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Coffee 1 . Grow from seed.

A civilised twist on the term ‘Home Brew’….
It’s really not as hard as you might believe.
Coffee trees, or shrubs to be accurate, are really quite efficient survivors and will generally tolerate a reasonable amount of abuse or neglect.
They require much less work to grow than do their cousins the Gardinia’s.

Firstly we only use (and sell) seed from the last harvest.
The seed that we keep for germination, is kept with the skin of the cherry still on.
The seeds are shade dried and allowed to experience the changes in humidity, moisture and temperature that make up the seasons.
Secondly, we only plant seed from October until March. (Late Spring to late Summer)
While is is possible to germinate coffee seed at almost any time of year, given heated germination trays and enclosed hothouse or propagation tunnels, the strength and robustness of the plants is compromised and the trees are often unfit.
Thirdly, we sow one cherry or two beans, into a pot of quite coarse potting mix. (They are very fond of lots of organic matter in the mix). Some ‘Perlite’ or ‘Vermiculite’ is quite OK in the mix but soil is not necessary, and can be detrimental at this stage.

Seed raise mix, jiffy pots, between sheets of wet paper towel and even damp hessian are often recommended, but are so unreliable that it is ridiculous to try.
Sowing in pots does hide the process of germination from view, but, if it is going to happen it will, and you just have to be patient.
Do not plant the seeds too deeply in the pot.
A hole the length of your finger to the second knuckle is all that is necessary. Cover lightly and then walk away.
Sit the pot in a lightly shaded spot, water each day and walk away. Do not poke around in the soil to see how it’s going.

When germination does occur, your heart lifts with pride but, it is time to put your parental instincts aside and NOT help the little unfurling infants to get their heads out of the soil.
If, for some reason, and it does happen, the curled head of the plant, bearing it’s seed case as a hat, does not completely open it’s leaves by itself, it will be sickly for a very long time.
Shedding the seed case seems to be part of the process and cannot be denied.
Soon the dicot leaves will be fully open to the sun and the growth of your plant can continue.
Something to remember after the plant has surfaced, is that before and during the process that you have been watching, the roots have been busy establishing themselves and getting into position to support and feed the emerging plant.
The most important thing to do at this stage is to feed the roots, not the plant.

Nitrogen based fertilizers will push much growth up and into the leaves, but the balance of the plant will be inadequate for later robust growth.
Once again, we prefer to be patient and we feed the pots with a seaweed based fertilizer rather than a fish emulsion.
Generally speaking, if the pot that you have planted into is large enough (roughly a 6′ pot), then you will not have to repot or transfer your plant until it is time to go into the ground.
We recommend allowing the plant to reach approximately 30 cm in height before planting out.
The young plants will require little from you during this period and are best enjoyed without bothering them or fussing over them.

Because the seedlings are emerging in Summer they should only take one month to germinate, at most.
There is quite a lot of flexibility in this timeline and you can expect different germination periods from the same batch of seed.
They are very social plants and once one is up, more will usually come soon after.
Even young Coffee plants are not voracious feeders and, while they grow at a reasonable pace, it is unlike anything you would have in your vegetable garden.
Most Coffee trees keep their leaves for several years without replacing them, so they do not produce more than they need.
This time in their lives should ideally be spent in part shade and watered often, as needed. Once again, not wet all the time, but they do not take well to drying out.
As in their native environments, they thrive on organic matter and love to have leaf mulch at their bases.
The root system is comparatively high in the soil and while they will send some roots down to anchor themselves, their main feeding roots are only just below the surface.
This explains why they do not like to dry out and why coarse, loose mulch, is coffee friendly.

If you have a shade house or protected outdoor living area, then they will be happy there until late Winter.

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Grow your Own Dragonfruit

It’s hard not to love this cactus.

Like all cacti it has some needles but treated carefully and handled rarely, it is never a problem.
If you grow these from seed then you will have the whole experience but it will take a little longer than buying a ‘rooted’ cutting from our nursery.

The seed needs to just covered with a light, sandy potting mix either in individual pots or sprinkled in one large pot if you prefer.
Remember that if you sow in one pot or tray, once they have germinated you will need to separate them out, away from each other.
This can be avoided by sowing one or two seeds per pot.
They are so cute when they are little but they will still catch your fingers by surprise if you are not prepared.
We keep our seed grown plants potted for 12 months before planting them out.

If you have purchased a rooted cutting then it is ready to go out straight away.

Now it is time to choose your location wisely.
Many people have this romantic idea that they will plant their Dragon at the base of a large tree and encourage it to climb and ramble in a storybook fashion. This does work to a certain extent and your Dragon will climb a 20m tree without a problem, but you will never have flower or fruit, in your lifetime at least.

If you plan on enjoying the wonder of the Dragon flower and the delicious taste of the fruit then you need to provide an environment where it can ‘crown’.
This simply means reminding the plant that it can’t grow any farther than is comfortable for you to harvest the fruit. 2-2.5 m is usually adequate and the vine will stop, wave it’s stem around, realise that this is the top and settle down to produce buds.

You do not need a major construction job on which to grow your dragon but it does need to be sturdy.
Just a post, set well into the ground will do the job.
Frequently a cross bar at the top of a post will help to educate the plant that it’s many branches can all stop here!
Another mistake often made regarding the plant is that because it is a cactus it will love the dry, drought like climate of it’s cousins.

This would be a mistake.
It loves a good drink as often as you can and will always do it’s best fruiting before and after good rain.
Just like Aloe vera, it will survive the dry times but prefers not to if not necessary.

You will also need to remember that many birds have also formed a liking for the fruit so that making it possible to conveniently net or cover when fruit is formed can be necessary.

They are not happy with frosts and will often lose stem and condition if not perish all together, so some preparation will be required before Winter.
We have so many birds and insects visiting the 24 hour flowers that we are never sure who has done the best job but rarely does a flower go un-pollinated, and it is not unusual to have many flowers on one plant at the same time.

Generally, once the basic setup is complete there is no ongoing work involved in keeping and growing these dragonfruit and you may find yourself with a low maintenance orchard in a short while.        Continue reading Grow your Own Dragonfruit

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Grow some Peanuts

Good food like the humble peanut is often overlooked when planing the vegetable garden but it is without a doubt, the most ‘giving’ of plants that you will ever include in your garden.

After you receive your peanuts (in their shells) there is no rush to sow them just yet. It is best to wait until Spring. There is no advantage in them sprouting early as they will not produce any more or any sooner.

Kept in a dry environment like a drawer, they will be fine for a year or so.

If you remove them from their shells then they will need to be planted sooner rather than later.

We do not remove them from their shells at all and sow the whole thing in a pot of seed raise mix.

They will produce two or three plants from each shell and these are easily separated for planting out when they are roughly 100 mm tall.

Sow the young plants in a trench and mound them up as they grow to support their stems.

Water weekly but not if you have had rain. Do not be tempted to lift the bushes until the foliage has begun to turn yellow and die back.

There will be no need to save some for next year as we have found that no matter how careful we are in harvesting, we always seem to leave plenty in the ground inadvertently.

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Pumpkins and Squash

Pumpkins are not particularly recommended for small gardens because of the plants’ size but they are not difficult to grow and are fun for children.
Pumpkins are closely related to winter squash and to other vine crops like cucumbers. They are also grown very much like winter squash.
Pumpkins can be eaten cooked, either boiled, steamed, baked, or microwaved.
Large varieties grown for carving at Halloween tend not to be flavorful and don’t store well.
Smaller traditional varieties are better for eating on their own, for use in pies, and for storage.
Most pumpkins, when they are mature develop a hard rind that resists pressure. In general, harvest pumpkins after the first frost kills the vines but before a hard frost.
Cut stems of mature pumpkins leaving a ‘stalk’ or handle if you intend to keep for a long period.
Store pumpkins in a warm, well-ventilated room to dry (or “cure”) for about a week, then store in a dry, cooler place for up to 6 months, checking regularly for soft rotting spots.
It is important to remember that Pumpkins are not at all fussy whose pollen the bees will deposit when they are ready accept.
For this reason many gardeners get quite a shock at the result of their harvest when it looks more like the bloke down the roads pumpkin than what was intended.
Sow the seed at the beginning of Spring and harvest in late Autumn.

Some varieties will very conveniently climb a trellis and bear fruit in air.

Ours often share an overhanging grape arbour which frees up quite a lot of space on the ground, all you need to do to help the fruit ripen to full maturity is to use an ‘onion bag’ to help the vine hold up the weight. As illustrated.

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Grow Tomatoes from Seed

Tomato seed is probably the easiest seed for a gardener to germinate and it is not unusual for gardeners to base their gardening confidence on success with this fruit.
Some insist that the seeds need to be soaked before planting but this is unnecessary and it is highly possible to damage seed when taking it from a soft submersive environment to a coarse soil one.
Sowing in soil, fill your pot, tamp it down lightly, spread your seed, sprinkle seed raise mix over the seed to cover it, water gently and then leave them alone to do what they do best.
Preparing for planting
Tomatoes must be planted in full sun—they don’t like shade at all! Like most vegetables, tomatoes do best in relatively loose soil rich in organic matter.
If you don’t have soil like this, you’ll want to work in some compost, composted manure, or another soil amendment a week or more before planting into the bed(s) where your tomatoes will be planted.
Many growers use plastic mulch for their tomatoes because the plastic can increase yields, reduce disease, and give you an earlier crop with little or no weeding. You do not need to use plastic to have healthy, productive tomatoes, but if you don’t you will want to mulch with something else (leaves, straw, cardboard, etc.) to prevent weed problems.
On the day of planting, you should have some tools (a trowel and a hose connected to water), and some organic fertilizer handy.
Plant spacing
It’s tempting to plant tomatoes too close together because they’re small when you transplant them.
If you do this, your plants will compete with each other for light, water, and nutrients and/or grow into each other such that harvesting is difficult.
Most tomato varieties should be planted at least 60 cm apart, and 90 cm is better. Cherry tomatoes should be planted 1.2m apart.
Care after planting
Once your tomatoes are planted, they don’t need much care besides caging or staking and perhaps occasional watering.
If you have used plastic mulch, you may not need to weed at all. If you haven’t, you will want to weed around them thoroughly until mid-November and then mulch.
All tomatoes should be caged or staked and tied beginning shortly after transplanting. Cages are simplest and work well, but ONLY IF you buy or make cages that are tall enough and strong enough to hold up a mature tomato plant.
The short, narrow wire style (about 60 cm tall, with three little pieces you stick into the ground) sold in many garden supply stores are completely useless for most common tomatoes.
Though you can buy good cages, the best cages are homemade wire cages made of concrete reinforcing wire or woven-wire stock fencing. If made properly, these can be used for many years (and you can store them in the garden over the winter).

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Which Tomato to grow?

As with other crops, each tomato variety is either a variety bred in modern times (often a hybrid is the offspring of several very different varieties) or a traditional, open-pollinated variety unchanged since WW2  (We call that an “heirloom”). 
Within each of these two large groups, there are several importantly different types of tomatoes:

1) Slicers (large, fairly round tomatoes, often red, with a high water content, for use in sandwiches, etc.), 
2) Roma, plum, or Paste tomatoes (smaller, oval, with a lower water content, useful for drying or making tomato paste), and
3) Cherry or Pear tomatoes are small, bite-sized tomatoes of varied colors, shapes, and flavors, including yellow pear tomatoes and red cherry or grape tomatoes (good for eating whole, like grapes).

It’s good to know which of these you want before you plant!
Every tomato variety is also either determinate or indeterminate.
Determinate tomato plants grow to a certain size (about 1.2-1.5 m) and then stop growing.
All of their fruit becomes ripe in a short time window, usually about 2 weeks, and then the plants begin to die, producing no additional fruit.
Indeterminate tomato plants, by contrast, grow from the time you plant them until they are killed by frost, and can reach heights of 2-3 m if they are supported.
They produce and ripen new fruit steadily until frost.
Both indeterminate and determinate tomatoes need to be caged or staked, even so-called “dwarf” varieties.

Most (but not all) modern hybrid varieties are determinate, including most large red slicing tomatoes and most Roma or “paste” tomatoes.
Most (but not all) traditional or “heirloom” varieties are indeterminate.
Most (but not all) cherry tomatoes are indeterminate and can grow very, very tall.
Before you plant a tomato, find out it if it is indeterminate or determinate!
Many people are disappointed when their determinate tomato plants die in May or early June, even though it’s completely natural.

Information about tomato planting times.
Tomatoes have no frost tolerance and must be protected carefully if they are planted while there is still risk of frost.
It’s safest to wait until all risk of frost has passed before planting tomatoes.
Many growers plant a first planting of determinate tomatoes as early as possible, then put in a second planting of indeterminate tomatoes 4 to 6 weeks later.
The determinate tomatoes will yield a large amount of fruit quickly (good for summer canning, freezing, and eating), after which they stop producing and can be removed to make space for other crops. The indeterminate tomatoes start producing soon after and keep going until frost.


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Grow Your Own Spice (1)

 We are very fortunate, living in Australia, especially all the way down the east coast, to have what is generally regarded as a ‘mild’ climate.
I say this seriously as, when compared to many European or American climates, it’s just lovely here if you are a gardener or if you just like to grow good food.
Many years ago I started to notice that the quality of cooking spices was declining and, rather than just accept inferior taste, I decided that if I could grow my own I could only blame myself if the taste of my food was not up to scratch.
Thanks to our developing cultural diversity, we now have access to many of the spices that had always been regarded as too exotic to contemplate having in the garden. Now, the possibilities are endless especially with the newest range of spices that we are being introduced to……Native Australian Spices! Who would have thought??? (More about them in another post)

The backyard garden is generally perfect to maintain a comprehensive spice garden.
Some spices require long term commitment to grow but many are so easy to keep and harvest that it is convenient to replace the flower garden with a beautiful, architectural, spice garden.

Let’s start with Ginger.
What a precious gem in any garden.
Ginger, Zingiber officinale is a tough plant and, once established will just continue to grow and spread, year after year, supplying a good steady supply of rhizome, in and out of season.
Ginger needs to have a well dug garden bed to start with and responds well to regular mulching but will do quite well anyway if you forget.

It responds really well to thunderstorms and rain and creates a lovely backdrop for a layered garden, looks great around a pool or verandah and, after a few years it will establish a wonderful screen.
During Autumn it will die back which is your cue to harvest some rhizome but there is no need to dig it all up at once, it keeps extremely well underground until you need it. Just take what you need and leave the rest to nature.

Turmeric, Curcuma domestica is similar in many ways in the garden.
It is a visually pleasing garden addition and different enough to Ginger to grow with it as a companion. It’s broad generous leaves are bright green and add a touch of opulence to the garden. Turmeric requires little attention apart from a regular watering and occasional mulching. Turmeric can be used straight out of the garden, fresh, or can be boiled and dried as it is treated this way to supply the powdered spice.

One more wonderful spice that shares many of the garden attributes of both ginger and turmeric is Galangal.
Galangal, Alpinia galanga has the same growth habit but with one advantage over the previous two in that it will stay green and active during winter in most areas of Australia.
If it is particularly cold and dry, it will adopt a dormant state, but generally it hangs around all year.
The wonderful rhizome can be dug as required but should be used sparingly as it is quite a potent spice. The dry root was once powdered and used extensively as a snuff.

Now that the background is achieved, your garden needs some lower spices to delight you.
One of the best and most luxuriant and impressive mid height spices to plant is Piper sarmentosum, often called ‘Betel Leaf Pepper’. This pepper will slow down during winter in most states but usually never becomes truly herbaceous. The leaves are it’s prize offering to your dinner plate and as a wrap for steaming it is unbeaten.
Betel Leaf Pepper requires a good loamy soil and thrives with constant mulching. It has large, generous glossy leaves that make you look like a great gardener at any time of the year.
It adds a very special peppery flavour to many seafood dishes and even though the fruit and the leaves will dry well for later use, there is rarely any need as fresh is almost always available.
While we are on the subject of peppers it is worth mentioning both Black Pepper, Piper nigrum and Long Pepper, Piper longum.
These pepper plants do require a reasonably controlled environment and do best where summers are hot. They both need cool roots during summer, so, as with Betel Leaf Pepper, regular mulching and watering are essential during summer.
Many suburban gardens are able to grow these plants as the nature of the micro climates created by the architecture of the suburbs, allows more control and protection from many of the damaging elements. As long as the soil is moist to dry during winter, they will survive well.

One more medium height spice that is so easy to grow and will continue to provide it’s much loved root for many years is Horseradish.
This old favourite needs a good wet Spring but apart from that is easy to grow and maintain.
It is suited to the Australian climate and necessary for the Euro-Australian diet.

For the lower levels of your spice garden there are some lovely Asian newcommers to the spice scene.
Firstly a very interesting and easy to grow spice is Kencur , Kaempferia galanga.
Kencur is perfect for the backyard, large patio pot or shadehouse and is always rewarding to grow. The low, ground-hugging leaves can get to the size of a dinner plate and then it produces stemless orchid like flowers directly from the root. It can be harvested at any time but is at it’s most pungent in Autumn and Winter.
The leaves die back and that is you cue to lift the plant and thin out the fleshy roots.
The plant can be re-planted, just leaving the knob slightly out of the ground, so that next year the process will repeat.
Another low growing Asian spice that is gaining popularity is Vap ca, Houttuynia cordata.
Vap ca is one of those spices that people either love or hate.
It’s slightly fish like aroma lends itself beautifully to seafood dishes and the leaves can be used raw or steamed in the dish.
Vap ca is a spreading groundcover that will occupy any space that you give it. It prefers only 3-4 hours of sun a day and will survive with much less as long as it is kept moist. Again, easy to grow and use all year through.

Another that comes to mind as an easy to grow spice is Krachai or Chinese Keys, Boesenbergia rotunda, which is best grown in a moist environment that is usually quite easy to achieve on the back porch.

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Winter can be Green too!

Ya gotta love Winter in the garden!

After the onslaught of the Australian summer and it’s ever changing gifts of unbearable heat, stifling humidity, unpredictable storms, and drying winds we are greeted in late Autumn by a slight chill in the air and the promise of, at last, being able to spend an hour or so in the yard without melting into a puddle of sweat.

Now, while many plants take this opportunity to become dormant, it leaves plenty of room for the ones that could never cope with the heat.
I often hear gardeners complaining that they hate the way their gardens look barren and wasted over winter but ours are always so full of colour and especially ‘green’ that it’s hard to tell the difference.

Winter is especially wonderful for the vegetable gardener.
It’s time to plant the best greens for the table, such as, Mustard Greens, Miners Lettuce, Corn Salad, Celery, Fennel, Broad Beans and Cos Lettuce.

Then, there are Culinary herbs that enhance everything that you cook during winter, such as, Coriander, Parsley, Rocket, Chervil and Chives.

And, there’s more.
Winter vege’s that you cannot live without are, Kale, Kolrabi, Radish, Leeks, Onion and Silverbeet. Siberian Tomato, Tatsoi, Pak choi, and Sugarbeet,

In the medicine garden, we sow Herb Robert, Borage, Cinqfoil, Dandelion, Fenugreek, German Chamomile, Common Mallow, Mustard (Yellow and Black), Calendula, Red Clover, Mullein, Stinging Nettle and Lupins.

For fruit we sow, Goji and Cape Gooseberry (Inca Berry).

but best of all…’s PEA season.
Now, I know that there are a lot of pea varieties available but we have narrowed down our preferences over the years to ensure that we have as much as possible for as long as possible.
Greenfeast is our favourite dwarf variety.
It bushes up nicely but rarely grows higher than 50cm. Perfect for large tubs or in front of other taller varieties.

For the full ‘pod and all’ effect in a dwarf variety we really enjoy Sugar Ann. It crops quite low as well and is literally straight off the bushes and onto the plate.

If you are layering your vegetable garden then just one step back from the Greenfeast or Sugar Ann you can sow the Bikini Snow Pea.
These are low climbers, rarely growing above 1 metre tall and they bush up beautifully.
We prefer to grow them on a low trellis so that we never miss a pod.
You can harvest these at almost any age and the taste and texture is fantastic.

Next step back at the rear of the garden is a sturdy trellis that will support the Mammoth Melting Moment variety.
This is also a Snow Pea and you can enjoy the pod and all. Ours routinely grow well over 2 metres, so it is necessary to convince them not to go any higher than the top of the frame.
Mammoth have a long season and are really worth the extra space that they require.

Because we believe that you can never have too many peas, we are very partial to varieties that just go on and on.
Probably the longest lived and consistently abundant variety is the very old fashioned, heirloom variety called the Field Pea.
These peas grow and look more like the festive Sweet Pea, in that the flowers have a wide colour range.

They bush up on a trellis or against a wall and will have a complete display of flower, young pod and mature pod at any one time.
They seem to be forever producing and every day there will be something to pick.
The flowers are also a wonderful edible addition to your plate and they taste just like the peas that they will become.

Towards the end of their long season, they are still producing pods regularly and, if you allow them to begin to dry on the vine, you can store them as dried peas to re-hydrate as you wish during the ‘off’ season.

Kept in this way, they are perfect for sprouts.
They will germinate quickly from the first soaking and are very nutritious pea sprouts. Because the bushes are so generous, it is easily possible to enjoy them right through the year.

While I am on the subject of heirloom varieties, I cannot forget to mention the fabulous Prussian Blue Pea.
Probably the oldest of the traceable pea varieties, Prussian Blue is a prolific producer that is tough enough to bear for just about any gardener.

First catalogued in the 1700’s, it’s name comes from it’s geography, in Prussia, rather than the tenuous connection to the vague green blue tint of the dried pea.
It is delicious as fresh pea but it’s real strength is that once dried, it will store for years for re-hydration later.
Ideal for Pea soups or simply pea salad, it is a reliable favourite.
Being one of the easiest vegetables to grow, the Prussian Blue is perfect for kids to start with.
It can be grown easily in a container but it will need some support to climb on.

As with the Field Pea, the season is very long and therefore well worth the space that you allow for them.

All peas produce terrific much as well so at the end of their season, they can go back into the garden to provide nutrition for the Spring planting.

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About Herbal Teas

Why can’t I have milk and sugar in my herbal tea?
The refreshing and stimulating effect of a ‘cuppa’ is part of our culture and probably, by now, part of our genome.

Most ‘Herbals’ will tell you that you need to drink the infusion without milk and maybe just a little honey, but for those of us who love a splash of milk to stop scalding the mouth and a little cane juice to really bring out the flavour, the experience of a straight herbal cup can be just a little deflating.

Literally, a tea is simply an infusion of plant material in water.
This method of extracting the beneficial properties from plants in a form that the body can quickly use, is so old that it is not worth guessing how it came about in the first place.
Every culture, that we are aware of, has used this method of consumption and the process is very stable.

So, a cup of tea, is an infusion of Camellia sinensis, usually pre-fermented for you by the manufactures of the many brands of Tea available.
A cup of herbal tea is an infusion of any or several of the thousands of herbs that are available to us.
So, to add an herb to a black tea is exactly the same as adding Nettle to Chamomile Tea.
What it really comes down to is a matter of taste, and of course, common sense. If the herb curdles the milk, refrain from adding it!

While most herbs will have some therapeutic value to the body and can be taken orally in tea form, many will actually combine with black or green tea beautifully and most can then have the splash of milk and a teaspoon of sugar if it is to your taste, without interfering with their own particular chemical action.

Some, and it is usually common sense, may curdle the milk, but very few will do this any more than black tea.

Over the years we have been experimenting with taste and action and have come up with some mixes that are particularly outstanding.

Our very favourite, daytime tea mix, is Ginger and Lemon Myrtle. We call it ‘Good Day Tea’
This combination with good quality black tea is so refreshing that you can literally feel yourself ‘regrouping’. One teaspoon of mix in pot is all that you need.

If life is stressful for long periods at a time, our best recuperative tea mix is Ashwagandha, Hawthorn and Licorice. These complimentary herbs support the adrenals and help you cope with exhaustion. We call this one ‘Stressless’.

Nettle, Cat’s Claw and Licorice combine beautifully to do battle with allergy and seasonal hay fever. Once again, only one teaspoon of mix for a pot of tea.

Berry Nice Tea is a mix of Shisandra and Hawthorn berry with just a hint of lemon to stop it being too sweet. This mix is excellent to regulate the blood pressure and banish depression. It is, by nature a very fruity tea so it is best in moderation and great in the afternoons.

If you have overindulged at the table and are either experiencing discomfort or you are pretty sure that you will do in an hour or so, then we have trialed and loved a tea mix of Meadowsweet, Astragalus and Peppermint.
All three of these herbs can be used individually but in combination they work even better.

Now Chamomile Tea has already attained a good reputation as a calming down tea, but it can be mixed very nicely with Siberian Ginseng and black tea to make a more complete mix for that dreadful feeling that accompanies either a heavy cold or period.

Cluster or persistent headaches can made more tolerable with a combination of Meadowsweet, Gingko and Ginger. Again, these herbs will combine with black tea but are often taken without.

To really settle things down to ensure a great nights sleep, we like to combine Ashwagandha, Passionflower and Verbascium. This mix requires the tannin in good black tea to lock it all together and deliver the required relaxation.

Licorice, Milk Thistle and Fennel are a fantastic combination for a soothing tea that is particularly friendly to the liver. They combine with milk in your black tea but sugar will probably be unnecessary.
This is a good, once a week tea that can highlight the weekend for your body.

Stimulant Teas are not usually as effective as a cup of caffeine but, in the case of the ‘Get up a Go’ mix the coffee comes in second best.
The mix consists of Siberian Ginseng, Licorice, Ginger and Black Pepper.
This is a tea to be reckoned with on any level and the aftertaste lingers for quite some time.

Another tea that we, as gardeners, find is absolutely welcome on Monday’s after a full bodied weekend of the not so gentle art of gardening, is our ‘CrampEase Tea’.
This wonderful combination of Crampbark, Anise and White Willow gets into those muscles that you didn’t know were there, and soothes them gently.
A cup for morning tea and another for afternoon tea brings your body back to the land of the living.

Now, all of the tea combinations that I have discussed, are simply ones that we have used for our own comfort and enjoyment but there are many more combinations that are possible and useful.
One major advantage that we have is that we actually grow all of the herbs that we use and can therefore feel very comfortable with the quality of the
We grow in the open and harvest at the correct time.
We also know that the herbs are not adulterated in any way and that they are chopped and ground to the correct size to blend and be beneficial.

All of the herbs in the mixes that I have discussed are what you might call ‘mid-weight’ in that they do not have so profound an effect on the body that it could cause more problems than you started with.
While they all have a medicinal effect on our systems, they are not ‘medicine’ any more than are Brussel Sprouts.

If you are interested in sampling some of these mixes in the blend quantities that we use, then simply visit our website and purchase the mix in a small 50 gm pack.
This is usually enough mix for a 250 gm packet of tea but you must remember that these are real herbs and will need the teapot to brew.
We do not cram dust and shavings into a teabag for maximum convenience and minimal effect.

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Coffee 2. Processing your harvest.

Although there are many coffee species, most coffee is made from the seed or bean of either Coffea arabica (Arabica coffee) or Coffea canephora (Robusta coffee).
Arabica trees produce berries 8 to 15 mm in diameter, and Robusta produces berries approximately 10mm in diameter.
Pick the berries when they ripen to a bright deep red colour.

 The coffee or ‘green bean’ lies within the fruit and is surrounded by the parchment membrane, pulp or mucilage and outer skin.
I was very pleasantly surprised at the taste of the coffee berry fruit.
While only thin in comparison to the size of the berry itself, the fruit coating has a lovely fruity taste, similar to Miracle fruit.
Firstly, you need to remove the skin and pulp from the berry including any green (unripe) pulp and any black, dried or drying pulp (overripe).
You must do this within a day of picking the berries.
An effective way of doing this is to put your berries into a bucket with water and keep squashing the berries with your hands,
effectively tearing the skin and pulp away. Rinse and strain the mixture frequently. Good berries do not float.
Next, the berries need to ferment.




This breaks down the mucilage, which is the slimy film that you can feel around the actual seeds.
Let them sit for usually two days.
Take out a handful of seeds and wash them. If they no longer feel slippery then they are done. If they still hold onto the slippery film then put them back in the bucket and let them sit for another day.






Once the fermentation is complete you can rinse them and strain them at least two or three times until the water stays clear

Next comes the drying.
We prefer to dry in the shade instead of sun drying as it is slower and easier to control but most coffee sun dried as it is of commercial benefit to get them dry quickly. Spread them out as thinly as possible. You can use old picture frames with mesh tacked to it or even newspaper as long as you remember to stir the beans around at least three or four times a day.
Drying can take anywhere from a week to a month, depending on the climate. As long as they are stirred often they will dry evenly.
Test their dryness by touching the ‘parchment’ or the skin that still covers the seed. If it tears off easily and the seed ‘breaks’ when you bite it then they are dry.
If the seed is still soft enough not to snap, they need more time.
It is important to make sure that the beans are thoroughly dry as your next step is to store them away for two or more weeks. If any moisture remains in the beans, the chance of mould or mildew is enough to spoil the crop.
Store the beans in cans, bottles or, if you want the authentic look, hessian.
Your next step is the ‘hulling’ or removal of the parchment.
This is where technology comes in handy as the plastic blades in the food processor are fantastic for roughing off the parchment conveniently.
Only 30 to 40 seconds is necessary and then it’s time to use the hair dryer to blow away the debris.
There is still yet another skin on the seed, called the ‘silver skin’ but there is no need to remove this.
Then….The Roasting.
 Soon you will know without a doubt that you have grown great coffee.
Beans usually roast in around 12 minutes if spread thinly and stirred often. As they cook they shrink a little as the moisture is extracted. Then the process reverses as they cook and they begin to swell, the sugars caramelise, and the colour begins to change. The colour of the roast is up to you, but the darker the beans become, the stronger the flavour, and more caffeine is
cooked out of them. The lighter the roast, the stronger the caffeine hit.
When you decide they are ready take them out and cool them as quickly as possible as they will continue to cook inside the shell.
You do not need to use the oven as is quite possible to do them in the frying pan or even in a popcorn maker.