Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Blue Corn: from seed to table

This past summer we planted blue corn on CORE/El Centro’s rooftop. We used a traditional method of interplanting it with beans and squash known as the Three Sisters Garden. The Corn gives a stalk for the bean to grow while the beans replenish the soil with nitrogen for the corn. The corn also gives sufficient shade for the squash to grow.

The Blue Corn we received from Seeds of Change came from the Hopi tribe, located in Arizona.
The Blue corn, to the Hopi Tribe, is sacred. The corn, is not just food but a symbol of life and tradition. The belief is that corn was given to them from their gods. For this reason, they perform ceremonies to honor their gods and pray for longevity for their way of life. The corn is used in different religious ceremonies, traditions and everyday activities. One traditional use for the blue corn is in wedding. It is customary for Hopi women to make Piki bread from several pounds of blue corn to the spouse’s family before the wedding. For the Hopi, learning traditional recipes is a blessing from mother to daughter.

Ready to grind Corn
Hand grind to produce dough.
We decided to use the Blue corn to make tortillas. To start we had to leave the ear of corn on the stalk until it dried out. After harvesting the ear of corn, we continued to let it sit for significant amount of time until we were certain it was completely dry. Afterwards, we had to boil the kernels for 2 to 3 hours until the kernel bulges.
We then took the kernels from and mashed them with a grinder until it was dough-like.
Then there were to ways to make the shape of the tortilla.
The first is to do it mechanically with a tortilla press. The other is to do it manually. Afterwards we would heat the tortilla and enjoy!
Add salsa and enjoy!
Tortilla press for convenient
and uniform tortillas

Friday, November 22, 2013

Foto Friday - Garlic planting!

Thanks to our dear friend David, we utilized the vodka/compost pre-planting wash with garlic from his farm.  Crossing our fingers we have excellent germination next spring!

Each clove gets a quick 'dunk' in the vodka/compost mixture before planting

Garlic should be planted at least 2 inches under ground, with pointy end up.

Cover garlic with a good amount (6-12") of mulch to protect it through the winter. 

Friday, November 15, 2013

Foto Friday

As winter approaches it's important to ensure our rooftop tenants have a warm home!
We moved the Beepod to the other side of the rooftop, utilizing the building as a windblock.
Recycled materials were then used to create a homemade 'box' to keep the hive protected from piercing winter winds.

Our ladies are safe and snug ready for the Wisconsin winter on the rooftop

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Partnerships for After School Education

Thanks to the leadership of Sixteenth Street Community Health Center's Healthy Choices Program, CORE/El Centro is partnering with Alba Elementary school to provide after-school nutrition and gardening education to students 3-10 years old.  Parents receive nutrition education from the Healthy Choices community leaders during the same time the children are working with CORE staff. 

This project is currently in pilot stage, with classes once a month during the school year (eight months total).  With the help of funding from the HWPP grant program through the Medical College of WI, CORE/El Centro and SSCHC will be able to offer the family education program for eight consecutive weeks, in addition to working on school food policy initiatives. 

Students brainstorm fruits and vegetables of different color categories as Stephanie records their answers on the board.

This program offers multiple levels of support - parent-to-parent, parent-and-child, and family-to-family. 

Each session ends with a healthy snack - shared as a family.

Last month, roles were switched as the children tried to get their parents to eat vegetables! 

Friday, November 8, 2013

Foto Friday

Stay tuned for information and pictures on our indoor gardening efforts thanks to a donated Tower Garden!

Swiss chard was quick to emerge but just now starting to show first 'true' leaves
Cilantro getting ready for a new - and bigger - home. 

Lettuce seeds emerging from the rock wool pods - these greens will soon have a new home in CORE/El Centro's Tower Garden

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Mulching for Plant Health

In our last post, we mentioned mulching. Mulching is when you add a certain material to the base of your vegetation for protection. Mulching materials that can be used are leaves, sawdust, hay, straw, etc. In our case we used straw.  

One of the effects of mulch is to maintain soil temperature. So in the warm season this means extra moisture for the plants by preventing quick water evaporation. Consequently, it will also reduce the amount of time you would spend watering. In cold seasons, the mulch will insulate the soil from the cold and cause frost damage to the roots. In both cases this will prolong the life of your vegetation.

Additionally, by covering the soil around the base of the plants will also prevent light from reaching weed seedlings. For this purpose it is better to use at least 4 to 6 inches of mulch.

Summary: Mulch = less weeds, less watering, and healthier plants!