Elderflower Cordial

Elderflower 1 (300x226)Easy to make, with an exotic flavour
-more elderflowers and less sugar than some recipes:

50 elderflower heads, with fully open florets,
preferably picked on a sunny morning
2 lemons: juice & zest
5 tsp of citric acid (ask at your chemist)
Use another lemon, if you can’t get it.
1kg of sugar
3 litres of boiling water

Method
1. Shake and rinse the elderflowers to remove any insects and cut off their main stalks
2. Put all the solid ingredients in a large bowl and pour over the boiling water
3. Stir well and cover.  Put it somewhere cool and stir it occasionally over 2 days
4. Then strain and seal the cordial in clean bottles.

It lasts a few weeks in the fridge or a year in the freezer (leave an air-space at the top of the bottle) I find plastic 1 pint milk-bottles good.  Or you can preserve it without freezing by stirring in 3 crushed Campden tablets before bottling, but this isn’t suitable if sulphur dioxide makes you asthmatic like me.

Dilute the elderflower cordial to taste.
Serve with ice and a slice of lemon or a sprig of mint or some borage flowers.
Try it in a vinaigrette or with sorbets, ice-cream or stewed fruit.

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Gardening in February – Excellent interest rates available…..at the ‘seed bank’

Keith Jordan

During these financially-hard times and when interest rates are low, where can you get good returns on your savings, assuming you have any? Fortunately gardeners can still get an excellent return – percentage rates you could only dream about at your local bank or building society! Continue reading

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Gardening in January – Getting off to a good start

By Keith Jordan

The first days of 2012 begun with above average temperatures – enough for some plants to start growing if this continues. Already the small, but highly-scented flowers of winter flowering honeysuckle are in bloom and the catkins of hazel bushes will be lengthening in the next few weeks, depositing their pollen into the wind. However every year is a ‘natural lottery’ when it comes to the weather and as gardeners we have to prepare for every eventuality. It could remain mild for most of the remaining winter or turn wintry with sub-zero conditions. Continue reading

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Gardening in October – plan for drought in 2012

By Keith Jordan

In an ‘average’ year, the Cambridge area generally has annual rainfall levels between around 510 – 610mm (20-24”) – similar to parts of the Middle East and Cyprus, Corsica and Sicily.  This year rainfall levels are even lower (so far) making gardening much more of a challenge.  Welcome rain between June and August perked up many summer/ autumn crops – courgettes, runner beans, potatoes, chard, autumn raspberries, apples and pears. Healthy crops and good yields are dependent on good soil moisture levels, especially during the months of higher temperatures and sunlight levels.

Planning for potential drought in 2012, you can start now by increasing the organic matter of your soil (this traps moisture in the soil and increases fertility).  Make as much compost as you can (including collecting leaves this month!) and if necessary bring in manure (from a reliable herbicide-free source).  Once rotted, this can be spread on the soil or traditionalists can dig it in.  Sow green manure crops on any bare soil now.

Once grown, but before flowering, plants are dug in, where they decompose in situ,  boosting organic matter levels and thereby water retention properties. Make ‘trench’  compost heaps where you plan to grow water-hungry plants like runner beans, courgettes and squashes next summer – dig a trench and gradually fill with compostable materials (but not weeds that have seeds). When full, cover with soil and allow to rot down over the next 8 months. Use mulches around permanent crops like fruit trees, especially biodegradable materials like cardboard, to reduce weed growth whilst keeping water in the soil where you want it.

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Gardening in September – Time to prepare for next season!

by Keith Jordan

On returning from a summer holiday, the autumn seeds catalogue from my allotment society was waiting for me on the doormat with the other post. One of the gardening highlights of the year! It seems too early in many ways (like the new football season!) but late summer/early autumn is a good time to plan for next year, while the current season is still fresh in your mind.

Make notes of the crops that did well, those that you need more of, those that you grew too many of (courgettees?!). Apart from bulk crops like potatoes and onions I find that most other crops are needed in much smaller amounts – variety rather than volume. September is one of the critical times of year to get onto top of any garden work or take over an overgrown allotment whilst the soil is fairly dry.

Control weed seedlings like dandelions before their tap roots get established in the moist soil. Clear up any dead vegetation lying on the ground especially as slugs and snails will be laying eggs now (look for piles of small spherical balls). It’s an ideal time to sow green manures on any vacant soil – dig plants in a month or so to add organic matter to the soil.

Keep picking French and runner beans when they are small – in a mild autumn they can continue well into October. Cut down the stems of summer-fruiting raspberries to the ground (the ones that have borne fruits), but keep the fresh new stems that have grown and tie onto horizontal wires with soft string. Do the same with blackberries, loganberries, etc. Autumn fruiting-raspberries, some of which have been fruiting since late July, may still have fruits to pick this month (such great value for little work) – don’t cut down their stems until January.

Raspberries and other soft fruit bushes can be planted from next month!

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