HUMBLE WINTER VEGETABLES TELL A STORY

Kale, or to use its botanical name Brassica oleracea L. var. acephala, belongs to the Brassicaceae family. It is considered closest to the wild brassica plants. Wandering Celtic tribes most probably brought knowledge of its use to Northern Europe from the Mediterranean regions where it was cultivated even before the middle ages or long before that. These days it is a popular autumn and winter vegetable for the kitchen garden. It grows easy and is a pick and come back plant, it does not crop and leaves can be taken as needed. The Kale plant is full of vitamins, minerals like calcium or potassium, and it is said to be very beneficial, all though people with certain medical conditions should only eat it in moderation. Kale is also high in oxalic acid but that can be reduced during cooking.

A traditional dish in Ireland is called ‘Colcannon’, it is a mixture of mashed potatoes and kale. At Halloween it is served with sausages. I cannot remember ever having had kale in Belgium, not the present day kale as we know it here, but we did have ‘boerenkoolstampot’, this was a dish made using a very large dark green type of curly cabbage which was used in a similar way to Colcannon. It was mixed with mashed potatoes and served with fried bacon or worst. It was consumed when it was very cold. I remember seeing these dark green cabbages in our garden, covered in snow.

Beat leaf, or chard as it is known (Beta vulgaris) is a plant belonging to the family Amaranthaceae. I find that interesting, to think that chard belongs to the same family as the Amaranth. It is also full of vitamins and minerals, Iron being one of them. Chard was already grown 2500 years ago in the Middle East and spread from there all over the Europe and America. Again Chard is said to be high in Oxalate, the older leaves having a higher content than the younger leaves.

This season I have grown a Russian red kale, but decades ago we used to grow curly kale and ate from it all winter long. I’m also growing swiss chard in smaller numbers (only three plants).

This type of kale grew extremely well and so easily. It took very little attention or looking after. At some stage during the summer though I had to take off many caterpillars, and they did eat a good bit of the leaves but I had grown extra plants just for that reason.

Kale and chard is not only easy to grow, it’s very easy to cook and delicious too. Full of vitamins and minerals and adds a lovely fresh dimension to any dish. Today I made meatballs and mashed potatoes to go with this great greenery, it was a success with Ian. While washing these greens I had to rescue two earwigs and three shield bugs! Thank goodness I discovered those before cooking! They continue to live happily in the garden 🙂

“I’M SO GLAD I LIVE IN A WORLD WHERE THERE ARE OCTOBERS” L. M. Montgomery,

It was a mellow October afternoon and I decided to plant out some spinach seedlings which I still had growing in a pot. I had a wander through the rest of the garden and saw that there is actually quite a lot of winter produce doing well, and it pleased me. I also saw how beautiful everything looked, the colours, the autumn shades which are wonderful. An October sun illuminated everything. It was a perfect afternoon.
Glorious colours of the hydrangea even after the summer.
Pleasure can be gained both from tending to the garden and growing some things, or from just having a wander around.

Enjoy a lovely weekend everyone, and I would love to hear about your autumn garden too.

AN AUTUMN DRIVE IN OUR NEIGHBORHOOD

A week or so ago we took a drive along the road taking us over Lick Hill and further along towards Ballyalla lake and Trabano Cove. It was a pleasant drive and it was something that I wanted to do for a while, mainly because it’s rather trilling to know that the Atlantic Ocean lies a little way beyond this hill.

A few kilometres further we reached Trabano Cove, to the right we could see Bullock island which lies at the entrance where Loch Ine enters the ocean via the rapids. Loch Ine is a Marine Nature Reserve.
People enjoying the kayaking or swimming in the cove.
The young people set off on a kayak spin towards Loch Ine.

I have been looking up more information on the hills surrounding the town of Skibbereen. I found some interesting facts about Lick Hill but that is for another blog post, I will do a bit more work on this. While it is recommended that we travel no further than 5km from our homes for the next six weeks, I am taking even more interest in my immediate surroundings. Might as well.

FURTHER RESTRICTIONS….BUT MEANWHILE

Dandelion coffee

Yes we are all experiencing more restrictions because of a recent increase in covid cases. We find ourselves living in quite a changed world these days, but the most important thing now I think is to look after our mental health, and the mental health of our loved ones and of the wider community if we can help in any way. Staying positive and finding things of interest to do where we don’t have to travel, as even taking a journey to other areas of Ireland is now not possible. And this is something that requires some pondering over, and adjusting to, for many of us.

So far for us personally it has not caused a problem as it seems we don’t get time enough to do all the things we want to do. Ian has started on his book again and bought some new software to help him understand more about writing using characters, personalities and settings. It is complicated and hugely interesting he says, and he is busy with it all day. His book is progressing well and he’s enjoying himself.

Last year I let our garden do mostly its own thing. No wild plants got pulled up and it all ended in a delightful wilderness. It also ended up in quite a bit of work and in a huge pile of compostable plant material. I decided to keep a little more order in the garden this year and have been pleased that I am finding quite a number of wild plants still growing which I am now learning about. Plants like plantain, cleavers, nettles, mullein, evening primrose, borage, dandelion for example, are all there for the picking. I find it such a luxury, and it makes it easy for me getting material for my herbal course. We study the plants in detail, having to draw the different parts of the plant which makes us more familiar with the whole structure, including roots and seeds. A very absorbing activity it is.

So that is one small part of our lives here in West Cork. I hope that wherever you are, all my dear readers and friends that you are well and that you stay well.

Blessings

Oh and I enjoyed that cup of dandelion coffee very much indeed 🙂

A HOUSE FULL OF HERBS

Just lately it’s all been about herbs, harvesting them from the garden, drying them, putting them in oil, making powder and so fort. It has been a busy but rewarding time. I’ve learnt a lot more about Dandelion plants and this means that the Dandelion is now been promoted to a primary plant in our garden. Luckily we have a lot of them as I’ve always been reluctant to pull them up from among the other vegetables. Now they have gained a firm status of valuable nutritional source. So far I have dried roots and leaves. The roots are for tea and the leaves are for either a soak in water overnight making a cool drink, or to be grinded into powder to add a touch to soups. I am looking forward to spring when I will use some of the flowers when baking biscuits, only some though as they are earmarked mainly as food for the bees. Nettles are another good source of minerals and they have been growing so well this past summer in our garden. I’ve harvested many and again grinded some into powder for the soups and will use the leaves for a green drink.

Dandelion leaves
Sometimes I hang my herbs, but mostly now I dry them in the oven with the pilot light on and the oven door a little ajar.

Just recently I had bought the long desired book by Rosalee De La Foret: ‘Alchemy of Herbs’, and I am finding it a brilliant work. So much information, and beautiful photography too. As well as this book I have once again signed on to Herb mentor from Learning Herbs, it’s an amazing informative website and course, a hands on type of learning which is great fun as well as being very interesting. (It’s online; https://learningherbs.com/herbmentor/)

A start in making use of Dandelions in different ways.
I’ve got two different types of Oregano and they grow so very well. There is the variegated Mediterranean type with white flowers, so loved by the bees, and the all green regular one with the pink flowers, which this one is. A lovely herb.

All these herbs are humble plants, many of them are even considered to be weeds by some people. I’m so very grateful that they come growing in my garden. Some, like the Yarrow, plantain and violets grow in the boreen close to where we live. On my walks I always keep an eye out for useful wild plants in case I should ever need them, then I know where to find them.

We may be very thankful for the wealth of wild plants and herbs in our gardens.

A SINGULAR BEAUTY

This is a flower of one of the hypericums and it came growing in our front garden sharing a tub with another shrub. I only discovered it a few days ago and it’s made me very happy because I thought that this plant, which I used to grow many years ago, had totally disappeared from our garden. My flower identification app tells me that it is hypericum perforatum. A first I could not see the little perforations in the leaves and there was no reddish juice to be seen when I crushed a leaf. So there was a question of whether the identification was right. But when I enlarged my photos of the leaves I could clearly see the little perforations, so yes I agree that it is H.perforatum. Decades ago I used to make hypericum oil and we used to use it for nerve pain in the legs, the hypericum would colour the oil slightly red. I love this little plant and I think that it will turn out to be very useful.
Its leaves.

LATE SUMMER COLOURS

In the hedgerows the colours of the heathers and other wild flowers are adding spice to the landscape.
Finally my Mexican Tarragon is flowering. The leaves are very fragrant and it’s a lovely plant.
A collage of the colours of our garden at present, and a late small tortoiseshell butterfly.

A LATE SUMMER EVENING SKY

When summer gathers up her robes of glory, And, like a dream, glides away.     
Sarah Helen Whitman

I took a walk this evening and felt a real bit of a chill in the air, but it was still lovely and the breeze was actually refreshing after I spent the day painting inside. And I did find some time to check a few herbs in the garden. I also include a couple of photos from a few days ago. I’m busy with my new herb course. I am also learning more about the wild plants that come growing into the garden, at this time of year the woundwort is still in full bloom and much desired by the bumblebees, lots of them. The flower bud on my ginger plant has not changed for the past two weeks, I wonder if it will reach actual flowering but I fear not as already there is not enough sunshine and we are slowly heading into the fall season.

Stachys palustris – Marsh Woundwort
Tagetes Lucida, Mexican marigold ~ I think.
Our endive plants are flowering, a lovely blue display.

ON A HUMID SUNDAY AFTERNOON

“To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower,
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour.”
― William Blake, Auguries of Innocence

There is a light breeze gently moving the tops of the trees, but otherwise it is very quiet on this restful day. West Cork has seen warmer than usual weather recently, though the last two days we have also seen very much rain. The humidity is high of course and I quite like that. You go outside in the garden and the scents and colours are intense, everything is fresh from the rain and the heat makes it almost feel as if steam is rising from all the plants and foliage. The garden is very lush at this time and I counted very many bees, hoverflies and some butterflies while I was out earlier. Autumn is actually not far off and the garden spiders are busy. Some of the decorative trees are already shedding their leaves. The hawthorn and the chestnut tree are beginning to look a lot like autumn too. The ‘turning of the seasons’ is starting to happen.

Ian is back home, his troubles are not over yet but he is slowly feeling better. It’s great to have him home, he’s my soulmate and the best of companions.