Turkeysong

Experimental Homestead

Simple Biochar Production, and Grape Reviews, a Few Videos

THIS BLOG IS RETIRED, I’VE MOVED TO SKILLCULT.COM   

ALL THE OLD TURKEYSONG POSTS ARE THERE AND MORE, CHECK IT OUT!

Yay, burn season is here!  Just uploaded a few videos.  A couple of short grape variety reviews, The pretty darn good Glenora and the excellent Reliance (of which I’m eating some right now, and they’re super tasty!).  And a somewhat long winded, but cool, video of burning a top lit open burn brush pile to make biochar (Which Kelpie of Backyardbiochar calls TLOB).  This is one of the two charring methods I’ve been messing with, the slope sided pit (or container), and the open top lit piles.  I think each has it’s merits, but probably more importantly, each might be better suited to certain materials that people commonly have.  Both can be scaled up and down in size and neither should produce a ton of smoke if the wood isn’t either soaking wet or green.  A pit burn video should be forthcoming.  Hopefully I’ll get better at shooting and editing video, learn to talk faster and develop a video personality at some point.  In the meantime, pop some popcorn and check it out.

No Guinea Pigs were harmed during the making of these videos, although some chickens were verbally assaulted.

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September 23, 2014 Posted by | BioChar, Food Trees Fruits and Nuts, Garden Stuff | , , , , , | 12 Comments

Saffron Dreams: Musings and experiments in growing Saffron

saffron dreams header

THIS BLOG IS RETIRED, I’VE MOVED TO SKILLCULT.COM   

ALL THE OLD TURKEYSONG POSTS ARE THERE AND MORE, CHECK IT OUT!

I like to cook intuitively with what happens to be on hand, which means having a certain familiarity with my ingredients.  Recipes are just guidelines in my world and not to be taken at face value, ever.  I’ve never had enough Saffron around to become familiar with it to the point that I can use it with any confidence.  When my mom brought me a small box of quality saffron from Spain, I had a chance to become a little more familiar.  With Saffron now on my radar, I of course decided I should grow the stuff instead of buying it.  I mean if we can grow the stuff here, why import it at 80.00 an ounce?  Saffron seems to be capable of growing in a fairly wide variety of climates from England to Afghanistan.  Then I could sell the bulbs and promote the idea of growing it and start a local industry and…..

A laptop surfing safari turned up a few small scale growers focused on high quality Saffron for local consumption, but none of them in California.  Aside from these geeky boutique producers who have been bitten by the Saffron bug, saffron production seems to be left to areas where it has long been cultivated.

Saffron’s peculiarly unique flavor is subtle and pervasive at the same time.  A few threads too many and it goes from enhancing your dish to ruining it.  Fortunately, it’s intensity means that only a few threads are required and if it wasn’t so intense, no one would likely be able to afford to use it at all, nor probably bother to.  The part used is the intensely red stigma of a pretty little purple/blue flower named Crocus sativus, the stigma being the female part that receives the pollen.   The Latin name is probably pronounced like kroak-us sa-tee’-vus, or sat’-i-vus but no one really knows for sure because Latin is a dead language.  So just say it however you want to and if anyone flicks you shit for pronouncing it wrong, just follow Jepson’s advice of The Jepson Manual: Higher Plants of California:

“… practice what sounds good to your ear; conviction is important.”    “When someone presumes to correct your pronunciation, a knowing smile is an appropriate response.”

That’s always worked for me :D

Anyway, there are only three stigma or “threads” in each flower.  Not only are there only three, but they have to be removed by hand one flower at a time.  The threads are already small and they dry into teeny weeny little flakey things looking something like pubic hair from a redheaded elf.

soaking saffron progress

Re-soaking saffron threads for use in cooking.

Crocus carwrightianus is probably the parent of the Saffron Crocus, and is a normal seed producing plant that exists in wild seed propagated populations.  Crocus sativus on the other hand is a mutation or hybrid of some type, and it never produces seed, but can only be grown and propagated by redistribution of the underground parts.  So, Saffron Crocus is probably entirely dependent on humans for it’s survival and propagation.  Although the stigma of Crocus cartwrightianus can also be used to make saffron, it is almost exclusively made from Crocus sativus.  All of the sources I can find indicate that the Saffron crocus has either more or better flavor than C cartwrightianus, and/or that C Sativus produces more Saffron per plant due to heavier Stigmas.  Regardless, I’m interested in picking up some cartwrightianus to play with.  Cartwrightianus, now there’s a clunky name that I can never remember.  I guess if I discovered it I could name it Edholmianus.  I’m not sure I like it, and it sounds pretty dirty.

Freshly harvested saffron threads.

Freshly harvested saffron threads.  Only freshly opened flowers are used.  It is necessary to revisit the plants nearly every day for a week or two, since the flowers don’t emerge and open all at once.

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September 13, 2014 Posted by | Food and Drink Making, Garden Stuff | , , , | 21 Comments