Saturday, 8 August 2020

Herb Salt




Herb salts are something I'm into this year in a big way.  They are what you think they are - combinations of dried herbs, with salt.  It's a good way of preserving an abundant herb harvest, and makes for delicious flavourful additions to anything savoury you could possibly think of.  I'm amassing quite a stash:




I grow a lot of herbs on my allotment because they're easy to maintain and mostly perennial. I'm a lazy gardener, which I tell myself has a deep and philosophical element to it - I'm learning from the pace of nature or something - and this may actually be the case, or it may be that I'm only lazy.  So what?  The art of gardening consists mainly in sitting in your garden, and very occasionally, when absolutely necessary, doing some gardening.

As for technique, it's all about drying the herbs properly.  Sage, rosemary, marjoram, mint - all these grow on branches, that can be snipped off the plant and hug up somewhere dry in bunches.  Patience is importance - you don't want to do anything more with them until they're completely dry.  They're completely dry when the leaves have curled and crumble between your fingers to the touch.  Here's what a bowl of recently crumbled marjoram looks like:


Having sprigs of herbs hanging around in windows and doorways makes me feel like a bit of a wizard. That I'm warding off evil spirits or whatever. They also smell nice. Then when they're dry you can add them to food and feel like you're a gourmet chef, even though you're not.

Once the herbs are all crumbled up, you need a pestle and mortar to mix them with the salt (use sea salt if you can, not standard and characterless and mineral-stricken table salt) and crush into a powder, that looks like this:


At this point you can easily remove any stray twigs or woody bits that you don't want.

The thing to do is make your own blends of herb salts.  I've already tried a few of my own, and given them out to colleagues at work, with no complaints.    I keep a jar of "mixed" herb salt handy at all times, and when I went to make my own blends, I just use the separate jars pictured above to create unique combinations.  Another journey begins.  






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Wednesday, 29 July 2020

Companion Planting at Castle Howard, North Yorkshire #plantsmakepeoplehappy




It's always a pleasure to see some companion planting in action.  I visited my parents over the weekend - my first venture out of Greater Manchester in six months, all masked up for the journey - out into fresher air and slower living where I probably belong.  We visited the spacious, meticulous gardens of Castle Howard on Sunday afternoon, where one veg bed has been arranged by someone who obviously knows a thing or two about combining plants.  While its neat-and-tidiness may not to be your liking, if you look past that you can see the spirit of permaculture at work




Nasturtiums in the corner of the plot, along with marigolds, distract and repel the aphids and other pests that would otherwise be scoffing on the brassicas (beetroot and kale).  Here's some almost entirely pest-invisible kale:


Curly and magnificent.



Beans and squash, perhaps going for a "three sisters" (or two sisters, anyway) effect - perhaps not, but looking very happy together all the same.  Planting the beans a bit closer to the sweet peas trellis may have been part of the plan - sweet peas, in any case, will attract pollinators to the beans.


Their website refers to an "an ornamental vegetable garden styled on a French kitchen garden, known as a "Potager", where vegetables, fruits and flowers intermingle and are formally laid out for ornamental purposes," which I can only assume is what this is.  So we have a cross-pollination of purposes, if you will: aesthetic and organic.  Nothing wrong with that.












Related posts

Nasturtium Pesto
Sunday in the Park, and then Soup
#plantsmakepeoplehappy - Fun With Pots and Propagation
September's Coming Soon
Persicaria Microcephala
A Jar of #Pickled Nasturtium Seeds
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Tuesday, 21 July 2020

Intermittent Fasting: Week Two



Feeling really good this morning; perhaps even great. I didn't wake up feeling sluggish or hazy, and felt actually rested - even after one work day that brought more than its fair share of the usual annoyances another, on which I predict even more of the same.  I think there might be something to this intermittent fasting lark.

My pattern on work days is working out as breakfast at 6:30, lunch about 11, lunch about 2pm. Getting back into the habit of eating first thing in the mornings is a bit of stretch - I usually just gave coffee - and oddly, I didn't feel ravenously hungry. A hearty bowl of chilli, aged a good 36 hours in the slow cooker, though, really hit the spot.

I haven't weighed myself yet, and I didn't when I started, so it wouldn't really tell me anything. It's easy to let the number distract and discourage you, so I try and avoid them. It will be interesting to see what I weigh a few months down the line though, if I keep it up this long. So far, it's been a delight. 

 




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Sunday, 19 July 2020

First of the Summer Wine



Learning by doing is my way.  I like to get the gist of things, understand the basic principles, and then just give it a go.  Rather than get bogged down in minutiae and too much detail, I find it far more satisfying to experiment.  This isn't always for the best in terms of results, but then, how much is it about results?  Who knows?  Who cares?

I've been experimenting with wine making now for about 2 years, with only limited success so far - at least in terms of output good enough to share with anyone else.  Last night I cracked open my last bottle of apple wine - vintage 2018 - and marvelled at the clarity of the first glass.  So marvellous it was I forgot to take a picture for comparison, but here's what the last glass looked like:



I think this is what can charitably be called "the dregs".  You see, the wine had "thrown a deposit", meaning that while fermenting, some residual yeast or other by-product of the chemical process had sunk to the bottom.  When I bottled it, some of this residue made it through the straining bag and sank to the bottom of the bottles, too.  So the first glass or two poured looks clear and crisp, but after that, the newly disturbed liquid looks, well, in the case of apple wine, like milky piss.  Not very appealing.  Having said that, two glasses was all it took to get me nice and tipsy, so I least I can vouch for the alcohol content.  Moving on.

This year I've been blessed with an abundant blackcurrant harvest.  So early this week I helped myself to an easy 2kg (with enough left over for several jars of delicious jam) plus a bag of strawberries, which immediately became the beginnings of this summer's wine.  First of the summer wine.  Ha ha ha.




I'm using one of the simplest recipes in the book for blackcurrant wine (the only deviation being the addition of a couple of fat strawberries, because strawberries are nice (and because I picked them early into a fasting period, so had to do something with them while they were fresh that wasn't eating them).  The recipe requires only fruit and sugar, pectic enzyme, yeast, and yeast nutrient.  No fannying about with wheat or cirtus or anything else I didn't have immediately to hand.  The recipe also promises the wine will be ready in just three months - a mere moment in wine making terms.  No second rackings required - which means (if I understand this correctly) no residue to filter out.  So by October, I should have a clear and fruity supply of home made red wine.  We'll see.

Blub.  Blub blub blub.  Hopefully.







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