Broad Beans, and what comes after?

BroadBeanDwarf

I don’t really like broad beans.
OK, I don’t really like the beans themselves, but I always grow the plants – they are so pretty with their purple flowers and quick growing habit.
They fix nitrogen into the soil, so I always chop them off an inch above the soil when I do harvest them, rather than disturb the roots by pulling them up. Sometimes, I’m luckier to get a smaller secondary crop later in the season.

I’m already thinking into the future for these beds. Brassicas are the next in the rotation plan – they are nitrogen hungry so use a lot of the nitrogen brought to the top soil by the beans. I love the purple sprouting broccoli, so my seeds were sown into seedtrays inside a few weeks ago, and should be ready to plant out by the time I chop the beans.

So what will I do with the beans this year? I set a facebook challenge to my gardening and cooking friends to find the best broad bean recipes – I need to be convinced!
This is the one I shall be trying out in a few weeks, I’ll report back to let you know if it passes muster.

Broad Bean Hummus

Ingredients
450g/1lb fresh broad beans
100g/3½ oz tinned chickpeas (save 6 tbsp of the liquid from the can)
1 garlic clove, crushed
2 heaped tbsp tahini
1 tbsp lemon juice
½ tsp salt
pinch ground cumin
pinch ground white pepper
pinch caster sugar (optional)
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Cook the podded broad beans in a pan of boiling, salted water for a minute or two, or until tender. Drain and cool in iced water. This makes the next step much easier.

Make a cup of tea, put the radio on and remove the skin from the bright green beans.

Put all the ingredients into a food processor and smoosh until completely combined.

Serve with crackers, carrot sticks or felafels.

Basil Infographic

I’m developing some information charts for herbs in the wellness garden on the Glastonbury site. The plants currently being tended here in Wales, and in Bristol, all have gentle medicinal properties and have been used safely for generations.

I’ve been playing with the infographic site Piktochart, and started with my all time favourite herb – Basil. Reputed to be hard to grow, it’s a herb that I have an affinity with and have grown commercially.

new-piktochart_21911634_e79271d94facaef5563ec2ff293b3ecf0434eeb5

Planting a wellness garden

wellness-garden-1.jpgGarden Plan – Glastonbury Festival Permaculture

I have just returned from the first work weekend on our gardens at Worthy Farm – the home of Europe’s biggest music festival. A dry weekend, with some sun, saw us building the first three planters for our wellness garden.

Designed as a small breathing space in the mayhem, it will be planted up with a variety of herbs that promote physical and mental wellness, with an emphasis on colour, scent and texture.

I’m now working on a set of infographic cards to be displayed with each plant… and have a new  found respect for graphic designers!

Golden Risotto

I got a shock when the dogs came in from their morning ablutions this morning. Big face dog, Bryn, was peppered in snow. I looked up from my bleary eyed coffee machinations, and it was indeed snowing. Great!

it snowed

It snowed

Snow can be a real headache here in Wales. In 2010, my village was snowed in for the best part of two weeks, and we relied on a farmer from a well-known yogurt factory to deliver milk and bread.

Most people that live out in the hills have a well-stocked larder, as winter storms aren’t uncommon. If London had our weather, the media would maybe take climate change more seriously…

So today calls for some real comfort food. A flavoursome risotto, spiced with the saffron threads I diligently collected in the autumn.

Saffron crocuses aren’t hard to grow if you get the soil conditions right. It loves a freescreen-shot-2017-01-22-at-09-18-38 draining site, and can happily get by with low fertility. It must have full sun, especially when they flower in October. I have a small raised bed devoted to them, just a metre square, and for a short period of time they make me dizzy with pleasure. The picking is a delicate, meditative affair, plucking the three stigmas (female sex organs) from each flower.

Did you know…

  • saffron is the most expensive spice in the world?
  • has been cultivated for over 5,000 years?
  • was introduced by the Romans?
  • costs £4,000 per kilo?
  • is almost exclusively harvested by hand?
  • it takes 150 crocuses to produce a gram of saffron (about 500 threads)?

They need to be carefully dried; I have a dehydrator to do this, but a low oven (about 40C) or on a silicone sheet next to a radiator or in an airing cupboard will work too.

So, to the joy of saffron risotto. I love that the Arborio rice used for risotto is grown in Europe- it soothes my locavore sensibilities. Carnaroli, another medium grain rice is grown here too, and makes a much creamier dish.

Saffron Risotto (serves two)

Ingredients:

Small white onion, finely chopped
25g butter or 1 tablespoon oil (nothing too heavily flavoured, a light olive oil will do)
1.25 litres golden stock
200g carnaroli rice
A glass of white wine
50g unsalted butter, diced
50g Parmesan or Grana Padano (for a vegetarian option) cheese, grated

Directions:

Bring the stock to the boil. I make mine with left over veg saved for this: carrot tops, celery leaves, rosemary, shiitake mushrooms, thyme, fennel, onion and the green ends of leek, parsley stalks and a pinch of peppercorns, then add salt at the end to taste.

Strain the stock and add a teaspoon of saffron. Marvel at its golden colour change!

Melt the butter or oil, and soften the onion in a heavy-bottomed saucepan.

Add the carnaroli rice. Turn up the heat, and stir to coat the grains with butter.

When the rice is hot, add a small glass of white wine, and keep stirring until it has evaporated.

Start adding the stock, gradually. Stir in a ladleful at a time, until it has nearly all been absorbed.

The rice begins to soften after about ten minutes. Keep testing it as you add the stock. When the stock is all added and it is cooked to your taste, add the unsalted butter, cheese, and beat it firmly with a wooden spoon, until the risotto is rich and creamy.

Check the seasoning, then serve immediately.

 

After Blue Monday – Grey Tuesday?

It’s already 17th January. The dog is pacing for her second walk of the day, and I know it will be dark in less than two hours. While she forages in the bin for cat food pouches, I lean on my bedroom windowsill looking at the garden in stasis.

Of course, it’s actually teeming with life down there. Microbes, fungi, nematodes, micro-organisms are all cracking on, gently turning the mulch to soil; the discarded stems and leaves delicious food for the invisible.

When we had the very brief cold snap, I lay the Christmas tree over my corn salad Rainy woodlandseedlings to protect them from frost. It’s probably time to rescue them from the pine needles.

Mmm, pine needles. They smell so evocative. A hint of winter, Nordicity and hygge.

Remembering Susun Weed’s words on pine sap, I think I might create her pine needle vinegar.

 

Pine Needle Vinegar

Ingredients

500ml apple cider vinegar*

12” of pine branch, cut into 2” pieces

 

Directions

Place the fresh pine needles into a wide-mouthed jar and add the apple cider vinegar.

Soak for 6 weeks, strain and taste.

 

I’ll report back to you, as this is a new one on me.

*  I started making my own vinegar last year, when I forgot about a batch of kombucha. If it is overfermented, it makes a great and healthy vinegar, and I also use it as a cleaning spray 🙂

A coastal stomp, ending with hot chocolate

The cold has given way to relentless driving rain. I spent the first couple of hours walking the dogs from Ynyslas to Borth and back – if you don’t know this stretch of Welsh coastline I suggest you book a holiday here pronto, it’s heaven. Saw a small flock of shags, heard curlews on the salt marsh and laughed as the collie chased some oystercatchers. Bracing.

sky-315715_1280

Bay tree

There is no way I am spending much time in the garden today, so on the way back from my walk I grabbed a handful of bay leaves from the three year old saplings in the front garden. I dragged them out of the bargain basement bin at B&Q a couple of years ago, and they are serving me proud.

Bay leaves are my go to when I make polenta. However, whisking the cornmeal into a simmering  bay infused milk and water combo is an activity akin to dodging paintball. When those bubbles burst onto your skin, they hurt!

So, no polenta today. The only thing to do after a long beach walk is make hot chocolate. Here goes:

Bay Infused Hot Chocolate

Ingredients
1 mug of milk (soya, dairy or nut, they all work well)
50g cacao or dark chocolate, grated
1tbs cream (optional)
2 fresh bay leaves
Pinch salt

 

Method

Put the grated cacao or chocolate in a heat-proof bowl.

Put the milk and bay leaves in a saucepan, with the bowl on top.

Bring the pan to a simmer, turn off the heat steep for about five minutes.

Remove the bay leaves form the milk, then stir the milk into the bowl containing the now melted chocolate/ cream combo.

Whisk lightly to combine,  add a tiny pinch of salt and serve.

In the Bleak Midwinter…

… I came up with a good idea.

www.freeimages.co.uk

Parsley

Last year, I managed to eat something from my garden pretty much every day (apart from the days when I was away). This year, I want to chart it. I’d really like to try to quantify exactly how much food I have been able to grow/ preserve/ consume myself and make some sort of analysis as to the benefits of home growing.

I have been involved in permaculture design and implementation for the last 18 years, having completed my PDC (Permaculture Design Course) in Brighton back in 1999.

In that time I have managed farms, kept livestock, been a founder member of both Brighton Permaculture Trust and Paramaethu Cymru (Permaculture Wales), lectured and taught on Patrick Whitefield’s Sustainable Land Use course, run a landscaping company Edible Landscapes Ltd and small scale enterprise The Pesto Manifesto, and work with the Zero Carbon Britain team at the Centre for Alternative Technology, as well as raise my three lovely children. In my spare time, I co-ordinate the permaculture areas at the Glastonbury Festival, Green Gathering and Buddhafield.

This year, I’m hoping to join the first tranche of students at the Centre for Alternative Technology on the MSc in Sustainable Food Production and Natural Resources.

Save

Save