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August 16th, 2013

Nasturtiums, Memories Food and Medicine


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Tropaeolum majus
nasturtium flower


 I do love nasturtiums, they have such a happy, vibrant, carefree nature. They bring back memories of my childhood climbing the back fence to sit amongst the carpet of orange and green and suck sweet nectar form the flowers. I also love the peppery bite the leaves and the colour the flowers give to a salad.

Nasturtiums make a stunning groundcover or massed display along fences and can be grown in pots &hanging baskets. They are such an easy plant to grow in full sun through to part shade and are quite happy in dry gardens. They will tolerate a wide range of soil types, but a moderately fertile soil is best. Don’t over fertilise, as too much nitrogen will produce lush foliage at the expense of flowers.

Fabulous in Food

All parts of the nasturtium plant are edible and have a peppery flavour. The flowers and or leaves can be used in egg and cheese dishes added to salads, soups or sandwiches.
The leaves can be made into pesto – place 2 handfuls of leaves, 3 cloves of grated garlic, 2 tbsp chopped almonds into a food processor and process add ½ cup of parmesan cheese then slowly add ½ cup olive oil. This can be used to add flavor to pasta, cooked meat, corn cobs or bruschetta. The leaves and or flowers can also be chopped through cream cheese or butter.
I like to use the large leaves as wraps for a spicy paw-paw salad or thai style chicken salad.
The seeds or young flower buds can be pickled in vinegar and spices and eaten in a similar fashion to capers. Pick only young pods that are still green and soft. 

Poor Man’s Capers

• 2 tablespoons salt
• 1 cup water
• 1/2 cup green nasturtium seedpods or young flower buds.
• 3/4 cup white wine vinegar
• 2 teaspoons sugar
• 2 fresh bay leaves
• 2 sprigs fresh thyme
• 1 tsp peppercorns
Bring the salt and water to a boil in a small saucepan. Put the nasturtium seedpods into a glass jar and pour the boiling brine over them. Cover and let them soak at room temperature for 3 days.
Drain the nasturtium seedpods and return them to the jar. Bring the vinegar, sugar, bay leaves, and thyme to a boil in a small saucepan. Pour the boiling vinegar mixture over the seedpods and let cool. Cover the jar and refrigerate for 3 days before using. They will keep for approx. 6 months.

Medicinal Uses

If all the yummy reasons aren’t enough to make you want to grow nasturtiums, how about their medicinal value.
Nasturtiums are anti-microbial, antibiotic, and antiseptic and contain high amounts of vitamin c, hence their reputation for treatment of scurvy.The pungent and bitter principals make it a good blood cleanser, it stimulates the liver, pancreas and gall-bladder aiding the body’s elimination of toxins.
Internally an infusion of the leaves and flowers can benefit any bacterial infection but it is especially effective for respiratory and chest infections such as bronchitis, common cold and even the flu, helping to reduce the formation of phlegm.

June 1st, 2013

Rosemary, Pumpkin and Feta Quiche


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I love rosemary and it goes so well with pumpkin. The rosemary and cumin seeds add a nice touch to the pastry. I use goat feta because I love the flavour, but you can use any feta you like.

Pastry Ingredients:

2 cups of plain flour
2 tblsp of chopped fresh rosemary
2 tsp of dried cumin 
1/2 tsp sea salt
2 eggs lightly beaten
4 tblsp olive oil
2 tblsp water


Pastry Method:

Turn the oven on to 200°c  now (to cook pumpkin for filling – see below)
Sift the flour into a large bowl, add chopped rosemary, cumin seeds and salt. Lightly stir.

Add the lightly beaten eggs, oil and water mix to a firm dough.
Knead gently until smooth.
Cover and place in the fridge for 30 minutes.

Prep the ingredients for the filling – see below.

Roll pastry out on floured bench/board and line a greased round shallow pie dish with the pastry – trim/pinch/tear edges as desired.

If I roll out the pastry quite thin I usually have enough pastry to fill two individual pans as well (these are great as extras for the hungry offspring, but you will have to add a little extra ingredients for the filling) 

Cover the pastry with baking paper and fill with dried beans  (I re-use the same ones over each time I bake, store them in a well sealed container once they have cooled)
Bake in a moderately hot oven (200°c) for 15 min. Remove the beans and paper and bake pastry for a further 10 min or until the pastry looks slightly golden.
Remove from oven and let cool.


Filling Ingredients:

2 cups of (1-2 cm) diced pumpkin 
3 tblsp of rosemary leaves picked off the stems.
1 tblsp of olive oil
2 shallots chopped 
2 cups of roughly chopped spinach (you could also use kale, rocket or some other similar green) 
100g of feta cheese chopped into cubes
4 eggs lightly beaten
200 g sour cream 
2 tblsp pumpkin seeds 



Filling Method:

Place the chopped pumpkin, rosemary and oil into a baking dish and cook in the oven 200°c till the pumpkin is almost cooked through and brown on the edges. Stir once during cooking time.
Fry the shallots in a small fry pan with a little oil  till softened, remove and set aside. In the same pan lightly blanch the spinach, you don’t want to cook it, but gently heat it till it collapses slightly. Remove from heat and set aside.
Lightly beat the eggs and add the sour cream, season with a little sea salt and some fresh cracked pepper.

I like to place some of the greens in the pastry shell first, then add the pumkin, tuck in the feta, then add a bit more green on top, but layer how you like!
Pour in the egg, sour cream mixture, then top with some pumpkin seeds.

Bake in the oven for 20-30 minutes.  



October 12th, 2012

Cheesy Marjoram Butter


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cheesy marjoram butter

A close relative to oregano, marjoram’s  fresh, sweet and spicy taste make it a great addition to meats, fish and poultry. It is especially nice with cheese and egg dishes. Try sprinkling it over steamed or roasted vegetables or add it to homemade tomato sauce to toss through pasta. I love it in a cheesy butter recipe.

Cheesy Marjoram Butter
125g butter
3 tbsp freshly grated parmesan cheese
2 tbsp freshly chopped marjoram
1 tbsp freshly chopped chives
2 tsp grainy mustard
Leave the butter to soften before mixing all the ingredients together. This will keep for a couple of weeks in the fridge.

It is delicious spread on french sticks or ciabatta bread and heated in the oven or grill. Pop a dob on steamed or roasted vegetables, cooked chicken or meat. Try it tossed through hot sweet corn..yum!

corn with marjoram butter

October 12th, 2012

Our trip to Peru


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We are just back from a fantastic holiday is Peru. Our son Jason moved there two years ago with his Peruvian girlfriend Lorena, they are running a fantastic restaurant called ‘Nanka’ in La Molina Lima. They have a vertical herb garden across one wall which helps set the scene for a restaurant that uses organic, local, seasonal and sustainable produce. The food is fresh, modern and lends itself to sharing, which is the Peruvian way.

Nanka Restaurant in Lima

We based ourselves in Lima and travelled around from there. Lima is a big city and very busy. For 8 months of the year it is covered with fog, (no sun) that comes in from the ocean, so it is quite weird day after day. Once you move west out of Lima you can catch some sunshine and the mountain areas are really sunny.

saqsawoman cusco peru

Cusco known as the centre of the Inca empire is the main city before heading to Machu Picchu. It has kept its ancient charm and has many interesting streets and buildings of stone. Mud bricks (adobe) are used extensively by the locals for their dwellings and we felt right at home.

Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu was a highlight of our holiday a truly amazing place high in the mountains. It is really hard to comprehend the how the Inca people created such a place with their bare hands. The rocks they used are massive and they carved them so they fitted together perfectly with no need for mortar. Lots of lateral thinking going on back then.

sacred valley view

The sacred valley was also very beautiful.

sprouted corn for chicha

We stopped at a house that had a red bag on a stick, this means they have chicha for sale.  Chicha is a sprouted corn corn beer, it was really good.

peruvian woman weaving alpaca

The local women have a real talent for producing fine cloths, woven from alpaca wool, they are dyed using natural plant and insect dyes.
When the Spanish invaded the Incas they realised how special these cloths were and demanded them as taxes.

ceremony sun island lake titicaca

We went to Isla del Sol (Sun Island), in Lake Titicaca, Lake Titicaca is a huge mountain lake on the border of Peru and Bolivia. There were extensive gardens on this southern tip of Isla del Sol, with many medicinal herbs all well labelled. We attended a ceremony high on a hill overlooking the water. I’m not sure if it was the view or the ceremony, but I felt deep gratitude  for such a wonderful world in which we live.

witches market la paz bolivia

La Paz in Bolivia an interesting city that starts at the base of mountains and rises up the sandy hills. This is where the famous witches market is held and we had fun looking at the bundles of fresh herbs and the many packaged remedies for every ailment you can think of.

potato display mistura lima

Mistura a huge annual food event was on while we were in Lima and it was great looking through the market area at the different produce that is grown throughout Peru. Choosing a potato for a particular dish here in Peru is difficult..there is sooo many different varieties, in fact there are close to 4000 different varieties.

macaws on clay lick in amazon

A trip to the Amazon basin was very exciting, besides seeing heaps of Macaws and other beautiful birds, some monkeys and piranha, we got to see and hear about the uses of some of the medicinal herbs and trees growing in the area.

herb beds agriculture university Lima

While we were in Lima we were lucky enough to be invited to the Agriculture University in Lima by Daniel one of Nankas’ Restaurant suppliers of fresh herbs and vegetables. We also went to Daniels farm south of Lima where he grows most of his produce, it is great to see what growers are doing, they are the important link to the food we eat. If you can’t grow it yourself, befriend the grower!

July 16th, 2012

Calendula Infused Oil


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Calendula Oil

I love the sunny orange flowers of calendula; they brighten a cold winter’s day and warm the senses.

A good way to preserve their orange glow is to make infused oil. It is very easy to make.

Once you have made this vibrant infused oil you can use it to soothe and heal minor wounds, itchy, inflamed skin conditions such as eczema, psoriasis and nappy rash. It is also useful for stings, burns, bruises and cradle cap. It can also be used as the base for lip balm, creams and ointments. Read the rest of this entry »

March 11th, 2012

10 Herbs for a Shady Garden


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Most herbs like some sun in their lives and when planning a herb garden this is one of the most important considerations. But for those shady spots around the garden that you would dearly love to fill with herbs, try some of the following herbs.

Herbs grown in the shade will require less watering than when grown in the sun, however remember that they may be competing with trees for water. Most shade loving herbs like rich soil and will benefit by adding compost to the area. For the herbs that may get a little leggy, try pruning regularly for a bushier look. Read the rest of this entry »

December 9th, 2011

Mint – Cool and Refreshing


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Mint Drink

There is no other herb that refreshes like mint. Popping a few leaves into drinks and meals adds a fragrance and flavour that stimulates the senses and lifts your mood. A sprig of mint happily swimming in an icy glass of your favorite beverage makes you really feel like you are on holiday.

Mint is used as flavouring for everything from toothpaste and chewing gums to alcoholic beverages and herbal Read the rest of this entry »

November 13th, 2011

The Urban Physic Garden – A display of medicinal herbs and recycling genius


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Urban Physic Garden

When we were in London we visited the Urban Physic Garden, this garden was created by a collective of designers, urban growers and, over 150 volunteers, on a slice of unused land in Southwark London.

The urban block nestled between two buildings and backing onto the railway bridge was transformed into a garden themed like a conventional Hospital with ‘wards’ including cardiology, respiratory, psychiatry and dermatology, each filled with herbs relating to the ward. It was put together using recycled timbers, and other would be junk along with donated plants and plenty of volunteers.

Recycled timber beds

The gardens are all in polystyrene containers and are supported in recycled timber frames. The range of medicinal herbs jammed into this block was amazing.


The Cardiology ward included herbs such as ginkgo, rosemary, globe artichoke, motherwort, foxglove, garlic, yarrow, chicory, ginger, chilli and flax.


The respiratory ward contained elecampane, horseradish, angelica, thyme, wild strawberries, caraway mullein and verbena.


The dermatology ward contained Echinacea flowering beautifully, parsley, tea tree, self heal, gotu kola, marigold and aloe.


The general medicine ward contained echinacea, calendula, borage, rue, yarrow, peppermint, lemon balm, angelica and feverfew.

Operating Theatre

The operating theatre was down one end against the brick wall built from recycled steel poles and timber. This was where talks and lectures were held.

Treatment Room

The treatment room surrounded by white curtains where you could book in a massage on certain days.

Herbariam Xray Room

The Herbarium and X-ray room

Rambulance Cafe

The Rambulance café supplied light refreshments from the back of its retired ambulance.

The fire pit was the focal point for evening gatherings and sing alongs.

Cafe Table

The eating area was shaded with a sail that had pipes attached to collect the morning dew and rain, this went into holding tanks.

Herb Weed Wall

Alongside the water storage area beside the café there was a wall of herbal ‘weeds’ growing beautifully from the run off when tanks were full.

Lavender Loo Loo watt Toilet

The toilet was certainly an environmental masterpiece. The actual toilet was made from the Queens horses poop. It is fitted with a urine diverting bowl that separates the urine and faeces. Urine contains phosphorus, nitrogen and potassium in the right ratio for growing plants. The faeces from the toilet goes into an anaerobic digester on site where it is converted into natural gas. This supplies the gas for the stoves of the Rambulance café.

The herb tea we had was made using water heated by poop!

The garden, a summer project has been pulled down and was auctioned off in mid August.

September 29th, 2011

Elderberry Tinctures – Making Tinctures using Elderberries


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Elderberry Tinctures in Bottles

I have been busy this last weekend making tinctures to press off in the tincture class on the 8th of October.

I got a little carried away with Elderberries, making 3 tinctures each using

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September 6th, 2011

Borage – Now is the time to plant Borage


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Borage Blue Flower

Now is the time to plant Borage.

Borage normally self seeds prolifically in our garden, but the wet weather after last year’s crop set seed, really slowed down the self sown crop this year. It gave us the opportunity to plant some in a few different Read the rest of this entry »