The Canny Gardener

how to be a smart gardener


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Natural dyes

 

Having an Armenian link in my family, I decided this year to make traditional Armenian Easter eggs alongside a traditional meal. Making these Easter eggs involves using onion skins, turmeric and other natural dyes to colour eggs. Here are some of my efforts. I collected red onion skins- shopkeepers were happy to get rid of them. I also put in some chilli flakes that I was not using (these also make the water red). I boiled these for about twenty minutes and left it to cool overnight. In the morning, I pasted some leaves I found in the garden on the raw eggs using water. I used organic hens and duck eggs. Then I put the eggs inside cut up old stockings and boiled them further for about 20 minutes. After removing them from the stocking, I left them to cool. When they were cold to touch, I polished them with some olive oil to make them shine. Even though the duck eggs were less successful, the over all effect of mottled colour with silhouettes of leaves, was charming on both types of eggs.

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What about waste?  The skins were put in the compost and the leftover liquid was used to dye an old white silk blouse which is now a pretty pink colour. No waste- perfect!

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I will be trying out more natural dyes made from vegetable waste or origins such as blueberry juice, coffee, tea, etc. I have already used such colours in creating a portrait of person who likes spicy food (turmeric and onion skins), tea and coffee and more mineral colours.

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Abundance of nature

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Nature is not mean with her gifts to us.  This is a pear tree which grows in a community centre where I volunteer at the reception every five weeks.  Yesterday, I not only had four pears for lunch but also brought back a bagful to give away.  Having been grown organically and being in season, they were deliciously sweet.  I don’t normally like pears but these were out of the world.  Eating with the seasons mean that Nature is more than ready to shower us with its abundance.


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Yeast, Gluten and guilt free

I come from a rice eating background. I have noticed that although I am not allergic to eating wheat, I am sensitive to it. I would suffer from indigestion and some minor skin rashes after eating wheat.  So I have focussed on finding alternate ways of eating things I enjoy.

It is very simple, really.  I have done is substituted maize or potato flour or an equal mixture of both for many recipes.  For example, see this simple pizza I made with half maize flour and half potato flour.  The potato flour acts as a binder to the more rough maize flour grains.  I added some organic yoghurt instead of yeast (a trick I learnt from my brother-in-law who is a chemical engineer and likes to experiment with food).  Salt and a pinch of sugar and a few table-spoons of olive oil and water to make a dough (be careful with the water because maize flour is very tricky to form and you must add water little by little).  I left it to ‘develop’ for a about one hour.   Another version is with three equal parts of arrow root flour, potato flour and ordinary flour- although not entirely gluten free, it has one third of gluten, in case you do not mind.  After one hour, I shaped the dough into a flat circle about 6-10 inches diameter (you can make it bigger if you have a bigger base) and placed it on a steel base which had olive oil brushed on it. Put it in the oven at 190C.  I took the pizza base out after 6 minutes when it looked done and then added the toppings.

For toppings I added home made tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese or mozzarella cheese and cherry tomatoes- the later version being more ‘lazy’.  Then I stuck the pizza back in the oven for another 10 minutes until the cheese was ‘bubbling’ and some parts were ‘browned’.  Fried mushroom slices and my home grown basil leaves were added after taking the pizza out of the oven.

My ten year old pronounced it delicious!  It is also quite filling for such a small size pizza.  Money and time saving too- do try it and let me know how you get on-you may never order another Dominoes again!

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Maize and potato flour pizza with home grown basil and tomatoes.

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Left: I made the leftover dough into ‘arepas’ (Latin American patties) with with grated cheese, organic mushrooms and a ‘sunny side’ egg- perfect for lunch or breakfast.

Right: Pizza (with a mixture of arrowroot flour, potato flour and ordinary white flour), topping of home grown tomatoes, mushroom and basil.