Fall’s Royal Crop: Growing, Selecting and Eating Storage Squash

A great and timely story from last year!

NOFA-NY Field Notes

Erik Fellenz weighs red kuri squashWith names that tend toward the fairy-tale (Cinderella, Moonshine, Black Forest, Hubbard, Carnival) to the exotic (Rouge Vif D’Etampes, Musque de Provence, Kakai, Red Kuri) to the downright confusing (Long Island Cheese Pumpkin, NutterButter, Pink Banana), the thick-skinned storage varieties of the Cucurbitaceae plant family (which also includes summer squash, zucchini, cucumbers, decorative gourds, chayote, and luffa gourds) represent a diverse and flavorful food source for us in the Northeast.  Many of us are accustomed to paying rock-bottom prices for pumpkins and gourds destined only for carving and decoration, and buying canned pumpkin off a grocery store shelf (organic canned pumpkin is available in this day and age, a nice alternative for the non-DIYers among us).  A conventionally-grown or imported pumpkin creates quite a toll on the environment, and builds a perception that all thick-skinned squashes, whether for centerpieces, Jack-o-Lantern carving, or eating, should be a…

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Top 3 Veggies for Eat Some, Freeze Some

Overflowing Harvest Basket!

Overflowing Harvest Basket!

Wow my garden is overflowing!  The early season rain and late season heat have combined to produce a jungle out there!  As much as I love fresh vegetables in season, there is no way I can eat my way through this situation.  My friends, family, and co-workers are starting to dread my appearance with my “big bag of whatever was ripe that morning”.   While I revel in how easy it is to eat and share fresh amazing produce now, come winter the limited availability of locally raised, fresh organic produce makes me sad. So this is my survival tactic – eat now, freeze some for later. These are my top 3 veggies for this strategy:

#3.  Sweet Corn. It can be a challenge to find organic and sustainably grown sweet corn, and when I find it I buy a bunch. Who can argue against fresh picked corn, lightly steamed and served with creamy butter and sea salt, or soaked in the husk and grilled until the kernels caramelize into a nutty sweetness? That said, corn is pretty filling and I can only eat so much at once. So, while one group of ears is cooking, the other group is getting sliced off the cob, popped into freezer bags, and stacked into the freezer. I find that freezing the kernels from two ears of corn per bag provides the nearly perfect portion for winter chowders, sweet corn risotto, corn fritters, and anything else “corn”. The amazing thing is that this method seems to perfectly preserve that fresh corn “pop” and wonderful flavor.

#2.  Peppers. Peppers to me are as much of a stable as carrots, onions, and celery. I love fresh picked sweet peppers raw in my salads, dipped in hummus, or just to nibble on through the day. Peppers always seem to ripen in bulk, way more than I could ever eat before they spoil. So I eat some now, and the simply wash, chop, and freeze the rest. Although frozen peppers lose their fresh crunchy texture, they keep that summertime flavor and work perfectly in soups, stews, chili, and any other recipe that calls for peppers. One of my favorites is to use the frozen peppers in Chicken Cacciatore with a chicken from one of my local farmers.

#1 Tomatoes. Ok, I admit it, I am a tomato addict and can do an entire story just on this one fruit. I can eat tomatoes – so long as they are fresh and local – every single day and not tire of them. Even so, the prolific nature of my many tomato plants outpaces even my appetite, so while I enjoy fresh tomatoes raw in any way you can think of in season, I take a few extras and dice them and put them in the freezer. Like peppers, they will lose a little in texture, but the amazing fresh tomato taste remains and is awesome in the winter when mixed with pasta or used in any of a variety of soups and stews and sauces. My favorite winter soup is tomato, white bean, and rosemary. Even as I enjoy the slice of that Brandywine on a sandwich, I am thinking of that soup in my future as I put the remaining in the freezer.

So eat now, and eat later!  Enjoy being a locavore all year!

Recipe for a Rainy Day and a Giant Bulb of Fennel….

The Giant Fennel Bulb

The Giant Fennel Bulb

With the weather promising cold and rain today, last night I made a run down to my garden to see what might be primed for picking.  While rummaging through an overgrown patch of swiss chard, there I found this amazing bulb of fennel.  By amazing I mean nearly the size of my head.

Fennel is a wonderful, aromatic plant that is a member of the carrot family.  In ancient times it was revered by the Greeks and Romans both for its culinary as well as medicinal properties.   All parts of fennel are edible, the fronds are also lovely and you can even freeze it if you don’t mind the loss of texture.  Young fennel bulbs are tender and delicious raw in salads and pair wonderfully with many Italian dishes.  But I had no idea what to do with this giant bulb.  It’s roots were so impressive that it took  two hands and a lot of strength for me to pull it out – fennel is actually a perennial so it grows to survive and thrive no matter what the weather.   I could not imagine eating this giant raw.  After spending some time googling around ideas, I finally came up with my own inspiration:  fennel simmered until tender with olive oil, garlic and sweet red onions, then finished with fresh picked cherry tomatoes and swiss chard.  Served over pasta and topped with fresh parmesan….wonderful!  Here are the top things I learned in this process.

  1. Cleaning fennel takes some attention.  Dirt gets into all of the crevices of the bulb.  To get the grit out, I found that washing the bulb, slicing it thin, and then running the slices through my salad spinner worked great to get it all clean.  Remember to remove the core!
  2. Fennel and swiss chard are an AMAZING combination.  The sweet, aromatic anise flavor of the fennel pairs wonderfully with the bitter greens of the swiss chard.
  3. While any fresh tomato may do, I used whole cherry tomatoes.  The effect was lovely.  Intense tomato flavor, a little “pop”.  My personal favorite for this recipe are my home-grown organic gardener’s sweetheart tomatoes (thank you Fruition Seeds!).
  4. You don’t need a recipe.  Just put it together any way and in any combination that works for you.  My main advice is to layer the flavors and the cooking, starting with meat (Italian sausage or diced pancetta work great in this recipe) and longer cooking aromatics first (the fennel, onion, and garlic) and layering in the other ingredients based on their cooking time, with tender greens like swiss chard at the very end.
  5. This tastes amazing over your favorite pasta, rice, or grains!

    The end result:  Fennel, Tomato and Swiss Chard Sauce

    The end result: Fennel, Tomato and Swiss Chard Sauce

To find sources of swiss chard, tomatoes, and fennel near you, check out our on-line directory.  Enjoy a cool rainy day of locavore cooking and eating!

Pasturing Alternative Forages at Cobblestone Valley Farm

Pasture walk at Cobblestone Valley Farm

Pasture walk at Cobblestone Valley Farm

Pasturing Alternative Forages was held on Wednesday August 19th, 2015 at Cobblestone Valley Farm in Preble, NY. Paul and Maureen Knapp hosted the field day and Organic Valley sponsored the event, providing lunch for the group.  We were fortunate to have the rain hold off for the day and to have a very large tent to escape the heat of August.

It is always a pleasure to visit Paul and Maureen Knapp’s farm nestled in the valley of Cortland County.  Paul and Maureen have been long-time NOFA-NY members and have been certified organic since 2000.  They manage a diverse farm business growing poultry, hogs and strawberries as well as managing a dairy herd of 50 milkers.  Their farm has a rich history with its beginnings as part of the cabbage industry growing for a sauerkraut processing facility next door to the farm, which has since become an equipment company.  Paul and Maureen are excellent farmers who are able to adapt to changing dynamics within their farm.  They maintain a beautiful farm and are a fine example of progressive organic dairy farmers. Uniquely, Paul’s experience growing cabbage has helped him to understand and manage growing brassicas for alternative forages.

grazed turnips

grazed turnips

The event began with a round of introductions of presenters and attendees which included a variety of folks from bovine to sheep farmers, new farm owners and seed sales representatives.  Paul spoke about how he began planting alternative forages to help mitigate the summer slump in pasture rotation. Paul now utilizes his alternative pastures including kale, turnip, radish and Sorghum Sudan grass to maintain production and components during the entire grazing season. Paul has also used buckwheat, triticale & peas as alternate forages in the past. We walked out and viewed the different test plots of brassicas to compare how they grew and how the animals grazed them.  Paul chose to graze his animals for 2 hours on an every other day basis to allow the forages time for regrowth and to not overwhelm the cows ration.  Paul balances the alternative forages with perennial pasture consisting mostly of orchard grass and white clover with some red clover.

Paul Knapp discusses alternative forages to the group

Paul Knapp discusses alternative forages to the group

Once we viewed the most recently grazed plots and plots with regrowth, we ventured back to our shady tent for a great lunch provided by Organic Valley.  After everyone’s belly was full we headed back out to view the sorghum sudan grass pasture. Many of the attending farmers shared their experiences pasturing alternative forages, what has worked for them and the results they have seen. There was a discussion on how BMR Sorghum thrives in hot weather and the brassicas thrive during the cooler weather.  By being able to rotate during the season they can be used to mitigate the risk of low pasture yields with varying weather at different times of the summer.  Paul stated how field days like this are great for building a farmers tool box; everyone can take home a few things that will help them in their operation down the road. Following an interesting discussion we had the pleasure to see a dry run of the Soil Health Trailer that Fay Benson and his team brought to the event.  The National Grazinglands Coalition’s Soil Health Trailer is equipped to measure and demonstrate vital physical, chemical, and biological components of soil health. When in full working mode workshop participants use penetrometers to measure soil compaction, and see a demonstration of the Active Carbon test that measures how much food the soil contains for the biological organisms that support soil health.

We are grateful to Fay for bringing the trailer and talking about what it is capable of, to Paul for sharing his years of experience and to Tim Darbishire for sharing his knowledge on forage options, seeding & maintaining a stand and rotations.  We are very pleased with the program and thankful to Organic Valley CROPP Cooperative for their support.

Find out How Your Representative Voted on HR 1599: The Dark Act on GMO Labeling, And More

dark act

On July 23 the House of Representatives passed The so-called “DARK” (“Denying Americans the Right to Know”) Act, or HR 1599 (official name: “the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act of 2015”) –– the bill that would preempt state and local authority to label and regulate genetically engineered (GE) foods –. This bill would prohibit mandatory GE labeling (federal and state) and would continue to allow use of the term “natural” on foods containing GE organisms.

But the DARK Act is not law yet, and it is time for everyone to get active to make sure that it never is.

Remember your government class in high school? The next step for this bill is the Senate, and then, if passed in the Senate with any different provisions, will have to go to a House/Senate Conference Committee, and back again to both houses. Finally, the President must sign the bill.

All those steps are opportunities for grassroots action to take hold. Your voice is needed now! Sign petitions, send letters, and remember that your elected officials work for you! Hold them accountable.

The DARK Act could undo over 130 existing statutes, regulations and ordinances in 43 states at the state and municipal level – including New York, where a NY GMO Labeling bill is still working its way through the State Legislature – as well as Vermont’s first-ever state labeling bill due to go into effect in July 2016. It would replace mandatory labeling with “voluntary” labeling, which has actually been in place at FDA for the past 14 years – during which time NO companies have used this volunteer labeling system.

While poll after poll shows that 90% of Americans want GE foods labeled, the vote in the House once again highlighted the power and money of big food and big Ag in Congress. Food/Grocery, chemical and seed companies not only contribute to the campaign war chests of both sides of the aisle, they have a very effective PR campaign that mis-characterizes GMO Label advocates as anti-science, and falsely claims that labeling will cause food prices to rise.   So the vote in the House wasn’t unexpected.

But Thanks to the Work of NOFA-NY members (and all New Yorkers) acting on several NOFA and national alerts, the New York congressional delegation responded favorably – see the vote tally below.  Of 27 New York State congress members, 19 voted NO to the DARK Act!   Keep it up New York!

Your Congress member didn’t vote the right way? Continue to write and call them, and tell them why you want to see GE Labeling. And watch for news from NOFA-NY for continued information about this bill and about the New York State Labeling Bill’s progress.

Keep up the fight! – Watch for NOFA-NY Alerts for the right time to tell your state Senate and Assembly Members as well as your federal Senators, Congressman, and the President that you want Labeling of GE Foods. 


Who’s YOUR Congressperson? Look It Up https://www.opencongress.org/people/zipcodelookup

District No. Representative Vote on HR 1599

[A YES vote = A vote against GMO Labeling]

1 Lee Zeldin No
2 Peter T. King Yes
3 Steve Israel didn’t vote
4 Kathleen Rice No
5 Gregory Meeks No
6 Grace Meng No
7 Nydia Velázquez No
8 Hakeem Jeffries No
9 Yvette Clarke No
10 Jerrold Nadler No
11 Daniel M. Donovan, Jr. Yes
12 Carolyn Maloney No
13 Charles Rangel No
14 Joseph Crowley No
15 José E. Serrano No
16 Eliot Engel No
17 Nita Lowey No
18 Sean Patrick Maloney No
19 Chris Gibson No
20 Paul D. Tonko No
21 Elise Stefanik Yes
22 Richard L. Hanna Yes
23 Tom Reed Yes
24 John Katko Yes
25 Louise Slaughter No
26 Brian Higgins No
27 Chris Collins Yes

Because corn and soybeans are the most widely planted genetically modified crops in the US, it’s not surprising that you’d find GMO corn in tortilla chips or GMO soy in some meat substitutes. But those genetically engineered ingredients also pop up in places you might not expect. Some spices and seasoning mixes contain GMO corn and soy. And soft-drink ingredients that might be derived from genetically modified corn include not only corn syrup but also the artificial sweetener aspartame, glucose, citric acid, and colorings such as beta-carotene and riboflavin. [Consumer Reports March 2015].

A Walk on the Wild Side

Happy Sheep!

Happy Sheep!

As the heat rose up on Saturday, July 18, more than 13 current and aspiring farmers traversed from across the state – from areas as far away as Binghamton and Scottsville – to join Don Wild at Wild Acres Family Farm in Great Valley NY (near Salamanca) to learn how to make better use of forages through small scale intensive pasture management.  tatiana Stanton from Cornell University also joined to discuss the on-farm study looking at the effect of tannins given off from grazing birdsfoot trefoil on parasitic worm populations in sheep. Rod Porter, from Kings AgriSeeds and a NOFA-NY Farmer, was available with information about various pasture seed mixes and types. I felt very lucky to be the NOFA-NY staff for this event.

Wild Acres Family Farm is a small diversified farm specializing in small ruminant management, multispecies grazing and vegetable production. Beautiful and lush flower gardens created a dramatic first impression as we walked towards the back of the farmstead to set up for the event. Under the welcome shade from a stand of trees, we heard the gentle clucking of Don’s laying hens and the soft baaaing of his ewes and lambs. In a small pasture nearby, a flock of meat chickens were busy enjoying their life on pasture, and next door to them was a small herd of miniature horses. In this idyllic valley setting our lesson began.

Farmers of all ages attended the day

Farmers of all ages attended the day

As we walked around the farm, Don surprised us all by showing that his core farm is only 1.5 acres. He has used that land to the maximum, and also bartered for use of some neighboring lands, showing the value of community to the farm and its neighbors. Through rotational grazing and effective monitoring and management of his pastures, Don demonstrated how he optimizes health in his sheep flock, reducing pest pressures while producing a highly nutritious forage diet.  He showed examples of expanding grazing capacity through incorporating small grains such as forage oats, as well as summer annuals and alternative forages, such as field peas, into an effective pasture plan.  tatiana shared her research on the use of birdsfoot trefoil and the seeding rates being tested on Don’s flock of lambs. Don discussed options for fence posts and permanent as well as temporary fencing options to make the best use of small spaces and rotating fields. As we walked we could see the pattern of re-growth on the pastures one, two, and three weeks out from its last grazing. Some key tips from Don:

    • Test your soil: test your soil before you seed – not all land, even when amended with materials such as lime, will be suitable for all types of forage.
    • Expect changes: your pasture composition will change through the year as well as from year to year depending on the weather and other factors, so pastures need to be monitored regularly.
    • Diversify: mixtures tend to do better than single cultivars when planting pastures. Different forages compliment each other and thrive at different times depending on the weather and changes in soil composition across a field.
    • Water: having a good watering system in place assures consistent pasture forage throughout a season. Don shared his easy and affordable solutions to watering pastures.
    • Have the right tools: fence tighteners, a digital volt meter, and a grazing stick are three basic and very valuable tools for managing fencing and monitoring pastures.  

      Field peas ready for grazing

      Field peas ready for grazing

At the end of the session we enjoyed refreshments under the shade of the trees along with some great question and answers from Don and tatiana. Many thanks to Don and family for hosting this event, and for tatiana for coming to share the latest research with us.

How I Spent My Summer Vacation

Lexington Community Garden.  Photo courtesy of Paul Minor

Lexington Community Garden. Photo courtesy of Paul Minor

One of the beautiful things about food and farming is that inspiration and gratitude are constant companions, unfettered by any definition of “on the clock”.

Last week during my summer vacation  I took the opportunity to visit with my good friend Judy Bennett and some of the urban gardens managed by the Rochester International Academy Interact Club, which is sponsored by the Rochester Northwest Rotary.  This is a unique 50 member club, comprised of refugees from many countries such as Congo, Eritrea, Nepal, Somalia, Thailand, Vietnam and Yemen. Students in the club worked in partnership with Foodlink and the Rochester City School District, and with a grant from Wegmans Food Markets, Inc and donations from Johnny’s Seeds to raise almost 5,000 vegetable plants this year in the greenhouse attached to the former Jefferson High School. The seedlings have been distributed to the Foodlink sponsored community gardens throughout the greater Rochester area, providing healthy, affordable produce to emergency food programs and a source of meaningful connection to the earth and their food for many refugees.

Judy took me on a visit to two of the gardens, the first behind the Calvary St Andrews Presbyterian Church off Averill Avenuein Rochester’s Southwedge neighborhood.  This church runs an emergency mobile food pantry, with donated food augmented by an array of fresh vegetables in season that are grown in the Foodlink-sponsored Alison Clarke Community Garden – an oasis of 18 beds of fresh produce growing behind the church.  The mobile pantry had just run that morning, and an abundance of swiss chard, kale, and collard greens had been picked and distributed.  We discussed the challenges of composting in city gardens and checked out the progress of an impressive plot of summer squashes and cucumbers.

Swiss Chard at the Alison Clarke Community Garden

Swiss Chard at the Alison Clarke Community Garden

From there we drove to the Foodlink sponsored gardens on Lexington Avenue.  Every time I visit a farm or garden I am inspired by the creative genius of farmers and gardeners, and this was no exception.  These community gardens are largely managed by Nepalize refugees. There on a vacant city lot, old walk-in coolers had been transformed into raised beds.   Instead of using conventional stakes and trellises to support the plants, tree branches were stuck in and around each raised bed, creating an amazing effect of a forest in the middle of the garden!  Around each bed the twisting limbs were green with slender tendrils of peas, pole beans, and cucumbers and carrying the weighty branches of tomatoes and their promise of ripe fruit to come.

Thank you Judy for this wonderful visit and for letting me see collaboration and inspiration in action, bringing healthy food to so many.

Bright Blue Skies with Fresh Snap Peas and Mint

Snap pea with blue skies

Snap pea with blue skies

Ahh, sweet sunshine!  A rare sighting this spring and early summer.  Perhaps the only two things thriving in my garden at the moment are snap peas and mint.  Ok, my lettuces and fennel and a scary amount of slugs are thriving too, but that is a story for another blog!

This is the time of year when I am heavy into foraging for my food from my garden, meadows, and woods.  This is not because I am a remarkably creative person, it is because I am really tired of making shopping lists, driving to the store, and well, shopping.

With the last of the asparagus picked and eaten, we are onto the next wave of garden bounty – peas – and in particular my favorite snap peas.  Peas are among the oldest cultivated vegetables, and there is evidence of cultivated peas in ancient Egyptian tombs!  There are more than 1000 varieties of peas in existence today.  Snap peas are unique in that their pods are edible as well as the sweet peas inside, and for those of us who are too impatient for a lot of shelling (although I do love shelled peas as well), snap peas are a great alternative as you can eat them pods and all.  When looking to enjoy snap peas, there are only 3 basic rules:

  • Buy fresh – if you don’t have a ready supply of peas bursting in your garden, you can find fresh snap peas at farmers markets, roadside stands and in your CSA basket this time of year – to find a farmer selling snap peas near you, check our on-line directory.  Just look for firm, glossy pods that are filled almost to bursting.
  • Keep them cold – in snap peas, the sugar converts to starch the way it does in corn, and keeping them cold helps slow down that process and will preserve their crispy texture and powerful nutrients.  Snap peas are a great source of vitamin C and K as well as folate, iron and protein.
  • Eat them soon – while most of the commercially grown pea crop is now sold canned, frozen and even dried, most people agree that snap peas are best fresh.  Fresh snap peas are best eaten within 3 days of picking.
Fresh mint

Fresh mint

What are some great ways to eat fresh snap peas? This is where the mint comes in.  There is nothing as lovely as snap peas with fresh mint.   Other wonderful accompaniments include lemon, garlic or green onions.  Snap peas can be cooked almost any way you can imagine – steamed, sautéed, fried, roasted.  The key is that however you cook them, fast is best as it retains the wonderful crisp texture of the pods.  For those who love preserving, snap peas can be pickled much like green beans.  For me, nothing beats eating fresh snap peas, straight from the garden, raw.

In addition to eating the snap peas, you can also enjoy the blossoms and leafy plant tips or pea shoots.  Just remember that ornamental “sweet peas” are NOT edible.  Another boon to planting snap peas is that like all legumes, peas are great for soil conditioning and are a tasty and wonderful addition to your garden crop rotation.  Enjoy this wonderful early summer treat!

New York State’s own GMO Labeling Bill is Gaining Ground

Liz at April 28 GMO rallyAs the NYS legislature ends its session, it is clear that although we didn’t win this year and despite interruptions in the legislative process from corruption scandals, the GMO Labeling bill did better this year than last.  The bill to label GMOs in NYS, A 617-S 485, was a top priority for NOFA-NY policy action this year, and we were active participants in the NYS GMO Labeling Coalition, along with Food and Water Watch, GMOFree NY, Hunger Action, Consumers Union, NYPIRG, Natural Resources Defense Council, Catskill Mountaineer, Fire Dog Lake, Good Boy Organics, Green Party of New York, the Brooklyn Food Coalition and the Sierra Club Atlantic Chapter.  All our groups worked well together in a spirit of cooperation and mutual respect.

We started out the legislative session of 2015 with a lobby day in Albany in late January, the day after our annual Winter Conference and participated in the organization and execution of a second rally and lobby day in April, which brought out more than 300 people from across the state. There were also dozens of smaller actions in critical districts and a big noise from the March against Monsanto, May 23. The coalition collected 43,000 signatures on petitions to the legislature in support of the bill.

By June, the Coalition was sure that there were enough Assembly members and Senators signed on to the bill to pass it in both houses if the leadership could only be persuaded to take it to the floor for a vote. The bill advanced through the Consumer Protection committees in both houses, then as far as Rules in the Senate and Codes in the Assembly. Our guess is that behind the scenes, legislators were saying “let’s not have to go on record for or against that one.”

As Stacie Orell, staffer for GMOFreeNY, noted:

“Nonetheless, onward we march. We will continue to work hard during the so-called “off season” to spread public awareness about GMOs and labeling, educate legislators on the issue and combat the misinformation spread by the incredibly well-funded oppo$ition campaign, and ramp up for next year’s fight. It’s only a matter of time before we join the rest of the world and get the right to know, it’s just gonna take longer than we’d like!”

It’s worthy to note that bills in all other states that have moved through legislatures have also taken years, and Vermont’s successful bill took 3-4 years to win.  NOFA-NY will be back at it in the next session, and asking more of all NOFA members to convince their state legislators.  Thanks for your hard work this year!

In the Field With the Iroquois White Corn Project

Iroquois White Corn

Iroquois White Corn

On June 11th, the day after a rare tornado touched down just a few miles away, about a dozen farmers participated in a unique field day to learn about the history of Iroquois White Corn (IWC) and efforts to restore this staple of the Haudenosaunee people’s diet at the Ganondagan State Historic Site in Victor, New York.  Peter Jemison (Knowledge Keeper and Heron Clan member of the Seneca Nation of Indians) and manager of the Ganondagan State Historic Site, along with Kim Morf (Mohawk), manager of the Iroquois White Corn Project led this event along with NOFA-NY staff Paul Loomis and Sondra Gjersoe.   After a brief introduction Peter lead the group down a trail to the field where the corn is planted.  The fields were still very well saturated from the rains that occurred the night before.

Peter gave the history of the corn and its importance to the Haudenosaunee people.  The heirloom seed they are using dates back to at least 1,400 years ago.  Iroquois White Corn (IWC)  was a staple food of the Haudenosaunee, supporting a Ganondagan town of up 4,500 people in the 17th century.  Over a trade disagreement the French destroyed 500,000 bushels of corn, forcing the Haudenosaunee from their lands.

Dried white corn (00000003)

Impressive ears of dried corn!

The IWC has deep symbolic meaning for the Haudenosaunee people and it is a healthy non GMO, low glycemic, gluten free food that has been consumed by the Haudenosaunee people for thousands of years.  Revitalizing the white corn production revitalizes tradition and health for the community.  The finished dried ears of corn are impressive, with kernels twice the size of today’s corn.

Peter explained although they use some more modern implements, the deep culture and traditions still remain. Three ceremonies must occur before the corn is planted, thunder, sun, and rain.  Peter went over the traditional Three Sisters planting of corn, beans, and squash. The stalks of the white corn are very robust, easily supporting a crop of pole beans, which also feed the earth nitrogen.  The squash subdue the weeds and act as a living mulch, keeping the ground moist for the corn and beans. The spiny nature of the squash leaves also act as a deterrent to deer trying to nibble on the corn. All the seeds used on the project are open pollinated heirloom seeds.

We opened up a discussion for the different types of cover crops, and the purpose of each one. Clover and legumes for nitrogen fixing, buck wheat for weed suppression, tillage radishes for deep soil aeration. The group discussed possible cover/forage crops to keep the deer from off the corn. Deer eating the corn has been somewhat of a trying issue. The group discussed many ways to possibly alleviate the issue through electric fencing, and hunting, nuisance permits, dog hair, dogs, etc.  Many of the attendees were very helpful with many great suggestions.

The group then made its way back to the farmhouse where we were able to try this wonderful corn in a cold salad and in cookies with the roasted corn flour. The group sat in the kitchen as Kim began to move into the processing portion of day. Like the plantings, many of the deep rooted traditions are very important part of the processing. Kim explained the importance of bringing a “good mind” and that people are not to process the corn with negative energy for that will be passed on to who consumes it.

The corn is dried on the stalks, then husked and braided for long term storage. The hulls of the corn kernel are indigestible, so each kernel must be removed from the hull. Kim went over the several methods including using wood ash and pickling lime.  Within the dining area lies a large roasting machine which they use in the making in their roasted corn flour.  Conversations continued as Kim answered many questions from the interested attendees.

There is a great energy surrounding the IWC project and the people involved in the project. It is amazing project for a very healthy, traditional food.  IWC can be found in many local grocery and specialty stores, at area farmer’s markets and even on-line!