Monday, 26 November 2012

Processing my Quinoa Harvest

In mid-October I harvested the seed heads of my quinoa crop and laid them out on newspaper in a couple of crates, turning them every so often so the air could circulate around them, drying them out in preparation for separating the grain.

Because of the wet weather this year, and because I've never grown quinoa before, I was unsure whether I would get a reasonable amount of grain or not. By rubbing some of the seed heads between my fingers I knew that some seed had formed, but today I decided to start processing the grain to find out how much was there. The stems had dried out reasonably well, but some were starting to show mould so I didn't want to wait any longer.

The seeds are held inside the spent flower buds, so all I had to do was rub the seed heads between my hands, releasing the seeds and other dried bits from the stems. I did this as thoroughly as possible to ensure that I got as much grain as I could, so it took a bit of time. I collected the seeds, leaves and bits of flower bud in newspaper in a crate.

The next step was to sieve the material to remove the larger pieces of chaff, but I kept these for further drying and will re-sieve them in a few days to see if any more seed is present.

I was left with a reasonable amount of grain (it shows up yellow in the photograph below), mixed with smaller pieces of chaff.

The next step will be to winnow out the remaining chaff, which will involve pouring the seed and chaff from one bucket into another in a breeze, so that the seed falls into the bucket and the chaff blows away  (according to instructions from The Real Seed Catalogue). I will blog about it once I've done it!

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

An edible hanging basket for the winter

I enjoy experimenting with growing edible plants in different situations, and the hanging baskets which held my tumbling tomato plants this summer were more than ready for refreshing(!), so I decided to plant up a hanging basket using some edible (or otherwise useful) plants for the winter. Hopefully it will look good throughout the winter, and especially at Christmas hung in front of the house. With Christmas in mind I kept to red, white and green when choosing plants.

I used:
2 Lingonberry (Vaccinium vitis-idaea) 'The Pearl'
1 Gaultheria procumbens
6 white viola bedding plants
2 small variegated ivy plants (not edible!)

and potted with ericaceous compost because of the Lingonberries and the Gaultheria.

Lingonberries can be made into a delicious raw jam (see my previous post on jam-making in Sweden), and the plants are evergreen. They have delicate white flowers and the red berries look lovely as they ripen.

Gaultheria procumbens is also known as wintergreen. It is hardy, evergreen, and produces red berries, which can be eaten, with a slightly minty taste. The leaves have a characteristic 'wintergreen' flavour, and can be made into a tea or chewed (but not swallowed) to release their oils. The whole plant contains aspirin-like compounds.

Violas produce edible flowers.

Ivy is not edible, but it has medicinal and cosmetic uses - the leaves can be made into a hair rinse for example.

Other potential plants which could be used in a winter hanging basket include:

Pansies - edible flowers

Calluna vulgaris (heather) - flowers and shoots used in tea or to flavour beer

Any hardy salad greens such as Winter purslane (Claytonia), Lambs lettuce, Salad burnet and        winter lettuces.

Evergreen herbs such as Rosemary (prostrate forms would be good), winter savoury and Lavender (although these would need some protection in a severe winter).

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

A November Harvest - Picking and Storing Apples

On a blue-sky day in November...

I went to pick some apples.

Then checked them over and wrapped them carefully for storage in the shed,

putting away lots of small presents for my future self.