Biodynamic Bee-keeping

Biodynamic beekeeping

Here is some vital information I found on the Biodynamic Association website that explains a lot about biodynamic bee-keeping

Like humans, bees are creatures of warmth and maintain a constant temperature in their hive. This warmth helps bees to create wax for their comb, maintain their colony, and keep it healthy. It is also through this warmth that the colony finds its identity, each bee and bee activity integral to the whole. No single part, not even the queen, can be seen as isolated from the whole.

Modern beekeeping – what’s wrong?

As the Natural Beekeeping Trust explains, bees were held sacred in all ancient cultures. Their survival was assured over thousands of years. In the last 150 years this has changed dramatically.

Much of modern beekeeping, like intensive farming, is geared to maximum production, and, like modern agriculture, its husbandry relies on chemical solutions to man-made problems. This invariably results in exploitation, as the essential needs of bees are disregarded.

As the Natural Beekeeping Trust also explains, the systematic exploitation of bees has seen a huge increase in disease. Bees in captivity can suffer from parasitic infections and more than 20 viruses; many of these can infect honeybees and hoverflies. International trading in queen bees has resulted in the importation of exotic diseases. Added to this, the routine suppression of bees’ natural reproduction (by swarming) in favour of artificial breeding, practised for more than a hundred years, has resulted in impoverished bee genetics.

Here is how you can help ! The best way is to start planting relevant plants that attract and keep bees. These are explained in this excellent booklet called  Bees in crisis . 

It is time for us all to do our bit to save these wonderful animals and pollinators for generations to come.

Cooking with herbs – winter rocket

Cooking with herbs – winter rocket

Welcome to the LWTM – ‘Cooking with herbs’ blog series

In this blog series you will find historical information and recipes about the most commonly used kitchen herbs. They do not only add flavour, but they also make a positive impact on our health and well-being. To find out more about other kitchen herbs, please type ‘cooking with herbs’ into the search box.

Winter rocket – barbarea vulgaris winter rocket

This herb grows about 30 to 60cm (12-24 inches) tall and has shiny, dark green leaves. Between April and July  it displays clusters of bright yellow flowers.

This herb shows a particular tolerance to beetles and moth and is the home of choice for many butterfly species. It is often planted on the side of a vegetable patch to encourage pollinators and to make sure the ‘ordinary crop’ is left alone.

Because of the superb flower display, this herb is often sown as a decorative plant and only few know that it is very useful in the kitchen.

How to cultivate it
Winter rocket is easily grown and the leaves are usually harvested before the flowers come out, so up until April. Add these aromatic leaves to your normal salads or steam them with a knob of butter and garlic as a side dish.

In late winter/early spring your body needs vitamins and winter rocket provides you with lot of vitamin C. In fact together with sloe and rosehip, winter rocket is one of the great, home-grown providers of vitamin C. Other health benefits include: blood cleanser and helps to maintain a good functioning digestion.

Here are a few recipes how to use winter rocket

1.  Mixed leaf salad bowl 

Ingredients: A small head of lettuce (chopped), two handfuls of winter rocket, 2 fresh carrots (cut into small pieces), 4 medium sized tomatoes and a few radishes. Wash and cut to size and then put them into a large salad bowl.
For the dressing: 6 tbsp olive oil, 3 tbsp wine or apple vinegar, salt, pepper, 2 glove of garlic and a bunch of parsley. 

Make the dressing in a separate jar and keep it apart. Drizzle the dressing over the salad and mix it in with two folks, so the salad is well-covered in dressing.

Tip: Only use as much salad and dressing as you will eat. If you keep them apart, this salad will keep well for a day or two. If the salad leaves start to wilt, then soak them for an hour in vinegar water (a bowl full of cold water and add a tbsp. of cider of wine vinegar). In an hour, the salad will be crisp again.

2. ‘Pick me up’ – tea 

Boil 3 cups of water and put them into a jug, then add a handful of winter rocket and leave to steep for 10 minutes. Drain the herbs and fill the tea into a thermos flask, sip throughout the tea. This is a great vitamin C booster and will help you with your concentration, so a ‘must try’ for everybody in the need of a natural boost.

 

 

 

Cooking with herbs – dandelion

Cooking with herbs – dandelion

dandelion leavesWelcome to the LWTM – ‘Cooking with herbs’ blog series

In this blog series you will find historical information and recipes about the most commonly used kitchen herbs. They do not only add flavour, but they also make a positive impact on our health and well-being. To find out more about other kitchen herbs, please type ‘cooking with herbs’ into the search box.

Dandelion  – Taraxacum officinale

Dandelions often grow in lawns and that is a reason why most gardeners see dandelions as a garden pest that spoils their perfect lawn. Only a few people know that the dandelion plant is actually a very useful and healthy kitchen herb.

Its name comes from the French ‘dent de lion’ which means ‘lion’s tooth’.  It refers to the shape of the leaves which vaguely resemble lion’s teeth. In the English folklore dandelion  is often referred to as ‘piss a bed’, because it has such a strong diuretic effect. That is the reason why dandelion leaves and teas should be used as part of a successful  weight loss regime. The dandelion tea is blood cleansing, clears the kidney and bladder and ‘make you go to the loo’. The same effect, if a bit milder, is achieved when eating the fresh dandelions leaves, for example as part of a spring/early summer salad.

The golden flowers need to be harvested before they turn to white blooms that disperse in the wind. Then they can be used to make dandelion honey (please see recipe below) and picked when still yellow, it won’t self-seed as much, keep the dandelion population in check.

The dandelion root is  mainly used in form of tinctures for ailments such as gout, rheumatism, as a blood cleanser and for people who suffer from diabetes.

Spring salad bowl:

Take a handful of lettuce, a handful of young spinach leaves, a few leaves of dandelion and mix together with a few cherry tomatoes and slices of cucumber. Then add a few leaves of chopped dandelion leaves. Finally crumble some feta cheese on top and add a dressing of your choice.

My favourite dressing is: 1 tbsp olive oil, 1 tbsp of apple cider vinegar, 1 tsp of dijon mustard and some pressed garlic, add a few drops  of water, mix all together in a jar and add to the salad.

Dandelion honey: 

It is quick and easy to do. Dandelion honey is a good alternative to plain white sugar when it comes to sweeten your tea, breakfast porridge or you can even bake with it. Why not ask your children to make it with you, as they can help you gather the bright yellow flowers.For a couple of jars of dandelion honey you will need:

  •  150/200 dandelion heads, 1 kg of jam sugar or brown sugar, juice of a lemon. A couple of sterilised glass jars. The easiest way is to collect used  jam jars and then boil them in a big pot for a couple of minutes to sterilise them, finally  leave them to dry on a kitchen towel. Ideally do this the morning before filling them, so they are still very clean.
  • Collect the dandelion heads from your garden and  get rid of the green stalks. Then  put the flower into a cooking pot and add about 1 litre of cold water.
  • Cook the dandelion heads briefly until the water reaches boiling point. Then take the pot off the fire and leave to stand for 24 hours.
  • The next day strain the cold mixture through a sieve into another cooking pot. It will leave you with a ‘yellow looking water’. Add about 1 kg of brown sugar (you can also use jam sugar if you don’t want your honey to be runny). Now cook the mixture, whilst occasionally stirring, until it reaches boiling point. Then reduce the flame slightly and cook for another few minutes. At the end, stir in the lemon juice and take off the heat.
  • Fill the hot mixture into the sterilized jars and cover the jars with cling film. Leave the jars open until the mixture has cooled down and the put the lid on over the cling film. When stored in a cool, dark place it will keep for a couple of months.

 

Cooking with herbs – tarragon

Cooking with herbs – tarragon

Welcome to the LWTM – ‘Cooking with herbs’ blog series

In this blog series you will find historical information and recipes about the most commonly used kitchen herbs. They do not only add flavour, but they also make a positive impact on our health and well-being. To find out more about other kitchen herbs, please type ‘cooking with herbs’ into the search box.

Tarragon  – artemisia dracunculas

Tarragon belongs to the Artemisia family, (like dandelion and vermouth) and comes originally from Siberia and the West coast of the US. It grows over 1m tall and has fine green leaves, which are very aromatic and used in the kitchen. 

But tarragon has also medical properties and is  especially helpful for the digestion, kidney and bladder, rheumatism and gout. People used to drink  tarragon water: Boil one litre of water and leave three to four tarragon twigs in the water, then sip this water throughout the day. Its main health properties is to help the digestion, especially with bloating, but also aids with the production of urine and helps with the general elimination process. It is also an antiseptic and can rid the body of worms and parasites.

It was brought to Europe throughout the Middle Ages by the Crusaders who returned from the Middle East. It was used as a treatment for foul breath, toothache and anaemia. The word ‘tarragon’ is believed to come from ‘tarkhun’ which means little dragon in Arabic, as it was used to heal snake bites. Another herbal recipe prescribes chewing tarragon will help with persistent hiccups.

Tarragon In the kitchen:
Its aromatic fresh leaves are used in the French or generally Mediterranean kitchen. Tarragon has an aromatic property reminiscent of anise due to the presence of estragole. Taste to put in conjuction with helpful properties for the digestion make it a favourite kitchen herb and it can be found in sauces, such as sauce Bernaise or as flavouring in mustard, soups, salads and even as tarragon vinegar.

 Sauce Bernaise:
Ingredients: 1 tbsp water, 1 tbsp white wine vinegar, 1/2 small onion (chopped),
I chopped tarragon leaf (keep the stalk), 1 egg yolk, 75g melted butter, salt and pepper to season. 

  • Place the vinegar, water, onion, and tarragon stalk into a small saucepan over a medium heat and simmer, until you have half a tablespoon of liquid remaining. Strain the liquid into a bowl and set aside.
  • Place the egg yolk and tarragon vinegar reduction into a food processor and blend together until light and frothy.
  • With the food processor still running on its slowest speed, add the melted butter, 1 tbsp at a time, until the sauce is thick and smooth. Be careful not to over beat the mixture as it may separate.
  • Stir in the chopped tarragon and season, to taste, with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

this sauce works well with steak and steamed vegetables

Tarragon salad dressing: 

Ingredients: 1 tsp of chopped tarragon, 1 tsp of dijon mustard, 1 tbsp honey, 5 tbsp olive oil, 2 tbsp of wine vinegar, salt & pepper to season.

Mix all these ingredients together in a big salad bowl and then top up with fresh leaf salad mixed with ruccola or raddicio salad. Mix the salad, so the dressing coats lightly all the leaves.

How to make Seville orange marmalade

How to make Seville orange marmalade

Seville marmaladeYou don’t have to be Paddington bear to love home-made marmalade.  I really enjoy it as part of my leisurely week-end breakfast, together with a bagel and a good cup of coffee.

The ‘queen of all marmalades’ is the Seville orange marmalade. Seville oranges are slightly bigger than normal oranges and have an exquisite bitter-sweet taste. The main season for Seville oranges is January/February time. Have a look at the LWTM calendar and look out for the jam jar symbol, as these indicate the best dates to make jams and pickles.

If you prefer a lighter, slightly sweeter taste, then use the Seville marmalade recipe below, but instead of Seville oranges use
a standard variety.  The next question is how much peel should I use. Again, that is a question of taste. Some people add lots of coarsely shredded orange peel, others prefer the peel to be thinly sliced and  then there are marmalades that don’t contain any peel at all.  The beauty of making the marmalade yourself is that  you can choose how thick or thin you want your shredded peel to be. The choice is all yours.

Seville orangesWhere does Seville orange marmalade come from?
At the turn of the 18th century Janet Keiller’s husband, a sailor,  brought some Seville oranges back with him when he returned from a ship voyage from Spain back to his home in Dundee, Scotland. In order to make this precious cargo last longer, Janet decided to make a preserve. The recipe she used was loosely based on ‘marmelo’, a Portuguese quince paste. Her jars proved
to be such a hit that it formed the basis of the Keiller marmalade factory, founded in Dundee in 1797.

Some marmalades leave the peel off, others include it in shredded or thinly minced form. Below you will find the Scottish version with the peel added. This recipes produces around 1.3kg (3lb) of marmalade.

Ingredients: 900g (2lb) Seville oranges (best unwaxed or organic), 1.4l (2 ½ pints) water, 900g (2lb) caster sugar, juice of 2 lemons

1)      Wash and scrub the oranges well and put them whole into a clean pan. Add the water and slowly boil the oranges for around 90 minutes. Then take the boiled oranges out and keep the water.

2)      Carefully peel these oranges and then cut, shred or mince the peel into small strips.

3)      Peel the pith from the oranges and discard it. Then take out the pips and put them into a small muslin bag.

4)      Cut the peeled oranges into halves and then slice each half into thin slices. Finally put the orange slice, minced peel and the muslin bag containing the pips into the orange water. Bring the mixture to the boil and simmer for another 5 minutes. Then take out the muslin bag and discard it.

5)      Take the pan off the heat and stir in the lemon juice and sugar. Keep stirring until the sugar has completely dissolved.

6)      Then put the pan back on the stove and bring it again to the boil. Do this quickly and once it bubbles, take it off the stove and fill it into sterilised glasses. Cover with cling film and let the marmalade cool down.

 

Cooking with herbs – Savory

Welcome to the LWTM – ‘Cooking with herbs’ blog seriessavory

In this blog series you will find historical information and recipes about the most commonly used kitchen herbs. They do not only add flavour, but they also make a positive impact on our health and well-being. To find out more about other kitchen herbs, please type ‘cooking with herbs’ into the search box.

Savory – satureja hortensis

Savory is native to the Mediterranean, where it is commonly referred to as the bean herb as it gives bean dishes a distinctive flavour and also helps prevent flatulence when eating beans. Crushing the fresh herb and putting it on fresh bee stings can help with the swelling.  You can use both the fresh and dried herb.

Savory tea is excellent to clear a spotty, teenage skin
Use 1 tbsp of the fresh herb and add 250ml boiling water. Leave to steep for 10 minutes and then pour into a bowl, add cold water until the temperature is warm, but not boiling hot. Soak a clean flannel and apply to the face, leave until it has cooled down and repeat a few times. Then use a good peeling face mask and finish up with a healing day cream (you can also use nappy rash cream in small amounts, especially when the spots are very sore).

The same tea as above can also help with a chesty cough. In this case gargle the tea and spit it out again.

In the kitchen 

Savory with its peppery, aromatic taste is used for lamb dishes, hearty stews and of course it must not be missing from a bean casserole or any other cooked bean dish. Could it be the phrase ‘savoury dishes’ comes from this herb?

Here are a few recipes:

1.  Tuscan Bean soup
A wholesome soup for the winter,  serves 6

12 oz/350g dried canneloni beans, soaked overnight (or tinned), 4 ripe, well flavoured tomatoes (or use tinned), 2 sticks of celery, 2 carrots, 2 leeks,
11 oz/300g kale (chopped), 2 cloves garlic, handful of winter savory, 2 sprigs fresh thyme. 6-8 tbsp olive oil, salt and pepper

To serve:
6 slices of stale country bread (2-3 days old),  7 oz/200g savoy cabbage, red onion and olive oil

  • Pour off the water in which the beans have been soaking, place them in a large saucepan and cover with fresh water to a depth of 2″ above the beans. Bring to the boil and boil hard for 10 minutes, drain. Cover the beans with fresh water and add a small handful of fresh savory. Bring the water back up to boiling point then reduce the heat and simmer for approx 1½ hours until the beans are tender but still whole.
  • If you use tinned beans then use the recipe from here.
  • Drain the beans and pass three-quarters of them through a sieve into a bowl with 2 pints (1.2 litres)of fresh water. Reserve the rest of the beans separately.
  • Finely chop the carrots, celery and leeks. Heat the oil in a large saucepan and cook the vegetables until soft. Meanwhile peel, de-seed and chop the tomatoes then add them to the vegetables along with the garlic and thyme. After 5 minutes add the cabbage, salt and pepper and cook for a further 10 minutes before adding the bean puree. Cook slowly for an hour adding tepid water if the soup becomes too solid, although it should be a very thick soup.
  • About 5-10 minutes before the end of the cooking stir in the whole beans to heat them through. Finely chop the Savoy cabbage and sauté in a little oil. Serve the soup ladled over a slice of bread and topped with cooked cabbage. Offer finely sliced red onions and olive oil at the table.

2. Beans with savory and bacon
This is probably one of the easiest and tastiest recipes there is.

You will need:

400g canelloni beans (tinned is best here, as you can use the juice) 
150g of smoked bacon (vary how meaty you want this dish, vegetarians can replace it with chopped red pepper instead), 1 large onion, 1 tbsp oil, 1 tbsp smoked paprika, 1 tsp chopped savory, salt and pepper to season.

  • Chop the onion finely and brown in 1 tbsp of olive/cooking oil. Add the paprika seasoning to it, so it turns the onions slightly reddish.
  • Add the chopped bacon until brown and finally add the 2 cans of beans with the juice (canelloni preferred, but really any beans will do), chopped savory and cook covered on a low flame for 15 minutes, finally season with salt and pepper and serve with fresh sourdough bread and butter.

Word of Advice: Always cook beans with savory, as they soak up its flavour, but never add salt or pepper during the cooking process, always add at the end as particularly salt prevents the beans from softening. This is especially important when you cook raw (rather than tinned) beans.