Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Preparing for a hot summer

I decided that this summer I was going to make some beer, as a reward for all my effort I have put in to my garden during the year. Beer is not all that difficult to make and has been made through time for at least 5000 years, all you need is some barley, water, and hops. Which you could grow yourself. I am getting the hops seed next week Friday at Hopsfest where I will have a chance to sample all the locally brewed beers. The picture this week is of my wheat that I planted in autumn.

Barley is a grass type plant and has an simple life cycle, when the seed sprouts it converts the stored starch in to sugar and uses this to fuel its rapid growth. The grass like leaves that sprout upwards are highly nutritious and very good for all to eat. I am sure you have heard of the wheat grass they serve at health food café, barley grass tastes similar but different and is just as good for you.

Eventually a leafy stalk appears and out of the stalk comes this stiff hairy head which takes about a month to develop. Once it is fully developed the pollen appears on the outside, which is then distributed by the wind (beware if you suffer from hay fever). About a month afterwards the seeds are ready and you know they are because the colour changes from greens to having beige tones, like in the picture above.

The seeds are a source of food to many animals especially birds, who scatter seeds while eating. If no bird, rat or mouse finds it and it gets covered lightly. All that it needs to start the process again is water, and the 4 month cycle is repeated.

When the signs are evident it is time to harvest, cut and tie the hand bundles up to dry which takes about a week, after which it is time to thrash and separate the the husks (This is so much easier on a breezy day). Once you have your barley grain sealed up in an airtight container, it can be stored until you have enough to make something like beer or bread (in summer) or just add it to your stews and soups (in winter).

Mix up your ingredient leave for a while, then add your hops which adds a lovely bitter flavour. Be sure the fermentation process has stopped otherwise you will land up with an explosive mess. There is nothing more rewarding than drinking something, you have made from something you have grown.

On the right is a picture of some hops which I will tell you more about another time