AS MORE and more of us look for food in something close to its natural stae, free of unnecessary aditives, we itch to try raising the grain in our own gardens, accordingto Sara Pitzer, author and television food expert.
She has written a new book, "Whole Grains," published by Garden Way Publishing Co. (Charlotte, Vt. 05445; 170 pages; $7.95 paperbound; can be ordered direct from the publisher by adding $1 for postage and handling).
"It is a book about improving the quality of our lives," she says. "It deals with growing and using nine different grains. We've tried to compile the most specific data available about such relatively uncharted areas as growing grains in your garden, harvesting and storing them, and grinding and cooking them.
"Our forefathers had this wisdom. It nearly was lost, but we're not too late to save it.
"If you're a beginner, and want success, your first grain crop should be corn.
"Consider the advantage: if you're already a gardener, you're probably growing corn, and you only have to let a few ears go past their prime to have a grain crop.
"And you'll be delighted with the corn and cornmeal recipes in this book and wonder why you waited so long to try cornmeal.
"If you're a bit more ambitious, try wheat. It's very easy to grow and you can harvest, thresh, store and grind wheat in small amounts with little difficulty.
"Ah, the thrill of biting into a piece of whole bread and knowing that it is 'your' bread, from planting to oven. And don't forget the many other dishes for which wheat is the base.
"Rye is the crop for the faint of heart. It's almost immune to failure. It's hardy, so there's little danger from frosts, and will grow in poor soil. It's a good cover crop for the garden, makes a fine green manure to turn under to replenish the soil and is easy to harvest, thresh and grind.
"Millet hulls easily; simply rub a handful of grain between your hands and the thin hulls will rub off.
"Barley has a hull that fits firmly into the crease of each grain, and is hard to remove. The commercial method of wearing this down is called 'pearling.' You can pearl small amounts of your own barley crop by popping it into your blender.
"Buckwheat, not a true grain, has a kernel with a hard, inedible hull. By grinding the buckwheat, then sifting out pieces of the hull, a flour can be produced.
"Oats are one of the easiest grains to grow and the hardest to hull. If you're growing oats for chickens or rabbits or horses, they'll handle the problem by ignoring the hull."
Q. I have trouble with my house plants every winter. They go from bad to worse and they get the same treatment as before. What could be wrong?
A. The most serious problem with foliage house plants at this time of the year is overwatering. In most homes temperatures are lower, and when they drop to 55 to 60 at night and 60 to 65 during the day, the plants go into a rest period. They do not grow and use little water. If they continue to get as much water as previously, the soil becomes saturated and there is not enough oxygen in the soil for root survival.
Q. My African violets have not bloomed for more than a year. What can I do for them?
A. African violets do not have a dormant period. One of the most common causes of failure to bloom is inadequate light. Move them to a brighter location. Some sunlight on a windowsill during the winter months is good, but keep them out of the hot sun during the summer.
Q. What is your opinion of the black walnut as a shade tree for our yard?
A. The black walnut is quick growing; 1-year-old seedlings are often 5 to 6 feet high. It get leaves late in the spring and sheds its leaves early in the fall. Its roots are toxic to many shrubs, grass is hard to grow beneath it, and the nuts make a mess in the yard.
Q. What is an oyster plant?
A. Oyster plant, as it is often called, is salsify, a vegetable, which tastes a lot like oysters when cooked.
Q. Will grass and weed seeds in a compost pile remain viable and germinate when I use the compost?
A. Most grass and weed seeds will be killed by the heat that develops when leaves, clippings and other compost materials go through fermentation on the compost pile. Some hard seed, such as morning glory, will come through alive but most will be dead.