Friday, December 31, 2010

sprouting, brewing, fermenting, growing, culturing...a tour of the living foods in our home

This post is linked at Real Food Wednesdays from Kelly the Kitchen Kop!

As I loftily surveyed my kingdom last night (the kitchen/living room/hallway is as much as I can see at once, but it was quite impressive), I thought fondly about the abundance of living things that are growing, brewing, sprouting and fermenting themselves in my home.

It's kind of like having children. I coo at them, talk about how cute they are (those little sprouted tails! adorable!), pamper them, make sure they are at the right temperature, and occasionally put them to 'bed' (in the fridge).  (I also eat them, which is where the children analogy kind of breaks down.) It is a joy to see how foods can, with a simple set of circumstances, transform themselves into another entity altogether....something that is highly nutritious and tasty too. There is a tiny universe of microbes, enzymes, proteins, and nutrients all swirling around, underneath my nose! Cultivating living food is a world of wonder and amazement to me.  And it's so rewarding to see things happen like they should! So I thought I would give you a little photo tour of the living foods currently residing with the Moores.

Let's start with something simple (and not frightening).  Sprouting is fun, easy, and a very simple way to increase the nutritional value of the seeds, legumes and grains we put into our bodies. It's my understanding that without soaking or sprouting, the nutrient 'packet' in grains and seeds (the fuel for the seed to begin growth) will pass through our bodies unused.  During soaking or sprouting, the nutrients are activated/released, and become available for our bodies to absorb and use.

...pinto beans (I think I need to let these grow a little more)...

...and chick peas! These haven't totally sprouted yet, but you can see the little pointy ends where the tails have begun to squirm their way out.

What do I do with these things? Use them the same way I would the unsprouted versions. Just the other day I made "sloppy joes" but used 2/3 sprouted lentils and 1/3 beef.  It was incredibly tasty, and we got the nutrition of both the meat and the lentils.  And since good meat is so pricey, I'm all for the frugalness the lentils offer.  We ate it on plain bread, openface. SO good. We both agreed it should go into our regular rotation! Here's my recipe inspiration for my sloppy joes

Kefir!  (Sorry, the grains are kinda hard to see.)

Kefir grains live happily in fatty milk at room temperature, yielding a cultured dairy product similar to yogurt (but containing many more beneficial bacteria).  The grains grow and reproduce themselves over time.  It is a very strange thing. I have to admit I've had my grains in the fridge for a few weeks, instead of on the counter where they can culture.  We haven't been home all that much over the holiday and I wanted them to stay healthy!  I've been using the kefir as the acid medium for soaking and sprouting things, and also in smoothies (which haven't sounded very good reason we haven't been using the kefir much).  I've got plenty of grains to give away if anyone wants them -- they are happy, growing kefirs! 

My beautiful thyme plant.

I love my little plants so much.  This thyme bush was such a trooper outside when the weather got cold...I could tell it did NOT want to die! So I brought it in.  The thyme has since rewarded my heroic deed with a forest of new, tiny shoots, springing out, fresh and pale, all leaning themselves towards the light of the window. It's a beautiful thing to see. I have rosemary inside too.  They're both fragrant, and quite a welcome sight in a dull winter.

 I've saved the best (scariest?) for kombucha tea!  

I am so proud of my kombucha. See that slimy thing in the jar? I grew it myself!  It's happily fermenting the sweet tea it's living in, chowing down on the sugar and producing acids, enzymes and other scientific-sounding things that our bodies need and love. I've already drank through a one-gallon batch of the stuff, which I double fermented with grape juice.  My second batch is currently undergoing the second fermentation, this time with lots of different flavor combinations.  All the while, another batch of the tea is brewing in the gallon jar with the scoby (the slimy thing).  

SCOBY=symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast. Great for parties.

Each batch takes about a week and a half or two weeks total...about a week in the gallon jar with the scoby, and a few more days in smaller jars with the sweeteners/flavors added.  A long time to wait, but at least now I have the previous batch to drink while I wait! If I ration myself, at least...
  Here are a few jars of my current brew! They're fermenting in sealed jars, with the kombucha tea and various flavors added. Some of the flavors I tried this time: ginger lime honey, blueberry, honey vanilla, lemon ginger echinacea (that one's just juice from a bottle). I can't wait to see what they taste like!  

If you haven't tried kombucha before, pick up a bottle of it sometime and try's like nothing else you've tasted! Be prepared for a slight vinegary flavor. I was hooked immediately!

I love to have all these living things in my kitchen. It's so much fun and I learn so much every time I try something new! I hope you have enjoyed this little tour. Happy New Year!


  1. (I also eat them, which is where the children analogy kind of breaks down.) Bwahahahah! You crack me up lady!!! Fun stuff here! I'm a newbie to all the sprouted stuff and the tea stuff too....might have to educate me a bit more ;o)

  2. arrant lentils like chick peas? im not sure but they sure look like them :)
    and hey nikki, we really need to get together again ( you, johanna, rachel, and i really should that would be so fun )

  3. You had me until the freaky tea :)
    Didn't know you had gotten married! Congrats! Just was rereading old blog posts of mine and remembered you and clicked around to see what you were up to...looks like things are going lovely! I'll be stopping back to check in again :)

  4. What fantastic pictures! The nice pictures definitely make growing things feel nice and homey instead of like a science experiment (which is how I feel sometimes, especially when things go awry!)