Monday, September 29, 2008

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Two Penny Salad

"She also produced (besides a cabbage) a handful of mustard & cress, a trifle of the herb called dandelion, three bunches of radishes, an onion rather larger than the average turnip, three substantial slices of beetroot, a short prong or antler of celery; the whole of this garden-stuff having been publicly exhibited but a short time ago as a two penny salad, and purchased by Mrs. Prig, on condition the vendor could get it all into her pocket."
Mrs. Prig recommends "that these productions of nature should be sliced up, for immediate consumption, in plenty of vinegar."
Dickens, Martin Chuzzlewit

Friday, September 26, 2008

Potato Experiments No.1

Things to do with your potatoes from Tim Hunkin.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

United in Sauté Potatoes

All the potatoes are in storage now prompted by fear of blight and it is surely time to sing the anthem of the Slovenian 'Association for the Recognition of Sauté Potatoes with Onions as a Main Dish'. Does anybody know the tune?

Sweet is the wine and cool is beer
But best of all is the sauté potatoes
It's not butter, it's not fruit or cheese
But my friend it's sauté potatoes

All types of food can be sources of disease
But we are healthy through sauté potatoes
And we got together here and found our peace
For we are united in sauté potatoes

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Grow Your Own

Metal sculpture by Abbott & Ellwood

This past Saturday I went to Oxford Botanical Gardens to meet some other vegetable-growing bloggers for a talk, picnic (the weather gods smiled) and seed swap. I returned with three new garlics to try from Patrick (Purple Glazier, German Porcelain, Krasnador Red) and Pea Magnum Bonum and Climbing Bean Purple Giant from Rebsie and a catalogue from passionate seed saver Ben at Real Seeds. A lot of my own self-saved seed returned with me as well. If there is anybody out there (?) wanting any 'Blue Hubbard' squash, 'Winterkeeper' beetroot, 'True Red Cranberry' pole bean or 'Bird's Nest' gourd seed just give me your address and I will happily post them.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Colour Supplement

"The chief virtues of the Carrot lie in the strong antiseptic qualities which it possesses, as preventative of putrescent changes either within the body, or when applied externally. The sugar of Carrots can be collected from their inspissated juice, and used at table, being excellent for the coughs of consumptive persons. For preparing Carrot juice, rub cleansed Carrots with a grater, and squeeze their juice through a clean cloth; then boil it, with, or without sugar, skimming carefully the while. When it no longer froths take it off the fire, and let it cool. Then strain it through a cloth, and pour it into glasses. A teaspoon thereof may be taken several times in the day for subduing a troublesome cough, or as a quieting nervine cordial."
Meals Medicinal Curative Foods from the Cook; in place of Drugs from the Chemist by W.T.Fernie 1905
The 'Purple Dragon' carrots are coming up in a variety of colours but mostly not purple. Which is fine. They taste good. Below is a guide to the health benefits associated with the various pigments you find in carrots, courtesy of the USDA. Click on the picture to make it readable.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Smith Period

We had a 'Smith Period' in our back yard sometime last week I think. It wasn't a 'Beaumont Period' because it hasn't been warm enough, but the net net is that I've taken up all the outdoor tomatoes - still green (on the left). I'm hoping some of these will turn red rather than brown, because I've already made all the green tomato chutney that we can possibly stomach. The plants in the greenhouse haven't been affected yet but they have nearly finished producing anyway. It has been 3 fine months of tomatoes for breakfast, lunch and dinner, with jars of catsup and confit squirreled away for the winter. So, no complaints.
But, for next year, I have devised a cunning plan (well, read 'Tomatoes - The Inside Story by Terry Marshall) to extend that to 5 or 6 months. Firstly, I'm going to start the initial sowing much earlier with fewer plants - February possibly, now that there is a greenhouse. I think I'll restrict them to 4 or 5 trusses. And then I'm going to start to root the shoots that I pinch out along about mid May for a second crop to follow on fruiting after the first dwindles. It didn't occur to me this year until after my July 16th post and ensuing discussion with Patrick. I took some cuttings July 20th (on the right) which have now produced flowers and while it's unlikely that there will be any decent fruit it was a good dry run.

Friday, September 12, 2008

The Complete Guide To Health

I've just come across 'The Reformed Botanic & Indian Physician - A Complete Guide To Health' written in 1855 by Dr. Daniel Smith and available to be perused online here. The Doctor is a great believer in the healing power of a cold water bath (for involuntary urine, diabetes, cholera, scorbutick atrophy & more) and although he hasn't any suggestions for beets (see last post), there are a great many curatives which call for the use of other foodstuffs. I have illustrated below what I consider to be the '12 best food remedies you aren't wearing'.

1. For A High Fever If delirious, use cold bathings, give a little port wine after plunging. Apply warm lamb's lungs to the head.
2. Deafness, With Head Ache and Buzzing In The Head Peel a clove of garlic and dip it in honey, and put it in your ear at night with a little black wool. Lie with your ear upwards, and put it in the other ear the next night, if needed, for eight to ten days.
3. For The Ear-Ache Rub the ear hard for fifteen minutes; or be electrified; or put in the ear a roasted fig, hot.
4. For A Cold In The Head Pare the rind of an orange very thin and roll it up inside out, and put a roll in each nostril.
5. Hard Breasts Apply turnips roasted till soft, wash and mix with a little oil of roses. Change this poultice twice a day, and keep it warm with a flannel.
6. For A Stitch In The Side Apply hot toast spread with molasses.
7. Fever Sores Put on a poultice of stewed pumpkin as warm as can be borne. Repeat it once every two or three hours till cured. It will bring out the loose bones. Or bath the sore in the water where a blacksmith cools his iron.
8. For Falling Of The Fundament Boil one ounce of red rose leaves in one gill of red wine, dip a cloth in it and apply it as hot as can be borne, till all is used, and drink cherry bark tea freely.
9. To Give Action To The Bowels Poultice with powdered carrots. Add and moisten with essence of sassafras.
10. For Warts Rub them daily with radishes.
11. For A Broken Shin Bind on a plaster of balsam, beeswax and mutton tallow, equal parts, melted together.
12. To Cure Chilblains Rub with salt and onions when powdered together; or a poultice of roasted onions kept on two or three days - change often. Seldom fails.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Huddled Masses Food

One crop that has been growing well in spite of there being no sunlight is the beets. We've eaten a few of the 'Bull's Blood' (on the left) and there are enough 'Lutz' (right) to see us through until spring and then some.
The beetroot looks set to be in fashion this year, a superfood even, topping Dr. Jonny Bowden's list of '11 best foods you aren't eating'. While he stipulates that beets should be eaten fresh for maximum antioxidant power, it is frozen blueberries and canned pumpkin which finish in 10th and 11th places respectively. Ms. Parker-Pope who writes the column (and has never cooked a beet) dug deeper in a follow up article. She asked a Leading Beet Expert Irwin L. Goldman, point blank, why it is that the beet is getting no respect. "They are a huddled masses sort of food. They are thought of as peasant food and old-fashioned," said the Beet-Believer,[but] "They really are wonderful, and there are a lot of good things that you can do with them." (?)
Yeah, anyway, I really like them, most especially baked. But I've only just found out (and not in that vacuous bit of reportage) that not everyone's pee is pink the next day. The ability to metabolize the betacyanin is controlled by a single genetic locus and people (like me) with two recessive genes will pass the pigment in their urine.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008


According to the Met it was the dullest August since 1929 with only 105 hours of recorded sunshine - 67% of the average. That's about 3 1/2 hours a day. It must have been before I got up. Anyway, now we can move on and talk about what an uncommonly mild autumn it is.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

No More Free Lunch

Days are shortening, beans are drying on the vine and apples are dropping. It is about this time of year that the drones destiny is sealed.
"One morning the long expected word of command goes through the hive; and the peaceful workers turn into judges and executioners. The great idle drones, asleep in unconscious groups on the melliferous walls, are rudely torn from their slumbers by a wrathful army of virgins. They wake, in pious wonder; they cannot believe their eyes; and their astonishment struggles through their sloth as a moonbeam through marshy water. They stare amazedly round them, convinced that they must be victims of some mistake; and the mother-idea of their life being first to assert itself in their dull brain, they take a step towards the vats of honey to seek comfort there. But ended for them are the days of May honey, the wine-flower of lime-trees and fragrant ambrosia of thyme and sage, of marjoram and white clover. Where the path once lay open to the kindly, abundant reservoirs, that so invitingly offered their waxen and sugary mouths, there stands now a burning-bush all alive with poisonous, bristling stings. Before the bewildered parasites are able to realise that the happy laws of the city have crumbled, dragging down in most inconceivable fashion their own plentiful destiny, each one is assailed by three or four envoys of justice; and these vigorously proceed to cut off his wings, saw through the petiole that connects the abdomen with the thorax, amputate the feverish antennae, and seek an opening between the rings of his cuirass through which to pass their sword. No defence is attempted by the enormous, but unarmed, creatures; they try to escape, or oppose their mere bulk to the blows that rain down upon them. Forced on to their back, with their relentless enemies clinging doggedly to them, they will use their powerful claws to shift them from side to side; or, turning on themselves, they will drag the whole group round and round in wild circles, which exhaustion soon brings to an end ... The next morning, before setting forth on their journey, the workers will clear the threshold, strewn with the corpses of the useless giants; and all recollections of the idle race disappear till the following spring."
M.Maeterlinck The Life of the Bee

I've just purloined over 30 pounds (11 litres) of honey from our army of wrathful virgins. The early honey is very light and flowery tasting while this late harvest has a much more complex and, I think, interesting flavour. Let's say, the first goes well in tea and the second is better on toast. As you can see it's much darker as well.

The Way Forward

"Let's extensively raise goats in all families." North Korean Poster