Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Simple and frugal lifestyle

Cannot believe that the blog is approaching it's first birthday, so thought we would publish and update the first ever blog.
We moved to Cyprus in October 2009 with the aim of growing most of our own food. We have a large garden and have established twenty-two deep beds for vegetables, a herb garden and a mini-orchard where we have planted 44 fruit and nut trees.

We initially started the Cyprus Gardener website to provide information on growing organic food but have gradually come to realise that food is only part of living a sustainable lifestyle and this blog is an opportunity not only talk about growing our own food but other sustainability issues. 
There is a growing awareness that our materialistic lifestyles, in a world with depleting resources, are not sustainable over the long term. Especially in a world where one in four of the worlds population still live in extreme poverty. We need to consider living simpler and more sustainable lifestyles to meet our everyday needs but at the same time not compromise the ability of future generations to enjoy a life without scarcity. A simpler lifestyle does not mean we need to go without but we do need to review lifestyles which are generally based on over consumption and materialistic values. As Gandhi said, "The rich must live more simply so that the poor may simply live".
Growing some of your own food organically is a good start to a sustainable lifestyle which is open to us all. And reduces our over reliance on the large food multinationals which are dependant on depleting oil for growing and transporting food thousands of miles around the world. Growing your own food without relying on artificial fertilisers and chemicals also protects the soil on which we all depend and supports biodiversity.

There is growing evidence, obviously denied or rejected by the food industry, that organic foods are higher in nutrients and vitamins and consequently a healthier choice. Feeding ourselves with food which is chemically and GM free has to be your first step towards a sustainable lifestyle. Everybody, even with very little space using containers or pots, can grow some of their own food organically or if not support, by using their purchasing choices, those who do. With food scare stories almost daily such as mass food poisoning, hormones in milk, mad cow disease and cloned meat its no wonder more and more people are realising that growing their own food is the only safe method of producing nutritious food. 
This blog will hopefully offer suggestions on what you can do to live a more sustainable, simpler and frugal lifestyle.
I honestly believe that there is a growing shift in attitudes to food, and other sustainable lifestyle choices, as we gradually return to enjoying our food rather than treating it as another factory commodity where our food is produced as cheaply as possible.
Small steps do matter so join the movement.

2012 New Year Gardening Resolutions

Resolution 1 - Make a plan of what we want to grow. A plan will enable us to grow more, save time and save money by not buying too many seeds. Good planning helps you to arrange your beds and plant the right number of each vegetable and allow you to use your space to it's maximum.

Resolution 2 - Continue to build the soil and improve it's structure and nutrient levels. Reuse fallen leaves, make compost and use seaweed.

Resolution 3 - Mulch, mulch, and mulch. Organic mulches, such as straw, seaweed and chopped leaves will suppress weeds, conserve moisture and add nutrients to the soil.

Resolution 4 - Water only when you have to.

Resolution 5 - Try to grow more of what we eat. Reduce our food miles and make them food meters but try growing something new and grow more herbs for the kitchen.

Resolution 6 - Pick early and often vegetables such as tomatoes, peppers, beans, squashes and cucumbers, as continual picking will increase your yields.

Resolution 7 - Increase successive planting. Once a crop is finished plant another crop. Make this part of your gardening plan.

Resolution 8 - Take regular breaks when gardening or at least switch movements or activities often to save muscles and joints from injury by repetitive motions.

Resolution 9 - Encourage the good bugs by planting appropriate flowers to naturally fight insect predators and parasites. Remove diseased plants and don't let any weeds go to seed.

Resolution 10 - Enjoy all aspects of gardening even the tedious and energy sapping tasks.

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Sage and Onion

Make your own sage and onion mixture to use as a stuffing or to make your own sage and onion balls.

Ingredients:

Olive oil for frying, 2 medium sized onions, small bunch of fresh sage leaves finely chopped or 2 teaspoons of dried sage, 100g of bread and salt and pepper to taste.

Method:

(1) Peel and finely chop the onions and fry until softened
(2) Grate bread to fine breadcrumbs
(3) Add breadcrumbs and the rest of the ingredients to the onions and mix well

Use as a stuffing mix or form into balls before cooking for 10-15 minutes in a medium oven.

Monday, 19 December 2011

Growing turmeric

I have ordered five turmeric rhizomes on E-Bay. Turmeric is a perennial tropical plant of the ginger family and it's roots are used to produce turmeric powder. These roots are boiled, dried and ground up to produce the turmeric powder which is used as a spice in curries to add a lovely peppery taste and produce a deep yellow colour.

Turmeric is a very healthy addition to your diet as it contains iron, manganese, lowers cholesterol and has antiseptic and antibacterial properties.

From what I have read growing turmeric is relatively easy, provided the plants receive enough moisture until they are established, after which they are drought tolerant. The plants also appear to be able to cope with most soil types but prefer some shade but if grown in full sun will need to be kept constantly wet. Outside of tropical areas, the plants will need covering in the coldest months to avoid frost damage.

I will use a propagator to get the plants started before planting the rhizomes out in late February. The pleated leaves will apparently grow to about 120cm tall in ideal conditions and yellow flowers will emerge between the leaves in summer months.

If the plants are successful I will investigate the method for making turmeric powder. I do like a gardening challenge.

Friday, 16 December 2011

Four steps towards organic gardening

Organic gardening may seem complex but it is not as difficult or as expensive as people think. Although it is certainly a different approach to gardening, when you break it down it simply means re-examining every aspect of how we garden. A change towards organic gardening can be a gradual process, phasing in organic methods slowly before you become fully organic and fully enjoy the health benefits of chemical free food.

Step one should always be to analyse your soil's structure and composition. For example, if you have a hard soil with little humus, like ours, your first goal would be to improve it's texture and health. Such a soil can be gradually improved by incorporating as much natural materials such as dried leaves, compost or manure. This process will take some take some time but over time you will see an improvement in your soils structure and health as your soil becomes richer in nutrients and minerals. As the soil improves it will provide plants with the means to resist disease and insect attack naturally.

Whenever we can we add well-rotted manure from local dairies, composted material from the garden and kitchen, well rotted straw, wood ash from our wood burning stove and we will, when we get round to it, make use of sea weed. Whatever natural materials you can use will improve your soil over time. And each season you will notice the structure of your soil improving.

Step two, should be to gradually incorporate the use of organic pest controls into your garden. You can make your own chemical free concoctions at home or alternatively there are now an endless array of commercial  products available to deal with all your gardening problems.

Step three, should be your gradual move towards purchasing organic seeds. You will find a wide selection of these available from on-line seed sellers and most sites will indicate whether seeds are organic or not.

Step four, will involve exploring ways to control weeds without the need to resort to chemicals.  Using a mulch is one of the easiest ways to keep weeds down. Applying a thick layer of any natural material such as well-rotted composted, wood chips or even shredded paper will restrict the light from weed seeds not allowing them to germinate. Hoeing and hand-pulling of annual weeds, if done consistently, is another great way to prevent weeds from taking over your garden. For perennial weeds you must, however, ensure that they are fully dug out to remove all the root to avoid re-emergence.

You can, over a period of your choice, become fully organic by following this four stage plan. Good luck and happy gardening.

Friday, 9 December 2011

Rainbow


We were just on the edge of a thunderstorm and only had a few drops of rain but saw a beautiful double full rainbow.

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Homemade citrus spray


Our citrus trees have been suffering from insect attack recently which has damaged quite a few of their leaves. I sprayed them today with a homemade solution.

Last night I boiled a quartered onion (with its skin), a crushed garlic clove and one very hot pepper and after allowing the contents to boil for about 10 minutes,  left the mixture to cool overnight,.

I strained the mixture this morning and added 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil and 2 tablespoons of eco washing-up liquid.

I poured the mixture into a spray bottle and added 2 liters of water, before shaking thoroughly before spraying.

We will have to see if the spray does any good and if not I will resort to some shop bought organic insecticide.

Early days - will have to wait, probably until the Spring, to see if the spray has worked.

Friday, 2 December 2011

Marigold - uses and benefits

We were having a stroll around the garden this afternoon and saw this perfectly formed marigold flower.

Did you know the marigold (Calendula) is part of the daisy family and is native to the Mediterranean area. There as many as twenty varieties available, most of which are annuals but there are even a few perennials. Marigold is self-seeding and once established generally produces a show annually and can be thinned out for transplanting. Alternatively you can collect seeds annually, which can last up to two years or longer if stored correctly, and sow seeds in different areas of your garden.

We grow a couple of different annual varieties in our herb beds for the petals which make a lovely addition to salads, pasta or rice dishes and provide a peppery flavour. The petals can also be infused to make a tea which is said to help with digestive problems. This is probably based on the fact that the petals have been found to have antiseptic, antibacterial and anti-inflammatory benefits.

Did you also know - that dried marigold petals have been described as the poor mans saffron because of its similar taste and ability to add colour to dishes.

For other edible flower ideas go to https://sites.google.com/site/cyprusgardener/home/edible-flowers

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Gardening in Cyprus - Jobs for December

The Cypriot weather in December can be very changeable and it is on average the wettest month of the year, with about seven rainy days. Day time temperatures average between 15-18c and minimums of between 5-8c. The mild temperatures of the day can therefore be followed by some very chilly evenings. There can even be an occasional frost but it's not usually too severe. The mild days are excellent for getting some gardening done and the following jobs can be undertaken during the month.


Plant out garlic bulbs and onion sets

Sow salad leaves and beetroot

Sow broad beans

Prune fig trees if needed

Fertilize citrus and pomegranate trees

Harvest citrus fruits and have a try at making your own marmalade or lemonade syrup

http://cyprusgardener.blogspot.com/2011/07/how-to-make-your-own-orange-marmalade.html
http://cyprusgardener.blogspot.com/2011/07/make-your-own-lemonade-syrup.html

Cover any tender plants (or trees such as guava) to avoid any possible frost damage

Harvest olives and if you have already done so prune your olive trees

http://cyprusgardener.blogspot.com/2011/11/pruning-mature-olive-trees.html

Have a try at preparing some of your own black olives

http://cyprusgardener.blogspot.com/2011/07/how-to-prepare-black-olives-for-eating.html

Plant pansies and violas - with viola petals making a lovely addition to salads

Collect fallen leaves for composting or if you don't mind the look leave on the ground to rot down and provide a natural mulch

Plant spring bulbs - if you haven't done so already

Happy gardening and harvesting for the month and if you require any further information go to www.cyprusgardener.co,uk or http://cyprusgardener.blogspot.com/

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Olive tree diseases and their control

Listed are the four main diseases which can affect olive trees in Cyprus and the Mediterranean area:

Olive Knot - (Pseudamonas Savastanoi) are rough swellings caused by bacterial infection and which can develop on wounded area on the trees branches, trunk or leaves. Cut out any diseased area at the first signs of the disease. This disease and all the others mentioned can be reduced by providing good growing conditions and by regular pruning to maintain airflow and sunlight entry to all parts of the tree. Avoid pruning if wet weather is expected and ensure all pruning tools are disinfected before use.

Olive Fruit Fly - fruit fly larvae feed on olives, if you want organic olives you have to accept some damage or the alternative is inorganic chemicals. However, there are some experiments currently being undertaken to develop biological traps which will suit organic growers.

Brown or Black Olive Scale - caused by insects which excrete a sticky and shiny scale on leaves which reduces the trees productivity. Cut out damaged areas and burn and deter the insects by pruning to keep an open and airy structure to the tree. This problem is however very rare in healthy well pruned trees.


Peacock Spot also known as Olive Leaf Spot - A common disease caused by a fungus which leaves sooty blotches on leaves which turn into black circular spots, causing the leaves to prematurely fall. Burn all diseased leaves and ensure you collect all fallen leaves to burn.

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Pruning Mature Olive Trees

The Cypriot tradition is to prune mature olive trees, although this can be done any time of the year, after the November/December harvest. The goals of pruning are to promote healthy growth; improve the qaullity and quantity of olive yields; maximize light  entry to the tree by thinning out and to cut out damaged, diseased or overlapping branches.

We have just pruned our trees and after asking for advice and checking  information available we came to the conclusion that whatever way you undertake the task the tree will grow regardless without much ill affect. You will need good pruning shears and a sharp hand saw to undertake the job.

Our pruning's are not wasted, we allow the branches to dry out over the summer months and use the small branches and twigs for kindling and the larger ones for firewood.

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Frugal green tomato curry

We being the frugal and thrifty types do not like waste of any kind, especially when it comes to food, be it cooked or uncooked. Some of our thrifty practices are cooking from scratch, turning leftovers into soups, baking our own bread, cakes and biscuits and making whatever we can from jams, to wine to marmalade.

Yesterday we cleared the last of the tomato plants from the vegetable beds and ended up with quite a few green tomatoes. The most obvious use is to make them into a chutney or pickle but after searching the internet we found a variety of recipes to use our green tomatoes. The recipes ranged from a green tomato bread to a cake or a curry. We decided to  adapt the curry recipes to one which made use of the ingredients we have available.

The ingredients we used were:

Enough olive oil for frying
4 garlic cloves - chopped finely
1 onion finely chopped
2 finely chopped peppers
250g of cubed potato
250g cored, green tomato chopped finely
Salt to taste
Curry powder depending on the hotness you prefer
Chopped coriander

Method:

Heat the olive oil and fry the chopped garlic and onion until golden brown

Add all the other ingredients (except for the coriander) and cook for 5 minutes - stirring occasionally

Pour in a cup of water and stir, bring to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes

Once cooled slightly stir in the chopped coriander and serve with rice. A tasty meal on a cold evening.

Saturday, 26 November 2011

Sowing beans and peas

It was a chilly start to the day but it turned into a beautiful morning and we have been busy in the garden planting four deep beds with peas and beans. We added a sprinkling of lime to each bed, as legumes like a pH of between 6-7, and the soil is much improved in structure with the addition of manure over the last eighteen months. Straw mulches on previous crops have also broken down to improve what was a very clayey soil. The soil is now quite friable and very moist from the rain we have had recently, all of which should help the legumes germinate quickly.

We planted two beds of broad beans, one with french beans and one with peas. Dwarf French beans are usually sown in March but we are experimenting with a November sowing and we will have to see how they develop.

Broad beans are sown 4-5cm deep and 25cm apart in all directions and should germinate in 7-14 days Stakes are needed to support the plants as with the weight of the pods the plants become quite heavy. The tops are usually pinched out when sufficient pods have formed to deter blackfly who love the soft tops. If blackfly do become a problem spray with soapy water, using a eco washing-up liquid. Harvesting is usually undertaken in 140-175 days, small pods can be enjoyed whole or left to mature and dried for later use. Yields usually average 5kg from a 3 meter row.

Dwarf French beans are sown 2.5cm deep, 15cm apart and in rows 45cm apart. It helps to mulch the bean plants once a reasonable size to help retain moisture. The beans are usually harvested in 56-70 days after sowing when the pods are about 8cm long. Regular picking helps to extend harvesting . Yields are usually 6kg from a 3 meter row.

Peas are sown 2.5cm deep and 7.5cm in all directions. Peas enjoy a fertile, deep worked and good draining soil. Ours must be ideal, as we got a very good crop last year. Netting needs to provide to support the peas. Harvesting is usually in 12-16 weeks and regular picking extends the harvest. You can usually expect a 4.5kg harvest from a 3m row.

Remember - a garden is a good friend you can visit everyday.

Our seeds are in and now we await the wonder of nature. Back into the garden this afternoon to sow one more bed of peas, one of dwarf French beans.and some onion sets for spring onions.

Friday, 25 November 2011

Visit to Olive Mill

We took our olive harvest to the mill yesterday, along with quite a few other people, and waited for four hours for our olives to be processed. However, the time passed very quickly and we enjoyed watching the olives being processed and the smell of the mill iwas wonderful. We didn't know there were so many different varieties of olives and they ranged from very large to some very tiny ones which apparently produce a good ratio of olive oil.. Apparently there are thousands of cultivars and in Italy alone over 300 different varieties have been identified.

The weight of our olives was 333kg and we got 50lt of olive oil, with a ratio of 6kg to 1lt which was not as good as last year but the oil looks a lot darker and tastes better. We were so tired when we got home, that a proper taste test to compare 2010 to 2011 will have to wait until the morning. With 50lt and some 20lt remaining from last year we should be self sufficient in olive oil even if we get a very poor harvest next year.

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Olive Harvest 2011

We started our 2011 olive harvest on Tuesday 22nd November We learnt quite a few lessons from our first harvest last year. We started last year using our hands to harvest olives but after a short while, and after many cuts and scratches, we purchased two hand held rakes. These permit a quicker and less painless harvest but the only drawback is a lot of time is needed after harvesting to remove the twigs, leaves and detach olives still attached to small branches.

However, we will not clean the olives as thoroughly as last year, when we removed virtually every leaf, only to find when we got to the mill that some people hardly clean their's at all as the machinery removes nearly all the debris before processing.

Another lesson we learnt since last year was to not pick olives that had fallen from the tree, as on investigation we have found that the olives start deteriorating quite quickly after falling and this effects the acidity level of the olive oil.

The biggest plus this harvest has been our purchase of good quality netting, Last year we used a thick plastic sheet and found that that the wind kept blowing the sheet in all over the place and however careful we were it kept tearing and splitting.

We started on Tuesday morning at 8.00 and finished 16.00 and harvested 3 trees which are in a field some 200 meters from the house. We were unable to drive any closer than 75 meters away, so this entailed a lot of carrying from the car and back again. We harvested 140kg and with the ladder, netting and everything else- we spent quite sometime getting the car loaded. This was a big increase on last years harvest when we only got 3kg from the same trees which must have been harvested by somebody by mistake or more likely deliberately.

We started Wednesday morning at 7.00 on the four trees in our garden and finished harvesting at 16.00 but had harvested 171kg,

In 2010 the four tress in our garden produced 214kg so this years total was 34kg less. But each year some trees provide a reduced harvest and others are more laden. For example, one tree had 93kg last year but only  16kg this year, whilst another only had 3kg last year but provided 24kg this year.

We started the cleaning process but will have to finish off the remaining half before going to the mill tomorrow.

Monday, 21 November 2011

Baking Day

We started baking this morning at 9.00 am and have just finished. We made 18 olive rolls, 13 sesame topped rolls, a chocolate cake, 11 Cypriot squash pastries and 5 Cornish pasties.

We have already eaten two delicious Cornish pasties, so there are only three in the picture. A hard mornings work but lots of rolls to keep us in lunches for quite some time.

The recipe for Cypriot squash pastries was in an earlier blog - for the recipe go to http://cyprusgardener.blogspot.com/2011/07/cypriot-squash-pastries-recipe.html The rolls were made using our bread recipe - http://cyprusgardener.blogspot.com/2011/07/make-your-own-bread-and-pitta-bread.html. The Cornish pasties were made with shortcrust pasty and have a filling of minced lamb, cubed potato, carrot and pumpkin with sliced onions and seasoning. The chocolate cake is made with cocoa powder and will be sliced in two to add a chocolate filling.

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Build a wood fired earth oven (Part 1)

We started construction of a wood fired oven by building a square dry wall base up to waist height to make using the oven easier. The stones had to be transported by wheelbarrow about 100m and it took quite a few trips to get enough stone and quite some time to select stones with a flat enough sides to use.. The top layer was leveled off by using a spirit level placed across each wall on a long beam and although it's not perfectly level - it's pretty level.

The next step was to fill the center with more stone (thankfully of any shape or size) and any other available rubble. Once the center was filled to within 25cm from the top, the next layer was added which was mixture of straw and soil, mixed to a mud, to provide an insulation layer. Small stones were used to fill in any gaps in the walls and finally thick stone tiles were placed into the center to provide the oven floor. The gap between the oven floor and wall edges were filled to the same level as the oven base with a mud mixture.

We will now leave Part 2 of the oven construction until the Spring which will allow time for settling and when it will be warm enough to start building the earth oven, allowing the mud mixture to dry well..

Wood fired ovens (fourno's or firin's) are seen throughout Cyprus and have been used for many centuries. They are fired-up traditionally using olive and carob wood and once white hot the ashes and charcoal are swept to the edges of the oven. Once up to temperature the oven is ready to use for the next four to ten hours. Traditionally used to bake bread or kleftico (translated as stolen meat) which is a lamb which has been basted in olive oil and oregano and then cooked with garlic, onions and new potatoes. A wood fired oven reaches 370c and this high temperature when baking bread causes dough to rise very rapidly producing a wonderfully thick crust but at the same time trapping air bubbles inside to produce a light and very airy bread. And the even heat is ideal for cooking kleftico and other casseroles or to provide fast pizza.

Monday, 14 November 2011

Rain, rain and more rain

We have had rain showers overnight for the past few nights but it started raining hard at 10 this morning  and has now been constant for nearly five hours. Everything is sodden and puddles are starting to form as the ground cannot absorb anymore water but the fruit trees are getting a thorough watering.

The olive picking season is upon us, so the olives will be dust free and well washed but it will be at least a week of dry and windy weather before we will be able to get started as the soil will need time to dry out.

I was planning on sowing, broad beans, peas, chickpeas and french beans this morning and was just going to start when the rain began. At least the soil should be nice and moist when sowing can be done.

We started building an earth oven yesterday by erecting a dry stone wall base up to waist height which will, once filled in, provide the floor for the oven to be built on. The base is half way built and transporting the stone by wheelbarrow from about 100 meters away was tiring. There is plenty of stone available nearby but finding the right shape with flat bases is the difficult part but the wall looks good.

Hopefully, the rain will stop soon but it's so dark and dismal outside that I think we have a few more hours of rain to come.

Friday, 11 November 2011

Red Pumpkin Soup

Red pumpkins are in season at the moment in Cyprus and besides making the lovely traditional squash pastries they can be used to make a delicious soup.



Ingredients needed to serve 2 are:

(1)  500g of diced red pumpkin
(2)  1 large onion sliced
(3)  Salt & pepper to taste, a bay leaf and some lemon juice
(4)  A quarter cup of milk and 2 cups of water
(5)  Olive oil for frying

Method:

(1)  Heat the oil and fry the onions until softened
(2)  Add the red pumpkin and the rest of the ingredients
(3)  Cook on a low heat until the red pumpkin is soft enough to mash
(4)  Add additional water to achieve a thick soup consistency

Chopping Wood

We are approaching our second winter in Cyprus and our main source of heating for the living room and kitchen is a wood burning stove which we used for about 6-8 weeks last winter. The heat generated was remarkable. We even boiled a kettle every evening for a hot drink.


We bought a wood stove for a number of reasons. Living rurally there is lots of wood to collect locally, especially when the olive trees are being trimmed, and this is a sustainable heat source.  We have also been busy collecting wood which has resulted from the Council knocking down some of the derelict houses in the village and we have managed to get home, using our wheelbarrow, some really large roof beams. Collecting wood becomes an obsession and whenever we go for a walk we return with some wood. We probably have enough wood for the few next winters. 


Using a wood burning stove, and probably most importantly, is largely carbon neutral, as growing trees takes in carbon dioxide which is then released when the wood rots or is burnt.
Cleaning the stove daily is a bit of a chore but it soon becomes part of your daily routine, as is reloading it with paper and kindling ready for lighting. The ash generated is not wasted as it is useful in the garden. It comprises of about 10% potash, 1% phosphate and has traces of iron, copper and zinc but the largest component is at 25% calcium carbonate which is a common liming material. Adding ash to acidic soil, like ours, is of great benefit and raises it alkalinity.
Stove technology has really moved on and modern stoves burn very efficiency and our model burns at 72% efficiency. Modern stoves get the most out of your fuel by burning the smoke. To achieve this efficiency and best smokeless performance go for a stove with a turbo baffle or similar mechanism which creates a process called tertiary burning. The baffle directs the smoke through the fire again and again, creating an internal circular gas flow that continually mixes the exhaust gases with fresh oxygen. This mix is drawn through the base of the fire allowing the gases to reach temperatures that would not normally be reached, and then they re-burn further adding to the heat of the stove. You get remarkable bright blue, green, red and orange flames as this process occurs which is better than watching TV on most nights and very relaxing.
We purchased a Horse Flame HF-717 Elessar cast iron stove with a glass front which produces 18.5kW or 63,000 BTU and weighs 196kg. It's a large unit but it means we can use quite large logs with no problem. The suppliers installed it and it took four men to remove it from the trailer van and move it to it's location. We had the flue pipe outlet installed high up on the wall directly into the chimney breast which means two metres of piping are in the room but this provides added heat as the pipe gets very hot. 


The stove we bought, although efficient, gets through a lot of wood and a constant supply is required. When you have to cut and chop this amount you really know about it and it warms you up on a cold winters day. We needed about three full wheel barrows of wood a week to run the stove. Sawing this much wood by hand was hard work and some of the larger logs were too difficult so I purchased  a small petrol chainsaw. Spent all day today using the chainsaw to cut the large logs we have accumulated and we have plenty of chopped wood. It's still warm enough at the moment and although we have a lot we will only start using it when absolutely necessary. I'm sure we will collect plenty more on our travels and walks to keep the pile topped up.

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Magical Garlic

It's now the perfect time to plant garlic. Plant you cloves with the flat end down, about 10cm deep ad 18cm apart. Your garlic bulbs will be ready for harvesting when the stems turn yellow and brown and die back. Dry your harvested cloves in the sun for a few days before storage.


Garlic has been revered for its culinary and medicinal uses for centuries and is a true superfood but not for its vitamin and mineral content but because of it's sulfur containing compounds which give garlic it’s pungent aroma and flavour.


Recent research into these sulfur compounds has found that they assist in lowering blood pressure, reducing artery clogging, improve blood flow, help to lower cholesterol levels and by there antibacterial and antifungal compounds help to support the body’s immune system against bacterial infections, colds and flu.


Do your body a favour and get planting some garlic and you can never have too much with it's many uses in the kitchen, to make your own medicines or use as a pesticide or insecticide in the vegetable garden.


A clove a day keeps the doctor away.

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Gardening in Cyprusr - Tasks for November

November's weather in Cyprus is autumnal when the temperatures drop noticeably and the rainy season begins. Daytime temperatures average 22c to 24c during the day and 11c to 14c at night. The daytime temperatures make it the ideal time to enjoy countryside walks and are ideal gardening weather.

The following are jobs you might want to undertake during the month.


Plant out onion and garlic sets.

Trim Vines

Plant peas, broad beans, chickpeas

Sow beetroot, salad leaves and leeks

Plant out artichoke plantlets

Sow spinach, chard, rocket, coriander and parsley

Sow sweet peas

Fertilize fruit trees

If you have a guava or mango tree cover in late November in case of frost

Plant spring bulbs, deadhead flowering shrubs and plants and do autumn weeding and hoeing

Collect seeds from herbs and other plants

Harvest olives for curing and olive oil, citruses and persimmons

Happy gardening and harvesting for the month and if you require any further information go to
www.cyprusgardener.co.uk or http://sites.google.com/site/cyprusgardener/home

Friday, 28 October 2011

Make Your Own Pomegranate Vinegar

Whilst pomegranates are in season take the opportunity to make yourself and your friends some pomegranate vinegar which adds a gorgeous flavour and aroma to many salads.


The vinegar is easy to make, just add a handful of pomegranate seeds to two cups of white wine vinegar. Mix well and store in an airtight pre-sterilised jar for 1-2 weeks to allow the pomegranate flavour to infuse into the vinegar. After 1-2 weeks, strain the vinegar and store in a pre-sterilsed bottle.


Your pomegranate vinegar will keep in a dark cool place for upto 6 months.

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Pomegranate

Pomegranates in Cyprus are at the end of October at their best and juiciest. There are said to be ripe when they achieve a shiny colour and a tinny sound when tapped. If rain is due, picking ripe pomegranates is essential as the ripe fruit tends to split open following a downpour.

The taste of a sweet pomegranate is amazing with the health benefits as an added bonus. Packed with antioxidants to protect your heart, pomegranates also lower cholesterol levels in the body, lower blood pressure and are packed full of vitamins and iron.

If you do not like seedy fruit then pomegranate is probably not your type of fruit as it is packed full of seeds. For me the seeds are however very tasty, an enjoyable chew and are said to cleanse the body by the roughage they provide.

Not only can the pomegranate be enjoyed as a snack but it can be added to your muesli, salads, made into jam or jelly, juiced, used in a chutney or for numerous recipes available on the internet.

Once picked pomegranates will stay fresh for up to 2 weeks or 4-6 weeks in stored in the fridge, with the added benefit that stored fruit usually improves in flavour and juiciness.

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Eggplant or Aubergine

Eggplant or aubergine is grown widely throughout Cyprus and is 
delicious hot or cold. It can be enjoyed marinated, stuffed, roasted, grilled, fried, in a casserole, or in stews. Sliced eggplant absorbs oil like a sponge, but a good bread crumb or flourr coating will help, and make sure the oil is hot before cooking. Spices that add and complement eggplant flavour include allspice, basil, bay leaves, garlic, chilli powder, oregano, sage, thyme, marjoram, and parsley. It's a natural combined with tomatoes and onions, as in the popular dish ratatouille or moussaka .

Very rich in nutrients and minerals the eggplant can help to reduce cholesterol. When choosing eggplant, look for heavy, firm fruit with unblemished skin. Male eggplants have fewer seeds than the female; they have a rounder, smoother blossom end or base. The blossom end of a female eggplant is generally indented. Store an eggplant in a perforated plastic bag in the refrigerator where it should keep for several days. It may be blanched or steamed then frozen for up to six months.

Monday, 5 September 2011

Local food - grow your own?

I am sure you are aware of the growing trend of eating locally produced food. The idea behind this movement is that food should be transported only minimum distances to reduce its carbon footprint and consequently avoiding the environmental damage and costs of transporting food thousands of miles around the world.


The idea is excellent and I fully support local food and supporting local growers, but part of me says is this just another marketing ploy by big food retailers to make more money by looking greener. At the same time as selling local grown food they stack their shelves with other produce which has been flown thousands of miles and is over packaged. 


At the end of the day, the most local food possible is to grow your own but I don't see anybody in the food industry promoting the most local food of all. Even without any support, growing food is becoming more and more popular and the combination of the green movement and the recession that has made people think more about growing food to save money. It's not only healthier, it keeps you active and can be transported from grower to plate with little or no transport costs.