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Alexanders (Smyrnium olusatrum).

'What did the Romans ever do for us' is a phrase synonymous with the UK. Many ancient tribes, cultures and societies have landed on these shores and settled here. Some came with peaceful intentions and others not so (the Romans). Contrary to what is/was reported, there are many members of these various tribes still scattered around the UK. Not only did they leave their genetic imprints behind but also many a plant. I'm not going to delve into the 'horrors of histories past' but I am going to delve into one of the plants of histories past.

Smyrnium olusatrum or as it is more commonly known, Alexanders, is a member of the Apiaceae or Carrot family. Native to the Meditteranean region, it was apparently introduced by the Romans (ta da!) and used widely & extensively as a fodder crop, pot herb and vegetable (all parts are edible and tasty), until it fell out of favour and was superseded by celery. Given the Romans occupied much of the UK, both inland and coastal ar…

Fermented Japanese Quince Pickle

I love lime pickle but I love my Japanese Quince pickle even more! Lime pickle is great, it smacks your taste buds all over the place and I like that, it's salty, sour, tart, citrusy and then those spices come in to play with that amazing heat toward to the end. So after last years Japanese Quince harvest (end October, early November) an idea struck me, why not make a pickle akin to lime pickle, quince are tart and have that sour, citrus appeal but with a more delicious attitude, so I set about making one. After chopping and removing the seeds, I salted the quince to start a short fermentation process, I later added a range of spices and have left it alone ever since (well, not quite true, I have had a few sneak previews to taste how it's been getting along, who wouldn't and besides, I'm making it :) ). The initially hard quince have softened nicely and they have become beautifully infused with the spices while retaining that distinctive quince flavour and aroma. Ferme…

Sap-solute Magic

'If magic is to be found you will find it in the woods, you'll find it in the trees'

The name Birch is derived from the ancient Sanskrit word 'bhurga' which roughly translated means, 'tree whos bark is used to write upon' - a reference to it's use as a paper resource. This is just one of the many attributes of this common, very useful and delightful tree.

Birch are extremely common in northern temperate regions of the world. In and around Leeds birch can be found in pretty much all the woodlands, yet until this year, I'd all but ignored this tree but for the beauty it lends itself to our parks, woodlands and wildlife. After reading posts and articles about 'birch sap', I felt that it was time to acquaint myself with this practice. So it was, early in March, I set about testing whether the 'sap was rising' or not. I headed to a local woodland and after locating a healthy tree and after seeking permission, I 'tapped' into it u…