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Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Beautiful marigold flower

Foraged Cypriot wild plant - Ostes or Hostes

Cypriot villagers have for centuries used foraging for wild foods to supplement their diet and  the identification of edible wild foods have been passed on from one generation to the next.

We were kindly given some hostes or ostes which are traditionally cooked with black eyed beans during early Spring. The plant is a thistle like perennial plant and is very spiny and in the same family as the artichoke and was collected from the fields surrounding the village. The plants spines are removed to leave the stems which are peeled of their outer skin to leave a celery like tasting stem. These stems are thoroughly washed and either eaten raw or cut and boiled as a vegetable.

After some research we have found that the plant is cynara cornigera which grows throughout the Mediterranean. We cooked ours tonight with black eyed beans and found them very tasty.

Friday, 24 February 2012

Pruning Roses

We pruned our rose bushes today. There are two main reasons why roses should be pruned. Firstly, to remove old, very spindly, diseased and overcrowded stems. And secondly, to ensure the centre is opened up to obtain maximum light and air and to keep the bush to a good shape.

All you need to prune roses are good sharp pair of secateurs and a thick pair of gardening gloves to protect you from rose thorns.

Aim to reduce the bushes height by about a half and always prune at a 45 degree angle and about 5mm above an outward facing bud to encourage outward growth rather than inwards to avoid overcrowding the centre.

Rather than dump all your cuttings you may want to propagate some to provide more bushes for your garden or to pass on to friends. Pick out 6-8 healthy looking young stems and cut to about 15-20cm long leaving some leaves at the top. Slice to remove some bark from the bottom of each stem and dip in rooting hormone before inserting into a suitable sized pot filled with fine potting compost which has been moistened. Once all stems have been inserted into the pot, cover with a plastic bag and secure to keep in the moisture. Place in a warm area in full sun and the stems will root in 6-8 weeks.

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Companies cashing in on growing your own

Growing your own food has witnessed a huge rise in popularity over recent years. This may be due to the economic situation or a desire for healthier food or possibly a combination of the two We had an allotment (which is a small parcel of land rented from a local Council for growing food crops) for nearly twenty years in the UK and, on what was a very large site, the number of growers never numbered more than around 8 to10 up until about four years ago when there was a sudden demand for allotments. The site now has all sixty plots being cultivated and a waiting list. A similar story has been seen across the UK with once nearly empty sites now fully occupied and Council's across the UK having to open new allotment sites because of the demand by local residents for space to grow some of their own food.

For us growing our own food has always been a  relatively cheap pastime but some companies are now cashing in on the desire for home grown food . For example, some companies are selling  plug in carrot and beetroot plants at a cost of £1 per plant which is an expensive way to grow just one vegetable. You could buy a packet of  beetroot or carrot seeds containing up to 500 seeds more cheaply and the seeds can be used for a few years. I have seen tomato plants for sale at up to £10 for 5 plants for which price it would be cheaper to buy your tomatoes from the supermarket. Whilst French bean plants sell for around £7 for six plants but once you have bought one packet of seed you can save some of each crop for the following year at no cost and French beans are very easy to grow.

If you want to grow your own crops always do so from seed to produce cost effective plants for your garden and produce vegetables at a fraction of the supermarket price. To reduce the price even more learn how to save your own seed for future crops and if you grow a surplus of any crop find out how to preserve your surplus for later use.

With a little gardening knowledge and a frugal approach to growing your own you can produce delicious fresh food cheaply.

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Chives and garlic chives - grow your own

Chives and garlic chives are part of the allium family and are perennial herbs which grow from a small bulbs. Chives which originated in Asia and have a mild onion or garlic flavour. Chives have the same nutritional and health benefits as other alliums.

Chives can grow to about 30-50cm high and produce, depending on the variety, beautiful pink and lavender blossoms which can also be added to salads.

Chives prefer a  well-drained soil and benefit from adding well rotted manure or compost before planting.

Plant chives between mid-February and mid-May in an area which enjoys full sun. Keep moist and weed free.

Plant clumps of up to six chive bulbs 15cm apart. Divide large clumps of chives about every 3 years. Dig up the plants and divide them into small clumps with four to six bulbs each.

Use scissors to cut chives about 5cm above the soil. Before the plants flower, harvest from the outside edges of the clumps. After flowering, cut back the entire plant.

Add to salads, soups, fish and potato dishes.

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Celery Soup

Fresh celery has a special taste and if you are dieting is useful as it is low in calories but provides lots of fiber. One stalk contains only 10 calories but is rich in vitamins and other nutrients. We had some lovely celery soup for lunch today and if you want to try our recipe - it's as follows:

Ingredients -

Olive oil for frying
One medium sized onion finely chopped
One medium potato peeled and cubed
5-6 washed celery stalks (include the leaves) and cut thinly
Salt and pepper to taste
500ml of vegetable stock and 300ml milk

Method -

Fry the onions till soft and then add the celery and potato. Stir till coated in olive oil.
Add seasoning.
Add the vegetable stock and milk and bring to simmer gently.
Cook gently for 15 minutes
Once slightly cooled - use a hand held blender to liquidize.

Serve with a roll and enjoy.

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Cyprus Gardener jobs for February 2012

The temperature in February can range from around 5c to 16c and rainfall averages around 10 days during the month. Frosts can occur at anytime during the month but there are lots of jobs to get on with which will keep you warm during the month. If we run out of jobs we go for long walks and collect wood for our wood burning stove or chop wood already collected.

A good month to split any well established perennial plants to transplant or to take root cutting for propagation.

Plant out Jerusalem Artichokes at 15cm deep and 40cm apart.

Provide support for developing sweet peas, either sticks or netting.

Sow peppers in a propagator and start shooting sweet potatoes

Sweetcorn and tomatoes can be started in a propagator, along with flax (linseed), sage and chrysantheums.

Spinach can be sown in your vegetable bed.

Sow aniseed, chamomile, chicory, chives in your herb patch

Sow directly marigolds and nasturniums

Egg plants, marrow, squashes and pumpkin can be started in a propagator mid-month

Sow directly into a prepared vegetable bed - spring onions,beetroot, salad leaves and radish

Sow oregano, basil and tumeric in a propagator. Plant out comfrey offsets

Start chitting potatoes for planting in March

Plant out lettuce started in propagator in January and sow more in a propagator

Prune olives at any time during the month

Happy gardening - remember it's safer to grow your own. For further advice go to cyprusgardener.co.uk or http://cyprusgardener.blogspot.com