Wednesday, 30 March 2011

March Review

Although it is such an exciting task I haven’t got any violets yet, again none seem to be local but I do know a place further afield if I can get there. I haven’t made bramble root vinegar as I still have a full jar that I made last year at the Herb Sanctuary. The roots are astringent and can be used to help stop diarrhoea. I have been looking at the blackberry/bramble bushes nearby and they have lots of new shoots on branches that look dead but obviously aren’t.
 I have been out sketching my ally, dandelion, and it was a great chance to spend more time with the plants and drawing them means you have to observe the detail. Although I have driven past the odd dandelion in flower there are no flowers in my garden yet but there are tight, dark buds in the centre of some plants. I have also noticed differences in plants, I have some dandelions with dark and very jagged, symmetrical teeth patterns along the leaf edges and others are a little lighter, with only small teeth patterns which are more numerous and asymmetrical. I have not grown dandelions from seed, I hadn’t kept any seeds and could not bring myself to buy any when I seem to have hundreds of plants now taking over the garden. I have looked at the seedlings, they come up with 2 plain oval leaves and then a pair of true leaves grow.
 Last year I took photographs of different stages of dandelion growth and noted how the buds open whilst they are still at ground level in the heart of the plant and afterwards the stem shoots up. This seemed like a good way to survive lawn mowers as the flowers seemed to too low to be trimmed and then shoot up on stalks the next day! This week I have made a dandelion leaf cider vinegar; the leaves contain vitamins and minerals, especially Vitamins A, C and K, and are good sources of calcium, potassium, iron and manganese which the vinegar should extract. Who needs expensive supplements? Just fill the jar with chopped dandelion leaves, top up jar with cider vinegar, podge bubbles away with a chop stick and allow to steep for 3-4 weeks.
Dandelion Cider Vinegar

 This week I have been working with elder although out of season which felt odd. When we were working on coughs I found a recipe that combined 50% wild cherry bark tincture with 50% elderberry glycerite. My cherry bark tincture was made and I purchased some dried elderberries and vegetable glycerine but was not sure I could make a glycerite from dried berries. Well I tried it anyway and found myself with a dark purple, sticky mixture which could be smelt from a couple of rooms away which hubby didn’t like but it tastes good and seems to have absorbed a lot from the elderberries so I am pleased with the results, I just need to complete the final bit of alchemy and combine glycerite with tincture.
Straining elderberries

 We had some lovely sunny weather last week and I remembered that I had elderflower syrup stored away in the freezer; it was just perfect in the sunshine and tasted better than I had remembered.
 I have made an iron tonic as Sarah had suggested as I tend to be a little anaemic and feel a bit run down at present. I finally remembered to buy some apricots, chopped them up and put them in a jar with young nettle tops from my garden. I forgot to look for Madeira wine but had a bottle of Italian table wine I had to use as a substitute. After 2 weeks I shall strain it and have a small glass of this tonic wine each day, I am looking forward to it.
 I am having mixed progress with my seeds, whilst the culinary herbs are shooting up, my medicinal herbs have not germinated yet.
 I spent Saturday at the NEC, Birmingham as my allotment buddy, Debs, was displaying some of her fantastic textile work and came across a lady showing naturally dyed material, amongst which were yellow/orange St John’s Wort and pale yellow Calendula, wool seems to take up the most colour – ideas for the summer are forming!

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