Friday, 29 June 2012


There is clear evidence that forests and watercourses are badly affected by the acid rain we produce.

Some species can tolerate acidic waters better than others.  However, in an interconnected ecosystem, what impacts some species eventually impacts many more throughout the food chain including non-aquatic species such as birds.

Over one million square kilometeres of Europes forests have suffered from the effects of acid rain, with conifers suffering most.  Sulphur dioxide from the burning of fossil fuels kills many trees but pollution from traffic also has also has a effect leaving trees too sick to recover.  In addition to this acid rain washes vital nutrients out of the soil weakening the trees.

Acid rain also damages forests, especially those at higher elevations. It robs the soil of essential nutrients and releases aluminum in the soil, which makes it hard for trees to take up water.  Tree leaves and needles are also harmed by acids. Even slight damage to a mature tree caused by pollution can be enough to kill it because it reduces the trees frost hardiness and its resistance to fungi and deadly pests. 

Before the introduction of tall smoke stacks and smokeless fuel in the 1950s only lichens and plants close to industrial areas were affected by pollution.  Now the pollution is less visible but far more wide reaching.

Acid rain has many ecological effects, but none is greater than its impact on lakes, streams, wetlands and other aquatic environments.  Acid rain makes waters acidic and causes them to absorb the aluminum that makes its way from soil into lakes and streams.  this combination makes waters toxic to crayfish, clams, fish and other aquatic animals.

Large numbers of fish have died in Norway, Sweden, Scotland, Canada and the eastern USA killed by aluminium released into the water by acid rain.  This in turn affects fish eating birds such as the osprey, black or red throated diver, common tern and goosander.  It may also delay the recovery of rare animals such as the otter.

Raised aluminium levels brought about by acid rain affect all the wildlife of an area.  Dippers, together with the insect larvae on which they feed, are now absent from many streams in mid and north Wales where they once flourished. Aluminium also causes song-birds like the blue throat, reed bunting and willow warbler to lay eggs with thin shells, reducing their breeding success year after year.  Dead spawn in the surface waters shows that frogs and toads are dying too.

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Wednesday, 27 June 2012


Click here for the 'Seeds of Eaden' seed shop

What is the difference between a chicken and a hen?

All hens are chickens, but not all chickens are hens. The term chicken refers to the breed, and is used for both male and female birds. 

A hen is an adult female chicken.  Young hens are called pullets. Hens have a less flamboyant plumage than their male counterparts and lay eggs.

A male chicken is called a rooster, or cockerel when juvenile. Castrated roosters are called capons. Roosters can normally be differentiated from hens by their striking plumage, marked by long flowing tails and bright pointed feathers on their necks.

Monday, 25 June 2012


Click here for the 'Seeds of Eaden' seed shop

This chocolate sponge cake is ideal for all occasions.  It is simple to make and tastes divine.

200 g/7 oz caster sugar
200 g/7 oz self raising flour
1 tea spoon baking powder
4 medium eggs
200 g margarine
150 g cocoa powder
2 tablespoons milk

For the filling:
300 ml double cream

Heat the oven to 190 degrees/gas mark 5.  Grease two cake tins and line with baking paper.

Place the margarine and sugar into a bowl and cream together until smooth.  Add the eggs, flour, baking powder, milk and cocoa powder and mix thoroughly. Divide the mixture evenly into the cake tins and place in the oven for 20 minutes. Cook until the cake springs back when lightly pressed.  Allow to cool on a wire rack.

To prepare the filling, whisk the cream until thick and stiff. Spread the cream onto the top of one of the sponges and sandwich together. 

Saturday, 23 June 2012


This gateau is delicious and looks impressive.  Its simple to make and tastes divine.  
Serves 10.

340 g/12 oz caster sugar
220 g/8 oz self raising flour
6 medium eggs
350 g butter
200 g cocoa powder
600 ml double cream
2 cans cherries in syrup
2 table spoon kirsch
200 g dark chocolate
50 g dark chocolate shavings

Heat the oven to 190 degrees/gas mark 5.  Grease a large 8" cake tin and line with baking paper.

Place the butter and sugar into a bowl and cream together until smooth.  Add the eggs to the mixture.  Fold in the flour and cocoa powder and mix thoroughly. 

Pour the mixture evenly into the cake tin and place in the oven for 35-40 minutes. Cook until the cake springs back when lightly pressed and a skewer comes out clean when inserted into the centre of the cake.  Allow to cool on a wire rack.

Cut the cake into three layers.  Drain the cherries, reserving 7 ml of the syrup.  Add the kirsch to the syrup.  Spoon the syrup mixture over the three cake layers and allow to soak.

Heat 200 ml double cream in a saucepan until boiling point, and then add the chocolate and melt until the mixture forms a thick chocolate sauce.  Allow to cool.

Whip the remaining double cream until thick.  Spread almost half of the whipped cream over one of the cake layers and top with nearly half of the cherries.  Top with the second sponge layer and repeat the process.  Place the final sponge cake layer on top and press gently to firm.

Spread the chocolate sauce on the top and side of the cake and decorate with the chocolate shavings, cream and cherries.

Friday, 22 June 2012


Click here for the 'Seeds of Eaden' seed shop

Quiches are so versatile and can be served with salad to make a delicious meal.  Alternatively, serve as brunch or as a light lunch.

This quiche recipe is quick and simple to make.  Serves 4.

  • 1 sheet ready rolled short crust pastry
  • 3 large eggs
  • 6 rashers bacon
  • 150 ml milk
  • 100 ml double cream
  • 1 medium onion
  • 25 g butter
  • 200 g cheddar cheese
  • 1 teaspoon mustard
  • Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat the oven to 230 C / gas mark 6.

Cover a medium sized flan dish with the pastry, and press down to shape. Remove the excess pastry from the edges.  Line the pastry case with tinfoil and bake for 8 minutes.  Remove the tin foil and cook for a further 5 minutes until the pastry case is set and dry.

Cut the bacon into small pieces and fry until crispy. Cut the onions into small pieces and fry for in butter for 5 minutes.

Place the bacon and onions in the flan case. Grate the cheese and add to the flan.

Mix together your eggs, milk, cream and mustard; adding salt and pepper and pour on top of the flan. 

Bake at 190C/375F for 45 minutes.  Allow to cool for 5 minutes before serving.

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Monday, 18 June 2012


The term currants, raisins and sultanas are often used interchangeably, but what is the difference between them?  Are they similar, and can they be substituted for each other in recipes?

Raisins are dried grapes.  Common names for raisins include sultanas, currants and raisins.  The main difference between them is the variety of grape from which they originate.

Currants are small, black raisins produced from the zante variety of grape.  They were first grown on the island of Corinth in Greece, from where their name derives.  They are the smallest of all the raisins and taste more tart than the others.

Sultanas are produced from the sultana grape, originally grown in Turkey.  

Commerically, sultanas are produced from Thompson seedless variety and darkened and dried in sunlight to produce raisins.  The grape can be treated with sulphur dioxide and heat to produce a moister, lighter coloured raisin sold as golden sultanas or golden raisins.  Sultanas are seedless, large berried and light yellow in colour.  They taste sweeter than other raisins.

Raisins are any type of dried grape that is not a sultana or currant from the grape varieties detailed above.

Monday, 11 June 2012


This pudding is an ideal way to use up unwanted white bread, even stale bread!  It is a cheap dessert that is so simple to make and is equally tasty enjoyed cold the next day.
Serves 6.

10 slices of white bread
50g / 2 oz butter
25 g / 1 oz sugar
2 eggs
200 ml double cream
200 ml milk
75 g / 3 oz currants
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to Gas mark 4/355°F/180°C
Butter the bread and cut each slice diagonally in half.

Grease a pie dish with butter and cover the base with overlapping triangles of bread, butter side up.

Sprinkle the bread with half the currants, cinnamon and the  nutmeg. Repeat this layering until the dish is filled.  Sprinkle the top with currants

Gently heat the milk and cream in a saucepan, but do not allow to boil. Beat the eggs in a bowl, adding 3//4 of the sugar and the vanilla extract. Whisk until pale in colour. Add the milk gradually to the eggs mixture, beating continuously until all the milk is added.

Pour over the bread evenly until all the liquid is added and press the bread gently to absorb the mixture.  Sprinkle the top with the remaining sugar.

Set aside in the fridge for 1 hour, or preferably overnight.
Bake in the oven for 40-45 minutes until risen and golden brown.

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Wednesday, 6 June 2012


Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh were gifts borne by the three wise men to celebrate the birth of Jesus. Although we are familiar with the biblical story of the gifts presented on this Christmas day, we can be uncertain about what exactly some of these items are.

Frankincense is a natural gum resin derived from tree sap and prised for its distinctive fragrance. It is a natural blend of essential oils and resin and is used in incense and perfumes.

The resin comes from  species of the Boswellia tree, found in the Arabian Peninsula, East Africa and India. In particular it is derived from species Boswellia sacraB. carteri, B. thurifera, B. frereana, and B. bhaw-dajiana. There are four main species of Boswellia which produce true frankincense and each type of resin is available in various grades. The grades depend on the time of harvesting,

To extract the sap from the Boswellia tree a longitudinal cut is made in the trees trunk, which pierces gum resin reservoirs located in the bark. A milky white resin oozes from the cut and hardens to form tear shaped droplets which harden on the side of the tree.  The gum becomes hard after harvesting, and darkens with age to become yellowish in colour with a white powdery surface.

Differences in soil and climate create even more diversity of the resin, even within the same species. The trees start producing resin when they are about 8 to 10 years old. Tapping is done two to three times a year with the final taps producing the best tears due to their higher aromatic terpene, sesquiterpene and diterpene content. Generally speaking, the more opaque resins are the best quality

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Saturday, 2 June 2012



Rafflesia arnoldii
The flower with the world's largest bloom is the Rafflesia arnoldii, also known as the stinking corpse lily!. This rare flower is found in the rain forests of Indonesia. It can grow to be 3 feet across and weigh up to 15 pounds! It is a parasitic plant, with no visible leaves, roots, or stem. It attaches itself to a jungle vine host plant to obtain water and nutrients. When in bloom, the Rafflesia emits a repulsive odour, similar to that of rotting meat. This odour attracts insects that pollinate the plant. 

Titan arum
Another enormous flower found in Indonesia is the Amorphophallus titanum, or Titan arum. It is also known as the "corpse flower" for its unpleasant odour. Like the Rafflesia, the Titan emits the smell of rotting flesh to attract pollinators. Technically, the Titan arum is not a single flower. It is a cluster of many tiny flowers, called an inflorescence. The Titan arum has the largest unbranched inflorescence of all flowering plants. The plant can reach heights of 7 to 12 feet and weigh as much as 170 pounds! 

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