A friend who visited Texas recently told me that stool softeners are a staple of Texan bathroom cabinets. Apparently the diet of most Texans is so poor that they have become an accepted part of life. It's partly due to lack of availability of fresh food: although they have huge supermarkets, fresh food is not always on offer in them, and fresh food markets are few and far between. And so, the knowledge of how to cook fresh, simple food has slipped out of collective memory.
I've been inordinately possessed by this sad fact. What a bizarre state of affairs it is - obesity and constipation in a land of plenty. On the other side of the world, there is hunger and poverty: stuffed and starved, as in the title of Raj Patel's book. Patel looks at this contradiction as more than a lifestyle issue (in the West) or a simple problem of not enough food being grown (in the developing world). He draws together the threads connecting the production and distribution of food by global corporations to the contradictions of obesity and famine: "overweight and hungry people" are "linked through chains of production that bring food from fields to our plate . . . . the concerns of food production companies have ramifications far beyond what appears on supermarket shelves. Their concerns are the rot at the core of the modern food system."
Broccoli, beetroot, silverbeet, rocket and watercress are filling the harvest basket these days. Mizuna (Brassica rapa nipposinica) is nearly ready to pick.
I pulled one tamarillo off the tree, which seems to be suffering from a fungus and a mite infection, despite recent white oil and bordeaux sprays. It tasted like passionfruit - yum.
On the peninsula patch, I've sown some Amaranth seed, harvested last year, and plan to do successive sowings all the way through to November. Hopefully I'll get just enough grain to bake with.
Under the orchard, I've sown red clover (Trifolium pratense). It's leguminous - I'll cut it back just before flowering to release nitrogen. I also planted out some Salad Burnet into the orchard.
This pepino comes from a potted one that was getting a bit big for its pot. Petra Kahle of Permaculture Southeast (Melbourne) told me I could just separate it at the roots and pull out some new plants. Seems to have worked. I'm hoping I can train it up the side of the tanks on this trellis.
I've made some changes to the basic technique in my last post, based on experience. The key lesson is that the second rise should be shorter than the first - otherwise you risk overising the bread. In microbiological terms, this probably means that the yeast (Candida milleri) and bacteria (Lactobacillus sanfranciso) have entered a stationary or death phase, rather than being in the exponential growth phase. I've also learnt not to overknead the dough after the first rise. Instead of kneading it at this point, I fold it, following the technique shown here. The aim of kneading the dough after the first rise is to redistribute the nutrients and degas the bread, but just a bit - enough so that the carbon dioxide doesn't retard the yeast but not too much so that you lose the gluten network - the holes that produce the holey texture you're aiming for in the finished loaf. Another change I've made is that I use only filtered water (I just use water from our filter jug, heated up a bit) so that I'm not putting chlorine (our local water is chlorinated) into the dough - chlorine is antimicrobial.
I'm finding I have leftover dough - not enough to make a third loaf - but enough to use. So I've started making pizza base and pita bread out of it. The pizza base is fantastic - the sourdough taste goes very well with all the traditional pizza toppings. The pita dough was a mistake that I've since adapted - I was trying to make pizza base but I rolled it out too thin and in the baking it separated into two layers and puffed up, just like a pita pocket: how fortuitous. I freeze the bases and pita for later use.
By the way, apropos of the stool softener thing, whole wheat bread has 3 times the fibre of white bread. Soluble fiber acts as a filter to help prevent some substances, including cholesterol and glucose, from being absorbed into the blood. It also acts as a stool softener, preventing constipation, which is related to colon cancer and diverticulosis.
That's it from me for now.