Wednesday, 14 July 2010

what are the differences between dill, fennel and aniseed


Just recently during a dinner party discussing the ingredients of a drink originating from Majorca, there were quite a few dinner guests who thought that dill was the leafy parts of fennel and aniseed some thought was the seed of fennel.

Looking up the word for dill in French in Harrap's Dictionary I realised that part of the confusion came from dill being translated as Aneth but also as Fenouil (normally the French name for fennel). This is a good example of why it is necessarily to refer to plants by their Latin or botanical name rather then the colloquial name, to avoid confusion.


The following is a clarification of the differences and the different usage of the herbs :


Dill (Anethum graveolens)  –  Dill is found in Mediterranean regions and western Asia. Dill resembles fennel, but is shorter, with a single, easily uprooted hollow stem, grey-green leaves. Its leaves have a strong parsley-caraway smell.

A pungent, cooling, aromatic herb that calms and tones the digestive system, controls infection, and has a diuretic effect.

Both seeds and leaves are used in cooking, especially in Scandinavian cuisine, with eggs, fish, seafood and potatoes.


Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare)  –  Fennel is found in Mediterranean Europe and Asia, on wasteland and in dry, sunny places.

It is a sweet, aromatic, diuretic herb that relieves digestive problems, increases milk flow, relaxes spasms and reduces inflammation. To chew on a few seed makes your breath smell fresh and helps the digestion.


Fennel leaves and seeds are often used in fish and other local Mediterranean dishes.


Aniseed (Pimpinella anisum)  –  was first cultivated as a spice by the ancient Egyptians and later by the Greeks, Romans and Arabs.

The herb improves digestion, benefits the liver and circulation and has expectorant and oestrogenic effects.

It is mostly the seeds that are used to flavour confectionery and popular aniseed flavoured drinks like Pernod, Pastis, Ouzo, Raki and Arak.  So maybe a glass of Pastis a day, keeps the doctor away ?


Bibliography : RHS Herbal Encyclopedia


Sunday, 11 July 2010

How to make your own fertiliser





Daniel Reichenbach, a gardener in Chatillon-le-Duc (Doubs), started making his own fertiliser before you could readily buy them in the shops.

In summer he collects:

Nettles (Urtica species) for nitrogen
Confrey (Symphytum species) for potassium
Horsetail (Equisitum arvense) for silica, horsetail acts as a natural fungicide and in addition it helps against damping off of seedlings.
Ferns for its silica and to make the compost lighter.

He dries the herbs in the shade, shreds them and pounds them to a fine powder. Some stalks and harder bits may remain, they can be sifted out and put on the compost heap or can be used after maceration as a fertiliser to water the plants. He then stores the powder of the different plants individually in carton boxes or paper bags, in a dry, shady environment.

When he transfer his seedlings to a pot, he takes a pinch of each powdered plant adds it to the compost in the pot. He grows vegetables as well as flowers from seed each year with a very good result.

Interestingly all the plants in his natural fertiliser concoction are used or have been used in herbal medicine.

Nettle - Urtica dioica, more common in northern Europe, Urtica pilulifera (Roman nettle) and Urtica membranacea (Membranous Nettle) more common in southern Europe - the young leaves and shoots are rich in vitamines and minerals. An astringent, diuretic tonic herb that controls bleeding, clears toxins, and slightly reduces blood pressure and blood sugar levels. Once dried or cooked nettles do not sting.




Comfrey - Symphytum species, Symphytum bulbosum (Tuberous Comfrey) more common in southern Europe - contain allantoin, which promotes cell proliferation and is now synthesized for use in healing creams. It also contains pyrrolizidine alkaloids. These alkaloids have been shown to cause liver damage and tumours in laboratory animals. As a result, Comfrey now banned in the form of tables and capsules (made from roots or leaves) in several countries.
Preparations for external use are condered safe.


Horsetail (Equisetum arvense) - an astringent, healing herb that acts mainly on the genito-urinary system and controls both internal and external bleeding.




Ferns - for example Dryopteris filix-mas (European Male Fern). For centuries the roots were used to expel tapeworm and other internal parasites. Dryopteris borreri, a southern European fern is very like the common European Male Fern.





All the above plants like damp conditions. It may be more difficult to find Comfrey, but you can always grow it yourself in a shady, slightly damp spot in your garden. It's quite a lovely plant. Flower colour ranges from yellow, white to deep purple.

Bibliography: RHS Encyclopedia of Herbs



Thursday, 8 July 2010

How to get the most out of our common culinary herbs



Basil (Ocimum basilicum) -Because Basil is an annual herb it has the tendency to form flowers quite quickly. Unfortunately letting it flower does have an effect on the taste of the leaves. As soon as you see the buds being formed, pinge out the flower head together with the two leaves underneath it. If you are too late, not all is lost, the flowers heads can be consumed just like the leaves. A basil variety "Fin vert de Marseille" bolts less than the other varieties.


Chives (Allium schoenoprasum) - From early spring onwards you can already start harvesting the chives. To enjoy the new fresh shoots it is best to cut down a part of the chives every 15 days to the ground. Again it is preferable not to let the chives flower, as the young shoots taste the best, but the flowers are very attractive and have a taste all of their own, sowell, let some of them come into flower. There exists a variety called Allium lusitanicum that does not flower.


Tarragon (Artimisia dracuncules) - It is quite important to make sure you've bought the right type of Tarragon. Very often the shops sell the Russian Tarragon (Artimisia dracunculoides) which has hardly any flavour. The real Tarragon is called (Artemisia dracunculus). As you can see the similarity in name is confusing. The leaves have to be cut back regularly during the season. In the summer when you harvest the leaves, do so by cutting down a third of the shoots, to avoid drying out of the plant.


Sage (Salvia officinalis) - Harvest by using a secateur from March to September, just the extreme ends of the plant. To keep the Salvia in a nice shape, cut it down to 10 cm away from the soil, every autumn.





Thyme (Thymus) - Thyme can be used the whole year round. Snip off some of the shoots as needed. From June to August, it does need to be pruned regularly, try to maintain a dome form. Looks much prettier.



Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) - Use a secateur to harvest this year's shoots. When harvesting in the winter, do so sparingly. The pruning is done after the flowering around April to May. The purpose of the pruning is to make sure that the base does not dry out.



Bibliography : Rustica

Sunday, 4 July 2010

millipedes and centipedes


Recently several people asked me what these worm like black creatures were that invade our gardens and terraces in spring and early summer. They are in fact Millipedes. Before coming to the south of France I had only come across the type of Millipedes we normally find in northern Europe:



but in this area the smooth, worm like looking millipede is far more common:


The RHS plant problem section mentions the following:

Quote: "Plants affected - seedlings and other soft growth, strawberry fruits and potato tubers.
Symptoms - seedlings and soft growth are eaten; slug damage on bulbs and potato tubers is enlarged. Damage is rarely serious.

Control - cultivate the soil thoroughly and maintain good hygiene. Use inorganic rather than organic fertilizers in areas where millepedes are a problem, especially where potatoes are being grown. Millipedes, once present, are difficult to control, but HCH dust or methiocarb slug pellets may occasionally have some effect." Unquote

Centipedes are creatures we should encourage in our garden. Geoff Hamilton in his book "Successful Organic Gardening" wrote the following:

Quote: "Centipedes are a fast-moving natural predator of many small insects and slugs. They are light brown with longer legs than millipedes. Like the black beetle, centipedes need ground cover to hide under during the day. At night they will emerge in search of prey, even climbing the plants to reach it."


Thursday, 1 July 2010

Conseils jardin

CONSEILS JARDIN – JUILLET et AOUT 2010

Le printemps nous a apporté de bonnes pluies et nous débutons juillet avec des orages qui apportent quelques millimètres d’eau bien utiles pour le jardin quand ces pluies ne sont pas trop fortes ou avec de la grêle. L’arrosage restera malgré tout une gestion de tous les jours pour beaucoup de nos plantes.

L’arrosage automatique, goutte à goutte, doit être bien réglé selon les besoins des plantes. Il est plus souvent bénéfique d’arroser 1 fois par semaine en quantité que tous les jours et surtout pas 3 fois par jour. Même les plantes sur balcon ne devront pas subir des arrosages quotidiens à l’exception des « buveuses » d’eau, en plein soleil, comme les Surfinias.

Pailler sur 10 cm les légumes et vos massifs, tous débris végétaux peuvent être utilisés, même les tontes de gazon.

La Tomate : reine de nos plats provençaux, elle est à surveiller par rapport au mildiou, aux attaques d’araignées rouges mais aussi de la maladie « du cul noir. Cette dernière est la conséquence d'un déséquilibre d’arrosage ( trop ou pas assez). Préférez le paillage à trop d’arrosage et je vous conseille de ne pas trop tailler vos tomates ;laissez plus de pousses ce qui donnera plus de fruits mais plus petits ! Cette technique vous laissera des pieds de tomates plus résistants aux maladies. Autre astuce : un fil de cuivre planté au pied des tomates !

Les rosiers : si des feuilles ont jauni avec des taches noires, n’hésitez pas à les enlever manuellement sur la plante et ramassez celles tombées au sol. Avec un apport d’engrais organique au pied et une taille des pousses défleuries, vous aurez une nouvelle floraison dans l’été pour les rosiers remontants. Mais avec des températures au dessus de 25°c, les rosiers refleurissent peu et attendent septembre.

Vos plantes d’intérieur peuvent être mises dehors, sous des arbres, avec des arrosages réguliers. Bassinez aussi le feuillage le soir avec une eau non calcaire. Et groupez les pots car la transpiration par les feuilles donnera une ambiance plus fraiche pour vos plantes qui auront donc moins besoin d’eau !

Au verger : après la cueillette des abricots mais aussi des pêches, vous pouvez faire une taille «en vert », c'est-à-dire tailler les pousses de l’intérieur de l’arbre et réduire les pousses extérieures pour maintenir l’ampleur de l’arbre.

Bon jardinage à tous……

Jean-Yves MEIGNEN
Jardinier de l'Abbaye de Valsaintes et de France bleu Vaucluse
Consultant à domicile

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