Saturday, April 17, 2010

Kitchen Garden: Growing Avocado Seeds

Many years ago, when I was a college student dreaming of my future garden, I found a book that described growing food from seeds and leftovers from purchased food. The idea stuck with me and I have successfully grown potatoes and garlic from sprouted food in my kitchen.
Now I'm trying out avocados. We eat about one avocado per day when they are in season, so growing our own would definitely be a bonus. I never liked the idea of impaling an avocado seed with toothpicks and after some googling I learned that A) avocadoes can grow in my area, B) you can grow avocados by putting the seeds directly in dirt, and C) you can grow avocados in water without impaling them.
My first attempt was a seed in a Medela freezeable breastmilk container (imagine a tall plastic beaker). Oops, the seed expanded and got stuck halfway in the beaker, no way to add water, no way to remove the seed without harming it.
Then I spotted all these wonderful small shotglasses and medicine cups sitting around the kitchen. The ideal situation appears to be a cup with V shaped depression, so the seed sits halfway down the glass, supported by the sides. Keep water approximately halfway up the seed. Add water, when air appears below the seed. Some sources say to plant in dirt when leaves sprout. But to avoid seriously messing up the roots, I'll try to plant before the roots look as scrunched as the far right has.

Unfortunately, I don't know which varieties I have growing... but it will be fun to see how many little trees I can start. We've found at least four varieties at our local farmer's market, including a tiny version (they are called "Mexican" something) with edible skins. Somehow I managed not to save a seed from those. I will definitely do that this year. Those tiny ones are so darn yummy. The far left and far right seeds look the same to me, but they are sprouting in reverse of each other. The left one barely has any roots at all, while the right clearly had more roots before sprouting up.
Unfortunately, avocados don't bear fruit until their 4th or even 10th year, so we may have left this home by that time, but I can hope to see fruit before we go.
Have you had success growing food from your kitchen?

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Water Kefir - again

It is like a wacky science experiment. I appear to have found the secret to water kefir... relax and follow the kefirlady's directions, lol. These things grow like crazy. This picture is 5 days after the previous kefir post's picture. The difference in liquid color is because one batch (the jar on the right) is a day ahead of the other.
So far, I use organic sugar, sucanat, slices of ginger, a pinch of baking soda in unfiltered tap water (we have very hard water here) or spring water. I've been watching to see if the water source makes a difference. The kefir in both jars seem happy, but it seems like the spring water kefir is growing a tad bit faster than the tap water.
In 9 days I went from having 1/3 cup kefir grains to 2 1/2 cups. I need to find recipes that call for the grains. They taste and feel a little like hominy. Which is fine for a bite or two, but eating a cup of plain squishy hominy isn't too appealing.

Why Kefir?
For probiotics ... all those good guys also found in yogurt (in theory) that keeps your gut healthy.

Why Water Kefir instead of regular Milk Kefir?
1. cheaper - to put the grains in sugar and water everyday than goat or cow milk
2. lactose intolerance - enough said
3. convenient - having diary on hand everyday isn't convenient
4. reality - finding a raw (and organic) milk source can be difficult to impossible, depending on your area.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Water Kefir

My water kefir grains arrived in the mail from the kefirlady, yesterday, Yay! And following the directions, I got them into sugar water as quickly as I could. Now the quandry... spring water, filtered tap water, boiled tap water, boiled filtered tap water, boiled tap water plus minerals...
Almost everything I've read says hard water = good, okay I'll use tap water, chlorine = bad, so I use filtered tap water. But if my filter removes chlorine - which I sure hope it does - is the water then too soft? Some people report their water kefir thrives on their city water, without any changes required, cool maybe I can use filtered tap water. Bah! this living healthy thing is giving me a migraine.
Chlorine can be removed by boiling 15 minutes OR run in a blender for 15 minutes. If I run my blender for 15 minutes, I will likely be deaf and have a burnt out blender. If I boil water for 15 minutes, I'm not sure there'd be any water left.
I ended up splitting the grains in half just to see which kind of water worked better. So two tablespoons of grains went in bottled spring water plus 1/6 cup sugar 1/2 tablespoon organic sucanat. The rest of the grains went in cooled boiled filtered tap water with the same sugar and grain combo. 20ish hours later there's a significant difference between the grains.
The spring water grains are round and fluffy looking with more floaty type activity going on. The grains in the left jar just look sad. So I dumped the grains into my nylony coffee filter and since I'm out of bottled water, put plain ole tap water in with more sugar. I'm afraid the chlorine and possible floride in the water may not be good for the grains, but hopefully it isn't worse than the boiled filtered water I tried first.
I think kefir lady's directions said we can put minerals etc back into filtered water... that sounds a little more economic than buying bottled water for the rest of my grains' lives.