Vegan Questions

It has been another educating year in my garden and kitchen. Now I’m back at the keyboard with the questions I’ve been mulling all summer.

If you’ve read HOW NOT TO DIE by Michael Greger, you are familiar with his Daily Dozen. If you are not familiar with his work, here is a link to an invaluable tool to help vegans make sure they get their daily nutrients.

After a year of eating a vegan diet, and eleven months of being cancer free, I’m pretty sure I’m vegan for life. The Daily Dozen has helped me stay on track, but I still have questions. And a new insight: No matter what eating lifestyle you subscribe to, you have to be flexible. The pandemic has made that perfectly clear.

No, I’m not eating animal products, except for an occasional spoonful of honey. But I’m able to get a B-12 shot twice a month. At my clinic, the nurse comes to the parking lot, checks my temperature and other vitals, and brings the shot to me. What if I didn’t have an accommodating healthcare provider? What if?

This morning, I made a decision. If I am ever in a place where I can’t get my bimonthly shot, I will choose to eat a boiled egg two or three times a week. B12 is a necessary nutrient, and meat eaters’ best defense. I won’t shame anyone’s choices. I just want to make good choices for myself.

If getting a shot is harder during a pandemic, so is stocking fresh produce. Lucky for me, I have a garden and so do my friends. We trade and share, so we’ve all had enough squash, okra, tomatoes, and cucumbers. Green beans were hard to come by, though, and no one had fresh lettuce. No cabbage, either! Cruciferous vegetables are hard to grow here. We’ve eaten well, but even if my day includes 15 servings of fruits and vegetables, I haven’t always hit every item on the Daily Dozen.

What if I sprout seeds to replace greens?  Do broccoli sprouts count as greens or are they cruciferous? Are bean sprouts beans or greens?

Berries are another issue. I have Goji berries and blackberries in the back yard, but not enough to keep me through the summer, much less the year. And because the food chain has been broken in places, there were times this year when there were no frozen berries in the grocery store freezer case.

Do tomatoes count as berries? How about raisins?

How do you classify potatoes? Sure, they’re a root vegetable, but they are starchy. Is sweet corn a vegetable or a grain?

Maybe all I need to do is eat as many colors as I can and as many fruits and vegetables as I can grow or find close to home. Maybe I need to learn how to forage for wild greens. I know they’re out there because I pull them for my chickens.

Yeah, I know! A vegan with chickens and a whole lot of questions!

Canning in April

I’ve always loved beans, but my mother, not so much. When you grow up poor and one of a dozen children, as she did, beans are always on the menu. But she knew we loved them, and it was a real treat when she made her chili beans.

Beans are one of the cornerstones of my diet, along with whole grains, fruit, and vegetables. My man isn’t quite as fond of all-things-beans as I am, but there are a couple of things he welcomes on the menu. One is my home-canned blackeyed peas. The other is our pantry version of black beans and corn salsa.

If you’re a prepper, you know dry beans store well. For the long haul, it isn’t necessary to can them. For the short term, though, a few jars of canned beans and peas in the cabinet sure make meal planning easier. Whether you buy them from the grocery store and can them yourself depends on your circumstances and your taste. I prefer my home-canned beans in glass jars.

Whether you can fresh beans or bags of dried beans from the grocery also depends on circumstances. I do both.

I shelled and canned a bushel of purple hull peas last summer.  Fresh peas need to be processed quickly.  Even partially dried ones can mold on you.  They can be canned or frozen. The frozen ones still require some cooking time, but they are a good choice for people who limit salt.

The 24 pints of canned peas I got from that bushel didn’t last long, and I found myself buying bags of blackeyed peas at the grocery store to can mid-winter.

We eat blackeyed peas at least once a week. I just open the jar, heat the peas, and serve them with cornbread.

To make Mama’s Chili Beans, I open a jar of my canned pintos, add a teaspoon of Williams Chili Seasoning, and heat. When I serve it, I add a few teaspoons of salsa to the bowl. Yep, it’s that simple.

You can serve chili beans over rice or with cornbread. They also make good tostados.

To make our Pantry Black Bean Salsa, I rinse and drain a can (or pint jar) of black beans and drain a pint of my whole kernel corn (or thaw a pint of frozen corn). I toss them together with a cup of salsa, cover it, and let it sit in the fridge to chill and marinate.

Serve the salsa with tortilla chips or tortillas. If you have fresh cilantro, so much the better! And don’t let anyone tell you that chips and salsa are not a complete meal!