Lavender

3 Jul 2018 | 0 comments

PART USED: Flowers

CONTAINS: Volatile oil, tannins, coumarins, flavonoids, triterpenoids

KEY USES: Relaxant, antispasmodic, antidepressant, nerve tonic, antiseptic, decongestant, expectorant, diaphoretic, detoxifying, analgesic, rubefacient

Lavender has been one of the best loved scented herbs for thousands of years. An infusion or tincture of lavender or inhalation of the essential oil has a wonderfully relaxing effect on mind and body. It makes a good remedy for anxiety, nervousness, and physical symptoms caused by stress such as tension headaches, migraine, palpitations and insomnia. Lavender oil is considered a balancer to the emotions, lifting the spirits, relieving depression and balancing inner disharmony. Lavender also has a stimulating edge to it, acting as a tonic to the nervous system, restoring vitality to people suffering from nervous exhaustion.

Lavender’s relaxing effect can be felt in the digestive tract, where it soothes spasm and colic related to tension and anxiety and relieves distention, flatulence, nausea, indigestion, and enhances the appetite. Its powerful antiseptic volatile oils have been shown to be active against bacteria including diphtheria, typhoid, streptococcus and pneumococcus. As tea, oil inhalation, or vapour rub, lavender is effective for colds, coughs, asthma, bronchitis, pneumonia, flu, tonsillitis and laryngitis. The tea or tincture can also be taken for stomach and bowel infections causing vomiting or diarrhoea.

Taken as hot tea, lavender causes sweating and reduces fevers. It helps to detoxify the body by increasing elimination of toxins via the skin and, with its mild diuretic action, through the urine.

Lavender is a useful external disinfectant for cuts and wounds, sores and ulcers.
It stimulates tissue repair and minimises scar formation when the oil is applied neat to burns and diluted in cases of eczema, acne and varicose ulcers.

Anne McIntyre runs seasonal courses in experiential herbalism at Trill Farm, using the herb gardens and hedgerows to teach the practical ways to use beneficial herbs.

Recipes for Summer

3 Jul 2018 | 0 comments

The fizz and sparkle in our Seasonal Spritz this summer is thanks to our new favourite ferment - water kefir. Combined with homemade cordials and herbal syrups, this refreshing drink is a pleasure to make and so versatile. We’ve been producing so much that we have surplus water kefir grains, which we are happy to share if you bring a little jar along with you next time you visit Trill Farm. We also have daily loaves available to take home, like this focaccia, which can be topped with all the summer’s freshest flavours.

THE BIGA

150g strong white flour
2g dried yeast
20ml olive oil
100ml cold water

Combine all the ingredients in a mixing bowl and knead gently by hand for 5 minutes or so. Cover the bowl and refrigerate for 8-12 hours. This will build strength in the gluten, and add great depth of flavour to our final loaves.

MAIN FOCACCIA DOUGH

300g strong white flour
5g salt
3g dried yeast
30ml olive oil
200ml warm water (40-45°c)

Remove your biga from the fridge and uncover. Add the flour, salt and yeast, then pour in the warm water. Bring the dough together and knead for 5 minutes or so; it should begin to feel more elastic and alive. It will be a sticky dough at this stage. A little splash of water or oil on your hands can prevent it sticking too much as you knead in the bowl. Fold in the edges of the dough and turn it over in the bowl.

Drizzle over the olive oil and cover. Leave at room temperature for 2 hours. Every half an hour or so, turn in the edges of your dough to create big air bubbles, 4 or 5 folds each time is perfect.

You can bake your focaccia in a variety of ways - I like to use a well-oiled frying pan or deep metal tray. If not oiling, use greaseproof paper to prevent the dough sticking.

Once proved, oil your fingers and carefully lift the dough into your oiled baking tray/pan. Let it rest for 10 minutes.

Once again, oil your fingers and press them into the dough, adding dimples, as if playing a piano, being careful not to stretch the dough outward. Now add your toppings, sweet or savoury. Go wild!

Leave for a further 30 minutes to prove up again. Now bake in a preheated oven at 220°C for 10 minutes or so, then turn the tray around and turn the oven down to 200°C and bake for a further 15 minutes.

Remove from the oven and drizzle with olive oil, or glaze with syrup if sweet. Serve warm.

WATER KEFIR

To make a batch of water kefir you need to have some water kefir grains. These are known as a SCOBY, a Symbiotic Colony of Bacteria and Yeast. Water kefir is just one of many names for this culture, that in the restaurant we use to ferment a sugary liquid to which we add lemon and a little dried fruit to bring a fruity flavour to the finished sparkling drink.

The term grains is purely to do with the appearance; there are no actual grains used in the process. It is also important to remember that milk kefir and water kefir grains are not the same. Their appearance is similar, but for this recipe we require water kefir grains. Making your own water kefir is a fun and simple process. As with all preserving and fermenting, it is beneficial to collect all your equipment and ingredients before starting and important that your fermenting vessel and other equipment has been cleaned well.

Caring for your grains requires a little work; if keeping them in a jar in the fridge it is good to add a teaspoon of sugar every three days to keep them ticking over. If they are happy, then they will multiply so share them with friends and family. Having a weekly rhythm is useful when making kefir; we make it twice a week for the restaurant, meaning we have a super sparkly drink with a slightly sour tang, like a lemonade with more funk. The finished kefir will store for about a week in the fridge with the flavour becoming more sour each day.

We recommend that newcomers to kefir should indulge in small glass or 2 each day, then slowly increase the quantity you drink over a week as the probiotic can cause a little bloating for some people and has a cleansing action on the liver for others. People with no digestive issues can probably consume as much as they like.

INGREDIENTS

1l warm, unchlorinated water (our tap water on the farm is fine, but you can use filtered water if you are concerned about your own; heavily chlorinated water kills off the grains)
2 tbsp water kefir grains

3 tbsp organic cane sugar
a slice of organic, unwaxed lemon
2 unsulphured apricots (alternative dried fruit can be used resulting in different final flavours)

EQUIPMENT

1.5l fermentation crock or glass jar with lid or cheese cloth
1 whisk or wooden spoon
2x 750ml or equivalent swing top glass bottles
1 measuring jug
1 funnel (for bottling)
1 small sieve
1 jam jar for storing grains

Begin by cleaning your equipment. This can be done by simply washing everything in hot soapy water and rinsing well. Then fill and boil the kettle and slosh the boiling water over all the equipment. Allow everything to cool to room temperature and then get started immediately.

Once the equipment is ready, pour the warm water into the fermenting vessel, add the sugar and whisk until the sugar is dissolved. Then add the kefir grains, dried fruit and lemon slice and gently mix for a few seconds. Place the lid on loosely, or secure the cheese cloth with an elastic band. This ferment is not reliant on oxygen, but it will begin to produce gas, so it’s good to allow some kind of release. We only cover ours to prevent foreign bodies climbing inside and floating amongst the grains.

Leave the jar to ferment at room temperature for up to 48 hours. The longer the ferment the more sour it becomes. We find that 24 hours’ fermentation before bottling is perfect for us. The trick is to have a little taste along the way. The drink won’t yet feel carbonated, but you can decide on the acidity you prefer.

Once you are happy with the flavour, it’s time to bottle. Using a clean spoon, fish out the now rehydrated fruit and the lemon. Carefully pour the grains and liquid through a sieve and into a clean measuring jug. The grains can now be stored in your jar, making sure they are covered with water and fed every two or three days with a teaspoon of sugar. Leaving the grains in the same solution without the addition of sugar will eventually kill them, so look after them and keep making fresh batches of kefir. Carefully pour your kefir into your clean bottles using the funnel. Seal the bottles with the swing tops and leave at room temperature for up to 24 hours. Check the fizz by opening a bottle every few hours. Don’t leave too long at room temperature otherwise the bottles may explode; I know this from personal experience!

The kefir can be enjoyed as it is or mixed, as we do with a little homemade fruit or herbal cordial. Enjoy!  

Let's Get Every Child Outdoors

3 Jul 2018 | 0 comments

From forest bathing to forest schools getting people out into nature is an increasingly common theme in political speeches, press articles and scientific journals. In 2010, the RSPB’s Every Child Outdoors report stated that nature can have positive impacts on young people’s education, physical health, emotional well-being, personal and social skills, and that it helps them to become responsible citizens. It also concluded that children who are connected to nature will enjoy it and want to save it, both now and in the future. Thus nature needs children too!

Yet with only 17% of the UK population currently estimated to be living in rural locations (possibly only 10% by 2030!) access would seem to be the major factor in preventing everyone from enjoying outdoor spaces. Children are at a particular disadvantage here; unable to transport themselves, and with a culture shift away from allowing children the freedom to roam, they are becoming increasingly distanced from nature. In 2016 Natural England produced a report that highlighted the growing concern that at least 1 in 9 children under 16 had not set foot in a park, forest or other natural environment in over a year. In January this year Theresa May acknowledged the “social injustice” that “These young people are disproportionately from more deprived backgrounds and their effective exclusion from our countryside represents a social injustice...”

Coming from teaching at an inner-city secondary school I have worked on developing a number of educational opportunities to get pupils working outside of classrooms and into the British countryside. I have had many opportunities to see the culture shock and enjoyment of pupils as they develop a love of being in the great outdoors, particularly with children who have never had the opportunity to get out of the towers and estates of west London because it simply wasn’t something their family did. The Guardian has reported that “In households where adults were frequent visitors (to the natural environment), 82% of children followed their lead. In households where the adults rarely or never visited the natural environment, the proportion of children visiting fell to 39%.” Without family-led or even schools- led interaction with nature a child will struggle to develop any understanding or deep love of the natural world. Thus, remembering that nature needs children, the future of nature becomes more and more uncertain.

At Trill Farm we are working hard to make the countryside accessible to all ages. We want to create a space where people, young and old, can come and explore all the wonders and activities green spaces can hold. Our courses often involve large parts of time exploring the land around us, from yoga on our woodland platform to foraging in the hedgerow for herbal medicines, they are a great way to get out and enjoy time in nature. For families we have the amazing family camps, adventure-filled weekends camping and playing in the Trill landscape. And perhaps most importantly for children we have a number of school visits and activities such as young falconers hosted on the Farm already. Preparations for 2019 are well under way with new exciting opportunities to get out and about for all so watch this space; at Trill we want people of all ages to enjoy our land, to learn from it and love it.

Alex started at Trill in May to develop our courses and educational offering. Previously a secondary school teacher in London, he is passionate about inspiring sustainable change for people of all ages and from all backgrounds. 

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