Did you guess right? #Photo challenge

Thanks to those who made guesses yesterday on this strange close up shot for my #wordlesswednesday post. It was inspired by my brilliant camera phone that has been wowing me with its macro abilities.

I asked who can guess what this is?

DSC_0382 (4)

I had some great guesses and the answer is…

It

started

as

this…

2016-07-05 12.40.16

And with a little help from one of these busy little fellows…

P1150434 (5)

It became this…

2016-07-19 11.11.43

Nothing tastes quite as good as home grown cucumber, but watch out for those prickles! Seeing them close up for the first time really did freak me out. They remind me of the sting on a wasps bottom, and I don’t want to be on the receiving end of one of those again!

Thanks for all your guesses, and of course congratulations to those of you who got it right. Hope you’ve enjoyed this bit of fun. I’ll be posting some more veg inspired pictures next week.

 

 

Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge: Single flower or bud – Echinacea #photo

This is my first time of joining in Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge. When I saw the single flower challenge I thought of this little gem. It is an Echinacea – Cone Flower, taken at the wonderful Lost Gardens of Heligan in Cornwall, UK.

P1100987 (2)

 

untitled (4)

#AtoZchallenge F – Foraging

I love learning about nature’s bounty and the medicinal properties of herbs and plants. In 2015 I went on a one day Wild Food Workshop at Painshill Park in Surrey. It was a freezing Sunday, early in April, but walking around the beautiful landscape made up for the cold. (Pictures below taken June 2008. It’s a beautiful place, well worth visiting.)

P1040991P1050011

Our guide was very knowledgeable and had us sampling roots, leaves and flowers as we walked around. I never realised you could eat very young beech leaves (they have a very interesting flavour) and young primrose flowers and leaves (an acquired taste). Or that the very tips of the brambles sometimes taste like blackberries – I wasn’t brave enough to try them though. Neither was I brave enough to eat a rolled up, fresh nettle. I did try a nettle cooked over the fire, but it tasted like eating a cigarette.

We collected a bounty of plants and were shown how to prepare, cook and make infusions with them. I wish I could have photographed and written about every single plant.

Foraging better pic

Foraging better pic

Foraging

Here is a list of some of the plants we sampled and how they were prepared.

Teas (infused with hot water and left to steep).

Pine needles.

Yarrow

Ground Ivy

Water mint

Dandelion (makes a coffee substitute if you dry the root out)

 

Fried over an open fire.

Wild garlic or Ramsoms – delicious fried in butter.

Cleavers, also known as sticky willy (my kids love this name) and goosegrass – use the young plant before it flowers, fried in butter. It didn’t taste of much.

Celandine root – tasted ok.

Plantain root – tasted ok.

Burdock root – fried in oil but not that great. Can also eat the root raw.

Cat tails (Reeds) – can’t remember tasting it (but it is prominent in my pictures)

Our guide also made a simple bread and added Woodhaven – very tasty.

 

Plants you can eat.

Thistle all edible, just cut the spines off the leaves. (Don’try it without checking, my notes aren’t that clear after shivering all day!)

Dandelion – can use the whole plant and root.

Lady smock, cuckoo flower – the flowers and leaves are very peppery.

Violet – think you can eat it all.

Plantain – can eat roots, leaves and the seeds can make a cake.

Red dead nettle & white dead nettle

Wild garlic – eat root, bulbs, leaves and flowers.

 

Misc.

Stinging nettles are a super food. It contains Vit C & A and protein, but I’ll be leaving them to the butterflies.

We must all remember as children putting dock leaves on stringing nettle stings. My kids used to call it Doctor Leaf and were adamant it was a miracle cure. But apparently the best cure for stings is plantain.

We also made a soapy mix from crushed conker leaves and water.

 

Despite all I learnt, I’m not sure I’d put the tasting into practice without a guide. Nature has a nasty way of tricking you. If you get the identifying wrong, it could be the last thing you do.

Poisonous plants.

Dogs Mercury – looks like Ground Elder

Hemlock – (looks like cow parsley which is edible) Hemlock is one of the top 5 most poisonous plants. 50% of people who eat it die.

Yew berries – just a few can kill a child.

Elder – Only edible parts are the berries and the flowers.

***

I collect reference books. I love Ray Mears Wild Food and James Wong’s Grow your Own Drugs. I’m gathering quite a collection of books on herbs and even tree medicine. I find the whole idea fascinating, and love how our ancestors learned to do so much with plants.

P1160438

I’ll use any excuse to dip into these book and learn something new to put into my novels. I even have a wicca woman who opens an apothecary shop in one of my future books. She wasn’t supposed to be a main character, but as my love of foraging has grown, so she has started to take over and I really can’t wait to tell her story.

We can all try the most basic of foraging in hedgerows with things like blackberries and elderberries. It’s a great excuse to get outside and I love getting the kids involved. Not only on the collecting but in the cooking and the eating!

Give it a go this spring and summer. I’d love to know your results.

***

Tomorrow I’ll be sharing a Gluten free recipe.

Links to previous AtoZ challenge posts here

#AtoZChallenge D – Dried flowers, Drying Rosemary & ‘Dear Rosemary’

Dried Flowers

I remember putting flowers in books as a child to press them. It was always fun to discover them months later, perfectly preserved.

Last year a visit to Kew Gardens and its beautiful galleries (Marianne North Gallery and the Shirley Sherwood Gallery of Botanical Art) reminded me of this childhood hobby. I decided it would be something fun to do with the children and bought a flower pressing kit.

P1150911

In spring 2015 we chose a dry afternoon to pick some flowers to press. It must have been early May because flowers like the honey suckle are no where to be seen in early April. A few months later we made bookmarks and key rings with the dried flowers. It was fun, apart from the children arguing who should have what flowers.

P1160442

The results have faded over time, but I decided to try again. There’s not much choice in the garden at present. All we could find were plum blossom, rosemary flowers and a few tiny pink heather flowers. We’ve put them in the press and just need to remember to tightened it every now and then. We can also add more layers as the flowers bloom in the garden.

 

P1160204P1160437

Flower pressing can be a fun project as long as you remember to collect several of each flower so there are no arguments! The smaller and thinner the petals, the better they will be preserved. Big fleshy blooms don’t press well, and be careful of your colour choice. We chose a vibrant red bell flower which as you can see from the picture of the bookmark above has turned a horrible shade of brown. Stick to paler colours.

Drying Rosemary

P1160454

Rosemary is my favourite herb. I love the tiny delicate blue flowers and the contrast against its dark green foliage. I can’t resist stroking my hand across the plants whenever I see them and releasing that pungent aroma. The name Rosemary holds memories from childhood as I had a pink toy rabbit I named Rosemary. And its also the title of one of my all time favourite Foo Fighter song from their brilliant album, Wasting Light Dear Rosemary (this is the first time I’ve seen their video and its a little weird, but that’s what I expect from the Foo’s).

I’ve never used my rosemary plants, so I decided it was time to try something new. I researched different methods of drying these woody herbs and chose to air dry rather than in the oven. I’ve yet to find a proper hanging space, but for now above my desk will do perfectly. It’s out of direct sunlight and I can enjoy looking at as I listen to the Foo Fighters.

Once the plant has dried, I’ll have to research how to use it. I can’t let this beauty go to waste.

***

Tomorrow it’s back to writing and some editing tips.

Click here for a list of previous posts.