Our garden is providing lots of our fruits, berries, herbs and vegetables and now we are experimenting with ways to produce more calories and nutrition on site. Grain, nuts, eggs and beans are the main subjects.
In our vegetarian system, animals provide nitrogen to balance the huge amount of carbon biomass produced in the garden. Our rabbits are truly multi-purpose critters. They are fertilizer makers, lawn mowers, weed processors and cuddly companions.
Last year I grew several types of grains (oats, rye, wheat, amaranth, quinoa, upland rice) and while I think they deserve further trials, with the small amount of space I have they are a lot of labor for the product.
Dried beans are what is exciting me right now. I just harvested my first crop of beautiful ‘Jacob’s Cattle’ beans from seeds my mom gave me last season. Soon to be picked are ‘Calypso’ and ‘Orca’ (also known as ‘Yin Yang’.) I’ve been traveling for a month and despite the good care my garden received the ‘Kew Blue’ crop went unpicked and is drying on the vine. Are they good as dried beans? I think they may be and if not I will have lots of stock for planting next year and seed sharing parties over the winter.
Having your own dried beans is a wonderful thing because they cook so easily and are delicious when they are the current year’s fresh crop. They are so pretty in glass jars on the counter. It takes a little foresight to make a meal with dried beans by soaking them overnight, but the quick-cook method of boiling them for a few minutes before soaking or using a crock pot or pressure cooker make it even easier. I won’t be using canned beans often now that I’ve cooked with dried black beans, pintos and garbanzos. Which also saves me the trouble of figuring out if the lining in canned food is safe. BPA is certainly problematic but it turns out the many similar plastic softeners are also a health hazard.
As far as other protein sources, we have a mature English walnut tree for nuts and have built a coop hoping to get three bantam hens in spring.