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Thursday, 10 December 2015

The mystery of the 1600-year-old olive tree from Aleppo

The last thing I expected to find at the end of a walk along the Wandle River in South London was a massive tree stump, mounted like a sculpture, with a plaque proclaiming it was part of a 1600-year-old olive tree from Aleppo, Syria. It’s inside a secure fence on Smugglers Way, and almost opposite the Wandsworth Waste transfer station. It looks very recent - a shiny plaque says it was donated by Karim and Ahmed Massarani. But how did it get here – and why? Is there a link??
I'm intrigued. I’ve searched in vain on the internet for any reference. All I can find is an entry about a classic 2010 bike ride in Syria with a Road Captain called Karim Massarani that passed rows of olive trees and concluded in Aleppo. Is this the same person as the donor? And who is Ahmed?
If anyone has any ideas, please let me know. There were half a dozen of us on the walk, and we would love to find out more.

Friday, 20 November 2015

A knitted tribute: Wool War One

Those who give their lives in the First World War are being remembered in many different ways as we mark the centenary of the conflict. One of the more unusual is an installation by French artist, Délit Maillet: Wool War One. Helped by several hundred volunteers from around the world, she's created a column of  800 tiny knitted soldiers, complete with belts, haversacks, hats and boots.

  The choice of wool was deliberate, as it was widely used in uniforms and equipment, and still plays and important part in the agricultural economy of countries that fought in the conflict, such as Australia, the UK, NZ and South Africa.
 The figures have been displayed at Roubaix in northern France, as part of the Farewell to Arms season, and at the Grand Palais in Paris. They came briefly to London for World Travel Market, and will hopefully make further appearances,with official commemorations to mark the Battle of the Somme beginning in France on July 1 and a new interpretation centre opening in June in Thiepval .

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

A forest of trees at London's Royal Academy

The courtyard of the Royal Academy has been transformed into a grove of trees by the Chinese artist Ai Weiwei. The structures are made from sections of dead trees collected on the mountains of southern China. These were pieced together at Ai’s studio in Beijing to create the eight ‘complete’ trees on show. They’ve been interpreted as a commentary on the way diverse people have been brought together to form ‘One China’.
Viewing the trees is free, but there is a charge for the rest of the Ai Weiwei exhibition which is inside the Academy and continues until December 3, 2015.

Sunday, 18 October 2015

Tomato trial update - Gardener's delight v Tigerella

I’ve just picked the last of my tomatoes. I try to experiment each year with one different variety, so alongside the tried and trusted Gardener’s Delight (from Kings Seeds), this time I chose Thompson and Morgan’s Tigerella (Mr Stripey), which looked fun and promised to be a heavy cropper and three weeks earlier than Moneymaker. (The latter is important, as I don’t have a greenhouse.)
All were grown from seed under similar conditions, against a south-facing wall, in similar compost, and watered togther.
The Tigarella began ripening at the very end of July (above) at the same time as the Gardener’s Delight (top). But whereas the latter produced dozens of small fruit - up to 1.5kg per plant -  I had between eight and ten small to medium-sized tomatoes off each Tigerella.
As you can see, these looked quite unusual, though the stripes weren’t as marked as in the photo on the front of the pack. The flavour was OK, but I think next year I’ll go for a more productive variety.
Any suggestions??

Thursday, 15 October 2015

Apple roses

A friend has just sent me this photo of  'apple roses' - slices of apple rolled up in pastry, with a touch of apricot jam - that she's made with fruit from her garden. They look like a complicated creation from the Great British Bake Off, but she assures me they're really easy to make. Having watched a video demonstration (below) on youtube, I believe her and look forward to trying the recipe myself.

For 6, you need 2 apples, puff, filo or shortcrust pastry, cinnamon, lemon juice, apricot jam and water.

A great dessert idea. Many thanks Fiona!

Tuesday, 13 October 2015

Abundance Apple Day in west London

Apple Day – which highlights the wealth and variety of apples available in the United Kingdom – is being celebrated this year officially on October 21, but events have already begun.  Abundance London held their annual fruit day in the grounds of St Michael and All Angels in Chiswick on October 4.
Nearly two tonnes of apples and pears that had been collected over the previous weeks by volunteers and pupils from local primary schools were turned into juice, with a big apple press in action for much of the day.
There was also apple bobbing, grape pressing and craft activities for the youngsters, while all kinds of home-made preserves and cakes were on sale.
A great family day – and congratulations to all involved.

Thursday, 25 June 2015

Growing potatoes

I’ve just harvested my first-ever crop of salad potatoes.
I hadn’t known what to expect. Three Jazzy seed potatoes were planted on the patio in March, each in a small black polythene bag (provided by Thompson and Morgan).  In mid-June, the foliage yellowed and died, so I cut it down. Then I emptied one of the bags and was delighted to discover that one potato had become about 20 of a size large enough to eat, plus a lot more that hadn't got much bigger than peas. The Thompson and Morgan website talks about 80 tubers from one seed potato, so maybe I didn’t water them enough. 

 Anyhow, there’s enough from that bag for several meals, and I have yet to investigate the two other containers.

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