August harvest.

August has been another busy month on the land. There are so many things to harvest and process so that they will keep for the coming months. One unusual and tasty vegetable is the strawberry spinach, Chenopodium capitatum, which we grew from seeds in the spring. The red “berries” taste sweet and fresh in salads and the leaves are good in stir-fries.

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Blooming marvelous herbs.

We have been waiting for about a week for the rain to let up so that we could harvest some of our lovely herbs, but today we decided to wait no longer. Most of them are at their peak now, lush and green and just starting to flower.

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We wanted to keep some of this for the whole year and capture the smell and taste of many of the different herbs we grow in our garden.  Vinegar is very useful for all those winter salads and capturing the herbs by making herb flavoured vinegar is something we have wanted to try for a few years, so we were happy to find some tips about doing this in Beryl Wood’s excellent book, Let’s preserve it.

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We started by harvesting some sage, lemon thyme, lemon balm, fennel, golden oregano and mint. We removed the tough stalks and used a rolling pin to crush them up, filling our jars half way up. We poured on our distilled vinegar, you could also use malt vinegar if you prefer or any other fancier variety. We bought some cheap vinegar as the herbs will give it a lovely flavour anyway and because we wanted to make a lot of it. We will shake the jars regularly over the next six weeks, at least once a week, and we will push the herbs down under the surface to preserve them properly. We are then planning to strain, bottle and enjoy them for the rest of the year.

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We also experimented with some mixed berry vinegar, hoping to end up with something resembling fancy raspberry vinegar. Time will tell.

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We wanted to try another thing we found in the UK Country Homes & Interiors magazine recently (August 2015). We try to use as little chemicals as possible in our home so the tips for making homemade citrus air-fresheners seemed very appealing. We started by cutting in half and juicing oranges, lemons and limes and removed all the white stuff, ending up with just the outer peels.

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We mixed some ordinary table salt with some lovely sea salt and some Himalayan pink salt and put it in two different bowls. To the one for oranges we added lavender flowers from the garden, ylang-ylang, lavender and mandarin essential oils and to the one for lemons and limes we added chopped rosemary and clove, peppermint and rosemary essential oils. You could also add other herbs and your favourite spices to the mix. We then stirred for a good while to mix the oils and herbs well with the salt and packed our peels full of the mixture. To finish off we added fabric circles and string to keep the air-fresheners all together. This was quite fiddly to do but putting an elastic band around the fabric as you tie the string on helps a lot. We now have a sweet-smelling house with every room scented for very little money.

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It is satisfying and comforting to think that we will be able to enjoy our herbs for a long time now, even after they have wilted and died back in the autumn.

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