Thursday, December 11, 2008

The Greens Jar and a Recipe for Vegetable Bouillon

During the foraging for wild foods seasons, spring, summer, and fall, I gathered many wild greens: curly dock, dandelions, plantain, nettles, violet leaves, chickweed, woods sorrel, lady's thumb, as well as the greens of wild garlic and onions, and herbs both wild and cultivated. I dried them all and put handfuls of the greens into a big glass jar, along with some dried onions, tomatoes and chili peppers (chopped). So I have a big jar, full of dried greens and veggies for use in soups and stews.

Although there is some loss of nutritional value from drying, loss of vitamins especially, I don't worry about it--there's still good stuff in these dried greens, good flavor, good food value, trace minerals and the like.

Then, a little while ago, I read a review of a book at Preserving Food Without Freezing or Canning. I knew I had to have a copy of this book. Being poor, I did the right thing to do: I looked at all our local libraries to see if any had a copy. But no, they didn't. Could be they will in the future, but I didn't want to wait, and besides, I suspected this book could be important to us for future food storage, so I did what I always do, ordered it used from Amazon. Got it only a tad cheaper than new, but it will still be worth its cost.

I'm not going to review the book just yet. I'm too busy still enjoying it and soaking it in. But I'll tell you now that I think it is excellent. It is all about how to preserve foods without freezing or canning. Why is that important? Peak Oil. Electricity fails, and the grid goes down. Not inevitable, but it is certainly there in potential. That's why this book and these techniques could be very important. Besides, most of the methods used are much less expensive. One of these age-old methods for preserving food, lactic fermentation, actually improves the food value:

Lactic fermentation, an old preservation technique that is suddenly new again, produces foods that have biological energy--that is, they are alive and do something good for those who eat them.

That's from the foreword to the new edition. The introduction to the First Edition of the book has this to say:

The business of food science is in conflict with the poetry of human nourishment. Store shelves are filled with products that keep seemingly forever; such as canned or frozen food, ultra-pasturized dairy products, devitalized flour. Irradiated food now lurks on the horizon. ....

Food preservation techniques can be divided into two categories: the modern scientific methods that remove the life from the food [i.e. canning and freezing], and the natural "poetic" methods that maintain or enhance the life in food. The poetic techniques produce live foods ... foods that have been celebrated for centuries and are considered gourmet delights today. The scientific techniques produce dead foods and literally seal them in coffins. My instincts tell me that long-dead foods cannot properly nourish a long-lived people.

Frankly, I think canning and freezing are perfectly fine and necessary for food storage. However, I'm also looking forward to incorporating some of these other and older methods: root cellaring, drying, lactic fermentation, preserving in oil, sugar, salt and vinegar and alcohol.

At any rate, I'll review the book soon. For now, I want to get back to my greens jar and a recipe I found in this book that is perfect for what I have:

Vegetable Bouillon Powder

You need:
Celeriac, celery leaves, carrots, garlic, leeks, onions (and any other greens/vegetables you want)
Brewer's yeast
Olive oil
Tomatoes (optional)
Parsley, basil, and other herbs (optional)
Drying apparatus
Small glass jars

Dry the celeriac, celery leaves, carrots, garlic, leeks and some onion. Once dry, place those vegetables in a blender, reduce to a powder, and combine with the brewer's yeast and olive oil. The powder will keep one to two years stored in small jars in a dry place.

You can vary the ingredients, for example, to make a bouillon cube with dried slived tomatoes (put through a blender) as the predominant flavor.

These mixtures, high in mineral salts, are especially convenient for vegetarians who don't use meat broth and who don't want a lot of salt in their cooking. This vegetable mix can also be used to season soups or grain dishes.

You can also dry parsley, basil, celery leaves, and other aromatic herbs, which will keep their color and flavor for one year if stored in airtight jars. Reduce them to a powder and blend them into mixes as I've explained, or better yet, keep them in separate small jars to have them on hand for specific flavorings and uses.

Eva Wiehl, Bius-les-Baronnies

A couple of neat things about these recipes: there's not any measuring going on, or hardly any in these recipes--it's a figure it out for yourself using common sense kind of thing. And these recipes were all contributed by French organic gardeners and farmers, and attribution is given for each recipe.

I've kept my greens jar out of the light to preserve what inherent goodness I can, and now I think I'm going to powder them all, along with some dried veggies, and add the brewer's yeast and oilve oil to store. I know I wouldn't mind bits of green things in my soups and stews, but I'm not sure about Michael, he might find them objectionable. But as a powder in oil, they won't even be noticeable, except for the added flavor and richness of the dish.

Next year, when you're gardening or foraging, consider drying and saving a good store of greens--beet greens, turnip greens, chard, as well as whatever you find wild. These healthy foods will greatly enhance your family's nutrition, especially if you're living on stored beans and rice.


Stephanie in AR said...

Excellent idea! My dh isn't into cook leaves either and this sounds like something that might work.

Patricia said...

Michael's gotten used to the lambsquarters and such, but doesn't care for dock at all. So the powder will come in handy as a way to get lots of nutrition without knowing it. Would work for kids too, I'd say.

John Wesley said...

Thanks for noticing the review on DestinySurvival. It's gratifying to know the book is indeed useful for you. Here's hoping more will latch onto it. Keep up the good work you're doing, too.


Patricia said...

Hi John, thank you for posting that original review of the book at DestinySurvival! I might not have found the book otherwise, and already I'm planning on using many of the recipes. Thank you.