild garlic about them. We love making them and eating them and hope you will too. I often make these as a way for apprentices to taste the first Wild Garlic harvest of the year. As the plants get bigger, bolder and more tasty by the day, only a few wild garlic leaves are needed for this recipe. Please remember to pick carefully and to leave the plants in excellent shape, with their bulbs intact in the soil.

Wild Garlic Oil
Firstly, gather three Wild Garlic (Allium ursinum, Ramsons, NL: Daslook) leaves. Give them a quick rinse and pat them dry with a clean tea towel or similar. Finely chop the leaves and place them in a very small glass jam jar. Cover with extra virgin olive oil and poke around a little with a chopstick or cocktail stick, to release trapped air bubbles. Top up if necessary, to keep the leaves covered in oil.

Leave your wild garlic oil to infuse, with the lid on, whilst you make the bread as follows.

NB: The infused oil will be ready to use in as little as an hour but will keep at room temperature for several weeks, provided there was no water on the outside of the leaves when you chopped them. Mine never lasts that long as we eat it in everything at this time of year.

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Wild garlic oil in a mini jam jar

My basic bread recipe

4 cups of bread flour (I generally use 3 cups spelt flour and 1 cup strong wheat flour)
1 and 2/3 cups room temperature water
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons fast action dried yeast
1 teaspoon fine sea salt

Gently and gradually mix together all of the above ingredients. When doing this by hand, I place the flour in a big heap on my worktop and make a volcanic crater in the centre. I sprinkle the yeast and salt around that crater but pour the water and oil into the crater. I’m then able to work everything in, bit by bit, avoiding it all spilling onto the kitchen floor…

When everything is well combined you need to knead it! Aim for a good ten minutes of therapeutic kneading, by which time your dough should be silky and springy to the touch. Then place your ball of dough in a glass or ceramic bowl, covered with a damp clean cloth or cling film, in a warm place, “until the dough has doubled in size”. I must say that I find that standard bread making statement of limited use. Dough “proving” is sometimes hard to gauge as the dough will change shape and texture as it rises. Mine generally mutates in a glass bowl, filling it gradually with long bubbles, rather than simply doubling up neatly. Use your judgement and common sense with this, the time needed for the first proving, will depend on your room temperature and specific ingredients. 40 to 90 minutes should do the trick but don’t worry if it doesn’t exactly seem to double in size.

Now give your dough a second kneading. This will make the dough decrease a lot in size and that’s fine. This step is called “knocking back”. After the quick knocking back knead, cover your dough ball again and leave in a warm place to double in size, again.

(Unless I am on holiday I generally use a bread machine for the kneading and proving stages of bread making (machine set to the dough setting). This recipe works equally well for bread machines and for hand working).

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The plain dough

Creating the herby bread sticks:
Turn out your twice risen dough, onto a floured worktop and sprinkle a little flour over the top. Then pour about a tablespoon or two of your wild garlic infused oil (including the leafy bits) and a teaspoon or two of Malden Sea Salt Flakes onto the dough.

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Now with some herb oil

Work this in just a little, so that you feel that the oil and salt are throughout the dough.

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Make a log from the herb dough

Divide the mixture into about twelve small balls and make each into a long stick shape. Or whatever shape you like.

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Roll balls of dough into long sticks

Place on an oven tray and bake at 200°C until they turn hard on the outside and light golden brown.

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Baked and ready to eat!

Yoghurt

My fresh yoghurt

Please use the download button above for simple yoghurt making instructions.

I use an Easiyo yoghurt maker for this but it is perfectly possible to make yoghurt using two containers and something to insulate them. I will add instructions related to the Easiyo later (it is basically a big thermos, into which fits a smaller plastic container for the milk and innoculum). They are not expensive but you don't really need one - yoghurt was made long before yoghurt makers were invented. They do make it easier though! Here's a link to an Easiyo on Amazon in case you want to investigate:

An other, slightly more complicated way to make yoghurt, is to use fresh milk. It needs to be heated to at least 60 C, to kill off any microbes living in the milk. Then let it cool to about body temperature (use your little finger to check when you think it has cooled to body temperature.

At this point, add you inoculum of fresh organic yoghurt, mix then leave it to stand at room temperature over night. The inoculum will spread through the milk, digesting it, creating lactic acid and hence turning the milk into yoghurt.