THE MODERN MINT BLOG

Apr01

Did You Know…

… Iceland is Europe’s largest producer of bananas.

Solanaceae (plants from the nightshade family) are known to produce alkaloids that can be either toxic or advantageous (this depends on your view of the world, and possibly how much you’ve ingested!) Three alkaloids borne by the family are Solanine, Nicotine and Capsaicin. Capsaicin is the one that gives you the burning sensation when you eat a chilli. Several members of the nightshade family are now important crops – tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, aubergines and tobacco. Who would have thought something so tasty could be so deadly too?

The Ginkgo tree is a botanical ‘living fossil’ with a lineage millions of years into prehistory. To put that into perspective, it hung out with the dinosaurs and stood there watching reptiles turn into mammals… turn into our ancestors… turn into us.

The conversion of forests, wetlands and grasslands for agriculture or development has resulted in the release of CO2 into the atmosphere. But this release can be slowed down by Carbon Sequestration, the capturing of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and storing it in an organic form. To do this, grow a cover crop (something as simple as grass will do) on any bare soil you have, add home made compost to your flower beds and do less digging in the vegetable patch. And finally…

Fritillaria meleagris is considered a native British plant, which (officially) means it got to this land mass on its own, starting from somewhere close by where it was also native. However it is not found at all in north-east France. Except in Poland, where they also believe it is native, the rest of Continental Europe considers it an introduction that then escaped to the wild. The first time it was spotted in the wild in the UK was 1736. The second time? 40 years later, in 1776. For a plant so easy to spot, a lot of botanists spent a lot of time missing it! Suspicion thus cast on the Fritillaria being more of a recent introduction than a bona fide native, we still think it should be grown – it is beautiful, after all.

(Bonus ‘did you know’ – the alkaloid Capsaicin does not effect birds, only mammals. Bore your children with that one!)

Mar19

Wasting Water

Well worth a read in the BBC today – a note on how wasting water in the UK “as socially unacceptable as blowing smoke in the face of a baby.” Read the report here. I have written a talk about how we use water in the  garden. It was written when I moved from Hampshire to Essex and found out for myself just how dry this area of the UK is. It completely changed the way I garden. The lack of such a precious resource as water made me question what we can do to save it, store it and …

READ MORE

Mar14

The Foie Gras That Tastes Like Nature

Ethical Foie Gras? Is That A Real Thing?   Foie gras – can it be ‘grown’ ethically? The video showing how this farmer works suggests it can… We first read about this in a book called The Third Plate by Dan Barber. I loved it and I love how Eduardo the farmer, who farms on the Dehesa in Spain, has a ‘take half leave half rule’. When talking about how the geese eat his olives… “They’re always quite fair. If you make sure the geese are relaxed and happy, you’ll be rewarded with the gift of fatty livers. That is God’s …

READ MORE

Mar04

Hardy Orchids Via James Wong

Hardy orchids – here is a subject I would love to know more about – so lo and behold, James Wong has written about it in the Guardian! Read the article about hardy orchids here. I love having orchids in the house, just your usual run of the mill buy them in any shop orchids, but it is a pleasure to read about the plants that will grow outside and cope with this weather. (This insane weather! From the hottest days of February on record to Storm Freya, all within a week. Weather is always such a factor in gardening, but …

READ MORE