PARSLEY SOUP



If you love eating home made soups, but get a bit disappointed with the flavour sometimes, you will need a recipe that will guarantee both flavour and wholesome goodness. Look no further because you are going to love this one. The fresh taste of the parsley comes through every time and I have never made a bad one. Furthermore, this soup is soooo full of flavour I have been known to almost polish off and entire batch in one sitting.
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This recipe for parsley soup is my highest viewed soup recipe and if I had kept it to myself, I would be almost doing the entire world a dis-favour. I say almost because you need to be in a climate where you can grow plenty of parsley. If you are buying parsley from the supermarket, the quantity required can make this soup quite expensive - especially if you make it as often as I do! Even so it will be worth it.
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SERVES 6 - OR JUST ME!

INGREDIENTS

25g (1 oz) unsalted butter
1 large onion
1 clove of garlic – not absolutely necessary but it does make a difference, plus it’s good for the heart!
3 celery sticks
150g (6 oz) fresh parsley (don't be fooled by the weight - this is a lot of parsley)
150g of baby leaf spinach - optional, used to bulk out the soup and especially useful if you don't have enough parsley. If this is the case use 50:50
4tsp plain flour (for thickening)
900ml (1 1/2 pints) vegetable or chicken stock
Salt and pepper
A heaped tablespoon of double cream
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PREPARATION

Finely chop the onion and garlic and then slice the celery. Chop the parsley roughly, discarding any long or thick stalks.

Gently melt the butter in a large saucepan and as soon as it starts to simmer add the onion, garlic, celery and parsley. Cook until the ingredients have softened, then stir in the flour.

Cook for a further minute or two – stirring the mix at all times - before adding the stock.
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Simmer for 25 minutes, then allow to cool slightly before you purée the mixture with a blender.
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Reheat, add salt and pepper as required, then add the cream before serving in a heated bowl with a sprig of parsley.

Taste test first, then decide whether you should tell anyone else you made it. I hope that you enjoy this recipe for Parsley soup as much as I do.
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Photograph cortesy of  http://yumblog.co.uk/archives/96 and http://www.spill.co.za/recipes/autumn-soup-celeriac-butternut-mushroom-and-celery-and-parsley/1186/

HOW TO MAKE SPICY PUMPKIN SOUP



Come the halloween season and the shops are full of pumpkins. Small ones, humongous ones - even freaky coloured ones, but they aren't all just for cutting up to make scary faces! Choose a culinary variety and you can produce one of the most beautifully flavoured soups you've ever tasted!

I love this recipe and not for the obvious reason. I love it because the this recipe seemed so simple that when I first tried it that I was sure that it was going to end up tasting bland and weak. But I was so, so wrong. It ended up as one of the most delicious soups I have ever made!

Ingredients

1 x medium sized pumpkin approximately 1kg
1 x large onion
3 x sticks of celery
1 x tin of chopped tomatoes
1/2 a swede or 2 x medium potatoes
50 grams of butter
1 litre of vegetable or chicken stock
1 level tsp of cumin
1/2 level tsp of chili powder or flakes

In addition you can also add 4 x rashers of bacon and/or 100ml of single cream

Peel and roughly chop the onion, then melt the butter in a large, heavy-based saucepan and gently cook the onion on  a low heat until soft and translucent. Meanwhile, peel the pumpkin, discarding all the stringy bits and the seeds.

Chop the pumpkin into rough cubes and add to the onions. Cook until the pumpkin is golden brown at the edges, then add the stock.

Peel and chop the potatoes/swedes, and along with the chopped celery - chuck into the pan along with the tomatoes, cumin and chili powder/flakes.
Bring to the boil then leave to simmer for 20 minutes or so until the pumpkin, is tender.

If you are using the bacon in this recipe, fry it off until it is crisp. Cool a little then cut up with scissors into small pieces. Whizz the soup in a blender or food processor until it runs smooth. the, if you are using it, pour in the cream and taste for seasoning, adding salt and pepper as necessary. Return to the pan, bring almost to the boil and then serve, piping hot, with the bacon bits scattered on top.

Serve with some freshly buttered, oven warmed bread. Absolutely delicious!

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RECIPE FOR TRADITIONAL CHRISTMAS CAKE



You simply cannot have a traditional family Christmas without the traditional English Christmas cake, and I am not talking about some tasteless, artificial, shop bought effort! You need something special. Something that your Gran would make from an old family recipe handed down through the generations!

While I can't provide you with a suitably skilled grandmother, I can provide you with a superb recipe that will make you a Christmas cake that is perfect in every way so long as you like it rich, dark and succulently moist! It even dates back to at least 4 generations of my own family!

Ingredients

1 lb (450 g) currants
6 oz (175 g) sultanas
6 oz (175 g) raisins
2 oz (50 g) glacé cherries, rinsed, dried and finely chopped
2 oz (50 g) mixed candied peel, finely chopped
3 tablespoons brandy, plus extra for 'feeding'
8 oz (225 g) plain flour
½ level teaspoon salt
¼ level teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
½ level teaspoon ground mixed spice
8 oz (225 g) unsalted butter
8 oz (225 g) soft brown sugar
4 large eggs
2 oz (50 g) almonds, chopped (the skins can be left on)
1 level dessertspoon black treacle
grated zest 1 lemon
grated zest 1 orange
4 oz (110 g) whole blanched almonds (only if you don't intend to ice the cake)

Equipment

Either an 8 inch round cake tin or a 7 inch square tin, greased and lined with baking paper. You can also tie a band of brown paper round the outside of the tin for a little extra protection.

So, how to make a traditional English Christmas cake?

You need to begin this Christmas cake the night before you want to bake it. All you do is weigh out the dried fruit and mixed peel, place it in a mixing bowl and mix in the brandy as evenly and thoroughly as possible. Cover the bowl with a clean tea cloth and leave the fruit aside to absorb the brandy for 12 hours.

Next day pre-heat the oven to gas mark 1, 275°F (140°C). Then measure out all the rest of the ingredients, ticking them off to make quite sure they're all there. The treacle will be easier to measure if you remove the lid and place the tin in a small pan of barely simmering water. Now begin the cake by sifting the flour, salt and spices into a large mixing bowl, lifting the sieve up high to give the flour a good airing. Next, in a separate large mixing bowl, whisk the butter and sugar together until it's light, pale and fluffy. Now beat the eggs in a separate bowl and add them to the creamed mixture a tablespoonful at a time; keep the whisk running until all the egg is incorporated. If you add the eggs slowly by degrees like this the mixture won't curdle. If it does, don't worry, any cake full of such beautiful things can't fail to taste good!

When all the egg has been added, fold in the flour and spices, using gentle, folding movements and not beating at all (this is to keep all that precious air in). Now fold in the fruit, peel, chopped nuts and treacle and finally the grated lemon and orange zests.

Next, using a large kitchen spoon, transfer the cake mixture into the prepared tin, spread it out evenly with the back of a spoon and, if you don't intend to ice the cake, lightly drop the whole blanched almonds in circles or squares all over the surface.

Finally cover the top of the cake with a double square of silicone paper with a 50p-size hole in the centre. This gives some extra protection during the long slow cooking.

Bake the cake on the lowest shelf of the oven for 4½-4¾ hours. Sometimes it can take up to ½-¾ hour longer than this, but in any case don't look till at least 4 hours have passed. Cool the cake for 30 minutes in the tin, then remove it to a wire rack to finish cooling.

When it's cold 'feed' it by making small holes in the top and base of the cake with a cocktail stick or small skewer, then spoon over a few teaspoons of brandy. Now wrap it in double silicone paper secured with an elastic band and either wrap again in foil or store in an airtight container. You can now feed it at odd intervals until you need to ice or eat it.

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HOW TO GROW THE GLORY LILY (Gloriosa superba) FROM SEED



The Glory Lily is an easy to grow exotic climber, with lily-like flowers in a wide range of vibrant colours. Growing to a height of about 6 ft, it is ideal for creating a spectacular feature plant climbing up an obelisk in containers or through trellis in borders. While is is fairly easy - though expensive - to obtain sections of glory lily root in order to propagate from, it can be just as easy to grow the glory lily from seed. Not only will this be considerably cheaper, the chances are that you will end up with a lot more plant material.

So, just how do you grow the glory lily from seed?

Sow Glory Lily seeds from February to April. The seeds should be sown into pots or trays of moist seed compost and then covered with a sprinkling of compost or vermiculite. Place in a propagator or warm place, kept at a temperature of around 20-30 Celsius. After sowing, do not exclude light as this helps germination, and keep the surface of the compost moist but not waterlogged. the seeds should begin to germinate between 30-40 days.

When the seedlings are large enough to handle, they can be transplanted into 3 inch pots containing a good quality compost. Remember to provide some support for the climbing shoots.

In the autumn, the stems of your Glory Lily will begin to die back to a tuber that has been developing over the growing period. Gradually dry off the tuber and store in a cool, dry and frost free place over the winter period. Re-pot in early spring into 13cm (5in) pots and grow on as before, re-potting further as necessary. Grow on in a greenhouse or conservatory.

During the growing season the Glory lily should be watered thoroughly, but again will need to be allowed to dry out almost completely before re-watering – never leave them waterlogged or standing in water as this can encourage rots. When growing begins in the spring they should be given a liquid feed once a week to encourage new growth. Later on in the season a half strength fertilizer added to the water every two weeks will keep plants blooming strongly throughout the summer and sometimes further into early autumn.

To save your tubers from one year to the next it’s best to stop watering the plants from about the end of October. Allow the compost to fully dry off and any foliage to die back down. Now place the pot in a warm dry are over the winter period where temperatures will not go below 5°Celsius. As soon as the threat of frosts are over, the pot can be put back into the greenhouse or conservatory and watered. Once again, re-water once the compost has been allowed to dry out. You may wish to re-pot your Glory Lily into a larger one at this time. The new seasons growth should appear after about three weeks when you can put your glory lily back outside.

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BUY GLORY LILY SEED - Gloriosa superba



If you are looking to buy Glory Lily seed, you are in luck. The 'Garden of Eaden' seed shop now has Glory Lily seed in stock as part of its standard range. Just click on the links to be directed to the new and improved seed shop.

The Glory Lily is an easy to grow exotic climber, with lily-like flowers in a wide range of vibrant colours. Growing to a height of about 6 ft, it is ideal for creating a spectacular feature plant climbing up an obelisk in containers or through trellis in borders.

How to grow the Glory Lily from seed

Sow Glory Lily seeds from February to April. The seeds should be sown into pots or trays of moist seed compost and then covered with a sprinkling of compost or vermiculite. Place in a propagator or warm place, kept at a temperature of around 20-30 Celsius. After sowing, do not exclude light as this helps germination, and keep the surface of the compost moist but not waterlogged. the seeds should begin to germinate between 30-40 days.

When the seedlings are large enough to handle, they can be transplanted into 3 inch pots containing a good quality compost. Remember to provide some support for the climbing shoots.

In the autumn, the stems of your Glory Lily will begin to die back to a tuber that has been developing over the growing period. Gradually dry off the tuber and store in a cool, dry and frost free place over the winter period. Re-pot in early spring into 13cm (5in) pots and grow on as before, re-potting further as necessary. Grow on in a greenhouse or conservatory.

During the growing season the Glory lily should be watered thoroughly, but again will need to be allowed to dry out almost completely before re-watering – never leave them waterlogged or standing in water as this can encourage rots. When growing begins in the spring they should be given a liquid feed once a week to encourage new growth. Later on in the season a half strength fertilizer added to the water every two weeks will keep plants blooming strongly throughout the summer and sometimes further into early autumn.

To save your tubers from one year to the next it’s best to stop watering the plants from about the end of October. Allow the compost to fully dry off and any foliage to die back down. Now place the pot in a warm dry are over the winter period where temperatures will not go below 5°Celsius. As soon as the threat of frosts are over, the pot can be put back into the greenhouse or conservatory and watered. Once again, re-water once the compost has been allowed to dry out. You may wish to re-pot your Glory Lily into a larger one at this time. The new seasons growth should appear after about three weeks when you can put your glory lily back outside.

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CARROT FLY RESISTANT CARROT VARIETIES



Carrot fly is a small black-bodied fly whose larvae feed on the roots of carrots and related plants. In fact carrot fly is the most problematic pest of carrots, able to make the large proportion of your carrot crop inedible!

Carrot fly larvae damage
You can generally spot carrot fly from rusty brown scars that ring the tap roots. This makes the carrot inedible, and susceptible to secondary rots.

When the roots are cut through, you will see that small tunnels are revealed, often inhabited by slender creamy-yellow maggots up to 9mm long.

The best carrot fly resistant seeds varieties are listed below:

Healthmaster

Resistance lies in them having low levels of chlorogenic acid, a chemical which the larvae of the carrot fly needs for survival. This means that they appear to be unattractive to the fly and even if your crop is attacked to some degree the larvae will soon die after doing relatively little damage.

Flyfree

Resistance lies in them having low levels of chlorogenic acid, a chemical which the larvae of the carrot fly needs for survival. This means that they appear to be unattractive to the fly and even if your crop is attacked to some degree the larvae will soon die after doing relatively little damage.

Carrot Maestro F1

Carrot fly larvae
A reliable and excellent quality Nantes type with excellent pest and disease resistance (including Carrot Root Fly). RHS Award of Garden Merit winner. This carrot has been trialled, tested and recommended by the National Institute of Agricultural Botany.

Flyaway

The result of over 15 years breeding, this is perhaps the closest a carrot variety has become to being completely carrot fly resistant . In recent trials it came out top when grown against over 20 other 'resistant' varieties. Its resistance lies in it having low levels of chlorogenic acid, a chemical which the larvae of the carrot fly needs for survival. This means that it appears to be unattractive to the fly and even if your crop is attacked to some degree the larvae will soon die after doing relatively little damage. A Nantes type with cylindrical roots and a good blunt end and, perhaps most importantly, they are succulent and sweet. This variety is based on original breeding work carried out by Dr Bob Ellis and sponsored by MAFF funding.

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Photo care of http://www.self-sufficient.co.uk/Carrot-Fly.htm

DO FISH SLEEP



As strange as it may seem, the answer to 'Do fish sleep?' is YES , but it’s not sleep as we know it. Why? Because they don’t have eyelids to close, they sometimes do it during the day, they don’t show the characteristic brainwave patterns like REM sleep seen in humans, and some, including most sharks have to keep swimming in their sleep.

How do fish sleep?

But fishes do have a period of reduced activity and metabolism which seems to perform the same restorative functions as nocturnal sleep does in humans. Some are more obvious about it than others and actually rest on the bottom or in coral crevices, and parrotfish secrete a mucus 'sleeping bag ' around themselves before they go to sleep. If you get up quietly in the middle of the night you will find your goldfish in an almost trance- like state, hovering near the bottom of the tank making just the minimum correcting motions with its fins to maintain its position in the water column. If you put food in when they’re like this they take noticeably longer than usual to respond, as if they have trouble waking up.

So now you know - fish can sleep!

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HOW TO GROW BRUSSELS SPROUTS FROM SEED





Love them or hate them, Brussels sprouts are the main stay of any traditional Christmas dinner, and if by some strange quirk you actually do love them, then they are also perfect for roast dinners too. But why is it that such an obviously English vegetable is called Brussels sprouts – surely, London sprouts would be a more appropriate name? Well, it’s because Brussels Sprouts have been cultivated in Belgium as far back as 1200, hence the name, and for those who don’t know - Brussels is capital of Belgium.

Brussels Sprouts are best known today as the least popular part of the Christmas lunch, yet given that they are of a decent quality and cooked properly they are not only delicious, they are also an excellent source of vitamin C, vitamin D, folic acid and dietary fibre. Furthermore, Brussels sprouts also contain health-promoting compounds called glucosinolates which may help to prevent cancer, so you can almost call them a super food!

Planting conditions

Sprouts are very tolerant of almost all soil conditions although they dislike acidic soils which can make them more susceptible to club root. Because Brussels sprouts are a ‘top heavy’ crop, they are best grown in a rich, firm, heavy soils in order to enable the root system to support these top heavy plants, stopping them from falling over in poor weather. Their final bed should be nicely dug over with plenty of well rotted farm manure added to it well in advance of planting – preferably completed a few months earlier.

They will grow equally well in sun or partial shade, but prefer partial shade. With that in mind, try to avoid growing them in front of other plants which need full sun, their foliage will put others in the shade.

Growing Brussels Sprouts from Seed

Brussels Sprout seed should be sown around the middle of April, directly into a seed bed outside or containers filled with potting compost. This helps the plants to produce a better root system and crop when they are planted in one place and transplanted to their final position a month or so later.

Brussels sprouts seeds should be sown half an inch deep and 4 inches a part. Cover the seeds back with the surrounding soil and give them a good watering. Germination should occur in about 10 days, but this can be a few days longer in cold weather.

If you are going to sow Brussels sprouts the seeds under protection – such as a cloche or mini poly-tunnel – you can bring forward sowing the seed to late March

Once all danger of late frosts has passed usually by the end of May - the seedlings should be about 5 inches high and ready to me transplanted into their final position. The soil should have been well-dug a couple of months earlier, giving time to allow the soil to settle. Taking care to disturb the root systems a little as possible, plant them in rows (2ft) apart. Ensure the soil is firmed back and if at all dry water well - a shortage of water at this stage will almost certainly affect the health of the plants – and definitely the taste - later on.

How to care for Brussels Sprouts

The key thing when growing Brussels sprouts is to make sure that they do not run short of water. Hand weeding (their roots are shallow and easily damaged) will also be necessary. Unless the soil is very poor, do not feed with any additional fertiliser, this will only result in leafy sprouts, although a mulch of well-rotted compost can do the world of good.

When to harvest Brussels Sprouts

A hard frost always improves the eating quality of sprouts, so you will have to judge this according to where in the world you live. When harvesting, remove the Brussels sprouts from the main stem using a knife - simply breaking them off will injure the main stem. Take the lowest sprouts first and work up the stem as required. Do not remove all the sprouts from one plant and then harvest from the next plant - the lower sprouts mature earlier than the higher ones.

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Photo care of http://www.secretseedsociety.com/2011/01/see-how-the-brussel-sprouts-grow/ and http://tinyfarmblog.com/tag/brussels-sprouts/ and http://www.gumtree.com/outdoor-settings-furniture/kent;jsessionid=690E96D9B2536AC8EC21A7279425C064 and http://tinyfarmblog.com/harvesting-brussels-sprouts/

PANDA




The panda, or more accurately known as the Giant Panda is a true bear native to central-western and south western China. It is easily recognizable by its large, distinctive black patches around the eyes, over the ears, and across its round body.

The western world first learned of the giant panda in 1869 when the French missionary Armand David received a skin from a hunter on 11 March 1869. The first living giant panda to be seen outside China was by the German zoologist Hugo Weigold, who purchased a cub in 1916. In 1938, five giant pandas were sent to London, but no more to follow for the next half of the century due to the Second World War and its repercussions.

As the emblem of the WWF (World Wide Fund for Nature) and more recently the main characture in the hit Kung Fu Panda films, the Giant Panda is among the world's most adored and protected rare animals, and is one of the few in the world whose natural inhabitant status was able to gain a UNESCO World Heritage Site designation.

Panda Facts

The giant panda is an endangered species because it is threatened by continued habitat loss and by a very low birthrate, both in the wild and in captivity. Furthermore, the giant panda has been a target for poaching by locals since ancient times and then by foreigners since it was introduced to the West. Thankfully, starting in the 1930s, foreigners were unable to poach giant pandas in China because of the Second Sino-Japanese War and the Chinese Civil War, but pandas still remained a source of soft furs for the locals. The population boom in China after 1949 created further stress on the pandas' habitat, and the subsequent famines led to the increased hunting of wildlife, including the Giant Pandas.

Worse was to come because during the Cultural Revolution, all studies and conservation activities on the pandas were stopped. Then after the Chinese economic reform, demand for panda skins from Hong Kong and Japan led to illegal poaching for the black market - acts which were generally ignored by the local officials at the time.

The Wolong National Nature Reserve was set up by the PRC government in 1958 to save the declining panda population, but few advances in the conservation of pandas were made, due to inexperience and insufficient knowledge of Giant Panda ecology. Many believed that the best way to save the pandas was to cage them. As a result, pandas were caged at any sign of decline, and suffered further from the terrible conditions. Because of pollution and destruction of their natural habitat, along with segregation due to caging, reproduction of wild pandas was severely limited. But things began to change in the 1990s, when several laws (including gun control and the removal of resident humans from the reserves) helped the chances of survival for pandas. With these renewed efforts and improved conservation methods, wild pandas have started to increase in numbers in some areas, even though they still are classified as a rare species.


In 2006, scientists reported that the number of pandas living in the wild may have been underestimated at about 1,000. Previous population surveys had used conventional methods to estimate the size of the wild panda population, but using a new method that analyzes DNA from panda droppings, scientists believe that the wild panda population may be as large as 3,000. Although the species is still endangered, it is thought that the conservation efforts are working. In 2006, there were 40 panda reserves in China, compared to just 13 reserves two decades ago.

Not all conservationists agree that the money spent on conserving pandas is money well spent. Chris Packham has argued that breeding pandas in captivity is pointless because there is not enough habitat left to sustain them. He argues that the money spent on pandas would be better spent elsewhere, and has said that he would eat the last panda if he could have all the money that has been spent on panda conservation put back on the table  to do more sensible things with, though he has apologized for upsetting people who like pandas. He points out that "The panda is possibly one of the grossest wastes of conservation money in the last half century."

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