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Identify my plant dot com (2)

11 Jul

This one seems to be growing and self-seeding very merrily around my herbs. I don’t know whether it is useful or should be obliterated (weeded)? The closest guess using a book is that it is Mugwort but I don’t know for sure. It smells quite nice. Is it good or safe to eat? Is it good for the herbs around it? MMmmm…..

On a different note, I’ve just seen rainbow number 10 of the week!




Identify my plant dot com (1)

11 Jul

What with all this rain we’ve been getting here, the weeds have been having a rum old son and dance. I thought it was high time I went out into the garden again and did some weeding, and so to the devil with the rain! It’s a tiresome process I can tell you, the little bleeders just pop up again when you turn your back. If only my vegetables did the same, I thought. One thought quickly led to another and it came to mind that I could just leave them if they were edible, and munch them at a later date rather than bother pulling them up and getting my fingernails dirty.

One small problem though…confidence! How would I know if it could poison me or not…. Put it on the blog and ask, why not? came the reply.

With that in mind, if anyone could shed any light on this I’d be grateful because I want to eat it!


Can I eat it?

It’s certainly doing better than my spinach. I have done some research and think it may be Good King Henry or something called Fat Hen.


10 May

Dandelions get bad press in my opinion, unwanted in gardens and dismissed as ‘just weeds’ by heathens out there but they are so much more. They are a lovely plant. Striking flowers and dreamy fluffy seeds.

Dandelion Frootz

Not only do they look nice but they have many uses. They can be medicinal. They are good for digestion and the liver and kidneys. They are a diuretic and are also known as piss-a-bed, presumably for that very reason! Liquid obtained from boiling the roots and leaves in water can be used as a cleansing wash.

It can be used as a dye for clothes.

They are edible. The young leaves can be put into salads or cooked in butter. The flowers are used to make dandelion wine. Dandelion and Burdock is a classic country drink in this country, a kind of root beer not to be confused with some of the horrible industrially produced versions in supermarkets. Brewers also put them into more modern beers. In addition, the roots can also be roasted and made into a caffeine-free coffee. Need I say more?!

Anyway, I don’t think I can be bothered to do any of the above for the time being so I’ll make do with some photos of them. Far less time-consuming.

Fluffy Clouds n ting

Admittedly this one is rubbish but all of the essential parts apart from the root can be seen!!!

Spring = Free Food

27 Mar

In my back garden, French Tarragon grows and regrows in a raised bed that we call ‘Death Row’. Everything else seems to die there. It’s a classic herb and needs no attention whatsoever and I can pick it from now until November. You can’t say fairer than that.

Death Row Cell 1

A couple of years ago, I remember picking bags and bags of blackberries from outside Collier’s Wood Sainsbury’s while inside they were selling tiny little punnets at £3+ each. What was that about? OK that wasn’t spring but when I was picking I also noticed quite a bit of wild rocket still growing. I mention this because they are now happily spreading their seed around my garden. The bees love them, the other half loves them and I especially like the flowers put onto my salads, like nutty peppery sweets (which aren’t sweet!!??”!)

Rocket Flowers

Oak Leaf Lunacy – A Brief Flirtation with Wine !!

22 Mar

Sometimes the urge to make things just overtakes you so it was inevitable that once I’d conquered making elderflower champagne and ginger beer I’d move on to the hard stuff. The bloke in the homebrew shop warned me as much. The bloke in the homebrew shop also warned me not to drink my elderflower champagne with vodka because my veins would swell up carrying the vodka to my brain like a shinkansen and leaving me senseless in minutes. I sometimes wonder what working in a homebrew shop all day does to a man.

My original idea was to make cider but since it was June that wasn’t on the cards. I’d bought the gospel according to C.J.J. Berry (renowned winemaking guru – deceased) and was flicking through to see what I could do to fill the empty hours of my life. Pansy wine sounded a bit homophobic, gooseberry wine sounded a bit expensive and parsley wine just sounded  plain ridiculous. Oak leaf wine on the other hand sounded like the most obvious thing in the world and why hadn’t I thought of that before, shouldn’t we all be drinking that every weekend? Shouldn’t we..? Surely we should.

So, off I strode off down to the River Wandle, a river which joins the Thames at Wandsworth near the site of the old Young’s Brewery, to look for some nice English Oaks. Young leaves I was told, so they are heavy in bitter tannins. I found a tree easily enough and spent a good 13 and a half minutes picking some very sticky young oak leaves and bagging them up to take home. Young children, stopped their games to watch and very soon I had a captive audience. Soon after that, I had a number of mums shooing them away from that odd fellow standing under a tree with a plastic bag. Perhaps this wasn’t the norm round those parts.

I made my sticky exit and got down to the business of making me wine. 4.5 litres of leaves were covered in a boiled up syrup of 4.5 litres of water and 1.5 kilos of sugar (I can hardly even look at that these days) and they were infused overnight before being strained into a demijohn and 10g citric acid and yeast added.  This was to be racked into new demijohns when it cleared and once more two months later.

The problem with making wines is that while watching fermentation in action in a jar is quite sexy, the novelty soon wears off and you have to wait for ages before you’re on to the next stage, and far longer before you can actually drink anything. These steps can easily be forgotten. I won’t say that I forgot about it but I wasn’t quite as attentive as I could have been. Nevertheless, when I racked it first time I tasted it and, lo and behold, it tasted like wine. Very sweet but it did taste like wine, a white wine obviously. I left it to continue its fermentation re-racked it at some point before bottling it and having been told that it is at its best the following summer after picking, left it in my garage for 2 years.

Now that last bit is a bit of a fib, as me and me mate Bob did get round to opening one bottle a lot earlier, but having had a couple of bottles of Rochefort 10 beforehand not to mention other miscellaneous brews and most likely a load of smoked sausages too, we weren’t really in a position to judge it. Despite this, we did judge it. Something along the lines of:

‘Bloody Hell! This tastes like wine.’

‘It does, you’re right, it tastes like wine.’

‘I can’t believe it tastes like wine.’

Nor can I. But it does taste like wine, doesn’t it?.’

‘Yeah..’    etcetera etcetera etcetera

The funny thing is I don’t like wine that much and would never buy a bottle of my own. However, I am fascinated that you can make something like this with just leaves! All hail the leaf is what I say! Anyway, the other day I decided that the time had come to put the wine out of its misery by attempting to drink some of it.

So what happened? When it came down to it had I produced some magical liquid from one of mother nature’s most iconic trees? Could I hold my head up and proudly offer it to friends as presents at Christmas time? Would I be taking it to the Dragon’s Den next year in the hope of getting the humiliating capital I needed to start full-scale production?

I opened it to a little tshh sound and then the bubbles started to tease their way up the bottle. I had forgotten it was sparkling, I hadn’t wanted to add any impurities to stop the fermentation. It poured lovely and clear, but as a white wine I suppose that was a given. The bubbles rose with more force and I began to pour into a 1/3 of pint glass. It had a little head and I reminded myself how I didn’t really like champagne. Still, this was mine and I wanted to love it.  I readied myself, picked it up, told myself I’d drunk worse things in Nam and took a mouthful. So what was the verdict? Well the wine was……. quite drinkable. The End.

I don’t really do tasting notes. Suffice to say the Dragons can keep their cash.

Wild Garlic Monster

19 Mar

If you manage to get out and about at this time of year you may notice the exceptional smell of garlic around. Wild garlic, also known as Ramsons, grows in abundance and is very nice. You can cut the leaves and there is always so much of the stuff together that you needn’t worry too much about stripping the land. This is my understanding so correct me if I’m wrong here.

I collected a lot of this in Surrey and Devon last year but perhaps a little too much to use in time. Fortunately, here is an easy recipe from to enable you to preserve some of your harvest should you get carried away, which I almost inevitably will, being the garlic monster that I am.

Check out some Yahoo images.