Sunday, January 16, 2011

Farm Challenge - Day 1

Farm Challenge Week is here!!

This week, life on the farm continues as it usually does... but with one small exception:

None of us 9 interns are allowed to eat anything that we didn't harvest from the farm.

This may sound easy, but you'd be surprised how many different ingredients are in your average daily food intake, and how much of that food would disappear if you removed all the wheat, sugar and dairy. Added to that, it is now the middle of the winter, and several early freezes destroyed most of our fall vegetable crops.

Now it may sound impossible, but fortunately for us, we live on one of the most diversely vegetated patches of Florida, with several hundred varieties of edible food plants growing on 10 acres.[1]

This week I'll be posting daily updates chronicling our attempt to get a better feeling for what it's like to truly live off of the land, to be dependent on the food that we grow for survival.  If we succeed in utilizing the produce on our farm, we'll have expanded our culinary horizons and gained new appreciation for underutilized vegetables.  If we fail, we'll probably lose a few pounds and be thankful we aren't actually depending on what we grow for our survival, like so many people in the world do.

Day 0 - Saturday Night

We decided to start our week on Saturday at 5:00 PM, so that if we were hungry in a week we could celebrate with a feast of bread and ice cream.

 4:55 found Ruth (the incoming rainforest intern) and I chowing down chips, dips and chicken bits in front of the Steelers game (Ruth and half of the ECHO staff are big fans), our last fix of flavor enhanced snacks before the starting bell.   Ruth had reason to wish for more of these stress-relieving munchies by the end of the first half.

Andrew (the outgoing rainforest intern) had volunteered to cook dinner for us all, and decided to start the week off with some pumpkin and duck soup, rice, and white yam (Dioscorea rotundata) fries.

Pumpkin soup on rice
I should mention that there are two exceptions to our no-food-not-from-the-farm rule: oil and salt.[2]  Andrew took advantage of these exceptions and pulled out the deep fat fryer.  Probably cheating, but oh so delicious!

Having over 65 different varieties of citrus on campus means our supply of fresh orange juice is limited only by our willingness to squeeze enough for everyone to have a glass.  Luckily Ruth had some steam to burn off during the Steelers' half time.

Day 1 - Sunday lunch

I didn't eat breakfast today.[3]  I then got to go out to lunch with a new friend after church, so by the time I had finished watching him eat his southern fried chicken and corn fritters, I was more than ready to get home and see what Matt (the mountain intern) had cooked up!  He didn't disappoint!

Rabbit raps: Rice, a rabbit, mustard greens and katuk, cooked with celery, bunching onions and herbs and wrapped in blanched pok choi leaves, along with some jicama sticks.  Served with a starfruit, strawberry and grapefruit salad.  Delicious!


There were plans for fresh fish for dinner, but apparently, farming skills don't translate well to fishing.

Instead, Jen (the semi-arid intern) cooked up a scrumptious mixture of broccoli, chicken[4], kale, and other leafy greens, served with rice and mixed baked sweet potatoes[5].

Another meal made complete with orange juice.

Andrew is picking out the rice grains that didn't get de-hulled completely.
It makes eating the rest of his meal more efficient.

Reflections, day 1:  Generally high spirits, everyone seems well fed and satisfied.  We are, however, depending pretty heavily on our limited supply of rice.  Will it last all week?

Some of us are experiencing old flavors in a new way as they are isolated from the menagerie of spices that usually accompanies them.  This is especially apparent in the meats, which are, of course, also more flavorful than their store-bought counterparts.


[1] ECHO's campus contains 55 acres.  Of this, most of the food we grow comes from a 5 acres intensively managed "global farm."  I'm including another 5 acres or so of fruit trees from around the campus.
[2] We don't really grow many oil crops on campus (at least not in processable quantity), and salt... well, nobody grows their own salt.  (Actually, technically some people still might.  Several species of plants, including salt grass, exude enough salt from their leaves to make it worth collecting as a source of salt.  This has been done by some cultures in the past.  But I digress.)
[3] Partly out of respect for ancient church tradition as I was attending an orthodox liturgy, and partly because I got up to late to get creative anyway.
[4] You may notice a relatively high occurrence of meat in this weeks menus.   This is partly because we have a fresh supply of tasty rabbits, ducks, chickens and goats, and partly because we don't have many alternate high-quality protein sources;  few of our demonstration-size plots of beans are large enough to yield a single meal.
[5] We grow 6 varieties on the farm.  After harvest, these were sorted into three size classes:  a) To be sold as food, b) to be fed to the interns, and c) to be fed to the rabbits.  We're not complaining.

1 comment:

  1. About time for a new post! We will be following this with great interest. Hope you update daily! Btw, when you are allowed to include things like tahini and miso in your diet again, we have a fantastic vegetable soup recipe for you!