Besan Ki Roti

I finally got around to making something with a portion of the chickpea flour I planted, harvested, and ground. In the past I’ve made roti, an Indian flatbread, with only whole wheat flour and water. This time I whipped up a batch that blended the whole wheat, some white flour, and the chickpea flour or besan. A little yogurt was added this time as well and I think it added some softness and flavor. I just mixed up all the ingredients, kneaded it a while, and divided the dough up into balls that were  hand-rolled to be seamless.

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Then, after a rest I rolled them out to their finished size.

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This type of bread is cooked on a flat griddle. I used our non-stick one cooking them one at a time and turning when they started to brown.

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Then the real fun began. When the bread was cooked enough, I pulled it off with tongs and lay it directly on the gas burner. When done correctly, it puffed up like a balloon, as you can kind of see in this horribly-lighted image.

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Most of them turned out nearly perfect. Perhaps even good enough to earn me a handshake from Paul Bollywood…

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In any case, they went well with the curry I made using some of our winter squash.

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Three New Crops: Part Two

We eat our fair share of hummus in our household. Since it’s so easy to make, we buy cases of chickpeas and whip up our own whenever we get a craving. So, it only seemed right to try growing our own chickpeas, a.k.a. garbanzos, a.k.a. lots of other names. I started shopping around online for varieties that would grow in our zone and settled on Golden Garbanzo from one of the larger heirloom seed companies. The seeds didn’t look like the chickpeas I’m used to but I went ahead and planted them anyway.

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They grew great! The plants were small with beautiful, finely divided leaves. Their flowers were rather pretty, too. They reminded me of the flowers of the lentils I once tried to grow, only larger and less blue. Those flowers were tiny! They also seemed to be free of pests, unless you count what must have been a rabbit who bedded down in them one night knocking a few of the plants askew.

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Unlike last episode’s rice they all ripened at pretty much the same time. I only picked a few early dry ones and then, when they were just about ready, we were going out of town and rain was threatening. We went to the garden, cut off every plant and stuffed them in a bag to bring home. I spread them out in the basement to finish drying. When we returned they were nice and dry and I was able to thresh them the same way I do my other beans.

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The first thing I noticed about them was that they were hard, like rock hard, and very rough. As a test I cooked a few. After over an hour of simmering they were still pretty chewy. I started looking around for more information on garbanzos and found out there are different kinds. These turned out to not be the big, round chickpeas you make hummus, falafel, etc. with. What I think they are is a kind of flour chickpea that’s meant to be ground and features in many Indian dishes where it’s known as gram flour or besan. Great. Well, at least I love Indian food.

Again, I spent time messing around with different ways of pounding up these little pebbles. My cast iron mortar and pestle worked OK.

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Like the rice, I could only process small quantities at a time. They had a tendency to pop out of the mortar, but once the skin was cracked they broke up pretty easily. Then I just sifted them through a fine mesh strainer to get any stray remains of the skin out. It was pretty tedious so I dinked around at it off and on (mostly off) for months.

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Then I had a brainstorm. In the cupboard is a coffee grinder we reserve for spice grinding. I figured it was worth a shot and tried a small batch. Success! In less than fifteen minutes I was done and had a small jar of soft, protein-rich, home-grown garbanzo flour.

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Now I just need to decide what to make with it. It’s got to be something kind of special considering the work I put into making it. There are scores of good recipes online for Indian food and I’m open to suggestions.

The Lentils, or Not

I sometimes ponder the advantages and disadvantages of having to drive or ride my bicycle the 1.33 miles or 2.15 kilometers from our front door to our garden plot. On the one hand, we can actually get to it. I’m grateful for the access and mobility I have. On the other hand, at this time of year not all visits are leisurely. I don’t always have the gift of unhurried attention. Too often there’s a brief stop to do the quick, few tasks on a list and then rushing reluctantly off to work or the other, next important thing. If the garden were just outside my back door I could spend an hour or hours over it daily, but that’s not the case. And so it was that I lost track of the lentils.

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One of this year’s “experimental” crops was lentils. We eat a fair amount of these little legumes and when I realized we had a hefty supply of seed in the cupboard I decided to give them a go. Months later I can only say, “Well, that didn’t work.”

The plants flourished (literally) so I was anticipating success. But over time I sort of lost track of them amidst the onion woes, garlic harvest, broccoligasm, and so on. Today I finally took a really good look at the small patch and was excited to see the number of pods! I pinched one. It was empty. Most of them were. There was an abundance of empty pods but I couldn’t find any lentils on the ground. A few pods had what felt like a hard seed inside, but they were green and/or tiny. Either most of the lentils never developed or fell to the ground to be consumed by someone other than me before I could get them.

So it goes in agriculture. You take your chances and sometimes they pay off and sometimes they don’t. It pays to diversify, by the way.

I’ve got some fall seedlings started—Chinese cabbage for one. I’ll likely chop off  the lentil plants when the cabbage is ready to transplant and plug it in there. They at least should have fixed some nitrogen into the soil which will be helpful for a leafy crop. In the meantime I’ve made a mental note to try to allow enough time every time I visit the garden to look at every single crop and see how it’s doing. That may or may not have made a difference in the lentil experiment, but it’s probably a good practice to cultivate until I can just step outside the back door to check on the garden.

In Which It Takes Me a Moment

Over at 2 Boys 1 Homestead, a blog I’ve recently started following, Ben mentioned a few days ago that he is considering growing a patch of lentils. I’ve wanted to try growing my own for a while so they have come and gone from the forefront of my attention over the years. This mention so soon after my call for nominations of fun new crops to grow in 2015 got me thinking about them again. I like lentils. There are a handful of recipes I turn to again and again when we’re having a Bollywood night that call for lentils. My main concern, apart from the question of whether they’ll even grow and mature here, is that their yield per given unit of area might be on the low side. Still, I moved them to the front of the line for trying this season. Then I thought where am I ever going to find seeds for them? Better start googling.

If you laughed at that last bit you’re faster than I am.

Sprouted Lentils

I have a bag of lentil seeds, a.k.a. lentils in the pantry! The only thing left was to test them to see if they will germinate. They did. They were also delicious. I’d forgotten how good lentil sprouts are.

It’s ironic it took me this long to think of lentils given that during my recent seed testing bout I tried everything I could think of from the spice cupboard including anise, cardamom and mustard but I never made it over to the pantry where the legumes live. Now that I know I’ve got some viable lentil seeds and that they’re a variety I like I’m closer to allocating a small area of the garden to giving them a go.