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

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.

 

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.

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