Some of the products from last night's firing of the beautiful
curvaceous cob oven. I baked in three successive stages as the oven
cooled from a searing 400 C plus !
The four Pizzas were wolfed down last night, so they couldn't feature in the movie.... Sorry !!!! Next time...
The Pizzas were crisp as they are supposed to be, not slow baked and stolidly spongy but flash-baked in 3 minutes in a very hot pizza oven. Bubbles were turned to a crisp, the edges singed, the toppings seered but succulent. The oven chimney helps get up to that heat.
After the pizza, the chimney was closed, the coals removed, and the sourdough bread went in. 45 minutes later, the Greek stifado went in, covered by a steel pan full of coals, and topped by two pans of crackers made of oil and leftover sourdough starter.
These were left in overnight to slow cook. In the process the stew has given off most of its fat which I'll use to make eco-friendly soap. In the early morning the slow cooked casserole and the crackers were removed and in the still mildly warm oven I placed some bundles of pruned garden waste that can't go into the compost because it may be diseased. When the bundles have been dried to a crisp by the residual warmth of the oven they will be used to start the next fire.
Last but not least, about 5 liters of ash and charcoal were left in the metal drum into which the coals are shoveled before bread making.
The uses of ash are numerous. I'm working on a method to get more charcoal than ash, and we'll be making biochar and eco friendly soap too from this oven. If any reader can recommend a simple way of turning hot coals to biochar in a cob oven while the cooking proceeds, I'd really appreciate your advice.
Today some ash was sprinkled on the lasagna beds to compost, as lettuce is going there soon.
Flash baking is how classic Neopolitan Pizza is supposed to be and it was just perfect. The bread was lovely, crispy and light and sweetish inside. The stew is superbly succulent and its aroma is so full and fine this morning. The crackers fabulously crackly, and addictive as usual. Everything cooked in a wood fired oven tastes better.
Every food forest needs a wood oven. Because after 20 years of recycling nutrients in such a space it produces so much biomass that some way of making it more compact is needed. The food and wood from the garden feeds the oven and the oven feeds the garden. I want to build ovens for the people and teach others to build ovens. I'm looking for community gardens that want to upgrade to garden and restaurant, as some are now doing.
Burning wood for cooking is considered carbon neutral. In addition this wood comes from my own garden from the excess biomass produced by the food forest. If I didn't burn it, it would have to be dumped because there is just no more space for wood mulch. Once the oven gets hot there is very little smoke, which helps reduce the 'black carbon' pollution. One of the bad sides of using wood for fuel is the charcoal or 'black carbon' burden in the air. In addition to this, the ash is going to be turned into eco-friendly soap that will return to my grey water system, and biochar which locks carbon underground for up to a thousand years.
I strongly believe that every garden needs a wood oven and every oven a garden. After 20 years there is so much biomass, for one. The fruit of the forest feed the oven with ingredients, and the ash from the fire can help fertilize the nutrient hungry vegetables in the vegetable part of the garden. From the ash, Potash or potassium based soap can then be used, and fed into the grey water wetland, bursting with productivity. There are so many ways of closing circles here.
A gardening revolution has occurred under COVID 19 in Cape Town. I would love to help build ovens for the people, and I'm looking for vegetable gardeners who want to expand from growing vegetables, to cooking and selling them onsite, and creating jobs. We can form temporary teams till the ovens are up and running. It will benefit them and I could try out all the different ideas I'm getting after having done one build and learning so much from it.
To encourage the building of food forests near or around gardens, I have seeds to swap. Please share this with anyone who can make use of it.
Are you starting or adding to a food forest ? I have seeds for nice hardy trees that can be used to lay a basis to develop your forest ecosystem in which the more delicate trees can thrive, or you can add them to the edge of the garden for protection, or on the south side of your plot if you need a canopy tree.
I've a lot of Dovyalis caffra seeds (Kei apple). It is thorny, ideal for a protective border and you'll need quite a few because you must have a male and a female. It is a small to medium sized tree, slow growing, and used as a hedge plant most often but also forms a beautiful umbrella (I've seen them on old trees in Swellendam). If you would like some of the thorny Carissa bispinosa (Noemnoem, Amatungulu) I can cut you some branches on the day or get you seed. I find cuttings more reliable than seeds for Amatungulu, and I've a fabulous bearer to clone from. Standing alone it tends to form a drooping umbrella with a high top, and lots of dead thorns inside its canopy, which become too entangled for the dead branches to drop. It is used as a hedge plant, slow growing for the first ten years. My 20 year old tree has reached about 5 meters. It is pruned hard into a tall wall or hedge by commercial growers in California, as this provides the best access for harvesting fruit without hurting oneself on the thorns. I've Harpephyllum caffrum (wild plum), the berry with the highest anti oxidant count in the world, which is a canopy tree. All the above trees are native to South Africa.
I also have some seed of Solanum betaceum (tamarillo, the tree tomato) an understory tree, originally from tropical Peru. All germinate well and do well at the Cape, as a rule. To swap for whatever takes my fancy.
Please let me know if you have any questions, comments or stories to share on gardening, permaculture, regenerative agriculture, food forests, natural gardening, do nothing gardening, observations about pests and diseases, foraging, dealing with and using weeds constructively, composting and going offgrid.
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