The Coming Artisinal Apocalypse

Craig Ruggless of Winnetka Farms tipped me off to one of the four signs of the coming artisinal apocalypse: the opening of a store in Brooklyn entirely devoted to 4 oz jars of mayonnaise at $8 a pop. I thought at first this might be some kind of post-modern, post-structuralist, Duchampian ruse but, in fact, it turns out to be the work of chef Sam Mason and Elizabeth Valleau. Gothamist has the full coverage. As it turns out, the idea isn’t as ridiculous as it sounds at first–the site is more of a manufacturing facility than a retail store.

Still those artisinal apocalypse signs keep coming in. In our own neighborhood, sort of the Los Angeles equivalent of Brooklyn, we await the opening of a high-end grilled cheese sandwich shop.

Of course, here at Root Simple, we’re not the ones to point the finger as we’re somewhat of a living, walking Portlandia sketch!

A Lacto Fermentation Kit Made With a Canning Jar

Chef Ernest Miller gave all of us in the Master Food Preserver class a very clever lacto-fermentation kit he designed and sells at the Farmer’s Kitchen in Hollywood. As a class, we’re all making a batch of sauerkraut.

Made out of a Le Parfait canning jar with a hole drilled in the lid to fit a fermentation lock, I already know this handy device will replace the large ceramic crock we have used in the past for pickle and kraut making. Chef Ernie’s clever fermenter has a number of nice features when compared to my crock:

  • The fermentation lock will mean fewer mold problems 
  • A small canning jar inside the fermenter keeps pickles below the brine level
  • Transparent glass will let me see what’s going on with the fermentation without having to open up the fermenter
  • Coming in a 3 liter and 1.5 liter size, these canning jar based fermenters will take up less space in the kitchen than my large ceramic crock

You can buy one of these kits and get a bite to eat at the Farmer’s Kitchen, a non-profit restaurant which supports nutrition education programs and job training for Hollywood’s low-income residents. You can also easily make one yourself.

Before we conclude with a shameless cute cat outtake from the lacto-fermenter photo session, take a moment to leave a comment on your favorite fermentation vessel.

Chop and Drop: Leaving Plant Residues in the Garden

Image from California Agriculture

Since 2004, University of California scientists have been studying “conservation tillage,” a suite of techniques that includes practices such as reducing tillage and leaving crop residues in the field after harvest. Leaving crop residues, in permacultural lingo, “chop and drop,” it turns out has a number of important benefits.

According to a research paper in the April-June 2012 issue of California Agriculture,

In two field studies comparing no-tillage with standard tillage operations (following wheat silage harvest and before corn seeding), we estimated that 0.89 and 0.97 inches more water was retained in the no-tillage soil than in the tilled soil. In three field studies on residue coverage, we recorded that about 0.56, 0.58 and 0.42 inches more water was retained in residue-covered soil than in bare soil following 6 to 7 days of overhead sprinkler irrigation. Assuming a seasonal crop evapotranspiration demand of 30 inches, coupling no-tillage with practices preserving high residues could reduce summer soil evaporative losses by about 4 inches (13%).

While this study is about commercial agriculture, much of its findings apply to home gardens as well, in my opinion. Leaving residues from the previous crop as a mulch layer saves water and builds soil. It does, of course, make it harder to direct sow seeds, but this is one of the reasons I like to work with transplants.

So don’t keep that vegetable garden too neat!

Avoiding Hyperthermia

When spending a day baking pizzas at a public event in front of a 1000º F oven in the full Southern California sun remember to drink water and take breaks. Otherwise you will spend the next day in bed with a splitting headache, unable to eat, barely able to drink anything and at the mercy of two young cats.

The first time I pulled off a case of hyperthermia was after a long bike ride. I would not call it fun, nor would I like this to happen when in the backwoods on a long backpacking trip. It also prevents coherent blogging. I’ll be back tomorrow with a plethora of home ec tips . . .