Growing Chickpeas in the UK & Ireland

Growing Chickpeas

It might come as a surprise to know that #chickpeas can be grown in #Ireland or #UK. When we planted them we had no idea, if they would grow, what they would look like. We purchased a packet of organic chickpeas to make some homemade #hummus. We had some left over and soaked them in water for an hour and then planted them out into a seed tray with compost in late February and then some more in early March. They all germinated and we then planted them out, some in the greenhouse and the rest in the polytunnel. They were planted in very fertile soil, kept moist but not over watered and are growing in moderate temperatures.  They are thriving in the glasshouse were temperatures seldom exceed 15ºC.  Unlike other peas and beans they don’t climb and cling, so you will need to stake them and loosely tie them to the stakes. 

They produced a small white flower several weeks ago and have are now podding. It’s another food we can grow and another step closer to the dream of being self sufficient. Part of the fun of #growing your own food, is in the joy of knowing it’s by your own hands, knowing that it is #organic, been produced locally and doesn’t have to travel hundreds sometimes thousands of miles to be on your table. It’s also exciting to grow new and exotic things, and tend to a living plant, nurture it to maturity and take pleasure in the joy of eating it.

 

Chickpea Plants

Chickpea Plants

Chickpea Flowers

Chickpea Flowers

Chickpea Pods

Chickpea Pods

post

Drying & Preserving Herbs

If your herbs are anything like ours the good weather of late, has caused a growth spurt.  Last year a friend was kind enough to loan us his dehydrator to use.  It was a godsend, we dried a wide variety of herbs, including basil, parsley, sage, mint, chives, thyme and oregano.

Using herbs in cooking is a great way to enrich your food with flavour, nutrients and minerals.  Many of these herbs have medicinal value too, for example cancer fighting, anti-inflammatory properties.

A dehydrator isn’t a necessity, but if your going to commit to growing your own herbs for cooking and making teas then they pay for themselves.

After researching them further, we found that a great model.  It’s biggest selling point was it is free from BPA, Bisphenol A, an artificial chemical released from most plastics especially when they are heated that mimics oestrogen and has many adverse health effects especially for men.

luvele

We purchased our dehdrydrator for £50 from Amazon Seller – Luvele.

There were a number of other benefits to this model.  It’s opaque plastic reduces light penetration and therefore keeps more of the nutrients in the foods.

Although this seems counter-intuitive it dries from the top down as opposed to regular models which dry from the bottom up.   As a direct comparison with the model we borrowed its seems to dry more efficiently, taking 1.5 hours to dry 6 trays of parsley.

As we said earlier a dehydrator isn’t an absolute necessity, a simple paper bag can be used just as effectively.  Herbs are placed in the bag, sealed and then place on top of a cupboard or hung high up in the warmest room in the house.  This method produces the same results, although the drying time can be anything from days to weeks.  So if your not in a rush its a good way to go.

Another method is to wash and chop your herbs, and pack ice cube trays with the chopped herbs, hydrating them with water up to the level of the cube hole and freezing them.  Once frozen, then tip them out into a zip bag and place in the freezer and pick out cubes as you need them for cooking.  The advantage of this method is a more intense flavour and more nutrients are preserved, however on the down-side they take up precious room in the freezer.

This freezing tip is a good method for storing whole foods such as wild garlic and dandelion pesto.

post

Spring is almost over – New life

For a Spring its been a mixed bag, but now the weather is picking up and the growing season is in full swing.  Sorry for the lack of posts recently, the workload has ramped up of late.

There is so much to do and it’s a blessing to have the good weather and longer days to do it.

We have been propagating and planting seeds.  Growing a wider variety of fruits and vegetables than last year and introducing new medicinal herbs for home remedies such as the the burdock plant.  A fantastic detox herb, we plan to harvest the root with dandelion root and make our own root beer/soft drink.  This year we are introducing courgette, squash, gerkin and aubergine to the variety of vegetables we already grow.

We set a Rhode Island Red hen, on 9 eggs and hope on Monday 2nd May 2016, we will have adorable baby chicks.

Here is the proud Mammy to be, Reddy Penny, nicely snuggled up in her box of straw.  We separated her from the other hens to prevent them from laying in her nest and disturbing her clocking.  She ventures out into her separate run only very occasionally to eat, stretch and do her business.

Reddy Penny on her nest

     Reddy penny clocking chicks

Hen Ark

      The hen ark where Reddy Penny lives

The red grape vine we brought back from Romania is thriving and hopefully before too long will be supplying us with lovely homegrown grapes for juices and wines, salads and snacks.

The rhubarb is flourishing and it will be ready soon to harvest and make the first wine of the year.  We have been gathering up wine bottles from friends and family, enough to hold about 125 litres.  We prefer the swing-top bottles, but they can be expensive.  Aldi/Lidl do have natural lemonade/soft drinks in swing top bottles, so we buy a few of those from time to time to have them for wine.

Red Grape Vine from Romania

   Red Grape Vine from Romania

The kiwi plant has survived the Winter, as have the asparagus and it has 14 spears sprouting already.  We are excited, as it will be our first time to harvest them.  Steamed and sprinkled with cilantro or coriander leaves, mmmm.

Cilantro is a new herb for us.  Despite the misunderstanding that its another name for coriander, which it is too, it is slightly different in its properties.  It tastes and looks the same, but has more active/potent chemicals that are good for liberating toxins/heavy metals from the body.  So it’s a welcome gift from two lovely people.

The parsley has burst into life in the polytunnel, so it’s time to dust off the de-hydrator, a great buy last year, that dries from the top down as oppose to the bottom up, avoiding juices dripping down into the fan/motor and then breeding germs to blow onto the food your drying.  It’s BPA free, a rarity in domestic appliances, I think.  Here is the one we bought. BPA Free De-Hydrator

We have a few homebrews on off late, and recently we have tried a high specific gravity beer, called the “Hammer of Thor” it’s a 6%, so a strong one at that.  Thanks to Matty for the suggestion and the trial.

We don’t drink much despite the fact we make our own drinks.   Mostly the wines are used in cooking and we bring them with us to barter and exchange as gifts, when we visit friends.

A friend from Mullingar, County Westmeath is setting up a homebrew company, with a physical shop and online presence.  He has a real passion for quality, and customer satisfaction and will only stocking products and kits he has tried and tested.

At the end of this year, we hope to have enough material to publish a book of off-grid/self-sufficient living and publish the book in hard copy and e-copy formats.  It will cover herbalism and home remedies, growing, keeping poultry and bees, off grid electricity, home preservation of foods, off grid transport, spirituality and homebrewing.

Another project is to get the 4kw off-grid system assembled and wired in, there is a few things to get to be ready, but most of the equipment is there.  Exciting times ahead. 🙂

So it’s going to be another wonderful year, growing ever closer to the goal of self-sufficient living.