Not such a Minor garden

Pouring with rain here today so thought I’d brighten it up by sharing this unusual ‘garden bed’ seen in a front garden in Gisborne this week, gave us a smile at least. Clearly, old Morris Minors never die.

Photo: Sandra Simpson

If you’re old enough, this can also stand as a farewell to Nurse Gladys Emmanuel, the actress Lynda Baron dying earlier this month, who drove a Morris Minor. Read more about the history of the Morris Minor here.

Loved my uncle’s story of how he came to be president of his local Morris Minor Car Club – he fell asleep at the meeting and woke up elected!

Autumnal spectacular

No, it’s not coloured leaves but a massed flowering of a South African bulbs, Brunsvigia bosmaniae. This video was made last year to celebrate the blooming that happened after just 10mm of rain had fallen. Our guide and narrator is landscape designer Leon Kluge, read more about him here, including his upbringing in a botanic garden.

Apologies that only the link is appearing here, I use the free version of WordPress so no bells and whistles. There is strong wind disturbance on the sound track now and again, but it’s generally audible.

Leon is no stranger to New Zealand, having been here to show his work. In 2016 Leon and Kiwi designer Bayley LuuTomes teamed up to represent New Zealand at the Singapore Garden Festival. Their garden, ‘Back to Nature’, was awarded gold for garden design and won best in show for its outdoor lighting display. Read more here.

A patch of Brunsvigia bosmaniae in flower. Image: Rachel Saunders, Wikipedia

The Pacific Bulb Society has some great information about all the Brunsvigias, well worth a look.

Acorn coffee

It’s acorn season in my backyard as the English oak starts its long, slow shedding of leaves (last tree to finish dropping its leaves, the first to leaf up). As I was shuffling across the lawn to try and find loose acorns before mowing, I began to wonder about the usability of these seeds. Certainly, I can keep my collectings and throw them on the fire come winter, afterwards to be recycled back into the garden in the form of wood ash, but what else?

Leaves and acorns of the English oak (Quercus robur). Image: Wikipedia

I seem to recall that I’d heard of acorn coffee, generally in the context of wartime shortages, but it’s still being made today and is marketed as a coffee alternative to those who have a sensitivity to caffeine. In a 2018 post on MyRecipes, Jessica Brown explains how acorns are processed into ‘coffee’ and notes that the Freixo do Meio farm near Lisbon makes and sells that and other acorn products (they call the drink an ‘infusiuon’).

The Woodland Trust in Britain warns that raw acorns contain tannins that can be toxic to humans and are poisonous for horses, cattle and dogs (not pigs and more on that in a moment). However, the tannins can be removed and the Trust explains how in this post and includes some recipes, including for ‘coffee’.

With oaks being one of the most widespread family of trees in the world, acorns would have played a role in the diet of our early ancestors, despite the energy-intensive preparation they seem to give more than they take, so it’s interesting that people are still using this resource.

The best ham in the world – Jamón Ibérico – is said to come from Spanish pigs that have spent the last few months of their lives grazing on acorns. Apparently, the acorns need to be fresh for the diet to have any effect on the meat. Read more about Jamón Ibérico here.

And, finally, here’s a Tedx talk by Marcie Meyer on the use of acorns as human food (8 minutes 24 seconds).