Have you ever tasted young grain, still on the stalk, roasted in an open fire pit and threshed in front of you? I didn’t even know what it looked like. Or that one could eat it. Like most of us these days, I don’t get to see grain in its original form. The closest I get to the source of my food is the colorful packet of flour from the supermarket shelf. Sad but true.
That’s why it is a marvelous, eye-opening experience to hang out on farms around here. Education of the best kind, using my five senses. Here’s what I learned:
1. All these years, I thought the long, green maize plants were wheat.
Yeah, I’m a bit of a dunce, I get it. I bet many of you wouldn’t know it either. When was the last time you saw wheat growing? Have you ever seen young wheat shoots? It’s really beautiful. They’re green, a vivid green that emanates life and nurturance.
I now know what wheat, millet and maize look like. I have seen the millet stalks bend over in their abundance. I have walked through wheat fields, feeling the wheat stalks sway in the wind while the sun kisses each one like it’s special. I also know how cotton eagerly bursts out of its shell when it is ready for picking.
2. Tender wheat grains are delicious. Ditto for millet grains.
It’s a tradition around here. Over December and up to mid-February, city folk head out to farms for a “hurda party”. Hurda refers to the tender grain, and the party is more like a picnic, an outing with family and friends. Farm hands pick the wheat and millet stalks from the fields, roast the grains on the stalks in an open fire pit, and then thresh them to separate the grains out. Usually, it’s eaten with some raw sugar, gur (the orange block in the picture above). Because it’s whole grain, you feel full and light. Healthy.
3. There is something uniquely restorative about being on farms.
It is as close as you get to what nourishes us, especially when the farm grows grains, the most essential of food groups. Bare feet in life-giving soil, healthy rays of the sun falling on skin, the brush of leaves as wind moves gently through. I feel loved.
I learned a lot more, like how much a good bull costs, how much I’ve missed sitting on swings dangling from tree branches, and, probably most importantly, how I like eating real food.