Sunday, 28 June 2009

The patterns within a dog daisy flower are amazing, you need to look through a magnifying glass to really appreciate it.

I wonder what the little beetle's looking at?

End of June and the Barley's beginning to turn yellow and ripen,
could be an early harvest if it stays dry.

A spider on her web on the edge of a wheat field just on the top left of the photo is her den made behind a wheat leaf, an attempt at photographing her in her den and a family of aphids on a wheat leaf. The aphids look a lot like a family of ducklings.

Monday, 22 June 2009

This traditional farmhouse near a church and manor house is being renovated. I wonder if I will ever live here. I have an idea in the back of my mind and if it should come into reality I could live here or even in the manor.
Watercress growing along a stream the flows through a farm, churchyard and a manor house. Parts of the stream have been laid out in watercress beds that probably supplied the farm or manor house many years ago.

Richard Mabey in his book Food for Free (Collins) cautions against eating watercress that grows along slow flowing streams in pasture land is it can harbour liver flukes. Both cattle and sheep graze along the banks of this stream.

photographic skills and specialist flowers.

Getting good close up shots require more skill than you might think. The tiny beetle was trying to get into the nectar of this cornflower but it couldn't get into the flowers despite its size. The flower probably only allows certain insects to feed on the nectar. The chances of this beetle finding another cornflower and pollinating it would be slim so it makes sense for the flower to develop methods of keeping unwanted visitors out.

The beetle is unclear because it was very difficult to get it into focus. The anthers of the cornflower are perfectly in focus but the beetle was tucked in behind them.

sesame seed oil and plantain oilment

There is a lot of evidence to indicate the beneficial effects of sesame seed oil. The Romans used plantain to help heal battle wounds so I decided to mix the two as a skin ointment.

Sesame seed oil is an insecticide and will work to remove little 'visitors' from hair, plantain could also have insecticide, antibacterial and fungicide properties.

The chef a my local pub told me that apple pectin will thicken oils to make them more like a cream. As I don't want to buy anything I included apple in the mix and it did thicken the oil into a sort of 'oilment'. As elder flowers are said to be good for the skin I included some in this batch.

The method is to heat the leaves and flowers in the oil without letting it get too hot and then just let it steep for a couple of hours before straining into a jar. Just to prevent any volatile oil evaporating I used a small balti pan as a lid so that any oils that evaporated would condense and drip back into the mix.

Next time I want to experiment with extracting (some of) the pectin from apples.

wild woodbine

Wild woodbine or honeysuckle on the top of a windswept hill.
The flowers are said to be edible.

foto food kit bag

This is what I take with me when out walking or cycling. I have tried both a rucksack and shoulder bag and on balance prefer a shoulder bag because it is easier to get stuff out of it. The camera is a Fuji S1000fd.
The book Food for Free is recommended by Ray Mears, by Richard Mabey and published by Collins. this is pretty much a perfect field reference book with clear pictures and descriptions. Everyone who goes walking in the countryside should have a copy.

15 minute lunch mackerel pate

Course mackerel pate with wafer thin sliced garlic and onion plus elder flowers and finely chopped dandelion leaves. Served on toasted wholemeal bread where one side has well flavoured olive oil spread over it and heated but not toasted. The whole meal takes less than 15 minutes to prepare. Delicious and highly nutritious.

Sunday, 21 June 2009

Wild strawberries are quite common and are just changing into fruit.

There is a lot of good information on Wikipedia on the biology of flowers, fruits and seeds.
This butterfly has blue markings on it's wings that are a similar colour to the cornflower. I wonder if these are ultra violet and some form of camouflage?
If you look closely at the cornflower you will see that it is made up of hundreds of small orchid like flowers. It is one of the most beautiful flowers in the hedgerow. The foto was taken on a cloudy day and it is not as clear as I would expect. Perhaps thiscould be due to the flower showing ultra violet light that somehow matches the slightly grey light.

Saturday, 20 June 2009

I wanted a teapot to make tisanes and came across this made by London Pottery.

It's a bit 'Radio4' (middle class) but it works well.
I ordered a magnifying loupe from Amazon to help see plants in more detail. When you look at plants through higher magnification they become even more fascinating. I have tried to get the fine detail with the camera but it can't pick things out. For example there are tiny snail like bugs inside many flowers and tiny insects. The next piece of kit is a microscope.

Elder flowers

Reading up on elder flowers before trying them I learned that they were used as a medicine. They were used to treat conditions of the skin, as a pain killer and for arthritis. they are also supposed to be good for sinusitis. I do have some arthritis in the joints of my feet through excessive walking etc in an earlier life. So I am interested in any beneficial effects elder flowers may have. The following notes are purely anecdotal and are not in any way scientific. Firstly there were no ill affects after eating elder flowers with food and drinking elder flower tea. However the stalks are said to be toxic so I carefully removed just the flowers. About 2 hours after eating a tomato and elder flower sandwich I noticed a definite clearing of my nasal passages. On three occasions after eating elder flowers with a meal and drinking a small amount of elder tea I did notice that the ache and pain in the joints of my feet had gone.

first hawthorne berries of 2009

These are the first hawthorne berries that I have seen in 2009. I thought they would form a bit later in the year.
There will be more on these as they ripen.

after a nice feed...

After a nice feed on some buttercup nectar

And whilst covered in pollen, it's time to have a look round,

find a mate
and, at the same time, help make some new buttercups

Monday, 15 June 2009

birth of a seed

This isn't the death of a rose (flower) it's the birth of a fruit.

spider in a barley field

This tiny spider, about as big as an ant, was spinning a web across the edge of a barley field. S/he'll have to spin a big web these days because there aren't many insects (or weeds) in or near modern agrigrain fields. Not many birds in the adjacent hedges either.

bird in a bush or fumewort

This plant contains a poison called bulbocapnine that paralyses striated muscles. An American psychiatrist called Robert Galbraith experimented with it on African American prisoners in Louisiana State Prison to create a state of stupor and compliance.

scarlet pimpernell

Taken on the edge of a Dorset barley field in June. The scarlet pimpernel is also known as red chickweed or shepherds weather glass & shepherds clock. The flower closes as the barometer drops and around 3pm. Oddly enough the weather forecast on this day was for thundery downpours.

Friday, 12 June 2009

Wild Garlic in Spring

This post drops back a few weeks into spring when woodlands were covered in wild garlic. All of this plant is edible. It adds a mild garlic flavour to foods, and can be used in sandwiches and salads. Next spring try wild garlic and dandelion leaf sandwiches. As spring progresses the flowers can be put into any type of food. This is the first year that I've tried wild garlic and from now on it will be a definite spring favourite.

It is said that wild garlic lowers blood pressure more than cultivated garlic. By chance I went to the doctor whilst eating wild garlic. Being over 50, every visit means the BP machine is out first. I don't have high blood pressure but the reading during this period was very low, more like mid 20s than mid 50s.
Mackerel and wild garlic pasta recipe.
Slightly under cook the pasta and drain. Into the same pan soften onions in plenty of olive oil (if you are using mackerel fillets in olive oil add the oil to the pan). Add tomatoes, olives, basil leaves or anything you like to the olive oil plus a tin of mackerel and mix. At the last minute add chopped wild garlic leaves and or flowers. Add the drained pasta and pour more olive oil over the pasta, stir and finish off the cooking for a couple of minutes.
Wild garlic, green pepper and basil pesto recipe.
You can easily make your own pesto and you can be creative. You can grow basil from seed, it grows just about anywhere, it grows quickly and tastes delicious.
Add wild garlic, green pepper and basil leaves to some tasty olive oil and give it a whizz; it is this simple. My favourite olive oil is Somerfield extra virgin, this is one of the cheapest and has a really nice taste that isn't lost in cooking.

One thing I will be researching before next spring is whether wild garlic can be stored.

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

sesame seed oil pulling

Although not strictly releated to wild food, earlier this year I read about the effects of sesame seed oil pulling. This entails rinsing about a desert spoon of sesame seed oil in the mouth for 20 minutes every day. It is supposed to give significant health benefits and the 'pulling' refers to pulling out toxins from the system. It is difficult to say for sure if it is effective. However last time I visited the dentist for a check up he mentioned an improvement in the health of my teeth and gums. I have also noticed this. I am in my 50s and have definately noticed my gums are growing again rather than receeding with age. So there is a measubale improvement in mouth health but it is not possible to say about broader health factors for certain. At the same time I am now an advocate of this. As an anecdote I was reading that it is good for the hair so I rubbed sesame seed oil on my hair and left it for an hour as advised. No effect on my hair but I looked at least five or more years younger as the skin on my face had tightened up and I looked so healthy that other people remarked about it. I have rubbed sesame seed oil onto hard skin on an elbow that I rest on the desk with and this has now gone. On returning from walking across fields where lots of deer roam free, I noticed a deer tick on my trousers, when I dabbed it with sesame seed oil it died instantly and I have read that sesame seed oil is effective against insects.

Tuesday, 9 June 2009


Dorset is a beautiful county in England and last year I started taking my camera on walks and bike rides. In the Autumn of 2008 I bought a digital slr to take pictures of wildlife (very much harder than I realised) and of the changing seasons. In the spring of 2009 the wild garlic grew and I learned that it is an edible plant, and wild garlic really does add flavour to food. At the same time I began to realise that plants make interesting photos particularly in different light conditions. The picture left shows the beautiful warm morning light in spring.

I've always found Ray Mears TV programs interesting and in order to find out more about wild food I bought his book 'Wild Food' which I highly recommend. Using this book as a guide I am going to photograph and try out wild foods at the same time as continuing to photograph the changing seasons through the year. (in a completely amateur way)

Again drawing on Ray Mears' book there is so much to know and so much that we miss as modern people. I live in a very rural area and I still miss most of what goes on in the countryside and I want to learn more skills and more awareness. For example I took some photos of apple blossom and wanted to photograph the change from blossom to apples but didn't follow it though. In the past lots of people would know how changes like this happen. OK I missed apple blossom this year but I'm not going to miss bramble blosson turning into blackberries.