Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Lemon thyme cake - using 4 ingredients from the garden

It's thyme to bake a cake!

This cake is delicious and lemony. It is not a light and fluffy cake, but dense and moist.

The first thing you have to do is pop into the garden and pick a handful of lemon thyme and  dry it by leaving it in a basket in the kitchen for a few days. Then, on the day you want to bake your cake, pick one lemon off the tree, collect 4 eggs from your chickens, and honey from your bee hive.


300g of stone ground white flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
200g organic sugar
200g butter
4 eggs
2 large, heaped tablespoons lemon thyme (powdered)
Zest of 1 lemon finely grated


I tub marscapone
2 tablespoons honey


Take your dry lemon thyme and grind it in a coffee grinder until it is a fine powder. Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, add the eggs one by one until well mixed in. Sift the flour and the baking powder and add to the creamed mixture with lemon zest and the lemon thyme powder. Mix until it is all well incorporated, and add milk to make a soft dropping consistency. Grease and flour a baking tin and pour the mixture in. Bake at 175deg for 45 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean when inserted in the middle.

Mix the marscapone and honey until well creamed.
Allow the cake to cool completely and either slice it into two and fill it with the marscapone mixture or use the mixture as a topping.


Monday, December 2, 2013

Pesky stinging nettles - such a valuable weed

This spring I pulled out loads of stinging nettle in my garden. Most people would be cursing at the stuff, as it is extremely prolific - but I can only rejoice. Nettle is such a versatile plant and can be used by the herbalist, gardener and cook.
                                                 A branch of nettle loaded with seed

Every part of the nettle plant is useful. In the garden nettle plants are important hosts for various butterfly larvae, and I'm always happy to have a good environment for insects. It is my belief that a good variety of weeds and herbs creates a balanced ecosystem, and fewer pests.

In phytotherapy (herbalism) nettle is a most valuable plant. The leaves, seeds and roots are used. The leaves are used as a tonic, anti-histamine, liver tonic, kidney tonic, iron tonic, to mention just a few uses. It should however, be used under the supervision of a phytotherapy practitioner, as it can cause an allergic reaction in some sensitive people. The seeds are used for kidney problems and the roots are used in the treatment of benign prostatic hypertrophy. Cutting the roots off hundreds of nettle plants is quite a job. Most people would never realise quite how much work goes on behind the scenes of a phytotherapy practice.

Dried nettle roots

Historically nettle stems have been used to make a cotton-like cloth, but I think I'll give knitting with nettle a skip. But it's an easy job to make a wonderful rich fertilizer with nettle. Once I've removed all the roots, I dunk the entire nettle plants into buckets of water and wait until the resulting brew stinks nicely. I don't dilute it as everyone says you must, but use it neat on tomato plants and other vegetable plants. Nettle is also a great compost activator, and I like to put it in a drum with other weeds to make a rich tea for the garden. One of my clients who has a wine farm, sprays his vines with nettle tea to fertilize them.

As a food, nettle is a wonderful addition to soups, stews and even your dog's food if you cook for your dog. It has a very high protein content and is very rich in vitamins and minerals, especially iron and calcium. Some farmers add nettle to their feed for cows, as it encourages milk production.

So next time you feel overwhelmed by nettles, think of all the things you can do with them, even if it is only to put them on the compost heap!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Moving the bees

Before the move. This is the entrance to the owl box which in the space of one year got filled up with bees.
Luckily the side panel of the owl box is removable and this is what was revealed when it came off. 

Here is the "bee whisperer" at work.

The new hive.

The new hive going into its new place. 

Honey comb which I was allowed to keep. The rest went into the new hive.
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Thursday, November 7, 2013

Down the garden path

Spring is a time of lush abundance and here in Cape Town, getting some rain at this time of year is such a bonus. My tanks are full and give me 6000 litres of water for the dry months. I walk around the garden in awe. Hypericum, Verbena and Chamomile are rocketing with spring energy and forming a dense woodland atmosphere. Over the arch a banksia rose glows in delicate yellow and sends showers of petals like confetti over the pathway.
It isn't always as cool as this at this time of year, so walking down the path feels a bit like being in England, with a cloudy sky above and a deep shady green all around. Shepherd's purse, Chelidonium and Marrubium abound. They love my garden and their babies are everywhere.
Feverfew has self seeded so much that one can hardly see some of the paths in the bee garden. I like to leave things as they are and have to step carefully over trailing Rue (as it gives me a rash if I touch it) and cascading Geraniums. The scents are subtle but heavenly. The leaves of my showy Vitex tree have just as wonderful a scent as the berries. The Hawthorn tree is a beautiful green with florets of buds just waiting to open. The apple tree is full of blossoms.
What a joy to wander down one's own garden path, to breathe deeply and absorb the peaceful atmosphere. I am truly grateful for this abundance, for the quince blossoms, the aroma of fig leaves, and above all the splendid glory of the roses.


Thank you for sharing this little walk with me. I get a lot of inspiration from other people who love their gardens, and hope that I can do a bit of that myself. 
 Have a wonderful day in your garden.
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Monday, October 28, 2013

A tortoise in the veggie patch

 At one stage my veggie patch was more like a veggie jungle with so much chickweed and stinging nettle. It took quite a bit of sweat to make it look presentable and to reveal the vegetables that had thrived during the winter and our very wet spring. The weather was ideal for seedlings as warm days were followed by copious rain, and even seeds that I sowed directly into the soil, germinated and have grown nicely as can be seen in the picture of purple Kohlrabi below.
Kohlrabi growing nicely
 Chickweed is a herbalist's dream herb for skin conditions, especially itchy skin. It also is reputed to have fat dissolving properties and I've always wanted to test this out on my dog's lipoma. However the timing of chickweed's appearance in such monstrous, strangling abundance is totally at odds with my attack on the weed jungle, especially when the sun is scorching my neck! So the chickweed lands up in my green bin where it rots to make a wonderful compost tea, together with all the other lush greens that get pulled out at this time of year. It really is frustrating, but there's only so much a person can do!
 Strawberries in pots and one dog trespassing.
In June I planted a whole lot of potatoes that had sprouted so much they looked like hedgehogs. They came up with alacrity and I harvested quite a few kilograms of beautiful potatoes in September. Now I have sown maize in that spot - purple maize that I bought from Gravel Garden (Non GM as it is heirloom seed). I got it at the Oranjezicht Urban Farm where they have a market on Saturday mornings. That place is fabulous and well worth a visit. It is so inspiring. You can follow them on Facebook.

In the veggie patch I have so much growing, but it is all a bit haphazard, not in very neat rows, although I do try! At the moment the broccoli and the tomatoes are in neat rows, but cutworm are attacking my broccoli so the rows are getting shorter. Today I will put toilet paper roll collars around the stems - that usually helps. Also things do tend to self-seed, and land in the rows, so what starts out as a row of one vegetable, ends up having rocket or chicory growing in between.

So right now broad beans are ready to pick, peas (entwined round the broad beans) are coming on nicely, garlic is swelling, and the odd strawberry lands in my mouth. So nice to eat an organically grown strawberry!! I am put off buying strawberries because of the amount of spraying they get. I also have youngberries in bloom, and have planted a grapevine. It would be nice to report that I can eat some grapes from it in the future!

And somewhere in the jungle is a tortoise. How it came to be in my garden is a mystery (the dogs discovered it). The only place where it is safe from the dogs is in the veggie patch. I suspect it does a bit of damage here and there, but not enough for me to banish it.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Insect world- making your garden insect friendly

Insects are an extremely important part of our ecosystem. Where insects are in balance they should pretty much sort themselves out, some eating others, and some being eaten by birds, frogs, chameleons and bats. Unfortunately using insecticides has created massive imbalances and it has made it very difficult to grow fruits and vegetables organically these days, whereas as little as 100 years ago it was the norm.

I have tried to make my garden insect friendly, and apart from ants and millipedes, which live here in their thousands, insects are most welcome to enjoy the flowers. Insects are very valuable pollinators, and it is interesting to see that bees are not the only ones buzzing in the flowers, but many other species. In order to attract insects to your garden, you need to have plants that attract them, nesting places, such as bits of wood, piles of leaves etc, water and a no insecticide policy.

In my garden there are several water sources, one in each section of the garden. These double up as bird baths and drinking water for pets.

Various plants are extremely attractive to a multitude of insects, including the hummingbird moth, and a variety of bees. One of these is the ribbon bush, (Hypoestes aristata), which blooms in autumn and is absolutely alive with insects at that time.
Hypoestes aristata
This shrub is like a weed, and self seeds prolifically. It prefers sun, but will tolerate shade and is drought tolerant. It needs severe cutting back after flowering.
Posted by Picasa                    Bees having a drink
Don't disturb bees when they are drinking water, because they are liable to sting you, as I learned the hard way when adding water to the bird bath while they were there!
Another shrub that is heaven for bees of all kinds, is the Mexican sage (Salvia leucantha). It also attracts the sun bird
Salvia leucantha
This shrub blooms at least twice a year, and is simply stunning. It prefers sun, will grow in the shade, but won't flower as profusely. I have it planted in clumps and mine bloomed for 3 months - the entire autumn. Everyone who came to my practice commented on it - it was like a gift of glorious purple.
It needs to be cut back very severely after flowering, and can be divided very easily. I have divided mine, and planted the divisions so that it will form a hedge down the side of the garden. I expect a mass of purple next season!
Insects like a garden that is not too tidy. There must be plenty of places for them to have nests and hiding places. There are quite a few sites online where you can get ideas to make insect breeding stations of various sorts.
The bees in my owl box are still happy, and one can clearly see the layers of comb now. How I would like to have some honey!

Friday, May 17, 2013

Flower essence of poppy

My experiment with essence of poppy
Flowers essences are not new. In the 1930's Dr Edward Bach made flower essences, which are still made today, and many countries have flower essences of their native flowers.
 I was offered the chance to try a flower essence of my choice from the Institute of Phytobiophysics, and to write a review. Normally I prefer not to use my blog as a commercial site, but decided to share my experience after all.

It was only after I had chosen the flower essence of poppy that I received the pamphlet which suggested choosing the flower essence that matches an area of weak energy, which is defined by a colour. Poppy (being red) was represented by the colon and urogenital area, not an area of concern to me. I had originally chosen it for “life blood” because my heart is my weak point, as I suffer from rather alarming arrhythmias. So in effect I had made a mistake in my choice based on not reading the instructions properly! Nevertheless, it felt like the right choice.

For the first two weeks it was probably too soon to see any change in myself. I’m not the sort of person to believe too much in placebo effects in myself, so I noted things like mood and quality of sleep, and these fluctuated greatly, so I couldn’t pinpoint anything specific. I noted a day of extreme energy, but then came down with a slight cold, which often happens – extreme energy followed by feeling “off”.

After taking the pilules 3 x daily for several weeks I felt very well. It could have been my imagination, but I did feel that my energy levels were vastly improved. I was more motivated to do things and was getting them done. The weather had been cooler which could also have something to do with it. It may have been a coincidence, but I thought that my heart had been really calm for a long time.  But then recently it flared up again, for no obvious reason.
 For me the best thing was feeling very motivated, but this did coincide with a very busy spell in the practice with interesting new cases, which in itself is very uplifting. I have stopped the pilules for about a week now, to see whether I feel different, and I definitely have felt flat, but now am too busy to feel anything but charged. I am planning to take the pilules again from next week to see whether this changes.

All in all a very interesting experiment. Have a look at the website www.mossopnaturalremedies.com

If you'd like to know more about poppy:



Tuesday, May 7, 2013

More stories of Ruby

Ruby will be one year old on the 18th May. She is still as naughty as ever. I won't go into the details of what has been wrecked in my house - these things teach one not to be so materialistic! Suffice it to say that new furniture is not in my budget!

What I love about her is her spirit, although it is maddening to have her nose right under the spade as I am digging, and when she gleefully sprints through the open gate into the road with absolutely no idea that it could be her last move on this earth, I almost have a heart attack.
Recently she jumped over the wall into my neighbour's garden in pursuit of a dove. (This neighbour's house is in another street.) Unfortunately for her the wall is higher on my neighbour's side, so she couldn't get back. It took her seconds to realise this and by the time I walked through the house to go and fetch her, she was panting at the front gate - a distance of at least 500m done at the speed of light. She hasn't tried that again!

But the funniest thing about Ruby is her appetite! It is insatiable and she'll eat anything. So many meals of mine have disappeared in a moment of distraction, and items of food put down for a moment are gone when I turn around. This season of harvests has caused quite a few issues. Firstly the olives. Who would believe that a dog would love olives off the tree, as bitter as they are? No problem for Ruby who gobbles them up as they drop off. Later I have to deal with the vomit. All my dogs like olives once they have been cured, but not when they are still bitter!

When I open the back door in the morning, I have to make sure Ruby is safely inside while I quickly pick up all the guavas that have fallen off the tree in the night. She will happily wolf the lot. If she tucks into guavas later in the day, (as they fall off throughout the day), she'll wake me in the middle of the night to go out. So I haven't had a good night's sleep for a while.......

And then yesterday while I was harvesting the hawthorn berries, she decided to have a taste too. It was a struggle to get to the bunches of berries before she did, as they fall down when I cut them, and I have to get down the ladder!

When we go for walks all the dogs get to stop at gardens where eugenia cherries lie on the ground. They love them and eat quite a few before we move on. And when they hear me chopping vegetables they cluster round hoping for some broccoli stalk or cabbage stalk. Ruby doesn't reject anything, while the other two are more selective. The other day some raw onion slices landed on the floor. I read that this is really bad for dogs. But before I could pick them up Ruby had hoovered them up and was happily crunching away.

Most of my friends have heard the story of the cookies. I had prepared a batch of 60 rustic cookies (the recipe is somewhere in this blog), all cut out and ready to bake. The doorbell rang and ..........
Ruby pulled the baking paper with all the cookies onto the floor and wolfed the lot. You could hear my wails for miles. Luckily she digested it very well.

Punnets of tomatoes, bags of nuts, peppermints, a (plastic) bottle of olive oil, cream cheese, yoghurt, you name it, all have been stolen and eaten if I'm careless. It's an expensive business!!

Monday, May 6, 2013


HawthornJust the other day it was spring and now I'm harvesting whenever there is some spare time. The hawthorn tree was loaded with berries, but only about 2/3 can be harvested because many are too high up, and the thorns are rather deadly to prevent any thoughts of climbing into the tree. I have a good ladder but it is rather unstable on soil, as I once discovered when it gave way underneath me and I was dangling with one foot on the rung and hanging from a branch of the apple tree. Hilarious to witness, I'm sure!!
Hawthorn berries and leaves make a wonderful tonic for the heart and the circulatory system. It is wonderful to be able to harvest my own organically grown hawthorn and use it in the practice. It is one of those herbs which is nutritious as well as medicinal and very safe to use.

I now have 16 jars of olives curing and many more olives still on the tree. Such an abundance!! It all keeps me pretty busy.

 Added to this are the wonderful guavas which despite giving away baskets full, every day there are more. It is a pity that one can't do more with this fruit. I have canned some, made guava roll (which no one eats) and stew them to eat with oats or yoghurt. One lady told me she stews them and freezes them pureed, which makes an instant delight to add to yoghurt. I'd need a separate freezer for the amount I can make.
                                                                 Organic guavas
This abundance makes me feel very grateful. All the fruits seemingly come from nothing each year. A gift from nature. I do try and feed the soil and water regularly, but the amount of fruit is overwhelming. The air is perfumed with guava scent and they are beautifully sweet from being ripened by the sun. What a gift!

Friday, April 5, 2013

Olive harvest

I've been grateful for some cooler weather so that some major pruning could get done. So now the lavender hedges have been cut and most other herbaceous shrubs or bushes have been cut back. The olive trees and fruit trees will get done later on.

This year the Manzanilla trees gave two kilograms of olives - their first yield ever. The Mission olives are half harvested, quite a few are not yet ripe. The olives are organically grown, and I noticed that on the whole the Mission olives are healthier than the Manzanilla. Many of the Manzanilla have been stung by what I think are fruit fly, whereas the Mission olives seem to be mostly perfect. The trees are all close together in the bottom part of my garden - the area I call my bee garden.

The ripe olives are being processed. I have a really simple way of doing them:

I soak them in water for several days, changing the water daily. Once they have lost most of the bitterness, I put them in coarse salt for a few days. Then I soak them for a couple more days until they taste right to me. A little bit of bitterness is OK but one doesn't want them to be overpoweringly bitter.  Then they go into brine with garlic, rosemary, lemon slices, and for some, chilli.
They then mature for a few months. They are yummy. The black skins are rich in phytochemicals called anthocyanin which has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.