I’ve tried blackberry leaf tea twice now. Adele in Nozedar in The Hedgerow Handbook suggests that this is best made with fresh young leaves gathered in spring, so I took home some of the tender new growth I saw on my Downs walk yesterday and brewed them up that afternoon. And today I cycled to the wooded area near Kings Weston House to sit outside with a book and a sandwich. I’d brought a flask of hot mint tea with me, which I’d brewed from some mint leaves I’m growing at home, but it wasn’t very strong. So I thought why not add some blackberry leaves from my immediate surroundings. The tea has a pleasant ‘green’ taste and is said to have a soothing effect on a sore throat. You can also dry the leaves to make tea and I’ve read that you can ferment them as well, which causes them to exude a floral scent. I’m intrigued and want to try this!
So far so good! Definitely averaging over 1hour a day on the plot so far and Chris has been helping too. To add to the productivity I have also found takers for my spare seedlings - Incredible Edible planters on Dame Emily Park and an allotment holder on Windmill Hill. I have planted in my kale, brussels sprouts and cabbage seedlings and a couple of larger courgettes and now its stopped being so windy I've put some other seedlings outside in my garden to harden off. The beds are starting to fill up with their planned crops, so now I need to get busy working out what I can plant inbetween them, and after them, that won't get in their way. I've found resources of Charles Dowding's website really useful: http://www.charlesdowding.co.uk/learn/articles/ especially his growing timeline which tells you when to actually plant things (as packets can be so vague!)
I'm going to plant my beans in pots today because the wind is a bit chilly still and Charles says I should! But I've also soaked some in water to germinate in a glass so I can see which of my saved bean seeds are the most vigorous. That's what passes for fun in my house :) I've also be sprouting my onion bottoms to grow new scalions...interesting but a bit smelly. Crops we are eating from our plot this week: kale, spinach, lemon balm (in drinks), mint, onion shoots (instead of spring onions)
I went out on the Downs today – where I was in full sun one moment and under sprinklings of rain the next - and gathered a selection of wild edibles. I assembled these into a mini salad which I plan to add this evening to some locally grown leaves from The Severn Project. I’ll add a scattering of sunflower seeds and walnuts and a vinaigrette dressing, mmm! Here is the list of wild salad makings I collected: daisy leaves and petals, dandelion leaves and petals, violet leaves and flowers, very young plantain leaves, blackberry buds, yarrow leaves.
I recently went on an inspiring urban foraging walk in the heart of Bristol. Despite considering myself a bit of a seasoned forager, marking each spring with bundles of wild garlic, the summer with the perfume of elderflowers and the autumn with the juicy tang of blackberries, I discovered that there is a lot more wild food all around us in the city than we might expect! This has set me off on a bit of a wild food kick and I thought it might be a fun challenge to see how many different foraged foods I can make use of in the kitchen during the Food Connections Festival. Last night I started off in a very, very local way by adding a few dandelion leaves from the garden to my fish stew. They added a delicious bitter bite that went really well with the fish (pollock) and other flavours in the stew (potatoes, garlic, onion, carrot, a handful of chopped spring greens and a splash of creamy milk). I used organic veg and washed everything down with a bottle of locally produced ale!
I want to see how much wild food, foraged from right here in the city, I can make use of during the Food Connections Festival in Bristol, 1-9 May 2015.
During the first Food Connections festival, I looked at trying to minimise my non-recyclable food packaging. I've maintained a few good habits from last time around, but the cat has not! - she's back on the single cat food sachets, environmental challenge that she is. Anyway, this time around, I'm going to be looking at minimising what I end up chucking in the compost bin. I'm pretty bad at finishing-off the last bit in the jar, and at buying odd ingredients only to use them once, or bargain veg which then turn into compost of their own volition. I think the first step is to audit the contents of fridge & larder.
Over the first May bank holiday period and Bristol Food Connections Festival I will be out in the garden re-planting some of the vegetable seedlings that I planted a couple of weeks ago. Not many have germinated. I think that this is partly because I did not use seed compost, but multi-purpose, and also as it has been a bit colder than expected.
Any tips welcome!
May is a great month for getting things going on the allotment...beans and courgettes can be planted and other seedlings that have been brought on can be planted into the soil. I'm going to challenge myself to spend at least one hour on my allotment every day, come rain or shine, during the Food Connections Fesitval in order to get every bed as productive as possible.
I went to Avon Organic Group's talk with Charles Dowding on Monday and was inspired by some of the tips he gave on no-dig growing. It's all quite common sense really but he gets a lot of produce by feeding his soil with compost and planting second crops after the first ones are done. So as well as planting in my seedlings and beans I'm going to spend a bit of time planning which seeds I can plant after the crops I'm putting in now and forecasting the feeding and rotation of my beds.
I like growing things I can't get in my veg box as well as things that stand will into winter like brassicas and every year I try some experimental things. So far in my allotment plan this year are runner beans and Cherokee Trail of Tears climbing beans, purple mange toute, asparagus peas, munchen bier aerial radishes, kohl rabi and other radishes, spinach, chard and amaranth, first and second early potato, Jerusalem artichokes, beetroots, parsnips, celeriac, red and yellow onions, strawberries (4 sorts - yum!), rocket, radicchio and other salad leaves, skirret, salsola, green and purple sprouting broccoli, 2 types of cabbage, Brussels spouts, kale, courgettes (3 sorts, including yellow ones), Turks turban squashes, coriander, parsley and basil, tomatillos and 5 types of tomato.
Plus there are all the perrenials - apples and pears, asparagus, rhubarb, herbs, horseradish, red and black currants, raspberries and blackberries, ransoms - and a few edible and decorative things like hosta, fiddlehead ferns, dahlias and day lilies.
So I really do have a quite a challenge to get all that in order over the 9 days of Food Connections! My next challenge after that will (hopefully!) be working out how to process and distribute it all so none of it goes to waste!
Whether shopping locally or in the supermarkets start reading the labels on packaging.
Stop looking for the fat and sugar content and read all the ingredients and country of origin.
Those informations can actually indicate if it's a product worth buying.For example: If your yogurt contains gelatine that means you'll be eating grounded bones of pigs and cattle. If your apples came all the way from Argentina or New Zealand that means they left a huge carbon footprint. If the list of ingredients on the label is surprisingly long you should probably look for a better product - the more ingredients the more processed the food is. Don't worry about the sugar. It's the synthetic sweeteners you should be aware of.
Read the labels and compare different products.
What are your conclusions? Post them on My Bristol.
The second weekend of the Food Connections festival came along all too quickly - working doesn't half get in the way of the rest of your life so had to miss out on all sorts of things I'd have loved to have gone to - hopefully ill plan further ahead for next year and take some leave to do it all properly! But for the last weekend I still had time to fit in one last event, and a great event it was too. Cheese school held at the lovely Laura's Harts Bakery so gorgeous bread guaranteed! Beers from Wild Beer Company, wines from a natural wines company in London and then the cheeses.....
Charlie Westhead from Neal’s Yard Creamery with lovely and creamy goats‘ cheeses Ragstone and Dorstone, Tom (The Cheese) from Westcombe with his proper cheddar, Gorwydd Caerphilly from Trethowan’s Dairy bought along by Todd and finally the incomer Yank, Joe Schneider and the blue cheese for the night, the Stichelton.
The cheeses were all great; tasty, nutty cheddar with a good tang, smooth, creamy goats cheese that were just totally addictive, a crisp lemony Caerphilly and, the surprise of the night....I LIKE BLUE CHEESE!!! I've never liked blue cheese and it's taken an incomer yank to convert me to a traditionally English, hand made blue cheese! Lovely! And with Laura's delicious sourdough, it all went down beautifully, as did the wines and especially the first wine of the evening, a lightly sparkling rose called Festejar! Which apparently means 'let's party' and with this at your party, it would certainly be a great start! The beers on the other hand, sorry, awful! But then I'm not a beer fan so I'm sure for those that are the weirder mixtures offered by the wild beer company (one involving 400 plus frozen cucumbers!) would be a nice change!
And then of course, there was the bread! Some lovely crispy thin slices of sesame sourdough brushed with olive oil and baked - the perfect way to use up bread that's a few days old - does anyone still have any of Laura's delicious sourdoughs left after a few days?? And then slices of fresh bread too as well as the chance to shape and take home our own loaves - perfect for breakfast the next morning after a rather heavy headed start to the next day!