Growing red maize, and making our own pap.

Just about all maize and soy in South Africa are genetically modified to be resistant to glyphosate based poisons. Although the companies that produce these poisons have declared over and over that they are safe for human consumption, various scientific studies have proven over the past few years that they are not.
A study by Gasnier, et al. (2009) demonstrated that glyphosate in formulation (meaning the poison you buy from the shelf) at 5 ppm (5 mg/kg) had toxic effects and resulted in cell death of human liver, umbilical cord and placental cells within 24 hours of exposure. They also indicated that glyphosate in formulation at 0.5 ppm (0.5 mg/kg) caused endocrine disruption in human liver cells within 24 hours of exposure.

The staple food of most South African’s is maize porridge. We’re eating poison and nobody seems to care. This poison is also found in all but one breakfast cereals, our meat and in our own tissue.

Our maize harvest

We decided to grow as much of our own food as possible, for health reasons, but also to be as independent as possible.

When we became more aware of the wonderful options of heritage maize varieties available, it became a real adventure. In the first year, we planted 3 types of maize. The seeds we bought from Living Seeds who have a fantastic selection. Because of timing, rain and guinea fowl, only one crop worked really well; the Bloody Butcher red maize.

We used the goat and sheep manure mixed with the food they had spilled to make fantastic compost.

Since the birds ate so many of our plants just as they came up, we decided to grow seedlings and plant them out. Stephen patiently planted out about 400 plants which grew fantastically well! Clearly no herbicide here. 🙂

Monkey’s soon discovered that our maize tastes so much better than the neighbour’s GMO Roundup stuff, so losses were once again an issue, but by April 2022, we could harvest about 400 heads of beautiful, red, poison free corn.

The next question was what to do with it. This is not sweetcorn which can be eaten easily from the cob, as it’s quite starchy, and we can’t keep it fresh to eat through winter.

When looking up how maize was processed to make the commercial maize meal available in stores, we were horrified to find that it gets processed to make it almost pure starch. Firstly, it’s roundup-ready, so the plant is genetically modified to grow despite being unable to absorb many essential nutrients from the ground. Then, the protein in the kernel is removed when the embryo is taken out. The shell is also removed. This produces a brilliant white porridge, but means that the nutritional value is even further reduced. South Africa’s maize is supposed to fortified, but alas, apparently even this is often not done. Here’s an interesting Mail and Guardian article on the subject.

We immediately decided to make our own pap. We had no mill however and a new one was out of our price range. Through a local WhatsApp group, we bought an old coffee grinder which does the job quite nicely, although it is a bit labour intensive.

In our research on how to process maize we found a wonderful alternative that is not practised in South africa. Nixtamalization. Yes, a terribly long and difficult word.

This is a process whereby the kernels of the maize is boiled and soaked in an alkali, traditionally wood ash, but also lye water.

“ Nixtamalized maize has several benefits over unprocessed grain: It is more easily ground, its nutritional value is increased, flavor and aroma are improved, and mycotoxins are reduced by up to 97%–100% (for aflatoxins).[2]” Wikipedia

We decided to use the ash mix, as lye was a bit of a challenge to find here in the sticks. The process is fairly simple. Bring a big pot of water to the boil. Add about as much wood ash as your volume of dried maize kernels. When the mix starts boiling, you add the maize. It’s quite a cool process to watch as the maize changes colour almost immediately. In our case with the red maize it turns almost black.

I then boil this mixture for around an hour and let it stand over night. The next morning one rinses the ash and loose shells off. It takes a bit of time, but the result is just absolutely yummy! We eat the maize as is, like the american dish “hominy”, or grind it up to make tortillas!

Have a look at this link if you’d like to see how it’s done traditionally. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZMWwrMLO-Uw

Please feel free to comment with more ideas or any questions you may have. I have loads of scientific articles about Roundup and its effects, but I didn’t want to get too technical here.

Slangbos Control Using Goats

Slangbos (snake bush, bankrupt bush) is a small shrub that invades grazing land. In cattle farming operations it can completely invade grass land and push out the grass entirely. This mainly occurs as it is not palatable for cattle so they don’t eat it, but they do remove the competing grasses.

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A bad infestation:

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Some people promote the use of poisons again Slangbos : Chemicals: the best weapon against slangbos. Goats, however, find Slangbos very tasty and readily graze the growing tips of the plant. So while they don’t eradicate the plant completely, as the stem is very woody, they do keep it under control so that grasses and other plants grow amongst the slangbos. I don’t see many new plants establishing, so I would imagine that after some time the goats may graze the plant so that very few remain. The area below was quite choked at a stage, and almost completely covered over but the goats have grazed it back and grasses are regrowing in between.

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If you break the plant and smell it it is quite aromatic so I would think that it is probably quite nutritious and likely has medicinal properties.

More Information

Slang Bos

Grassland.org

AgriSA

Weed Control – Milk Weed

Milk weed can be a problem as it grows quite densely where it established itself, and is not really grazed my any animals. Goats will eat the seed pods, and nibble on the leaves in winter, but it becomes problematic if it starts growing in any field that will be cut for hay. You don’t want as lot of weeds in your hay, as the weeds are generally wetter than the grass and may cause mould, and they may spread their seeds to other parts of the farm.

Fortunately when the ground is soft after rain, they can be pulled out quite easily. I am busy clearing a field of Smutsfinger grass that is being established. Once the grass covers the ground completely, the milk weed probably won’t grow again.

Cutting the weeds down doesn’t help though as the plant will just regrow from the cut stem. Pulling is the only way. Always lean down slope when you are pulling weeds and let gravity help you. Helps if you have a bit of counterweight in that region as well!

Before:

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During :

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After :

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More Information

Operation Wildflower

Medicinal Properties

Weed Control – Pom Pom Weed

Pom pom weed is a very invasive weed in South Africa. It is common along road verges and in fallow lands but can also invade pastures and natural grazing. Once established it is very difficult to get rid of as it spreads by seed, as well as by rhizomes. The picture below is some that had invaded a lucerne field.pom pom.jpg

Pom pom weed was originally introduced as an ornamental plant, which then escaped into the wild. If people had been growing vegetables in their gardens instead of pink flowers, this would never have happened!

Sunday morning was spent with the whole family cutting off the seed heads and digging out the plants where possible, and spraying the plants with poison where the ground was too hard to dig them out. Here is a dung out plant showing the roots.

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The plants are grazed by our goats, so they are not entirely useless, but they can reach a state where they push out all other plants, so I’d rather try and nip this in the bud, so to speak.

More Information

South African National Biodiversity Institute

Pom Pom Weed Control