April 2010

So far this week, my dreams have been much more vivid than usual. Actually, that’s not quite right. It may just be that I’m remembering them better. You see, I often know when I’ve been having wild and wacky dreams, but can seldom recall the content.

I think the last few days have been different because I’ve been woken at around 5-ish by nextdoor’s baby kicking off. Being woken mid-dream seems to result in me actually retaining some of the content come the morning.

Mostly they make no sense and I’ve no idea what they’re about, but I can clearly see where last night’s came from.

Much of it was due to the evening’s TV viewing. Firstly, on Alys Folwer’s programme, a lady (who appeared much more confident in front of the camera than AF) was making ‘fruit leathers’. Afterwards I didn’t change channel quick enough and caught some of the ropey, antiques-themed, piece of lifestyle fluff that follows it, in which a couple were looking at leather sofas.

You’re probably there ahead of me, but add to that a feint recollection of GQT’s Bob Flowerdew claiming to have made a hat from fruit leather, and is it any wonder I dreamt about someone trying to make a Chesterfield from the stuff.

 Anyone who’s ever sat on a piece of leather furniture in the summer knows how you can stick to them. Imagine sitting on one made of dried fruit puree. 



Originally I planned to write a post detailing a disagreement I had with someone over Heuchera “Palace Purple”. I said it was a horrible little plant, that went tall and woody in its second season, and in any case didn’t work with anything, and just sat there looking murky, much like copper beeches in the landscape.

She liked it.

But I decided not to go through all the ins and out of the matter here, because…well because I’m right, frankly.

So, with that in mind, I have the following quote:

“Gardening is a form of art which everyone, rightly or wrongly, considers to be within their talents.”

Nan Fairbrother

I know a few things about comfrey.

I know that its old name was “knitbone” and it was used in poultices to treat, as the name suggests broken bones.

I know that it makes an excellent organic plant feed, especially a variety called Super Bock.

(Actually that last bit is rubbish – there is a “super” variety and it’s called Bocking 14 – I had to look the name bit up. Super Bock is a Portuguese beer that they sell in Nando’s)

And I know how to pronounce its name, unlike TV-pretend-gardener Joe Swift.

But I’d never heard that it was edible, until I read recently in a book (p121- The Lazy Kitchen Gardener – John Yeoman – 2002), that “You can eat comfrey like spinach”.

This was something new to me and also felt odd. It seemed strange that if edible, at least one of the many articles I’d read on comfrey tea for plants would have mentioned the fact. Not that I’m not still learning how many unexpected plants can be eaten.

So I turned to a favourite plant reference book, Mrs M Grieve’s A Modern Herbal. It mentions lots of medicinal uses, including Nicholas Culpeper’s claim that it was a good treatment for haemerrhoids, but nothing on the culinary front.

Must be rubbish then, I thought but to make sure had a look in The Forager Handbook by Miles Irving. He says “in the 1970s, it was recommended as a kind of vegetarian superfood. However, the discovery of its high pyrrolizide-alkaloid (PA) content, including the carcinogen symphytine, means that the wild plant can no longer be considered safe to eat.” Whilst Miles does mention that there are cultivars with a negligible PA content, I personally don’t trust any nurseryman, or seed supplier to that extent.

You might argue why trust one book above another, but when on side you have a scholarly work, coupled with a dense handbook by someone who makes a living from wild food, and on the other a self- publishing writer who has some strange ideas about things, then it seems pretty clear-cut to me.

So, the moral of all this is that if someone tells you that you can eat comfrey, you are best of making like Nicholas Culpeper and telling them to stick it up their bum.

Along with sweet peas, and beans, I always soak the seeds of Morning Glory overnight. My choice of variety in the past has sometimes been the pale Heavenly Blue, and often the intense purpley blue Star of Yelta, but this year I picked up a packet of Hazelwood Blues, which have traditional purpley flowers along with white ones, that have lines of purple shading, although in truth the latter look a lot like bindweed. The seeds themselves are a mix of black and white, so you could select one colour or other I guess.

Trying something new wasn’t the sole reason I bought them – 25p from each packet goes to Thrive the horticultural therapy charity.

Last weekend I put a dozen seeds in to soak. And then forgot about them till today. When I remembered them I was expecting the worst, but then found that they had actually sprouted and were growing healthy roots, as you can see.

So I’d better get on and plant them.

“Men come to gardens by many roads and learn to be gardeners by many chances.”


Beverley Nichols

It’s all too easy as a parent to worry about your child’s (and your own parental) shortcomings. For example, yesterday Little Boots went to a party and ended up crying a few times over very trivial things. Tears seem to come all to readily at the moment and we don’t know what this is all about.

We are a bit concerned. But as with all these sort of worries, it often means that you don’t stop to reflect that you have given your child a pretty good set of values and examples of behaviour to live their life by.

Today in a banging, whining, banshee of noise, not to mention smell of burning, the washing-machine died. We can’t live without one, but we can’t afford a new one. We voiced the former, but not the latter, because five-year olds do not need to know about those sort of realities.

So, it could only have been generosity and a loving, giving, nature that led to Little Boots announcing conspiratorially to the OH, “I’ve got a lot of money – you can use that to get a washing machine.”

Never was £3.67 so freely given.

If you are one of the select group of people who read this blog, you may recall my Magic Beans post.

Well I planted some of the beans. I had been able, through some low-level mithering, to establish that they were yard-long type beans and so after checking with Joy Larcom’s Oriental Veg book and finding that they needed quite a bit of heat to get them going, stuck them in the heated ‘poppa-grator’.

Planted on Monday evening, the seed leaves broke the surface of the compost on Thursday. Overnight the first true leaves emerged and the thing grew to two inches tall inside ten hours, so that they went from the above to this……

With such an astounding rate of growth I ‘m wondering if  they might be magic beans after all. I’ve got a quite a few left – maybe I can swap them for a cow.

Boring botany bits

  • Seeds germinated and emerged from the soil surface within 72 hours
  • Epigeal germination – cotyledons above the soil
  • Cotyledons grew to around 3 times the size of the planted seed within this period and seeds were not soaked prior to sowing

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