Wednesday 30 July 2008

How to make nettle tea

As well as growing food, we also forage for it wild. Whilst most people treat nettles as a weed that stings you, we treat it as a food source. Its full of iron and makes a good soup and tea and can go into flans or can be steamed or boiled to use as a veg on your dinner plate. (It's very similar in that respect to spinach.)

Here's another of my videos. This one is about: How to make nettle tea.

You should use green young leaves on nettle plants. Bigger older ones are bitter in taste. Don't forget the gloves when picking nettle leaves, though the stinging bit is only on the edge of the leaves.

Tea making is simple and can use either fresh or dried leaves. Simply put the leaves into a clean tea pot and add boiling water. Leave to brew for a couple of minutes and then drink. You can have it neat or add a slice of lemon (which apparently changes it to a pinkish colour though I haven't tried that before).

How to make raspberry jam and gin

If you are heading for self-sufficiency, you need to know how to preserve fruit. There will be times when there is an abundance of produce so that's when jam making and pickling come into play.

Making raspberry jam and gin is explained on this video I made: How to make raspberry jam and gin.

Basically for jam, you need same weight of sugar to raspberries and 2 lemons per kilo of raspberries.

  • grate rind off lemons and then squeeze them

  • add lemon rind and juice to raspberries in jam pan

  • bring to boil and simmer until the fruit as broken up

  • add in sugar and keep stirring and simmering until the setting point as been reached (when the jam develops a skin)

  • put into warm jam jars.

For raspberry gin you need 600g of raspberries, 300 of caster sugar and a 75cl bottle of cheap gin:

  • mix raspberries and sugar together in pickling jar with the gin.

  • close jar and shake

  • leave to stand for 3 months, shaking occasionally

  • after 3 months enjoy!

Saturday 26 July 2008

Latest on the allotment

I am in London at the moment but David has sent me an update live from the allotment! We planted seeds last weekend for salad produce. I noticed through the week that the radishes have sprouted. Well, now comes the exciting news that the lettuce seeds are sprouting as well!

Salad crops are great for people who are starting out on growing a bit of their own food. They grow easily in pots and window boxes. We have a set of window boxes on our garden wall in London which we use for growing herbs but have used in the past for lettuce. Actually, most of them currently have a crop of sycamore saplings. This is my carbon sink. In a few years time, I will be looking for homes for them.

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Waste nothing!

As a society we are incredibly wasteful. I read an article the other day that showed the UK threw out everyday, over one million usable pots of yoghurt and over one million apples. I did have the figures for the number of sausages thrown out but I can't recall what it was. It was, pardon the pun, a jumbo figure. This level of waste is completely unsustainable. We simply cannot continue being so wasteful.

The easiest way to cut down on waste going into the waste stream is to get a compost bin. And start looking on waste as a resource rather than rubbish. Food scraps should go into a compost bin. But there are some waste foods that are still usable before they get to be compost.

Meat bones can be boiled for stock. If you don't want to boil them immediately, simply put your chicken carcass in a plastic carrier bag (another waste product!) and then place in the freezer. Boil up at a later date perhaps when you have more bones to add to your collection.

Chicken stock is a good base for soups and one I am planning soon is nettle soup. More about that at a later date.

Apple cores and the skins of citris fruits have a useful purpose before they finally end up in the compost bin. Put them into a plastic bag and store in the freezer. Add to the bag until such point as you have enough to boil up for making jelly. Then you can put the pulp left over from this into the compost bin. We call the jelly we make this way "compost heap" jelly!

Years ago, when I kept rabbits (I haven't kept livestock for quite a few years now) apple cores etc all got fed to the bunnies. But if you do keep livestock, much uncooked kitchen waste is an important source of fodder.

Other waste that can be converted into a useful resouurce is paper and card. Most councils collect paper for recycling, some collect card as well. My council in Gateshead collects only paper. My house in London is in Bromley where card and paper are collected. However, using as much of it as possible in a way that avoids it going into the waste stream (even for recycling) is better for the environment. So we put much of our cardboard and some paper into our compost bins in our gardens in both Sunniside and London. Make sure any paper and card is mixed up with wet waste to make it rot quicker. If you put in quite a bit of paper, pour into the compost bin a few buckets of (waste) water. My bath water ends up either on the plants or into the compost bins.

And finally, never throw out jam jars. If you are heading for self sufficiency, you will need lots! My colleagues at work also give me empty cava and champagne bottles, useful for making homemade champagne.

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Thursday 24 July 2008

Nip it in the bud

Just spent half an hour on the allotment to water the carrots and parsnips, using last night's bath water (don't waste a good resource!) I also nipped out the growing tips of the broad beans. Don't let them continue growing or else more of the plants energy will go into growing stalks rather than beans. Now was the time to do the nipping - the plants are about a metre high and already have a large set of flowers on them, some with beans already beginning to show.

Radish seeds were planted on Sunday. They have already germinated.

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Wednesday 23 July 2008

Short update

Just back from the allotment with a bag of Swiss chard and 2 gherkins. The latter will be pickled. The chard is for dinner tonight!

Tonight is also a jam making evening - we have a bag of raspberries to use up.

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Sunday 20 July 2008

Down on the Allotment

I made this video to show how far we had got with renovating the allotment, half way through our first full year.

Gooseberries by the kilo

We have had the allotment in the Whinnies, Sunniside since spring 2007. It had not been in use for years and was covered in brambles when we took it on. About a third is now under cultivation and at least one day each weekend is spend there.

Today was no different. I spend much of the afternoon one my hands and knees removing weeds. I am amazed at how quickly they grow and I look enviously across the hedge into the next allotment where no weed ever dares to show a leaf!

One of the other allotments neighbouring ours however is derelict. A friend of ours has took it on at the same time as we took on ours. She has not done anything with it yet but we have offered her what help we can. Though currently completely overgrown, it does have a large gooseberry bush which produces a good crop.

Last year I picked about 15kg of gooseberries to make jam and chutney. Today, in less than an hour, I picked about 5kg. I will go back later in the week to pick more. The aim is to make pies as well as jam and chutneys. I'll have a video about this shortly.