Camp Notes Day 7 - Urban Wheat / Crepes

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Camp Notes Day 7 - Urban Wheat / Crepes


Crepes by Ellie MarkovitchToday we visited an urban wheat farm, milled our own flour (on a bicycle!), and ate lots and lots of crepes and pancakes, all within Troy city limits. Keep reading for more about our adventures plus a crepe recipe that is literally as easy as 1-2-3.
Crepes by Amy / Photo by Ellie Markovitch. 



Amy Halloran is an indomitable force of pancake-fueled energy, with a passion for (besides pancakes) local food and the community around it. Today we were lucky to be invited in to her home for a lesson on the history of grain growing in New York State and a demonstration of how she and her family are becoming part of it by cultivating their own backyard wheat plot in Troy!

Amy, who writes a wonderful blog titled Home Economics, Three Avid Eaters Plus One Picky Fellow Getting Local About Food, started her introduction with the help of a Richard Scarry illustration depicting how grains get from field to flour. After explaining the mechanics of harvesting and gravity-powered mills, she launched into a short history lesson.
 

5R9A2472by Ellie Markovitch
Photo by Ellie Markovitch
 

As with so many aspects of farming, water was a key factor in determining where and how grains originated and moved in New York State. When the Erie Canal opened in 1825, western New York became a hot spot for grain growing because farmers could easily transport their product to the New York City market. Fields of wheat, towering grain bins and flour mills became features of the landscape. Although the Erie Canal fell out of use, partially due to the fact that it was frozen and unusable approximately half of the year, the beautifully flat farmland of western New York remains a highly productive grain-growing region


Grains are heavily dependent on climate because they need to be extremely dry (below 13% moisture content) in order to store properly. This year has been particularly hard on New York State grains becuase of the amount of rain drowning them in the field and preventing harvests. Luckily, Amy had a stock of flours in her kitchen and generously scooped some up to make us a batch of delicious buckwheat crepes (with Battenkill Valley milk and eggs from her backyard chickens).

 

While Amy was busy using her favorite griddle to grill the thin pancakes, we got busy grinding flour for the next batch, chopping cucumbers, gathering herbs from her garden and slicing radishes for the filling. Once the crepe batter was used up, Amy moved on to pancakes, which she points out were "the original fast food," without missing a beat, churning out one perfect creation after another. Dotted with with local blueberries and topped with maple syrup, homemade yogurt, butter, or all of the above, buckwheat, eggs, milk and flour had never tasted so good.
 

amy's kitchen
Photo by Ellie Markovitch

griddle
Photo by Holly Rippon-Butler


pancakesPhoto by Holly Rippon-Butler 
 

Filled crepe
Photo by Ellie Markovitch


Buckwheat has a bit of a heavier, nuttier taste and was historically shunned in favor of pure white flour. Amy explained that in medieval Europe a sign of wealth was eating wheat flour that had been sifted until all of the "impurities" (that make up the now popular whole wheat flour) were gone. Buckwheat may not be the choice of bygone elite, but it is much more nutritious than pure white flour and will keep you full longer. The less a flour is ground, the more fiber it has and the longer your body has to work to digest it, keeping you feeling full. 


After our bodies and minds had been well fed, Amy walked us up the hill to her friend Howard Stoner's house. Howard grew up on a farm in Iowa and has found a way to bring his background with him to Troy. The backyard of Howard and his wife's house in Troy is more accurately characterized as a field because it is being used for cultivation rather than leisure. Grapes, chickens, rice, wheat, and beans were just a few of the living things in serious production in the half-acre plot. Howard explained his rice irrigation system and gave us a brief tour of his backyard farm before we headed down to the basement for the real action.


Back FieldPhoto by Holly Rippon-Butler
 

Howard is somewhat of a celebrity in the online small grain growers community. His fame stems in part from an unassuming exercise bike in his basement. This bike doesn't just get you in shape, it serves the dual purpose of fitness and flour production! Howard has brilliantly rigged his tabletop flour mill to be pedal-powered and we got to try it out.
 

howardwheat Photo by Ellie Markovitch 

During the winter, Howard and his wife grind rye to have with rolled oats as a breakfast porridge.

bikingPhoto by Ellie Markovitch

"Do it by hand whenever you can is my motto," Howard told us, quickly adding, "well in this case feet." Howard can do about 1 lb. in 2 minutes on the bike - a bit faster than we were.
 

ground
Photo by Ellie Markovitch

We got to take home a whole bag of the amazing wheat that we ground ourselves (Warthog variety). You can contact Howard at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. if you're interested in what he does!


It was an incredible day of community-fueled lessons in commitment to and passion for local food - no matter what size your plot of land or what your neighbors might think of the occassional squawcking coming from your backyard!


3-2-1 Crepes by Amy

by Amy Halloran

3 eggs

2 cups of milk

1 cup of flour

--

1. Mix all ingredients

2. Ideally, let sit 10-30 minutes (any more than 10 min should be in the refrigerator)

3. Heat griddle, turn down to low

4. Pour/spoon batter onto griddle and spread around by holding griddle up and tilting it until crepe spreads out evenly

5. When bubbles appear across the surface it is time to flip (this won't take very long with crepes)

6. Fill with your favorite fruits/veggies/meat/whatever you want! Crepes can be savory or sweet.

Our filling:

A cucumber salad with strained yogurt (which you can easily make by heating milk to 180F, letting it cool to around 110F, adding a few tablespoons of plain yogurt, and then keeping it insulated and letting it sit overnight - seriously, it's that easy), dill, the Japanese herb shiso, and chopped radishes.

 

5R9A2594amy6bwwebPhoto by Ellie Markovitch

 -Holly

Check out our Facebook page for more photos from the camp! Be sure to join us for the opening reception of the kids' photos. You can read more about The Arts Center on their website.

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