An Abundance of Potions

Day 8 – Conditions for Life

Good morning to all 215 readers, welcome to Week 2. For those who’ve been here for a while: have you been completing these challenges? What’s your experience been like? Let me know—just hit reply. As always, you can share this email by forwarding it along or using the “view online” link at the bottom to post elsewhere. —Jack

Today’s challenge: Grow something.

At a time when lives are at stake, it helps to remember: you are surrounded by new life, and new growth. In many parts of the Northern Hemisphere, trees are budding. Early spring perennials are pushing tender shoots through the soil. Babies, human and otherwise, are still being born—as they always have been.

At a time when lives are at stake, household tasks may seem insignificant, disconnected from what’s happening out in the world. They are not. To attend to them is to practice economy and attention—practice the acts of care, and service, that create the conditions for life. You look, first, within yourself, then within your home, and grow out from there, living your life in ever-widening circles.

A good place to start is the kitchen. Instead of discarding them, green-onion ends can be stood up in a small cup or jar of water, roots submerged and tops exposed. From these ends, new green shoots will rise quickly, usually within a day or two. For other types of onions, the bottoms you'd otherwise discard can be dried and suspended using toothpicks over water.

You can also ferment your vegetables. Ferments like sauerkraut or kimchi rely on your creating the conditions for healthy, probiotic bacteria to grow—new, microscopic life. While there are endless cultural, regional, and familial recipes and variations, they all follow the same basic pattern: vegetables, salt, water, and time. You can make a simple vegetable ferment using whatever vegetables you have on hand—without needing to buy additional ingredients—by doing the following:

  1. Chop or grate vegetables.
  2. Lightly salt the chopped veggies (add more as necessary to taste), and pound or squeeze until moist; alternatively, soak the veggies in a brine solution for a few hours.
  3. Pack the vegetables into a jar or other vessel, tightly, so that they are forced below the liquid. Add water, if necessary.
  4. Wait, taste frequently, and enjoy!

The above is adapted from Sandor Ellix Katz’s book, The Art of Fermentation, which you can order from your local independent bookstore. Free fermentation resources, such as this seven-day course from Ferment Works, are also plentiful online.

“May we all be like new onions, growing strong under the ground as it warms, ready to put out our green shoots in a new unknown world.” (Erin Watson)