In our Autumn 2021 issue, our resident gardening expert, Hans Wieland, took a look at the many health, social and environmental benefits of trees! Enjoy his words below.
Our resident gardening expert, Hans Wieland, wrote a wonderful piece for our Summer 2021 issue, exploring the benefits of sensory gardens. Read it below, to learn how you can turn your outdoor space into a treat for all your senses.
In our Spring 2021 issue, Hans Wieland shared some great tips on how we can turn our lawns into places of happiness. Read on to enjoy a sneak peek of his article!
This article was triggered by the renewed interest in raw cows’ milk and also by discussions about the role of the cow in the current debate on climate change.
In our Autumn 2020 issue, our resident gardening expert Hans Wieland wrote about the importance of seed saving, and how this can benefit future generations as well as those who are here now. Scroll on below to read it!
In our Summer 2020 issue, our resident gardening expert Hans Wieland shared his thoughts on the value of self-sufficiency: a timely and pertinent concept for our times. We loved hearing his wisdom on the subject! Read his article below.
We were enthralled by a beautifully simple, yet deeply profound concept that our gardening expert Hans Wieland put forward in our Spring 2020 issue: there should be a garden in every school. Hans passionately expressed what an empowering initiative this would be for children all over the country, helping them to learn more about where their food comes from, whilst cultivating a deeper connection with the Earth. Read his amazing article below!
Our resident gardening and food writer Hans Wieland shares the secrets of horseradishes in this extract from our Summer 2018 issue.
Horseradish, a Vegetable to Cry For
Growing vegetables that make a difference
By Hans Wieland
I have been living with horseradish all my life – in fact, even before my life, as the wedding dish of my parents was beef in horseradish cream sauce with potatoes, considered a poor man’s dish in the 50s, but with an outstanding flavour, as my late mum claimed.
Horseradish is a hardy root crop, an often neglected group of nutritious vegetables, which are most useful during the winter months. In German, it’s called “Meerrettich” (sea radish) because it grows best by the sea. Many believe the English mispronounced the German word “Meer” and began calling it “mareradish.” Eventually it became known as horseradish. In my humble view, horseradish is one of those plants that can transform dishes.
How to grow horseradish…
My parents did not live by the sea. They grew their horseradish beside the compost heap, probably with no other intention than to give it enough space. The main culinary use at home was for sauces, to be grated and mixed with freshly made quark, and also as a source of Vitamin C in my mum’s winter tonic of horseradish, onions and garlic.
Horseradish is a vigorous perennial plant from the Cabbage family (brassica), which also includes mustard, wasabi and broccoli. It can grow up to one metre tall and develops long stout roots. As a root vegetable, it is cultivated primarily for its large, white, tapered root, and also used as a spice. The plant is probably native to south eastern Europe and western Asia, but has a place in most Middle European gardens.
It grows better roots for harvesting if given its own space and attention. A rich fertile soil would be great. Being a deep root crop, it needs depth to grow, so a hard subsoil won’t be to its liking. But in the wide area between these extremes, which is pretty much any healthy garden soil, it will give you a good crop with very little effort.
We grow horseradish at Neantóg in true family tradition, beside our compost heap where its spreading habit doesn’t become a problem. In a herb garden, it can be grown in a big and deep container: a half barrel, for example. It’s a large-leafed, tall perennial plant, so make sure it won’t be overpowering a more delicate neighbour.
Horseradish is best grown from a root cutting – similar to comfrey – or start with a potted plant from a good garden centre. In year one, I recommend growing it in a big, tall pot to boost growth without harvesting. In year two it can be planted in its final position.
After the first frost in autumn kills the leaves, the root can be dug and divided. The main root is harvested and one or more large offshoots of the main root are replanted to produce next year’s crop. Horseradish left undisturbed in the garden spreads via underground shoots and can become invasive. Older roots left in the ground become woody, after which they are no longer culinarily useful, though older plants can be dug and re-divided to start new plants. The early season leaves can be distinctively different: asymmetric and spiky, before the mature typical flat broad leaves start to be developed.
The culinary use of horseradish
The intact horseradish root has hardly any aroma, but when cut or grated, enzymes from the now broken plant cells break down the sugars to produce mustard oil, which can irritate the mucous membranes of the sinuses and eyes. Once exposed to air or heat, it will begin to lose its pungency, darken in colour, and become unpleasantly bitter tasting over time.
The mustard oil (allyl isothiocyanate) serves the plant as a natural defence against herbivores. When an animal chews the plant, the mustard oil is released, repelling the animal. The health benefits of horseradish are manifold: a very high Vitamin C content, antibiotic properties and beneficial for blood circulation. Homemade remedies are more potent than bought ones. Chefs often use the grated root of the horseradish plant mixed with vinegar, which they call “prepared horseradish”. Preserved like that, it can be stored for months under refrigeration, but eventually it will darken, indicating it is losing flavour and should be replaced. The leaves of the plant or “horseradish greens” – while edible – are not commonly eaten, because of their very strong flavour.
The preferred use of horseradish in the Wieland household, besides being an ingredient in Gaby’s master tonic, is mixing it with quark, soft cheeses or ricotta. Here is a very simple recipe:
500g of fresh quark or soft cheese
3-4 tablespoons of freshly grated horseradish
1 apple grated, lemon juice, salt and pepper to season
Hans Wieland worked and taught at the Organic Centre for over 20 years before ‘retiring’ to Neantóg Kitchen Garden School in Cliffoney this May, along with his wife Gaby Wieland, herbalist and naturopath. The couple offer a range of courses and workshops in food growing, fermenting, foraging, cheese making, healthy cooking and baking.
This article – explaining the ins and outs of chilli and chilli culture – was brought to you by our resident gardening expert, Hans Wieland in our Spring 2018 issue. He also provided us with a delicious chilli sauce recipe. Here, we share the article in its entirety. Read it and learn how to bring a touch of inspiration into your kitchen!
The Cult of Chillies: Growing vegetables that make a difference
By Hans Wieland
Chilli Peppers, Bell Peppers, Hot Peppers, Sweet Peppers, Cayenne Peppers, Spanish Peppers, Red Hot Chili Peppers, what have they all in common? Confused?
Ok, the last “variety” the Red Hot Chili Peppers, a funk-rock band from Los Angeles is only around since 1983, and all the others have nothing in common with black pepper (Piper nigrum), but are in fact all species of the genus Capsicum. Commonly we distinguish between the sweet and mild peppers and the hot and more pungent chillies, the topic of our article. Most of our common chillies come from one species, Capsicum annum, which was first cultivated in Mexico at least 5000 years ago.
The cult story of chillies begins with Columbus, who thought he found the (black) pepper and continues with the colonial trading power of the Portuguese bringing the chilli everywhere, leading to India becoming the biggest producer. The Aztec word of the native Nahuatl was chilli, which means red. Botanically speaking all peppers are fruits; however, they are correctly considered vegetables in a culinary context. The success story of the chilli is remarkable as the world production and consumption is now 20 times that of black pepper, the other major pungent spice (On Food and Cooking, p 418).
Hungary has its Paprika, Spain its Pimenton, Italy its Peperoni and in China chilli is a major spice in Sichuan and Hunan, but Mexico remains the most advanced country when it comes to chilli culture, it being a major ingredient in Salsas. At Neantog Kitchen Garden School we grow it mainly to produce our own sauces (see recipe below). The beauty of growing it yourself is in the choice of varieties, from mild to super-hot.
What makes Chillies so special?
It is Capsaicin, the active chemical ingredient, contained in the placenta, the tissue that bears the seeds. The variety and the growing conditions – high temperatures and the length of the season – contribute to the amount of capsaicin produced. The heat of a chilli is measured on the Scoville Scale in Scoville heat units (SHU), or capsaicin concentration, named after its creator, US pharmacist Wilbur Scoville. SHU values range from 0 in a sweet bell pepper to 2,000,000-2,200,000 in a Trinidad Moruga Scorpion or Carolina Reaper. Naturally, there is the burning sensation in our mouth which for some is pure pleasure.
How to grow chillies
As Chillies love heat and light, it makes them an ideal crop for growing in polytunnels in Ireland. Some varieties are also suitable for pots in a conservatory. Two or three plants yield more than enough for a family for a year. Chilli peppers require a long growing season and are best sown from early February until mid-March at the latest. I sow them in modules on a heat propagator at 20 degrees Celsius. Once they have germinated I transfer them to 7cm wide pots using potting compost. Three or four weeks later they can be potted on to 1litre pots. In early May in mild areas or in mid- to late-May in cooler areas I plant them into the polytunnel spaced 50cm apart and staked, to prevent them from falling over when the branches get heavy with fruits. Apart from regular watering, there is little else you need to do.
Chillies can be harvested throughout the summer whenever required. All chillies start off green and then turn into their final colour. Green chillies are a little less hot. Towards the end of the growing season in October I usually harvest all the remaining chillies and dry them in the kitchen. They will last for well over a year.
Here are my favourite varieties:
Jalapeno, (C. annuum), a classic from Mexico, with bullet shaped fruits, green to red and medium hot (2500 – 8000 SHU)
Ring of Fire, Cayenne type, (C. annuum), long, thin, pointed pods, (30 000 – 50 000 SHU)
Tabasco, (C. frutescens), named after the Mexican state Tabasco and also the name of the Louisiana produced hot sauce, (30 000 – 50 000 SHU). The chilli for the fermenters to make their own variety of the famous sauce.
Habanero, (C. chinense), from Cuba, small bell shaped, yellow, orange or red, (100 000 – 350 000 SHU)
Numex Twilight (C. annuum), the best windowsill chilli I’ve grown; tiny, upright fruit that start purple and ripen to bright red, perfect for those without a garden, ( 30 000 – 50 000 SHU)
Neantog Chilli Sauce:
For 250ml you need:
6 small red chillies (we love Jalapeno, Cayenne and Ring of Fire)
5 cloves of garlic
40 grams ginger
1 stem of lemongrass
Juice of 1 lime/lemon
175 grams of brown sugar
3tsp sea salt
175ml of cider vinegar
175 ml of water
½ tsp of arrow root dissolved in 2 tbsp of water
Chop the chillies, garlic, ginger and lemongrass very finely (use gloves!), mix with the rest of the ingredients. Bring to the boil, reduce heat and let simmer for around 15 mins, then add the arrow root powder dissolved in water and bring to the boil to thicken. Fill in hot into sterile glass bottles, close and let cool.
Hans Wieland has worked and taught at The Organic Centre for over 20 years. In May he is “retiring” to Neantog Kitchen Garden School in Cliffoney, again joining his wife Gaby Wieland, herbalist and Naturopath. The couple offer a range of courses and workshops in food growing, fermenting, foraging, cheese making, healthy cooking and baking. www.neantog.com