1. How to Grow Nuts 2. How to Grow Grains 3. Fermenting & Soaking Grains, Nuts & Seeds
1. How to Grow Nuts Nuts are one of the most valuable crops to grow. They can be very productive over time, but obviously growing nuts is a medium to long-term investment in time and land space. However, if you are serious about growing food for yourself, family or your local community, then investing in nut production should definitely be on your list of ‘To Do’s’. If you are limited for space then stick to smaller trees like hazels, we have been able to fit 3 hazel bushes on our 1,000 square metre (¼ acre) plot of land. Of course if you want to establish a forest-garden then nut trees are a must as part of the mix of trees and plants (see: ‘DIFFERENT BUT COMPLEMENTARY APPROACHES’ section FOREST GARDENING) Nuts are very nutritious, outstripping wheat and other grains in food value – here is a comparison between wheat, hazel nuts and walnuts: WHEAT HAZEL NUTS WALNUTS Nutritional value per 100 grams: Energy………..1,368 kJ (274 Calories)……3,023 kJ (505 Calories)……2,736 kJ (547 Calories) Carbohydrates …… 71.18% ……………………………16.7%.……………………..……11.0% Sugars …………..….. 0.41% ………….…………………4.35%.…………………………..2.6% Protein ……………….12.6%.……………………………….34%.………………………….27.0% Having said that, it is very important to realise that nuts and grains contain numerous enzyme inhibitors that reduce the body’s ability to digest the nutrients they do contain – however this can be easily alleviated – see section 3 – Fermenting & Soaking Grains, Nuts & Seeds – to increase their digestibility. Most nut trees also provide useful timber, such as walnut, and even hazel trees produce valuable stakes for use in the vegetable garden for growing beans up, and making temporary fencing, etc. Seek out varieties that crop earlier than either wild versions or other cultivars. For instance the selective cultivars of sweet chestnuts ‘Marron de Lyon’ or ‘Paragon’ will fruit within two to five years, whilst wild seedlings may take up to twenty years to produce! Also the modern grafted cultivars of walnuts can fruit within five to six years, whereas traditional ones took ten or more years and were not in full production until thirty years. Also pruning and training can induce earlier production. Even growing large trees like sweet chestnuts and walnuts, can be induced into producing earlier by training the trees into a bowl shape – i.e. cut back the young sapling to three outward pointing healthy buds about half a metre (20in) from ground level and each year cutting the side growths back by a third to two sidewise pointing buds. In this way a bowl shape will be formed of six main branches with an open centre. Trees trained in this way will not only crop earlier, but are easier to handle and pick. The same technique can be used for hazels, almonds, macadamias etc. ALMONDS (Prunus dulcis)
Almonds are so useful. You can sprout them, grind them into almond meal, add them skinned to rice or vegetables, or just eat them after soaking the shelled kernels in warm saline solution for 7 hours or more then rinsed and dried in a slow oven or dehydrator. Soil & Site: Almonds like well-drained soil and will not tolerate a heavy wet soil in winter. Almonds blossom in late winter/early spring, and for this reason it is good to plant them in a sheltered position where the blossom won’t get damaged by strong winds or air frosts. Rootstocks: Almonds are usually bud-grafted onto seedling almond stock. Varieties: All-in-One: I guess the name says it all – a self-fertile Almond that is highly recommended for home orchards. It is a semi-dwarf variety, which grows to 4.5m x 3.5m (15 x 11½ft). It produces heavy crops of large soft-shell nuts with a sweet flavour (hence its other name – Fat Boy). Suitable for warmer areas, as they require less winter chill than other varieties. Plant it in a sheltered position. We planted one in our front garden in the winter of 2013, and it’s producing well. Almond 402: This variety has large, soft-shelled almonds. It is a heavy producer and ripens early. It is also self-fertile and is a good pollinator for other varieties. It prefers a sunny position away from harsh wind and frost. Almond Self-Fertile: Obviously self-fertile. This variety produces large soft-shelled nuts. Planting: To give your trees a good start – See: ‘HOW TO GROW FRUIT‘ section: PLANTING TREE FRUIT. Planting is best carried out during winter. Support & Training: They will need staking for the first few years. This ‘All-in-One’ tree we bought in winter 2013 was about 1.75 metres (6ft) high. After planting, I cut out the central leader to knee height – 0.6m (2ft) just above three main side branches, plus two smaller ones. The side branches were cut back by a third to two side pointing buds each – one on each side – which grew into two branches the following season and is now the vase or bowl shape I was looking for. Training the tree this way will keep the tree at a reasonable height, allow an open centre for air and light to penetrate, and create a productive tree earlier in its life than would otherwise happen if it was left to grow upwards naturally – see left. Maintenance: For first five or six years, they will not bear fruit, however it is essential to ensure they have adequate water during these first few years. Mulching: In its young years mulch down with 15cm (6in) spray-free straw, after that undersow with a grass/clover mix, and also an area with insect attractant plants like Bee Balm, Borage, German Chamomile, Clover, Phacelia, Sweet Alyssum, Thyme, etc. Feeding: Mulching annually with well-rotted compost or manure is usually sufficient in the first few years. After that apply an annual dressing of powdered seaweed, or fresh washed seaweed in the winter. Pruning: Do not prune in winter! Late pruning in spring reduces canker infections in pruning cuts and allows you to remove winter-killed branches. Almonds can also be pruned in autumn immediately after fruit picking. Apart from initial training, keeping the height down to 4-5m (13-16ft) and an annual cutting out of dead, diseased and crossed wood, as well as removing a little unproductive wood in the summer, is about it. Harvesting & Preserving: Depending upon variety, almonds are ready for harvest from early autumn. Harvest as soon as most (75 per cent or more) of the hulls have split open exposing the almond shell inside. It is also important to keep your tree well watered up to the time of harvest, since the hulls will not split well if the tree lacks water. Spread a plastic sheet under the tree and knock the almonds from the trees by striking the small branches with a pole. Pick the nuts up promptly to prevent possums, mice or rats from eating them. Remove the hulls promptly from the nuts and then spread them in a thin layer on a tray or screen to allow good air circulation under cover, preferably in a sunny spot, to prevent mould growth in storage. Stir them often to dry them well. You may need to cover the drying nuts with a screen or plastic netting to prevent loss from birds. Check the nuts regularly for dryness. To do this remove the shells from several nuts and break the kernels. If the kernels are rubbery they will need more drying. They are ready for storage when their kernels are crisp to brittle when broken. When properly dried, in-shell almonds can be stored at room temperature on in a cool dry store, hung in netting to avoid mice eating them. Propagation: Almond trees, like so many trees are difficult to root from cuttings, so graft the named variety onto the seedling stock. Cuttings are taken from trees during dormancy and grafted to a suitable rootstock in the spring. To grow your seedling rootstocks:
- Carefully use a nutcracker to crack the shell and extract the nut, being very careful not to damage the nut inside.
- Soak your raw almonds in warm to room temperature water for 24 hours.
- Use 8-10cm (3-4in) plant pots, remembering that they and their nuts will have to sit in your refrigerator where the temperature stays just above freezing for about six weeks. This process is called stratification. If you live in colder winters you can leave them outside, but you run the risk of animals and bugs eating the almond before it gets a chance to grow. Fill the pots up all the way with the soil mixture, as the almond roots tend to go deep.
- Bury two soaked almonds per hole about 7.5cm (3in) below the soil surface in the pots. This will ensure that at least one grows. If both do, discard the extra one. Place the whole pot in a plastic bag and close it up to create a humid environment. Set it in your refrigerator (or cold garden) for six weeks.
- After six weeks remove them from the plastic bag. Place them in a warm glasshouse, tunnel-house, or a sunny window until the weather warms up and the average daily temperature outside is regularly above 100C (500F).
- Plant them outside in their final site, or in a nursery bed in full sun. Almond seedlings don’t like root disturbance, so keep as much of the soil in the pot around them.
- Bud or whip & tongue graft onto your seedling rootstock from a chosen variety.
- As almonds send down deep roots, when they are between ½-1m (1½-3ft) they rarely need regular watering.
- Keep down weeds and mulch down with 10-15cm (4-6in) spray-free straw or 6cm (2¼in) grass clippings for the first 3 years.
Possible Pests & Diseases: Aphids and leaf-eating Caterpillars: Spray with homemade garlic, chilli and ginger spray – (see chapter 13, ‘Pests & Diseases’ – Traditional Indian Insecticide Spray). Peach leaf curl: can attack almonds as well as peaches. It’s a fungus infection that will start to brown your tree’s leaves, and then they will curl up tightly. If this happens to your trees, remove the infected leaves right away and dispose of them. Burning is a good idea so the fungus doesn’t spread. Rake any dropped leaves off the ground around your trees. If you can’t control it, spraying regularly through the growing season with Trichoderma viride powder, mixed thoroughly in water, or liquid Trichoderma, which can be bought in some countries. Alternatively, spray with urine watered down 3 to 1 in the growing season and a spray of undiluted urine over the whole tree plus the ground around it, should help to control leaf curl (urine is a good natural fungicide) – (see the chapter 13, ‘Pests & Diseases’ – HOME MADE ORGANIC INSECTICIDES & FUNGICIDES – Urine). HAZEL NUTS (Corylus avellana)
Hazelnuts are highly valued for their delicious taste plus the fact that they are high in protein and oil, Vitamin E and anti-oxidants. They take up a lot less room than other nut trees – 2-3m (6½-10ft) apart and 4-5m (13-16ft) high – so if you are limited for space, hazels are well worth thinking about. Soil & Site: Hazels can be grown in a wide range of soils, but ideally they need a relatively fertile well-drained soil that is rich in organic matter to hold moisture; preferably with a good depth of topsoil between 30-60cm (1-2ft). Stony or sandy soils are not ideal because they present a real challenge in maintaining adequate soil moisture levels. Aim for a pH of 6.5 as with most other horticultural and farm crops. Hazels are naturally forest edge trees, or grow in the understory of larger trees. As a result good shelter is essential, including partial shade, especially at midday in areas with hot summers, because the trees can suffer from overheating and sunburn in hot weather. Rootstocks: Hazels are grown on their own roots, from layered stools or runners. Varieties: To ensure adequate pollination it is advisable to include a mix of at least 2 different varieties mixed in together. Alexandra: is a New Zealand selection from Central Otago. It forms a large vigorous, open, spreading tree with few suckers. The nuts usually fall free of the husk. Pollinate with Merveille de Bolwillier or Whiteheart. Barcelona: is a vigorous grower that produces large nuts in great quantities. Pollinate with ‘Merveille de Bolwillier’ or ‘Butler’. 4m high and 3m wide (13x10ft) Ennis: is an abundant cropper with nuts that are large, tasty and attractive. Pollinate with ‘Alexandra’ or Merveille de Bolwillier. Merveille de Bolwiller: Has large round nuts. Pollinate with ‘Alexandra’. Tonda di Giffoni: A high yielding Hazelnut tree with large succulent nuts that ripen at the end of summer. Pollinate with ‘Barcelona’. Whiteheart: One of the best. A great producer with well-filled nuts. Use ‘Merveille de Bolwiller’ or ‘Alexandra’as the pollinator. Planting: To give your trees a good start – (see ‘HOW TO GROW FRUIT’ section: ‘PLANTING TREE FRUIT’). Plant at 2m-3m (6½-10ft) between trees in rows 4m-5m (13-16ft) apart. Hazel nuts are wind pollinated and therefore are best planted in blocks, so whichever way the wind blows the female flowers will get pollinated. The mail flowers are long fluffy catkins that puff out pollen in late winter and the females have very small bright red flowers on top of a bud usually on the twiggy branches. Support & Training: They will not need support. The best way to train them is to form them into a ‘vase’ shape with five main branches with an open centre, on a 45cm (18in) leg. For newly planted young trees, prune the leader back to three or four lateral branches just above 45cm (18in). Shorten these laterals to 22cm (8½in), then remove all other laterals below them. Over the next two years, let 10-12 well-spaced shoots develop to form the main branches. Maintenance: Spray with liquid seaweed and/or compost tea every few weeks during the growing season. Hazels send up suckers around the main stem, these should be cut out each autumn. Mulching: Apart from the annual mulch of compost or rotted manure, mulch during the growing season with 4-5cm (1½-2in) grass clippings or spray-free straw, leaving a little gap around the trunk. Feeding: Mulching annually with well-rotted compost or manure is usually sufficient, along with a dressing of seaweed meal or fresh seaweed that has had the salt hosed off. Pruning: Prune at the end of winter when the catkins are elongating and producing their pollen. Test by gently knocking some to see if they produce a pollen cloud. The shaking of the catkins as you prune will help to pollinate the small red female flowers. This is the time to cut out the inevitable runners that come up around the main trunk, and to cut back the new long shoots to three or four buds. In late summer break down the long shoots halfway along their length, but leave the short twiggy growths, as these usually have the female flowers on that produce the nuts. In the following winter prune back the half broken shoots to three or four buds. This will build up the spurs over the years that will produce the nuts. As they age, remove any worn-out branches where strong new growth exists to replace them. Harvesting & Preserving: Hazelnuts are harvested when they fall naturally to the ground and should be dried thoroughly prior to storage. Pick them up regularly to avoid possums and rats eating them. Secure storage against mice and rats is also important, like steel bins, or onion bags suspended from the ceiling. Hazel stakes are very useful as beanpoles, etc. However they will have to be trained from upright new shoots, or from trees that are used for that purpose only, by cutting down all the branches in the winter to near ground level and allowing them to grow the next season. Propagation: On a small scale you can dig out the outer shoots. Hazelnuts spread by underground runners that develop roots. These runners can be cut away from the main plant using a sharp digging spade. This is best done in late autumn after the leaves have dropped and the bushes are dormant. The roots of the transplanted shoots will continue to grow until it gets cold. On a larger scale you can propagate by ‘stooling’, which is a form of layering. In early winter cut an established bush down to just above ground level, removing the branches. Then mound up topsoil over the cut down stems to a depth of around 8cm. In mid to late spring, new shoots will start to grow through. Several times throughout the growing season mound up the shoots with more topsoil to a final depth of 15-20cm (6-8in), making sure you leave the tops of the shoots uncovered. During the next winter carefully remove some of the soil to see if the shoots have produced new roots. If they have, cut off the rooted shoots and transplant into a nursery bed, or into their final place. This can be repeated many times over several years, or you can let the bush regrow, training it back into its original form. Possible Pests & Diseases: (Refer to ‘PESTS & DISEASES’ for maximising resistance) Pest and disease control is particularly important when the trees are young as any damage can kill them. Pests Big bud mite: is a microscopic mite that lives inside the dormant buds sucking the sap from the embryonic leaves, this causes the buds to become swollen and rounded. The buds often dry up not producing any leaves, or have stunted foliage with few or no flowers. If it is noticed in time, picking off the effected buds and disposing of them will keep it in check. If the infestation is severe then spraying with a sulphur spray, spring and autumn, should help. Grass shield beetle: These beetles feed on the nuts, causing a distortion of the kernel making them taste bitter. They are easily controlled with Neem oil as well as good orchard hygiene. Hazel leaf miner: Causes premature defoliation of trees and no controls are known at present. As with other pests and diseases, improvements in plant resistance will help. Lemon tree borer: Usually these borers only affect trees that are already unhealthy. With healthy trees it is very rare. It can be controlled by pruning out affected stems which have been weakened by borers tunnelling up them. Hares and Rabbits: Hares bite the tops off young trees and rabbits can eat the foliage and gnaw the bark. Use tree guards if this is a problem. Possums: in Australia and New Zealand may steal nuts whilst they are on the ground, so prompt and regular harvesting will keep this to a minimum. Possum traps are also available, if they are climbing the trees, eating the branches, leaves and the nuts. Rats: The same as above stealing nuts on the ground, so harvest regularly. Squirrels: are a common and serious pest for anybody growing nuts in the Americas, Eurasia, and Africa, and were also introduced by humans to Australia. The best trap seems to be the Kania Trap, which is effective and humane and available. Diseases Bacterial blight (Xanthamonas corylina): This bacterium causes dieback of the leaves and shoots and can even attack new buds, stunting them, usually to young trees that have not got fully established. Stress produced by wind, hot sun or a lack of water can make the trees more susceptible to attack. At its worse, it can kill the tree. The usual remedy is copper spray in spring and autumn, but I do not like to use copper as it kills soil organisms. If you do use it, place a plastic sheet under the tree whilst spraying. My choice would be to use a strong garlic, chilli and ginger spray spring and autumn, which is natural bactericide – (see: ‘PESTS & DISEASES’). Phytophthora: Phytophthora is a soil-borne fungus that kills the tree’s roots. Phytophthora is more of a problem in heavy soils and/or high rainfall. If you have a heavy clay soil, use a crowbar to break up the bottom of an extra large planting hole and use a well drained potting compost mix when filling in around the tree roots. For more information on hazelnut growing see:http://www.hazelnut-growers.org.nz/ this is not an organic site, but it is very useful and has a section on growing organically. MACADAMIA (Macadamia integrifolia)
For many people Macadamia nuts are one of the favourite ones for taste. However they are tender and will only grow where air temperatures do not get below freezing. They take 4-5 years before producing. Soil & Site: Macadamias prefer temperate to tropical climates that are frost-free, but areas that have mild frosts at ground level with the air temperature above freezing will get away with it. Here in the Nelson area, New Zealand, we have so many microclimates that inland away from the coast and in frosty valleys it is not possible to grow macadamia nuts. However, on North facing sunny slopes where the cold air rolls off at night, and areas near the coast, I know of people who grow macadamias successfully. The most obvious places to grow macadamia nuts in New Zealand are the Auckland region and regions further north. They like an average rainfall. Macadamias like a well-drained soil rich in organic matter but can tolerate a wide range of conditions from clay to sandy loam, with a pH of 5-6. If the pH is that already, then they will still benefit from 4 handfuls of gypsum (Calcium Sulphate) per square metre (yard), to supply both valuable calcium and sulphur without raising the pH any more. Plant them in a sunny spot with protection from prevailing winds and cold Southerlies, especially when young. Rootstocks: Seedling rootstock, or commercial rootstock Hinde (H2). Pollination: Pollination is performed by honeybees; as a result, weather will affect pollination if it is too windy and wet during flowering resulting in a low nut set, so protection from winds will help. Varieties: There are two main species of macadamia:
- Macadamia tetraphylla comes from mid NSW and is more tolerant of cooler climates. These trees tend to be vertical in growth and prickly with pink flowers and new growth. Most rootstock is tetraphylla. This is obviously the type to grow in cooler climates.
- Macadamia integrifolia comes from Northern NSW and Queensland in Australia and prefers warmer frost-free climates.
No planting of a single variety is recommended as macadamias do better when the various types are mixed to allow cross-pollination, thus increasing yields. Beaumont: Self-fertile but more fruitful with a pollinator. Heavy yields of large nuts that need to be picked, because they will not drop. Texture and flavour very good, nut tends to be high in sugar. A good consistent producer for the home garden and small farm. This variety has been bred for New Zealand and is the most commonly grown one commercially. GT201: Average sized nuts. Heavy and consistant cropper. Size – 6-8m (20-26ft). Ideal pollinator for Beaumont. PA39: Matures early and tends to drop nuts. Crops well and combines well with Beaumont as a pollinator. Renown: An open tree with good crop and is a good pollinator. A good variety for home use with large nuts. Own Choice: Another good variety for the domestic garden with good self or cross-pollination. Large nuts. Planting: To give your trees a good start – (See: ‘HOW TO GROW FRUIT’ section: ‘PLANTING TREE FRUIT’). Planting is best carried out in the spring. Trees should be planted in rows with 6m (20ft) between rows and minimum of 4m (13ft) between trees, or diagonal planting at 5m (16½ft). Support & Training: Stake newly planted young trees for the first two years. Train the trees in an open ‘vase’ shape, on a 60cm (2ft) bare stem. Maintenance: Irrigate as the nuts are starting to swell if it is dry. Mulching: Trees should be mulched around the trees, especially in the early years. Then sown down with a red clover grass mix, mowed regularly and the clippings left to rot down. Feeding: Macadamias benefit from trace elements that are best supplied by seaweed sprays, mulching with seaweed, or applying powdered seaweed to the soil, or all three! Pruning: Some pruning is desirable after planting to reduce the tree to two leaders at each branching. The tree should be pruned to allow for light, picking and air movement in the centre. The tree can be thinned to a minimum of internal branches without effecting production. The height should be kept at picking height. After training new growth may also need to be trimmed. Harvesting & Preserving: Picking: It is best to pick the nuts when ripe, but before they drop, especially if it is wet. To work out when to pick, wait until a few have started to drop and the nut husks starting to split on the tree. To test for maturity, when opened, both the nut husk interior and the nut should be brown (not white). Picking too early will result in many small and hard kernels, which will be useless. Pull or cut the nut clusters from the tree, having spread a net under the tree. Husking: It is best to de-husk the nuts within 24 hours of picking to prevent mould, rancidity and germination. Drying & Storing: Nuts are best hung in a well-ventilated place to reduce moisture content and protection from mice etc. Failure to store in a dry well ventilated pace will lead to mould, rancidity and even germination. Nuts should be crisp when fully dry and should rattle when shaken to indicate that the kernel has shrunk away from the shell. Propagation: Graft chosen variety onto seedling rootstock, or Hinde H2. Possible Pests & Diseases: (Refer to: ‘PESTS & DISEASES’ for maximising resistance) Shield Bug: This is the main problem for NZ. They can pierce the immature nut and stain the kernel brown and towards the end of flowering (September). Leaf Roller Caterpillar: can also be a problem. For both these pests see: ‘PESTS & DISEASES’ – Traditional Indian Insecticide Spray Rats: can be a problem and an eradication program is advised. The rats often reside in bird’s nests or piles of rubbish or weeds and these should be removed. Possums: will eat the soft greens nuts, so trapping is advised if there is a problem. Squirrels: The best trap seems to be the Kania Trap, which is effective and humane and available in most countries. PECAN (Carya illinoinensis)
Pecan nuts are members of the Hickory family that originated in North America. They are fast growing deciduous trees. These nutritious and delicious nuts are produced in clusters. Their height in 10 years will reach 9m x 6m (30 x 20ft), although they can be kept lower at 6m (20ft). Pecan trees flower from spring, about a week after the leaves have started to open. The nuts mature in the autumn and fall from autumn through to mid winter. Soil & Site: Pecans are native to river and creek bottoms, where the soils are deep, well drained and fertile, with a good water holding capacity, so apply at least two buckets of well-rotted garden compost per square metre before planting mixed into the top few centimetres. Pecans planted on shallow soils will have trouble developing to their full potential. They prefer a soil pH of between 6 and 6.5. Pecans grow well in mild climates to cold climates. However they require about 150 to 210 frost-free days during the growing season to produce nuts, but they also need a chill spell during winter. The pecan can stand heavy frosts when dormant, but late frosts prevent fruit setting and can even kill the embryonic nuts. A site with late air frosts is therefore not suitable. Rootstocks: Seedlings grown for grafting onto. Varieties: Most varieties start cropping around 5 to 7 years and eventually grow to 3m high and 2m wide. Carya Colby: This variety produces very meaty thin-shelled pecans. Recommended pollinator is Carya Peruque. Carya Hirschi: produces large thin-shelled pecans. The nuts mature in May and June when they fall from the tree. They are self-fertile but will do better when cross-pollinated. Recommended pollinator is Carya Colby. Carya Lucas: A very heavy cropper. The pecans are thin-shelled rich in flavour and easily shell out. Recommended pollinator is Peruque. Carya Peruque: is very productive. Recommended pollinators are Colby and Pawnee. Planting: To give your trees a good start – (See: ‘HOW TO GROW FRUIT’ section: ‘PLANTING TREE FRUIT’). Planting is best carried out during winter. Pecan trees have a very long life span and can attain a great size if you let them. However, they can be planted 7.5m (24ft) apart for the first few years, eventually thinning to 15m (50ft) apart when they grow too close. Support & Training: If grown in windy conditions large branches are often blown down. Therefore pecans should be grown in sheltered sites and trained into a vase shape on a half metre (1½ft) leg, and to reduce height and for ease of harvesting. Animals should not be allowed in the paddock for at least three years after planting unless the trees are protected. Where it is intended to graze stock underneath, the stem should be trained to 2 metres (6½ft) free of side branches. Maintenance: Foliar feeding with seaweed spray twice in the growing season will supply trace elements, plus potassium and magnesium. The required rainfall and irrigation requirement for pecan production per year is between 75cm and 200cm (30-79in). Here in Nelson we have around 66cm (26in) per annum, so to grow Pecans successfully, irrigation is required as the nuts start to grow, up until maturing, in order to initiate nut growth, increase their size and prevent the nuts from drying out and dropping prematurely. Mulching: Mulch around the trees to just beyond the drip line with grass and clover clippings. Some of the healthiest fruit and nut trees I have seen are grown by one of our neighbours up the hill from us, who cuts the red clover and grass growing in his orchard which he piles around his trees with the regular addition of worm juice from his worm farm. In other words he creates little compost heaps around each tree – and do they look healthy! Feeding: An annual feed in early spring, of seaweed meal, plus Eco or Organic Fertiliser, plus one bucket of compost per square metre (square yard) around the perimeter of the tree where the feeding roots are will produce good crops. Pruning: In winter prune out all diseased, crossing or damaged branches, as well as any runners around the trunk. Cut out any inward pointing growths to keep the centre of the tree open. Harvesting & Preserving: Some varieties tend to produce their main crops every other year. Pick fallen nuts regularly. Taking care of the nuts when they fall is important. Pecans last a long time, particularly when frozen and can hold their freshness for up to two years. Store shelled or unshelled. Nuts in the shell retain their quality longer than shelled. Propagation: Propagation can be done by taking cuttings or grafting onto seedling rootstock. Cuttings:
- Take cuttings in late spring or early summer when the tree is no longer dormant.
- Fill a 12cm (5in) pot with pumice grist, perlite or vermiculite, or a half/half mix of pumice grist and vermiculite. Pour water into the pot until the medium is saturated.
- Gather 15cm (6in) long tip cuttings from healthy side branches, with 6mm thick stems and plenty of foliage. Avoid branches with blossoms.
- Make a cut 2mm below a mature leaf, using bypass shears or a craft knife. Make the cut slightly angled to expose a larger portion of the inner flesh.
- Pull off all the leaves along the lower half of the cutting. Dip the cut end in rooting powder. Flick the stem to knock off the excess powder.
- Push a pencil into the pumice grist near the edge of the pot and insert the pecan cutting to half its length. Repeat the process around the rim for the other cuttings. Shake the pot gently to settle the pumice against the stems. Drizzle some water around the cuttings to further settle them in.
- Place the pecan cutting outdoors where it will receive light shade and shelter from wind – not in full sun.
- Mist the pecan cuttings with a spray bottle at least twice daily to prevent drying. Moisten the pumice whenever you mist the cutting so it never fully dries out.
- Check for roots in six to eight weeks by lightly tugging on the stem and feeling for resistance. Carefully transplant the rooted pecan cuttings 20cm apart into a nursery bed.
- The following autumn, when the leaves have dropped, transplant out the plants into a sunny sheltered site in soil enriched with garden compost at two buckets per square metre.
Grafting: Whip-and-tongue or bud graft in late winter or early spring, onto seedling rootstock. Possible Pests & Diseases: (Refer to: ‘PESTS & DISEASES’ to encourage maxim resistance) Possums & Squirrels: Grow the trees on 1.5m (5ft) trunks with stainless steel sheet bands attached to stop them climbing up. Other problems are borers, shield bugs, bronze beetles and cicadas. Regular spraying with Traditional Indian Insecticide Spray will help control these pests (see: ‘PESTS & DISEASES’) Pecan Scab: Eastern cultivars are adapted to more humid conditions and are less susceptible to Pecan scab. Pecan scab is characterised by irregular brown to black spots on the leaves and circular spots on the nuts. Spray fortnightly with Trichoderma viride spray, or powder thoroughly mixed with water. PINE NUTS (Pinus pinea)
There are many pines that have edible nuts, but the pine nuts that are commonly sold, are the nuts of the Stone Pine (Pinus pinea). A beautiful tree reaching 5-6 metres (16-20ft) in 10 years. The pine nut grows into a large attractive umbrella shaped tree. They are self-fertile so you can grow only one if you want to. A mature tree will yield 5kg (11 pounds) of shelled nuts per year. Soil & Site: In their natural habitat they grow on rocky hillsides hence the name. As a result it will grow pretty much anywhere. Planting: See: ‘HOW TO GROW FRUIT’ section: ‘PLANTING TREE FRUIT’. Support & Training: Just tie to a stake for the first year until the roots have established. Maintenance: Water in dry periods during the first year. Mulching: Mulch with spray-free straw for the first two years. Feeding: Apart from a good feed at planting (see above), there is no need. Harvesting & Preserving: This tree will take up to 8 years to fruit. The cones take 2 full seasons to mature and are ready to harvest when they have turned brown in colour. Stack the cones in the sun to dry and open. Remove seeds by hand and crack the shells removing the kernels. Propagation: From cuttings, or seed. Possible Pests & Diseases: Pests: Stone pines have very few problems, check for caterpillars and sawfly. Spray with Traditional Indian Insecticide Spray – ‘PESTS & DISEASES’ if you have any problems. Diseases: They can succumb to root fungal disease if grown in very wet soil, so grow them in dry well-drained ground. You can also sprinkle one handful of Trichoderma viride granules or powder into the planting hole, or spread granules around the feeding roots and water in, as a precaution. SWEET CHESTNUTS (Castanea sativa)
If you have enough land to grow these large trees then go for it. Hardy, deciduous, grows to 10m (30ft) or more. Sweet Chestnuts are wide spreading trees that originated from around Turkey and the Black Sea region of southern Russia. The Romans loved their chestnuts and as a result they introduced them to most present day European countries where they have become naturalised, and today are a common part of the landscape in many regions. They also provide valuable timber, given time. Soil & Site: Plant Sweet Chestnuts in full sun, on a free draining fertile soil, with an acid pH of around 5.5 to 6.5. Heavier, poorly drained soils are not suitable, as there is the likelihood of root rot problems (Phytophthora spp). They also prefer shelter from the prevailing winds to prevent windburn in late spring and early summer. Chestnuts have been grown in countries with cold winters, but wherever you grow them, you have to remember that they require hot summers with maximum temperatures of at least 25-300C (77-860F), which are necessary to ripen the nuts. Rootsocks: Use seedling rootstocks that have been grown from chestnut seed of the same variety that is to be grafted onto the rootstock. Pollination: Chestnut trees require cross-pollination from a different compatible variety to ensure good nut production. This means planting at least two different pollen-producing varieties. Varieties: Marron de Lyon: An excellent French variety that produces very large dark Mahogany red nuts in just two to three years from planting. It is a very compact variety, although when fully grown will still reach a height of about 9m (30ft). Marigoule: An excellent French variety that produces very large dark Mahogany red nuts in just two to three years from planting. Nut size is medium to large. It is known for its resistance to root rot and blight. The nuts are easy to peel once they have cured for a few days. This is an ideal tree for a medium to large garden because it is a slightly smaller tree than most cultivars. Marron de Lyon varieties can grow to around 9m and produce nuts after 2-3 years, whilst Marigoule varieties will fruit in 2-4 years. Both these cultivars bear fruits with a single large kernel, rather than the usual two to four smaller kernels. Planting: To give your trees a good start – See: ‘HOW TO GROW FRUIT’ section: ‘PLANTING TREE FRUIT’. Planting is best carried out in late autumn-early spring. Always plant so the grafting union is above the level of the soil. Plant the trees 7 x 7 metres (23 x 23ft) apart. Support & Training: Stake newly planted young trees for the first two years. Remember that chestnut trees will get up to 20m (65ft) if you let them! As with all other nut trees I would suggest growing them in a ‘vase’ shape with 4 or 5 main branches growing out from a 2m (6½ft) high trunk and keeping the overall height down to around 5-6m (16-20ft). Maintenance: Regular rainfall over the summer and autumn months is important to produce decent sized nuts, so irrigation in a dry season might be necessary. Mulching: In its young years mulch down with 15cm (6in) spray-free straw, after that undersow with a red clover. Feeding: They need good supplies of nitrogen, potassium and magnesium in particular. Annual dressings of powdered seaweed, or fresh washed seaweed will supply both potassium and magnesium. Mulching annually with well-rotted compost or manure is usually sufficient in the first few years. After that, undersow with red clover, mowed regularly to release nitrogen for the trees. Harvesting & Preserving: Chestnuts fall in the autumn and ideally should be gathered every day over peak nut-fall because of their highly perishable nature and their susceptibility to predation by possums and rats that relish the nuts.
- Because of their highly perishable nature, freshly harvested chestnuts must be cool stored immediately at 0-2oC (32-35½oF). For small quantities keep the fresh chestnuts in the fridge, packed into ventilated plastic bags or the vegetable drawer, they should then keep for up to six months.
- For larger quantities, preserve the chestnuts for long-term storage by drying the shelled and de-skinned nuts (see below), quickly in a low oven so as to avoid moulding. Dried chestnuts need to be soaked in water before the can be used again.
- You can also cook them thoroughly, purée them in a food processor, then heat to boiling point for several minutes and poured into sterilised preserving jars and sealed.
- Cooked chestnuts, whole, chopped, or pureed, may be frozen in an airtight container and will keep up to 9 months.
Cooking: To get both the shells off and the inner brown skins, first firmly cut a cross through the shell on the flat side of the nut and then boil in a pan of water for 10 minutes, drain, run with cold water until comfortable to peel, and with a small kitchen knife peel off the shell. Do not try to peel off the inner skins at this point, because it will be difficult. Then boil them again for a further 10 minutes, then drain again and you will find it easier to peal off the inner skins with your fingers, or a small blunt kitchen knife, or back of a knife. Cook them in boiling water for a further 10 minutes until firm but tender, or pat dry and place on an oven tray and sprinkle with olive oil, salt and pepper and cook at 200oC (392oF) for about 15 minutes. Another way to eat them is to add the cooked and peeled chestnuts to a pan of boiling water with Brussels sprouts 50/50, cooked for 5 minutes only, then serve with a good knob of butter – one of my favourite ways of eating both chestnuts and Brussels sprouts. Propagation: For those that have the land to grow sweet chestnuts, don’t be tempted to grow some from seed unless you intend to graft selected cultivars onto the seedling rootstocks. A tree grown from seed may take 20 years or more before it bears fruits, but a grafted cultivar such as ‘Marron de Lyon’ or ‘ Marigoule ‘ may start production within 2 to 4 years of being planted. Chestnut varieties are propagated by grafting or budding onto a seedling rootstock. To help minimise graft rejection, it is recommended that trees are grafted or budded onto seedling rootstocks that have been grown from chestnut seed of the same variety as those being propagated. Possible Pests & Diseases: Root Rot: caused by the soil-based fungal disease Phytophthora cinnamomi which usually kills the tree, (at any age), and is more prevalent on heavier soil types. As already said, grow them on free draining soil to avoid this problem. As a precaution you can sprinkle one handful of Trichoderma viride granules or powder into the planting hole or sprinkle Trichoderma around the feeding roots of an established tree and water in. Possums & Squirrels: in some areas can be especially damaging, eating the bark, leaves and breaking branches and eating the nuts when they fall to the ground at harvest. Training the main trunk to at least 2m (6½ft) and tying stainless steel sheet tree guards around the main trunk will stop them climbing the trees. Rabbits & Hares: will eat the bark of young trees. Attach tree guards if this is a problem. WALNUTS (Juglans regia)
Walnuts (Juglans spp) are native to Asia and America. As well as eating walnuts, they can be pressed to extract the oil or can be pickled when young. The timber is also very valuable, but will take forty years to produce. Juglans regia is the “traditional” walnut tree in many countries. Soil & Site: Walnuts are not entirely frost hardy, and should not be grown in areas susceptible to severe frosts. A freely draining soil is best on a site, which receives plenty of sun. As with all trees for fruit or timber production, sites with high wind exposure are best avoided. High winds can interfere with pollination in a young orchard where pollen may be blown away or catkins blown off the tree. Rootstocks: Black Walnut (Juglans nigra), or the Californian black walnut (Juglans hindsii) Varieties: Although walnuts are, in theory, self-fertile if you are growing more than one tree it is a good idea to grow at least two varieties to improve pollination. Broadview: This is one of the earliest and best all round fruiting cultivars, fruiting within three to four years. It is self fertile with a slightly pointed nut. Chandler: The Chandler walnut is large, smooth, and oval shaped. Chandler walnuts has one of the highest kernel yields of any variety. Fernor: An excellent new French variety, has many flowers, and is blight tolerant. Late ripening, large nuts of excellent quality, with easily extracted kernels that store well and have excellent flavour. Average vigour and semi erect habit. Lara: French variety, good fruit quality, highly productive. Early ripening. Average vigour. Rita: This variety is of Carpathian origin. This variety bares heavy crop of thin-shelled nuts. It is a smaller than average tree. For this reason it is ideal for more compact gardens. Planting: To give your trees a good start – See: ‘HOW TO GROW FRUIT’ section: ‘PLANTING TREE FRUIT’. Planting is best carried out during winter. If you are planting several, space at 9m (30ft) apart. Support & Training: They will not need support. The best way to train them is to form them into an open bush or ‘vase’ shape, with five main branches with an open centre, on a 1 to 2 metre (3-6ft) leg. Maintenance: For first five or six years, they will not bear fruit, however it is essential to ensure they have adequate water during this time. Mulching: In its young years mulch down with 15-20cm (6-8in) spray-free straw, after that sow a grass/red clover mix, which should be cut regularly and left as mulch around the feeding roots. Feeding: Mulching annually with well-rotted compost or manure is usually sufficient in the first few years. After that feeding should not be necessary. Pruning: Apart from initial training, and annual cutting out dead, diseased and crossed wood – that’s about it. Harvesting & Preserving: Harvesting is generally by hand. If nuts are allowed to fall to the ground it is essential to pick them up daily or they will be damaged by mould, and the kernels will darken and spoil rapidly and may also be eaten by possums and rats. Pick the nuts when they are at peak quality, which is when the tissue, which fills the space between the kernel and the shell, has turned brown in autumn. The young walnuts can also be picked green and pickled: Ingredients:
- 1 kg (2 pounds) fresh green walnuts
- 1 cup cooking salt
- 10 cups water
- 5 cups malt vinegar
- 1⅔ cups brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon pickling spice
- 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
- ½ teaspoon cloves
- Pick the walnuts in early summer while they are still green, and before the shells have begun to form. To protect your hands while preparing them, wear disposable plastic gloves. Walnut stains are persistent and difficult to remove.
- Test the walnuts by pricking them with a darning needle – they should be soft. Discard any that are firm and resist the needle as this means that the shell has started to form.
- Prick the selected walnuts all over with a fork and put them in a large bowl. Dissolve half of the salt in half of the water and pour over the walnuts, making sure that they are covered with the brine. If necessary, place a clean plate on top to keep the walnuts submerged. Cover the bowl with a plate for seven days and leave to soak, stirring occasionally.
- After seven days, drain, cover with fresh brine made with the remaining salt and water, and leave for seven more days, stirring occasionally.
- Drain the walnuts well and spread them, in single layers, on dishes. Leave them outside in the open air, preferably in the sunshine, for a couple of days until they are black. (Take them in each night.)
- Meanwhile, put the vinegar in a stainless steel or enamel saucepan and add the brown sugar, 1 teaspoon salt, pickling spice, black peppercorns and cloves. Stir over medium heat until the sugar has dissolved, then bring to the boil and boil on low heat for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat, cover and allow to cool.
- Pack the blackened walnuts in clean, dry jars. Strain the spiced vinegar into an enamel or stainless steel saucepan and bring to the boil. Remove the pan from the heat and pour the vinegar over the walnuts, making sure that they are well covered. Cover the jars with vinegar-proof lids, label and store. Let the pickled walnuts mature in a cool, dark cupboard for one month before eating.
Propagation: Graft named varieties onto Black, or Californian black walnut. Possible Pests & Diseases: Walnut blight (Xanthomonas juglandis): As with Hazels, copper is the common spray for this infection. My choice would be to use a strong garlic, chilli and ginger spray Traditional Indian Insecticide Spray spring and autumn, which is natural bactericide – (see: ‘PESTS & DISEASES’).
2. How to Grow Grains Growing whole grains is simpler and more rewarding than most people imagine. For small grain production, it is essential to grow grains that do not have inedible hulls (husks). Hulls are very difficult to extract from some grains, especially for small-scale growers, however there are two ways around this. First, grow grains that do not have hulls, like Amaranth, or at least loose hulls like most wheat varieties that fall off when the seed is threshed out, and secondly grow specially selected strains of grains like oats and barley that usually have hard tightly held hulls – these special strains are bald, hulless varieties. As with nuts, it is very important to realise that grains contain numerous enzyme inhibitors that reduce the body’s ability to digest the nutrients they do contain – however this can be easily remedied - see: section 3 below – Fermenting & Soaking Grains Nuts & Seeds.
WHEAT (Triticum spp)
Along with rice and maize, wheat has been one of the most successful and widely grown grains over thousands of years. Wheat belongs to the grass family, and has been cultivated since 5,000 B.C. Wheat is not difficult to grow. You can plant a small patch that will furnish part of your family’s grain needs. The plant’s straw can be used for bedding animals – eventually to make compost, employed as a mulch, used as one of the main ingredients in making compost, or chopped up in the field to provide organic matter for the soil.
Yields: With as little as 90 square metres (107 square yards) of land, backyard farmers can grow enough wheat to harvest 20 kilograms (44 pounds) of grain – and those 20 kilograms can be ground and baked into around 50 loaves of fresh bread. You will need about 50kg (110 pounds) per person per year for all your needs – that is bread making, pastries and all other uses for wheat flour. Yields can vary, but 5.0-5.8 tonnes per hectare (2.0-2.3 tons per acre) should be achievable. This is equivalent to 0.5kg (11 pounds) per square metre (yard), to be very conservative let’s halve that number to account for the worse case scenario. You will therefore need to grow 200 square metres, or 14 x 14m (240 square yards, or 15 x 16 yards) per person – that is still an incredibly small amount of land if you think about it! For a family of four this would be 800 square metres(957 square yards), or 400 square metres (478 square yards) in a good year.
Soil Preference Fortunately, wheat can be grown on a wide range of soils and climatic conditions as long as the land is not wet. Wheat does not like acid wetland, e.g. peat land, or badly drained land. The ideal pH for wheat is 6.4 – which is what we should be aiming for with the majority of our domesticated crops.
Feeding Although wheat has low nitrogen requirements and grows long weak straw when overfed – which can blow down easily (lodge) before harvesting – some nitrogen should be provided through the addition of twenty tonnes of well rotted manure or compost per hectare if you are starting with bare land that has already had previous crops. Alternatively, grow after grass; this fits in well with the keeping of grazing animals, sheep, cows etc. Winter sown wheat does well after grass that has been ploughed in late summer, which gives the grass time to start rotting down. The grass will have to be grazed off short with animals, or cut short with a mower before ploughing. If you haven’t got a tractor, maybe you can get somebody with a tractor, or contractor, to plough the plot for you, as long as you explain you only want it ploughed only 10-12cm (4-4¾in) deep, 15cm (6in) maximum. To plough any deeper is only to lose the value of the decaying turf. If you are growing large areas of vegetables, then wheat should be included in your rotation regime. Wheat could follow potatoes, or other crops that have been well fed with rotted manure or compost before. Another good crop wheat could follow is peas or beans, as long as you leave their roots in the soil to release the nitrogen from their root nodules as their roots break down.
Varieties The four wild species of wheat, along with the domesticated varieties Einkorn (T. monococcum), Emmer (T. dicoccum) and Spelt (T. spelta), have hulls. These more primitive wheats have toughened hulls that tightly enclose the grains, and are very difficult to extract. The result is that when threshed, the wheat ears break up into spikelets. To obtain the grain, further processing, such as milling or pounding, is needed to remove the hulls or husks. In contrast, Durum wheat (T. durum) and common wheats (T. aestivum) are called hulless; in reality they do have hulls, but they are fragile so when the wheat is threshed the hulls break up releasing the grains and the husks are winnowed away leaving the bald grains. So, if you want to grow wheat for bread making, and other uses, then I would suggest you stick to either Durum, or some of the high quality traditional varieties of common wheat. They may not yield as well as more modern varieties, but they will be richer in nutrients and taste better. I have not included Spelt wheat, because it has hulls that are difficult to get off, but there is a hope that small scale drum rollers will eventually be available to de-hull grains, but at the moment there aren’t any – unless somebody knows where to source such equipment? All grains contain phytic acids and other anti nutrients and were traditionally always either fermented (sour dough), sprouted or soaked and cooked for a long slow period to make the grains digestible and nutritious for the human digestive system.
Kamut: This wheat has a long history; it was known to be around at least 5,000 years ago. The grains are far larger than other wheat and do not have a hull so require no hulling before eating. The grains are hard and glossy. The flour makes delicious sourdough bread. The whole grains are also delicious served as one would serve rice soaked and long cooked, and it is also great coarsely ground for making ‘cream of wheat’ porridge.
Konini Wheat: This is an early commercial purple variety, bred from a very ancient line. It only grows to around 80cm (31½in) high, so it’s easy to net, and it is a heavy cropper. Konini threshes out of its loose hulls quite easily. Like Kamut it makes great tasting sour dough bread and it also makes delicious sprouted wheat cakes, as well as a great rice substitute when eaten whole after long soaking and slow cooking. This is one we grew and harvested successfully at Waimarama Community Gardens, in Nelson, New Zealand.
THE FOLLOWING GROWING AND HARVESTING INSTRUCTIONS CAN BE APPLIED TO MOST GRAINS.
Sowing: Having ploughed the land, or following a vegetable crop, you will then need further cultivation to prepare a seedbed. Even if the land has already been cleared and previously cropped, it will still need to be prepared by cultivation of some sort. I would seriously stay away from rotary hoes, whether mechanical hand versions or tractor versions, because they are very destructive of both soil structure and earthworms, and they create a hard pan at the base of the cultivated top which inhibits root growth and water penetration. To avoid a lot of weeds in your crop, it is best to make time to harrow the ground every week for several weeks, if the weather is dry. This will encourage the weeds to germinate and be killed off each time you harrow, ensuring a reasonably weed free crop of wheat. To plant wheat, hand rake, disk (with disc harrows on a tractor) or harrow the soil with spiked chain harrows. Broadcast the seed and lightly rake the surface. That’s all you have to do until harvest time. The time to sow will depend on whether the wheat is a spring or winter variety. Most wheat varieties are sown in the autumn – April/May (southern hemisphere) October/November (in many northern hemisphere countries). Winter varieties of wheat benefit from frosts, which cut back the young growth, encouraging ‘tillering’, which produces multiple shoots and larger crops. On a small plot, you can broadcast the seed by hand, but larger plots can be planted more efficiently if some sort of mechanical device is used.
Hand broadcasting is done by having a shallow sack or basket attached over your shoulder by a strap.
You will need to sow 225-235kg of seed grain per hectare (200-210 pounds per acre), which is 22-23g per square metre (⅗-⅘oz). Before you start, sprinkle 22g (⅗oz) of grain on a square metre (square yard) patch of land to get an idea of how thick to sow. Take alternate handfuls of grain, swinging your arms in a broad steady ark and flicking your wrists out sideways – left and then right – releasing the grain in a steady stream and trying to cover the ground as evenly as possible as you walk forwards. Altering your walking pace will achieve the correct coverage of seed. Then harrow or rake in the seed making sure most of the seed is covered by soil to a depth of around 1-2cm (⅖-¾in).
Seed Fiddle I used a seed fiddle (broadcaster) to sow my wheat. These are usually used to broadcast grass and clover seed, but I found that they can be used to broadcast grain for small areas. They can sometimes be found in farm sales. Here is a picture of a farmer using a seed fiddle. It is easier to get an even spread of seed with a fiddle. All you need to do is adjust to flow of seed by opening or closing the control slider on the machine, whilst swinging the bow from side to side in time to your paces. After that I used to harrow the soil with a tractor, or you could rake the seed in by hand on a small plot, with a large wooden rake.
Another way to sow grain is with a seed drill towed by tractor, which cuts shallow grooves in the soil and drops the seeds in and covers them with soil as it passes. A seed drill does a precise job of planting the seeds in nice, evenly spaced rows, at whatever depth you want. Second-hand drills can be bought at farm auctions or from farm equipment dealers. The drill, however, is not really necessary unless you are sowing a large quantity of wheat and you have a tractor or horse to attach it to.
Maintenance: Harrowing in the spring with a chain harrow helps to kill small weeds and induces tillering – i.e. causes the plants to produce more side growths and therefore more seed heads. For those who like to use Biodynamic sprays, one can spray preparation 501 first at the four-leaf stage and after flowering to encourage good seed production. Do NOT spray 501 half way through the growing season, otherwise it will encourage early flowering and a poor crop. Apart from praying for rain at the right times and dry weather for harvesting, there is little else to do.
Harvesting There are two basic ways of harvesting wheat and other grain crops by hand.
- First is cutting the wheat with a special grain sickle, which has backward pointing fine teeth (or nicks) along a sharp blade. One wraps one’s free arm around away from one’s body and back around a large bunch of wheat stems. Tightly holding the bunch under one’s arm the sickle is used like a saw, drawing the blade backwards to cut the stems. The cut bunches are then laid down on the ground in neat rows, for tying up later.
- The second, more productive way is to cut the wheat with a long bladed scythe. However, if you cut the wheat with an un-adapted scythe, the grain will fall in all directions, making it very difficult to collect and tie together. This problem is overcome by attaching a ‘sail’ to the scythe. A bent wooden or metal rod is attached to the base of the blade where it meets the base of the shaft. The rod is then bent in a loop up to the base of the bottom handle and secularly attached. If the grain is a tall variety this hoop will be sufficient, but better still is to attach a ‘sail’ to the hoop made of a cut opened hessian sack, or other sheet. This will ensure the cut bunches of grain land neatly on the ground all facing the same way.
These are pictures of a loop attached to a scythe, one with a spacer rod.
A more elaborate, and I think unwieldy, version is a ‘bale’ – a rake contraption. I can see it’s neat, but the simple loop and sail I used on our farm worked perfectly well.
Having cut your wheat it will need tying into sheaves. Have somebody else, or yourself, gather up enough stalks that you can conveniently handle and bang the butt ends down on the ground to level the stems. Then, whilst holding your free hand round the sheaf, draw out 4 or 5 straws with your other hand and twist them tightly together between both hands; then slip them round the middle of the sheaf, twist the ends together tightly and tuck the ends under the belt you have just made. This will secularly hold the sheaf together. When all the sheaves are cut and tied into bundles, you and your helpers will need to stack them in stooks in the field to finish ripening and drying. The stooks are made of 6 sheaths. Two sheaves are lifted one under each arm and the butt ends banged down on the cut stubble about half a metre apart and then the heads pressed and rubbed together. These are your ‘king’ pair on which the other sheaths rest. Two more are banged down next to the ‘king’ pair and lent against them and two more on the other side. You now have your tent shaped stooks:
The grain will withstand a certain amount of rain, as long as it is not prolonged, and the grain will continue to dry out. When the grain is hard enough to be difficult to crush between your teeth it is ready to store in a barn until threshing. I would seriously suggest storing your sheaves under cover of a Dutch or other barn. It is far more difficult outside, because you will have to slope the stack outward as you build and then thatch the top to shed the rain in the traditional way. Build your stack of sheaves under cover by laying logs, around 8cm (3in) diameter, out on the floor where you are going to build your stack. The stack can be round or rectangular.
Lay the first layer of sheaves with their butts outwards and the heads into the middle. Then lay the next row inside, again with the butts outwards until you have built the first layer. Then continue building upwards, until finished.
Threshing If you only have a small amount to thresh, you can bash the heads of the sheaves over the back of a chair, having first laid a plastic sheet out on the ground to catch the grain and chaff (husks). For larger amounts, it’s worth making a homemade flail, also called a stick and a half. The handle should be made of ash, or hickory or a similar wood – i.e. strong but flexible. You could buy a broom or long spade handle. It should be cut to about 1 metre (3ft) in length. The ‘half stick’ or flail head should be about ½ meter (18in) long and made of a very hard wood, preferably slightly thicker than the handle, and it will benefit from being a little knobbly. Traditionally these were made of hawthorn or holly, but any hard native wood will do. There are several ways to make the universal joint that attaches the ‘stick’ and ‘half’.
- On a lathe, or by hand, turn a smooth grove 1.25cm (½in) from the end of the handle where it will join the threshing ‘half’, either with a rounded chisel (in the case of lathe turning) or a round course file, about 6mm (⅕in) diameter.
- Carve another identical grove 1.25cm (½in) from the end of the threshing ‘half’.
- Using leather strip, ½cm (⅕in) square (or better still round) – tie around both grooves, securing with a double knot, but loose enough to turn round in the groove, whilst being tight enough not to slide off. Make sure there is enough leather cord spare to join the two together. The end result will be like a universal joint, the threshing ‘half’ being able to swing around the end of the handle.
- Another version is shown in the first and last photographs, where two stiff leather loops are screwed to the end of each sticks and a leather thong or metal loop connects the two sticks together. This is not as flexible as the one described above, but will do the job adequately.
- The middle example uses a chain.
On a wooden floor of a barn, or concrete slab, or dry hard piece of land, lay out a large thick plastic sheet, or tarpaulin. Having untied some of the wheat sheaves first, spread them out about a 5-10cm (2-4in) thick. Then, whilst holding the handle of the flail parallel to the ground, swing the handle in a circular motion, by holding the handle near the end and using the other hand to swing the other end in a circle, so that the threshing ‘half’ swings round and round. As the ‘half’ comes round bring it down onto the seed heads of the wheat with a thwack! This action should be reasonable effortless, certainly a lot more effortless than using a straight stick or swinging the flail over your head. The old boys who used to thresh grain all day long in the old days, were the ones that found a method of hand threshing that involves the least amount of work.
It is still hard work, but a lot less than it could be. After each batch of grain has been threshed, remove the straw and sweep up the grain and chaff (hulls) to one side, or bag up.
To remove the chaff and small bits of broken straw and dust from the grain the grain needs winnowing. On a small scale this can be done by placing some of the grain in a shallow basket and tossing the grain up and catching it again on a windy day. The chaff is blown away and the heavy clean grain falls back down into the basket. You can use a hand fan or electric fan if there is no wind.
Another larger version is to spread a thick plastic sheet or tarpaulin out on a windy day, weighted down at the edges. Steadily pour the grain from a bucket or other container onto the sheet, allowing the wind to blow the chaff out beyond the grain. The chaff can then be used in the compost, or in hen’s nest boxes, etc., and the grain stored.
On an even larger scale, lay a large sheet or tarpaulin as before, below a window, or an opening in the upper story of a barn. And on a windy day pour down your saved grain onto the sheet. The best quality unbroken grain will land below, broken grain and some course material will land a bit further on. The straw bits and hulls will drop further on and the dust will blow away.
As long as the grain is dry, hard and clean (test between your teeth), then as long as it is kept dry it will last for years. Only grind into flour as you need it – there is nothing as good as freshly ground wholemeal flour.
There are rats, mice, grain moth grubs and weevils that would love to get at your stored grain given a chance! Storing grain in a metal grain bin is the safest way of storing it. This will keep out rats and mice, and even moths and weevils if there is a good seal on the lid.
Another way to store grain, on a larger scale, as long as you have some very good cats to keep the mice and rat populations down, is to spread it out about 20cm (8in) thick on the upper floor of a barn. This is how we kept our grain on our farm. Rats and mice cannot make nests in loose grain and they are very exposed to being hunted or trapped.
There are many types of small flour mills available, hand and electric, stone or steel plates.
‘Hawos’ and ‘Komo Grain Mills’, both hand and electric versions are sold in many countries and worth looking up.
Saving Your Own Seed
Saving your own wheat seed is easy. Calculate what your family or group needs over one year, plus half as much again. This way you will have enough to save for next year and some over in case of hard times.
OATS (Avena sativa)
Having been diagnosed as being a Celiac several years ago after a prolonged period of worrying symptoms, the one grain I do miss, even more than wheat, is oats. Maybe it’s because I have Scottish blood. I liked my porridge and the many other uses for oats. Oats have a unique flavour that cannot be replicated. I have found a mixture of 1 part flaked quinoa, 1 part flaked buckwheat and 1 part flaked millet is a reasonable substitute, but it is still not the same.
Oats can grow in wetter, colder and more acidic soils than wheat; that is why it was the staple food of the Scots for so many centuries rather than wheat. In his dictionary in 1755, Dr Johnson wrote: “A grain which in England is generally given to horses, but in Scotland supports the people.” To which his Scots biographer Boswell replied: “Aye, which is why in England you’ll raise fine horses, while in Scotland we’ll raise fine peepul.”
It is believed that oats were first grown by ancient Slavic peoples during the Bronze and the Iron Ages. Oats were grown for grain in Europe and for animal feed in Asia Minor during the early Christian era. In central Europe, oats have been used for centuries. Today, oats are grown in practically every country in the world.
There is of course the problem of most oat strains having hard and difficult hulls to get off and for small farmers or communities, impossible to get off, making ordinary varieties good only for animal feed. Fortunately, there are traditional bald varieties, or hulless oats. Hulless oats get their name from their very loose hulls or outer covering that separates at harvest time leaving the grain in a ready-to-eat form when it arrives at feed mills. Compared to hulless oats, other traditional oats are covered in a thin skin and a hard hull that needs cracking in order to remove it. Traditional oats have a 70 to 75 per cent digestibility where the hulless or naked oats are 95 per cent digestible. Hulless oats come in a large variety.
Oats are an excellent soil improver, making calcium more available for plants that follow them and a load of carbon in the form of straw to turn into humus in the compost heap. All you need is hand roller mill to be able to have your own rolled oats, but any seed mill will produce coarse oatmeal which makes great old fashioned porridge – although it takes longer to cook it is worth it.
You can expect yields of 3 tonnes per hectare (1.2 tons per acre), or 0.3kg (10½oz) per M2(yard2). This is considerably less than wheat, but oats are a valuable crop in their own right. You can sow oats in the spring, but autumn sowing produces higher yields.
Oats can grow in acid soil conditions as low as pH 4.5, but will do just as well in pH 6.4.
Oats require a lot less rich soil conditions than wheat; as a result it can be grown after other crops that were fed with compost. It can also follow ploughed grassland (see wheat), but as oats are generally sown in spring it is best to plough in the grass in the autumn and allow the sod to rot down over winter. This will help to hold moisture, as oats are happier in moister soil than barley or wheat.
Avena Nuda (Avena sativa var. nuda):
Avena Nuda hulless oats are erect, growing with fibrous roots and a mature height of up to 1 metre. The grain has a rapid growth rate in cool and moist growing conditions. Avena nuda is intolerant of heavy frosts but survives mild winters. The lack of a thick hull on the oats makes it well suited for use on a small scale. Avena nuda is well adapted to growing in all soil types and is recommended for early spring planting.
Prepare the soil and sow the seed as for wheat. Work out how much you, your family or group will use in a year and sow accordingly, taking into account that oats yield less than wheat at 3 tonnes per hectare (1.2 tons per acre).
Sow 188kg per hectare (169 pounds per acre), or 18.8g (¾oz) per metre2 (yard2). This is higher than average, because hulless oats don’t germinate as well as hulled oats, which are sowed at 125kg per hectare (112 pounds per acre), or 12.5g per square metre (⅓oz per Yard2).
For, Maintenance, Harvesting, Threshing, Winnowing– see WHEAT.
The hulless oat grain has to be exceptionally dry to store well, as it doesn’t have a protective hull and can rot a lot easier than hulled varieties. Apart from that see wheat storage.
Milling & Rolling:
There are small-scale hand and electric rollers to make oat flakes, but personally a small ordinary hand or electric grinding mill is fine. For porridge, just grind the oats coarsely (groats) and cook for longer. My grandmother used to slow cook the groats in the evening and then wrap the covered pan in a towel over night to continue cooking, ready for breakfast.
Saving Your Own Seed:
As with wheat calculate what your family or group need over one year plus half as much again. This way you will have enough to save for next year and some over in case of hard times.
BARLEY (Hordeum vulgare)
Barley is good food for both humans and animals. However, animals can eat hulled varieties of barley unlike us. For malting for beer making, hulled varieties are also perfectly OK. However for us humans, just like oats, there are hulless (bald) varieties of barley. Genetic studies show that the mutation probably occurred around 8,000 years ago in a region that is now in modern Iran. Naked barley spread quickly throughout Europe, Asia and North Africa to become an important cereal crop in the Neolithic and Bronze Age.
Bald barleys do not yield as well as hulled barleys, but you can expect 4 tonnes per hectare (1½ tons per acre), or 0.4kg per square metre (8¾ pounds per square yard).
I have bought bald, or naked spring barley from The Koanga Institute here in New Zealand and it is just called Naked Barley and is a tall growing old-fashioned good cropper, but there are named varieties:
Nepal: is a very old spring sown variety.
Taiga: is a German variety that yields 5.8 tonnes per hectare (2 tons per acre), or 0.58kg per square metre (1 pound per square yard).
Retriever: is a true winter feed barley for animals.
Prepare the soil and sow the seed as for wheat. Work out how much you, your family or group will use in a year and sow accordingly. Winter barley needs sowing earlier than winter wheat – late March, early April (in the southern hemisphere) and mid September (in the northern hemisphere).
On average bald barley germinates 20% less than hulled barley, so you will need to sow between 190-200kg per hectare (170-179 pounds per acre), or 20g per square metre (¾oz per square yard).
A field of barley on a breezy day is a beautiful site to see – like waves in the sea travelling across the field -
“You’ll remember me when the west wind moves upon the fields of barley
You’ll forget the sun in his jealous sky as we walk in fields of gold”.
For, Maintenance, Harvesting, Threshing, Winnowing, Storage & Saving Your Own Seed – see WHEAT.
For more information about naked true grains, see:
MAIZE (Zea mays subsp. mays)
Most historians believe maize was domesticated in the Tehuacan Valley of Mexico. The Olmec and Mayans cultivated it in numerous varieties throughout middle America, cooked, ground or processed it by soaking in an alkali solution of wood ash and water to make the nutrients more available and digestible. Beginning about 2,500 BC, the crop spread through much of the Americas. After European contact with the Americas in the late 15th and early 16th centuries, explorers and traders carried maize back to Europe and introduced it to other countries. Maize spread to the rest of the world because of its ability to grow in diverse climates and its high yields.
Yields can vary hugely from subsistence farming in the highlands of Mexico on poor land of 1 tonne per hectare (367 pounds per acre) to 12 tonnes per hectare (4.3 tons per acre) on conventional farms with high inputs of fertilisers. So let’s use 3-5 tonnes per hectare (1.2-2 tons per acre), or 30-50g per square metre (1-1¾oz per square yard) as a reasonable yield from healthy organic and nutrient balanced soil using an open pollinated heritage variety such as Blue Aztec maize.
Maize requires deep fertile and well drained soil, rich in organic matter; however it can be grown in any type of soil ranging from deep heavy clay to light sandy soil as long as the soil is of medium texture with good water holding capacity that is also well drained, as young seedlings are highly susceptible to water logging. Hence the provision of proper drainage is essential for the successful cultivation of this crop. Therefore, the ideal soil is neither clayey nor sandy with a pH of around 6.5.
Maize is a heavy feeder with a high nitrogen requirement, especially if you want a decent crop. Incorporate compost into the soil at 2 buckets + 2 handfuls of Eco or Organic Fertiliser per square metre (square yard). Also give regular liquid feeds during the growing season – see: ‘Maintenance’.
Manaia Maize: is an old NZ heritage yellow maize, especially grown by Maori who often ate it fermented.
Blue Aztec Maize: this American heritage variety is one we often grow. The 2m (6½ft) tall stalks produce large ears that can be eaten as sweet corn at the milk stage, with the kernel being sweet, tender and very tasty. When mature the corn turns blue-black and makes very delicious corn bread. This corn is hardy and grows in a wide range of conditions.
Blue Hopi: was developed by the Hopi Indians to be used as flour corn, and is the corn used to make the blue corn chips available commercially. The cobs grow large (long) and the plants are drought tolerant, and when ground they produce high quality flour. Excellent for posole, tortillas, polenta and porridge.
Sowing & Planting:
Scatter sow seeds into deep seed trays 2 thirds filled with seed compost, cover with 2cm (¾in) of seed compost and transplant when 4cm (1½in) high and soil temperatures reach 15-160C (590F). Plant out at 40cm (16in) diagonal spacing.
Keep weeded whilst small, then mulch with spray-free straw when they have reached 20-30cm (8-12in) high. Spray and water with seaweed liquid every three weeks during the growing season, plus at least 2 feeds of liquid animal fertiliser during the growing season.
Pick the cobs when the plants have turned brown and the seeds have become hard. If it is damp in late summer or autumn, lie out the picked cobs in a glasshouse, or tunnel house to dry further before shucking.
You can shuck corn by hand, or for a larger scale you will have to buy a corn husker. I was surprised how easy it was to shuck 20 or 30 cobs by hand the first time I did it. You will need to wear garden gloves to protect your hands. Hold the cob with both hands next to each other and twist the cob in opposite directions and the berries will rub off. Be careful not to break the cob in doing so. A little practice and you will get the hang of it. Alternatively buy a hand corn husker, which served the old small farmers very well.
Store your dried grain in large plastic or metal tubs to protect from moisture and pests.
You will need to buy a corn grinder. We have a SFINX hand corn grinder, which also grinds other grains – see below.
Before you grind your corn, you will need to treat it in the traditional American Indian way. Niacin (vitamin B3) and some of the amino acids are unavailable in untreated corn. Soaking and cooking the grain in a lye solution of wood ash and water, softens the grain, turns some of the corn oil into emulsifying agents which make the ground maize stick together in a dough to make tortillas, as well as making the vitamin B3 and some of the important amino acids available for easy digestion and absorption.
Soak the grain for 24 hours in 1 heaped tablespoon of clean wood ash (from untreated hard wood) per cup of dried corn and enough filtered water to cover. It can then be rinsed and spread out on a baking tray to dry in a slow oven at 60-650C (140-1490F) or de-hydrator, then stored or ground into polenta.
Alternatively, slowly cook the whole corn in the wood ash and water that it has soaked in, until the grains have burst right open and fluffed up like pop corn, at which point it can be rinsed and used in soup etc., or wet ground in your grinder to make tortillas or polenta etc.
- 1 litre (2 pints) milk
- ½ tsp. salt
- ¼ tsp. Pepper
- 1½ cups yellow cornmeal
- ½ cup grated Parmesan
- ½ cup shredded Gruyere cheese
- Heat milk, 1 cup of water and the salt and pepper in a large saucepan over medium-high heat until simmering.
- Whisk in cornmeal and cook, whisking constantly for 3 minutes, or until thick and smooth.
- Remove from heat; stir in cheeses. Immediately pour into prepared pan, lined with baking paper and spread evenly. Cover and refrigerate 30 minutes, or until firm.
- Line a baking sheet with foil. Cut polenta into squares or oblongs.
- Grill for about 5 to 6 minutes until the polenta pieces are lightly browned.
Saving Your Own Seed:
Maize seeds only last 2 seasons – sow seed from last year’s collection then one more year. Sort out the healthiest looking seeds for next years crop and store in a dry box. We store most of our veg and grain seeds in a plastic storage bins with good sealed lids.
It is so easy to grow and process decent crops of maize on a small area, and you end up not just with valuable food but also with lots of high carbon material for your compost heaps.
RYE (Secale cereal)
Rye is naturally bald so it doesn’t need hulling, so is a great grain to grow on a small scale. Rye can also be grown on the same soil for many years without damaging the soil unlike other grains, although personally I would still prefer to rotate it with other crops.
You can expect 1.7 tonnes per hectare (¾ ton per acre) or 17g per square metre (14oz per square yard), a lot less than other grains, but still valuable none the less.
Rye grows much better in cooler and drier regions than wheat, and also performs well on sandy soils.
Grow in the spring on grassland ploughed in the autumn, or after a pea or bean crop. Otherwise incorporate compost into the topsoil at ½ to 1 bucket per square metre (square yard), or 20 tonnes per hectare (8 tons per acre).
I am sure there are many varieties, but this is the one I know.
Milmore Downs: This traditional rye has been bred and grown organically at Milmore Downs Biodynamic organic farm, north of Christchurch, for many years. The farm grows dinkel, oats, barley, wheat, rye and red lentils, as well as some sheep and cattle. This rye is very tall, providing both grain and a lot of carbon material for composting.
Sowing & Planting:
Rye is sown in the autumn in April-mid May. Rye seeds need light for good germination, so it needs to be sown shallowly into a well-prepared seedbed, at 19g per square metre (¾oz per square yard), or 190kg per hectare (170 pounds per acre) if you sow it outside. On a small scale you can scatter sow seeds into trays, lightly cover, and transplant when they are 5-8cm (2-3in) high when the soil temperature has reached 15-160C (59-600F). Plant at 30cm (12in) diagonal spacing. On a field scale, sow 188kg of seed grain per hectare (161 pounds per acre).
For Maintenance, Harvesting, Threshing & Winnowing & Storage, see: WHEAT
Like all grains, rye contains phytic acids and other anti nutrients, so they were traditionally either fermented (sour dough), sprouted or soaked and cooked for a long slow period to make the grains digestible and nutritious for the human digestive system.
Make your own rye flour sour starter, the same way as with wheat flour. The dough is quite dense, so making pure rye bread in traditional thick loaves means the centre will remain gooey, so baking smaller or flatter loaves baked in pans, is faster and the results are more even than larger loaves.
Bake slowly at 200°C (392°F). Expect rye loaves to take much longer than an all-wheat bread. An average sized loaf of rye bread takes 1-2 hours to bake. To check whether the loaves are thoroughly cooked, tip the bread out of the pan and thump the bottom, if the loaf sounds hollow, it is done. If not, return to the oven quickly and bake longer.
Saving Your Own Seed:
It seems that rye seed lasts several years. Store in metal or thick plastic containers.
Possible Pests and Diseases:
While rye is susceptible to the same insects that attack other cereals, serious infestations are rare.
Although rye yields are lower than most other grains, growing rye has many advantages. Rye excretes a natural herbicide that suppresses many weeds and helps to clean land of weeds. It also has an extensive root system that along with its tall straw adds lots of organic matter to the soil.
QUINOA & AMARANTH (Chenopodium quinoa & Amaranthus caudatus etc.)
Both Quinoa and Amaranth are related to fat-hen or goosefoot (Chenopodium album). In fact the grain of fat hen was used as a crop in the past in Europe and the leaves and grain of fat-hen are still used today in Northern India. Quinoa and Amaranth are two very ancient South American plants. They were held sacred in ancient Inca and Aztec cultures.
Quinoa is easier to grow, because it can tolerate a shorter cooler season than Amaranth. Amaranth can be grown well in semi sub-tropical areas like North Island, New Zealand. Starting both in seed boxes in the warm, then planting out can extend the growing season. We grew Quinoa very successfully in Nelson Community Gardens, New Zealand.
Quinoa and Amaranth are higher in protein than the true grains, which are the grasses, such as wheat, barley, oats, rice, maize, sorghum, millet, etc. The protein content of Quinoa and Amaranth have an essential amino acid balance that is near the ideal, and comes closer to meeting the genuine protein requirements of the human body than either cow’s milk or soybeans. They are high in the amino acid lysine, which is lacking in most cereals such as wheat, sorghum, corn and barley. Quinoa has great potential, as a high food value grain for those who wish to grow at least some of their staple food.
Quinoa is easy to grow and harvest using traditional hand-harvesting methods. Quinoa and amaranth are quite adaptable, disease-free and drought-tolerant plants. They thrive in rich soil—as long as it is well drained—but both will, once established, produce abundant harvests under dry conditions.
30-60gm (1-2oz) of seed per plant is common but you can easily get over 170gm (6oz) per plant grown in rich soils. Normal commercial yields for amaranth and quinoa are 1-2 tonnes per hectare (½-¾ ton per acre), or 100-200gm per m2 (3oz per square yard), but up to 5 tonnes per hectare (2 tons per acre), or 0.5kg per m2 (9 pounds per square yard) have been harvested in Mexico where traditional hand harvesting and bio-intensive growing methods were used! Yields are not as high as wheat, but when the increased food value is taken into account, Quinoa and Amaranth are very valuable crops to grow, even if you don’t have enough land available to grow all your needs.
Quinoa and Amaranth are hungry crops, so a winter green manure of lupins and oats or other legumes preceding planting, plus two buckets of compost per square metre (square yard) and two feeds of a high Nitrogen liquid feed, such as animal dung liquid, worm farm juice, or stinging-nettle liquid manure, during the growing period is ideal. Plants grown in average garden soil will be 1 metre to 2 metres (3-6½ft) tall. Optimum soil is a well-drained loam but both plants will do well in all but poorly aerated clay soils.
2 buckets of well rotted compost per square metre (square yard), lightly incorporated into the top soil should be enough.
Temuco: Quinoa is normally found in high altitudes, but ‘Temuco’ is a variety of Quinoa selected for ease of growing at sea level. In sub-tropical areas it is possible to grow two crops in one season, but cooler areas with shorter summers it will be only possible to grow crop. The seeds of this variety are blond which means they have less saponin in the seed coat, which means you don’t have to rinse them for so long to remove the bitterness.
Four Seasons: Crops in a slightly shorter season than Temuco, so better for cooler areas with shorter seasons. Crops very well.
Sowing & Planting:
Quinoa & Amaranth can be sown directly outside from the middle of spring onwards, but it is better to sow seed in trays in early spring to be planted out later, when it has started to get warmer. The small seeds of amaranth and quinoa will germinate more successfully with a finely prepared surface and adequate moisture. Seeds should be sown no more than 6mm (¼in) deep.
Plant out in rows 45cm (18in) apart with 30cm (12in) between the plants, or plant the ‘Biointensive’ way 40cm (16in) diagonally apart. 10g (½oz) of seed will sow a 150m (492ft) row, or sow 1kg per hectare (1 pound per acre). Since seed is small, you can avoid considerable thinning by mixing it with sand or radish seed before sowing, as is sometimes done with carrots. Amaranth and quinoa are low-maintenance crops but weeds, especially at the beginning, should be discouraged by cultivation or mulching. Quinoa and amaranth appear slow growing at first but when the plants reach about 30cm (12in) in height, they start to grow very rapidly.
Both Amaranth and Quinoa are extremely drought tolerant and do well on a total of 25cm (10in) of water or less though a growing season, which is handy if you live in a drier area. Keep weeded, especially in the early stages, then water and mulch when 6-8cm (2½-3in) high.
Quinoa is ready to harvest when the leaves have fallen, leaving just the dried seed-heads.
Quinoa resists light frosts especially if the soil is dry. So long as maturing seed is past the green stage, frost will cause little damage and harvesting can be done a day or two later. It is important to watch the weather when quinoa is ready to be harvested: if rained on, the dry seed can germinate. If the heads are not completely dry, harvest them when you can barely indent the seeds with your thumbnail. They should then be thoroughly dried in a glasshouse, Polytunnel, or warm dry shed before storage.
Amaranth keeps on flowering until hit by the first hard frost. Seed will often ripen many weeks before that, usually after about three months. The best way to determine if seed is harvestable is to gently but briskly shake or rub the flower heads between your hands and see if the seeds fall readily. (Numerous small and appreciative birds may give hints as to when to start doing this!) An easy way to gather ripe grain is, in dry weather, bend the plants over a bucket and rub the seed-heads between your hands.
Cutting and hanging plants to dry indoors does not work very well: the plants become extremely brittle and it is difficult to separate the seed from the chaff.
The best time to harvest amaranth is in dry weather three to seven days after first frost—a condition not easily met in many places.
Threshing & Winnowing:
Unlike true grains, quinoa and amaranth have no hulls to remove. Quinoa seeds can be easily stripped upwards off the stalk with a gloved hand.
The next task is to sieve the threshed material.
- Sieve through a standard 9mm (⅖in) garden sieve. This will get rid of the courser material – straw bits, leaves and seed heads, keeping the material that has fallen through.
- Next sieve through a 3.5 or 4mm (1/10-1/5in) sieve or colander. This will pass through the seeds + some finer material + dust.
- Next sieve out the dust by sieving through a standard 1mm kitchen sieve, fine garden or professional chefs sieve. Keep the material and seed left in the sieve.
- Next winnow the seeds to remove the fine lighter material (chaff) from the heavier seeds. To separate the chaff from Amaranth and Quinoa, place the seeds and remaining rubbish in a wheelbarrow and blow away the finer chaff using an air compressor, or lay a plastic sheet out when there is a gentle wind and slowly drop the seed onto it at the windward end and the seed will drop nearest to you and the lighter chaff will blow downstream, or do this indoors on a plastic sheet using an electric fan.
After harvesting, it is important to further dry your crop to ensure it won’t mould in storage. It can be left on trays in the hot sun or in a glasshouse, or placed near an indoor heat source. Stir occasionally until it is as dry as possible. Store the seed in airtight containers in a cool dry place.
Quinoa is covered with a bitter substance called saponin, which helps to put birds off to some extent. Because of this coating, quinoa requires thorough rinsing before cooking.
The way I do it is the way I learnt from Sally Fallon’s book ‘Nourishing Traditions’. I place the required amount of seed in a kitchen sieve and wash thoroughly under the cold tap for a minute or so; then soak for 12 hours minimum in warm filtered water mixed with some whey, cultured butter milk or yogurt (1 cup quinoa + 3 cups water + 1 tablespoon whey, yogurt, kefir or buttermilk). The next day place back in the sieve and rinse under the cold tap again for a minute or so. This neutralises the saponin as well as the enzyme inhibitors such as phytic acid very successfully.
Amaranth has no saponin and no hulls, but it is still good to soak over night in water and whey as for quinoa, to neutralise the phytic acid.
Basic recipe: Bring equal volumes of amaranth/quinoa and water to a boil, reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook until all water is absorbed. Amaranth takes about 10-12 minutes and quinoa 12-15 minutes. For a more porridge-like consistency, use a greater proportion of water. Experiment to find the texture you prefer.
‘Temuco’ quinoa makes a great milk pudding like rice pudding.
Quinoa and amaranth both contain about 16% protein, E and B vitamins, calcium, iron and phosphorous. They are easy to digest and have wonderful flavour. Their simple distinctive taste gives them great versatility for cooking purposes. They can be substituted for other grains in many recipes, though they are much more filling. Because they are not true cereal grains, they can be eaten by people who suffer from cereal grain allergies.
Young quinoa and amaranth greens make tasty salad material and are high in vitamins (especially calcium and iron), minerals and protein. Carrots juiced with a small amount of either leaves make a most invigorating drink.
Older greens are wonderful steamed, stir-fried or incorporated into curries or casseroles. Some varieties have better greens than others and are usually so indicated in seed catalogues. One of the tastiest amaranths grown for greens is called Tampala. Amaranth is also called Chinese Spinach because of its popularity as a green vegetable in that country.
Saving Your Own Seed:
Amaranth cultivars will cross with each other as will quinoa cultivars, so grow only one kind of each or separate cultivars by as much distance as you can. Certain varieties, such as purple-leaved amaranth, are easier to select for than others. Lamb’s-quarters is difficult to tell apart from quinoa when the seedlings are young seedlings, but quinoa has more pointed leaves. Also Lamb’s quarters has a greater branching habit than quinoa and smaller flower heads.
Quinoa and amaranth have exciting possibilities for the home gardener, or small farmer, looking for hardy, easy-to-grow high-protein foods. They have higher food quality than our common grains such as wheat and oats, and they don’t have hulls that need to be removed by machinery prior to cooking. From my own success with growing amaranth and quinoa over several years, I would say that the difficulties in cultivating and preparing these two grains are relatively minor and that the pleasures obtained in growing and eating them are definitely major.
MILLET (various species)
Millet has been grown in East Asia for the last 10,000 years and as such is one of the oldest grains in cultivation. The term millet refers to a variety of grains, some of which do not belong to the same genus. It is a good source of some very important nutrients, including copper, manganese, phosphorus, and magnesium, also essential amino acids and vitamins (thiamine, riboflavin, niacin). Total carbohydrates 14%, protein 12%.
You can expect between 1 to 2 tonnes per hectare (½-¾ ton per acre), or 100-200g per square metre (3oz per square yard), or even a bit more.
Millet requires light and warm fertile organic rich soils that are moisture retentive. It is more resistant to high temperatures and drought than barley and wheat but emerging plants are very sensitive to cold weather – optimum 15-20°C (59-68°F). The growing season varies from 60 to 110 days.
Like maize, millet is a heavy feeder, requiring a good amount of nitrogen and the other nutrients. If it is sown into newly ploughed grass sward, or follows a bean, pea or potato crop that has been well composted, that should be adequate otherwise 1 bucket of compost per square metre or 20 tonnes per hectare (8 tons per acre).
Foxtail (Setaria italic):
This is an ancient grain that has been found in Neolithic tombs in China, and has made golden porridge in China for Centuries. It only grows to 1 metre (3ft) at maximum and is therefore easy to cover against birds. The seed heads stand up then hang down like a fox’s tail hence the name. This millet is easy to thresh and hull ready for eating.
Proso (Panicum miliaceum):
A very, very ancient and nutritious cereal, very, very rare glutinous trait millet. Very quick maturing, and very attractive to birds; however it is low growing, so it’s easy to cover. This millet produces a mass of tan coloured quite large (for millet) seeds that are relatively easy to thresh and hull.
Baryard (Echinochloa esculenta):
This is an easy to grow variety, the only problem being that it is 2 metres (6½ft) high and is more difficult to cover against birds. However if you are able to protect the crop it is a good one to grow. Barnyard millet is a traditional Japanese cultivar, and millet was once the main grain eaten in Japan. Barnyard millet is also a great producer of carbon for compost making.
Sowing & Planting:
Scatter sow into trays early October, covering with 2cm (½in) seed compost. Transplant into beds when 5-8cm (2-3in) high at 10cm (4in) diagonal spacing. Or sow outside at 1.5g per square metre (square yard), or larger areas at 15kg per hectare (13 pounds acre).
On a small scale you can lightly scatter-mulch with spray-free straw to maintain moisture and keep down weeds. Millet likes regular watering in a dry period.
Harvest when seed begins falling and mature in green house before harvesting and winnowing. To save seeds cut the mature seed heads from the stems.
Threshing & Winnowing:
The mature seeds will be swollen and release easily from the cluster by simple rubbing. Allow the seed heads to dry for a few days to facilitate easy removal of the seeds. For threshing and winnowing on a larger scale see WHEAT.
Once the seeds are released from the stem allow them to dry for a few more days before storing in metal containers or thick plastic tubs or boxes with good seals.
Like all grains, millet contains phytic acids and other anti nutrients, which can be neutralised by soaking 2 cups of whole millet in 4 cups of warm filtered water, plus 4 tablespoons of whey, yogurt, kefir or cultured buttermilk and left in a warm place for at least 7 hours, or overnight.
Millet can be cooked flaked as porridge, or whole similar to rice or ground to make flour or meal.
Saving Your Own Seed:
Millet seed lasts for 2-4 years if kept cool and dry.
This is another valuable and easy grain to grow on a small scale. It threshes easily and provides valuable gluten-free food.
SORGHUM (Sorghum bicolour)
Sorghum originated in northern Africa, and is now cultivated widely in tropical and subtropical regions, however, we grew a very successful crop of ‘Mennonite’ sorghum at Waimarama Community Gardens, Nelson, New Zealand a few years ago which has mild winters and longish summers. Sorghum is the world’s fifth most important cereal crop after rice, wheat, maize and barley. You not only get a valuable nutritious gluten-free grain, and you can chew on the canes like sugar cane, or press the syrup from the stalks and boil it down into 1 litre (2 pints) of thick syrup from only 2 square metres (2¼ square yards) of land; you also have lots of 2 metre (6½ft) high carbon material for compost making!
Sorghum has high nutritional value, with high levels of oils, protein, fibre, and minerals like phosphorus, potassium, calcium, and iron. It also has more antioxidants than blueberries and pomegranates. Recent research suggests that sorghum contains certain phytochemicals that reduce the risk of colon and skin cancer, and that other properties in sorghum can promote cardiovascular health and lower cholesterol.
Figures vary hugely from 1.37 to 12.7 tonnes per hectare (0.6 to 5 tons per acre)! But for our purposes we can assume 4.0 tonnes per hectare (1.6 tons per acre) as a reasonable estimate.
Sorghum is well adapted to growth in hot, arid or semiarid areas and is often grown in areas where it is impossible to grow other types of grain. However, it can be grown just as easily on fertile land in warm temperate regions as long as it can have dependable hot summers.
Both these varieties grow to 2m (6½ft).
Mennonite: This is the variety we grew successfully at Waimarama Community Gardens, Nelson New Zealand. It is a great grain variety and syrup can also be pressed from the stems. It has large seed heads. The seed is orange/brown in colour.
White Seeded: This variety has large white seeds that are easily threshed and cleaned, and pop just like popcorn. The stems can also be pressed to make syrup.
Sowing & Planting:
To get the longest growing season possible, it is best to sow seeds undercover and plant out when the weather warms up. Plant into deep seed trays, or into cardboard toilet role centres filled with seed compost. Transplant into the garden well after the last frosts, at 30cm (12in) diagonal spacing when 5-10cm (2-4in) high and soil temperature has reached around 150C (590F). It is advisable to cover the crop with frost fleece at night, taken off each morning for the first week; or if you are only growing a few, you can cover each plant at night with plastic cloches made from 5 litre clear plastic juice bottles with the bottoms cut off.
The plants grow tall, over 2m (6½ft) so it’s quite hard to keep the birds off the seed heads however, if you have a relatively small crop you can tie covers over each individual seed head. At Waimarama Community Gardens, we grew about a 12 square metre (14 square yard) block of sorghum and covered the whole block with fine netting supported on canes, at least 15cm (6in) away from the seed heads, and with the bottom of the netting pinned down.
Cut the seed heads off with about 30cm (12in) of the stem left on, and hang up the bunches in a glass house or warm dry outhouse.
Threshing & Winnowing:
They can be threshed easily by rubbing over a sieve then winnowing, or on a larger scale see: WHEAT – Threshing & Winnowing:
Store in metal containers or thick plastic tubs or boxes with good seals.
See: MILLET – Preparation: for details.
The large seeds can be boiled as a grain crop and taste a lot like lentils. The seeds also pop well for use as a breakfast cereal.
Saving Your Own Seed:
Sorghum seed stays viable for 4 years.
As long as you can protect the ripening crop from bird damage and you live where there are long hot summers, this is a very valuable grain to grow. We grew sorghum here in Nelson, so it should be possible in warm temperate areas, with decent summers.
For more information see: Grow Your Own Grains, Raising, Harvesting & Uses – Ecology Action Booklet 2008, ISBN: ECOLGROW – obtainable direct from www.growbiointensive.org USA
Or – Small-Scale Grain Raising by Gene Logsdon or Home-grown Whole Grains – Grow, Harvest and Cook Your Own Wheat, Barley, Oats, Rice and More, by Sara Pitzer – ISBN: 9781603421539
3. Fermenting & Soaking Grains Nuts & Seeds
The Value of Making Nuts, Seeds & Grains More Digestable
The fermenting of vegetables and grains, and the sprouting and soaking of seeds has been carried out for thousands of years. Enzymes are essential for the digestion and proper absorption of nutrients from our food. Our bodies manufacture enzymes, but if we rely too heavily only on the ones we make, rather than supplying a good proportion as part of our diet, this puts a huge strain on our bodies. Cooking and pasteurization destroys enzymes, but by ensuring that we include fresh and fermented foods as part of our diet, we will have a whole range of enzymes to help us digest and get the greatest benefit from the food we eat.
Many foods, such as nuts and seeds, contain phytic acid and enzyme-inhibitors as a protection against pests, making them less digestible. Sprouting, fermenting and soaking seeds and nuts neutralizes these enzyme-inhibitors making the food more digestible and their nutrients more available. With dried beans, this involves soaking, then very slightly sprouting, before cooking. With seeds and nuts, this involves soaking for at least 7 hours or over night in warm saline solution, then eating fresh, or drying or roasting for storage.
All grains contain phytic acid in the outer layers or bran, which combines with calcium, magnesium, copper, iron and especially zinc in the intestinal tract, blocking their absorption. Untreated whole grains can have a detrimental effect on health. Traditionally, our ancestors soaked or fermented their whole grains before making them into porridge, breads, cakes and casseroles. In India rice and lentils are fermented for at least 2 days before being prepared as idli or dosas. In Europe sourdough was common and grains were soaked over night or longer in water or soured milk before being cooked. Soaking allows enzymes, lactobacilli and other helpful organisms to break down and neutralize phytic acid and encourages the production of many beneficial enzymes, which in turn increases many vitamins including vitamin B.
In Mexico, maize grains were traditionally treated with limewater, made with wood ash, before grinding. Vitamin B is locked up in maize, which is released by this simple soaking method – see MAIZE.
SOAKED NUTS & SEEDS
- 4 cups of shelled nuts (pumpkin or sunflower seeds)
- 2 tablespoons sea salt
- Warmed filtered water to cover
- In a bowl mix nuts with sea salt and enough warmed filtered water to cover the nuts
- Leave in a warm place for 7 hours, or overnight
- Drain in a colander
- Spread the nuts out on a stainless steel baking pan and place in a warm oven, no more than 650C (1490F) for up to 12 hours, turning occasionally, until dried
- Store in an airtight container
SOAKING & SPROUTING
Soak the almonds in a jar with filtered water overnight, covered with material mesh. Next day drain and rinse and drain again, then tip the jar sideways and leave a few days until the almonds start to sprout. Use organically grown almonds if you have not grown them yourself.
TREATED GRAINS & FLOUR
Wholegrain Sourdough Bread
Making the sourdough starter:
- Combine ¾ cup wholemeal flour and ½ cup warm water in a glass or plastic container.
- Stir vigorously to incorporate air; cover with a breathable lid.
- Leave in a warm place, 20-30°C (70-85°F), for 12-24 hours.
- At the 12 or 24 hour mark you may begin to see some bubbles, indicating that organisms are present.
Making sourdough bread:
- 80 grams (2¾oz) whole wheat starter
- 580g whole wheat or spelt flour
- 230ml (1cup) water
- 200ml (6½floz) milk
- 11 g salt
- Measure the sourdough starter into a large bowl and return any remaining starter to the refrigerator.
- Add 80g (2¾oz) of the flour and 80ml (2¾floz)of the water.
- Stir and cover with plastic wrap, and leave on the counter for around 8 hours.
- Add the remaining ingredients and knead well for 10 minutes.
- Cover the bowl with a kitchen cloth and leave in the warm for 4 hours.
- Generously flour a 1 kg, oval proofing basket.
- Remove the dough from the bowl and place it on a floury work surface.
- Gently stretch it out into a flat rectangle that is just a little narrower than your basket.
- With the help of a scraper, fold the top edge the the middle and gently press along the seam. Fold the bottom edge to meet it and gently press along the seam.
- Still using the scraper, fold the dough in half, long wise and, with the heel of your hand, seal the long edge. Sit the dough on sealed bottom seam and, using the sides of your hands, seal up both side edges.
- Sprinkle flour over the dough and pick it up (it’s more robust than it seems) and put it seam side UP in the basket. Cover it with a shower hat and let it rest for 2-3 hours or until it passes the probe test.
- Preheat the oven to 230 degrees celsius and put in the dough. Bake for 10 minutes and then reduce the heat to 200 degrees celsius and bake for a further 30 minutes.
- Remove from the tin and let cool completely on a wire rack
Yeasted Buttermilk Bread
This is a good compromise between sour dough and yeast bread, that can be sliced and used for sandwiches.
- 4 cups freshly ground spelt, kamut or hard winter wheat flour
- 1-1½ cups cultured buttermilk
- ½ cup melted butter
- ¼ cup warm water
- 4 teaspoons dried yeast
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- 1 cup unbleached white flour
- Combine the whole-wheat flour, 1 cup cultured buttermilk and ½ cup melted butter in a food processor until a ball forms. If too thick, add more buttermilk
- Place in a bowl covered with a towel and place in a warm place for 12-24 hours
- Mix honey and yeast in warm water and let stand for 10 minutes
- Add salt and baking soda and mix well
- Place half the flour mix + half the yeast mix and half the unbleached white flour in the food processor and process until smooth ball is formed
- Repeat with other half of dough, yeast mix and white flour
- Knead two balls together briefly and place in a buttered bowl
- Cover with a towel and place in warm place to rise for 2 hours until double in bulk
- Punch down and knead briefly
- Form into loaves and place into buttered loaf tins
- 11.Cover with a towel and leave to rise for 1-2 hours, until doubled
- Bake for 30 minutes at 1800C (3560F)
- Cool on racks
Yeasted Buttermilk Four Grain Gluten-Free Bread
- 2 cups millet flour
- 2 cups buckwheat flour
- ½ cup ground maize
- 4 tablespoons (¼ cup) LSA
- 3 teaspoons sea salt
- 2-2½ cups cultured buttermilk (or enough to make a stiff dough)
- 4 teaspoons gluten-free yeast
- 6 teaspoons honey (dissolved in 1 cup warm filtered water)
- 6 teaspoons guar gum
- 2 large eggs + 2 large egg whites
- ½ cup of melted ghee or butter, or oil
- 1½ cups quinoa flour
- Mix ground millet, buckwheat, maize flour, LSA and salt, and thoroughly mix in buttermilk to make a stiff dough
- Knead for a few minutes and place in covered bowl in warm place for 12-24 hours
- Mix honey and yeast in warm water and let stand for 10 minutes
- Using a balloon-whisk, gradually whisk in guar gum to yeast mix, then eggs and whites, then melted ghee or butter – then add to dough and thoroughly mix in
- Thoroughly mix quinoa flour to the dough
- Stir dough again. The dough should resemble a very firm batter
- ⅔ fill buttered loaf tins, smoothing the dough with a spatula dipped in milk, then cover with a towel and rise in a warm place for 1 hour
- Bake at 2000C (3920F) for 25 minutes
- First make posole. Posole is basically any kind of dried corn that has been soaked for 24 hours with wood ash (1 heaped tablespoon of clean wood ash per cup of dried corn and filtered water to cover) and then slowly cooked until the corn is burst right open and fluffy like pop corn, at which point it can be rinsed and used in soup etc, or wet-ground to make tortillas or polenta etc.
- Alternately, dry the soaked grain in a warm oven – no more than 650C (1490F) for up to 12 hours, turning occasionally, until dried. Then grind as required.