Neutriceuticals

I recently gave a talk at the RGBE for the current herbology class. I loved that course when I was on it, what 3 years ago now, 4?

The current crop of students are dedicated and enthusiastic and it was a pleasure being with them. I say ‘talk’ but I never even got around to introducing myself properly, never mind giving my presentation! It was all about the chocolate 🙂

During the herbology course one of the many projects is to write up the health benefits of 3 foods; hence the term ‘neutriceutical’, as you are looking into the potential pharmaceutical effects of nutritious foods. I did my neutriceutical project on cider vinegar, chilli pepper and chocolate.

The course leader is keen for all projects to have a practical element to them, so I decided to make herbal chocolate with pepper in them for one of my practical elements to this – a 2fer, as it combined 2 of my projects. And that, as they say,was that. So my herbology neutriceutical talk is what gave birth to Hedgetables! So, needless to say I’m keen to impart some of my own enthusiasm to the subject.

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As soon I got into the class and starting unpacking my somewhat large number of supplies the students were rummaging and ‘oohing’ and ‘aahing’, all very satisfying 😉

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Last year I started with the talk and then we made various chocolates, with the idea of combining ‘superfoods’ with chocolate. We sadly never managed to fit in a herb infused cream to make a ganache that could then be used to make truffles. I wanted to remedy that this time around, so without an introduction to the theme we started making an infused cream.

One wee group made rose and lavender infused cream. They infused the herbs with the cream directly over a low heat for about 20 mins, then strained out the herbal material. The cream was then scalded before pouring over double the amount of chocolate. Once all the chocolate was incorporated this had to be left to cool and harden up in the fridge.

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The other group had a person in it with a bad dairy intolerance so another truffle mix was made using the raw chocolate truffle theme, they used dates and pecans blitzed in a blender, with some added coconut water and coconut flour,  maca powder, raw cacao powder and a generous dollop of ground cardamom. Very tasty.

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Both mixes were then shaped into balls and chilled before being either dipped in various outer coatings or, of course, chocolate. We were using raw cacao powder, or dried, ground orange powder, or rosehip or roe petal powder, or ground spices,  or ground up crystallised herbs such as mint, as our external coatings. This is a good way to incorporate some more herbal goodness to the finished product and gives a finished look.

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This took us to about lunch time so just before we broke for lunch I snuck in a very informal talk about chocolate, mentioning the benefits of it, the difference between varieties, chemotypes, the process of making it etc. All of which was illustrated with a taste sample where possible. I think they were beginning to OD on chocolate 🙂

After lunch we cheated with tempering, though it was discussed, as I’d brought in a tempering machine, so we had more time to concentrate on incorporating the superfoods and less time having to fret about making enough to do all the planned things. We made barks and decorated them with all mannner of things, dehydrated berries; strawberries, raspberries, cherries, goldenberries aka physallis, smoked chipotle pepper (I liked the South American theme of chocolate, goldenberries and chilli), nuts, seeds and all manner of goodies were used here.

The group dipped fruits and nuts in the chocolate, mango and brazil nuts being favourites. They also learned the potentially very messy art of dipping, losing, and re-finding their truffles 🙂 Some were dipped, dropped,and repeat several times, so much so that by the time they emerged from the final saving of them that we had gobstoppers of truffles! 🙂

So, all in all they used herbs, powders, superfoods and fruits in, infused, on and covering the chocolates, and, lest I forget, they used tincture and syrups that they’d already made, added directly to the chocolate to make an easy truffle too. Whew! A busy day, with much learning (I hope!) and fun to be had. I’m still unpacking, I think the only thing I don’t bring is the kitchen sink!

Although I had brought my camera I had a ‘Doh!’ moment as I hadn’t checked that it had enough battery power so I only have a few piccies of the day.

Here’s a  recipe we used as a base, taken from my notes to the class:

Raw Date and Cardamom truffles

We’ll work with raw cacao first as no melting or tempering is needed, but time for chilling often is.

Pit and chop 10 dates, put in blender and whizz.

Add a handful of Pecans, or other nuts/ seeds of your choice, and 2T cacao powder

Add a T of coconut flour, a T of coconut water, and 2t, or to taste of ground cardamom. Whizz in blender until a thick paste is achieved. Too runny? – add some more cacoa and or flour, too thick? – add a drop or 2 of the c. water.

Once reached a thick paste, roll into small balls and coat in a powder of your choice.

The finishing powder can make quite a difference to your end taste so feel free to experiment again here – how about more cacao powder – extra chocolatey goodness, but can be bitter, so try mixing and matching/ replacing with other powders? Dried fruit powders – orange pulp powder would be nice, rosehip powder, maca powder for extra superfood punch? You can try dipping these in melted/ tempered normal chocolate for a wonderful treat with the knowledge that you are also having a refined sugar free, healthy snack that is good for you!

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India Flint workshop in Newburgh

I’ve come away from a magical week shared with new friends.
Newburgh itself is an old fishing and textile town on the Tay. It has interesting old buildings and is built on a slope so between gaps of buildings there are spectacular river views.
The textile centre – textilecentre.co.uk, is a fabulous venue, and Janette and Alison provide a lovely ambience and working space, and the most fantastic lunches – they cater for gluten free and use a local breadmaker to provide real breads,with taste bud provoking names, like rye and caraway, oat and stout, buckwheat and all sorts of seeds through them, even a good gluten free one, nom nom.
India ran a workshop last year in Newburgh which was fully booked before I realised it was on, so I pre-booked this year, which was just as well as it apparently sold out in a day! The theme for this year was ‘being present’, and being present with the river and surroundings of Newburgh.
We were working with ‘Stonehenge’ watercolour paper, which is strong enough to cope with being immersed in dye baths, steamed etc. which is just as well as we really put that paper through its paces!It coped really well, though some of the more mucilaginous plants flowers proved a bit problematical, my issue was with Rosebay willowherb flowers, even though the leaves give a fantastic print, the flowers, nah, not so much.
We folded and divided the paper into 4 pieces, 3 longish ones which were later turned into one long book (the river winding its way through our experiences) and one more rectangular one which we added textiles and stitch to to become a seperate piece. We also made 3 smaller books which were stitched into the larger long one.
At each stage we were encouraged to walk, breathe, write poetry or fragments of words that came to us on our perambulations, sew and gather plant materials. I got to recognise several locals on their dog walks, some of whom I’m sure ran from us weirdos wandering around, others were very curious and asking on a daily basis what we were up to now!
Group work was made into installations outdoors ( much to the delight or bewilderment of many of the local residents) and photographed before being carefully unravelled.
The group was fantastic for helping and sharing experiences and knowledge.

Kew gardens

I was bought tickets for Chelsea Flower show for a combined Xmas present last year and my birthday this year by my mum. This included a return coach trip, 3 nights accommodation (including breakfasts and evening meals), a trip to Kew gardens the following day, and the company of my mother in an initially somewhat enforced ( bad daughter!) mother/ daughter bonding session.

Image Pim’s o’clock!

Image mum and I, I’m the one resorting to alcohol, as usual

After worrying that I wouldn’t be able to read on the coach (I have been known to be dreadfully travel sick in the past), or get peace to read on the coach, I found that I could have my cake and eat it, to mix metaphors… indeed the front of the bus handed out so many sweets that I felt I was eating cake all the time!

I was the spring chicken of the group being the only one having less than half a century to my age, unfortunately not sure I was the most limber or lithe of the group, a sorry state of affairs; gardening is obviously a good way to keep going and stay relatively fit!( Note to self – must do more gardening!)

While Chelsea was a great day out, though the crowds did phase me some of the time, and pictures will follow in another post,  it was Kew that held me captured, I loved the size, layout, ambiance and the number of things I could do – however we had from 10am till 3pm. It was never going to be enough. I could fill several days worth at Kew, and that’s without arranging to see the herbarium etc!

After a quick study of the maps I had my plan for the day, however reality quickly set in as sign posts measured distances between areas of interest in 10 mins, 15 mins, 20 mins etc….Not helped that I found all sorts of things interesting and kept getting waylaid by plants and labels that needed investigating! This included the botanical illustration and galleries – well worth a visit. I’m interested in these particularly after doing a term or 2 of ‘The Art of Herbs’ course at the Botanic Gardens in Edinburgh – check out their education programme: http://www.rbge.org.uk/whats-on/education-courses

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Image Saw this paired up with anemones and azaleas in Chelsea – stunning combinations of the flowers

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Image mum helping demonstrate the scale of the leaves

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I also hadn’t taken into account mum’s sore legs or the bruising and stiffness she’d sustained in a fall she had at Chelsea the previous day. Poor mum, I dragged her to the furthest point left of the gate for starters before I realised I was being a bad daughter (again!).

There is currently a theme to the gardens as they are pointing out, in very nice ways, the numerous ways plants have helped feed and heal us. Below are pictures of the healing ‘cart’ suspiciously like a snake oil salesman (which is not the image they are aiming for!) which depicts plants and constituents on the outside, pinned up remedies from the members of the public – a great way of collecting local ethnomedical knowledge, and potions and lotions and pieces to handle inside the cart. The cart tours the gardens, catch it if you can 🙂

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This, of course, is right up my street, so I dragged mum over to the healing giant, the hot houses, the healing heroes section and the wonderfully designed arid and temperate greenhouses. We didn’t even manage to fit in the herbal healing talk I wanted to go to, or mum’s roses section, bad daughter (again!).

Check out my facebook page for pictures of the healing giant; https://www.facebook.com/pages/Hedgetables/129478053902435

 

Image mum looking very serious as she’s forced to read the healing giant labels!

Image part of the healing giant display

Image in the warmth, out of the rain, in the older greenhouses

Image canopy of Ylang Ylang

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Image Madagascar Periwinkle

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I think she realised how gripped I was in the throes of floral passion, as she even remembered that it was Botany that I’d first signed up to do at university many years ago, and was asking why I hadn’t followed through on it ( for those of you with any interest, it was the herbal side I was interested in even then, and university didn’t acknowledge that side of plant nature existed, also my chemistry wasn’t really up to the biochem. that I wanted to be involved with.)

We had a sociable lunch, talking with neighbours on park benches, avian as well as human…

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I think my favourite part of the day was the greenhouses with the cacti in the arid section and the bromeliads in the following section of the greenhouses. They also housed carniverous plants, orchids, ferns etc in their own respective areas. The paths weaved in and out, up and down and created a wonderful investigative element to the planting.

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more of the cacti photos on my own facebook page:   https://www.facebook.com/jill.tees

I even did some chocolate research!  The shop at Kew had flavoured chocolate, as mum pointed out – can’t believe I didn’t see them! They supply ‘ChocAffair’. I tried out their Chilli (- coz it’s chilli and I had to! 🙂 mmm chilli nom nom nom!) and their Bergamot. I must say, I know it’s the competition and I’m being biased, but I wasn’t impressed. The Bergamot would be better suited to milk or white, as it was lost in the dark chocolate, and it wasn’t that dark, as they’re using the same dark chocolate as a base that I do (53.8%). The chilli is using ground up chilli powder in the chocolate, and as it’s not evenly ground up – you occasionally get too little, or too much, or left over dried skin flaky bits…The wrappers are a bit busy for my taste, but they do colour co-ordinate well with the flavours, though I do like their thicker foil wrapper on the inside of their paper/ card outer wrap. Hmm, bit more work and I think I’ll try talking to botanic gardens……

All in all I had a good birthday/ Christmas present, thanks mum.