Get more from your shop…

This week we held a workshop for students about how you can get a little more from supermarket food and scraps; this provoked so much interest from staff and volunteers that I decided to write a blog detailing the workshop.

The aim of a shop is to sell things, and preferably to come back and rebuy those things again and again; while we can’t avoid supermarkets to buy our food, we can win a few little victories. For example, take herb pots. Has anyone ever managed to keep a pot of basil for more than two weeks before it dies? I certainly haven’t, and the reason is that they are designed to die on our windowsills. Each stalk in the pot is a separate plant and once these plants begin to get bigger the small pots can’t possibly sustain them, so they starve. Instead, why not divide the pot and then pot up a few individual plants to grow on; this could give you up to a dozen basil plants that will last you ten times longer than two weeks; This goes for most of the herb pots and is also effective by dividing them into smaller clumps. (more…)

Parasites of the plant world

A model of Rafflesia in our Sub-Tropical zone.

The plant world is vast, so many habitats and landscapes colonised, synching with weather patterns and animal habits to reproduce and feed from light, water and soil to stay alive. All the while, in all these biomes, there exist plants that live on other plants; extracting the hard-earned food for themselves. (more…)

The middle of the night.

Christmas time and midwinter, originally a celebration of reaching the darkest day of the year; well done everyone! After 22nd December the days slowly begin to lengthen and we start the journey towards spring; of course, the winter solstice isn’t the middle of winter in the same way that midnight isn’t really the middle of the night (unless you get up at four in the morning!), lighter days feel a long way away at the moment. I can only imagine in days gone by the huddling around fires and candles during these weeks, slowly working through food stores while the days shrunk towards the solstice. (more…)

The Medlar

By Susan Stephens

As autumn approaches winter, the flamboyant colours of the flowers in the garden recede and the fiery colours of the leaves together with the black, white, red, purple and yellow of berries and fruits come to the fore.

The Medlar (Mespilus germanica) is a small tree overlooking the pool below the terrace and at this time of year is covered in small golden fruits. The appearance of the fruit has led to it being likened to a dog’s bottom or the ruder French version ‘cul de chien’! Despite its name the Medlar is endemic to Persia (Iran), South East Asia and South West Europe and not Germany. The Romans and Greeks are thought to have grown Medlars and brought them to Britain and it is believed that they have been in cultivation for longer than 3,000 years. The fruit was a delicacy in Britain in Medieval times and a winter treat before sugar was discovered, as well as an important source of Vitamin C when very few other fruits would have been available. The Medlar’s popularity declined in the Victorian era as other fruits became more popular. (more…)