Back in 2014 I designed a worm farm tractor system for small spaces from readily available or up-cycled materials.
I wrote a step by step article for making my worm tractor design for permaculturenews.org and all the background information you’ll need, which you can find by clicking HERE
My design requires a garbage bin with lid (not metal-too hot for worms), a laundry basket and a bowl to fit inside. Beyond that, just the worms and your kitchen scraps.
Worm farming doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive. I have decades of experience in this and I didn’t have the budget I do now, back then.
Understandably, my design went nuts on the internet and Pinterest for a good while amongst ‘wormers’ and permaculturalists 😂 Some find the commercially available systems too expensive.
My Instagram pic shows an example of how I’m using my system 5 years on, right now.
This worm farm ‘tractor’ is one of three, feeding a cucumber and a brand new asparagus patch. The only difference is it drains directly into the garden not the bowl I included in the stand alone, or inside, design.
My experience with worm farming goes back to 1991 when part of my job as Health Information Officer was to present Living Green and Sustainability workshops/seminars to community and business groups, talks to school children who were being given a commercially available worm farm as part of the local government initiative.
Everyone can increase the fertility in their soil with things they already have on hand.
I hope this helps anyone who feels upset they don’t have the money to start improving their soil.
One of the most exciting parts of growing the beautiful ‘Golden Goddess’ Turmeric, is harvesting it!
Because turmeric root is the useful part, seeing your eventual rhizome harvest after 12 months of waiting, is very much like an ‘unboxing’.
Then of course, you need to process and preserve your turmeric.
My guess is, you already know about the amazing benefits of turmeric.
So what I’m focussing on in today’s blog is processing and preserving the rhizomes in two ways. These are not the only ways.
Pregnant or nursing mothers, children, diabetics or anyone with existing health conditions or allergies, should consult their health professional’s advice before consuming fresh or preserved turmeric.
Growing, harvesting, preserving and using your turmeric harvest is so satisfying. I highly recommend it. I hope you enjoy using your powder and paste for the many recipes and drinks these lovely turmeric products make possible 🌸
Quick Background: Followers of my Instagram Vintagetrishgarden know that I started my little turmeric ‘plantation’ in November 2017 with one 3cm rhizome bought from an organic providore. Since then, I replanted my entire harvest of rhizomes in June 2018, to overwinter, in-situ. The turmeric broke ground in November 2018, and this May 2019, I harvested 621 gram of turmeric. If I were to buy fresh turmeric at current prices in my area it would cost $24.69 per kilo, and that is not organic–mine is. I’ve returned 300g of rhizomes to the little 1 metre x 40cm strip ‘plantation’ for this growing season, and am processing 321gram in the following ways. Next harvest – May 2020.
How I decided to preserve this turmeric harvest
Turmeric Powder for pantry storage
Fresh Turmeric Paste divided into refrigerated and frozen portions
Uses: Curry pastes, Soups, Smoothies, Teas, Golden milk and much more
Preparation after Harvest
All the turmeric rhizomes were well washed and then set to dry out a little for 1 week after harvest. Use a covered basket, which prevents dust but allows air circulation (prevents mould.) This makes the rhizomes more easily handled and retains more of the rhizome when peeled, in my experience. They shrink a little from their plumped up, ‘just harvested look’, at this stage.
Advice: Fresh turmeric stains anything it contacts, yellow. Wear disposable gloves, protect benches and wash plates and utensils soon after using them when working with it.
All small knobbly parts of the rhizomes were broken off and kept in a seperate bowl.
The now more easily peeled large sections were peeled with a hand peeler.
All unpeeled ‘small knobbles,’ and peels, were put aside for the paste recipe.
The large peeled turmeric rhizomes were sliced into 3mm width slices using a mandolin slicer with a thickness dial. (I opted for using the mandolin slicer because it keeps slices a consistent width which means drying in the dryer is more uniform, if all are the same width–which means the turmeric will powder easily.)
The turmeric slices were arranged in a single layer on two trays of my food dryer, with one empty tray on the bottom to prevent over-drying.
My food dryer has one setting–so I let the turmeric slices dry for 1.5 hours. I decided after checking at the 1.5hr mark that 30 mins more would get it to the optimal dried state for processing into powder-slices should be dry not ‘bendy’. I did swap the bottom slice tray to the top at this stage, as they tend to dry more quickly than the top trays in my dryer model. You will need to use your own judgement on this depending on what drying method you use. Since I have never used an oven to dry turmeric I am not going to give advice on it, except to say that you are trying to dry (not bake) the turmeric– so the oven would have to be set very low, and would presumably take longer than mine did in the food dryer.
The dried turmeric slices were removed from the dryer trays and put into my food processor to process into powder, on High for 3 mins, then another burst on High for 2 mins. Yes, it takes that long if you want fine powder. It would take longer again if you are grinding the dried slices using mortar and pestle.
The powder was removed from the processor and put into a glass jar for storage in my pantry. * Storage times vary for differing conditions and climates. Use your own judgement and research*
Store turmeric powder away from heat and light in the pantry.
Fresh Turmeric Paste
Fresh turmeric processed (fine or grated), black pepper, organic coconut oil, water
Equipment: Grater or food processor, stovetop, pot, whisk/spoon, spatula
The kept aside large fresh rhizome peels and unpeeled fresh ‘small knobbles’ were pulverised in my food processor. Alternatively you could grate them.
For every 3 inches of rhizome, you use 2 tablespoons of coconut oil, 1 tsp fresh ground black pepper and 1/3cup water divided. Just do your best to estimate the amount of rhizomes you have–since it’s a paste it’s a fairly ‘forgiving’ recipe, but take care with the amount of water you add, do that ‘by eye’ especially with the other half of the water in step 6.
In my case I was using the peelings and small rhizome knobbles which amounted to 7 inches of rhizome (so…the recipe amounts multiplied by 2.5). This meant I used 5 tablespoons coconut oil 2.5 tsp fresh ground black pepper and 3/4 cup water, divided.
Put all solid ingredients into a pot on the stove over medium heat–with only half the amount of water you need to add.
Using a whisk or spoon, stir all ingredients till combined over medium heat till bubbles form around the side. It may take a little time for the coconut oil to melt if your weather is cool.
Reduce heat to medium low and cook, slowly adding the remaining water until the mixture forms a paste. The coconut oil tends to slide and glide away from the side of the pot once it reaches this held-together paste.
Transfer the paste using a spatula or spoon into a glass jar or container.
Leave to cool, put lid on and refrigerate. Alternatively, put paste into ice cube trays, freeze, pop ice cube portions into a container for easy access when needed.
As a guide only, this paste can usually be stored for 2 weeks in the fridge–use your own judgement. Frozen paste portions store longer.
Disclaimer… Please do your own research for your own needs and context. The author assumes no responsibility for any outcomes of anyone using this well researched and documented blog post. Enjoy making and using your turmeric powder and paste.
There’s something multiplying on my bench this time of year, as the cooler weather creeps in.
Bubbling, fermenting jars of kombucha, driven by yeast and bacteria powerhouses, are growing in number!
Now before you say ‘Look Trish I think you need to clean your bench’…
I consider these yeast and bacteria to be ‘friendlies,’ to my family’s gut-health! I’m happy to have my ‘brews’ take up more space.
Kombucha is a fermented drink made from sweetened tea, fermented by a culture known as a scoby. It has reported health benefits I encourage you to research. You might like to start with this article here on the benefits and risks.
Possible risks tend to relate to the way kombucha is prepared and stored. I’ve never had a problem in nearly three years of kombucha brewing. I think good routines and keeping the process fresh is key to success.
Scoby stands for ‘Symbiotic Culture Of Bacteria and Yeasts.’
My way to brew kombucha, below, is ‘one way’ … it allows for a constant, ready to drink, fresh supply.
A ‘constant, ready to drink, fresh supply’ can be harder to achieve than you’d think when you’re at the mercy of a biological process.
That’s why I said my bubbling jars were growing in number.
You see as the weather cools, the fermentation process slows. That means I need four of my fermenting jars on the bench now, because the brewing process takes four to five days. Here in summer, first fermentation is often just 2 days per batch. So in summer, I only need two brews on the bench.
Some methods rely on brewing a huge amount of kombucha (all ready at once) which gets wasted. Families often can’t drink it in time – so it may continue to ferment past the ‘best taste date’ and into an unhealthy mess depending on how it’s treated from there.
Respect the brewing process and do what’s needed and I’m sure it will go well.
Back to …if kombucha goes past the best taste date…short answer…it tastes like vinegar. It’s not the beautiful taste and slight natural fizz of well-brewed kombucha and won’t be, ever.
So my way is one way to produce a steady supply for my family, that usually ‘nails’ the taste test and avoids waste. Why? Because it’s fresh, chilled and ready in ‘just enough’ one litre quantities, and no batch ferments further, past that.
OK, rewind. Most batches nail the taste. When I was learning to brew, it took a little time to work out how long fermentation would take in my climate (warm to hot for most of the year.) When I get busy and don’t bottle and refrigerate the daily brew on time, it can go past the best taste for our family, but is never left as long as the vinegar stage. It has a sharper edge which we don’t prefer, so I learnt to rarely let that happen.
I brew my kombucha in 1 litre glass jars I recycled, de-labelled and sterilised, from bulk olives we used to buy.
Why jars? The first brew will see your scoby grow to fit the shape of the top of your container. No container with a narrow neck is useful. Wide neck only. You’ll understand when you try to remove the brew and scoby, later.
I made my own ‘breathable’ covers from clean new materials I already had. I secure them with simple elastic bands around the neck of the jar.
Whatever you use to cover the ferment at room temperature, please know that fermentation produces carbon dioxide gas from the yeast in the scoby. Any cover you use needs to be close-weave enough to prevent anything from getting into the ferment, but breathable enough, so that the carbon dioxide can escape. Popping or explosions can happen–which when mixed with glass is a dangerous and at the very least, messy, combination if there is no ‘breathe’.
There is a lot of information around about kombucha brewing. My best advice is to just always, always, always, ‘keep things fresh.’
You wouldn’t drink stagnant water, so never drink anything other than freshly brewed kombucha and keep your processes hygienic (no fingers/hands).
On the other hand–hygienic should never mean bleach or antibacterial dishwashing residue on jars and implements. Kind of defeats the purpose if residues mean you’re killing the organisms you want to be responsible, for the fermentation process. Boiling water with the relevant precautions is the best in my experience.
The first unavoidable step is to purchase your kombucha scoby. Make sure the source of your scoby is reputable. A few ideas–read customer reviews if you’re thinking of an online purchase, do your own research, ask your local health food or organics store for recommendations.
I purchased my scoby on-line. I only make black tea kombucha. My scoby purchase was fine for either black or green tea kombucha.
Protect Your Scoby
Remember the scoby is alive. If you put it in boiling water you will kill most if not all of the organisms, even if you realise what you’ve done and quickly get it out.
Only put your scoby in room temperature tea solutions.
The scoby and a bubbling kombucha ferment
Equipment used to strain the fermented kombucha into a bottle for cooling
Step 1: Make your Tea Base
For the one litre jars I use, I need to use the following quantities:
Sterilise your jar using boiling water-fresh (boiled from a jug is fine).
Add 4 tablespoons high quality black loose leaf tea, or 4 teabags.
Then add 1/2 cup of raw sugar.
(Yes sugar is needed for the scoby to use for fermentation food–most sugar will be gone by the end of fermentation, but if you don’t sugar-feed your scoby, it will die)
Three-quarters fill the litre jar to the top with boiling water from the jug.
Stir using a long stirrer (I use a long wooden handled, vintage metal spatula).
Set aside tea solution to brew and cool to room temperature.
Only when tea solution is room temperature–strain the tea solution into a clean sterilised one litre jar.
Using tongs, put your scoby into the strained, room temperature tea solution.
Cover with your breathable cover. Let the fermentation process begin!
You can put it on a bench out of light or in a cupboard.
The fermentation process shows it’s happening, with bubbles!
Leave your brew for 4–6 days. It may take longer or shorter where you live.
Step 2: Halt Fermentation
This is simple to do. Just remove the tea solution from the scoby.
The hard bit is knowing when to do this. Too early or too late will affect taste.
If I’m unsure, I take a clean teaspoon and taste-test some of the brew. Don’t dip the spoon back in! Your germs are not welcome.
My method is to use a strainer and funnel to mostly strain the litre jar brew contents into two brown glass bottles (see photo for equipment).
I leave the scoby and bottom inch of kombucha brew (often clouded with the yeast particles, don’t worry, it settles) in the glass jar.
This will be the basis of the next brew.
Into the fridge: Since I don’t do a second ferment for adding flavours, I put the bottles into the refrigerator at this stage and that is it. Some like to add ginger, juices or fruit flavours at this stage, so they would allow those flavours to ‘ferment in’ over a short time, then strain and bottle for refrigeration.
When the kombucha in the brown bottles is chilled, we drink it! Usually within two days. Then we are on to the next batch, which by that stage is chilled!
Step 3: Start your next brew
Using the left over inch of the previous kombucha brew, and the scoby, repeat Steps 1 through 3.
Freshening, Multiplying and storing your Scoby
There are differing opinions on this topic. Some people allow their scoby to get exceptionally thick. But I like my scoby thin, young and effective! A fresh, recently born scoby, is what I want fermenting my kombucha.
You will see your scoby increase in thickness. Once the older, bottom scoby layer can be separated off (using tongs, not hands–yes its fiddly) then if you use my method above, just separate it off by pulling the two apart. You can discard the old bottom section of scoby into your compost bin or worm farm–they love it. If the older part is still young and fresh looking, you could use it as the starter scoby in another brew jar.
I have four brew jars going at present because brewing is taking at least four days. To have enough kombucha to drink in the fridge each day, I must bottle and renew the next brew in line, each day. I freshen each scoby as needed, for each brew, when I do this.
But I’ve only ever bought one scoby at the start, three years ago.
If you want to keep a young, fresh scoby alive, but don’t want to use it yet–put it in a ‘scoby hotel.’ A scoby hotel is just one of your brewing jars with a couple of inches of kombucha brew in the bottom and the scoby placed in it. Put a breathable cover on it and put the whole thing in the fridge. This will stop or drastically reduce it fermenting until you’re ready to use it. Make sure it’s fresh, and brought to room temperature before using it in a brew.
I hope this information has been helpful. Your needs may be completely different to my family’s needs, so I encourage you to do your own research. There is so much information out there, and your scoby (from a reputable source) should come with plenty of information, or a website to consult. Learning to brew kombucha is something you get better at, the more you do it. Don’t give up if your first efforts aren’t great. Learn the tastes and flavours you prefer in your kombucha, and adjust your routine and system to suit.
I think that once you have found the routine, tastes and flavours that suit you, brewing kombucha will be a joy, not a nerve-wracking job. Happy kombucha brewing!
PS I’m going to do some separate blog posts about kefir and apple cider vinegar ferments.
Disclaimer… Please do your own research for your own needs and context. The author assumes no responsibility for any outcomes of anyone using this well researched and documented blog post. Enjoy making and drinking your kombucha.
It’s beautiful scent makes up for its ‘leggy’ habit.
Rose scented geranium is a delightful and useful addition to any garden. It’s pink flowers are simple but cute. It’s fairly tolerant of a number of soil types, and its leaves send a beautiful rose scent out as soon as you brush up against them in the garden, or bruise them more deliberately.
After a long, extremely hot and drought ridden summer season, my plant ‘looked like the rest of us’…
After a quick prune I was left with a small armful of branches filled with gorgeous leaves. My mind destined them for cuttings and Rose Scented Geranium Syrup.
Rose Scented Geranium Syrup
This recipe is a traditional favourite in several cultures. It couldn’t be simpler, because it’s just the rose scented geranium leaves, equal parts water and raw sugar. But please do it when you have time to enjoy the scent in your home and be present with the boiling syrup.
Warning: This is not a recipe for including children. Boiling syrup is scalding and damaging if it gets near skin, because it sticks and can’t be quickly removed with water. Do not leave the stove unattended. Please protect yourself and don’t allow children in the kitchen for this one.
Sterilise your storage jars or jugs using boiling water bath or oven method – Google if needed.
Pluck rose-scented geranium leaves only, and put them in your pot.
Just cover the leaves with water-keep count of how much you’re adding using cups/bowls/jugs etc.
Add the same amount of raw sugar that you added in water.
Stir over medium heat until sugar dissolves and thick bubbles form-this will take different times according to your quantities of leaves, water and sugar.
Do not be tempted to turn the heat to high as this will burn the sugar.
The thick bubbles show you the mixture has turned from sugar-water to sugar syrup, and your rose-scented geranium syrup is ready.
Use a funnel in the bottle with a metal strainer on top of the funnel, to decant your syrup into storage bottles/jars/jugs (see photo). This will separate the leaves from your finished syrup.
Hint: A clean sink is what I use to put my bottles in and then decant into. This captures any sticky hot mess that may result and keeps my hands above the hot syrup rather than near it. If a bottle falls, it doesn’t damage you or your bench.
Using oven mitts, place your hot syrup bottles onto a heat proof surface and allow to cool. Put lids or stoppers on when cooled.
Store in the fridge and use promptly. Never consume mouldy or discoloured syrup.
Your rose-scented geranium syrup will lend a beautiful perfumed rose-scented sweetness to any baking, cocktails, iced tea, cake icing, toffee etc.
You can also use rose-scented geranium leaves as natural air fresheners and to bake directly onto the bottom of cakes–but that’s another blog!
I’ve got some fresh strawberries from the garden and I’ll be making a batch of Rose-scented Geranium and Strawberry Muffins. Mmmm.
I hope you have fun making and using this delightful syrup.
Disclaimer… Please do your own research for your own needs and context. The author assumes no responsibility for any outcomes of anyone using this well researched and documented blog post. Enjoy making and using your syrup.