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Update: outdoor and indoor gardens

December 13, 2018

Even though it's been frosty all week, I'm still growing vegetables outside. That's the power of straw mulch and row cover. Just be sure not to harvest anything frozen or you risk your greens turning to mush when you bring them indoors.

 

It was 34F and the water was iced over in my birdbath on the day that I harvested these lettuces (finally!) and arugula. And as you can see, these salad greens are perfect.

 

 

I'm also working on a new "garden" indoors of an entirely different kind: a sourdough starter. Most yeasted breads are made with domesticated baker's yeast. Sourdough is made from wild yeast and lactobacilli, the beneficial bacteria touted in probiotic yogurt. The wild yeast rises the dough and the lactobacilli gives it the tangy flavor. Like a garden, a sourdough starter must be cultivated: you water it, you feed it with flour, and you harvest from it to make bread.

 

Sourdough starters can be purchased from a variety of sources such as your local homebrew shop or you can build one from scratch. I decided to try the from-scratch route, following the procedure in The Bread Baker's Apprentice. On Monday night, I tested it by making pizza.

 

The pizza was tasty (I topped it with arugula from my garden after baking) but the crust didn't rise very much. Admittedly, my starter wasn't quite vigorous. I think I made the mistake of being too literal with the timeline as written and not paying close enough attention to what was actually happening in my bowl. As one of the baker's notes states in the King Arthur Flour sourdough starter procedure I linked to above, the length of time that the process takes can vary tremendously. As it's wintertime, it's bound to take longer in a cold kitchen. I attempted to rebuild it from a small amount, basically going back to Day 2 of the procedure. To address my concerns with temperature, I also set the bowl on a heating pad. And, well, it didn't work. A skin formed on the surface that resembled a SCOBY: desirable if I was making kombucha, not so much for sourdough. So I think I effectively captured the bacteria but not the yeast. Oh well, purchased sourdough starter it is...it's not cheating, hush! I'll write about future sourdough adventures as they happen.

 

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