Monday, 25 November 2019

Winter Comfort Food

Another miserably wet day on the Côte d’Azur, flooding and news of several deaths due to the horrendous weather makes me want to stay home and not venture out until the sun returns, not an option as we’re working tomorrow, but for today I’ve stayed put and baked cakes.
Baking isn’t just a case of a simple recipe from a book in our house, decided I wanted spiced apple cake, it’s one of my all time favourite cakes and so comforting when the weather is horrible, my old recipe has to be modified so it can be eaten by everyone else in the house and as the boys are gluten, dairy and sugar free I make one cake for them and one for us, ours also has to be modified as the OH has to have extremely reduced sugar!
So many modifications, but worth the time spent when the OH came into the kitchen to make coffee and pronounced “it smells like Christmas in here already”, followed once the cakes were baking by “it smells gorgeous in here” and after they’d wolfed down gargantuan pieces they all exclaimed “that was deeeeeelicious!” Definitely worth the effort of baking them.
When I have time I’ll post the full recipes, but for now here’s the finished cakes.

Saturday, 23 November 2019

Six on Saturday - 23/11/2019

It’s that time of the week again!
Welcome to my Six on Saturday post, I’m extremely wet and soggy thanks to non stop rain, the flooding season has arrived with a vengeance. No surprise it’s raining this weekend as it always seems to rain on the weekend of the ‘Rally du Var’, but it’s serious enough to have stopped play this year. The last week has been one big storm warning on my weather apps, we’ve changed clothes so may times I’ve lost count and the lane has been filled and washed away several times. Despite the weather I still have a six to post, not surprisingly they’re mostly weather related.
Hope you enjoy, and if  you want to join in head over to the host with the most at and join the fun.

1) There’s still plenty of colour in the work gardens, as well as the plants in the photo there are lots of roses still flowering profusely, many shrubs are flowering too but as they’re kept clipped to shape there aren’t that many flowers on them - still enough for the bees that are buzzing around despite the crazy storms. The red of these hydrangea leaves is quite literally breathtaking.

2)  RAIN! The wooded area in the daily work garden has a concrete pipe at the top adjoining one neighbour’s land to allow storm water to run unhindered, it runs down the slope of the woods and exits via several pipes into the land of the other neighbour. Last year the bottom concrete wall and pipes were washed away with the force of the water and debris, it was rebuilt but whilst the weather is like this it’s an almost daily chore removing the debris that collects. Another tree in the woods
 has come down (well half of it), and once again the lane to our house is undriveable, it was filled in a few times this week but the guys with their lorry loads of stones are fighting a losing battle. This picture was three days ago and we’ve had torrential rain constantly since then, with maybe a 3 or 4 hour reprieve, so the gullies are now about 14 -16” deep! The cascading waterfall is actually rain water running from the land above the local cinema down into the car park, a crazy amount of water!

3) On the brighter side, the Erigeron in the daily work garden is still flowering, it looks vibrant and healthy, not quite the full on flower show we had earlier in the year but still looking good. I’m amazed it hasn’t turned to a soggy mess.

4) With all the rain comes the perfect conditions for the fungal beauties, I have absolutely no idea what any of these are (if anyone does then please enlighten me) but they’re all beautiful. The ones grouped together were in the woods, the others were on the lawn - I use that word in the loosest possible way, it’s more a muddy paddling area.

5) More rain! This was what it was like when we were getting ready to go to work (yes, gardening) the other day - thank goodness for waterproofs! 
Needs sound.

6) With all this rain it was time for the return of hot coffee, during the summer we drink iced coffee exclusively but it’s definitely not iced coffee weather any more so new coffee mugs were in order - just to add to the dozens we already have! 

Not part of my six but had to share the daftness that is our bundle of fluff, Tylor, we were busy shoveling leaves and debris from around the water pipes pictured above but that was too scary for Tylor so he ran and hid behind what he clearly thought was a tree that would save him from the scary flying leaves! He stayed there until we’d finished and emerged from the ditch. 

Well that’s it from me for this week’s Six on Saturday, hope you have a good week wherever you are and whatever you’re doing. 

Saturday, 9 November 2019

Six on Saturday 09/11/2019

The weekend is here again! The weeks seem to be passing by so fast at the moment, probably because there’s a lot to do in the gardens, this week has been a mixed bag weather-wise with equal measures of rain, sun and wind, temperatures have definitely turned autumnal too as it’s been down to 15°c mid afternoon during the week, and it was a decidedly chilly 9°c when we got home last night - brrrrrrr! I’ve been busy moving plants this week as we’re turning the fact that the nasty xylella killed off our Polygala Myrtifolia into an opportunity to create a new mood by prepping for some tropical style plants - still absolutely gutted that they were killed off though as they were some of the most prolific flowering shrubs we had. Elsewhere in the gardens there are still lots of flowers, the roses in particular are taking advantage of the fact that the sun isn’t trying to cook them.
So here’s my six for this week, as always, if you want to join in pop over to the host of Six on Saturday and add your own and feel free to leave a comment on my contribution.

1) Still in bloom and looking great in November, there are bucket loads of white roses in flower but I didn’t get a chance to take photos of them all.

2) Cactus and succulents are still happy despite rather a lot of rain, this  Opuntia microdasys is growing really well, although it might have to be moved as the nasty glochids come away so easily and just walking too close to the pot means a risk of getting them in you or your clothing, obviously the fact that it’s getting bigger increases the risk so this and the matching one in another pot might have to move home to the cactus bed where they can grow undisturbed.

3) More succulents, these Aeonium are one of my favourite plants, I adore the huge rosettes, the fine toothed edging and the way they change colour from one season to the next. This picture shows the same plant in May and again in October, it looks like a different plant. It’ll stay green over the winter as it’s getting low levels of sun and more rain (this garden is at quite a high elevation and gets frosts over the winter so I cover this and the others in the garden with a layer of  fleece to protect them), but come spring when the sun starts to get higher and hotter again it’ll return to the beautiful colours in the top picture.

4) Beautiful Bougainvillea, I love this but my OH hates it because of the spikes, he climbs the ladder to cut it back several times a year and curses like mad when they get at him through all the gear he wears to protect himself from them. I just see stunning colour in mid November, in fact this flowers for around 7 or 8 months of the year on our south facing wall!

6) Limes, this tiny lime tree has 20 limes on it and is about to blossom again! It stands at the grand height of approximately 30 inches tall. That’s one of the things I love about citrus, they’re prolific fruiters and sometimes you wonder how they take the weight of the fruit on them. This one needs to be put into a larger pot in the spring so it can spread it’s roots a little. It’s in the tiny little black pot, the blue pot has a rosemary and a pelargonium in it and is about the size of pot I’ll move the lime in to.

Monday, 4 November 2019

Edible Home Grown Flowers

This post came about when a fellow grower on Twitter asked if anyone had any suggestions for edible flowers for her plot, to add to those she was already growing. I said I’d send her some suggestions, and after gathering together many bits of paper with scribbled lists that have been stuck in books for years and going through all my files (physical and on line) I came up with a list of edible flowers... rather a long one!

Using flowers as food is great, it adds flavour, texture and colour to meals as well as a visual ‘WOW’ factor. Obviously the same rules apply to flowers for food as does to salad and veg. crops, they need to be free from pesticides and animal poop/pee - nobody wants to eat a flower that Pedro the poodle has peed on! 

You can buy edible flowers in supermarkets these days, they’re extremely popular here in France, but if you buy them to eat you need to check they’re for culinary use and not just a bunch aimed for sticking in a vase, those grown for the vase will have been heavily treated with pesticides and herbicides, definitely not what you want to be adding to your meals! That’s not to say those in the salad section won’t have been treated, they’ll just have what the food agencies deem to be an “acceptable” level of the chemicals on them. We prefer to avoid anything that’s been treated this way so either buy organic or grow our own. 
It’s the same if you buy plants to grow on for edible purposes, those in supermarkets and garden centres will have been heavily treated (unless labeled to the contrary) so will need around 12 weeks of chemical free growth to be safe - do NOT eat any flowers already on bought plants. 
Anyway, to the list of edibles which is compiled from 30+ years of flower eating as well as from books, magazines and websites, some I eat lots of, some, like chrysanthemums I’ve never tried, simply because I have an extreme allergy to them.

Check that all flowers/buds are free from pests and disease, and rinse thoroughly before use. It’s also a good idea to check that they’re safe for those who are pregnant, ill or very young/old just in case they’re contraindicated in those groups. Unless otherwise stated remove pistils and stamens and just use the petals of flowers.
Remember, if in doubt, leave it out! Better to be safe and not eat it if you can’t identify it properly

To see the list of edible flowers click here

Yucca - one of the many flowers on the edibles list.