Monthly Archives: February 2013

Protein options for my trip

Two important factors for me in my choice of protein are the nutrition and ecological impact. A large portion of the Earth’s land mass is given over to the inefficient rearing of livestock. This is the argument traditionally presented for turning to a vegetarian or vegan diet, being less damaging to the environment.
One important mutritional point is that protein is digested down into amino acids, which are then used as building blocks to create all the combinations of protein needed by our body. Some amino acids are considered essential, they must come from the diet. Some protein sources are complete, containing all the amino acids required by our bodies for growth and maintenance of tissues.
There are many potential sources of protein, with varying amino acid profiles. Amino acids are sometimes said to be limiting. That is, if you relied solely on that protein you’d miss out on that particular amino acid, which would certainly have consequences further down the line. Animal protein is said to give a complete profile. Combinations of pulses and grains can also give a good profile.
Part of my motivation for the cycle tour is to gather more experience, and to find a middle path. We are adaptable, and I believe we thrive on variety.
I’m not a nutritionist, dietitian, medical doctor, herbalist or even a shamanic healer.
I’m a layman with a strong interest in the role that diet and nutrition have on human health.
In fact, even this summer I was talking to a qualified nutritionist friend about my “wheat allergy”. She informed me that what I have is an intolerance. As we were being catered for, I wanted to make sure that the chefs took my intolerance seriously and I took to calling it an allergy. Which is a way of saying that my research into nutrition and health is a work in progress.
This blog for me then, is a space where I can consolidate. I can update it as my knowledge deepens, as I challenge my beliefs and biases, and as others share their viewpoints.
Some of the options include: leaf concentrate, animal, pulses (including soya and lentils), and micro-livestock (insects).
In terms of my upcoming cycle tour I have considered hunting those animals considered pests: grey squirrels, rabbits, wood pigeons etc and would like to find land-owners willing for me to hunt on their land. I’ll forage and fish by the sea: mussels, crabs and various fish. I’ll only visit those beaches recommended by the Marine Conservation Society.
Gathering insects is also a possibility, although some sources claim it’s not wise, not knowing what they’ve been eating. For something like snails, i’ll be following my standard procedure of purging them for at least 3 days. I don’t generally feed them up on anything, but some do. Earthworms are good, once purged, boiled then fried in butter. 
Acorn weevil grubs are another thing i’ve tried. I kept some in acorn meal as pets for a while, to see what i could learn. That brought me recently to the idea of raising Black Soldier Fly Larvae (Hermetia illucens), or Mealworms (Tenebrio molitor). Some people feed them to animals. I’d like to at least taste them before I did that, who knows, they might be delicious!
There is a woman who collects snails from people’s land. Everyone wins. They get rid of snails they see no value in and she gets delicious snails which she does. 
I’d also love to investigate further into making leaf concentrate. Very briefly, taking edible leaves, extracting the protein content into water, then coagulating the protein by heating it, and using the fibre for other things. For a nice description of the process, with pictures, see here. Also, a free downloadable e-book here. And the Daddy of all, the leaf curd manual here. I’d like to blog more about this at a later date, it deserves a whole post of it’s own.

Creamy porridge

I’ve developed a great routine for porridge. I soak my oats for 24 hours to leach out anti-nutrients (phytic acid and enzyme inhibitors), then drain the water and add fresh. A pinch of salt, then slowly it cooks on the fire while I stretch and wake myself up. (After soaking the next day’s). Occasionally i’ll stop and use a small whisk to break up the oats, turning it milky. When the sun has been suitably saluted I give it a short burst of heat on the gas hob, add a good knob of butter, stir, stir, stir then enjoy the velvety, smooth delights of oat cream. Milk + Fat = Cream. I think people might be horrified by the amount of butter I use, but I feel really nourished and well eating it. I don’t buy the anti-saturated fat thing. Death to margarine, it’s not real food.
The other day I bought 5 blocks of butter. St Helen’s goat’s butter, beurre d’Isigny PDO, Jersey, Wensleydale and Yeo Valley Organic. Pip and I tasted them and declared the goat’s butter the finest, followed by Wensleydale. These two had a luscious flavour, creamy, rich and satisfying.

I have made my own butter at times, cultured with kefir. An ancient and stable community of yeasts and bacteria, kefir adds both zing! and a whole host of beneficial bacteria. It sits for a week or so, and is then churned by hand for 5 minutes. The buttermilk is kept for other things, and the resulting butterfat: tangy and delicious.

I do imagine that porridge/oat cream made with raw kefir butter will be an order of magnitude greater again. I have started a batch this week and i’ll update as it develops.

The Lost Tales of the Plant Kingdom

Or, Why are all the reindeer stick-men called Phil? And, Why are they so sad?
*for a clue, see the note at the bottom.To me the art of botany is one of observation. We get to know a plant by the colour, number, shape and texture etc of it’s floral and vegetative parts. It’s habitat and the time of year are important too, but at it’s most simple we can tell a lot from the flower itself. We recognise the patterns and we piece them together, until we know with certainty it’s name.
If we are serious about healing the wounds of the Earth, we must re-introduce plant knowledge in an accessible and fun way. If it’s not fun, why should anyone learn it? We must engage the wonderfully vivid imaginations we have been gifted.
I propose that a way of introducing people to the incredible world of plants is by telling stories. Using standard botanical terms as a jumping-off point, we can weave magical tales. As time goes on and passion develops those terms won’t seem so alien. I can certainly think of no better way to get children interested in plants.
Are you a plant teacher? How do you teach botany yourself? What has worked for you?  Do you have any other memorable ones? Any feedback or guidance appreciated.
My imagination was first sparked by the book Botany in a Day by Thomas J Elpel. The title alludes to the fact that you can learn the first 7 families and their patterns in a single day. Up till that point I’d learnt them one by one, comparing pictures from the library of books I’ve amassed. You certainly can learn plants that way, but deeper knowledge is never a bad thing.
A huge influence for my upcoming journey was hearing of the work of Frank Cook, an ethno-botanist who had the aim of meeting at least one member from each plant genus. He travelled all over the world doing just that.  When I heard that this book was the one Frank took with him everywhere I’d found the missing piece of the puzzle.
I don’t have such a definite plan as Frank’s. Maybe one day a plan will emerge. For now i’m content not knowing where i’ll end up, embracing whatever the day holds. I aim to share the knowledge I have gathered, and to learn from others with knowledge of plants, permaculture and everything that springs off from there.
*For those not aware, the male parts of a flower are the stamen, composed of a long filament, topped with anthers. Get it?