Thursday, 14 May 2015

Flavoured olive oil

Preserving food in olive oil has been used for centuries and works by excluding air from your produce to stop bacterial growth.

It is not now widely used for food preservation but many still produce flavoured oils for use in cooking or for salads using garlic, chilli peppers, herbs or sun dried lemons or tomatoes.

When using fresh produce to infuse oil it is necessary to heat the oil to around 150c to kill any bacteria present in the produce before pouring into a pre-sterilsed jar. Always prepare your produce by thoroughly washing and drying and then peeling, removing seeds and slicing into strips.

Place your prepared produce into your jar and pour on the heated olive oil. Seal straight away and keep in a dark area for up to five months.

To ensure your product is safe, once opened, keep in the fridge.

Thursday, 12 March 2015

Benefits of Olive leaf tea

Where would we be without our wonderful olive trees which supply us with, after processing, edible green and black olives, olive oil and kindling and wood for our wood burning stove. We have now discovered that the leaves are also a very useful resource and make a very healthy tea. A tea which has been brewed in the Mediterranean area for thousands of years.

Apparently, the tea is very beneficial and has antioxidant levels tens times that of green tea. Clinical trials are ongoing but the tea is said to lower blood pressure, lower cholesterol, help build bone density and improve blood flow. The leaves also have antibacterial, anti-inflammatory and anti-fungal properties and strengthen the immune system.

If you have your own olive tree or have access to a tree its easy to make your own tea.

Only pick leaves from a tree that has been kept organically to avoid any pesticides, insecticides or any other chemicals. Select and pick healthy and blemish free leaves about  mid-morning when any dew has evaporated.

Wash and dry the leaves indoors and away from direct sunlight. When dried thoroughly, remove the stalks and place in an airtight container.

Simply add about 6-8 leaves (depending on the strength of tea preferred) to a pot and pour over sufficient boiling water for 2-4 cups. Allow the tea to infuse for 25-30 minutes before straining. We enjoy a cup every morning and the taste in not unlike loose leaf green tea and very pleasant.

Friday, 5 December 2014

Yacon Harvest

We always like to try something new every year and this year we tried growing yacon (Smallanthus Sonchifolius) a Peruvian white tuber. We planted eight plants. The plants produced 14 Kg of tubers
Some of the tubers were the size of a large sweet potato but most were smaller. They tasted quite nice but not as sweet as we expected given it is used to make a syrup. 
The plant produces two types of underground tubers, ones for eating and small reddish rhizomes used for propagation (propagules). We have retained some propagules for next year but I think we will only grow a couple of plants.

To avoid frost damage to the propagules, we have brushed off all the attached soil and have left a couple of small tubers on to provide water for the propagules. We have stored them covered with shredded newspaper in a shed. We will take them out of storage in early Spring and remove propagules for planting individually into small pots.
So far we have tried the tubers raw in salads and chopped in a stir-fry and curry.  We have tried making them into crisps but think we cut them too thickly. We are yet to try them boiled, steamed or baked.
We have made some syrup but I don't know whether its worth the effort. We food processed 8.5 Kg of tubers and squeezed out the juice. Which was thenboiled and left to simmer for around 5 hours until it became a thickish black syrup. From 8.5 Kg we ended up with 375g of syrup, so to produce any significant amount we would need around 50 Kg of tubers. 
The syrup tastes sweet and very like pekmez made from carob. Overall an easy crop to grow but I don't think we will grow it in any significant amounts.
Given the amount of yacon tubers needed to produce the syrup, I can now understand why it sells for around £10 for 330g. It is being sold as a weight loss aid as a low calorie sugar alternative with lots of other health benefits. I think I would rather eat the tubers.

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Olive Harvest 2014 and the Drought

We spent yesterday harvesting our olives for processing into olive oil. We have four mature olive trees from which we got a total of 40 Kg and obtained 9 liters of organic extra virgin olive oil.

We had insufficient olives in 2011 or 2012 to take to the olive mill, the harvests were used for cracked or black olives and so we are grateful for even such a small harvest. Luckily we still have some oil left from the 2011 harvest, when the same four tree provided 170 Kg of olives.

Our village has had very little rain since May and even the cacti and figs look in need of  water. The last winter with any significant rainfall was in 2010 and since then we have had only half the average rainfall during the
last three years. Is this climate change or just a cyclical event? Talking to the older members of our community they tell of good winter rain most years and say that three drought years in a row was unheard of. They speak about fields outside the village which had significant numbers of apricot trees which produced good crops almost every year which have all since died.

Lets hope this winter provides significant rainfall, otherwise we will have to start buying olive oil.

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Carob First Harvest

We have harvested our first carob crop, after planting the tree five years ago. The pods are delicious and will not last that long. The tree is growing quite well so we can expect larger crops in years to come. The pods are legumes and can be used in a variety of ways. Powdered it makes a good flour or after a boiling process it can be turned into the syrup pekmez.

Not only is it a good alternative to chocolate for those of us with a sweet tooth but it contains weight for weight three time the amount of calcium in comparison to milk.

Thursday, 12 June 2014

Thank You

We would just like to say a big thanks to everybody who uses or has used our blog - 100,000 hits is amazing. 

Saturday, 17 May 2014

How to make and use vinegar in the garden - 12 uses

Vinegar making is started by washing either grapes or apples and then extracting their juice. After measuring the volume of juice, strain the juice into a sterilised container, add brewing yeast, sufficient for the volume of juice used and insert an airlock.
The juice is left  to ferment and turn the fruit sugar into alcohol. Once fermentation is completed, expose the liquid to the air which will permit acid making bacteria to convert the alcohol to vinegar. This process can be speeded by adding half a cup of organic vinegar to the liquid.

Whilst the process is taking place a cheesecloth over the container to keep out insects or dirt. The liquid needs to be kept at between 15c and 25c and stirred daily during fermentation which takes between 3-4 weeks.

Your vinegar is ready when it smells and tastes like vinegar. Once fermentation is complete, strain the liquid through a cheesecloth several times to remove any remaining yeast  and stop the fermentation process. To permit long term storage your vinegar must be pasteurised by heating to 75c, use a cooking thermometer to determine the temperature, for about 10 minutes.  Pour your vinegar whilst still hot into sterilised glass bottles and store out of direct sunlight in a cool area. 

If your vinegar tastes too strong it can be diluted with water.

Once you have a batch of vinegar the number of uses are many. Listed are ten of our gardening favourites.

1.  Use full strength vinegar to kill weeds and grass on paths and other hard to reach areas.
2.  Deter ants by spaying vinegar on their trails or ant hills.
3.  Soothe bee or other bites by rubbing vinegar on affected areas.
4.  Cleans any bugs off of freshly picked vegetables by adding vinegar and salt to a bowl of water.
5.  Use diluted vinegar to clean glass.
6.  Get rid of any rust on garden tools by soaking overnight in vinegar.
7.  Remove any vegetable or fruit stains on your hands by rubbing with vinegar
8.  Drown fruit flies by placing a cup of vinegar in a jar (see image) and add a couple of drops of washing-up liquid.
9. Add 1 tablespoon of vinegar and 1 teaspoon of sugar to cut flowers in a vase to help preserve them for longer.
10. Kill slugs by spraying with vinegar 
11. Kill snails squirting with a solution of half vinegar and half water.
12. Make your own organic weedkiller