MMM….IT’S ALL A BIT MINTY.

Well, here we go again, over the past few weeks we have been building more things,busy planting more winter/spring veg, and gathering herbs and veg. But, first things first, Mint is fantastic as it grows so well, especially as it is so wet over here and one of the things is, that it makes LOTS OF WINE!!! So, we thought we would share with you some of our collective knowledge of this great herb.

Part of the mint patch.

We use our Stanley range on a low heat to dry the herbs slowly. A range isn’t just for winter it’s for life !

A small grater is used to grind the well dried herbs, we then use this for tea throughout the winter, as well as Fennel, Chamomile,and Lemon Balm, all of which are grown in the garden.

This is the start of our mint wine. This had been placed into boiling water and left for 24 hours to infuse, but here’s the recipe so you can make it yourselves if you want to. It’s from a book from 1980 ( yes, my grandad gave it to me), so some of the quantities may seem strange.

MINT WINE

1  1/2 pints of mint leaves ( about 5 oz) lightly bruised

1/2 pint of strong tea

3  1/2lb sugar

2 lemons

Yeast nutrient

Yeast ( 3/4 oz or 1 level teaspoon of granulated ) or forget that and throw loads in !

Water to one gallon

METHOD

Place the mint leaves and sugar in a fermentation bin and pour boiling water over them, stir well, put on the lid and leave to infuse for 24 hours. Then add the lemon juice, yeast, yeast nutrient and tea ( I warm the mixture up slightly to activate the yeast). Leave this for another 48 hours and strain into a one gallon jar and make up to one gallon if necessary. Put the bung and trap in and keep it warm and watch it blub away for about 2-3 weeks. It won’t be ready for about 6 months and over time the sediment will settle and clear. Rack it into bottles and then leave it again, sitting there begging you to just drink it !!

Another wine we make is Dandelion wine.

The dandelion heads were gathered on a sunny day whilst they were fully open.

DANDELION WINE

2 quarts dandelion heads ( 1lb)

2 1/2 lb sugar

4 oranges

Water to one gallon

Yeast and nutrient

Pour boling water over the flowers and leave for 2 days. Boil the mixture for 10 mins with the orange peel and strain onto the sugar. When cool add the fruit juice, yeast and nutrient, cover and leave in a warm place for 4 days. Pour into fermenting jars and fit trap. Leave to clear.

The mint wine with a temperature gage. As you can see one of the demi-johns is a plastic bottle ( we ran out of glass ones !) but we find that it works just as well, at the end of the day it’s just a container.

The dandelion wine is already starting to settle and will be ready for racking off soon. We have 3 gallons (18 bottles) all fermenting like a good-en and about 20 bottles from last year that are maturing nicely, so, party at ‘The Willows ‘!!!!

Bring on the Blackberries !! ( woo-hoo).

Hope you enjoy, we certainly will !

BEES IN THE BORAGE

Well, here I am writing my first tentavive post! As you already know, when we moved onto our land 5 years ago, it was literally just fields, and very wet fields at that! What was going to grow in such conditions? Willow… perfect, but there had to be more. We wanted  herbs, so a way forward was the ‘no dig’ herb garden. This involved strimming an area of grass close to the house, removing the cuttings, laying thick wads of newspaper or cardboard, wetting them and laying the grass cuttings back over the wet paper. This creates a thick mulch that if left for just a few weeks will break down and give you the most gorgeous soil. I planted a few herbs and was astonished when I found worms already at home in the new soil! The worms come up to the surface of the soil to drag the rotting matter down … in effect I had created a wormery! We now have a decent selection of herbs of which we can use fresh during summer or, dry them in a warm place for storing for winter use. I love drying herbs in the kitchen and collecting seeds such as coriander and fennel.

Fennel

I also noticed today that there were still bees to be found in the nasturtium and whats left of the borage, not bad for October

A little fuzzy.....Or should that be buzzy?

Borage has often been planted by beekeepers as a forage crop for their hives and is also an excellent companion plant, as planting it close to tomato plants may repel whiteflies and tomato moths. As a herbal medicine, it has been suggested that Borage has a therapeutic value in treating dry itchy skin such as eczema and psoriasis. The leaves can be used as a poultice for sprains, bruises and inflammation……. but as far as I know, not bee stings!!