Archive for the ‘Herbs’ Category

Wow what a crazy but highly enjoyable day yesterday! Starting at around 5am I woke up, had some decaf and headed straight to the allotment as last time I was there I saw at the last moment (when I was rushing home) that the Italian vine tomato had a decent amount of very red ripe fruits (and that was a good 4-5 days ago!), these plants never let me down (if planted in the ground) and so I didn’t want to lose these beautiful tom’s!

A good few hours there resulted also, in a decent batch of Elderberry heads which I got on the way there (Which were used tonight to make Elderberry elixir), a very nice large harvest (photo further below) and a bit of weeding, watering, compost bin management etc.

After arriving home, all harvested goods including the Elderberries needed urgent washing etc. to be placed in the fridge immediately, thereafter I found an older courgette that was about to go bad and so, decided to make Courgette (Zucchini) Cake! Part of the harvest was a decent batch of Purple French Beans and a few Runner Beans as well, these are intended for pickling so were processed and placed overnight into a brine solution so that tomorrow they will be placed into their final jar along with the Spiced Pickling Vinegar (Which I also made tonight!!)

I decided that I need to get a move-on with the elderberry harvests (some are in the fridge and some in the freezer), my other-half and I sat for a good 40 min’s removing the berries from their stalks and placing in a jar to make the Elderberry Winter Ailment Elixir, I have a very good recipe for this and have proven this to be a very good flu / winter cold remedy which was quite effective last Winter with the whole family!

Organic Vegetable Harvest

Organic Permaculture Allotment Harvest (UK) 2018

In the above photo, I have added lines to divide the veg’s into three rows, from top left:

  1. French Purple and Runner beans, Aztec Broccoli and Hokkaido Pumpkin
  2. Sorrel, Maris Piper Potatoes, Giant Goosefoot, Bush Legend Tomatoes, Dwarf Bush Courgettes (Zucchinis) – these were harvested quite small as I am trying to get at least one more harvest before season end,
  3. Elderberry (foraged), Italian Vine tomatoes (great for sauces), Salad Burnet, Tangerine and Millefleur cherry tomatoes and finally Tomatillos with the Snail Tree-cookie below which represents my favourite of the 12 permaculture principles: ‘Use Small and Slow Solutions’

It is definitely Elderberry season right now (at least in and around London) so get foraging as you will definitely will not have much time after the next week or so if you are lucky! Remember, throw them straight into the freezer in a bag, you can take time out later to do something with them in a recipe when you are more collected and have the time to do so! In the meantime, check out this delicious Elderberry Syrup Recipe which I made last year which also has immune system benefits as a buildup to the Winter months, the Elderberry Elixir is more suited to last well into next years winter because it is made with alcohol and preserves better .. enjoy!

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I made this Elixir for the first time last year in preparation for winter colds and flu etc. mainly knowing that the Elderberry Syrup I made only has a shelf life in the fridge of about 3 months brought me to look for a longer lasting remedy, the Elixir is suggested to last for a year (due to alcohol being the preservative instead of Sugar).

All that I can say from not only my own experience albeit for only one Winter season, is that I also have spoken with Qualified Herbalists who have used and recommend this exact recipeit did work very well for my own family during last winter.

Winter Ailment Elixir

Elderberry Elixir for Winter Ailment Remedy

You Will Need:

  • Enough Elderberries to fill your chosen Jar / Bottle,
  • Rum or Brandy (one third of the jar),
  • Port (also a third of the jar),
  • Raw Honey from someone local (the final third of the jar),
  • 12x Cloves,
  • 10-15x Peppercorns,
  • Large Cinnamon Stick,

Method:

  • Remove the berries from all stalks as much as possible and place them in your jar (preferably to almost fill the jar up to the curve in the neck), add in the spices,
  • Pour your Rum or Brandy so it fills around one-third of the jar whilst the berries are still inside, fill the second third with Port and follow the last third of the jar with the Raw Honey – stir very gently with a wooden spoon or glass rod,
  • Seal the Jar and give it a lovingly gentle shake everyday at least once, do this for one month to around 6 weeks after which, you will strain all of the liquid into a muslin cloth or bag so you can squeeze as much out as you can, re-bottle it and label with the date.

Use / Dosage:

  • This is a remedy so you use it mostly when you get sick, once the symptoms are obvious then take a half to full teaspoon three to four times a day until you are better, dilute for kids and even better, just add it into something that they are already consuming if possible such as a berry juice or smoothie.

 

Hi all, I know, it’s been long! Busy is again, the usual excuse …

Here is a quick update on early – mid year harvesting, I waited longer than usual to plant out my squash family plants and it paid off! Although I still had them out much earlier than what seed companies and most gardening books in the UK recommend. Basically, I try to plant out say one third of my squash every year (Courgettes (Zucchini), Cucumbers, Pumpkins and the other unusual ones (Such as my Summer Crookneck) – with the other two thirds to go in a few weeks later, you always still have the time to germinate the first third again if the first batch fail.

harvest june 18.JPG

Salad, Herb and Veg Harvest – Permaculture Organics – June 2018

After chatting with a fellow allotmenteer, he told me that he came across some older information which shows that our area has never had frost anytime in May as per records – which now means anything recommended to plant ”later on in may after the last frost dates” can be pushed a few weeks forward with some small risk possibility.

Anyway,to the main story, whilst almost all of my fellow allotmenteers are only just planting out their squash, I’ve already been harvesting!! In the above photo there is some fresh Lemon Balm (for calming tea), Terragon (cooking herb – I have added this into tea as well), Sorrel (Sour, as a salad addition) and 4.5 Courgettes (one had a bit of rot on the blossom end). I have a larger batch of Lemon Balm drying in the shed at the allotment, I just wanted some to bring home fresh.

Foraging wise, I have been able to get hold of Tilia Flower for tea (Linden tree – known incorrectly as Lime tree, latin= ‘Tilia cordata’), this makes a very soothing, calming subtle tea and is probably my favorite tea – mix with Lemon Balm too! Elderflower has been harvested and kept in the freezer (might try make the wine again, if not, there are other recipes especially a cordial I want to try out).

In the kitchen, I have produced three batches of Jam so far, the first was the rushed Dandelion Flower jam which I made a few jars that should last until next year, the second was a Strawberry jam from store bought berries, then again more Strawberry as a friend who has another allotment not far from my neighbourhood went on holiday and aid I’m welcome to go there to pick them, all in all I think I got at leat 4 kg of Strawberries on the two occasions I went there. So the second batch of jam was inevitably made from Organic / Semi Organic strawberries which were sweeter, I decided to reduce the sugar content by 250-300 grams and my jam still set fine!

Finally, another thing to note – in the above photo, of all four produce harvested, Three are perennials! Permaculture emphasizes on the importance of Perennials in a food producing system… and for good reasons.

 

may 2018.jpg

With the ground warming up around the UK and some parts passing their Last Frost date, we can all start sowing most of the crops now (There are still crops which can be sown from the March and April month lists)…

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Organic Sweetcorn can be grown in your own back Garden !

Outdoors:

  • Maincrop sowings of root crops – carrots, beetroot, leeks, radishes, turnips etc

  • French, runner and broad beans, mangetout & podding peas – sow in modules/pots if you have trouble with slugs/mice etc

  • All the brassicas can still be sown this month for overwintering – kale, brussels sprouts, purple sprouting broccoli, summer and winter cabbages, calabrese and cauliflowers

  • Leaf beets inclduing Swiss Chard

  • Herbs including parsley, coriander and others

  • Keep sowing salads, Much better a small sowing every 2-3 weeks than a large patch that bolts before you can eat it

  • Early sowings of fennel – if you have trouble with it bolting, wait until mid-June

  • Sweetcorn – but only sow direct if the weather, and soil, are warm, if not then start it off in modules / small pots.

  • Salad Onions

In trays or pots

  • Brassicas & Salad Onions (If you have slug / snail problems)

  • French, runner and broad beans, all types of peas

  • Sweetcorn

In trays or pots indoors

  • Courgettes, squashes, cucumbers and melons – ideally best sown by the end of May

In a polytunnel / greenhouse

  • Summer salads

  • Basil & coriander

  • Plant out summer crops (tomatoes, peppers etc) started indoors once you’re certain night time temperatures won’t fall too low

Maintenance

  • Application of compost onto growing beds if you haven’t done so already (Creating compost in less than one year is possible with the right amount of turning and moisture / urine addition)
  • Weeding will be a chore now, good strikes on sunny days with a hoe will be useful
  • emptying your composting area and bagging up the not-so-ready compost / mulch / mold to stack somewhere out of your way and to continue composting in the bags (I recommend you get hold of stronger bags such as old compost bags or builders rubble bags as they can last years – contact a local established gardening firm or landscaping company, they often need to dispose of hundreds of mulch bags after large landscaping jobs or annual mulch applications)
  • Slug / Snail / pest control including checking regularly for Aphid and Spider Mites etc.
  • If Green manures were sown at the right dates, you may need to start chopping and forking them in as you should be getting ready to start planting crops such as Tomatoes etc.

Note/s:

We have had a pretty bad start to Spring / Early Summer – it was only 8 degrees celcius on Monday and we have had hardly any good sunshine besides that one week where we had perhaps four good days? You may still need to sow indoors with this unpredicatable weather otherwise outdoors may be a gamble considering this year’s miserable start …

The Date is set for the London Permaculture Festival, again being held at the Cecil Sharp House in Camden, London on Sunday the 29th of July, 2018.

LPF 2018 Banner

Every year that I go to this event they do make the effort to change things around to keep it interesting, I highly recommend this for anyone especially families alike, if you are into permaculture and live somewhere far, this is still worthwhile to go to as before or after the event you can still mosey over to Camden Market for a stroll around or for some food before you decide to head on home. The venue is a mere 5 or so minute’s walk from the Regents Canal, the Zoo and also Regents Park and about 10 min’s walk from Camden High Road and main Underground Station.

With Highlights such as the Rare Edible Plant Nursery Edulis (They offer pre-order where you can organise your plants to be delivered for collection at the event), otherwise the stock at the event itself is good with many many various useful varieties of edible, medicinal plants, Herbs, Nitrogen fixers and more! It is a very family friendly event, there is the Permaculture Media / Permanent Publications bookstand, hand baked cakes / pastries including for vegan diet etc. Not to forget the many various Workshops and Skill share trainings you can attend (there is always a Workshop Schedule posted before the event and posters available on the walls around the event so you can choose which ones you will be attending). One particular attraction that toddlers and even older kids love is the Critter Hunt in the garden where bugs, arachnids and insects are placed in magnified viewing containers around the garden for kids to find and view, there’s face painting, storytelling and bottle cap construction too!

The following are links to info on previous events:

Lon Perm Fest 2015   –   Lon Perm Fest 2016   –   Lon Perm Fest 2017

What was on in 2017?

London Permaculture Festival Homepage.

 

One of the best ways to obtain a stock of Perennial Herbs such as Rosemary, Thyme, Oregano etc. from what I know is to pass by near the Vegetable section of a large Sainsbury’s Supermarket (Found on a metal shelf at the end of one of the aisles).

As long as you are okay with the idea that these plants are not of Organic cultivated stock and have likely been fed with a Chemical Fertiliser of sort, that this is a great way to save some money and increase your herb variety if you cannot or will not want to wait for seedlings to become decently sized.

They sell these in potted form and if I remember correctly, I got a Rosemary and Thyme for only £1 each which is a little more than buying a pack of freshly cut spigs! As Sainsburys is not actually my regular shop, I cannot say what other stock they have and which season they sell them in, my purchase was a last minute effort just before I finished my Herb Spiral on my allotment and my large Herb Planter at home in my kitchen garden. So far all of the plants purchased are still surviving and look healthy.

Cheap Herbs Sains.jpg

Cheap / Decent Sized Perennial Herbs – £1 per pot!

As always, I like to encourage my followers or any visitors to try go from a mainly intensive annual crop production to a more relaxed approach which includes loads of Perennials, a system like this gives you more free time and could help you to produce a better Annual crop due to the fact that you can spend a little more time on them.

Starting off with Herbs is a great way to start up on a Perennial approach, species such as Terragon, Chinese Chives, Oregano, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme to name the most common are quite cold hardy and will live for more than two years. Most of those mentioned are very nice in herbal teas which have healing properties, they have more than one function other than for flavourful cooking!

Don’t get too hasty if you see a plant that seems to have died off, some plants such as the Terragon, Chives and Oregano will die off above the soil but new shoots will emerge from the soil in Spring!

To add to the above, I would recommend to plant the following in order to be able to create or at last add to salads during the summer months; French as well as Red-Veined Sorrel, Red Valerian (a common ornamental plant whose leaves are edible – not so great on their own but nice as a sandwich filler or added in a salad), Salad Burnet, Alchemilla (Lady’s Mantle – another very common ornamental – young leaves in a salad), Cedum (Ice Plant – quite common ornamental, also in salad) < All three of the latter mentioned Ornamentals are quite drought tolerant once established! The final one which I have yet to plant / try is Hablitzia taminoides, another salad plant which is said by Mandy at Incredible Vegetables to be happy growing in a shady corner in ones garden.

For those of you in the Tropics / Sub-Tropics where either all of most of the above-mentioned species will not grow well, please refer to the Plants For A Future Database if you would like to research Perennial Herbs and edible / medicinal plants suited to your climate and soil conditions etc.

Nature provides! I say no more, well I still have to give you all the basic recipe for this natural Immune System Booster.

At the moment, Elderberries (‘Sambucus nigra‘) are still available on most Elder trees (pay attention to trees that are mostly in shaded areas or situated behind / under larger shrub or trees as these will bare berries a little later or / the berries will take a bit longer to spoil).

 

I emphasise on the importance in obtaining Fresh berries as opposed to buying dried berries online, buying online should be a last resort only if you have actually made the effort in trying to locate the Trees and found none or if you live in a highly polluted area…

The steps are really simple and this syrup can be made into many different recipes for various Medicinal Benefits, here however, I am giving the very basic recipe and you can then go ahead to try different herbs / spices to make different batches for the Flu / Cold season.

What’s needed:

  • Harvested Elderberries that are enough to make Two Cups of loose berries (I recommend you pick a lot and freeze he rest but please, remember to leave some for birds and other wildlife),
  • Water (2x Cups),
  • Local Honey (One Jar per 2 cups of berries),
  • Muslin cloth or bags,
  • Optional: Cloves, Ginger, Thyme, Cinnamon sticks etc. for more advanced medicines

Method:

  • Place the Two Cups of Elderberries in a Saucepan / Pot together with the Two Cups of water and a cinnamon stick, then boil,
  • Once Boiling, lower the heat and simmer until the liquid reduces to around half the original volume,
  • Pour into a heat resistant container and let cool down to room temperature ( a measuring container might be best for your first time),
  • Once cool, pour the mixture through a Muslin cloth or bag into a new container, lift out the cloth / bag and give it a good squeeze to release extra juices,
  • Add the same amount of Local Honey as your leftover liquid so for example, if you had 350ml of the juice after it cooled down, then add 350ml of Local Honey and mix well,
  • Place into clean sterilised jars (I Highly recommend the Washing and Oven method)
sambucus nigra

‘Sambucus nigra’ – Ripe Elderberries

This recipe is to boost the immune system for the flu and cold months and needs to be placed in the fridge / freezer immediately.

Dosage:

  • Take one spoonful every morning during or near the flu season, increase to three times per day if you feel flu or a cold coming on.

In the fridge this should last 3-4 months only so I reccommend actually making a large batch (4x cups of Elderberries makes around 3 standard jam / honey jars with some leftover) and freezing the rest to keep aside for closer to December onwards.

One good idea I have seen is to pour them into ice trays for freezing, you can then remove a few cubes for your own use anytime between or before December!

elderberry syrup

Elderberry ‘Sambucus nigra’ Syrup, medicinal recipe