Tuesday, February 27, 2007


It begins to feel like spring now, what with the potatoes quietly chitting in the potting shed and yesterday I sowed a tray of seeds. Leeks - Giant Zermatt and Siegfried - this year. Last year I grew over 100 well-endowed "Mr. Lyon's" (Thomas Etty Seeds) and should have half a dozen to leave to flower and set seed for next year. Oh yes, does anybody out there know when is a good time to plant out the beetroot that I want to grow on for seed?
I also started to make some headway with the pruning and coppicing that I've been neglecting. After about 3 hours of that it was time for a sit down and a nice cuppa tea.

The tea council has a counter on it's site which allows you to watch the 190,000,000 cups of tea a day being, well, knocked back by the look of it.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

ToMayTo ToMahTo

There is a very good story about tomatoes in the last issue of Cabinet magazine, which can be read here (it's probably too late now to find the magazine still on the shelf).
I've got my seed packets fanned out in front of me - Pink Brandywine, Yellow Pear, Stupice and Principe Borghese - and I'm hurting my brain over whether to get them started a bit earlier this year. I have noticed on several blogs that people already have them germinating. Is this a good thing? Might it result in produce ahead of blight? Or are they going to be very leggy and weak? I usually don't get them started before the end of March. But then I've had to throw away half the crop (or more) the last few years when they succumb to the inevitable. Hmm...

Friday, February 23, 2007

World Cabbage Day

February 17th, it was. And I missed it! Where was all the jubilee, fanfare and bunting? It's one of the few things still going strong in the garden right now so I guess I'll go on celebrating it for the next month or two.
Last year I came across Cato's 'In Praise of Cabbages'. Firstly, he is most emphatic that "Cabbage surpasses all vegetables. Eat it either cooked or raw: if you eat it raw, dress it with vinegar. It aids digestion remarkably and does the bowels good, and the urine will be beneficial for all purposes." Mmm, and what could those be, you might be piqued to inquire? Well, "...store the urine of anyone who habitually eats cabbage; warm it, bathe the patient in it. With this treatment you will soon restore to health; it has been tested. Also, if a woman foments her parts with this urine, they will never irritate. Foment as follows: boil in a basin and place under a commode; the woman is then to sit on the commode, covering the basin with her clothing."
And just about any other ailment - insomnia, aching joints, septic wounds and nasal polyps can be treated with steeped leaves or ground cabbage potions.
There are some people who can be induced to vomit by just being presented with a plate of boiled cabbage, but ..." If you want to purge by vomiting, take 4 lbs. of the tenderest cabbage, divide into three equal bunches and tie. Then put a pot of water on the fire, and when it begins to boil plunge one bunch into it briefly. It will stop boiling. Then, as it boils, plunge the bunch again while you count to five, and take it out. Do the same with the second bunch, and then the third. Then put all together and pound. Remove into a linen bag, and express about a pint of juice into an earthenware mug. Add a salt crystal about the size of a bitter vetch seed, and roasted cumin seed enough to give flavour. Then put the mug outdoors, in good weather, overnight. The person who is to take the medicine should have a hot bath, drink honey water, and go to bed without dinner, then in the morning drink the juice and walk for four hours, and do any business required. When the urge comes and the nausea is felt, recline and vomit. So much bile and phlegm will be thrown up that the patient will wonder where it all came from. "

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Happy Pancake Eating

I'm just thawing out after 10 days in a bleak and snow-driven Canadian outpost - the name of which apparently derives from the Mohawk word for 'where there are trees standing in the water'. It's got me thinking about chilblains. When was the last time you heard someone complain of a chilblain? Well at any rate I've come across this remedy should one be in need from Heath Robinson's 'Sicilian Char Woman'.
" ... and in his fifth year he developed a chilblain of the most painful description. Every remedy was tried, dried turnip seed, applications of roasted capers, poultices of wild figs and nard, fomentations of honey and turbot's roe, and many other recipes for the curing of chilblains, recommended by anxious friends. Nevertheless the blain grew chillier and chillier until at last they were compelled to send for a physician.
The physician, after spending a whole afternoon examining the foot, eventually took the most serious view of the case imaginable, and hastily wrote out the following prescription, promising to call again in a few days:
1 Pint New Gruel, 1 gr. Tincture of Green Acorns, 1/2 gr. Hypo, 1/16 gr. Castor Sugar, 3 Clove Kernels, 1/2 lb. Coffee Essence, 3/4 lb. Sugar of Zinc, 2 gr. Bisulphate of Lead, 1 Pint Spirits of Sulphur, 5 gr. Bicarbonate of Saltpetre, 1 oz. Table Salt.
Three drops to be mixed in a quart of lukewarm water and gently rubbed into the roots of the blain every five minutes, day and night, until it's disappearance, which, if all went well, should take place in about six month's time. "