cooking and eating

DIY Pond Slime

I mentioned the other day that besides the calendula that I dried and zucchini that I fried I had a bunch of other things from the garden that needed processing? Well amongst my harvest were beetroot and their leaves as well as some rainbow chard.

Normally I love sauteed chard and beet leaves – with the addition of lemon juice, garlic and maybe some toasted almonds they are delicious. Or maybe used as part of a spanakopita style pie? But on Sunday my normal desire for greens failed me and I needed to do something different with the leaves – and fast, the weather was hot and they were beginning to wilt.

The obvious answer was to get all wild and hippy and ferment the damn things.

Over the last year I’ve been playing around with wild fermentation and making things like kombucha and elderflower wine. I’ve successfully made traditional sauerkraut and fermented my own beetroot with great results.

But some things just don’t work out the way you think they could.

Today’s exhibit? Rainbow chard and beetroot leaf… slime.

photograph of jar containing Fermentation experiment - rainbow chard and beetroot leaves

In theory it could have worked out – but ultimately it was like smelling and eating the bottom of a stagnant pond.

I went the normal route of salting and “massaging” the leaves to break down the cell walls and release the salty plant juice. And then – I carefully packed the shmooshed up leaves into a jar and weighted the leaves down and added a touch of brine to the top to make sure all the leaves were submerged.

And then I waited.

The last couple of days have been very hot in Linz and as a result my kitchen was close to 30° – things began to happen to the jar of leaves straight away. By the next day there was some foam and a strong odour of pond.

Pond – that’s really the only way to describe it – a little like the smell of our sailboat’s hull when she comes out of the Winterhafen. Pond – in the right place (i.e. near a pond) it is a smell that makes sense and can be not unpleasant – but in my 30° kitchen it was not something I was handling well. The normally earthy flavours of beet leaves had combined with water to make the wet earth flavour of mud.

Generally you have to wait a couple of days for more advanced fermentation to kick in and with it the nice souring that comes from the good lactic bacteria of successful fermentation. Maybe if the weather was cooler and I was more patient this could have happened. In the end though the combination of a very hot kitchen and the persistent smell of slime meant that I had to apologise to the food gods and take the experiment out to the compost bin.

Calendula flowerheads on cardboard.

Yellow

Tim’s just headed off for a conference in India, so first thing this morning I went to my community garden plot to pull up some weeds and give some water to the surprisingly hardy vegetables and flowers I’ve managed to grow.

My harvest included rainbow chard, lettuce, beetroot, a couple of carrots, four snowpeas, some zucchini and their flowers, a few nasturtiums and borage and lots of calendula.

While I was there a fellow gardener mentioned that she had made her own calendula handcream with petals infused in butterschmalz (Austrian ghee). Once I got home I looked up some more information about processing calendula and laid out the flower heads on cardboard and took them up to the communal attic space to dry out.

Calendula flowerheads on cardboard.

drying calendula (ringelblumen) to eventually be used to make an infused oil

Then I had to do something with the rest of the produce – most of it can wait for tomorrow to be cooked, but the zucchini flowers had to be used straight away. At the time it seemed that deep frying them was the best way to go. However, I have never properly deepfried anything – but I do have a multicooker-rice and yoghurt making machine that also functions as a deep fryer.

Deep frying four zucchini flowers seemed like a waste of time, energy, batter and oil. so in addition to making batter and a feta and zucchini butter filling for the zucchini flowers, I found a green pepper, some sweet potato and decided to fry up some of the nasturtiums and calendula blossoms too.

tempura fried vegetables and flowers

filled Hafengarten zucchini blossoms, sweet potato, calendula flowers (not shown – green pepper and nasturtiums)

It turns out that the actual deep frying wasn’t so scary – but there is a lot to clean up. The biggest problem was that experimental cooking when you are at home alone also eventuates in solo eating. Making tempura is not so difficult, but the next time I will make sure someone else is around to help me eat it all.