Spring in the South


Orchards and groves: close relatives, worked, or working, trees, they occur throughout Europe as both rich habitats and heritage features in the landscape.

Meadow in May P1200053






I am paraphrasing Ian Rotherham of Sheffield Hallam University here – a man far more knowledgable than I on the misunderstood and threatened resources that are orchards and groves. (Orchards and Groves: Their History, Ecology, Culture and Archaeology, Landscape Archaeology and Ecology, Vol. 7, 2008, published by Wildtrack Publishing).

I do know how to appreciate them, though, and was privileged to be able to visit the almond, citrus and olive groves of southern Spain’s Andalusia at the beginning of March – a pre-season dose of spring for this traditional orchard fan(atic) from north of the Alps!

In fact, with elements of spring, summer and autumn all happening at once, it was a real feast for the senses!

Some almonds in blossom, some already fruiting, depending on location and elevation.


Citrus, ripe for the picking and on your doorstep, literally…

Magnificent, majestic symbols of the heritage of which they form part: olive trees,

many still resplendent with olives as the harvest season draws to a close.

The feast for the senses continues at Malaga’s main food market: olives, almonds and so much more, by the bucket load!


With many elements of local distinctiveness on offer too!



Carrot Jam

This is a recipe that has grown out of a task I took on last autumn: volunteer vegetable photographer  for our community supported agriculture initiative here where we live in Germany. A nice gallery of veggie photos we have built up in the process too: Veggie Gallery.

And, while the orchard is enjoying its winter rest, I have been pickling and preserving my way through the produce 🙂


Carrot Jam

 In the Orient a classic, for us, something different for the breakfast table

1kg carrots, peeled and grated

Zest and juice of 1 untreated lemon

Zest and juice of 2 untreated oranges

2 tsp ground cinnamon

Pinch of ground cloves

½ tsp crushed cardamom seeds

500 g brown sugar

250 ml apple juice (naturally cloudy i.e. unfiltered)


  1. Combine the grated carrots with the sugar in a bowl, cover and leave to draw overnight.
  2. The next day, place the carrots and sugar in a large saucepan together with the remaining ingredients and stir over a low heat until the sugar has completely dissolved.
  3. Bring to the boil over a medium heat, remove the lid and boil for 30 to 60 minutes until the liquid has reduced to the consistency of jam (test for a set if you want to be sure).
  4. Place in sterilised jars and seal immediately. Keeps for several months if stored in a cool, dark place.


Makes about 1.3 kg

Meadowsweet Gingerade


Known as meadwort in the 14th century,

meadowsweet (Filipendula ulmaria)

has been used since Chaucer’s day for flavouring wine and beer…

and it makes a fine gingerade in this day and age too.

In my recipe for Meadowsweet Syrup,

just replace the lemons with as much fresh ginger as your taste dicates to make a really refreshing gingerade awash with meadowsweet’s honey, hay and almond aromas

(approx. 2 cm of root ginger, finely chopped, will give you a gentle gingerade, add more fresh ginger if you want more of a gingery kick).

Meadowsweet Syrup

Preserved lemons and Garlic Mustard Pesto

Remember those Preserved Lemons from back in February?

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Well, its May and that means its time to get them out of the cellar – the lemons are now well and truly preserved in their lemony brine and one of the things I love using them for at this time of the year is

Garlic Mustard Pesto

(alternative nut-free version here)

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Preparation time: about 10 minutes

Cooking time: none

Serves: 4

Garlic mustard (also known as

Jack by the Hedge,

or alternatively use wild garlic)      50g of leaves (and blossoms if in flower)

Lemon (organic)                           1 (or 1 to 2 teaspoons of preserved lemon brine, according to taste)

Whole almonds, toasted               50g

Olive oil                                         150ml                                        

Honey (or sugar)                           approx. 1 tsp

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1. Remove the garlic mustard leaves from the stalks, rinse and place in a liquidizer together with the toasted almonds.

2. Halve the lemon and squeeze out the juice.

3. Add the olive oil to the garlic mustard leaves and whizz together in the liquidizer.

4. Season with lemon juice (or brine), honey (or sugar), salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste, whizzing thoroughly to produce a pesto-like consistency.

Garlic Mustard PestoPreserved Lemons are also great in Garlic and Tomato Butter

06_05_2013 Garlic Mustard Butter

Citrus and spice and all things nice…

Lemon Curd

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Received this week as a gift from one of my faithful blog followers here in Franconia… What a lovely – and delicious – surprise, just like Mum used to make it (takes me right back here: memory’s myth land) and it pairs up really well with Hazelnut Crispbreads.

Thank you so much Karin!

 And the citrus hasn’t stopped there: I am currently working my way through a treasure of a cookbook received as a gift last autumn:

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Preserving, by Emma Macdonald

of The Bay Tree fame, published by Nourish Books 2014

The photography is classy, the recipes (both classic and contemporary) truly inspirational.

 (And just for the record: apart from owning the book, I have no connection whatsoever to either the author or affiliates…)

 A tale of kitchen table talent, here’s where you can read up on the story behind the book: http://www.crumbsmag.com/from-the-mag/686_form-follows-function

 And here’s where you can see what I have been testing and tasting this week:

 Orange & Cardamom Marmelade

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Lemon and Lavender Marmelade

(the recipe calls for lavender flowers and lavender essence – I had a couple of bottles of lavender syrup left over from the summer so worked those into the recipe instead…)

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Assessment: top marks awarded by both Hermann the German and Mini-Kraut – one of the most stringent juries out there..

 P.S. the book also contains a recipe for Lemon Curd…

Oranges and Lemons

A search for the word “citrus” in the edible landscapes along the winding path that led me to fruit-growing Franconia brings up:

… the citrus trees – oranges and lemons – in my grandmother’s generous veggie garden – shady and citrusy next to the red dust of the backyard … of which nothing now remains but a solitary concrete water tower and grandpa’s old workshop, still standing next to the sun-filled absence of my grandparents’ homestead, its unbaked Kimberly bricks now returned to the red earth from whence they had come some 100 years before. The rampant grass and greenery that is the southern African bush in January now flourishes where that house once stood, its roots nourished by the same rich, red soil that nourished mine, in that land from which you can never be expelled, memory’s myth land.

Riverton - The Backyard (2)                   Riverton 'The House' (2)

Just a few stretches of gravel and tarmac from that homestead, much of my childhood was spent in a suburb named Orange Grove, in a gravel street named after the Valencia Orange, in small-town deference to the citrus estate on the other side of the stream that was the boundary.

P1150459 (2)Valencia Crescent was the world as I knew it, complete with a culinary heritage rooted deep in the solidity of pot roasts, macaroni cheese, trifle, lemon meringue pie, rice pudding, apple crumble, scones and rock buns. There was Coronation Chicken and Aunty Nancy’s Meat Paste in amongst the frivolity of the 1960s and 1970s when cocktail snacks for cheese and wine parties took pride of place in the “Connoisseur Cooking” advertising supplements which arrived in the post every month: cheese straws and cheese dip, stuffed eggs next to melons sprouting cheese cubes and cocktail onions on cocktail sticks. It was a heritage which had also had a place for children’s birthday parties, where everything from the iced butterfly cakes and sausage rolls to the ballerina cake had been homemade by mum.

Part of my own personal heritage, citrus groves and plantations are part of the same agricultural heritage to which the orchards of Franconia belong.

For me, frosty February in Franconia is citrus time, when the citrus fruit ripened in the groves of southern Europe reaches this side of the Alps in abundance….

 And this year, like last year,

 Preserved Lemons

 are a must!

Preserved Lemons with Copyright

Such a treat for dressings and marinades come the summer and so easy to make.

Preserve them either as single lemons in jam-jar-sized jars, or several lemons in a large preserving jar, with the spice mix of your choice, e.g. cinnamon sticks, bay leaves, whole allspice and whole coriander… and of course sea salt (pure sea salt without any additives).

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Quantities: 1 lemon requires the juice of a further lemon and enough sea salt to fill its jar about a third full.

How to do it:

1) Sterilise your jars
2) Wash your lemons and sort them into lemons for the jar and lemons for the juice i.e. any with blemishes get juiced.
3) Slice the lemons for the jar into quarters and place in the sterilised jar(s).
4) Add your spices to the lemon in the jar(s).
5) Pour enough sea salt into each jar to fill it about one third full.
6) Juice one juice lemon per lemon-in-a-jar and pour over the lemon(s) in the jar(s).
7) Top up with enough cold water to cover the lemons, seal the jar(s) and turn them several times to ensure that the salt, lemon juice and water are well mixed. Store in a cool, dark place for about 3 months i.e. if you make them now they will be ready for the start of the summer, turning the jars gently every few days.

Over time, the salt will dissolve to form a wonderful lemony brine which is perfect for dressings, drizzling and marinating with both vegetables and meat (fish, chicken). The thinly sliced rind, too, is great used in the same way. The flesh comes away from the rind easily after 3 months in the brine and is discarded.