Seeds are pretty inexpensive, and you can find just about any variety of anything in the world online. But this year we selected seeds from some of our best organic plants that were left in the garden to fully mature and produce seeds well into Autumn.
I take small brown paper bags, place the seeds in them, label them with the variety and date and allow them to fully dry for a couple weeks. Since warm temps and humidity can ruin your seeds, place them in small airtight jars and then store in a cool place like your fridge.
Fermenting Seed: This year I went a step further with my tomato seeds by fermenting them. This removes the seed’s gel which contains a germination inhibitor and other potential disease. The entire process take about 5 days, but the steps are pretty easy.
Take a 1/4 to 1/2 cup of filtered water and place the freshly harvested tomato seeds in the water and sit in a cupboard for 3-5 days. Over time, the seeds will float and then sink. A film or mold will develop over the top and the water will become a little cloudy. It will also smell really bad. This is normal.
Close to the 5th day, or when all the seeds have sunk to the bottom, carefully remove the top film and then add water. What you are wanting to do is stir up the pulp and other sediment to slowly pour off until you can put the seeds in a sieve and rinse. Set them aside on a paper plate (seeds will stick to napkins) to dry. You should have fuzzy seeds ready to plant next year!
We have a few mature Shaggy Bark Hickory trees on the property at Half Hill Farm that cover the ground each Fall with lots of nut husks. The nut is viewed as the best of America’s Hickory trees, and the squirrels here love them.
I was curious if there were any old Native American recipes using the nuts and came across some very obscure references to Cherokee Kenuche balls, ground up Hickory nuts (shell and meat) formed into a fist-sized ball that stores well through the Winter and is used on special occasions in soups by the American Cherokee Tribe. I can imagine many food uses and plan on putting a small grape-sized ball in our coffee maker in the morning.
The aroma of Kenuche is meant to guide the ancestors back to special family gatherings where it is served as a side dish. My guess is that memories of gathering and processing the nuts with older family members who have since passed is how ancestors are connected with this very special dish. After the time consuming process of crushing the nuts earlier today, I imagine this was a task for older family members and children who helped pick out larger shells before crushing them. It’s a beautiful side dish with a rich heritage that I’m guessing has less than 40 references online, including books.
Here is how you can make your own Kenuche. We could only gather about 100 Shaggy Bark Hickory nuts because the squirrels favor this nut over everything else. I crushed each one with a hammer. Half of them were bad, so I ended up with only 50. I picked out the larger shell pieces and left the rest in a bowl. I then took a small mortar & pestle and mashed the shells and meat into an oily paste. It’s OK and easier to leave the shells, and this is how it was traditionally done (but in a large hollowed wooden bowl).
Form the resulting Hickory nut paste into a Kenuche ball using wax paper. I find wax paper keeps the oils in the ball instead of sticking to your hand. Kenuche balls are usually the size of a fist, but ours was the size of a plum. You might need 300-400 nuts for a fist-sized Kenuche ball.
You can store Kenuche in the fridge or freezer until you’re ready to use it. Our ball was about 2 ounces, so I simmered it in a half quart of water for about 30 minutes until the nut meat was dissolved into a creamy sauce. A normal sized Kenuche ball would use about a half a gallon of water. I then strained the creamy broth through a sieve and discarded the small shell pieces and added hominy to the resulting broth. We added mushrooms and let this simmer. You can add venison or pretty much anything (brown sugar and maple syrup will make a sweet version and compliment the nutty flavor), but traditional Kenuche soup is the broth with hominy.
Life is all about having the patience to crack a tough nut to get to the good stuff. If your traditional gatherings are starting to focus more on the hollow and commercial aspects of life, who’s bringing what to the table, try infusing traditions that bring people together and create memories of those who have passed. You just might bring more to the table in a humble bowl of soup than you expected.
As you enjoy the beautiful colors of Fall this year you may notice several varieties of wild mushrooms growing at the base of some large hardwood trees in Tennessee. One mushroom in particular we need your help finding is called “Hen of the Woods,” or Maitake (Grifola Frondosa).
If you find one of these beautiful native mushrooms, and you live within about 75-100 miles of our organic farm in Woodbury, TN, we’d love to come visit and take tissue samples to replicate in our farm’s mushroom lab.
What to look for: The huge 9 lbs. Maitake pictured here was found on our property October 22, 2012 at the base of a large oak tree. You can find them either at the base of oaks and other hardwoods or running along large surface roots fanning out from the tree. They usually return year after year (learn more).
What we’ll do: we will bring a small lab kit to sample the tissue, replicate the mycelium in a petri dish and then spawn the culture samples into various growth mediums including sawdust and pegs for logs. If you find one, call us at 615-469-7778. We will only positively identify this variety of mushroom in person, but close-up photos emailed to us can help us decide whether to make the trip.
If you are interested in growing your own Shiitake or Maitake mushrooms on logs at home, send us a short message to receive future notifications on scheduled workshops or availability of spawn pegs and inoculated logs from Half Hill Farm.