Thursday, November 22, 2012

Chicken Mulch and Beets

Chicken Mulch and Beets

November 21, 2012

Making Chicken Mulch and Harvesting Beets; Garden Update - Part 1:2

Making Beet Kvass and Chocolate Beet Cake - Part 2:2

This week we'll spend some time talking about the benefits of chickens. Yes, chickens can provide eggs and meat but what about mulch, fertilizer and even companionship? Chickens are an awesome animal. Simply by "doing their thing," they till the soil and rid it of many of the pests including insects and weeds. While they "cleanse" the land, they drop small white-coated "packages" indiscriminately along the way (poop) that increases the fertility of the land.

Mulch is a great way to conserve the moisture in the soil as well as promote animal and microbial activity at and beneath the soil's surface. Straw is a great mulch. However, here in Idaho (and likely where you live too), the spring winds blow the dry, freshly applied straw mulch all about the garden. The solution that I have found is to take 3-4 (or more) hay/straw bales and break them up in the fall for the chickens to root and scratch around in. They poop as they scratch and eat nearly ever little seed and grain kernel they find. The fall and winter rains and snow saturate the straw and increase its weight thereby making it more difficult to blow about when the rains and wind come in March and April.

Beets are a great food. Beets contain sodium, magnesium, calcium, iron and phosphorous as well as  vitamins A and C and niacin. Studies have shown that beets guard against cancer, especially colon cancer.

There are many, many recipes that beets work well in. The two recipes that I will introduce this week are:

1. Beet Kvass - Lactic acid fermented drink
2. Chocolate Beet Cake

Beet Kvass Recipe

2 Large Beets
½ Gallon of Water
2 Tsp Salt

Peel the beets and cube in 1-2" cubes. Fill a half gallon jar about 1/2 full of water. Mix in the salt. Drop in the beet chunks until the jar is about 1/3 full of beets. Fill the rest of the jar up with water. Let ferment for 2-3 days and then refrigerate. Drink ½ to 1 cup a day. Cycle can be repeated once with the same beets.

Chocolate Beet Cake

1 cup all-purpose flour
½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon sea salt
½ cup butter, melted (vegetable oil works too, but the flavor is not as good)
½ cup sugar
½ cup packed brown sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
1½ loosely packed cups very finely grated raw, peeled red beet

1. Set an oven rack in the middle of the oven with plenty of room above it and preheat the oven to 350°.

2. Coat an 8½- by 4½-inch loaf pan with butter, and then a light layer of sugar.

3. In a large mixing bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

4. In another large mixing bowl, using a large whisk, whisk together the butter or oil, sugars, eggs, and vanilla until creamy and smooth.

5. Stir the grated beet into the butter mixture.

6. Add the flour mixture to the butter-beet mixture and with a large spatula, combine gently but well. No flour should remain visible in the batter.