Monday, 27 June 2016

Beating About the Bush

Now that the famed, miraculous anti-oxidant properties of blueberries have been debunked and shown to be a myth, there is no need to tear up and throw away your blueberry bush or any other fruit bushes that you have. They are still pretty, still ornamental and the berries will provide lots of food for birds if you can't be bothered to harvest them. If you can pick them  - or buy them  - just go on eating them with your muesli and don't worry that they are not going to make you immortal.
What puts some people off blueberries is the dismal article sold in many caf├ęs and convenience shops as a "blueberry muffin". It is utterly disgusting, mushy in texture and sickly in taste, giving the impression that it is made of dust from inside your hoover, flavoured with saccharine and shower gel. Shun it at all costs. Grow your own, fresh blueberries and eat them fresh or if you have enough to cook, put them in Polish-style dumplings.
   Domestic fruit bushes such as blueberry and currant seem to go on growing regardless of the awful rainy weather and may console you for a disappointing strawberry harvest. Blueberries need an acidic soil so will be grateful for used coffee grounds strewn around their roots. It doesn't make them taste of coffee.
Personally I think that redcurrants are worth growing just because they are so pretty. The berries are light red, and translucent, like carnelian or glass beads.  They can be used in summer puddings or made into redcurrant jelly, the essential ingredient of Cumberland sauce.
And what about rhubarb, the Cinderella of the allotment?

I used to think that no garden, however large, was big enough to waste space on rhubarb.  Then gradually its merits as an ornamental plant, a rival to gunnera, grew on me. Finally I have found ways to eat it that are a little different from the boring school rhubarb of early childhood.
Don't decide you are a rhubarb-hater until you have tried rhubarb ice-cream. No kidding,

Take four large sticks of rhubarb, early in the summer when it is at its best. Chop them small, into coin-shaped slices rather than chunks. Place them in a deep dish or bowl and add four heaped tablespoons of unbleached light brown sugar, Mix it all together, cover and leave it in the fridge for a couple of days.  When the juice has run, simmer it gently or cook it in the microwave for about five minutes, in short bursts, until it is soft.
Allow to cool, then mix in one large carton of double cream and a good teaspoon of vanilla essence. Put it all in the blender and mix till smooth. Transfer to freezer container(s) and freeze for about two or three hours, until firm but not hard. Then take it all out again and return it to the blender for another 2 minutes or so.  It is this second blending that makes the result smooth and creamy. It will still taste good if you don't bother , but the texture will be less like ice-cream.
 Put it back in the freezer container(s) and freeze until needed. When you are going to eat it, take it out of the freezer about an hour in advance and put it in the fridge. Serve it with mint leaves, and if you like, a tiny trickle more of single cream to garnish. It is absolutely delicious.

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