THE MODERN MINT BLOG
Yesterday was the launch of Fairtrade Fortnight. This year the campaign is in support of banana farmers who are struggling to make a living from their crop. Supermarkets have almost halved the price of bananas over the last ten years, meaning it is farmers who bear the brunt of our savings.
Buying Fairtrade bananas means workers have:
Safe conditions to work in.
Earn enough for a decent standard of living.
Have rights and benefits.
The idea of sourcing all your food from the local area is a good aim. But in the winter months the body begins to crave something a little more exotic. A fruit like pineapple becomes a real treat. We bought one from Riverford Organic last week and went to roast it with vanilla seeds…
… delicious. Less acidic than orange or grapefruit, and the flesh has a strong almost meaty texture.
For a more luxurious dish, try adding rum and star anise as well.
If you want to stay local with your pineapple, why not grow one yourself? Full instructions are given here by Bob Flowerdew. You may find they are surprisingly easy to grow!
Two hundred years ago a Head Gardener’s reputation was built on their ability to grow a pineapple for the household. Originally a South American plant, the first pineapple came to England from Barbados in 1657. Dutchman Henry Telende, the head gardener at Pembroke House, began cultivating nearly 50 fruiting plants. In a brick-lined pit they placed a layer of fresh horse dung. They then covered this with an even thicker layer of tanners bark (a powder made from oak bark, which would keep a constant heat of 25 degrees.) The pineapple would go into this pit and then be covered with glass. The water given to the pineapples by Telende and his team was also heated to be at soil temperature when given to the plant.
James Barnes (who had worked at Cranford House in Essex, but most famously gardened for nearly thirty years at Bicton in Devon) became acknowledged as the best pineapple grower by the mid 1800’s. He had the use of a pit, which meant he could have, “a thorough command of the root temperature… abundance of light, heat and ventilation.” That seems about right for growing such an exotic looking fruit.
Do think Fairtrade when shopping. It is not more expensive, it is actually the true value of the product – when everyone involved in producing it gets the fair deal you yourself would want.
And good luck growing pineapples at home!
Making a new topiary out of the large, dull facade of a Taxus blob… My work was to change it up from a ‘jelly drop’ shape and give it texture, open it out and let the light through, and make it a sculptural feature in the background of the garden in summer… yet a major part of the garden in winter. A few more years before it becomes something special, but there was far more leaf and growth inside the plant than I thought and so it will not take too long for it to gain in character and become …
Two weeks ago I was invited to teach topiary at the garden of Griselda Kerr, the author of The Apprehensive Gardener. I love teaching and sharing skills, but I was placed on the spot in the afternoon and asked to show how I would make a new topiary from an existing shrub. So below is a speeded-up video of me creating a cloud-pruned topiary from an old boxwood tree. I particularly love the ending when the class get involved….! See the video here. One hour was all it took, and though it needed a little tidying-up, it was made by …
Charlotte Molesworth, my topiary mentor, and I are running our popular topiary workshop again in 2022. You can email me for details – or go here for information, your ticket and to find out about dates. Book A Spot On A Topiary Workshop, September 2022