Swept Away By Spring Update: Kale, Kombucha, Sourdough Redux, & More

Swept Away By Spring Update: Kale, Kombucha, Sourdough Redux, & More

Well, it’s been a while since my last post. I should have been writing about the boatloads of kale we’ve been getting from our garden and turning into kale chips, salads massaged or otherwise, smoothies, hummus, pesto, kimchi, kale slaw, pickled stems, and just about everything we can come up with. Kale-pocalypse, as we call it, has been two weeks of Iron Chef: Kale. It is a superfood with large amounts of vitamin C, iron, and more.

There’s also been lovely spring onions :), great lettuce, and still beets & carrots aplenty. I’ve taken some not-so-super photos with my phone, but I should get back into the habit of bringing my Canon DSLR… sorry for the quality and blurriness and lighting issues. I’ve also been meaning to get out and take more photos of the spring beauty all around – flowers and the garden sprouting – and now we’ve had several days of rain. I’ve gotten a bit swept away by the beauty and peace this month, reconnected with some friends, and got out of my winter cave. I even went to an awesome indie rock concert for the first time in a long time, at Richmond’s Broadberry, Thao & The Get Down Stay Down, with Little Scream and Avers. Sometimes you gotta rock out:


Thao & The Get Down Stay Down is touring with their new album “A Man Alive.” Their song “Meticulous Bird” has been playing on loop all week on my mp3 player.


Little Scream (from Canada) was great too, they opened for Thao.

Anyway, here are some food things I’ve made lately:


Kale salad with shredded beets, blood oranges, and red onion



A bouquet of rainbow chard stems


Chickpea salad with olives, kale, & tahini


Potato casserole with homemade yogurt, fresh herbs (chives, chervil, parsley), eggs, & olive oil



Fresh sourdough loaves ready for a spring picnic


My first attempt at babka – cocoa cinnamon swirls in a banana bread dough


Blood orange kombucha (we were recently gifted a bunch of blood oranges, which is awesome. So pretty. Cheers!

A couple of notes/corrections on my last blog, about sourdough:
– A friend found out that there is no GMO wheat grown in the US, yay!
Rye is safer than I thought. Of course folks have used rye in sourdough successfully for a long time. The concern about trippy rye mold is mostly null in modern times – the specific mold that causes hallucinations, the ergot fungus, grows on the rye while in the field. It’s removed after harvest now, and affects not just rye, but many grain crops like wheat, oats, barley, & more. Rye flour & berries mold easily if left out in the climate in VA, which should be avoided in general, but it’s not the ergot fungus.
– Some folks say it isn’t best to feed sourdough a 100% whole wheat diet, that variety is best. You’ll find that every sourdough baker has something that they prefer to feed their dough pet: white unbleached, rye, oats, leftover porridge grains. One friend swears by feeding his sourdough dehydrated potato flakes, and you know what, it tasted great and was fluffy. Just goes to show ya that many methods work.

Coming soon: More spring harvests, the herb garden, and birthday cakes.


Breadiversary re-post

In honor of my sourdough’s 3rd birthday coming up this March the 15th, I’m re-posting my first writing (from 2014) about sourdough, originally featured on Running In ZK. After the 15th, I’ll likely post more bread photos of what I’ve made during this week of sourdough celebration.
Breadiversary: the annual celebration of bread, life, & wild yeast. March 15, 2013 I began what would turn out to be a successful sourdough starter, after many false starts. For a couple of years, I had started new jars of sourdough, each only lasting 2 weeks to 2 months before meeting their various demises, either being forgotten or bubbling over or sprouting a form of life other than yeast. I had phases of discouraging feelings but persisted, getting advice from “Wild Fermentation” by Sandor Katz, and “52 Loaves” by William Alexander. Both are excellent in-depth guides, but much of the learning process must be acquired personally by each baker. I’ve been baking most of my life, bread specifically only since I came to Twin Oaks 7 years ago [in 2006]. This sourdough journey has taught me anew, mostly in patience, consistency, and perfecting the “smell test.” Kombucha has been another pet ferment of mine, and Twin Oaks can drink up to 20 gallons of it every week. For sourdough, I use 5 gallons of starter to make about 30 of the weekly 75 loaves or so that our farm’s diverse baking team makes.
How to celebrate such an occasion, of the continuousness of life: wild, tangible and tasty? I made a kind of bread that I hadn’t made before, thus honoring the ongoing learning process: Pumpernickel. Sourdough, rye, wheat, molasses, with a touch of cocoa and decaf coffee. I added cinnamon & raisins to one batch, caraway & poppy seeds to another.
I thoroughly enjoy baking for such a diverse set of tastes at Twin Oaks. Some communities, monasteries, and village bakers carry on a bread starter for decades or centuries! Let’s capture the bit of history lingering in the air of today. Maybe one day (likely a decade away) we’ll be growing & milling our own flour at the centuries-old disrepaired mill down the road and rebuilding the local bread community… I’ll be feeding my sourdough for that.

Cinnamon raisin swirl sourdough

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5-grain sourdough: wheat, rye, barley, buckwheat, & oats, plus bran & molasses! Super dark!


The bubbling brew – happy, healthy sourdough starter, 3 years old.

Symbiotic Culture




I recently regrew my kombucha production from 2 4-gallon batches to 4 4-gallon batches every two weeks. We could drink more, but I don’t quite have the energy to keep up. This last couple of batches, I decided to try out some flavoring after the initial fermentation. I soaked jars of buch with flavorings such as orange, ginger, nettles & licorice, hibiscus & lemongrass, and a “bloody mary” style with celery, hot peppers, bay leaves, Worcester sauce, and a pinch of salt. Most people were averse to even trying it, but the few of us who did, proclaimed it a refreshing concoction, the acidity and barely alcoholic nature of the buch replacing the tomato and hair of the dog. Overall, the orange & ginger infusions were more popular, but the green nettles also seemed to please. Next time, I’d like to try a medicinal infusion with echinacea, holy basil, nettles, and ginger. Eagerly awaiting the seasons of other flavors, like lavender, elderberry, strawberry, mulberry, and many others that would pair well with kombucha. A year to look forward to!