Thursday, 12 December 2013

8 Edible seeds to grow and store.

Seeds can be used in a variety of ways and just five portions a week can have many health benefits. They can be used in many ways, eaten whole, ground or made into butters and added to sweet or savoury recipes. 

Seeds are very nutritious, providing the body with fibre, essential vitamins, protein and minerals such as potassium and phosphorous. Nuts are, however, high in carbohydrates and oils and should be eaten in moderation.

Growing your own organic seeds is, therefore, very beneficial for health reasons but can also save you money, as the price of seeds can be very expensive. With the added benefit that they can be stored for at least 6 months in an airtight jar in cool conditions.

Seeds such as celery, caraway, sunflowers, flax, poppy and sesame can be grown seasonally and pumpkin seeds used rather than discarded.

8 seeds to grow 

Caraway: Prefers a fertile soil rich in humus, full sun and a pH in the range of between  4.8 to 7.8.  Sow flax seeds very thinly in March at 6mm deep. Seeds will germinate in about 8 to 12 days and thin or transplant them to 20cm apart in stages. Plants can grow to 45cm to 60cm high. When the plants are established they will only require watering in very dry periods or in periods of very hot weather. Harvest seeds about 4 months after sowing. Caraway seeds shatter easily when dry and can easily self seed. Stored in a jar, the seeds can keep for months.  Harvest by cutting the plants from the base and shake inside a bag to remove the seed. The seeds are high in fibre, anti-oxidants, vitamins A, E and C, copper, iron, zinc and calcium. Caraway seeds have many health benefits including helping digestion and has diuretic properties. The seeds can be brewed in a tea to help with stomach aches. Seeds are chewed raw to freshen the breath and can be used in bread making, salads and as a condiment. 

Celery Seed: Leave one celery plant until the plant develops seed stalks.  These will grow up to 1 metre tall and will produce feathery green flowers on top of which the seeds will grow.  Wait until the stalks start to turn brown and dry out before removing the stalks and drying thoroughly in a cool but dry place.  Once dry, place the flower heads inside a bag and shake to dis-lodge the seeds.  After cleaning, to leave the seeds, store in a jar for up to 6 months after which they start to lose their aroma.  The seeds contain antioxidants, omega 6 fatty acids and chemical compounds which help thin the blood.  The seeds are diuretic and assist the body in ridding excess water.  The seeds have a very strong flavour, so a small pinch goes a long way.  Can be added to salads, coleslaw, pasta dishes and soups.

Flax: Prefers a fertile soil, full sun and a pH in the range of between  5.0 to 6.5.  Sow flax seeds very thinly in September. Seeds will germinate in about 10 days and thin or transplant them to 30cm apart in stages. Plants can grow to 1.2 metres tall and may require some support. When the plants are established they will only require watering in very dry periods or in periods of very hot weather. Harvest seeds about 4 months after sowing  The leaves on the lower part of the plant will start turning yellow and falling off.  The seed pods will rattle if shaken. Pull the plants out of the ground and hang to dry in a warm, dry and airy location.  After a few weeks the plants can be threshed inside a sack to remove the seeds. Sift and clean the threshed plants to extract the flax seeds. You can producelinseed oil when the seeds are cold pressed.  The seeds are edible and are rich in magnesium, vitamins, fibre and omega 3 fatty acids. Evidence is mounting that the seeds prevent inflammation; relieve arthritis; retard and prevents tumour growth and boost the immune system. 

Mustard Seed: Mustard is a spice with a strong flavour and seeds come in either white, black or brown varieties. Black has the strongest flavour, followed by brown then white.  Mustard will grow in most soil types but prefers a well drained and fertile soil. Has a wide range in pH tolerance from 4.2 to 8.3.  To get two harvests a year sow seeds thinly about 6mm deep in early March and September, keep moist and weed free, and seeds will germinate in around ten days. Plants mature in about two months and are ready to harvest for seeds when the plants turn yellow. To harvest the seeds cut the plants at their base, tie into sheaths and sun dry for 5 days. The pods can be shaken inside a bag to extract the seeds.  Whilst growing the leaves are an excellent addition to salads or cooked.  The seeds are used for pickling and used, sometimes ground, to make sauces and dressings. Store harvested seeds in an airtight jar and in a cool and dark place. The seeds are rich in minerals, vitamins and trace elements. Some of the health benefits are: said to relieve migraine, an aid to digestion, have anti-inflammatory properties and due to the high magnesium content assists people with high blood pressure and asthma.  

Poppy: The seeds have a nutty flavour and are used widely in baked goods, especially in Southern Europe where they are added to the dough when making bread. Sow seed thinly and directly outside in March or October and poppies will germinate in about 7-10 days. Choose a sunny but well drained site but poppies will grow in most soils. Poppies prefer a pH in the range of 6.6 to 7.5. Water until well established and keep weed free. To harvest the seeds, at the end of their growing season, cut the heads off the stems into a paper bag. Break the heads into a second paper bag and leave to dry thoroughly. Sieve the seeds which will remove any chaff and store in a jar in a cool but dark area. Poppies left to seed will self sow readily and with the wind will ensure poppies pop-up all over your garden. Poppy seeds are not high in vitamin content but contain many essential minerals. 

Pumpkin: Grow your pumpkins and to harvest pumpkin seeds, slice open the pumpkin and scoop the seeds into a bowl. Wash in warm water to remove the pulp and spread out to dry on a tray for twenty-four hours. The seeds are then roasted in the oven in the same way as sunflower seeds. The seeds are very nutritious and contain large amounts of iron, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc and most of the B vitamins. They are also a good source of protein and polyunsaturated fats. Due to their high nutritional content, the seeds are beneficial for healthy bones, bladder and kidney problems, in reducing cholesterol and for prostate health in men. The prepared seeds should be stored in an airtight container in the fridge and eaten within 2 months.

Sesame: The tiny seeds are widely used in Cypriot cuisine in baked goods or to make tahini, or sesame seed paste. Tahini is also one of the ingredients used to make humous and the confection helvah. The seeds also make a good addition to salads and as a topping to steamed vegetables. Sesame seeds should be sown directly at 6mm deep into a friable soil in early spring. Sow in rows at 60cm apart and keep moist until germination occurs which is usually 8-15 days. The plants should be thinned in stages until 25cm apart. Once established the plants are extremely drought tolerant due to an extensive root system. Sesame prefers a pH in the range of between 5.6 and 6.6. The plants grow, depending on the variety, up to two metres in height. The seed capsules develop at each leaf axil, starting at about 30cm from the ground, and are gradually produced up the stem. The seed pods are usually ready for harvesting from 90 to 150 days after sowing. Watch carefully, and harvest dried pods regularly and pop open into a large container. The seeds are exceptionally rich in calcium with 90mg present in every tablespoon. Once harvested the seeds can be lightly roasted in a frying pan, which has been wiped with olive oil, until they go light brown which should only take one to two minutes. Once cooled, the seeds can be stored in an airtight jar, at room temperature, for up to four years.  

Sunflower: Sunflower seeds make a delicious snack  but have to be processed to make them edible. Sunflowers are easy to grow and prefer a rich, fertile soil and full sun. Sow seeds directly in early March at 2.5cm deep, in a soil with a pH of between 5.7 to 8.0. The seeds will germinate in about eleven days. Keep watered until well established, after which sunflowers are quite drought tolerant. However, to grow sunflowers to their maximum height regular watering and additional fertiliser is required. Thin to 60cm apart in all directions and provide support against wind damage. Sunflowers will reach maturity in about 85 days and reach a height, depending on the variety, of between 1-2.5 metres.

Monday, 9 December 2013

Broccoli and Almond Soup

We are always on the lookout for new recipes to try particularly for when vegetables are in season. At the moment its broccoli time and as the weather is getting colder it's also time to enjoy lots of lovely lunchtime soups.

This soup combines broccoli and ground almonds to produce a deliciously creamy soup. If you have a surplus of broccoli cook up a big batch and freeze in portion sizes to enjoy later.

Ingredients:

Olive oil
6 cups of vegetable stock
1 chopped onion
2 cloves of chopped garlic
1 medium sized potato peeled and cut into small chunks
4 cups broccoli florets
Half a cup finely ground almonds
4 sprigs of fresh parsley cut finely
Salt and pepper to taste

Method:

Heat the olive oil in a large pan and fry the onion and garlic until tender. Add the vegetable stock and the rest of the ingredients, bring to the boil and simmer for 15-20 minutes. Allow to cool before blending and re-heat when required.

Enjoy. Goes well if served with some freshly made crusty bread.
 http://cyprusgardener.blogspot.com/2011/07/make-your-own-bread-and-pitta-bread.html

Sunday, 8 December 2013

10 Ways to Preserve Tomatoes

Tomatoes are such a versatile and nutritious fruit and you can never grow enough. The first ripe tomato of the season is always a joy to taste and even at the end of the growing season you are left with unripened green tomatoes that can be used in a variety of ways,

If you are lucky enough to have a glut of tomatoes the following are ten ways to preserve some of  your crop to enjoy throughout the year. But don't forget to keep some of each variety to one side to provide seeds for next year.

1. Make your own tomato puree http://cyprusgardener.blogspot.com/2012/07/make-your-own-easy-tomato-puree.html

2. Make your own tomato juice http://cyprusgardener.blogspot.com/2012/06/make-your-own-tomato-juice.html

3. Make your own sun dried tomatoes http://cyprusgardener.blogspot.com/2012/06/make-your-own-sun-dried-tomatoes.html

4. Freeze tomatoes whole and peeling them once defrosted will be easy and they can be used in any recipe which requires fresh tomatoes.

5. Tomatoes can be bottled (or canned) whole or chopped and there are numerous recipes and step by step instructions available.

6. Make a tomato chutney, there are some many recipes to choose from depending on your taste preferences from hot to mild.

7. Make a batch of tomato soup and freeze in portions relevant to your needs.

8. Pickle green tomatoes towards the end of the growing season.

9. Make tomato jam, there are numerous recipes to choose from.

10. Make your own tomato and vegetable bouillion or stock for use in many recipes.

Friday, 6 December 2013

Garlic - 25 benefits and uses

The following are reasons why you should plant and use your own organic garlic.

1. Make your own pickled garlic.

2. Treat athletes foot by placing slices of garlic between your toes daily and in contact with the affected area. Wear socks and shoes, leaving the garlic in place all day. Garlic with its ant-bacterial and anti-fungal effects will clear the infection after a few days.

3. Treat cold and flu by eating raw garlic.

4. Treat sore throats by making a garlic gargle, chop a few garlic cloves finely and pour over boiling water. Allow to stand for two hours and strain liquid into a pre-sterilised jar and use as a gargle.

5. Make a garlic pesticide useful against aphids and other bugs by boiling some crushed cloves in water, straining and once cold use as a spray on affected plants.

6. Rub garlic on your skin to deter mosquitoes.

7. Remove deep splinters by bandaging sliced garlic over the area and the splinter will work it's way to the surface.

8. Include both raw and cooked garlic in your diet to benefit your heart by acting as a blood thinner.

9. Antioxidant properties mean garlic damages bad cholesterol but boosts good cholesterol..

10.Garlic with it anti- bacterial properties boosts your immune system.

11.Garlic contains 30 anti-cancer compounds and anti-oxidants.

12. Treat coughs by extracting juice from 10 garlic cloves and mixing with 2 tablespoons of honey. Use 3 times a day whilst cough persists.

13. Rub crushed garlic on insect bites and rashes to treat and stop itching.

14. Treat warts by applying a sliced garlic kept in place by a plaster.

15. Make hummus.

16. Use garlic leaves for recipes to replace chives

17. Make garlic and lemon tea as an immune booster.

18. Plant garlic as a companion plant to deter insects from tomatoes and peppers.

19. Plant garlic around the base of citrus trees to reduce curly leaf problems.

20. Plant garlic among cabbages, spinach and broccoli to deter caterpillars.

21. Crushed garlic can be used as a paper glue.

22. Garlic cloves can be used as fish bait.

23. Garlic increases insulin release and helps regulate blood sugar levels for diabetics.

24. Make a disinfectant spray by adding crushed garlic to lemon juice and white vinegar.

25. Treat cold sores by applying cut cloves to the sore several times a day.

Thursday, 5 December 2013

Grow your own popcorn

We enjoy the occasional snack of popcorn, drizzled with honey, a healthy snack being low in calories, high in fibre, iron and protein. Popcorn is also rich in vitamins B and E, magnesium, thiamine, riboflavin and phosphorous. So why not try growing our own next Spring. We have prepared a bed by adding well rotted manure and which will rot down over winter. 

Popcorn is made from a variety of corn whose kernels contain air pockets. When the dried kernels are heated these air pockets expand and the seed pop open. You can expect to get about a kilogram of popcorn from each plant so a small block of 6-8 plants is plenty, as a third of a cup produces an ample serving.

Popcorn is grown in the same way as sweetcorn. It needs a position in full sun and a well draining soil. If you are growing other varieties of sweetcorn then allow at least a month between sowing's because they cross pollinate. We will sow our popcorn in early March, germination takes about 10-12 days and popcorn matures in about 4 months. Sow 2 seeds at 3 cm deep and  space the 35 cm apart in blocks to assist wind pollination. 

When seedlings have developed their second set of leaves thin to leave the strongest plant. When the plants reach 50 cm earth up around their base to about 15 cm to encourage root formation and to provide support against wind damage. Popcorn requires regular watering until the cobs mature

Popcorn cobs remain on their plants until fully mature but as soon as their tassels start to turn brown it's best to net them to discourage hungry birds. The husks can be left on the plants until they are completely dried by the sun. Apparently you know when they are dry enough when it becomes difficult to twist a cob with a hand on each end. 

Once completely dried the kernels can be removed by rubbing two cobs together over a large bowl. Discard any kernels which are broken or dis-coloured. 

The kernels should be placed in a plastic container and frozen for two days to kill any bugs that may be in the seeds. After freezing the popcorn will keep for several years if kept sealed in a jar in a dark cool area. Cook as required and sow some saved seed every year to replenish your stocks.

Sunday, 1 December 2013

How to plant an Olive tree

We finally decided to dig out and replace our pear tree with an olive. The pear has been struggling to stay alive since we planted it about four years ago. We think the pH level of our soil did not suit its needs even with lots of added lime and wood ash to try and improve the pH level. So we gave up on it yesterday and planted a young olive which within a few years will provide us with a good crop.

Planting olives is best done between October and November to provide the roots with plenty of time to become established before the peak growth period of Spring.

The following steps will ensure your olive will have the best possible start:

1. Dig a planting hole slightly deeper than the pot the tree was sold in and loosen the soil below.

2. Remove the tree from the pot carefully to avoid disturbing the root ball and try and keep its surrounding soil intact. If the tree is staked leave the stake in place and remove it once the tree has outgrown its need.

3. Plant the tree just slightly lower than its pot depth and gradually return the soil, firming slightly, to support the tree. The trunk area should be slightly mounded to encourage water away from the trunk and avoid rot. Do not add any additional compost or fertilizer as the tree should be allowed to get used to its surrounding soil which will encourage its root to grow outwards.

4. Water in well, by providing a mounded circle around the tree, and water every time the soil starts to dry out until the tree is established.  Once established olive trees are one of the most drought tolerant trees you can grow.

Saturday, 30 November 2013

How to propagate olives trees

Olive trees are easily propagated from stem cuttings.

1. Cut 15 cm - 20 cm long and about 1 cm thick cuttings from the current years olive growth in September or October. The selected stems should be healthy and have lots of leaves.

2.  Fill pots with a mixture of sterile potting compost and sand. 

3. Prepare the cuttings for rooting by removing all but two pairs of leaves and dipping the base of the stem into a rooting hormone. 

4. Push cuttings into individual pots so that they stand upright, making sure some of the bare leaf nodes are under the soil. 

5. Water the pots deeply and cover with a secured plastic bag to retain moisture. 

6. Place the pots in a part shaded area and make sure they do not dry out by re-moistening if needed.

7. Roots should begin to form at 7-9 weeks. Re-pot the cuttings after 10-12 weeks and add some liquid fertliser to encourage growth.

8. Allow the trees to become well rooted before planting out. Once planted keep well watered until established.

Friday, 29 November 2013

Growing Yacon (Apple of the Earth)

We are always on the lookout for new vegetables to try and have been researching into Yacon (Smallanthus Sonchifolius) a South-American perennial white tuber. It looks well worth a try and we are looking to get some tubers to grow.

The tuber looks like a baking potato but apparently tastes more like a cross between and apple and celery with a high liquid content which means it can be juiced to make a sweet honey like syrup.

The tubers are a close relative of sunflowers and Jerusalem artichokes and grow up to 2 metres tall with yellow flowers. The plant produces two types of underground tubers, small reddish rhizomes used for propagation and large brown tubers for eating. The larger ones can weigh anything between 300 grams and a kilogram. Apparently any rhizomes left in the ground, in non-frosting areas, will re-emerge in the Spring.

If you live in a frost zone, the rhizomes can be stored in moist sand and planted out in the early Spring. Plant in loosened soil at 3 cm deep and about 100 cm apart. They do not appear to be too fussy and will apparently thrive in most soils but prefer a soil rich in organic matter. Mulch deeply and the plant will grow through the mulching. Has moderate water needs and needs to be kept moist rather than soggy. The plants reach maturity after about 6 months and are harvested after the flowers and stems die back. Apparently drying the tubers in the sun for up to 2 weeks will sweeten them.

The tubers can be enjoyed raw or juiced but can also be boiled, steamed or baked. Strips can also be sun dried to produce a sweet crunchy snack. However enjoyed the tubers have the added benefit of being high in fibre but low in calories.

All we now have to do is obtain some rhizomes and give them a try. If anybody has any spare out there we would be willing to pay for postage and packing.

Thursday, 28 November 2013

List of Drought Tolerant Food Crops

Throughout the world weather patterns seem to be changing. For example, droughts in Cyprus are becoming more frequent but is this just cyclical or the growing impact of climate change.  

Climate change is predicted to lead to more rainfall globally but the distribution is likely to change with some regions experiencing more droughts and others more floods.

If you are in a region that is likely to experience more droughts It may be worth considering switching to growing more drought tolerant crops. These crops will need water to germinate and during their early stages of growth but can cope with dryer conditions once established.

If water availability for supplementary watering is limited it is good practice to space plants further apart than normal to give roots more space to search for available water. Mulching will also help to keep the ground cooler, retain any moisture and If you use organic matter it will break down to feed the soil.

The following are vegetables, trees, vines and herbs you might want to consider as insurance against drought conditions and which will ensure you will still obtain some sort of crop.

Vegetables: amaranth, garlic, onions, purslane, spinach, sweet potatoes, asparagus, black eyed beans (or cow peas), chickpeas, peanuts, leeks, melons, okra, pumpkins, tomatoes, parsnips, carrots and rhubarb.

Fruits: apricots, date plams, avocado, carob, mulberries, figs, grapes, peaches, pomegranates, olives, goji berries and prickly pear 

Nuts: almonds, walnuts and pistachio (once established)

Herbs: fennel, borage, calendula, dandelions, lavender, rosemary, savory, thyme, wormwood, garlic chives, oregano and chives.

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Propagating Globe Artichokes

Globe artichokes (Cynara Scolymus) are a wonderful perennial, if space permits, which produce an abundant crop of nutritious hearts.

They are best grown in a position that enjoys full sun, in a well draining soil but a soil which is moisture retentive.

We planted a row of purple headed globe artichokes from offsets in 2011 and as they are coming up to their third year of cropping and it's time to consider replacing them before their productivity lessens.

We removed offsets from our existing plants, to leave about 6 plants, and set out another row. When
removing offsets use a sharp spade to divide the offsets from the plant, try to leave as much root as possible attached and then remove most of the larger leaves. Set the offsets about 1.5 meters apart but beforehand add some manure to each planting hole.

In there first year of growth, presuming they all take, the plants will not usually flower but it's good practice to remove any flower heads which do appear to give the roots time to get established. So we will crop the original row for a further year before keeping some offsets and digging the plants out completely.

During our replacement cycle we will have one year when both rows are cropping but we will cope with the surplus somehow. Once prepared any surplus globe artichoke hearts can be preserved by freezing or in olive oil.

There are numerous globe artichoke recipes to try but a traditional Cypriot recipe is to stuff the hearts with mince meat and rice dolma style.

But one recipe which we look forward to when the globes are in season is soup. Follow the link to try globe artichoke soup which also contains instructions on how to prepare the globes for cooking -http://cyprusgardener.blogspot.com/2011/06/globe-artichoke-soup.html

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Is the World heading towards food shortages? Are you prepared?

With supermarket shelves packed full of food its no surprise that most people are oblivious to the fact that food shortages and price increases will become a growing problem over the coming decades.

So why is there a problem? Well firstly the world's population is projected to increase to 9.6 billion by 2050 from a current figure of 7.2 billion. That's a staggering 30% more mouths to feed in just 36 years time. To feed everyone it has been estimated that world agricultural production will need to double.

However, the amount of land used for food production is reducing. Land used for food is increasingly being used for bio-fuels, there are growing water shortage problems and the effects of climate change are expected to reduce productivity. Added to these problems is changing food demands as developing countries become more affluent. For example, it takes 10 kg of grain to produce 1 kg of meat and meat consumption in China has quadrupled in the last 30 years.

At the same time the vast majority of our food system is built upon the unsustainable flow of cheap oil. With peak oil expected sometime between 2020 and 2030 the price of oil will increase. This will put pressure on a food industry heavily dependent on oil. for driving machinery, producing fertilisers and pesticides, processing crops and distribution networks.

What can we do to prepare for increasing shortages and food inflation?

1. Re-skill by learning about growing your own organic fruit, vegetables and herbs. Learn how to preserve your crops and how to cook from scratch. Learn how to save your own seeds.

2. If space permits keep chickens which will provide eggs and meat, manure and clear bugs from your garden.

3. If money permits buy products in bulk that have a very long shelf life such as rice, dried beans, salt, sugar and oil. This will provide a back-up if shortages occur and will probably save you money as prices increase.

4. Gradually buy equipment that is essential to preserve your crops such as a dehydrator, a preserving pan and a good pressure cooker for bottling.

5. Teach yourself about foraging for free food, fishing and hunting.

Monday, 25 November 2013

Gardening on the Cheap - 10 Frugal Tips

With the price of food steadily increasing growing your own food is becoming more and more popular. Growing your own will not only save you money but your food will taste better and be more nutritious.

But its easy to get carried away when starting out gardening by purchasing expensive gadgets, tools, equipment and spending large amounts of money at garden centres. But there are alternatives and the following 10 frugal tips will hopefully go some way towards keeping your cost to a minimum.

Tip 1 - Start your plants from seed - Buying packets of seeds is relatively cheap in comparison to buying plants. Keep an eye out for end of season sales when most seed merchants reduce their prices. There are usually too many seeds in a packet to use, so consider swapping some of your seeds with gardening friends or join an exchange club which is a good way of halving the cost of your seeds. 

Once plants are growing, try saving your own seeds. Follow the link for general guidance but you can search our blog for more detailed information on seed saving for most vegetables. http://cyprusgardener.blogspot.com/2011/06/saving-your-own-vegetable-seeds.html Save your own and you will have plenty of seeds for yourself, to swap or share with friends. 

You can even remove seeds, and successfully germinate them. from supermarket produce. This can save money on some expensive seeds such as cherry tomatoes and peppers. 

Don't throw out seeds just because the expiry date has gone, the germination rate will reduce but you may still get a 50% success rate from seeds where the expiry date is up to two years. After four years past the expiry date most seeds are no longer viable.

Keep some of your harvest for re-planting the following season, this works well with potatoes, Jerusalem artichokes, and garlic. You can also plant out any potatoes or garlic that have sprouted before use.  

Tip 2 - Multiply your plants - By propagating and dividing plants, you can make more plants. Most plants can be propagated by one method or another and these can also be swapped with friends, allowing you to obtain plants you don't have and these can themselves, once established, can be multiplied into yet more plants. 

There are various methods of propagation and the choice of method is dependant on the plant. Always choose a healthy plant for propagating and research the appropriate method for the plant to be propagated before proceeding. Even with care, only between 60% to 70% of propagations will succeed. Before proceeding, you will need a sharp pair of secateurs, pots, rooting compost and rooting hormone. Always ensure your equipment has been thoroughly cleaned before re-use. 

Temperature control is a very important factor in ensuring successful propagation. The ideal temperature for most cuttings is between 10C and 21C. The easiest way to ensure a constant temperature is by using an electric propagator which will re-pay the initial outlay very quickly in producing new plants and also allow you a head start in seed germination.  

It is also important to ensure moisture is controlled by either placing and securing a plastic bag over the pot, by propagating cuttings in water or by regularly spraying cuttings placed in an electric propagator. 
Cuttings can be taken from softwood or hardwood depending on the plant to be propagated. Most perennials are propagated from softwood cuttings in the spring or summer. Always select new growth for cuttings and ensure the stem has not flowered or fruited. Take a 10cm to 20cm cutting just below a leaf joint  which has at least two leaf joints and insert half your cutting, after dipping in rooting hormone, into your rooting compost. Tomatoes can be multiplied by taking cuttings as stems readily root. 

Many fruit trees and bushes and vines, such as blackcurrants and grapes, are propagated from hardwood cuttings in the autumn or winter. Take 15cm to 45cm cuttings from new growth which has not fruited or flowered and with at least two leaf joints. These can be rooted directly in the ground or in containers outside, after brushing the tip with rooting compound, and will root, depending on the parent, in between two and twelve months. 

Bud cuttings are used for plants with long stems. such as grape vines. Remove a section of stem between two leaves and insert, after dipping in rooting compound, below a bud into your rooting compost. Alternatively, take 8cm cuttings with a bud in the centre. Remove a slither of wood on the opposite side to the bud and insert horizontally into a mixture of sand and peat with the cut edge downwards. Just cover the cuttings, place in a propagator and germination usually occurs within 2-4 weeks. Pot-up the plants once leaves appear and once established plant out.

For plants consisting mainly of leaves, with very few or no stems such as the prickly pear, leaf cuttings may be used for propagation. Cut off a fully mature leaf and cut sections of 2.5cm across the leaf and, after dipping in rooting compound, insert upright halfway into rooting compost. 

Root cuttings are used to propagate some trees, shrubs and herbaceous perennials such as the passion flower. Expose the roots and take cuttings of 2.5cm to 7.5cm from roots which are at least 0.6cm thick. Cut flatly at the top of the root and diagonally at the bottom end, the cutting should be fully inserted into the rooting compost with the diagonal end first. 

Plants such as strawberries and globe artichokes can be propagated by planting off-shoots. Strawberry offshoots can be placed into pots and cut away from the parent once established. Globe artichoke offshoots can be detached carefully from the parent, replanted and kept well watered until established.
Layering can be used for plants such as rosemary, jasmine and fruiting bushes such as kiwi and blackberry. Bury the tips of stems and after a period roots will develop on the buried tip and the new plant can be detached from the parent. 

Removing suckers, from figs and raspberries for example, is another propagation method. Carefully expose the base of the sucker and cut as close as possible to the parent. Plant as soon as possible after removal and keep well watered until established. 

Division is a further method of propagation and can be used for plants such as lemongrass and comfrey. Use two spades to split established plants down the middle and replant. 

Tip 3 - Free Containers - Do not throw out containers such as milk or juice cartons, cardboard egg boxes or toilet rolls. These can all be re-used for sowing seeds. Toilet rolls are good for raising peas, beans and even beetroot, which does not like being transplanted, just fill the toilet roll with compost and when the seedlings are strong enough plant out. The toilet roll will help retain moisture and eventually rot away. Cut off the tops of cartons, wash out and cut drainage holes in the bottom to use as pots. The bottom section of egg boxes can be filled with compost and used to raise seedlings. Like toilet rolls, these can be cut apart and planted into the soil where they will rot down. You can even try making your own pots from newspapers by rolling round a cylinder and folding  into the base to secure. 

Tip 4 - Manure, compost and mulch - To keep your gardening costs down, make your own compost, obtain manure from friendly farmers of livestock keepers and use a variety of materials for mulching. Mulches keep down weeds, feed your crops and reduce watering needs and can be made from shredded newspapers, seaweed, coffee grounds, hay, leaves, sawdust, wood shavings and black plastic.    

Tip 5 Organic Pest Control - Don't rush out to buy expensive organically safe products when pests or diseases appear, firstly try and make your own insecticides and pesticides. Follow the link to make your own -  http://cyprusgardener.blogspot.com/2013/02/homemade-organic-weedkiller.html Or if fruit flies are a problem follow the link to make your own trap - http://cyprusgardener.blogspot.com/2013/10/how-to-make-fruit-fly-trap.html

Tip 6 - Make Your Own Compost Bin

Simply google for numerous links to instructions and you can build one using pallets or recycled timber to keep cost to a minimum.

Tip 7 - Grow Bamboo

If space allows grow bamboo for use as beanpoles, trellising ans so many other gardening uses. However, bamboo can be invasive so be careful where you plant it.

Tip 8 - Recycle

Here are just a few examples but use your imagination before discarding everyday items. Cut off the bottom of large plastic bottles to make mini greenhouses. Use old tights as garden ties or to hang onions for storage. Make your own plant labels using cut-up cartons or plastic knifes, spoons and forks.

Tip 9 - Pea Sticks

When pruning trees put trimmings to one side to use a pea sticks when dried. We find our olive pruning's make great pea sticks.

Tip 10 - Surplus Produce

Hopefully your garden will produce bountiful crops cheaply but you can get even more out of it by turning any surplus fruits and vegetables, which have not been frozen, dried or juiced for later use, into jams.and chutneys. Not only will these save you money on your food bill but you can swap or barter any excess for plants, seeds or any crops somebody else has in surplus

Sunday, 24 November 2013

Pear and Lemon Jam

We were but out foraging a few days ago and came across a wild pear tree buts its fruit was very hard. 

We would normally preserve pears by bottling in syrup (for information on bottling follow the link - http://cyprusgardener.blogspot.com/2011/06/how-to-preserve-fruit-by-bottling.html - but with these rock hard pears we decided the only option was to make them into a jam. 

You can never have enough stored jam which is always handy for gifts or to swap for produce somebody else has a surplus of. Bartering jars of jam for marrows is better than cash and both parties are happy.

Ingredients needed - 1 litre of water; 2 kg of peeled, cored and chopped pears; 3 lemons of which you need to thinly peel the skin, chop finely and then juice and 1 kg of granulated sugar. 

Step 1 - Add the pears to the water with the lemon juice and peel, bring to the boil and simmer until the pears are just tender. 

Step 2 - Add the sugar and stir until dissolved. 

Step 3 - Bring back to a boil, stirring occasionally, until setting point is reached. This should take between 20 and 25 minutess. Check for setting by placing some jam onto a plate for a minute or so until a crinkled skin is formed and the jam is sticky. 

Step 4 - Pour into sterilised jars and seal. Once cooled clean off any excess, label and date. 

Step 5 - Store in a cool and dark place.

Thursday, 21 November 2013

Orange and Lemon Marmalade Recipe - Step by Step

We love the tangy taste of our homemade marmalade which is very easy to make. Follow these step by step instructions to make your own.

Ingredients: 9 medium oranges, 2 lemons and 1.4 kg of sugar. The sugar can be adjusted depending on how sweet you prefer your marmalade from between 1.3 kg to 1.5 kg.

Step 1 - Thoroughly wash the fruit and peel thinly to leave as much pith as possible on the fruit.

Step 2 - Remove as much pith as you can from the fruit and quarter.

Step 3 - Pulp the fruit in a processor and then blend it.

Step 4 - Thinly slice the peel into strips and then cut into smaller pieces.

Step 5 - Place the blended fruit, peel and sugar into a large pan and bring to the boil for 20 minutes, stirring until the sugar dissolves and then occasionally.

Step 6 - After around 20 minutes check for setting by spooning some mixture onto a cold plate and leaving for a minute. If the surface starts crinkling and it feels sticky to touch it is ready to pour.
Step 7 -  Pour whilst hot into pre-sterilised jars and seal.
Step 8 - Once cooled wash off any excess and when dry label and date.

Step 9 - Use within 6 months but keep in fridge once opened.

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

How to make Sun tea with garden herbs

We are always looking for energy saving ideas. So why not try sun tea which uses the suns rays to brew a delicious tasting herbal tea rather than electricity or gas..

All you need is a large glass jar, which has been sterilised, and can be sealed to keep out insects, some well washed freshly picked herbs and water.

For every cup of herbs add two cups of water to the jar, seal and place in a position outside which enjoys the days sun for at least six hours. During the day give the jar a couple of shakes to mix the contents.

At the end of the day your tea is ready for use and can be sweetened if required. The tea will be a rich colour, give it a shake to mix and strain. If you find the tea is too strong dilute with more water. You sun tea should be used within a day as it will sour quickly.

There are lots of herbal combinations to try. We find lemon balm and mint delicious. Experiment with herb and edible flower combinations. You can even add a slice of any citrus fruit for added flavour.

Friday, 15 November 2013

Cypriot Traditional Recipes - Food of Cyprus

Cypriot cuisine has been shaped by the island's climate, geography and history and evolved to encompass both Greek and Turkish cuisine. The cuisine has further been influenced by Middle Eastern and Arabic countries and by past occupations by Luisignan Franks (French), Venetians (Italian) and the British. The following recipes contain many traditional Cypriot recipes which are used when produce is in season and brings together in one place many previous blogs. Just follow the links to any recipe which you fancy trying. 

1 - Okra in Tomato Sauce http://cyprusgardener.blogspot.com/2011/06/okra-in-tomato-sauce.html

2 - Olive Bread - http://cyprusgardener.blogspot.com/2011/07/pitted-black-olive-bread-recipe.html

3 - Kofte (Meatballs) - http://cyprusgardener.blogspot.com/2011/08/cypriot-kofte-or-meatballs-recipe.html

4 - Kolokas or Kolokasi - http://cyprusgardener.blogspot.com/2011/08/cypriot-taro-kolokass-or-kolokasi.html

5 - Lokma (Donoughts) - http://cyprusgardener.blogspot.com/2011/08/cypriot-lokma-or-crisp-doughnut-recipe.html

6 - Dolma (Stuffed Vine Leaves) - http://cyprusgardener.blogspot.com/2011/08/cypriot-dolma-
or-stuffed-vine-recipe.html

7 - Trahana or tarhana (Cracked Wheat Soup) - http://cyprusgardener.blogspot.com/2011/07/cypriot-trahana-tarhana-or-cracked.html 

8 - Molohiya - http://cyprusgardener.blogspot.com/2011/07/molohiya-or-tossa-jute-vegetable-stew.html

9 - Black eyed beans  - http://cyprusgardener.blogspot.com/2011/07/cypriot-black-eyed-bean-recipes.html

10 - Squash Pastries - http://cyprusgardener.blogspot.com/2011/07/cypriot-squash-pastries-recipe.html

11 - Tahini - http://cyprusgardener.blogspot.com/2011/07/make-your-own-tahini.html

12 - Candied Orange Peel - http://cyprusgardener.blogspot.com/2012/01/candied-orange-peel.html

13 - Candied Watermelon Rind  - http://cyprusgardener.blogspot.com/2012/01/candied-watermelon-rind-recipe.html

14 - Sucuk or Soutzoukos - http://cyprusgardener.blogspot.com/2013/10/sucuk-or-soutzoukos-recipe.html

Thursday, 14 November 2013

Natural Sweetener - Homemade Fig Syrup

If you are researching  for a way to make your own natural sweetener, fig syrup is an ideal way to replace processed sugar and can be used when baking, in beverages, in smoothies and on cereals.

Fig syrup has been made for centuries in many Mediterranean countries and is a honey like syrup which is dark brown in colour and very sweet. It's a  great way of preserving and using any over-ripe surplus of figs you have. Your homemade fig syrup will keep in sealed jars for years so it’s worthwhile making as much as you can.

Every 10 kg of figs will make about 500 ml of syrup. 

Wash the figs thoroughly, cut them in half and place them in a large pot with enough water to cover them. 

Bring to the boil and to simmer for about 90 minutes. After about 15 minutes, using a masher, squash the figs. Stir occasionally and gradually the liquid will reduce by about a half. 

Once slightly cooled, pour the mixture into a cheesecloth, hung between two chairs, over a large bowl. The liquid will gradually, over quite a few hours, drip into the bowl. After the dripping has stopped you can squeeze the cheesecloth to remove any remaining juices.

Put the liquid back into a pot and bring to the boil and simmer gently until it turns into a thick syrup. This can take anything from 45 to 90  minutes. 

Pour your syrup into pre-sterlised jars and seal. Once completely cooled, clean off any excess and store in a cool dark place.

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Pomegranate and Lime Ice Lollies

Nothing is better on a hot day than an ice lolly to cool you down. So why not try making your own ice lollies which will cost a fraction of supermarket prices, be healthier, more nutritious and taste better. There are numerous recipes to choose from and to make them even cheaper why not use your own homegrown fruit.
If you are going to make ice lollies regularly it will be well worth buying an ice lolly mould set which has built in sticks. Most allow you to make between 4 to 8 lollies of various sizes, cost as little as £1.50 and can be used over and over again. 
The following recipe uses pomegranates and limes which are both available in our garden at this time of the year.

You simply need; 3 cups water; 1 cup of squeezed (or purchased) unsweetened pomegranate juice; the juice of 2 medium limes and 1/2 cup sugar (less or  more depending on taste)

Boil the water, add the sugar and stir until the sugar is completely dissolved. 

Remove from heat, pour in pomegranate juice and lime juice and stir thoroughly.

Allow to completely cool, re-stir and and pour into lolly moulds to freeze.

Enjoy

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

How to Sun Dry Figs

The lack of rain this year has had an impact on the olive crop but the fig trees are full of fruit. A traditional Mediterranean way to preserve some of the crop for winter use is to sun dry figs 

Figs, for drying, should be allowed to ripen to sweetness before picking but not allowed to become over-ripe and too soft. 

Prepare figs for drying by submerging in boiling water for about 30 seconds. This kills any insects or growth on the figs surface and helps with the drying process. Boiling is best done using a colander which can then be submerged in cold water to avoid cooking the figs. Place the drained figs of a tea-towel to dry off. Once dry cut the figs into halves ready for drying.

The best thing to use for sun drying is an oven tray with a wire rack which allows for good air circulation. Place the figs on top of the wire rack and cover with insect proof netting to deter any bugs. Placing the tray quite near the house should also prevent any birds from trying to have a nibble. 

Dry the figs during the day for 4-7 days depending on the strength of the sun but bring the fruit in at night to avoid spoiling by night-time humidity. The figs will be dried when they feel leathery on the outside and no juice emerges from the center when squeezed.

As a final safety precaution, freeze the dried figs for 2-3 days, to absolutely ensure any insects are killed. Your dried figs will keep for about six months if kept in an airtight container.

Monday, 11 November 2013

Lime pickle - make your own

The lime tree we planted four years ago has started bearing some fruit. One way of preserving some of our crop is by making lime pickle. A pickle used traditionally in Asia to ease the hot taste of the curries. Our recipe contains only one tablespoon of salt, in comparison to most lime pickles which contain very high levels of salt and are sweet but consequently salty.

You will need the following ingredients to make about 3 jars.

8 limes
4 Tbs of cooking salt (3 for soaking limes and 1 for cooking)
2 Tbs of olive oil
1 tsp of cardamom seeds
1 tsp of fenugreek seeds
2 tsp of mustard seeds
2 tsp of ground cumin 
4 crushed garlic cloves
1/2 to 1 tsp of chili powder depending on how hot a pickle you prefer
1 Tbs of grated ginger
250ml of water
2 Tbs of white vinegar
350g of brown sugar

Place the limes in a bowl filled with cold salty water and soak overnight which will soften the limes. Drain, cut off the tops and bottoms and slice the limes into small chunks.

Grind the cardamom, fenungreek and mustard seeds. Heat the oil and add the ground seeds to the pan and mix in cumin, garlic, chilli and ginger. Cook for a few minutes to merge and release all the flavours.

Place the lime chunks, water, vinegar and sugar into the pot and mix thoroughly Gradually bring the mixture to a boil but keep stirring until all the sugar is fully dissolved. Boil the mixture for another five minutes.

Remove the pot from heat and spoon into pre-sterilised jars and seal whilst hot.

Once the jars have cooled completely wipe of any excess pickle and store in a dark cool place. The lime pickle will taste better if left for about 4 weeks and will keep up to 6 months.

Friday, 1 November 2013

Why are red grapes better for you than white grapes?

We have planted both red and white grape varieties and being interested in nutrition have been wondering why red grapes and red wine are always regarded as better for your health.

Well it appears that red grapes contain beneficial compounds called flavonoids (antioxidants) which produce the grapes colour. These flavonoid compounds include quercitin and resveratrol which have been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease, reduce blood pressure and protect good cholesterol from free radical damage. Green grapes contain much lower levels of these beneficial antioxidants and consequently do not provide the same health protection. 

Red grapes, wine and grape juice also offer some protection to individuals on high fat diets, as research has shown people regularly consuming these products often have a lower risk of heart disease than the general population on the same dietary pattern.

So now we know why nutritionists recommend red over white but we will still continue to enjoy both when they are in season.

The Mediterranean diet is under attack by junk food

The traditional Cypriot diet along with other Mediterranean diet's generally guaranteed most individuals a healthy weight and a long disease free life. Scientific studies into these benefits has meant the traditional Mediterranean diet has gained followers all over the world. 

A diet low in animal fat intake and high in fruit, vegetables, nuts, fish and olive oil has been proven to be the basis for a healthy life. But Cypriots in ever larger numbers are abandoning their traditional diet for convenience and junk foods and as a consequence there is a rapid growth in obesity, type 2 diabetes and heart disease. 

The traditional Cypriot diet was the diet of poor rural subsistence farmers, who typically did
hard physical work and did not earn enough money to eat red meat regularly. Diets included wholegrain bread, potatoes and other cereals. They ate cooked meals, soups and salads rich in olive oil and accompanied by beans, lentils, vegetables and foraged foods. Seasonal fresh fruit was an important part of their diet. Milk intake was low but cheese and yogurt were eaten regularly. Meat was expensive and most villagers ate chicken, fish or hunted game. Wine was consumed in moderation and generally accompanied food. 

Rising living standards, sedentary lifestyles and the globalization of food have completely changed this situation. With more disposal income people are abandoning traditional diets and switching to supermarket convenience and take-away junk foods which are high in salt, sugar, an array of artificial chemicals and animal fats. In just a few decades the number of fast food outlets has rapidly increased along with the waistline of the young junk food generation. Highly processes foods are not only cheap but they are part of a globalized food system which promotes unhealthy eating. It's sad to think that the fast food generation could be the first in many many decades to have a shorter lifespan than their parents. 

There seems no way back either, as junk food has been shown by scientific research to be as addictive as drugs by stimulating the very same parts of the brain and obesity worldwide is now leading to 2.8 million deaths a year. But what can be done? Mexico has imposed a 5% tax on fast food and 8% tax on soda drinks and if theses taxes work in reducing consumption other nations will surely have to follow. But what about taxing the food industries profits for the associated health and social costs, maybe then they might consider promoting really healthy products.

So even in it's heartland the traditional Mediterranean diet is in decline, under attack by a globalized food system whose huge profits are at the expense of killing its customers. Large globalized companies by blaming parents, individuals or claiming they simply provide what customers want abdicate all responsilbilty whilst counting their increasing profits. A very similar story to that of cigarette multinationals who continued to deny any links with cancer for decades.

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Cyprus Drought - An effective watering strategy

Our village has had 15 minutes worth of rain since May and even cacti look in need of water. We listened to a very interesting radio program discussing the water shortage problems in Cyprus which stated that we have had only half the average rainfall during the last four years. And looking back further, since the 1980's a 15% drop in comparison to average rainfall has been recorded. Is this climate change or just a cyclical event?

The lack of rain has meant groundwater levels are becoming depleted and the problem has been worsened by rapid development linked to tourism with more hotels, swimming pools and golf courses using greater amounts of water.

The problem of reduced rainfall has been partly alleviated by construction on desalination plants and a pipeline from Turkey but are these long term solutions?

Between 65%-75% of water demand is linked to agricultural needs with high water need crops like citruses and potatoes still important to the export market. Is it time for Cypriot agriculture to consider crops which have much reduced demand on water resources?

For smallholders and gardeners the problem in not so acute but we can still play our part in preserving water.

By using an effective watering strategy we can reduce water usage. It is very important in the Mediterranean climate to ensure plants survive and grow by regular watering, sometimes twice a day, to keep the soil surface damp and as plants grow increase the water provided, especially for fruiting vegetables such as peppers and tomatoes. But timing is critical to allow water to soak into the soil, not evaporate away and avoid baking dry the surface and is consequently most beneficial early morning or early evening. Different crops have differing water needs and these can be found in more detail under each crops information. at  http://sites.google.com/site/cyprusgardener/home/vegetables

We are very aware of the need to conserve water and minimize its need by: continually adding organic matter to our soil which increases its ability to hold water; by mulching to reduce evaporation; by avoiding digging in the summer months which brings any stored water to the surface; by keeping weeds to a minimum as they compete for any water available and by growing natural windbreaks to reduce the rate of evaporation during dry hot winds.  

We use an irrigation system and timer which allows watering times and duration to be set and allows us to get on with other gardening tasks - a real time saver and well worth the expense. The piping is very cheap and nipples can be inserted with a tool to ensure drip watering where you want. 

We are fortunate enough to have a continuous supply of water but we still recycle our domestic water for use in the garden and this may be more important if your supply is restricted. Our solar panels are very efficient at meeting our hot water needs but quite a few litres run before hot water flows and we use this for watering by keeping buckets by the sink and shower. We also recycle water used for washing fruit and vegetables and water from steaming or boiling (which is usually contains nutrients). If you use a biodegradable washing-up liquid and store this water for two days it can be used without harming your plants. If you have guttering on your roof also consider capturing rain water in a holding tank.

Monday, 28 October 2013

How to make a fruit fly trap

Two species of fruit flies, the Medfly and the olive fruit fly are responsible for the most serious agricultural damage in Cyprus. Causing significant crop losses for fruit and olive growers. With the Medfly mainly attacking citrus, stone fruits, pears and apples.

Mild winters and the large numbers of fruit and olive trees on the island make ideal conditions for the two species to breed. The Medfly are can produce 6-8 generations per year, whilst the olive fly can have 4-6 generations. The main control method for both flies is based mostly on insecticides. For small time growers who prefer an organic approach, the following homemade fruit fly trap may provide some element of control but will not totally eliminate all the pests.

The traps are simple to make using plastic bottles which still have caps. Simply cut a small hole about 2 cm in diameter towards the top third of the bottle which acts as an entrance for the fruit flies. Attach some wire around the cap to allow the bottle to be hung on a fence or onto a bamboo cane and hang about 2 meters away from trees needing protection.

Before hanging mix and pour into the bottle: a cup of water, a few drops of washing up liquid (which breaks the surface tension and so the flies drown in the water, 1 tablespoon of bleach and 2 teaspoons of sugar. It is also useful to put a piece of banana into the bottle which apparently attracts the flies by its colour and smell.

The bottles will in no time be filled with hundreds of drowned fruit flies and new bottles can be hung to catch more.