Posts tagged ‘garden’

September 23, 2012

Aronia Jam

by Ciaran Burke

We walked under the spruce trees, passed the twisted hawthorn and down the slope. The long grass brushed our knees, the mild damp autumn evening surrounded us and calmed our senses. The small river trickled over rocks, a soundtrack to soothe as we walked in to the lower part of the garden.

Here trees and shrubs grow in the grass, eventually we will have a woodland where ornamental species mingle with productive plants bearing fruit, berries and nuts. The weather has been so consistently wet I have not been able to cut the grass in this area of the garden since June. The area even flooded a few times when the stream over flowed, then that whole part of the garden looked like the river Shannon. As a consequence, the lower garden is a bit of a wilderness. Despite the wet conditions many of the trees species have grown well. Plants that grow here are tough. Birch trees are happy, willows are ecstatic. The alders, Alnus glutinosa, which we planted in the sucking, wet ground a few years ago have rocketed skyward, their branches provide shelter and their roots fix nitrogen to enrich the soil. Hazels are thriving where there is better drainage close to the stream and Parottis persica ‘Vanessa’ will soon turn gold and crimson with autumn tints.

Betula albosinensis ‘Fascination’ in our “wilderness”.

We picked our way through the grass, plucked some leaves of sorrel to munch and taste their sour flavour. A bush with large clusters of shining black berries drew our attention, Aronia melaoncarpa. Here in our wilderness, it has grown and triumphed. 1.5 metres high, so far, it will in time grow higher. A close relative of the wider grown genus, Cotoneaster, Aronias have a similar display of small white flowers in May.

Aronia melanocarpa fruits

Now in Autumn it gives us its best, the green leaves start to turn a rich red before fading to orange and gold before they fall. Hanging from the stems are juicy black fruits, the size of grapes. It is a plant of beauty and strong constitution. No weeding has been done around it, no fertilizing, no pruning. In wet acid soil it has thrived, and it has been fruitful. It also is growing in shade for most of the day, not until  late afternoon when the sun has moved past the tall spruce trees does the plant receive direct sun rays.

Leaves of Aronia melanocarpa showing the first signs of autumn coloration.

There are other species of Aronia and hybrids too.  Aronia arbutifolia is a smaller leaved plants with small red edible fruits and fiery red autumn foliage. Aronia ‘Viking’ is vigorous with dark purple edible fruits and good autumn colour. We also have another plant of Aronia in our garden with dark fruits that are smaller that A. melanocarpa with a different taste, I think it is A. x prunifolia.

Aronia melanocarpa

I was surprised by how well our plant of A. melanocarpa had grown, and by how beautiful it looked, my mind turned to jam. I mean, I thought about making jam! The berries make a lovely jam.

Beside our tunnel I have a number of plants of Aronia melanocarpa and A. ‘Viking” which I had propagated from cuttings. As soon as I give the long grass and rushes a strimming, I will definitely plant more Aronia bushes.

Aronia fruit

ARONIA JAM RECIPE

Ingredients

  • 1Kg of ripe aronia berries (A. melaoncarpa or hybris, not A. arbutifolia).
  • Juice of one lemon
  • 350g sugar
  • 2 large cooking apples.

 Method

  1. Put the aronia berries in a saucepan with a little water and juice of a lemon. Cook on a low heat, simmering until they are soft, this takes longer than blackcurrants or blackberries, 35 – 40 minutes.
  2. Chop up the apple into pieces, do not skin and cook in a separate saucepan with a little water until it reduces to a soft mushy pulp. Press the pulp through a sieve to remove the skin pieces and set a side.

    Cooking apples sliced and in the sauce pan

     

  3. When the aronia berries have softened stir in the sugar a little at a time. Then add the apple pulp.

    Transfer the apple pulp into the jam once the jam fruit has softened.

  4. Turn up the heat and boil the jam, it should be raging, a roiling boil which will splatter like mad, be careful, it is very hot.
  5. After about fifteen minutes then jam should be thickening and ready for potting.

Filling jars and Storing

  1. Transfer the jam into sterilized jars. I put washed and dried jars with lids removed into a cold oven and then turn the heat to 140 degrees Celcius. Leave them in the oven for 10 – 15 minutes. I put the lids in too.

    Jam jars washed and dried, In the oven for sterilizing.

  2. Fill the jars while jam is till hot, I use a jam funnel. Put lids on straight away and screw tight. This will cause a vacuum to develop as the jam cools, you will hear lids pop after a while. When the jam has cools, label with date and store jars in a cool, dark dry place. Well prepared jam can last for a year.

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September 5, 2012

A Saturday Night with Black Sabbath Making Rose Hip Jam…

by Ciaran Burke

Two pots of rose hip jam

Its coming to that time of year again, blackberries are ripe, elder berries are ripening and the rose hips are nearly there. I “look forward” to some Saturday nights making jam. During the summer I made some rose hip jam from fruits that were in the freezer, it is a delicious jam but it does take a bit of work.  From my old blog here is the story of a Saturday night spent making rose hip jam in the company of Ozzy Osbourne and Black Sabbath. I have added my revised rose hip jam recipe using sugar and apples to add pectin.

The knife cuts through the red flesh, the head is severed, then, thop, brop, brop… bouncing in the bucket. I pick up the next one, cut and chop, thop, brop, brop…

It is Saturday night, the guitars, the bass, the drums, they blast from the speakers. Ozzy Osbourne’s tortured cries accompany, “Am I Going Insane?”… Cut and chop, top and tail, thop, brop, brop… Perhaps I will go mad! I am preparing a bucket full of rose hips, our bounty from the hedgerow, getting ready to make rose hip jam.

Rosa rugosa – hips

Rose hips, the fruit of the rose are easy to pick, once you get started its hard to stop. Wild dog rose, Rosa canina is ideal, and Rosa rugosa hips are also good. The bucket fills quickly, as you add more and more. Then you get home. Now you have to top and tail them. Remove the stalk from the base, and discard the leafy calyx from the top.

Rose hips- a long night ahead!

I start with enthusiasm, what better way to spend a Saturday night? Black Sabbath are playing loudly as I pick through the harvest, topping and tailing. Soon the sound of the falling rose hips is dulled as they land on a layer of prepared hips, no longer do I hear the hollow thop, brop, brop of topped and tailed hips bouncing in an empty bucket. I  work away, Ozzy sings “Tomorrow’s Dream”, rose hip jam on my bread for breakfast.

A busy Saturday night topping and tailing rose hips!

The bucket of unprepared hips is still quite full, and Sabbath are nearly finished one album. I am beginning to think that I am going to get to hear their whole back catalogue. “Sabbath Bloody Sabbath” has me singing “Rosehips Bloody Rosehips” as I dip into the never emptying  bucket.  But I continue with my toil, my three containers in front of me; the harvesting bucket, the compost bucket and plastic bowl of prepared hips. Black Sabbath keep blasting out the tunes, I keep cutting. It is good to hear the old tunes again, air guitar with a sharp knife is not a good idea though

Eventually there is hope, a slight glimpse of white plastic, the bottom of the bucket. Briefly glimpsed before a hip rolls to replace its vacated companion. “Never Say Die”, ah yes, ah song for every occasion, the band plays on. With renewed vigor, I keep chopping, topping, tailing and the bucket is empty at last.

Rose hips topped and tailed

Next I wash some old jars, weigh out 1.2Kg of hips, bag the rest and put them in the freezer.  I place the fruit in a big sauce pan add some water and cook them. Its getting late, but I have lots of Black Sabbath albums. As I move to the next phase of the jam making operation, I change to the second era of Black Sabbath, with Ronnie James Dio on vocals, “Turn Up The Night”. After about an hour the fruits have softened.  I have to press them through a sieve to remove the seeds, a thick pulp of rich red results, it is hard work. Then I skin a few apples and chop them in the food processor. The pulp goes back into a saucepan with two 400ml bottles of apple juice concentrate  and chopped apple. The mixture bubbles like a witches brew, Dio sings of circles and rings, dragons and kings, as I stir the jam. The temperature rises, the jam starts to thicken and after a while of continuous stirring it is time to fill the jars.

Rose hips in the saucepan

This is always the messiest part. The boiling jam is transferred with a spoon into jars that have been heated in the oven to sterilize them. I usually manage to spill some, but only minor scalding results. Soon the jars are filled, I scrape the cooling and setting jam from the edges of the pot. I lick the sweet sticky fruit from the spoon.   It is late, it has been a long night of toil, but this is the best moment, it is hot, it is sweet and it is delicious as Dio sings… “ Heaven and Hell”. Well, it was hard work, for two and a half jars of jam. Not quite hell, but rose hip jam is close to heaven.

ROSE HIP JAM RECIPE

Since I fist made rose hip jam I have revised the recipe using sugar instead of apple juice concentrate. This jam wont be set like a jelly, instead it will be like a thick delicious sauce. It still involves topping and tailing!

INGREDIENTS:

  • 500 g rose hips chopped
  • 500ml water
  • 200ml boiled water
  • 3 apples, cored and chopped, don’t peel them
  • juice of half a lemon
  • 1.5 cups of sugar

METHOD

  1. Boil the rose hips in 500ml of water until they are soft.
  2. In a separate pot boil the chopped apples in a little water until soft and mushy.
  3. Push the pulp of the rose hips through a sieve into a bowl and set aside.
  4. Put the seeds back into the pot and pour in 200ml of boiling water, cook for a few minutes and sieve again, add to the rose hip pulp.
  5. Next, put the apple pulp through the sieve and mix into the rose hip pulp.
  6. Heat the pulp, add the sugar slowly, stirring to make sure it is dissolved. Add the lemon juice. Turn up the heat and boil the jam.
  7. Continue cooking for about 20 minutes until the jam has thickened.
  8. Put the mixture into sterilized jam jars.
  9. Fasten lids and allow to cool.
August 27, 2012

I fought the root and the root won…. cooking burdock roots

by Ciaran Burke

Bowl of cooked burdock roots- a tasty healthy snack

The story goes, George de Mestral took his dog for a walk and then invented Velcro. The Swiss inventor took his canine for a stroll one day sometime in the 1940s and upon arriving home he noticed that his dog has in this fur the spiky seed heads of Actium minus otherwise known as Burdock. The barbed seed heads attached themselves to the dog’s fur as they do to any fur or clothing that they come in contact with, this is the plants clever method of seed dispersal. Mr. de Mestral was fascinated by this and apparently examined the seed heads under a microscope and voilá…velcro was invented. Well, maybe not quite so easily.

The spiky seed heads attach themselves to clothes and animal fur

Burdock grows in our garden, especially under the old hawthorn tree in the woodland. Each year their impressive wide leaves wave in the wind to be followed by their thistle flowers, which then make fruits that attach themselves occassionally to one of our cats. Many a time I have cursed the burdock plant. Its roots go deep into the earth and I treated it with disdain, because I had viewed it as an unwanted plant, a weed. It was very hard to eradicate. But things have changed, or rather my attitude to plants, and what I condsider a nuisance or a weed has changed. As I grow increasingly interested in using native and wild plants for cooking and exploiting their culinary possibilities, it means that I now embrace a far greater range of plants than I did previously whenI gardened purely as a gardener interested in ornamental, exotic plants.

Burdock, Arctium minus is a handsome plant in its own way, broad dramatic foliage and emphatic thistle flowers of pink. It is a biennial, it dies after it flowers, just as carrots do. Also in common with carrots, the food stored in its long deep tap root can be exploited by us. In Japan, burdock is commonly used in cooking and is cultivated as a crop for its slender tasty roots. In Japanese the it is known as gobo. It is also used in England for making a traditional beer .

Cover the burdock root slices with water and add a good dash of soy sauce

To cook burdock the Japanese way, you cut the centre core of the root into slivers the size of match sticks and boil them in water into which a dash of soy sauce has been added. When the roots become tender, the liquid is reduced until the root pieces have absorbed all the flavour of the soy sauce.

Deep rooted burdock root

With this recipe in mind my wife Hanna and I decided to tackle a burdock root with a garden and tool of which she makes much use of called a Cobra Head. The Cobra Head tool is made in USA and is most effetive a removing weeds from the garden especially deep rooted weeds such as dock and dandelion. As she dug around the burdock root it became apparent, that even the Cobra Head was no match for the stubborn nature of a burdock root, they do not like to be dug up. After much digging and scraping, Hanna’s efforts to remove the whole root intact were in vain, the burdock root won, and a fair portion of the root remained deep in the soil as I finished the extraction process with a shovel.

Use only the central part of the root, burdock roots are best harvested before the plants have flowered

Luckily we had more than enough to work with for our tasty snack. When preparing a burdock root for cooking, wash it well. Then with a sharp knife remove the outer layer of the root and only use the central core. The outer parts remain woody even after cooking. The flavour of burdock root is mild and agreeable but the addition of the soy sauce when cooking gives it a salty zing. It is high in fibre, calcium, potassium, amino acids, and is low in calories. Also, as it is prepared in water and not frying it makes a healthy snack. I wish I had not weeded out so many burdock roots in the past…

Cooking burdock root slivers in water with a good dash of soy sauce

 

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July 6, 2012

Well done to the rare un-staked! – Herbaceous Perennials that stand up for themselves…

by Ciaran Burke

Sanguisorbia tenuifolia ‘Pink Elephant’

I love gardening but there are some jobs that are laborious and feel like a waste of one’s good time if they have to be done too often, cutting the grass is one such task, staking herbaceous perennials is another. The former job is reduced by having less grass areas and more plants, and in my own case my wife is quite keen to mow the grass. With grass area reduced the planting area increases and so too do the number of herbaceous perennials that find their way into our borders where they mingle with shrubs, trees and bulbs.

Many herbaceous perennials have a tendency to flop, even more so in the west of Ireland than in other parts of the world. The frequent strong winds play havoc with Delphiniums and combined with high rain fall that encourages lush soft growth, many plants that are recommended in books by authors from parts of the world that enjoy hot summer days do not perform well without staking in our garden. Many plants that for them do not require staking end up as a sorry tattered, broken and flopping mess in a Mayo garden. We have to choose carefully, only the sturdiest growing perennials are going to remain upright and un-bowed.

Verbascum flavum, V. ‘Elin’ and Persicaria polymorpha in our garden 6-July-2012

It is not that I am totally adverse to doing any staking, I have no problem each spring to insert a couple of metal herbaceous plant supports around a fine clump of bluish leaves of Thalictrum flavum. Each year it taunts me, making me think that at last I have managed to get it right, then a day of wind and rain in the middle of June shakes it and throws it around. Despite my endeavours it always ends up looking like a drunkard slumped over a bar on the morning after while its bent flower stems lie wet and bedraggled over its carefully placed plant supports. So it was with great joy that I found Thalictrum ‘Elin’ at Camolin Potting Shed nursery a few years ago. I was ensured it would stand tall and proud over 2m high without the need to stake it, and it is true. Some stems wave and even waver, but they do not break and the whole clump is a breezy cloud of white stamens and tiny pink petals on strong and wiry dark stems.

Thalictrum ‘Elin’

There are others that stand well in our garden; Sanguisorbia tenuifolia 1.5 metres of drooping fuzzy infloresences, Verbascum chiaxii ‘Album’ conical heads of pink centres white flowers above sturdy leaves; the beautifully scented nocutrnal flowering Hemmerocallis citrina whose blooms open in the evening carried on dark almost black stems and the giant white fuzz of white flowers that is Persicaria polymorpha which is 2m high and wide, resolute and defiant even in a howling storm.

Sanguisorbia tenuifolia ‘Alba’

Verbascum chiaxii ‘Allbum’

Hemerocallis ‘Elin’

Persicaria polymorpha

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June 8, 2012

Changing Perspectives – Show Garden Bloom 2012

by Ciaran Burke

Grafitti covered walls, dumped and battered old washing machine and litter strewn ground greet the visitor, not the typical welcome for a visior to a Bloom garden. Between the concrete blocks there are glimpses of a brighter place, a more colourful and welcoming place.

Changing Perspectives designed by David Shortall and Peter Fitzpatrick

This was a show garden that took the visitor on a journey, to understand the barriers of disability and the potential of those who are allowed to develop their gifts once such barriers are broken down in our society. The vandalized walls represent untapped talent and expressions of the individuals that could be art work in a different environment. The visitors enter the garden through a vortex emerging into a place of hope, opportunity colour and beauty.

Changing Perspectives designed by David Shortall and Peter Fitzpatrick

David Shortall one half of the garden design team works with REHAB, an organisation who for over 60 years, has been supporting people with disabilities and the marginalised to achieve their goals, maximise their potential and participate fully in communities.

The full effect of their contrasting effect was nearly ruined by the hard working cleaning staff working in the show gardens area at Bloom. Dedicated workers picked up every bit of his show garden litter, even the tiniest pieces of plastic, luckily the garden designers were able to quickly get their hands on some rubbish to throw around their garden.

Changing Perspectives designed by David Shortall and Peter Fitzpatrick

A feature of the garden was a wheelchair accessible tree house which some lucky visitors were able to enjoy and get a high point view of the Bloom show gardens.

A happy visitor to the wheel chair accessible tree house!

Changing Perspectives designed by David Shortall and Peter Fitzpatrick

All the plants in the garden were grown by people on REHAB programmes and garden furniture and sculptures were made from recycled materials like old washing machine drums that made up the stylish garden seating. The garden was a show garden with a different perspective,  demonstrating the challenges faced by people with disabilities, and the need to break down barriers, and demonstrated the important role art, horticulture and gardening can play in developing opportunity and allowing people marganilised by society to find expression. A garden which was about people,  all people.

Changing Perspectives designed by David Shortall and Peter Fitzpatrick

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EXPERIENCE THE JOURNEY THROUGH THE VORTEX BY WATCHING THE VIDEO

CHANGING PERRSPECTIVES A SHOW GARDEN AT BLOOM

 Learn about the work of REHAB

http://rehab.ie/

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