Monthly Archives: October 2013

A Neglected Blog but an Interesting Year

I have neglected this blog shamefully over the last few months because I have been very busy.

I had a frustrating start to the year. After years of being stymied in my hopes for an allotment, I found somewhere locally which does allow people from outside their village to rent one. Full of excitement because Google Maps showed large tracts of uncultivated land, I applied, only to be told all the plots were taken (a lot can happen in four years, it seems). So it was back to Plan A – container grown veg, and foraging.

This changed later in the year when a plot became available, and at the end of July I took on an allotment about 15 minutes drive away. It’s not ideal from a time, fuel or pollution point of view, but it’s an allotment and I’m thrilled.

In the meantime I’d done some foraging, had intended to keep this blog up to date, but found myself too busy. What I intend to do now is a few “catch up” posts of events earlier in the year, and how I got on with some of the James Wong inspired growing. I shall start with Nettle Soup.

Nettle Soup

It was a long cold winter and a very late spring this year. Once it started to warm up everything rushed into growth, so I very nearly missed making nettle soup. As nettles age they become inedible with crystals in the leaves, particularly when they start to flower, so it’s best to pick them young. I saw to my horror that the little sprouts of fresh leaves I’d seen a few days before were now several inches tall. Despite being busy with other things i knew that if I wanted nettle soup this year, I would have to gather the nettles immediately.

The question was, where from? I considered Tiptree Heath, because there are lots of nettles near the entrance, but I suspect that’s because of the high nutrient levels from years of dog fouling, and didn’t fancy toxocara soup.

I realised that this was going to be a consideration wherever I went. The usual rules of harvesting above dog leg height could not apply to something that had to be harvested very young and low growing. So I picked areas where people are unlikely to walk their dogs, like the side of a road without a footpath. But then there is the potential for pollution, though I think this is less of a problem since lead is no longer added to petrol. In the end I picked a local quiet lane which proved a bountiful place for nettles.

A dog walked did pass by, but I think the number of dogs is fewer and so any contamination is likely to be more spread out. I was a trifle embarrassed to be discovered rummaging in the nettle patch, wondering if the poor lady thought I was some sort of weird woman, but instead she was interested.
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I picked just the tips, gathering a good carrier bag full, as called for by a River Cottage recipe. They needed a good picking over and thorough washing, which was a time consuming fiddle. I cooked the base of potatoes and stock before adding the nettles, cooking then whizzing with a hand blender.
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I was surprised at how green the soup was. I’d been expecting a more khaki colour, an “appetizing” cowpat brown. As it was, the soup looked lovely. The smell was strongly metallic, reminiscent of watercress soup. Some describe the taste as lemony, but I thought it acid, fresh and green, which might seem a silly description until you try it. It was a very pleasant flavour.
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The family weren’t interested, so by the time I finished it a few days later, I was a little tired of nettle soup. I will definitely make it again, but will regard it as a seasonal treat.

As nettles are rich in vitamin K I think perhaps those on anticoagulant therapies like Warfarin shouldn’t eat too much of it.

I found a couple of interesting articles on nettles. This one describes some fearsome sounding nettles and goes into the history of their use for cloth making.

This one is about some of the herbal benefits. Perhaps I should have dried some to make tea.

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Tiptree Heath Fungus Foray

On Tuesday 22nd October a group of people met on Tiptree Heath for a fungus foray led by Ian Rose of Colchester Natural History Society. It’s been a good year for fungi and we had high hopes of finding a good array of specimens. Ian was hoping to find a Death Cap. In this we were unsuccessful, but we found lots of different samples, some edible, some deadly. At the end we displayed our finds on a paste table for Ian to pick over and discuss.

I can’t remember the names so will just post some of the photos I took. I was interested in the edibility of some of them, particularly the parasol mushrooms, which I thought I had recognized the other day but which I was too scared to eat.

There were earth balls and small puffballs. Earth balls, when cut in half, are hollow, whereas puffballs are solid. I thought I’d try these but in the end didn’t like the smell of them so only ate the parasols. One type is better than the other – the one with the zigzag markings at the bottom. The others can cause gastric upsets.

My kids were appalled when I ate the parasol caps sliced and fried, and said they had 999 on speed dial.

There’s one photograph of the puff ball puffing spores, which I like.

Ian told us that nowadays with the increase in interest in eating fungi, gangs of collectors are going through woods like a search party, grabbing everything and taking it to the boss who sorts and discards anything unusable. although these are only the fruiting bodies, these gatherers are indiscriminate and are causing a lot of damage to the environment.

In addition to which, foraging is supposed to be for our own use, not commercial use.

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“5:2 Fasting & Fitness Easy Science in Layman’s Terms”

7th October is my “Fastiversary”.

A year ago I did my first ever fast day in an effort to lose the “writer’s bum” which had been getting broader every year. I joined Kate Harrison’s 5:2 Facebook Group and started to lose weight through intermittent fasting.
Previous attempts to lose weight have always failed for me, basically due to the regime being too hard to maintain. Not so 5:2. A year later and nearly 3 stone lighter, I am still following 5:2 and still losing weight slowly. In that year, most of the time I haven’t counted calories or restricted my food type or quantities in any way. Some of the time I have restricted my intake to 500kcals. This approach goes against the received wisdom, but that same received wisdom has seen the Western World getting fatter and fatter.

This method works for thousands of people.

In the Facebook Group I found myself constantly explaining aspects of health and fitness in easy to understand terms, and decided to put these analogies into book form to supplement Kate Harrison’s book on the 5:2 dietary approach.

To celebrate my Fastiversary I have scheduled 5:2 Fasting and Fitness Easy Science in Layman’s Terms to go free from 7th to 9th October only

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.co.uk link

.com link

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