Chris's Weblog – City Chickens

Fruit Bushes from James McIntyre 2020

I bought a few fruiting bushes for Laura as although she had a go at flowers and a few peas, beans and tomatoes last year she has never grown fruit. I searched online and found a company called James McIntyre and Sons operating in Perthshire in Scotland. Delivery was prompt, plants were well packed and in good condition. They have been over wintered in the garden and we are just now potting on and planning where they will live in the garden. I would definitely use this grower again. Their product is excellent.

Rubus Idaeus Raspberry – Tulameen

Raspberry Tulameen was bred in Canada. It is a summer (July and August) fruiting variety, and is sold as an excellent variety for growing in pots. It is supposed to be disease resistant and have fruit with a sweet aromatic flavour. Instructions for pruning says remove the canes that have fruited and train in new canes for next year. The cane will probably need the support of a post. Soil must be kept moist during fruiting time. The cane will probably grow to five feet. Apply a high potash feed in February each year.

Vaccinium Corymbosum Blueberry Chandler

Blueberry Chandler

Chandler blueberries could have been designed for amateur growing. The taste is outstanding, the berries are large and fruit for a long season from August to September. Blueberries are a superfood with high levels of anti-oxidants and anti-cancer agents. Chandler is an upright plant growing to 4ft and is easy to cultivate. All blueberries need moist, free-draining ericaceous acidic soil. This healthy looking plant has been repotted today in a large pot of fresh ericaceous compost. We already have three other older Blueberry bushes in the garden and these fruit, whilst being self fertile do fruit better with cross pollinators nearby. Apparently they are members of the heather family and need the same conditions as any other heather. That’s news to me. Very interesting.

Green Gooseberry Hannonmaki

This is a variety of gooseberry, Hannonmaki Green, that I have grown before at the allotment. It was very rewarding large juicy fruit with a sweet taste. It is a traditional variety producing an abundance of green-yellow fruit with a fresh and tangy flavour. The hardy bushes reach a height of about three feet with attractive bushy foliage. The fruit is ready from June to July and is useful fresh or in pies, jams and crumbles. As I remember this bush looked after itself requiring a little pruning back in the winter for the following year. I have missed having fruit in the garden and look forward to the gooseberries even though only one plant I think it will provide enough for us.

Red Gooseberry Hannonmaki

Hannonmaki Red

This traditional variety has a good resistance to disease and produces a heavy crop of fruit. The ruby-red, medium-sized gooseberries are sweet when ripe in July.

Pink Currant Gloire de Sablons

pink currant Gloire de Sablons

The Pink Currant is another old favourite that I grew at the allotment. This particular variety is new to me though. It is sold as a heavy cropping variety fruiting in July. It is a beautiful bush visually when the fruit is hanging like jewels and the jam I used to make from them was amazing.

Red Currant Rosetta

Red Currant

Red Currant Rosetta is also a new variety to me but my memories of the ones I grew on the allotment are vibrant and luckily I brought back a good cutting from one of my very established bushes which has really grown well in the garden. These shrubs are very easy to propagate so when they are a couple of years old I shall take cutting from the new ones. Once planted a mulch of well-rotted manure every spring as well as a nitrogen and potassium fertiliser will help to increase the fruit production. Make sure the plant is watered in dry weather. In the first year prune back to one bud above soil level in winter. After that prune out weak branches only. The plants I bought are already two to three years old so should be ok left alone.

Apparently Jhonkeer is a parent of this new Dutch variety. I am looking forward to cooking with it and cant wait to see the large fruit hanging in glowing red clusters.

Ribes Nigrum – Blackcurrant Big Ben

Blackcurrant Big Ben

Blackcurrants have always been a favourite of mine and I just love jam made from these fruits. This variety, Big Ben, has been bred by The Scottish Crop Institute. It is an early season variety producing, as its name suggests, larger than average sized fruit. It is self-fertile, cropping in July and is disease resistant.

Gojiberry

Goji Berry

Goji berries are also known as Lycium barbarum. The goji berry is native to Asia where it has been used for more than 2,000 years as a medicinal herb and food supplement. Goji berries are widely available to purchase in health food shops and online. This is a completely new fruit to me. I have read quite a bit about it and I bought it because of its reputation as a super fruit with health giving properties.

Lycium barbarum was introduced to the United Kingdom in the 1730s by the Duke Of Argyll but the plant was mostly used for hedges and decorative gardening.

According to RHS the plants begin to fruit after two-to-three years. Berries appear from late summer until the first frosts. Only fully ripe fruit are edible. Fruit can turn black when handled so consider harvesting by shaking the berries gently from the plant onto a sheet placed beneath. Hmmmmm. Not convinced. The advice is it is best to train plants against a wall or fence tying the lax stems onto wires and to wear gloves for protection against spines. This will be an education for us. I’m not sure that I can eat these berries yet.

Almost A Year Has Passed And The Pandemic Rages On – 8th December 2020 V-Day.

It has been quite a few months since I last wrote in my diary. My life has been quiet and unproductive. I have had illness and stress of my own to deal with while the world around me has been rumbling on and dealing with the pandemic and financial crises. At last I feel as though I am back to health and able to catch up with my household jobs the accumulation of which had been adding to my woes. Now, it seems both myself and the world around me are reaching a more positive conclusion. Whilst both elements still have a way to go it seems there is a light at the end of the tunnel, or so I’m told by the Prime Minister. I find myself looking forward to the Spring and am hopeful that I and my family will be survivors of a year that has left many families grieving.

Genesis

When the world was celebrating the arrival of the year 2020 we were oblivious to the storm clouds gathering around us bringing death and destruction in the form of a terrible pandemic. We are now very aware of the previously unknown disease that was insidiously and stealthily creeping across the planet.

COVID-19

It was in China, in the province of Wuhan, that a young doctor, Dr Li Wenliang, first realised and reported that a new, previously unknown and very contagious virus existed that posed a serious danger to humanity. Dr Li was an ophthalmologist working in Wuhan Central hospital where the fist batch of sufferers were in quarantine. He paid for his foresight with his life. He was first arrested and silenced and then returned to work only to contract the virus and at the young age of 34, die from the very disease he warned about. The whole of mankind owes him a debt of gratitude for alerting the world to the arrival of a new invisible enemy.

Scientists around the world sprung into action and very soon the genome of the novel Corona Virus was sequenced and made available worldwide. We now know the virus as Covid-19. Corona Virus Disease and 19 because it was thought to have originated in 2019.

Research is still ongoing as to the origin of the disease. It is thought to be a zoonotic virus that jumped from animals to humans with devastating consequences. Hopefully this will lead to better understanding of the relationship between animals and humans and stop the exploitation of living creatures for food and medicine.

The Pandemic

All over the world, people of all ages, were becoming sick and dying. Hospitals were admitting patients who presented with fever, cough and breathing difficulties. At that time the disease was thought to be similar to SARs and was treated appropriately with oxygen therapy plus anti biotics for secondary bacterial infection.

We now know that Covid-19 is a multi system infection attacking every organ and even changing the consistency of our blood. Scientists and pharmacologists are working hard to find a cure. Many existing medicines have been tried and failed so a vaccine seemed like the only way we could beat this virus.

Vaccination

The first vaccine to be approved in the UK is a scientifically revolutionary Mrna based vaccine and has been created by Pfizer and BioNTech. Messenger rna vaccines work by introducing into the body a messenger sequence (a strand of rna taken from the genetic code of the antigen) containing the genetic instructions for our own cells to produce the antigen (virus) and so generate an immune response by our own immune system.

It will probably take a few weeks for our bodies to respond and recognise the antigen as an invader that needs to be killed. The vaccine must be given in two doses – three weeks apart – and offers up to 95% protection against Covid-19.

This new method of creating vaccine is quite a leap in the fight to beat disease and has further implications for dealing with other existing pathogens. Science is currently making astonishing advances in the field of medicine and I am very grateful to be alive to see it all happening.

Second in line for the vaccine was 81 year old William Shakespeare from Warwickshire!!!!!!!

Today, Tuesday 8th of December 2020, about a year since the outbreak was recognised and amazingly, the first doses of the vaccine are being administered to those at the top of the priority list. One of those receiving their first dose today is a 90 year old lady called Maggie Keenan and another is an 81 year old gentleman with the memorable name of William Shakespeare. Good luck to them and praise to the scientists who did in twelve months what used to take twenty years to achieve.

Maggie Keenan the 90-year-old woman who has become the first patient in the world to receive the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine following its approval in the UK, where the NHS has launched its biggest ever vaccine campaign.

New Herb Collection – Tregothnan Botanical Gardens, Truro Cornwall

I have received a package of herbs from Smartplantapp.com that was sourced from www.tregothnan.co.uk who apparently are the only tea growers in Cornwall. They have been established since 1999 and boast Europe’s Largest Tea Garden.

My package was a selection of herbs that Tregothnan grow both for sale in their gardens and for use in their tea infusions which they sold at the best hotels and stores before the Pandemic arrived.

Tregothnan Botanical Gardens

Tregothnan means The house at the head of the valley and from the look of this photo they aren’t exaggerating. It looks beautiful.

Tregothnan

Everything we do here at Tregothnan brings us back to the magnificent botanical garden. It provides us with produce and inspiration; our range of English estate teas and herbal infusions are grown here, our Manuka and wildflower honeys are produced here, our seasonal British flowers and foliages are sourced here. The gardens, both in Cornwall and in Kent, are the beating heart of the estate and we are constantly inspired by their fecundity and resilience.

Manuka Flowers

Tregothnan is the only place outside of New Zealand to grow the Manuka plant (Leptospermum scoparium), which have been recorded on the Estate since the 1880s. Tregothnan’s tea bushes (Camellia sinensis) are surrounded by Manuka plantations, in part to protect the tea from the prevailing winds due to Manuka’s thick, coarse characteristics. The Manuka bushes provide essential shelter for tea but also a delicious treat for the bees whose hives are nestled in amongst the kitchen garden.

Tregothnan also keep their own honey bees and produce and sell their own honey. Its a little expensive for me but I’m sure its delicious.

My tiny package of herbs arrived and included six young plug plants of Marjoram, Thyme x 2, Sage x 2 and Hyssop. Plus a complimentary tea bag.

I have planted them up straight away into a large blue ceramic planter that I have had by my kitchen door for many years. It was bought for me by the children one Mother’s Day and has been in the same place since then. Since Adam died it had contained Spring bulbs and Viola Sororia Freckles which have both multiplied again and again and this year the plants needed splitting and the soil refreshing . I have left a few of the viola in there and arranged the herbs around the pot. There is plenty of space for them to spread as it is a very big container.

Hyssopus officinalis Blue

Hysssop

I have never grown or cooked with this herb so a little research was needed. Apparently Hysoppus officinalis is a versatile herb. It can be planted in the border or used in the kitchen. Bees and butterflies are attracted by Hyssop’s electric blue flowers. The flowers are aromatic and long lasting and the foliage is evergreen so it could be a real bonus in the blue pot outside the kitchen door.

Although not well known Hyssop is a useful culinary herb used sparingly.  Chop and scatter young leaves onto salads, meat or oily fish dishes or use to flavour soups, stews and fruit dishes. Hyssop is said to aid the digestion of fatty or rich foods.

Hyssop also has medicinal properties. A tea made from the dried flowers infused with honey is soothing for coughs.

Origanum Vulgare Aureum

Golden Marjoram

The label says that Golden Marjoram has brilliant golden foliage and is of a low growing habit. It produces pink flowers in late summer, dies back over winter and reappears in spring. It advises cutting back old dead flowers in early spring. This woody perennial can be propagated by cuttings of non flowering shoots in mid-summer or by division in the autumn or spring.

Fresh or dried marjoram leaves are used to season soups, sauces, salads, fish, legumes and meat dishes. It is also great in marinades and may fragrance vinegars, oils and liquers. An essential oil, used by the pharmaceutical industry, is made from the foliage. Some medicines utilise marjoram in healing for respiratory and digestive system diseases. Its greens contain taurine, vitamin C and carotenes.

Salvia Oficinalis

Salvia officinalis is a perennial, evergreen subshrub, with woody stems, grayish leaves, and blue to purplish flowers. It is a member of the mint family Lamiaceae and native to the Mediterranean region, though it has naturalised in many places throughout the world.

The Latin name salvia officinalis is derived either from the Latin salvus, which means healthy, or salvare, meaning to heal. The name officinalis is derived from officina, which stands for the traditional storeroom in an apothecary where the herb was kept. It also refers to the fact that the herb is officially used as a medicinal plant.

During a major outbreak of plague in 1630, faith in the healing effects of sage was so strong that thieves in Toulouse rubbed a sage/herb/vinegar mix into their skin to protect themselves against infection before going out into the night to rob cadavers. When caught, they were told that their lives would be spared if they revealed the secret of how they inoculated themselves. Ricola.

My two Sages are a little different to the common sage. Sage Tangerine is described as a semi-hardy sage with bright green foliage and a strong citrus aroma. Sage Icterina Gold is described as a perennial with gold and green variegated leaves on a rough but keenly scented upright foliage.

Sage Tangerine

Salvia elegans, commonly called pineapple sage or tangerine sage, is a perennial shrub native to Mexico and Guatemala. It inhabits Madrean and Mesoamerican pine-oak forests. The foliage of this decorative culinary sage has a tangerine-like scent, while the summer flowers add a vibrant shot of colour to borders or pots. Both the foliage, particularly the younger leaves, and the flowers can be used to dress salads, while the leaves can be brewed for tea.

Sage has been used for centuries as a culinary herb, Tangerine Sage is grown as a tender perennial herb plant primarily for its flowers, which are highly attractive to bees and butterflies. However, the leaves and flowers can be used to flavour food and drinks. The leaves can be snipped into salads and the flowers make an attractive addition to a salad too. In addition the leaves add a herby tangerine taste to fruit drinks and cocktails or on their own make a refreshing tea.

Golden Sage

Golden Sage is a very popular herb. This variety has a milder taste in comparison with common sage . It is also a great companion with rich foods as it can aid digestion.

Golden sage can be propagated from cuttings. Many growers say Icterina does not bloom and is strictly an ornamental but the plant produces purple flowers in late spring. Seeds can be unreliable so growing golden sage through spring cuttings is a quick and easy way to make more of these lovely little shrubs. Root cuttings in sterile potting soil and keep evenly moist. To enhance rooting, provide heat and humidity by placing a bag or clear cover over the plant. Remove the cover once per day to release excess moisture and prevent root rot.

Read more at Gardening Know How: Golden Sage Care: How To Grow A Golden Sage Plant https://www.gardeningknowhow.com/edible/herbs/sage/grow-golden-sage-plant.htm

Thymus Vulgaris

Thymus vulgaris is a species of flowering plant in the mint family Lamiaceae, native to southern Europe from the western Mediterranean to southern Italy. Wikipedia

Thyme is thought to have the powerful ability to kill off bacteria and viruses and should be taken at first signs of a cold or illness. Thyme does contains antiseptic, antiviral, antibacterial, carminative, diaphoretic and expectorant properties which supports healing throughout the entire body. A very useful herb to have in the garden.

The two tiny starter plants of Thyme in my package are Thymus Vulgaris, common thyme, and Thyme Coccineus.

Thyme Coccineus, the second variety is a creeping woody based perennial.

Thymus praecox Coccineus or Creeping Thyme with a degree of spicy fragrance. This flat-growing Thyme features fragrant dark green leaves, smothered by bright magenta-red flowers in early summer. A strong grower, ideal as a drought-tolerant lawn substitute or for planting between slabs. Creeping Thyme is easily divided in spring or early autumn and even small pieces will take root and grow. It is evergreen and attractive to butterflies.
Thyme Coccineus

Dehydration and Rehydration

Last winter I had a very scary health event that included severe dehydration and so that made me aware of the dangers of this condition. I have recently been having symptoms of dehydration again, namely,:-

  • giddiness
  • headaches
  • confusion
  • dry skin
  • dry eyes
  • dark urine
  • tiredness
  • lack of skin elasticity

Scientists warn that the ability to be aware of and respond to thirst is slowly blunted as we age. As a result, older people do not feel thirst as readily as younger people do. This increases the chances of them consuming less water and consequently suffering dehydration

The body loses water as we age. Until about age 40, the proportion of total body fluids to body weight is about 60% in men and 52% in women. After age 60, the proportion goes down to 52% in men and 46% in women. The reason for the decline is the loss of muscle mass as one ages and a corresponding increase in fat cells.

Drinking at least five glasses of water daily reduces the risk of fatal coronary heart disease among older adults. This is a shocking statistic and one we should all take heed of.

Sudden shifts in the body’s water balance can frequently result in dehydration and the physical changes associated with aging expose the elderly in particular to the risks of dehydration. One serious danger to the elderly is that they may not know about their dehydrated condition, which could lead to it not being treated and result in more serious consequences.

The kidneys’ ability to remove toxins from the blood progressively declines with age. This means the kidneys are not as efficient in concentrating urine in less water thus older people lose more water. The information listed on my medical notes includes CKD which is chronic kidney disease. Whilst I realise that this is a common condition in people of my age I do try to drink more water as directed by my GP.

However, I have made a decision to be more proactive with regard to this particular health issue and so have been researching what food supplements I could use to aid my rehydration.

ORS Dispersable Tablets

These tablets must be dissolved in a glass of water to make a drink that is easier to take than the large tablets. The tablets are fruit flavoured making them easier to drink.

Ingredients per tablet dissolved in 100ml of water

  • Glucose/ Sugar /Energy 8.6kcal
  • Citric Acid,
  • Sodium Hydrogen Carbonate
  • Sodium Chloride /Salt 176mg
  • Potassium Chloride 150mg
  • Colourant Beetroot
  • Blackcurrant Flavour
  • Polyethylene Glycol 6000
  • Sweetener/Aspartame
  • Kollidon K25

These tablets are said to contain a balanced formula of electrolytes, glucose & minerals. They do not contain yeast, gluten or lactose. They are free from artificial preservatives and are suitable for vegans and vegetarians. They are cheap to buy and easy to take so I will give them a try. It’s the 21st of May and I have been taking them for one week so I will report back in another three weeks and note any progress.

Electrolytes produce ions and enable the body to function. Body fluid contains electrolytes, chemicals which, when they dissolve in water, produce charged ions. These ions enable the flow of electrical signals through the body.

The major electrolytes: sodium, potassium, and chloride. Electrolytes are substances that dissociate in solution and have the ability to conduct an electrical current. These substances are located in the extracellular and intracellular fluid.

Electrolytes are minerals that conduct electrical impulses in the body when mixed with water. It’s important that you have the correct balance of electrolytes as they are involved in many essential processes within the body.

Some of the most common electrolytes in the human body include calcium, chloride, magnesium, potassium, and sodium.

Mild dehydration can usually be treated by taking more fluids by mouth. Generally, it’s best to drink something with some electrolytes, such as a commercial rehydration solution, though in most cases, even drinking water or tea will help. Be creative and make having a drink an occasion instead of a task. It goes without saying “No Alcohol”. That causes dehydration.

Strawberry and Coconut Water

Strawberries and Coconut Water

Ingredients

  • 1 cup (250ml) of fresh coconut water
  • 1 cup (250 ml) strawberries sliced
  • sugar or sweetener

Directions

  • To make the sugar syrup boil sugar and water together.
  • Add one cup of coconut water.
  • Combine the strawberries and sugar or blend.
  • Serve with ice.

This drink sounds wonderful but the combinations are endless.