The Canny Gardener

how to be a smart gardener


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The flower of the moment

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Elderflower shrubs and trees start flowering mid May- this year, the errant summer has made this a bit later.  These grow wild almost everywhere and also in parks.  Its funny since I have become aware of elderflowers, I now find them everywhere.  The photo above shows one next to a railway line.  I choose flowers in full bloom, clipped during midday sun and from places sheltered from traffic fumes and other pollutants because you should not wash them before use.  Be careful where you get them from and do it safely.  I do not clip flowers from people’s gardens unless given permission to do so.  Also, remember to shake out or cut out the masses of black bugs you may find before using them.

These year, I have found masses of elderflowers so have frozen two bag-fulls as it is best to use them fresh.  There are many recipes out on the internet on how to make elderflower cordial, so I won’t give any here.  Over the years, I have experimented with less sugar, cutting out on citric acid, using more flower heads, using frozen elderflower cordial, frozen flowers and using the leftovers (all with great success).  You have also do this.  But here are some things which I have discovered through experimentation I thought might be useful to share.  After all, this blog is about being a canny gardener and is not the same as others!

Can you use frozen elderflowers?

Yes, they are not as good as fresh ones, so I use a little bit more than when using fresh ones.  Last year, my frozen elderflowers got freezer frost yet I was able to make cordial in the height of winter from those.

Do I have to use citric acid to make the cordial?

Citric acid is often used for proper mineral supplementation of food, as an acidity regulator, and as a flavor compound.  Sometimes you may have difficulty finding it- many ethnic food shops keep it.  Most elderflower cordial recipes use it.  However, I have cut it out and increased the flower heads instead for more flavour. If you want more lemony flavour, try squeezing out the sliced lemons you used.

What can you do with the leftovers from the elderflower cordial making?

The sliced lemons make a great treat for children.  I also use them as garnish for ice-creams and drinks.  The used flower heads can be put in the compost heap.  

The photos from this year’s elderflower making are belowImageImage

 


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Nettle and plantain dish

Nettles grow wild in the UK and most throw them away as weeds.  However, nettles are quite nourishing with health restoring properties.  It is a slow-acting nutritive herb that gently cleanses the body of metabolic wastes. It has a stimulating effect on the lymphatic system, enhancing the excretion of wastes through the kidneys. Nettle contains iron and vitamins C and K. It is reportedly specially beneficial to pregnant women.  It is also anti-lithic and nephridic, breaking down stones in the kidneys and gravel in the bladder.

I had a recipe for a spinach and banana dish in which I decided to swap for nettles and plantain.  I used plantain instead of banana to overcome any possible strong reaction with the bowel because plantain slows it down.  Pick the nettle leaves carefully and put them in some hot water which makes them stingless and then they can be chopped up roughly.  To couple of spoons of hot oil, I added a pinch of cumin seeds and birds eye chillies and fried for 1-2 minutes until the cumin seeds were puffed up. Then I added four chopped garlic cloves, half chopped onion and one tomato, quartered, along with the sliced plantain and chopped nettle leaves. Stir until all done- takes about 4-5 minutes with a lid on during last few minutes.  Serve with rice and salt to taste.

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