Oatmeal has been our breakfast of choice recently. We stir one cup of
organic rolled oats into two or more cups of boiling water, turn it
down and let it cook slowly, partially covered for about five minutes,
or until the water is absorbed and the oats become soft. Then we let
it sit covered for a few minutes before serving. Fruit adds a
wonderful flavor. In the summer we top our oatmeal with raspberries
or peach slices. This time of year apples are particularly nice. In
the winter, we cook the oatmeal with raisins, or our newest discovery,
dried, unsulfured apricots, cut up into the pan just after adding the
oats. What a great flavor. Some folks might use bananas, but once we
became aware of the ecological and social destruction caused by banana
plantations in the tropics, we stopped buying them.
Sensualists that we are, we add a little heavy cream, maple syrup and
fresh grated nutmeg when we serve the oatmeal. More prudent folks
might want to substitute milk or apple cider for the cream, but we use
butter if cream isn't available. We feel we can get away with this
since it's frequently the only animal fat we eat all day. How
delicious, and all the important ingredients can be grown locally.
Maple syrup and cream are two of our region's great under-appreciated
resources. Some friends even produced a crop of oats in their New
One of the most beautiful garden sights I¹ve seen was the cover crop
experiment at Bloomingfields Farm in Sherman, which included a plot of
oats nearing fullness. A light-greenish-blue, the densely planted
oats, about two feet tall, moved gracefully together in response to
Oats, scientifically named Avena sativa, are a grass and are
relatively easy to grow. In the past, they were a very common crop
when they provided fuel for a horse-based economy. They now are
frequently used as a cover crop to hold the soil over the winter, or
as a catch crop to prevent the growth of weeds until something else is
planted. Turned into the soil oat plants build fertility.
Oats are harder to hull than other grains, and are therefore less
suitable for home production. However, there are several hulless
varieties which may be worth planting.
For medicinal use the hulls don't matter. Oat straw tea made from the
dried leaves, stems and seeds, has a powerful reputation in the ³Wise
Woman² tradition of healing. The tea is reputed to be very useful for
females of all ages. According to Susun Weed, author of Wise Woman
Ways, this simple and delicious herb tea may help build strong bones,
stabilize blood sugar levels, relieve depression and emotional uproar,
improve circulatory functioning, reduce cholesterol and the risk of
heart disease, nourish strong nerves, reduce headaches and maintain
restful sleep patterns . Wow! All of this, of course, is likely to be
most effective when combined with other basics of good health‹a
balanced low-fat diet, exercise and sufficient rest. Many of the
benefits of oat-straw tea are also provided by a bowl of oatmeal,
which has valuable fiber, too.
Since oats are so easy to grow, if you are interested in this tea, you
might want to sow a few oats yourself.
I mentioned earlier that we use organic rolled oats for our oatmeal.
(The rolling facilitates quicker cooking. Rolled oats often have been
steamed before rolling and/or toasted for a nutty flavor.)
The party line in American agriculture is that organic food is
expensive. And indeed, at the natural food store where we shop, buying
organic oats adds four cents per serving, so each bowl costs 12 cents
instead of eight cents. We are willing to pay four cents more for
each bowl to support organic farmers and their stewardship of the
Earth. The organic oats there are still much cheaper, however, than
the brand-name packaged rolled oats in the supermarket. And, the same
weight of oats made into those heavily-advertised, little round O's in
a box, costs about 60¢, five times as much as organic rolled oats.
Industrial processing and modern marketing are clearly expensive.
Oats are a very useful crop on the farm. Oatmeal, especially organic
oatmeal is healthful, tastes great, and is reasonably priced.
Now you know why your mother told you to "Eat your oatmeal!"
This is Bill Duesing, Living on the Earth
© 1997, Bill Duesing, Solar Farm Education, Box 135, Stevenson, CT
Bill and Suzanne Duesing operate the Old Solar Farm (raising NOFA/CT
certified organic vegetables) and Solar Farm Education (working on
urban agriculture projects in New Haven, Bridgeport, Hartford and
Norwalk, CT). Their collection of essays Living on the Earth:
Eclectic Essays for a Sustainable and Joyful Future is available from
Bill Duesing, Box 135, Stevenson, CT 06491 for $14 postpaid. These
essays first appeared on WSHU, public radio from Fairfield, CT. New
essays are posted weekly at http://www.wshu.org/duesing and those
since November 1995 are available there.
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