Collecting Mustard Seeds

I was making curry for my birthday on Saturday (hello 22!) when I realised, to my horror I had forgotten to buy more mustard seeds from Sainsbury’s and we were all out ūüė¶ But heh, never mind. Then mum got really excited and vanished off to the garden to pick some lettuce and returned with a bowl of mustard seeds she had harvested from the vegetable patch, aka the weeds I am always trying to get rid of.

Now, the two irritating weeds that flourish in my garden despite my best efforts (apart from nettles that just pop up everywhere from the manure we use, that I am at war with constantly after one stung me on the face last week and made me feel like a fool!), the most common to find are a) goosegrass, and b) mustard.

This year it has been even harder to keep the weeds under control after being absent for only a couple of months and it is harder to pull up the mustard when it starts flowering and your mum wants to keep it because the bees like it…

But we tried frying the mustard seeds in the curry, and I tried a fried one on its own, and it was really good! So I’ve started putting the unwanted weeds to good use and I am harvesting mustard seeds to store. I felt like a bit of an idiot for buying them for so long when they have been flourishing in my garden for years!

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It is really easy to harvest them. When the seed pods have formed and are dried out so that they are brown and crispy, like paper bags, get a pair of scissors and snip off the pods (or stems with the pods on, the pods are very delicate and will break easily and spill the seeds everywhere) into a container. Open each pod and empty the little mustard seeds into a container for storing, it is that simple!

We bought brown coloured mustard seeds from the shops, but our homegrown ones are black which are the variety my mum has tried to buy for so long to make curries. Apparently, they come from one of three different plants: black mustard (Brassica nigra), brown Indian mustard (Brassica junga), or white mustard (Brassica hirta/Sinapis alba).

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Grinding and mixing the seeds with water and vinegar creates the yellow condiment of prepared mustard.

An archaic name for the seed is¬†eye of newt. Often misunderstood for an actual eye of a newt¬†this name has been popularly associated with witchcraft¬†ever since it was mentioned as an ingredient to a witch’s brew in Shakespeare’s Macbeth.

These mustard seeds are known in Hindi, Urdu, and Punjabi as sarson. They are also planted to grow saag (greens) which are stir-fried and eaten as a vegetable preparation, called sarson ka saag in Urdu and Hindi. Sarson ka tel (mustard oil) is used for body massage during extreme winters, as it is assumed to keep the body warm.

Mustard seeds generally take eight to ten days to germinate. They can handle a cold atmosphere and relatively moist soil. Mature mustard plants grow into shrubs.

Mustard grows well in temperate regions. Major producers of mustard seeds include India, Pakistan, Canada, Nepal, Hungary, Great Britain and the United States. Brown and black mustard seeds return higher yields than their yellow counterparts.

In Pakistan, rapeseed-mustard is the second most important source of oil, after cotton. It is cultivated over an area of 307,000 hectares with annual production of 233,000 tonnes and contributes about 17% to the domestic production of edible oil. Mustard seeds are a rich source of oil and protein. The seed has oil as high as 46-48%, and whole seed meal has 43.6% protein.

Use mustard seeds in these Indian curries:

Courgettes РRed Lentil Dahl

Okra РCurried Okra

Curried Potatoes and Bread maker Naan Bread

Cucumbers РPaneer Curry

Blackberry Curd Cake

So… making raspberry curd and it using to make a pink cake just wasn’t fun enough. I had to try blackberries too!

We’ve had such a good harvest of blackberries this year thanks to the delightful rain we have in Surrey currently. Really, it can stop now, we’d like summer back please.

I made good use of the harvest by trying to make another berry curd.

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Stirring the blackberries into the curd

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After making the curd I tried to create another fruit curd cake. I was afraid that it was going to be quite bitty because blackberries have so many seeds, but honestly I didn’t even really notice it. It tasted very fruity, was a pink/purple colour with dark purple speckles from the bits of berries. The cake had a crusty top but a soft, light sponge. It was very quick and easy once the curd was made.

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If you don‚Äôt fancy the cake or have far too much curd left over, try using it as a topping to ice cream ‚Äď my brother recommends it!

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Blackberry Curd

‚Äst4 egg yolks ‚Äď 250g sugar ‚Äď 200g butter ‚Äď Zest and juice of 2 small lemons ‚Äď 200-300g blackberries

  1. In a pan, whisk together the yolks and sugar until combined.
  2. Mix in the butter and lemons. Over a low flame, whisk the mixture, as if you are making custard, until it has thickened. This should take 20-30 minutes.
  3. Remove from the heat and stir in the raspberries so that they breakdown and the mixture becomes pink coloured.
  4. Leave it to cool completely before using it in a cake, spreading it on bread, or storing it in preserved jars in the fridge for up to a month.

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Blackberry Curd Cake

‚Äď 75g butter ‚Äď 150g sugar ‚Äď 2 eggs ‚Äď 150g self-raising flour ‚Äď 1 tsp baking powder ‚Äď 6 tbsp blackberry curd

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C. Line a 1kg loaf tin with baking paper.
  2. Beat the butter and the sugar together in a bowl until creamy.
  3. Mix in the eggs, followed by the flour and baking powder.
  4. Finally, mix in the curd until thoroughly combined.
  5. Scrape the contents of the bowl into the prepared tin. Bake in the oven for 1 hour. Test to see in the cake is cooked by inserting a skewer into the centre. If it comes out clean, it is done.
  6. Leave the cake to cool in the tin before transferring it to a wire rack.
  7. Serve the cake in slices with more of the curd spread on top. Store in an airtight container for three days.

Here is the link to my Raspberry Curd Cake and my Lemon Curd Cake. 

 

Beans Means Heinz

So I didn’t get a lot planted this year because I was away from home for a couple of months, but we did get the potatoes in and the beans are being harvested now – last ¬†year’s beans!

We left our bean roots in the ground rather than dig them up by accident three years ago. We grew other things in the same trench over the winter so it was heavily guarded with double portions of horticultural fleece that protected it from the frost. We were in awe when the next spring, our old beans grew back. Since then, we have tried to protect all of our bean roots that we leave in the ground. This year we have a few that have re-grown for their third harvest, we have more that our on their second, and my mum managed to sow a few extra this year in another trench while I  was absent.

I have been enjoying delicious beans boiled for dinner almost daily for a week now. I had to of course have them as part of my favourite dinner of all time РBaked Potato, Cheddar Cheese, Baked Beans and Runner Beans. 

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Preheat your oven to 200C. Cut out slug damage (if homegrown potatoes) or prick holes in the potato, to let the steam escape while cooking. Bake the potato in the oven for an hour, I like to leave mine in for another half an hour so that the skin is really crispy.

Boil a pan of water and add the sliced runner beans, turning the hob down to a low flame. Remove from the heat after about 8 minutes, drain.

Heat the baked beans in a pan over a medium flame. Remove from the heat once hot.

Grate enough cheddar cheese to serve.

Remove your potato from the oven, cut in half and mash a generous amount of butter into each part. Add the runner beans and the baked beans to the side and sprinkle cheddar cheese over the top of the potato and butter.

Enjoy!

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April sowing list

You can still sow most of the vegetables I have mentioned in previous months (e.g. radishes, spinach, lettuce,¬†courgettes, spring onions…) but here are some new ones that you have to wait until April for:

Runner-Beans –¬†Firestorm, St George, Borlotti, Cobra, Wisley Magic, Desiree, Moonlight

French Beans – Monte Cristo, Cobra, Maxi, Dulcina, Speedy, Delinel

Squashes –¬†Butternut squash (try Hawk), Honey Bear, Sunburst

Soya Beans – Elenor

Crystal Apple Cucumbers 

Cucamelons 

Sweetcorn¬†– Swift (These could have been started indoors last month, I still have yet to sow mine…)

Cabbages

Parsnips –¬†Gladiator

Asparagus 

Potatoes 

Jerusalem Artichokes 

Globe Artichokes 

Look at my other previous monthly posts for more ideas of what seeds to sow! 

 

Mother’s Day

It is Mother’s Day tomorrow and even though I am not at home right now and unable to make one of the greatest people in my life a special cake, give her a hug and a bouquet of primroses from the garden and I can’t spend the day with her, I offer you the link to my baking blog to inspire everyone to roll up their sleeves and get baking for the perfect, homemade gift for their mum. Top the baked item with edible primroses from the garden, the perfect spring celebration!

https://bellasbakingsite.wordpress.com/2017/03/25/mothers-day-make-something-special-for-a-special-person/

Flowers for the buzzy bees Рlink to edible flowers post for future cake decorating ideas

Peas

The pea is most commonly the small spherical seed or the seed-pod of the pod fruit Pisum sativum.  Pea pods are botanically fruit since they contain seeds and developed from the ovary of a (pea) flower. It is a cool-season crop grown in many parts of the world; planting can take place from winter to early summer depending on location.

In early times, peas were grown mostly for their dry seeds.¬†The wild pea is restricted to the Mediterranean basin and the Near East. The earliest archaeological finds of peas date from the late neolithic era of current Greece, Syria, Turkey and Jordan. In Egypt, early finds date from¬†ca.¬†4800‚Äď4400¬†BC in the¬†Nile delta¬†area, and from¬†ca.¬†3800‚Äď3600¬†BC in Upper Egypt. The pea was also present in¬†Georgia¬†in the 5th millennium BC. Farther east, the finds are younger. Peas were present in¬†Afghanistan¬†ca.¬†2000¬†BC, in¬†Harappa,¬†Pakistan¬†and in northwest¬†India¬†in 2250‚Äď1750¬†BC. In the second half of the 2nd millennium BC, this¬†crop¬†appears in the¬†Ganges Basin¬†and southern India.¬†From plants growing wild in the Mediterranean basin, constant selection since the¬†Neolithic Dawn of agriculture¬†improved their yield. In the early 3rd century BC¬†Theophrasturous¬†mentions peas among the¬†pulses¬†that are sown late in the winter because of their tenderness.¬†In the first century AD¬†Columella¬†mentions them in¬†De re rustica when Roman legionaries still gathered wild peas¬†to supplement their rations.

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In the Middle Ages, field peas are constantly mentioned, as they were the staple that kept famine¬†at bay.¬†Charles the Good, count of¬†Flanders, noted this in 1124.¬†Green “garden” peas, eaten immature and fresh, were an innovative luxury of¬†Early Modern Europe.¬†In England, the distinction between “field peas” and “garden peas” dates from the early 17th century.¬†Along with¬†broad beans¬†and¬†lentils,¬†peas formed an important part of the diet of most people in the Middle East, North Africa and Europe during the¬†Middle Ages.¬†By the 17th and 18th centuries, it had become popular to eat peas “green”, that is, while they are immature and right after they are picked.¬†New cultivars of peas were developed by the English during this time, which became known as “garden” or “English” peas. The popularity of green peas spread to¬†North America.¬†¬†Thomas Jefferson¬†grew more than 30 cultivars of peas on his estate.¬†With the invention of canning and freezing of foods, green peas became available year-round, and not just in the spring as before.

Sugar peas which the French soon called¬†mange-tout, for they were consumed pods and all, were introduced to France from the market gardens of¬†Holland¬†in the time of¬†Henri IV, through the French ambassador. Green peas were introduced from¬†Genoa¬†to the court of¬†Louis XIV¬†in January 1660, with some staged fanfare: a¬†hamper¬†of them were presented before the King and were shelled by a comte.¬†Little dishes of peas were then presented to the King, the Queen, Cardinal Mazarin and Monsieur, the king’s brother.Immediately established and grown for earliness warmed with¬†manure¬†and protected¬†under-glass, they were still a luxurious delicacy in 1696.¬†Modern¬†split-peas¬†with their indigestible skins removed are a development of the later 19th century: pea-soup, pease pudding, Indian¬†matar ki daal or versions of chana masala, or Greek fava.

In 2005, a poll of 2,000 people revealed the pea to be Britain’s seventh favourite culinary vegetable.¬†The annual ‘Peasenhall Pea Festival’ in the English village of¬†Peasenhall, Suffolk attracts hundreds of visitors every year, with events such as Pea Shooting, the World Pea Podding Championships and National Pea Eating competition. In 2012, the Pea Festival had an OlymPEAn theme, celebrating the London 2012 Olympics.

Peas do take a little bit of time. They need support while growing and podding takes time – this is after managing to get them to germinate, survive slugs and snails and then to actually develop peas inside the pods. However, homegrown peas are incredible. They are so much sweeter and smaller than any you will ever buy in the shop. You want to eat them as soon as they are harvested (the speed of conversion of their sugars to starches means that every second ruins them, like sweetcorn or asparagus). When young and tender and fresh from the first harvest, eat them raw straight from the pods. Otherwise, heat them very briefly in a pan of boiling water for a minute or two, drain and serve. Or, pop them straight from their pods into the freezer asap. A dream of mine is to have a surplus of peas to freeze like our runner-beans – unfortunately, hasn’t happened… yet?

The side shoots and growth tips, pea tips, or ‘green gold’ in Japan, are also edible and make a good addition to any salad. However, you will end up with fewer pods if you pick them but if you have lots of plants then go ahead!

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‘Meteor’ – Sow February-June, October-November

Sow March -June :¬†‘Sugar-Ann’, ‘Deliket’, ‘Alderman’, ‘Kelvedon Wonder’,

‘Ambassador’- Sow¬†March-July

I learnt the hard way the first year I tried growing peas that they just don’t germinate in sandy soil, or if they do, they quickly become snail and slug fodder. One night, we went out with torches and saw basically a live trapeze act of slugs and snails crawling up peas. From then on it was military protection from creepy crawlies!

Last year we started them off indoors in toilet rolls in giant seed trays filled with compost, like sweet pea sowings. They did really well, all germinating just fine and producing a good crop – I just needed to make more successional sowings to get more, that would be my advice. However, the toiled rolls are rather exhausting and rot when the peas can’t be planted outdoors for a long time because of rubbish weather… So we started using normal plastic containers, old fruit cartons etc., filled with compost and they worked just fine (peas do have long, straggly roots so be cautious and delicate when planting out). So: sow indoors and when about 10-15cm tall plant them out under fleece until the frosts vanish, 10 cm apart, rows 75cm apart. Make sure they are in a trench with well-rotted matter. I have read before to avoid using manure but I really do think that it is the magic medicine for all plants, even the carrots (which are meant to fork) and alliums (which are meant to bolt). It really seems to help so I would try out working in some well-rotted manure with lots of compost and mulch into the earth where you are going to plant your peas. Use hazel prunings or other similar sticks to support the peas – thrust the fat end of the sticks into the soil to hold them upright so the tendrils have something to grab onto. Don’t let them dry out and the occasional comfrey feed can work wonders. For the permacultural lot, try growing radishes and salad leaves between the peas (chicory, spinach, wrinkle crinkle cress and poached egg plants did very well between ours last year). Many can be harvested May-October, depending when sown, averagely around 2 months after sowing. Check by the size of the bumps in the pods – pick them at their peaks.

Other than slugs and snails, mice and birds can be a problem. Put them under cover if this starts to become an issue. Caterpillars of pea moths could be a problem. Blight, powdery mildew, rust or other rotting diseases can also become an issue, weakening and ruining a crop.

Peas are starchy, but high in fibre, protein, vitamins A, B6, C, K, phosphorus, magnesium, copper, iron, zinc and lutein. Dry weight is about one-quarter protein and one-quarter sugar. Peas are stuffed with all sorts of antioxidants that help improve overall health, as well as help prevent cancer. These actively seek out and neutralize free radicals that are roaming around the body, which, studies have shown, are partially responsible for causing cancer. Peas are thought to be a heart healthy food. Their high dietary fiber content helps reduce bad LDL cholesterol in the heart. It has natural anti-inflammatory properties that help regulate inflammation in the cardiovascular system. There is also a good amount of ALA fat found in peas (one of the Omega-3 fatty acids), which has been shown to promote heart health. The high protein and fiber levels also help keep blood sugar levels in check. Both of these work to regulate the rate at which food is digested. Dietary fibre has also been shown to reduce the risk of colon cancer.

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Eat raw peas with any spring/summer salad – think boiled early new potatoes, butter and cut chives with a fresh bunch of salad leaves straight from the plot outside under the blue sky. Try them boiled alongside any cooked meal – sausages or chops and mash, weekend roasts etc. Peas go with nearly everything. Here are a few of my favourites: baked potato, butter, grated cheddar cheese and peas (perhaps with baked beans as well),Updated recipe: homemade pizza and peas (optionally with baked potato and butter as well), lasagne and peas, macaroni cheese and peas,¬†Egg Drop Soup with Vegetable Stock, pasta, tinned tomatoes, rocket, cheese and pine nuts with peas (Salad ‚Äď Rocket), Matar Paneer is my all-time favourite curry, literally translates as peas and paneer cheese curry (Cucumbers),¬†just rice, tinned tomatoes and peas is yummy.

Another recipe? How about a risotto?

Pea Risotto

(Serves 4)

-25g butter ‚Äď 1 onion, sliced ‚Äď 325g rice ‚Äď Salt and pepper, for seasoning -750ml/1-pint vegetable stock or 2tsp Bouillon powder, dissolved in ¬ĹL of boiling water -300g peas ‚ÄďMore cooked vegetables, to serve (optional) ‚Äď Parmesan cheese, to serve (optional)

  1. Melt the butter in a large frying pan. Add the onion and fry gently over a medium heat for 2-3 minutes. Turn the heat down a little.
  2. Add the rice and a grinding of salt and pepper. Stir to coat the rice with the butter.
  3. Add the stock after frying the rice like a pilau for a couple of minutes, bring to the boil, stirring frequently.
  4. Turn the heat down once the stock is bubbling and leave to simmer until almost all of the stock has been absorbed. Add the peas, cover, and leave to simmer for 6-10 minutes.
  5. Serve with cooked vegetables and parmesan cheese, if desired.

For a stock recipe, see: Egg Drop Soup with Vegetable Stock, vegetarian. 

 

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March – sowing and growing

There are too many plants that can be started off indoors/outdoors in March to name! But here are a few to get you started…

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Carrots –¬†Carrots¬†– sown one trench outside under fleece

Spinach –¬†Salad ‚Äď Spinach¬†– planted out ‘Turaco’ spinach sown last autumn in a cold frame with fleece and started off indoors ‘Barbados’ and ‘Emelia’, onto ‘Samish’ soon…

Lettuce-¬†Salad ‚Äď Lettuce¬†– planted out lettuce sown last winter in the cold frame with the spinach and sown some seeds indoors

Radishes –¬†Salad ‚Äď Radish¬†– sown outdoors under fleece between other crops

Celery –¬†Celery¬†– batch sown indoors

Celeriac –¬†Celeriac¬†– ”

Courgettes –¬†Courgettes¬†– sown indoors

Squashes – have yet to plant ‘Honey Bear’ and ‘Sunburst’

Quinoa –¬†Quinoa¬†– batch sown indoors

Chickpeas – Sown indoors, first time trying them this year!

Broad beans –¬†Broad Beans¬†– ready to plant out under fleece

Peas – started off indoors but can be sown directly now – post hopefully coming soon…

Okra –¬†Okra¬†– couple damped off so planted some more indoors

Rocket –¬†Salad ‚Äď Rocket¬†– sown indoors, not doing so well…

Watercress – sown indoors

Herbs – sown the parsley and coriander so far

Fenugreek – damped off, need to sow some more indoors

Cucumbers –¬†Cucumbers¬†– sown indoors, doing best at moment, please stay that way!

Tomatoes – germinated very well indoors

Potatoes – time to think about planting them outdoors under a lot of earth and some cover

Turnips – just sown some

Purple Sprouting Broccoli – just sown some (as well as some more¬†Calabrese Broccoli) indoors AND just harvested first batch of last year’s crop the other night to have with some of the last dug up potatoes from last season with baked beans, cheese and frozen homegrown runner beans – yum!

Leeks –¬†Leeks¬†– indoors

Spring Onions – indoors

Beetroot – indoors, on my list

Cabbages –¬†Cabbages¬†– ‘Red Rodeo’, ‘Advantage’, ‘Caserta’ – sown indoors

Brussels Sprouts and Brukale –¬†Brussels Sprouts¬†– quickly sow before it gets too late

Kale –¬†The last of the Kale

Sweet Corn – on my list but I know from experience that I can still get away with sowing it in May, indoors

Rhubarb –¬†Rhubarb¬†– time to feed and start forcing

Fruit Trees/Bushes – time to feed!

There are bound to be plenty more veggies to sow/plant out as we plough on through the first month of spring. Temperatures are finally warming up but hang onto some fleece – the fruit trees might be lured into a false spring, deadly for blossom and fruit production… Make sure¬†anything you sow outside/ plant out is wrapped up under cover, nice and snuggly. It will be a shock to the system if they are exposed to Britain’s ‘spring time’ too early!

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FLOWERS TO SOW INDOORS:

French Marigolds

Cosmos

Viola

Lavender

Geraniums

Calendulas

Lupins

Sweet Peas – they are ready to plant out under cover

There are BILLIONS more…¬†