Wednesday, 17 August 2011

How To Build Community

How many of these things do you do? We do a lot more since we got rid of our TV!

I came across this when a friend posted it on Facebook and thought it was worth sharing. It comes from the Falcon Heights Neighborhood Liaison Handbook from Falcon Heights, Minnesota. 

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Monday, 8 August 2011

Courgette surplus?

When I was young mum always grew courgettes on her allotment and some years they just kept on coming. We'd deliver some to all the neighbours but there comes a point when everyone has had enough. So .. then it was time to experiment!.

 Photo from botogol on flickr

These are some of my favourite courgette recipes - the courgette is well disguised so you can convince yourself it's something else or get your kids to eat it!

I can't actually remember where these have come from so apologies for not giving credit to the original creators.

Banana and Courgette Cake
8oz plain wholemeal flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp Bicarb of soda
1 tsp salt
8oz soft brown sugar
1oz walnuts or pecans
1oz sultanas
2 whole ripe mashed bananas
3 large eggs
8oz finely grated courgette
5 fl oz sunflower oil


Sift flour, baking powder, bicarb and salt into a large bowl. Add sugar, nuts and sultanas.
Mix well, then add mashed banana and beaten eggs. Stir in grated courgette and oil.
Beat the mixture thoroughly for one minute.
Butter or line with greaseproof paper, a 9in cake tin or large loaf tin.
Put mixture in and bake for 1 hour at gas mark 4 (350f/175c) until a skewer comes out clean.

Courgette and feta fritters
900g/2lb courgettes, grated
salt and freshly ground black pepper
bunch spring onions, chopped
2 tbsp chopped dill
2 tbsp chopped flat leaf parsley
3 free-range eggs
1 tbsp paprika
225g/8oz feta cheese
225g/8oz plain flour
Oil for deep frying
slices lemon, to garnish

1. Sprinkle the courgette with salt and allow to drain for 20 minutes.
2. Place the grated courgette in a clean tea towel and squeeze out the water. Mix with the onions, dill, parsley, eggs, paprika and freshly ground black pepper.
3. Work in the feta cheese and flour.
4. Heat the oil in a deep, heavy-bottomed pan. It is ready when a breadcrumb that is dropped in will sizzle gently in it.
5. Carefully fry tablespoons of the mixture in the hot oil until golden. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen towels. Garnish with slices of lemon and serve immediately.

These fritters are really tasty with a tomato salsa and salad. 

Courgette and Spinach Soup 
4oz Spinach
1 large courgette
1 medium potato
1 onion
Olive oil
3/4pt vegetable stock
Pinch of nutmeg

Fry onion in olive oil, until soft.  Add diced potato and sliced courgette. Fry for further 5mins.  Add spinach, stock, nutmeg and parsley and salt and pepper to taste.  Simmer for 20 minutes then whizz using hand blender. Add cream or milk if required.

I came across the wonderful The Boxing Clever Cookbook: Twelve Recipe Books in One a while ago when I was working for an organic veg co-op. It has a huge number of unusual and tasty recipes for people who don't know what to do with their weekly veg box or who have a glut of veg in the garden or allotment. Includes  kale pesto, parsnip cake, satay sprouts, stuffed mini pumpkins and many more.

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Friday, 5 August 2011

Carnivorous plants, homeopathy and Darwin

Blue tit in pitcher plant - BBC

Pitcher plants are one of a group of carnivorous plants which use variety of tactics to trap and 'dissolve' insects or larger things for food. They have various methods of trapping and devouring their dinner and if you are curious have a look at the International Carnivorous Plant Society for lots more photos and info. 

You might be surprised to learn that we use remedies made from some of these peculiar carnivorous plants in homeopathy and in herbal medicine.  

A remedy made from the whole Sundew (drosera rotundiflora) plant has been used for over 200 years in homeopathy to treat respiratory problems. It was mentioned in herbal medical texts from as early as the 12th century where an Italian doctor, Matthaeus Platearius described the plant as a treatment for coughs. It has been used in herbalism for hundreds of years for spasmodic coughs, bronchitis and other respiratory illnesses. Culpeper mentions that the juice from the plant was used to remove warts and corns and that ladies used a mix of the juice with milk for skin to reduce freckles and relieve sunburn.

Close up of Sundew (Drosera Rotundiflora) leaf

The chemical composition of sundew perhaps sheds light on some of the medicinal properties. The plant contains high levels of various flavonoids and in particular quercetin which is the subject of a great deal of research especially looking at inflammation and allergies. 

Here are a couple of examples of current research into its properties

Anti-inflammatory and spasmolytic activity of extracts from Droserae herba

Drosera is also interesting because Charles Darwin did some work and found that very dilute solutions of ammonia salts had an effect on the leaves. Darwin is also known to have been treated by a homeopath and more about this can be found in Dana Ullman's Huffington Post article The surprising story of Charles Darwin and his Homeopathic Doctor  

From the botanists perspective have a look at Talking Plants blog on the Drosera and Darwin story

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