Local Comfort Foods

Posted on March 9, 2014 by John Sherck

Here are some basic staple foods that can be made in your kitchen using crops grown in the garden patch. Easy to grow and process by hand if you are willing to put in a little effort. The recipes themselves are quite simple and easy to make. Uncommon, but not impractical crops like rice, dry beans and “hulless seed” pumpkins can be grown, stored and used to make these wonderful “comfort-foods” right from your own garden here in Northern Indiana.


I was sampling some soybean products the other day with some friends. We started out with whole Shininome dry soy beans that had been soaked for 6 hours. The idea was to explore how versatile soybeans can be when processed into their various, staple-food forms. Using ½ cup of dried beans and 1 quart of water, we produced 1 quart of fresh soy milk in about 20 min. I usually like to use traditional low-tek methods but in this case I used my Soybella soy milk machine. If you grow a lot of beans and like soy products, it is well worth investing in one of these remarkable kitchen tools, although soy milk can be easily made with a blender, stock pot and cheese cloth. The hot soy milk can be consumed straight or can be flavored. I recommend adding a pinch of sea salt, a little vanilla and a spoon-full of  homemade sorghum syrup. Delicious!


Millions of folks worldwide will dine on this traditional dish tomorrow for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Here in Indiana, we have to settle for rice grown a thousand or so miles away and beans from a can or bagged, and sold in our local
grocery stores, in order to recreate this classic dish. I want to burst the bubble on that thinking. My Black Turtle beans were grown in a 500 square foot plot outside my kitchen window, adjacent to a 800 square foot plot of Duborskian rice this last summer. Both were easy to grow, harvest and thresh. But, in all honesty, the dehulling of rice, while not hard, is a bit time consuming, when done without the aid of a mechanical dehuller. I use the thousands of years old method of pounding the grain in a mortar and pestle type set up. In one hour I can dehull and clean close to 1 lb of Duborskian rice. Some would say “too much work” and others “a waste of time”, but I would call it “sufficency growing”, from field to plate, without skipping a beat in between.
The beans are rinsed and soaked for about 6 hrs. Your own fresh beans will require a lot less time soaking and cooking than their store-bought counterparts. The Black Turtle beans are then cooked for a couple of hours until tender and the liquid reduced but not thrown out. The possibilities for seasoning are too numerous to mention. In this case, I added half a chopped onion, a little cumin, oregano and salt to the cooking beans.
The Duborskian Rice I used, is a short grained, brown rice with a rich, creamy texture. Cooking time is slight longer than white rice. Once cooked I mix the rice in with the beans and reduced liquid.  Serve up a hot tasty plate full of Black Beans and Rice, Indiana-style.
In writing this I am not attempting to point to myself as some kind of culinary expert. My cooking tends to be quite spartan at best. I am riding on the coat-tails of a few thousand years worth of natural plant breeders/farmers and generations of  families sitting around the fire waiting for a delicious, hot meal. The hope is to stimulate gardeners and farmers in our local region to entertain something more than just boring old GMO soybeans and field corn or the usual garden mixture of green beans, tomatoes and sweetcorn. The real possibility of staples, like pinto beans, rice, amaranth, quinoa, barley, teff, sunflower seeds, and so forth should excite us to look towards a far more diverse palette of local crops than we have settled for.