Old Fashioned Taste for Winter

rosehip-syrupWhen German warships blocked the import of food to Britain in WWII, rosehips came to the rescue. With no access to oranges, the Ministry of Health needed something to boost the country’s Vitamin C levels. Rosehips can contain 50 times the amount of Vitamin C as the equivalent weight of oranges, and were (and still are) abundant in Britain’s gardens and hedgerows. ‘National Rose Hips Syrup’ became a household item during the Second World War, and over 500 tons of these pretty fruits were used to keep Britain’s Vitamin C levels topped up.

Vitamin C, or ascorbic acid as it’s otherwise known, is a water-soluble nutrient found in some foods. It is an antioxidant, helping to protect cells from the damage caused by free radicals. These occur in the body from the food we eat, from air pollution, ultraviolet light and cigarette smoke. Vitamin C helps our body make collagen, which promotes wound healing. It also improves the absorption of iron from plant-based foods, and boosts the immune system, helping us fight off seasonal illnesses. Since it’s water soluble, it needs to be consumed daily, and we absorb it better from food rather than tablets, which often flush straight out of us again.

With their rich Vitamin C content, then, rosehips are an amazing door-step answer to staying healthy and fighting off winter bugs.

rosehipsRosehips are the fruit we see on rose bushes in autumn. They vary in size, shape and colour. Roses are members of the apple family, and the petals and fruit of all roses are edible. They can be used, dried or fresh, to make tea and, when properly cleaned and washed of the inner fluff, can even be added to salads for a delicious zing.

While those who have never tried Rosehip Syrup might think it was one of those ‘medicines’ you’re obliged to pull a face at when your mum shoved a teaspoonful into your mouth, it was something kids actually looked forward to. A daily treat before school, rather than a disdained chore to be endured.

One of the most-heard comments from my customers is, ‘This is just how I remember it. I forgot how great it tastes.’

I make my syrup from locally foraged rosehips each autumn. With so many varieties of roses around, it’s no surprise that the ones I find are not always the long, scarlet berries of the native briar. They come round and fat, pale or dark. I find ones the size of cherries (or even small plums), and some the size of haws (hawthorn berries). They all make good syrup.

Rosehip syrup does’t have to be taken as a spoonful dose once a day. You can use it drizzled into yogurt, or onto ice-cream or porridge. You can tip a little into hot, cold or sparkling water and take as a drink – use about the same amount as you would use to dilute squash. You can even add it to gin or vodka to give it a bit of something different.

Preparing rosehips for syrup is a matter of picking off the dried-up sepals and stalks and giving them a really good wash. However, if you want to eat them in a salad, or add them fresh to tea, it’s necessary to also cut them in half and scoop out the seeds and the irritating hairs surrounding them. The hairs aren’t poisonous, but they irritate, and can cause sore throats. If drying them for tea, you need to chop them up before drying, as once they’re dry the skins become hard, preventing the luscious flavour escaping when you add hot water. Put them in a muslin bag to steep, too, unless the hairs have already been removed.

If you’ve never tried rosehip syrup I urge you to give it a go. The roses the hips came from spent all summer soaking up the sun, so this old fashioned remedy is a great way to bring sunshine into a cold, dreary day.

Meet the Producer: From Nature UK

Taunton Farmers Market

As it’s World Vegan Day on November 1st, it seemed only fitting that Novembers ‘Meet the Producer’ feature was on From Nature UK, aka Martine, maker and supplier of the best vegan pasties in Taunton (in my humble opinion). 

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Meet the Producer-Linscombe Farm

We’re so lucky to have such an awesome producer in Taunton. Don’t miss out on Helen’s wonderful veg. So tasty and delicious!

Taunton Farmers Market

It’s been far too long since I last visited one of our Market producers in part of my ‘Meet the Producers’ journey, but I’m back after a short break and excited to share my most recent adventure with you.

I spent a sunny morning down on Linscombe Farm with Helen, chatting about all things organic.
If I’m perfectly honest, and I may get shot down for saying it, I have always been a huge skeptic when it comes to ‘organic’ veg. My naive understanding was that organic veg was abit gnarly, and already partially eaten by mini-beasts. I could not have been more wrong, this produce is absolutely beautiful…so much so that I barely even had to edit my photos and not a mini-beast or slug hole in sight.
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I’ve tried growing food at home, with the romantic notion that it will look like this and hard though I try…

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Gotu Kola

220px-li_chingyuenImagine living a quarter of a millennium. What changes would you see in the world? How many times would you marry? How many children would you have? With today’s medicine and technology, it might be feasible that someone born today might live up to 150 years, yet on May 6th 1933 a man named Li Ching-Yuen died, surviving 23 wives and 200 descendants, reportedly at the age of 256. There is documented and anecdotal evidence to support that he has certainly lived for almost 200 years, and before that it’s understandable that records are hazy.  Li Ching’s answer to living such a long life?

  • Tranquil mind
  • Sit like a tortoise
  • Walk sprightly like a pigeon
  • Sleep like a dog

But there may also have been another factor: Li Ching-Yuen was a herbalist, and cited a widespread and common Asiatic herb, Gotu Kola, as a factor in his longevity. He would eat two fresh leaves each day, without fail.

Gotu Kola, not to be confused with the kola nut, has been in use as an Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine for millennia. Its uses worldwide over the centuries are widespread. It is used to treat bacterial, viral, or parastitic infections such as urinary tract infection (UTI), shingles, leprosy, cholera, dysentery, syphilis, the common cold, influenza, H1N1(swine) flu, elephantiasis, tuberculosis, and schistosomiasis.

Gotu kola is also used for fatigue, anxiety, depression, psychiatric disorders, Alzheimer’s disease, and improving memory and intelligence. Other uses include wound healing, trauma, and circulation problems (venous insufficiency) including varicose veins, and blood clots in the legs.

Some people use gotu kola for sunstroke, tonsillitis, fluid around the lungs (pleurisy), liver disease (hepatitis),jaundice, systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), stomach pain, diarrhea, indigestion, stomach ulcers, epilepsyasthma, “tired blood” (anemia), diabetes, and for helping them live longer.

Some women use gotu kola for preventing pregnancy, absence of menstrual periods, and to arouse sexual desire.

Gotu kola is sometimes applied to the skin for wound healing and reducing scars, includiung stretch marks caused by pregnancy.*

gotu kolaQuite a haul, for one modest-looking swamp plant.

There are several ways to get this herb into your system, the best of which is to grow a tub of it in your back garden and eat it fresh in a salad each day. Two leaves, according to Li Ching, are the optimum dose. You can also take the dried stuff in tea.

A regular intake of this herb is reputed to increase longevity, rejuvenate the body and mind and improve and tone up the memory.

 learn more

* Source

Nigella – Health in a Tiny Package

love-in-a-mist1You may not have heard of this tiny seed, but if you enjoy Indian cuisine, you’ll certainly have tasted it. Those little black nuggets of flavour in your naan bread, and often in curry dishes, are Nigella. The seeds come from a popular garden plant, Love in a Mist, whose beautiful cornflower blue flowers turn to papery pods which scatter the seed when the wind blows.

Nigella comes with many names: Black Onion Seed, Black Cumin, Black Sesame, Black Coriander, Black Caraway and Roman Coriander. Sometimes it’s referred to simply as Black Seed. And it is black.

But flavour is just one of its properties. There have been many studies now on how Nigella can benefit health, and there is increasing evidence of its ability to combat many modern diseases.

Benefits of Nigella

  • Type 2 diabetes – Researchers found that a daily dose of just two grams black seed could result in reduced fasting blood sugar levels, decreased insulin resistance, and increased beta-cell function in the pancreas.
  • Epilepsy –  Medical Science Monitor, followed one study, in which black seed was shown to be effective at reducing the frequency of seizures in children who resisted conventional treatment. Black seed has anti-convulsive properties.
  • MRSA – This deadly and antibiotic-resistant bacterial infection responded favorably to treatment with black seed in this study from the University of Health Sciences in Lahore, Pakistan.
  • High blood pressure – Researchers found that an extract from black seed caused a significant decrease in LDL cholesterol and blood pressure, offering a natural treatment for mild forms of hypertension.
  •  Asthma – Multiple studies found Nigella Sativa to possess anti-asthmatic effects. One even found it superior to conventional drug treatment.nigella
  • Morphine Addiction and Toxicity Prevention – A study published in Ancient Science of Life found Nigella Sativa reduced morphine intoxication, tolerance, and addiction.
  • Post-Surgical Scar Prevention – Tested on areas of post-operative trauma, Nigella sativa was found to protect peritoneal surfaces from scarring or adhesion formation.
  • Psoriasis – Applied topically to psoriasis inflammation, black seed was able to increase epidermal thickness and soothe eruptions.
  • Parkinson’s Disease – An extract of thymoquinone, from black seed, was shown to protect neurons from toxicity associated with Parkinson’s disease and dementia in a study published in Neuroscience Letters.

Taking nigella may also slow some forms of cancer growth and stop its spread, but do not replace conventional treatment in favour of this seed. Studies show promise, but are still ongoing. The presence of thymoquinone in nigella can trigger apoptosis (cell death) of cancer cells, but more research is needed.

 

Natural Energy Booster

Sida cordifolia
Sida cordifolia, also known as Bala or Country Mallow, is a perennial member of the mallow family and native to India. It has naturalized throughout the world, and is often considered an invasive weed in Africa, Australia, the southern United States, Hawaiian Islands, New Guinea, and French Polynesia. The name, cordifolia, refers to its heart-shaped leaf.
In India the use of Bala or Sida Cordifolia has been in use for more than 5,000 years. In Ayurvedic medicine, it is considered a tonic for boosting the constitution. In modern times, Sida Cordifolia is popular among body builders and athletes for its ability to release energy in the body.

 

Commercial Sida Cordifolia products often include caffeine and white willow. The combination creates a powerful thermogenic supplement. Thermogenics cause a rise in the rate of internal energy, creating a latent form of fat-burning. However, the addition of caffeine can also give rise to unwanted or risky side-effects.

On its own, this herb has a similar effect and contains the same alkaloids as Ephedra, though its effects are somewhat milder. It is a safer option to Ephedrine, which is a powerful amphetamine and illegal in this country.

Bala can be used for:

  • mood enhancing,
  • improving concentration,
  • increased alertness/focus,
  • stimulating,

This makes it good as a pre-workout boost to tap into hidden energy reserves. In addition, the herb can be used for:

  • Bronchial Asthma
  • Colds
  • Flu
  • Chills
  • Lack of Perspiration
  • Headaches
  • Nasal Congestion
  • Cough
  • Chronic Inflammation
  • Urinary Infections
  • Sore Mouth
  • Fluid Retention
  • Sciatic Nerve Pain
  • Nerve Inflammation
  • Rheumatism
  • Arthritis
  • Low Blood Pressure
  • Heart Disease
  • Chest Infection
  • Muscle Cramps

Ephedra is a powerful stimulant. Combining it with caffeine can pose major health concerns, including death. It suppresses the effects of alcohol, which can lead to possible alcohol poisoning, as it can make you feel less drunk than you are.

Side effects include sweating, chest pains, irregular heartbeat, shaking, vomiting, stomach pain, anxiety, dizziness, headache and nausea. Stop taking it you notice any of these symptoms.

5 Things to Do With Wild Garlic

Taunton Farmers Market

Allium_ursinum0If you don your wellies for a tramp through the woods today, you’re likely to come across swathes of lush green leaves starred with delicate white flowers. Before you trip over them, though, you’ll be alerted to their presence by a strong garlicky smell.

Wild garlic, also known as Bears Garlic, Ramsons or Ramps, is currently enjoying its moment in the sun. It has a very short season, so if you love its mellow garlic taste you’ll need to be quick. Blink, and it’ll be gone.

Once you have your carrier bag (or, if you’re greedy like me, bin bag) full of pungent leaves, what do you do with it? Storing it is a problem, since, like most green vegetables, it won’t keep for long, even in the fridge. You can freeze it, but comes out looking like smelly cooked spinach. So, before you go down that road, how about…

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What’s Good to Eat in March

Taunton Farmers Market

File 30-01-2016 11 34 07Taunton Farmers Market are extremely lucky to have several conscientious fruit and veg farmers, whose farming strategies ensure they get as many growing weeks out of their crops as possible in natural and sustainable ways. Cold storage and poly-tunnels can provide both apples and rocket in March, a long time after and before their normal growing seasons. This extension of seasonality enables us to have local nutritious produce practically all year round. Even better, our producers use organic methods, so check out Linscombe Farm or Ray’s Veg this Thursday to see what’s growing right now.

tfm rayShopping at a Farmer’s Market keeps you in touch with the natural cycle of the year. You’ll find a completely different range of produce in March to what is available in October. March is a time of year when things reach the end of their season while summer vegetables are only just starting to grow…

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5 Reasons to Switch to Spelt

Taunton Farmers Market

A decade ago if I suggested using spelt, most people would have looked blank while they wondered why I was using such bad grammar in the context of a language discussion. These days, we know spelt is a type of flour. While a lot of foodies advocate it, us average Joes might not know all that much about it.

BreadFirst, the background. Spelt is part of the wheat genus – meaning it’s in the same family as common wheat, but it is a species apart. It is an ancient grain whose origins go back 9000 years. Carbonated grains have been discovered in stone-age sites in Britain and throughout Europe. It continued being cultivated in central Europe and the Middle East until the 19th Century. Records from a region in Germany in 1850 show that spelt made up 94% of cereal acreage compared to only 5% wheat. Modern farming techniques caused…

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A Vegan Tipple

hedgerow_sangriaChristmas just isn’t the same without a drink to wash down that nut roast with, and what could be better than a glass of vegan wine made from local hedgerow and garden products?

I was delighted to discover an awesome producer at a recent event. VQ Country Wines are based in the Forest of Dean and make a rainbow selection of delicious alcohol that’s both vegan and gluten free.

Here’s what they say about their wines:

We use traditional British wine making techniques, adding no artificial colours or tastes, letting nature do all the work for us. Some would say lazy, others ingenious, we prefer to go by the latter.

We produce small batches at a time allowing for greater quality control and we regularly taste test our batches throughout their fermentation to make sure they are consistent in flavours and appearance. It’s a tough job, but someone has to do it!

We believe in old school, fair and local ethics and that’s why each component in our production, from bottles to corks and labels to shrink wraps, has been researched thoroughly and chosen because of a number of morally right reasons, not just because of price.

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Fruit wines do not fall into red, white or rose classifications because the colour comes from the fruit rather than the skin of grapes. This leaves you with a kaleidoscope of colours and flavours to choose from, and caters for a range of tastes from sweet and light to dark and full-bodied.

Don’t go without your Christmas tipple this year, get a bottle or three of these natural, delicious and vegan wines to add some sparkle to the festivities.