It’s in the bag!

Now then. Bagged salad? Food waste? Yes, it’s got me out of my semi-retirement as a blogger that one.

So, first off, if you don’t want to throw away bagged salad, buy it fresh and local, without gases in the bag (preferably from a nice, chemical-free grower like Liliwen Herbs). Keep it in the fridge and don’t wash it until you’re ready to eat it. Air and water help to biodegrade the leaves – the commercial gas process is supposed to get rid of the bacteria that cause biodegrading, but all washing and processing will actually accelerate the process. And then there’s the question of what chemicals those gases are made from isn’t there?

Gourmet Salad in the bag

Gourmet Salad in the bag

At Liliwen Herbs we handle and process the leaves as little as possible (picking out the odd snail and the leaves where’s he’s been munching). Then we press as much air as possible out of the bags to reduce the aforementioned biodegrading. Our salad bags may present as less plump and fulsome-looking than their puffed-up supermarket ‘rivals’, but I’ll take a bet our leaves will keep for longer. Appearances can be deceptive! And of course the salad is picked fresh the day before it is delivered to our local outlets. Beat that!

But, what about the bigger point here? Why is so much food being wasted in the first place? Why are farmers and growers being squeezed for ever-lower prices to allow big supermarkets to do BOGOFs and sell cheap food lines at below the cost of production? This encourages waste and also devalues the product generally. If you ‘get one free’ aren’t you more willing to throw it away without a second glance anyway? Why not pay the real price of production that allows the grower to make a living and produce something of quality and goodness which is given its proper value at every stage of the process?

Gourmet Salad in a Nick Membery bowl

Gourmet salad fresh out of the bag!

What I am trying to do at Liliwen Herbs is exactly that – make an honest living out of producing an honest quality product. All I ask is the appreciation you give it when you pay the real price of me doing that. Too political? I’m always happy to receive your comments. Meanwhile I’m off to enjoy my lunch…

p.s. ever seen those lovely flowers in your bog-standard bogof bag?

Go naked!

Simon says it’s ‘time to dress for summer’ and gives us his favourite salad dressing . Can’t argue with the great Simon Wright can I? Well, actually, I’d like to make a case for going totally naked. I don’t do it every day, sometimes I fancy a pinch of this or a drop of that, but quite often I find the salad leaves I pick and combine are so worth tasting and testing in different combinations and mouthfuls, that I don’t want every mouthful to just taste of the dressing I’ve slapped on. If you’ve got time you can try all the different leaves one at a time –  a spicy one followed by a calmer one, followed by a crunchy one, followed by a flower  (I’m sure you get the idea), or maybe different couplings etc. It’s also a good way to slow down your eating and savour things a little more, not to mention digest a little better. And all the better to tell me if you agree I’ve left the stalk on the right things.

Purslane growingIf you’re a regular Liliwen Herbs’ Gourmet Salad eater then you’ll probably know the leaf that we’ve seen a lot of until just lately with a lot of juicy stalk and a sort of umbrella head, which has recently been wearing a few very tiny white flowers. This is called by various names: Winter Purslane and Miner’s Lettuce among them. It’s not unusual for me to leave 4 inches of stalk on those leaves (about 10cm in new money), because they are so succulent. But it took me a little while to get brave enough to do that, largely because so many other stalks of leaves I grow are actually quite a bit tougher and less palatable. But I kept getting really good feedback  (is there a better word than that, which doesn’t remind me of whiny speakers?) from customers that people loved the stalks and even the inelegant act of eating them from the shoot end to the leaf, like Ermintrude the cow (a 1970s childhood reference for which I won’t apologise). They also have a very mild and pleasant flavour that would be hard to register doused in dressing.

Nasturtium flowersBut … if you like a little punch with your salad then, before you reach for the vinaigrette, watch out for the flowers coming any minute now – this very week I’ll be popping in some bright and cheery orange, red and yellow Nasturtiums and some dreamy purple Chive flowers. Nasturtiums are a little peppery, perhaps a little cabbagey (definitely need a better word!) and Chive flowers have the kind of allium zing you might imagine – if you feel like fancying up your or someone else’s plate, take a pair of scissors to the whole Chive flower head and snip all the individual flowerlets (?) off and distribute through the leaf mix before serving. Alternatively munch the whole uncut Chive flower in one go – I challenge you not to exclaim loudly straight afterwards! Chives in bloomMind you, the most powerful leaf I’ve tried to date was actually today when I was browsing my tunnels (as one does) and picked an individual leaf of something that looks like a small very curly Kale, o’r enw  Golden Frill. I actually had to exert extreme willpower to finish chewing this leaf, whilst my eyes watered and I snorted attractively, (but refused to spit it out like the stubborn Taurus I am). And it looks so sweet and pretty, with such an innocuous name. Maybe I’ll keep that one for stir-fries from now on. Or just sprinkle a few through my salad mixes to give you the odd surprise!

So, why not try a little naked salad next time and let me know what you think?

p.s. told you I was an obsessive

p.p.s. spot the welsh phrase?

Herbs and why I love them

Hello and welcome to my first blog! Helo a chroeso i fy mlog cyntaf!

My name is Lucie and I’m an obsessive. I love growing herbs (and other produce) and trying out things to do with them. Food, recipes, tea-drinking  blends, skincare, and lots of other ways to enhance our health and wellbeing with all nature’s bounty. And of course, I only grow organically. To me, herbs (and indeed all plants) are health and life, and I cannot see why anyone would grow them, with all they have to offer, and then spray them with chemicals made to kill things. Nor do I bung on a load of chemical fertilisers: I try and look after the whole health of my patch – the soil, the water, the air and the biodiversity – to foster a healthy, productive growing environment

Like many other obsessives once I get going on the topic of my passion, it’s hard to shut me up. So a blog is the obvious outlet . Here’s hoping a few fellow souls will share some of my interests – please do give me some feedback!

Why herbs?

Well, I’m a farmer’s daughter, so the idea of growing something useful and productive runs deep in my soul. Look up the definition of a herb and you’ll find it’s less of a botanical category, more a human one – basically a herb is a ‘useful’ plant. The Latin term ‘officinalis’, which you’ll find as the second half (species name) of many a herb plant genus, just means ‘belonging to an officina’, which is the Latin word for a workshop or storeroom where medicines were made and kept.  Now the first example that pops into my head just happens to be my favourite herb  – Calendula officinalis  – a.k.a Pot Marigold or English Marigold. This beautiful vivid orange flower has so many uses I could write a book about it (uh-oh…). Here’s just a few things that I do with it: put it in salads (yes, eat the whole thing!), make it into tea (my mother-in-law swears by it), use it on your skin in the form of a balm or cream (my first ever skincare product) – it’s good for everything from babies bottoms to chapped lips or soil-rough hands, via scratches, stings and bites!

Calendula from last summer(2012) to cheer us up!Here’s a lovely picture of  my Calendula from last summer to cheer us up! Promise I won’t do this every time – I’ll be sticking to pics of stuff currently in season mostly.

See what I mean about shutting me up? Now, where was I? Well, sort of answering my own question: Because I love herbs! Food/medicine –there’s no real distinction with herbs – my personal definition is they’re just plants that are really good for you!

I have to wrap up now, figuratively and literally, and go out and pick some of those lovely green leaves for tomorrow’s deliveries. Mainly salads, with a couple of hardy herbs on the go like Parsley and Chervil. New season stuff is not far away – I noticed a little Coriander had germinated the other day…Come on Spring!

Hwyl am y tro. Bye for now