Friday, 26 February 2010

Roquebrune sur Argens


A Roquebrune sur Argens
du vendredi 5 mars au lundi 8 mars de 9h à 17h vous pouvez vister les serres de Michel Vacherot qui est avec Philippe Lecoufle à Boissy Saint Léger près de Paris l'un des plus grands producteurs et multiplicateurs d'orchidées de France.
La collection d'orchidées est superbe, des visites guidées sont organisées ainsi que des démonstrations de rempotage.
Un bel endroit à découvrir pour ceux qui ne connaissent pas.
CD 7, Le Pont D'Argens
Point GPS 43°27.071 Nord 006°38 Est
83520 Roquebrune sur Argens
04 94 45 48 59

Thursday, 25 February 2010

Repotting Plants

From now, till the end of March, is the best time for repotting indoor or outdoor plants. A few tips :

Choose a pot one size up from the one the plant was in. If you are using a used pot make sure that the pot has been cleaned.
Start off with covering the hole in the middle of the pot with a piece of broken pot or a used teabag.
Cover the bottom of the pot with 3 to 5 cm of gravel or other material (clay pellets/styrofoam etc) to improve drainage.

Put a layer of soil on top of the gravel (the type of soil you choose is dependent on the plant you are repotting, ie. an acid soil for camelias, hydrangeas, etc).

Put the old plant pot into the new pot to have an idea of how much soil you should put in initially, taking into account that you must be able to water the plant comfortably.
Try to loosen the plant by tapping at the bottom of the pot, then gently pull it free, if that does not work, try tapping again, sometimes it may be necessary to cut or break the pot in order not to damage the plant or roots.
Once out of the pot try to disentangle the roots and spread them out when planting into the new pot.
Fill in with soil.
Water it in.
Start giving fertilizer to the plant one month after repotting, continue to give fertiliser till end of September.

Rejuvenating or refreshing pot plants is meant for plants that are already in a large pot and it is really not very practicle to replant them into an even larger pot. Loosen the soil as much as possible around the top and sides without damaging the main root and take the loosened soil away. Fill the gaps with fresh soil. Water it in. Give fertiliser after one month, and continue to do so till end of September.

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Processionary Caterpillars



Now is the time of year to be vigilant for emerging caterpillars. Late this year because of the prolonged cold weather, they will soon be leaving their cocoon in pine trees to move on to the next stage in their lifecycle. If you see them on the road, try and run over them – obviously making sure you drive safely !

If you are able to reach a nest, carefully remove it by cutting down and burning. [Make sure you burn according to local fire restrictions / regulations] Be aware that even hairs left in old, disintegrated nests can still cause a skin reaction.

[nighttime when they emerge to feed on the sap from the pine needles]

They are extremely dangerous to domestic pets and people as their hairs are extremely urticarious. Any contact with the hairs will cause a severe rash to the skin and if they get into mouth or eyes, you should wash with abundant amounts of water and see a doctor as soon as possible. If you know your cat or dog has had contact – usually through sniffing at them or trying to eat them, again use a shower to rinse the remaining hairs away, especially from the mouth, and get to the vet URGENTLY.

video

[it didn’t help that the wind was blowing whilst trying to film this !]

The following is from Wikipedia :

The Pine Processionary (Thaumetopoea pityocampa) is a moth of the family Thaumetopoeidae. It is sometimes placed in the genus Traumatocampa. It is an abundant species of pine woods in central and southern Europe.

Traumatocampa pityocampa01.jpg

It has cream coloured forewings with brown markings and white hindwings. The species flies from May to July. The larva is a major forest pest, living communally in large ‘tents’, usually in pine trees but occasionally in cedar or larch, marching out at night in single file (hence the common name) to feed on the needles. There are often several such tents in a single tree. When they are ready to pupate, the larvae march in their usual fashion to the ground, where they disperse to pupate singly on or just below the surface. The larvae should never be handled as the abundant hairs on their bodies cause extreme irritation to the skin.

File:Thaumetopea.pityocampa.01.jpg

References

http://web.cortland.edu/fitzgerald/PineProcessionary.html

Sunday, 21 February 2010

Mimosa


I think most of us would love to plant a Mimosa in their garden. In this post I’ve looked at the most popular Mimosa cultivars on the market. Just as with citrus fruits there are differences between the cultivars and species of Mimosa. Some Mimosas, as we’ve all seen around us, seem to do rather well even in our area. Again it is a question of choosing the right spot (wind-free/sunny) and the right type of Mimosa, one that is more suitable to our region.

A few facts to consider :

1. Mimosas like acid soil, only Acacia retinodes will accept chalky soil, so plant your mimosa in acid soil.
2. There is no need to fertilise, they rather like poor soil and as they belong to the leguminosae family, they release nitrogen into the soil.
3. Prune them after flowering. Not to be bothered by their pods, cut off all the spent flower heads.

A bit of history:

The Latin name for Mimosa is Acacia. Acacia is a genus of around 1200 trees, shrubs, climbers. Their habitat ranges from Central to South America, southern part of Africa, Australia and Tasmania. In Australia and Tasmania alone, there are 800 species.

The Acacia trees that we call Mimosa, originally came from Australia. It was Captain Cook, who brought seeds and plants back with him from Australia. The first Mimosa trees in the UK were acclimatised in Royal Kew Garden.

Between 1830-1850 when some English started building sumptuous villas along the Mediterranean coast between Toulon and the Italian Riviera, they introduced the Mimosa tree to the region.

The first Mimosa introduced to the Alpes Maritimes was the Acacia farnesiana. Acacia dealbata was introduced in 1864 and its cultivars have become the principal mimosas where the cut flower industry is concerned.

The following are the most popular Mimosas.

Hybrids of Acacia dealbata x Acacia baileyana :
Acacia Mirandole (-5C /-7C), A. Mireille (-5C/-7C), A. Rêve d’Or (-5C/-7C), A. Tournaire (-5C/-7C), A. Le Gaulois (8C/-10C), A. Le Gaulois var. Astier (-8/-10C) and A. President Doumergue (-7C/-10C). They are multiplied only by grafting. In the Tanneron region, the Mimosa plantations consist of A. Mirandole (60%), A. Astier (10%) and A. Gaulois (30%).

Hybrids of Acacia decurrens x Acacia baileyna :
A. rustica (-8C/-10C) and A. Bon Acceuil (-9C/-10C).

Acacia cardiophylla (-7C), colloquially (in Australia) called Wyalong Wattle.

Hybrid of Acacia podalyriifolia x Acacia dealbata :
Acacia hanburyana (-4C/-8C), it flowers in great abundance, with grey/whitish leaves.

Acacia floribunda (-8C/-11C), colloquially (in Australia) called White Sally Wattle, has creamy white flowers.

All the above flower in the winter.

Acacia retinodes (-5C/-8C)
Also known as – Mimosa des Quatre saisons – flowers several times a year, principally in spring and autumn. Cultivars of A. retinodes :
A. Guillon, A. Imperial, A. Jean-Pierre, A. Layet and A.Lisette.
Although this mimosa is sensitive to strong winds, as it has superficial roots, it is often used as a rootstock for other Mimosas because of its tolerance to chalky soil.

When I planted my Mimosa Mirandole, four years ago (when I’d just arrived in the south of France), had I known all the above, I would have choosen a different Mimosa. I would have planted it in acid soil and would have chosen a sheltered spot. I did none of the above, in fact I gave my Mimosa a good bit of manure each year. Although the Mimosa has not died, because of its position it needs to be pruned quite a bit each year because of the die back due to wind damage and frost and consequently it has never flowered after the first year.

The National Collection of Mimosas in France is held by Gerard Cavatore, quite near to us in Bormes-les-Mimosas (where else !).

Thursday, 18 February 2010

Citronnier Épineux

Poncirus trifoliata ‘Flying Dragon’

Le Poncirus trifoliata est arbuste très ornemental à feuillage caduc, épineux, il peut servir de haie défensive.

Cette plante tolère la sécheresse et a une grande résistance au froid. Elle peut donc être plantée en pleine terre au soleil ou à mi-ombre. Elle se multiplie par semis ou par boutoures semi-ligneuses (avec hormone de bouturage et de préférence chaleur de fond).

Elle fleurit au printemps, les fruits arrivent à maturité en octobre et ressemblent à des mandarines, la peau parfumée s’utilise en cuisine, le jus également.

A l’automne le feuillage devient flamboyant, rouge orangé. Cette plante est idéale pour la ‘vie avec les animaux’, les épines protègent les oiseaux.

Companion Planting

For the lucky ones among us who have decent soil to grow vegetables, the suggestions below might be of interest.The theory behind companion planting is that plants have specific likes and dislikes concerning their close companions in the garden and will do better if planted in close proximity to the correct plant. Similarly, by planting a particular species in the garden you can reduce the number of weeds or attract certain pest predators. The plants can be other vegetables, herbs or flowers. Planting herbs and flowers between the vegetables makes for a very attractive looking vegetable patch.

The following are examples of companion planting :

Cabbage : if planted close to tomatoes – against the cabbage maggot; if planted close to green beans – against cabbage maggot and the ash aphid; and if planted close to celery and tomatoes – against the white butterfly.

Cabbage : if planted close to hyssop, mint, sage and thyme – against the white butterfly.
Cabbage : if planted close to Cosmos – against the white butterfly; if planted close to French Marigolds – against the flea beetle.
Carrots : if planted close to garlic, chives, shallots, onions, salsify and leeks – against carrot fly; if planted close to radish – against red spiders.

Courgette : if planted close to basil – against oidium (fungus); if planted close to thyme – against snails.

Courgette : if planted close to nasturtiums, marigolds and French marigolds – against aphids; if planted close to the Tobacco Plant Nicotiana – against whitefly.

Cucumber : if planted close to basil – against oidium (fungus); if planted close to sagehelps to improve their development.

Cucumber : if planted close to nasturtiums – against black aphids.

Green beans : if planted close to sweet corn – will benefit from the n itrogen released into the soil by the green beans, whilst the green beans can use the maïs for their climbing varieties.

Green beans : if planted close to savory (sarriette) and rosemary – against the bean fly, and in addition the herbs improve the flavour of the beans.

Green beans : if planted close to nasturtiums – against aphids.

Leeks : if planted close to carrots – against the leek moth.

Lettuce : cabbage will provide shade to the lettuce at the start of its growth and during the summer.

Lettuce : if planted close to rosemary, savory, sage and thyme – against aphids; thyme also keeps the slugs away. (yippee !)

Lettuce : if planted close to nasturtiums and marigolds – against aphids.
Melon : if planted close to parsley and oregano – against aphids; if planted close to thyme – against slugs.

Onions : if planted close to carrots – against the onion maggot.

Onions : if planted close to parsleyimproves their growth.

Peas : if planted close to potatoes – against oidium and the potatoes benefit from the nitrogen released into the soil by the peas.

Peas : if planted close to the Tobacco Plant Nicotiana – against thrips (minute insect with four fringed wings).
Peppers and Chilli Peppers : if planted close to radish – against red spider mite.

Peppers and Chilli Peppers : if planted close to borageborage attracts pollinators for the fertilisation and fruit forming.
Peppers and Chilli Peppers : if planted close to marigolds and French marigolds – against aphids.

Potatoes : if planted close to garlic and aubergine – against the colorado beetle; if planted close to green beans, peas, broad beansfor the nitrogen released into the soil by the beans which enhance their growth.

Potatoes : if planted close to chives and coriander – against the colorado beetle.
Radish : if planted close to tomatoes and lettuce – against the flea beetle; if planted close to carrots – to soften the taste of the radish.

Spinach : if planted close to broad beans, green beans and peasstimulates the growth because these vegetables release nitrogen into the soil.

Spinach : if planted close to thyme – aids against snails.

Spinach : if planted close to marigolds and French marigolds – against aphids.
Tomatoes : if planted close to parsley and basilto stimulate their growth.

Tomatoes : if planted close to French marigolds and marigolds – against nematodes (miniscule threadworm); if planted close to nasturtiums – against mildew.
Turnips : if planted close to aniseed, lettuce and tomatoes – against the flea beetle.

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

The Origins of Citrus Fruits

With the Menton lemon festival on the way, Michèle’s article on her grapefruit and Elisabeth’s photo of the kumquat she bought recently, I thought citrus fruits could be given a closer look. Most of us think that the citrus fruit is indigenous to the Mediterranean region. Not so !

In fact the region where the citrus fruit originated lies, most likely, between the south-eastern edge of the Himalayas, Assam, and the north of Burma. From there, it spread towards India, China, particularly Yunnan region, the Indo-Chinese peninsula and towards Japan and the Malaysian archipelago.

The first citrus fruit that appeared in the Mediterranean region was the citron Citrus medica. It has lemon like fruits with a nipple-like end. The citron spread from Persia to Palestine and in 136BC the Jews replaced the cedar cone as an offering at the Feast of Tabernacles with a citron. From that we can conclude that the citron fruit was already in cultivation in Palestine. The Jewish population around the Mediterranean basin were largely responsible for the spread of this fruit as it was necessary element in their religious rituals.

Between 8th–10th century the Arabs introduced the bitter Seville orange Citrus aurantium and the lemon tree Citrus limon from Mesopotamia (present day Iraq) to Syria. From there, the cultivation of these trees spread through the countries along the Mediterranean sea as far as Spain, Sicily and Morocco. The lemon tree was introduced in Tuscany around 1260, and on the Ligurian coast at the end of the 14th century, the lime Citrus aurantiifolia was introduced into Sicily by the 13th century.

The sweet orange Citrus sinensis, the most used citrus fruit today, came rather late on the scene, after the lemon and the lime. In the 15th century sweet oranges were producing fruit in Liguria.

The grapefruit Citrus maxima was originally introduced to Europe in the 13th century as an ornamental curiosity.

The mandarin Citrus reticulata or tangerine Citrus deliciosa has been cultivated in the Mediterranean region since 1805.

An essence is extracted from the rind of the bergamot Citrus bergamia, a hybrid of the bitter Seville orange and the lemon, and is used as an important element in Eau de Cologne and of course Earl Grey tea.

All these trees are for sale at Pépinière Bachès, mentioned by Elisabeth.

Looking through them all I found that the hardiest of them, with the most likelihood of success are:

The mandarin (satsuma) trees - Citrus unshiu Clausellina, C unshiu Hashimoto, C unshiu Okitsu, C unshiu Owari, C unshiu Saigon can cope with temperatures between -10°C and -12°C.

The Kumquats - Fortunella hindsii, F japonica, F kugli and F margarita can cope with temperatures between -10°C and -12°C.

But you never know, Michèle’s tree is an exception to the rule, normally the grapefruit Citrus maxima can cope up to -6°C. In our region it is very often much colder then that.

The same goes for the magnificent lemon tree in the centre of Lorgues. It seems the more sheltered the spot is the more chance of success.

I think they are definitely worth a try !

Sunday, 14 February 2010

Hyacinth

At our last coffee morning I was asked by one of our garden group members ‘what to do with all the hyacinth bulbs that have finished flowering’. I told her that I would look it up and put it on our blog. I found some additional information about Hyacinths that might interest our members.

Hyacinths Hyacinthus orientalis originate in the Eastern part of the Mediterranean, south & central Turkey, north-west Syria and the Lebanon. The bulbs were introduced into Northern Europe in the 16th century by Leonhardt Rauwolf, a German, who when visiting Anatolia (Turkey) came across the plants. They have been cultivated ever since and were particularly popular in the 18th-19th century. At the moment 95% of the world Hyacinth bulb production takes place in the Netherlands.

Most of us buy Hyacinth bulbs just before Christmas and in early Spring to have some spring flowers inside or in pots on our patio. If you want to keep the bulbs for next year it is very important that you cut off the flowerstalk after flowering.

Wait for the leaves to die back completely. Leaves are necessary for hyacinth bulbs to store up the energy for next year’s blooming and digging them up too early may damage the bulbs.

Try not to nick the hyacinth bulbs while digging them up. Lift them out of the soil and brush off excess soil. Dispose of any rotten or diseased-looking bulbs.

Lay the hyacinth bulbs on newspaper without them touching each other. Leave the bulbs in a dry area out of sunlight for three to five days until they dry out. Brush off the remaining soil.

Store the bulbs in a mesh bag hanging in a cool, dry place until it’s time for replanting in the autumn.

If you have Hyacinth bulbs planted out in the garden, it is necessary to separate Hyacinths bulbs every two to three years. After the leaves have died down, dig them up carefully and proceed as above.

The bulbs need an annual feed of compost/fertiliser.

Ancient Greek legend describes the origin of the Hyacinth: Two of the Greek gods, Apollo & Zephyr, adored a handsome young Greek called Hyakinthos. Apollo was teaching Hyakinthos the art of throwing a discus. Zephyr, the God of the West Wind, was overcome with jealousy and blew the discus back. It struck Hyakinthos on the head and killed him. From his blood grew a flower, which the Sun God Apollo named after him.

Saturday, 13 February 2010

Agrumes


Voici l’adresse d’un pépiniériste spécialisé dans les agrumes :


leur collection est magnifique, ils étaient présents à l’exposition Mimosalia et seront à Sophia Antipolis pour la fête des plantes.

Voici la photo du kumquat hindsii que j’ai acheté le mois dernier.
Elisabeth

Thursday, 11 February 2010

Grapefruit Saga

When we bought our house in Taradeau eight years ago Madame, the owner, proudly showed us the lemon tree that she had planted herself. Never mind, she said, it hadn’t borne any fruit yet, but one day she was sure it would. This became a bit of a joke between us and three years ago she even bought us a new plant with lemons on it so we could no longer tease her that we wanted our money back as we had been sold a dud …

Then last year we spied three flowers on our lemon tree and eventually three fruit appeared, but instead of being lemon shaped they were completely spherical … and they kept on growing. Imagine our surprise (and Madame’s) when we eventually cut open the fruit to discover they were delicious grapefruit !


As you can (hopefully) see in the photo, this year the tree has fruited prolifically – Madame has had her fill and so have other neighbours and friends in the village and one has even made grapefruit marmalade for us.

I would like to know if we have the only grapefruit in the Var? According to Hugo Latymer in The Mediterranean Gardener grapefruit trees only survive above -3°C, so there can’t be many around and ours must be a particularly hardy one. If any one knows of any growing around here I would be fascinated to hear about it.

Michèle

[There’s a very interesting article in French on the Gerbeaud site about grapefruit]

View from our Terrace


A couple of days ago I started pruning the roses. Seems to have been a very unwise thing to do with all this winter weather we are having now. Luckily I only got a far as 10 roses !

Neige ...

Sous la neige à Valbonne dans les Alpes Maritimes
Elisabeth

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Rose Pruning chez Saskia

Today I’ve started pruning my roses. I always start in February as I’ve quite a few to prune – altogether 48 roses. The ones that give the most work are the ground cover roses – they are very prickly and go all over the place. I try to cut out the branches that cross, shorten them and weed between them as once the leaves are on it is very difficult to trace where the weeds originate from. I made the mistake the second year after planting to add a layer of soil between these roses. It was so called ‘good soil’, it came in a lorry load and in fact looked like just ordinary clay soil that they dug up from a field. With the consequence that I’ve introduced all sorts of weeds like bindweed that really normally are not a problem in this area. Now I'm stuck with it !

After pruning I give them a generous layer of manure : about two large French breakfast cups of manure per rose and try to mix it with the existing soil. Then they are sprayed with Bouillie Bordelaise, which I repeat when the new young leaves appear on the branches.

I’m always looking out for bargains where manure and fertilizer are concerned. Today I found horse manure at the Intermarché in Barjols very reasonably priced, just 4.90€ for 20 kilo. One bag was sufficient for 10 roses and 4 fruit trees.



The photo shows the yellow Rosa banksia, Dutch irises (Iris x hollandica) and white flowering ground cover roses.

Saskia

Sunday, 7 February 2010

Fig – Ficus ?

When we visited Bordighera (between Ventimiglia and San Remo) last week, we came across this wonderful tree, just to the left of the entrance to the old quarter of Bordighera. I’ve been wondering about what the tree it was ever since. I think it is some type of Ficus, there are at least 800 species which start with Ficus ........ In this case the shape was like a Banyan tree, but most Banyan trees are tropical. It could be that one of them was planted in Bordighera and survived with the mild climate. It’s obviously very old. I thought of a Magnolia grandiflora but the shape is a little different, plus the seeds are quite large on the Magnolia, with this tree the seeds were like small cherries, very much like a Banyan tree seeds, but it seems unlikely that it is this tree.
If one of our readers has an idea please comment on this post.


Still looking for this tree under the name Ficus in a book by Serge Schall about Plantes Mediterranéennes, I came across an entry about the normal fig tree – Ficus carica. Something I did not know and might be of interest to our readers. I’ve quoted the French text :

“Les variétés unifères donnent une seule récolte de figues d'automne, (certaines dès le mois d’août)

Les variétés bifères produisent une première fois sur le bois de l’année précédente, à partir de juillet. Mais l'essentiel de la récolte est fourni par les figues d'automne, du mois d’août aux premières gelées.

Chez les variétés unifères : on peut tailler à n’importe quel niveau, car la production de fruits se fait sur les rameau de l’année en supprimant 1/3 a 2/3 de leur longueur.

Chez les variétés bifères : il ne faut pas tailler tous les rameaux aux mêmes temps car on risque de se priver de la récolte. On se contente d’en tailler une moitié à la fois, en réduisant les 2/3 de leur longuer.”

Apparently there are two types of fig trees :

Fig trees that fruit only once every year, they produce their fruit from August onwards. You can prune the whole of the fig tree by 1/3 to 2/3 as the fruits are produced on the same year’s growth.

Fig trees that crop twice a year, the first crop from July onwards is on last year's growth, and then again in autumn from August onwards till the first frost. When pruning this type of fig tree, only half of the branches are pruned by 2/3, the remaining branches the following year.

So before pruning your fig trees make sure you know what type you’ve got.

Unquote

Saskia


Saturday, 6 February 2010

Conseils Jardin Fevrier

Nous sommes encore au cœur de l’hiver mais les jours s’allongent petit à petit et le printemps pointera bientôt avec les premières fleurs des bulbes plantés à l’automne.

Février reste le mois de la taille et des premiers semis au potager.

Au verger, nous allons tailler les arbres fruitiers à pépins, c'est-à-dire pommiers et poiriers avec pour objectif de réguler la formation des fleurs et d’obtenir une belle récolte équilibrée tout en pensant aux années suivantes. Une bonne observation des « yeux » est nécessaire à cette pratique, des cours à ce sujet sont très utiles pour se sentir « plus à l’aise » avec son sécateur à la main. Le traitement à la bouillie bordelaise peut encore se faire sur les pêchers pour la cloque mais avant la floraison.

Au Potager, le semis des fèves et des petit pois doit se faire en cette période et en profitant des périodes plus sèches pour bien préparer le sol, mon conseil est de n’apporter aucun compost à ces légumineuses qui ont pour faculté de « fixer » l’azote de l’air sur leurs racines. Sous abri chauffé vous pouvez semer les tomates, courgettes, melons pour plantation en avril ou mai.

Les Rosiers, seront taillés à partir du 15 février dans les zones bien protégées et en mars pour ne pas prendre de risque avec les froids de printemps. Le dicton nous dit : « Taillez tôt ou taillez tard mais taillez en mars ». Je conseille des tailles modérées qui consistent à « rajeunir » le rosier sans tailler court.

Les dernières plantations en racines nues doivent se faire pour laisser la place aux plantes en conteneurs ou godets comme les vivaces, arbustes et conifères.

Les plantes sensibles au froid resteront encore sous abris, les serres et les vérandas ont besoins d’être bien aérées lors des belles journées ensoleillées. Il faut aussi veiller la présence des insectes comme les pucerons, acariens et surtout les cochenilles. Vous pouvez faire des lâchers d’insectes prédateurs spécifiques à chacun. Une adresse utile pour acheter ses « auxilliaires » : Harmonia.

Bon jardinage à tous …

Jean-Yves MEIGNEN
Jardinier de l'Abbaye de Valsaintes
Jardinier de radio France Bleu Vaucluse

(thanks to Jas de Marmatel for passing this on)

Stage de Taille

There are pruning courses for roses, fruit trees, olives and other shrubs to be held at l’Abbaye de Valsaintes (04150 Simiane-la-Rotonde) on 10, 13 or 24 February for anyone who may be interested. (click on the green link to go straight to the pruning course on their website)




Friday, 5 February 2010

Fennel – Foeniculum vulgare

This morning I went out to look for some fennel which I needed to make a Provençal dish called Poulet au Pastis’. For most part of the year there is no problem finding it – every little bit of uncultivated land will have fennel growing on it. As the winter has been quite severe, it was not easy to find fresh growth. I did manage to gather together a decent bunch after getting myself very wet and muddy ! All this gave me the idea that our readers might find it interesting to know a bit more about fennel.

Fennel is native to the Mediterranean area and introduced to other regions of Europe. It prefers wasteland and well-drained soil in a sunny position. Fennel is one of the oldest cultivated plants and has been used for culinary and medicinal purposes for at least 2,000 years. Every part of the plant can be eaten, from the seeds to the root.

The Romans had a real liking for it. It was used to keep in good health and by the women to prevent obesity. The famous emperor Charlemagne, who ruled a large part of Europe and set up herb gardens near all his residences, declared in 812 AD that fennel was essential in every imperial garden. It was one of the nine herbs held sacred by the Anglo Saxons for its power against evil.

As it turns out the ancients were quite right in valuing the herb.

Chewing on the seeds helps the digestive system and helps to still hunger.

Drinking an extract of the seeds (simmer for 30 mins) helps against constipation, stimulates the production of breastmilk and helps to regulate the menstrual cycle.

An extract of the seeds and root together helps with slimming by working as a detoxicant and diuretic.

All parts have a culinary use :

Seeds – in curries, fish sauces, bread and for sprouting for winter salads and not to forget in Pastis.

Leaf – finely chopped for salads and cooked vegetables. You can add it to soups, sauces and for stuffing oily fish.

Stem – young stems can be added to salads and eaten as a cooked veg.

Bulb – (Florence fennel, the fennel you find in the shops), slice or grate raw into sandwiches and salads or cook as a root vegetable.

Depending on the weather we can start gathering the leaves by the middle of March.


Saskia

Thursday, 4 February 2010

January Meeting

Thirteen of us met at Julia’s house for a ‘pot luck’ lunch followed by our monthly meeting.

The agenda for the meeting was to discuss buying seeds and possibly sharing the cost of postage and whether we should have a blog ! We discussed what we might grow and Saskia showed how she starts certain seeds off in up-cycled plastic supermarket packaging containers. It was suggested that we should all try to grow some vegetables in pots for fun (and food) such as purple carrots, golden beetroot, the usual herbs you buy at supermarkets and ‘cut & come again’ salad leaves sown into wooden vegetable trays, lined with old compost bags. The compost should be watered before sowing and then more compost sifted over to the same depth as the size of the seeds.

Marie-France has a large area of ground near her house that, after building works, has been used as a parking area. In the Summer it becomes a dustbowl and blows through the house and into the pool. She wants to plant a Prairie with wildflowers, but has to prepare the ground first and it was suggested that we might have another pot luck lunch at her place and help scarify the ground ready for seeding. A further post will be made about planting for wildlife etc at a later date.

Sue brought copies of catalogues for seeds, plants & roses : Graines Bauxmaux, Schryve Jardin & Meilland Richardier (see the links to the websites on the right – just click on them) which she recommended.

There then followed a rather ‘animated’ discussion about the merits of sharing our information on a blog – but the outcome is this post and no doubt some tweaking in the weeks to come.



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