Lovely lichens & marvellous moss

Our dead wood hedge in the orchard is part of the circle of life in the micro-ecosystem that a traditional meadow orchard is.

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Pruning and clearing (of invaders and insurgents from the surrounding forest and farmland that then compete with the fruit trees for space and resources if left unchecked – pines and poplars are the main offenders) ensure regular replenishment:

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And so the hedge grows with the years,

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providing a home to many a feathered and furry orchard resident

Robin

Blackbird Male

and,

as the wood ages further,

turning into a veritable treasure trove of lichens and moss:

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Citrus Salts

I have been whizzing up all sorts of citrus & veggies into delectable gourmet citrus salts. So quick, so easy, and a good way to make use of small quantities of tasty things – and then you have a whole flavour bank to choose from while cooking up a storm!

What you need:

Small quantities of vegetables such as celeriac (especially forgotten celeriacs starting to dry out in the veggie basket!), parsnips, garlic (can’t have enough of it) and onions, herbs of all kinds to suit your taste.

One and twos of oranges, lemons, limes…whatever you can get your hands on, even bergamots of you are lucky enough to have them.

Relatively fine grained, pure (no additives!) salt*.

What you do:

Peel/skin and roughly chop your collection of vegetables and place them in a food processor or blender.

Add the zest of whatever citrus you are using and some of the juice if you like – not too much, though, otherwise your salt mixture will take ages to dry out again.

Add the same quantity of relatively fine pure (no additives!) salt* as you have of the other ingredients (50% salt, 50% other ingredients). Whizz everything up together until you have a fine, even mix. Spread your salt mixture out thinly on a large baking tray or similar and either leave to dry on the heating or in the oven at 50°C, with a wooden spoon holding the oven door ajar, for 2-3 hours.

Once the salt is completely dry, whizz it again in the food processor to break up any dried lumps and store in airtight glass jars.

My current combinations:

Lemon & Lime & Garlic & Celeriac Salt

Bergamot & Orange & Garlic & Celeriac & Parsley salt

Lemon & Parsnip & Parsley & Garlic Salt

being used to flavour everything from soups & salads, pastry & breads to mains & sides.

*salt: quality matters here and I prefer rock salt over sea salt, on account of us having allowed microplastic to have completely pervaded our oceans: up to 1800 microgramms of microplastic per kilogram of Fleur du Sel, for example, detected in a study published in January 2018 by scientists at the University of Oldenburg, Germany.

Bergamots

I do love to make a new discovery and proudly present my citrus discovery for January 2018:

 

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Bergamots,

and what wonderful little gems they are.

Reliably identified as the sour orange hybrid Citrus bergamia Risso,  I discovered them at my organic market this week, imported from Morrocco (this is the only time of year where I am to be found blogging about imported produce!), and I snapped them up purely out of curiosity.

 

And I am so glad I did!

“Grapefruit overtones, a spicy galangal-like punch (which calms down once cooked), as well as orange and lemon nuancing in the background, becoming lingering lime once cooked”.

That is my bergamot sound bite.

And this is what I have done with them so far: a classic soft set marmalade of delectable dimensions 🙂

 

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The Winter Solstice and the Festival of Winter

What a fine finale to the Festival of Winter we enjoyed yesterday, 6th January, all in one bike ride back from the wintry orchard:

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   The winter solstice is upon us and with it the “Mittwinterfest”, or Yule – celebrating the rebirth of the sun as we (slowly) turn the corner towards the light half of the year again…
It is an ancient festival featuring countless legends, rituals and symbols, not to mention the many omens – each of the twelve days of Yule are said to predict the weather in the corresponding twelve months to come, for instance. In the Germanic and northern European tradition, the twelve days of Yule therefore had to be a time of peace, as well, and a time of no work so that there would be less work to be done in the new year. Spinning and weaving, in particular, were forbidden and all the flax had to be spun before the start of Yule. Only the Goddess Frig (Frigg, Freyja), the Germanic goddess of love, was allowed to weave together the threads of destiny for the coming year… No work involving a circular motion was permitted at this time either, because the wheel of time was at a standstill during Yule and so every other wheel had to remain motionless too…