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There’s always room for JELL-O

Written by Marion Owen. Posted in Featured

Published on January 24, 2012 with No Comments

The other day, while standing in line at the post office, I overheard a guy say that he was feeding his plants gelatin and it seemed to perk them up. Was this some kind of urban myth? As soon as I got home, I flipped through my reference books.

At first blush it may seem like a lot of hooey, but gelatin contains nitrogen, an essential element for plant growth, especially for lush, rich foliage, or leaves. A nitrogen deficiency is indicated by yellowish or pale leaf tones.

The nitrogen comes from a source you might not be aware of.

Until now.

According to the book, “On Food and Cooking, the Science and Lore of the Kitchen” (a great book, by the way), most manufactured gelatin in the United States and Europe comes from pigskin, cattle skins and bones. Lovely, eh?

Author Harold McGee also says that while it’s widely believed that gelatin strengthens nails and hair, there is no good evidence that this is true.

Because the quantity and cost involved, gelatin is probably more useful for houseplants, container gardens and window boxes than for large, outdoor garden areas. (Can’t you just see the lawn jiggling as you mow it?)

While there are no official guidelines, a safe dosage for most houseplants is one small envelope of gelatin (unflavored and unsweetened, please) dissolved in two quarts of water. Use the mixture to water the plants once every three weeks during the season of active growth, which generally means not during the winter months.

It’s amazing what you can learn while standing in line!  

For pennies, you get a million dollars’ worth of nutrition with these oat-bean waffles.

I love waffles, but I don’t like how I feel after eating them. Then I ate a waffle that changed my life!

While visiting friends in Hawaii, my husband and I were treated to homemade Belgian-style waffles. They were light, fluffy and really tasty. “They’re made from soybean and rolled oats,” Carrie explained, smiling.

Carrie handed me a tattered copy of “Oats, Peas, Beans and Barley Cookbook.” As I flipped through the pages, timed rolled back to the mid-1970s when I made a lot of dishes with lentils, rice, soy and beans. “That’s hippie food!” my mom used to say.

Today, we know better. These aren’t just food for hippies because the more plant-based foods we consume, the better.

Back in Alaska, I bought a used copy of the cookbook for $2. The waffle recipes in the book call for simple ingredients like pinto beans, garbanzo beans or soybeans, rolled oats, lentils, millet, rice, cashews and buckwheat. No eggs, milk or baking powder. Wheat-free, too.

For pennies you get a million dollars’ worth of nutrition and health. “One soy-oat waffle has protein equal in quantity and quality to that in a serving of steak,” says author Edyth Young Cottrel.

Since my first experiment with the original recipe, I’ve found it to be quite forgiving. You can add wheat germ, ground flax seeds, sesame seeds and so on.  Below is the recipe.  When I first posted it in my UpBeet Gardener newsletter, it generated the largest response from anything else I’ve written.  These just might be the best waffles you’ve ever eaten.  

Pinto Bean-Oat Waffles

2 1/4 cups water

1 1/2 cups rolled oats

1 cup soaked pinto beans (approximately 1/2 cup dry)

1 tablespoon oil

1 tablespoon sugar (optional)

1/2 teaspoon salt

Soak beans several hours or overnight. Drain. Combine and blend all ingredients in a food processor or blender until light and foamy, about 30 seconds. (TIP:  If you don’t have room for all the water, then mix the batter with half the water and add the other half to your bowl of batter.)

Let stand while waffle iron is heating. The batter thickens on standing. Grease waffle iron (we like the Waring Pro waffle iron) with a cooking spray or high-quality solid shortening. Bake in hot waffle iron for a full 8 minutes. (Very important!).

Top with fruit and yogurt, bananas and peanut butter, stewed apples, rhubarb sauce, creamed broccoli and chicken or smoked salmon (my favorite). Makes 3 to 4 waffles.

TIP: Soak extra beans, measure and freeze them for later. The waffles can be made and frozen, too. Just pop them in the microwave or toaster oven.

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About Marion Owen

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All opinions, conclusions or recommendations expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Chronicle. A merchant marine officer turned freelance photographer and author from Kodiak, Alaska, Marion Owen is known as the “Fearless Weeder” for PlanTea, Inc., in Kodiak, Alaska. She welcomes commentary via e-mail at marion@plantea.com, by calling 800-253-633, or by regular mail at Marian at PlanTea, Inc., PO Box 1980, Kodiak, AK 99615. More information can also be found on her webssite at www.plantea.com.

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