Photos: Ingrid Pullen
If you are lucky enough to come to PRI Zaytuna Farm you will be shocked with the abundance of produce we are harvesting from the renowned main crop (above). During the last year we’ve been managed by our Australorps — they dictate our weekly schedule. Monday morning is the compost mob move (the "chickens on steroids" as Geoff likes to call them), and Tuesday morning every fortnight is the garden mob move. The compost mob are making compost that’s going to be used on the gardens that the other mob leave behind! It’s like a chicken amusement park down there in the main crop, and our job is to keep them amused!
Now that’s lot of work, until you start harvesting! We have an abundance of spuds, carrots, turnips, beets, greens of all shape, colour and sourness, including Ethiopian cabbage, silverbeet, spinach, mezuna! People who know me will remember that I’m allergic to salad (just kidding!), but I’m not allergic to ferments!
So what we end up doing is chopping up all those greens, add to them grated carrots, beets, turnips, a bit of garlic, ginger or turmeric if you like, and we press them really good as we add them to buckets, making sure there’s no air, and then cover them with vinegar.
We use 20kgs buckets and leave them in the store room for a month or so — there’s no rule really about how long you need to wait, it all depends on your taste — and when they are ready, they are out on the table for students and WWOOFers. It’s amazing how some people can’t stop eating them while others won’t even try it, but those who don’t are missing out on a lot of beneficial microflora that the gut would love — the microflora of where we live!
The other abundance I have to deal with is milk. We are now milking four beautiful cows. Honey just gave birth to a new steer, which Latifa wants to call Rosie! Rosie the Bull? Laila, Freeza and Udina are all also showing up in the morning waiting to exchange the abundance of milk in their udders for some breakfast cereal. No worries, we’ll take that milk, drink a lot of it fresh, drink a lot of it with our coffee, have a lot of it with our porridge… but there’s still a lot left! Ferments are the solution again. We turn it into yogurt, and then have that yogurt at breakfast, which again gives us that gut flora boost. But there’s still surplus of yogurt! Easy, turn it into yogurt cheese (what we call in the Middle East, ‘labaneh’) by pouring that yogurt pot into a cheese cloth and adding some salt then hanging it until it gets its paste-like texture. It can take 3-4 days. I sometimes forget about them and then come back to find it more sour and yummy. Now that’s a cheese that will not last on the dining table!
Another way we deal with excess milk is by turning it into a white feta-like soft cheese. This is a pretty simple procedure that only takes 2ml of rennet in 10 litres of warm milk. I usually add it at 40°C. I stir that and leave it to cool down until it curdles, which usually takes an hour. After that I pour it into a cheese cloth and add some black sesame seed, press it with bit of weight overnight until it lets go of all the whey (which you can collect and soak your chicken seed in it before you feed them, or use it for baking some sourdough bread). Now the cheese will look like a big slab, which is waiting to be cut into squares that will fit into your jar after dipping in salt and then covering with water. Depending on your consumption rate, you might have to increase the salt, or add it to the water that you use to cover the cheese with, to make sure that it lasts longer. In Jordan the way they traditionally do it is that they increase the salt to the extent that you have to boil it in fresh water twice to release the saltiness before its edible. This is simply to enable Jordanians to store it without fridges for up to a year in room temperatures that might reach 40°C!
The next phase of abundance we have to deal with are ducks! Any suggestions?