Every Day, It’s A-Getting Closer… (Shifting towards “local-ish” dry goods)

Today I stopped by the local Hippy Organic market to restock on some dry goods. I got brown basmati rice – which, as it turns out, I didn’t really need (woops) – from overseas, and about 2 litres of red quinoa (which works out to about $30…) from Bolivia, and everything else – the pot barley, the red lentils, and the black beluga lentils – came from Canada, most likely Saskatchewan. (They also have (cultivated) wild rice from Saskatchewan, if you’re looking to bring it in from somewhere closer than California, fyi).
 
While my rules (which are more like “guidelines” anyway…) about Local Food don’t tend to include dry goods – for a slew of reasons that mostly boil down to laziness and/or… “frugality” (yeah, let’s call it that) on my own part – I find that, while I’m not buying my whole wheat bread flour from the Oxford Mills mill just yet, I am leaning more and more towards buying dry-goods that are grown in Canada, even if they haven’t been grown in Ontario or Quebec.
 
I look forward to the day when Ottawa Valley edamame and whole wheat pastry flour plus Northwestern Ontario red, green, & black-beluga lentils, yellow split peas, quinoa, and amaranth are available at my local grocery store but, for the moment, while I can probably grow my own quinoa[1] if I’m really feeling the need, I’m probably going to keep shifting our “day to day diet” towards pearl and pot barley[3] and away from grains that have to cross one or more international borders to get to me.
 
Does this mean that I’m never buying rice again? Hmm… Maybe? I’m hesitant to say “That’s it, no more rice for us!” at this stage of the game. But if this barley business works out well, I can see rice taking a definite back seat to the grown-in-Canada grains quite quickly. Similarly, I’m more likely to grow butter beans – romano, in particular, but also fava, Christmas Lima, and maybe navy or great northern – that can double as dry-beans, and blanch and freeze them (or dry them on the vine, then finish them in my dehydrator, and store them on the shelf in jars) myself, rather than buying kidney beans or edamame that have been brought in from across half the globe. Between that, a lot of Ontario potatoes, and a home-grown crop of sun-chokes, we should be doing okay for starch. 😉
 
You guys, I can’t tell you how excited I am to have garden space again! I was walking home today, and I picked a few fully-ripened-and-dried seed-pods from a purple-and-pink common mallow, just to scatter them in the front yard. I know I’ll have to wait until May to get my backyard raised beds going, but I’m going to have SUCH a time this winter, planning the lay-out and deciding what to plant where. I’m having visions (not Visions, just “visions”) of dragging in a gallon of snap beans every week for a month, of dozens of pumpkins and butternut squash lining my cold room shelves, jar after jar of tomato preserves, and a freezer full of carefully-blanched chard. I hope I’m not over-estimating what a few 2×8 beds can yield in a given year, but… my last garden (which, granted, was in the actual ground, not in extra-large containers) offered up that much produce fairly reliably, so… Maybe?
 
Here’s hoping that, by this time next year, I’ll be tallying up preserves that include 40lbs of home-grown tomatoes, a freezer full of home-grown greens and beans, and maybe a litre of dry-beans (cranberry/romano or great northern, most likely) just to see if I can do it.
 
Wish me luck!
 
 
TTFN,
Meliad, the Birch Maiden.
 
 
[1] Assuming we don’t go through more than a kilogram of it in a given year, since there’s a limit to what you can do on that front in a small, container-gardened space, and assuming I can winnow it well enough to not be full of chaff[2], AND assuming I can get my head back around to rinsing the stuff before I cook it…
 
[2] That basmati rice that I didn’t actually need? I thought I had 2-3 cups of long-grain brown rice still to be used up. It turns out I have about double that and, here’s the thing, the rice in question is… chaffy. I keep running up again bits of rice that haven’t cooked properly because they’re still wrapped in their protective, straw-like husk… The texture is awful, they don’t taste particularly good, and the tooth-cracking element is not fun, let me tell you.
 
[3] Pearl barley is like “white rice” – it’s had the hull removed and cooks in about 20 minutes. Whereas Pot barley is like “brown rice” (or red rice, for that matter), it’s “whole grain” rather than polished, and takes about 40 minutes to cook. Barley also has the added bonus of not turning to glue or losing its structural integrity when it’s been over-cooked. I’ve been known to stew both pearl barley and pot barley for around ten times the recommended cooking times, and they’ve both turned out just fine. Given my inclination to cook 2:1 grain:lentils, this would mean that I would cook red lentils with pearl barley (or quinoa of any colour, or white/polished rice) and beluga/black lentils with pot barley (brown rice).

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