What’s in the garden ?

Flaming June got off to a rather damp-squib like start,  but the rain has been very welcome in the garden. Combine that with glorious sunshine we’ve just had , and it’s fair to say everything in  our garden is  rosey !

So, what’s new  in the garden? Well, the forget-me-nots have been taken out (they self-seed, so they’ll  be just as beautiful again next year), and replaced with Jacob’s Ladder, and Marigolds. Marigolds are a fabulous companion plant. Their scent confuses the beetles and whitefly, and they enhance the growth of basil, courgettes and squash. Add to that the fact that they’re incredibly pretty, and they make the perfect edging for the herb garden.

Happy bedfellows. Marigolds distract pests and help other plants grow!

Happy bedfellows. Marigolds distract pests and help other plants grow!

We also use nasturtium as a companion for our brassicas, cabbage white butterflies love  to eat them, almost as much as they love cabbage. Planting a few rows of Nasturtium as a sacrificial plant means the brassicas have a chance of making it to our kitchen, and to your plate!

Nasturtium seedlings will soon be protecting our Brassicas !

Nasturtium seedlings will soon be protecting our Brassicas .

The flower garden is bursting with colour, red from the poppies, rich blue irises, a plethora of bedding and so many roses Libby can’t count them all. It’s a fabulous time to be here.

Geraniums are just some of the bedding that brightens every nook and cranny of the garden.

Geraniums are just some of the bedding that brightens every nook and cranny of the garden.

Stately Irises dot the borders.

Stately Irises dot the borders.

 

Peonies are the star of the garden in June

Peonies are the star of the garden in June

Of course, June has an abundance of weddings, and our gardens provide some of the table centre pieces. This week the centre pieces have included viola, chives, lemon balm and elderflowers. Almost good enough to eat!

Chive flowers; gorgeous to see,and to savour.

Chive flowers; gorgeous to see,and to savour.

From Herb Garden to House.

From Herb Garden to House.

I’ve really noticed the birdsong this week, it’s always beautiful, but the blackbird has been particularly exuberant this week! I think he’s warning off the woodpeckers.

Can you imagine a more perfect spot ?

Can you imagine a more perfect spot ?

The sight of Donk the donkey grazing, and Henry’s dogs lazing has made me quite sleepy…….it might be time for a nice relaxing G&T amongst the flowers I think.

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Changing Rooms!

Sometimes you just HAVE to buy something, even when you don’t need it! For me it’s “another” flower vase slightly different from all the others! For Stuart it was a tonne (literally!) of centurys old oak!

He spotted these mighty beasts about 3 years ago at Rennew, in nearby Grindle and instantly fell in love with the character and beauty of the grain. He didn’t know what he would use them for, or when, but he felt compelled to make that purchase!At Rennew

Rough & ready pile of wood, how they sat for 3 years until there moment to shine was created!

Fast forward 3 years. We now have plans to transform the Brasserie to The Garden Room. Food and garden artwork from Sylvia Phillips collection will adorn the walls, rehung by the fabulous Mary Elliot, owner of Twenty Twenty Art Gallery in Much Wenlock. Henry & Denise our Gardener are transforming a messy cupboard in to a living wall. There will be lots of little touches to lighten and freshen it up.

But the table weren’t fitting the bill at all, with lovely sewing machine bases but dull and slightly too small tops Then Stuart remembered his pile of oak – still sitting at Rennew.

He hot footed it down to see Graham Manton, Estate Manager for Apley, who very handily happen to have a saw mill in the village, about 300 yards away from The Hundred House! It was agreed that they could indeed divide these HUGE beams into 1 1/2 inch thick planks and the next call was to Joiner Extraordinaire – Matt Allen.

Matt’s been responsible for several Hundred House projects and it was whilst creating the panelled library in Henrys Cottage, he found true love with our Hotel Manager at the time – Netty. After a break away Netty is back at the helm 3 nights a week and Matt has been given the task of making this beautiful wood in to beautiful tables!

So the journey ensues to Apley Mill Sawmill man, Alan must of thought we were mad!

Yard

“You’re having a laugh aren’t you Stuart? That thing through the Mill?!”

They had to be jet washed to try and remove some of the dirt and grit before going through the Saw,

Hosing Down!

 Super Simon & Valdek blasting the beams

Going through - retouhced

Then the moment of truth – can it be done?

After plaining

Well, the sides came off –  now looking a lot better than “old swampy”!

Alan I’m sure cursed more than once whilst pushing these through “they’ve been an absolute swine – God knows how old they are, it’s some of the hardest wood I’ve ever come across and I’ve gone through 4 blades already, we’ve had to order more!”

cut plankHooray! Here’s the “unfinished – finished article” – well done Alan, we knew you could do it!

Still plenty of work to do on them before you’re eating Shropshire’s finest steaks off them – but certainly a very good start!

These are by no means going to be low-cost tables – but they will be strikingly handsome and who knows, around for another few hundred years yet!

 

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Asparagus,asparagus, asparagus.

To me, there is nothing that says British summer more clearly than Asparagus. I imagine it says it in a rather nice, Joanna Lumley type accent too. It’s hard to describe the flavour; fresh, grassy, a faint hint of lemon, and then something that is uniquely Asparagus. I must confess I am a little in love with this little green spear of goodness.

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The asparagus you can experience at the Hundred House has an excellent pedigree, having been grown on Lodge Farm, part of the beautiful Dudmaston Estate, a mere five miles from the Hundred House. Like most of our suppliers, they are a family business, and specialists in what they do. Is it any wonder their produce tastes so wonderful? Add in the bittersweet brevity of the season, and you truly have a dish for a king. And a queen, of course.

Perfection

Perfect

 

Five facts about Asparagus

  1. It can protect your liver. The minerals and amino acids actually help to breakdown alcohol, giving you liver an easier time. Perfect for the start of a long,lazy lunch.
  2. It’s packed with antioxidants, so it can help you retain your youthful good looks.
  3. The official season is from 23rd April to 24th June; it goes past it’s best in heat of summer. Don’t be fooled by unseasonal imitations !
  4. It can be green, purple or white, all with subtly different flavours
  5. It is one of the loveliest things you can eat. *

*this may not strictly be a fact. But it is a jolly nice thing.

And finally (although I could write for days about this little green wonder), a stunner of a recipe, from the Hundred House kitchen

Mezze of Lodge Farm Grilled Asparagus, Beetroot Borrani, with Feta, pickled garlic and Olives

 

Asparagus

We buy our Asparagus from Caroline Lees of Lodge Farm in Quatt .It is normally available Mid-April to mid-June. For this recipe take 8 or so sprigs of Spruce Asparagus, rub with Olive Oil, Salt & Pepper & lemon juice. Drop on to a red hot grill, cook for 2-3 minutes,until lightly charred,then cool quickly to retain the beautiful green colour. Serve with fresh sorrel, land cress, Falafel, Feta, Olives & Beetroot Boriani and grilled Flat breads.

 

To make Beetroot Borani (serves 4)

4 Medium raw bunched beetroot (about 700g)

1 x small clove garlic, crushed to paste using salt

4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

4 tbsp strained Greek Yogurt

2 tbsp Good quality aged red wine vinegar & pinch of sugar

50g Feta, crumbled

Wash beetroot (don’t peel), put in pan, cover with water and bring to the boil. Cook until tender (top up water if required, when ready a knife should go through easily, approx 40 minutes). Drain & cool then blend in food processor (if you prefer texture don’t over blend).

Transfer in to a bowl, add garlic, yogurt, vinegar & pinch salt – mix.

Check seasoning and enjoy!

 

 

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What’s in the Garden ?

Glorious Gardens

May bounced into life. Glorious sunny days, trees are a hundred shades of green, and the swifts have returned, soaring higher than high.  And the best bit ?  I get to see it all from the perfect peace of The Hundred House herb garden. Sometimes I think I have the best job in the world.

Forget-me-nots lead the way to the Herb Garden

A cloud of  Forget-me-nots edge the path to The Hundred House Herb Garden.

 

Apple Blossom. Looks stunning, turns into apples which turn into divine deliciousness.

Apple Blossom. Looks stunning,turns into apples, which are turned into divine deliciousness by The Hundred House kitchen.Happiness actually does grow on trees.

Of course it’s not all wafting around through apple blossom, at least not for head gardener Denise Purnell.  This is the beginning one of the busiest times for a gardener, nurturing seeds, preparing beds and generally making sure that the stunning range of home grown ingredients available at The Hundred House is as abundant as ever. You’ve heard of field to fork and gate to plate?  This garden is literally steps from the kitchen. Steps. No wonder I can’t stop dreaming about the Salsa Verde.

So, what’s here today?  I can almost hear the seedlings growing, as the days get longer and the temperature inches up. Denise is getting ready to pot on, harden off, and eventually plant out. The range is incredible, way beyond the slightly depressed looking pots of green I see in the supermarket.

Cinnamon Basil

                                           Cinnamon Basil

I love Basil, it makes the simplest dish taste of holidays and sunshine. Cinnamon Basil was new to me, and it turns out it’s a bit of a wonder herb. It repels all sorts of nasties from precious tomato plants, keeps you safe from pesky mosquitoes,and tastes utterly divine in Goat’s cheese pesto or as a subtle flavour in a shortbread.

Garlic Chives

                                            Garlic Chives

 

 

Giant Parsley

                                          Giant Parsley

I’m more familiar with these two fellows. So much more than a whimsical garnish, these two feature at so many stages in so many dishes; sometimes so subtle you barely notice, but you’d notice if it wasn’t there. Herbs give so much they are worthy of being the main event, especially when they’re so wonderfully fresh.

Now,  remember that Salsa Verde ? Here’s a little bonus recipe for you to try tonight. It’s gorgeous with pretty much everything, but especially with barbecued meats, chicken or just over new potatoes.

Hundred House Salsa Verde

Ingredients:

2 Tbsp Capers

6 Anchovies

3 shallots

1/clove garlic
1Tbsp Lemon juice
150ml Virgin olive oil

Method:
1.Puree all ingredients together
2.Add handful of parsley and any other sweet herbs available, e.g.rocket
3.Taste to make sure it is not bitter – if it is then add more lemon and olive oil.

There you are, a little bit of Hundred House magic in your own kitchen. I can’t wait to come and see what’s growing over the next few weeks !

Salsa Verde

 Fresh and vibrant Salsa Verde. Gorgeous with Chicken, drizzled over smokey charred steak, or to liven up new potatoes. 

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The Hundred House : looking back and looking forward.

Clear blue skies and the bulbs peeping above the ground are giving The Hundred House a feel that spring is on the way. We had a delightful time celebrating Christmas and New Year, and had a wonderful start to the year with a very romantic Valentine’s weekend.

I always find that this time of year puts me in a reflective mood, and one of the my main thoughts is what a significant twelve months this has been for The Hundred House.We have carried out extensive renovations and improvements, including a brand new thatch to our 15th Century Barn,and the installation of two new Biomass boilers .These boliers use  wood pellets as their fuel,which as a sustainable resource,means the boilers are carbon neutral. This reduction in reliance on imported fossil fuels, alongside choosing LED lighting and improvements to our cellar cooling processes are making vast improvements to our green credentials.  We are aiming to be truly green inside and out ! As with everything we do, we used a local firm Solid Future, of Ludlow, to oversee the project. We also have a beautiful log burning stove fires, to make sure of a thoroughly warm welcome where ever you are in the hotel.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERARange at Christmas

We are also developing our menus, working alongside the Apley Estate, to bring you some of their delicious and unusual produce.  We share many values and production principles,and the ideas that are emerging sound truly mouthwatering. Check back in March to find out more. In the meantime, have a look at apleyfarmshop.co.uk to get a sneak peek of the produce that is available.

Last year was also a very special year for the Phillips family.  Both Henry and Stuart celebrated significant birthdays, and of course, May brought the fabulous occasion of the wedding of Stuart and Joanne. I asked Jo to describe her lasting memory of the day ,and she described it as being ” full of joy and laughter”. I think that is a beautiful tribute to the  skilled team at the hotel.  As a guest I can confirm it was also full of tremendous food;it was no coincidence that the wedding was held at the height of Asparagus season!  A truly magical and memorable day.

What the day was all about

Jo and Stuart’s wedding began the wedding season in earnest,we held over 60 weddings over the last year and have over 75 to look forward to this year. The Hundred House is going to be a romantic place to be and to visit during 2015.Mr & Mrs Phillips Original-1214

 

Soft pink chair ties provide a subtle unity to the colour scheme.

 

Our memorable year was completed by the honour of winning the Best Posh Nosh category in the Spotlight Awards. These awards are voted for by thousands of Shropshire Star readers. All of our awards fill us with absolute delight, but this one is extra special, because it is such direct feedback from our guests.

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It really has been an amazing year here at The Hundred House, and the best thing is, we have so much more excitement to look forward to. All our upcoming events including our famous Gourmet Nights, and Masterchef classes are updated on our website regularly. We look forward to seeing you soon .

 

 

 

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Herbs at The Hundred House

Last year, Stuart visited  Raymond Blanc’s Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons; as well as learning new techniques for creating unusual and delicious breads, Stuart was also introduced to some new varieties of exotic herb. This sparked ideas for redevelopment of the herb garden, which has been an important part of The Hundred House since it began. Construction started about two months ago, with the creation of 14 raised beds.As with everything at The Hundred House, it was a fabulous team effort, including the help of Ron,who took part in the original refurbishment in 1985. Henry and Stuart decided to use a raised bed system, which allows for easier management of the variety of herbs used. This means a greater range of herb plants can be grown,which turn provides an array of new flavours and menu inspiration.
Henry starting work on the new raised beds

Henry starting work on the new raised beds

Ron, described by henry as "the best bricklayer in the world", using his many skills to help in the construction of the beds

Ron, described by Henry as “the best bricklayer in the world”, helping with construction.

During my day at The Hundred House, I was able to spend time with their resident  plant expert and gardener, Denise, who describes herself as passionate about growing. Her joy and enthusiasm for the garden  is infectious, and I came away with some useful tips for growing herbs at home. Denise explained that herbs are an ideal project  for a new gardener, or if space is limited. Many herbs are Mediterranean in origin, so they are tolerant of dry conditions,and  are happy in grow in pots or window boxes. Herbs can also provide attractive and useful borders for flowerbeds. Their only special requirement is lots of sun. She also passed on an excellent piece of advice which was to to grow only what I like to eat !

What a difference a few months make !
What a difference a few months make !
New herbs and salad leaves, almost ready to be used
New herbs and salad leaves, almost ready to be harvested

Denise explained that the new beds include edible flowers, such as nasturtium and viola, which are delicious in salads, as well as unusual varieties of coriander, and oriental greens, alongside less common examples of familiar varieties, such as thyme,fennel and mint.
Komatsuna leaves, which can be used in a range of salads soups or stir fries, giving a spicy,vibrant flavour.

Komatsuna leaves, which can be used in a range of salads soups or stir fries, giving a spicy,vibrant flavour.

Lemon Corainder is just beginning to emerge. This will be used for Moroccan inspired dishes such as Tagines,and fragrant couscous.

Lemon Coriander is just beginning to emerge. This will be used for Moroccan inspired dishes such as Tagines,and fragrant couscous.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Variations of familiar herbs , such as garlic chives are included.

Variations of familiar herbs , such as garlic chives are included in the new herb garden.

A range of beetroot will form part of many exciting dishes.

A selection of  beetroot will form part of many innovative  dishes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The new herb garden is part of the ongoing development of The Hundred House, and as Denise says, there are very few eating establishments that can boast such an extensive culinary garden. She really enjoys the fact that she has been part of the process of the creation of the food served here.

One of the most special things about the gardens at The Hundred House is that they contribute to the unique experience of being a guest. Whether dining or staying in one of the luxurious rooms, guests are free to wander through the gardens,relishing the peaceful atmosphere. Being able to see exactly how local the ingredients are, is an added bonus.The Hundred House herb garden was a charming place to spend the afternoon, and I’m looking forward to sampling some of the new dishes. Perhaps I can be chief taste tester for the next blog !

Beautiful, calm surroundings

Calm and relaxing

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Thatch,Flowers, and Frogs

 

Spring is here, and has brought with it the exciting rejuvenation of the thatch on the oldest part of the Hundred House Hotel, the beautiful 15th century barn.This is part of ongoing restoration of this historic building, which began in 1986 when the Phillips family undertook the task of creating their hotel, restaurant and beautiful gardens.

The barn before it's new look, it was last re thatched in 1961!

The barn before it’s new look, it was last re thatched in 1961!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I was lucky enough to be able to grab a few moments with master thatcher of 16 years, Paul Draycott, to find out a little more about his craft.

As a novice to the world of thatch,it surprised me that the material used is not straw,but water reed, sourced from East Anglia, or further afield as demand dictates. Water Reed is a naturally water resistant material, which has been used for centuries to protect homes and other dwellings from the elements.

To create a traditional thatched roof, the thatcher lays bundles, of up to 6 foot in length, on top of each other to create an impenetrable layer. The final roof is around 12 inches thick, and relies on the forces of gravity to help the ensure the wind, rain and snow to flow down the thatch.

 

Bundles of water reed, ready to be layered.

Bundles of water reed, ready to be layered.

 

Layers are built up to create an impenetrable surface.

Layers are built up to create an impenetrable surface.

The completed thatch will last around 40 years, so Paul does not expect to have to return, other than to carry out scheduled maintenance to the ridge, which will happen around every ten years. Paul works all over the region , sometimes driving for over two hours to reach a location. This creates some amusement for his associates in the South West, who have a short walk to their daily labours, so Paul finds working near to his home town a welcome change. Paul estimates that his work here will take around six weeks, and as you can see it is pretty close to completion.

Stuart inspecting progress

Stuart inspecting progress

 

Jo braving the ladders to take a closer look at the craftsmanship.

Jo braving the ladders to take a closer look at the craftsmanship.

 

 

The last part of the thatch will be Paul’s signature pheasant, which he uses to identify his work…..you can spot them around the county, recent locations include a boat house in Himley, and a cottage in nearby Ackleton.

The ridge is almost complete, ready for the attachment of Paul's signature pheasant.

The ridge is almost complete, ready for the attachment of Paul’s signature pheasant.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hundred House Time Capsule

To add a little Hundred House flair, and to add even more history to this beautiful building, the team have created a time capsule, which is secured in the roof, ready to be opened  at the next replacement in forty years time. The capsule includes memories of significant events, alongside details of the day to day running of the hotel, which will delight future generations of the Phillips family,and their guests as well as providing a little surprise for the next thatcher !

Stuart handing over the timecapsule.

Stuart handing over the time capsule

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA“Ta-da…….The Finished Article!”

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……..and two Pheasants, mates for the next 40 odd years!

Spring has also brought excitement in the gardens. Alongside the beautiful blooms in the pots and borders, the Hundred House has it’s very own frog nursery! They are already delighting guests who are taking advantage of the beautiful spring weather.

Spring really has sprung!

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Hyancinths ready to welcome guests

Hyancinths ready to welcome guests

 

 



Frogs and Tadpoles enjoying the sunshine.

Frogs and Tadpoles enjoying the sunshine.

 

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LateRooms.com Best Kept Secret Awards 2013

Award winning gardens

As some of you might be aware, last month we won the Best Kept Secret Award for Best Gardens from Laterooms.com, helped judged by Countryfile Magazine. There were several categories, including Comfiest Bed, Best View and Best Gadgets. All nominees were chosen by Laterooms.com customers, so people who have actually visited the hotels and left us reviews. Countrfile Magazine helped to judge the award, with Fergus Collins quoting,

“For sheer romance and endless hidden delights, Hundred House pips its rivals to the prize. The maze gardens full of tumbling roses and shrubs and threaded with water features provide a restful sanctuary – as well as the freshest of vegetables and herbs for the hotel’s restaurant. The gardens are the perfect accompaniment to the charming rooms – each uniquely furnished with antiques.” 

We e thrilled with the award, as so much hard work goes in from the team (Henry, Libby and Denise) maintaining the gardens that Sylvia had the foresight and imagination to create, 27 years ago.

If you would like to see Countryfile Magazine’s article in full, click here, or if you would like to see the other award winners from Laterooms.com, click here.

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BUT, our awards news doesn’t end there! We have been lucky enough to have been nominated for the Shropshire Star’s Tourism & Leisure Awards in the ‘Best Posh Nosh’ category. There is certainly some stiff competition, which is why we would be extremely grateful if you would click on the link and vote for us please! Fingers crossed!

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Hundred House Crab Apple Jelly

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September in the gardens brings us an abundance of Crab Apples, none of which go to waste. We make a fantastic Crab Apple Jelly that compliments such Game as Venison, Pheasant Breast or Wild Boar.

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Learn how to make the Hundred House Crab Apple Jelly:

You will need, Crab Apples 250g

Water

Sugar

1 Lemon

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 Begin by washing the apples and removing all of the stalks. Then place in a saucepan and cover with water. Bring to the boil and simmer for half an hour.

Once cooled, strain the pulp through a piece of muslin; this will help to keep the jelly nice and clear. Don’t be tempted to squeeze the pulp through the material as this will also make for a cloudy juice. Straining through a sieve is also a no no!

When measuring the Sugar, you need to aim for 7 parts Sugar to 10 parts Crab Apple juice.

Add the juice from the Lemon and the Sugar. Boil the mixture. While this is boiling, skim any white froth that rises to the surface (this again will help to keep it clear). Keep testing the jelly with a spoon to see if it is beginning to set. Once it is, allow to cool a little and pour into sterilized jars.

Pheasant dish

Smoked breast of Pheasant with Sage stuffing, served with a Pear glazed with Crab Apple Jelly, Sweede Puree and Potato Gratin

 

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Stuart, inspecting this year’s crop

 

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Henry’s Herb Blog

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A couple of weeks ago, I spent the afternoon with Henry in the Herb Garden and Vegetable Patch, learning about just a handful of the varieties grown by him and the team.

Over 27 years ago, when Henry and Sylvia first took on and began renovation of the Hundred House, the gardens were not the spectacular site they are today. Henry describes them in their former state, as a mere lawn at the front and a run down vegetable patch to the rear, that had been neglected for a number of years.

Today, Henry alone spends upwards of 25 hours a week tending the gardens, along with Head Housekeeper Libby, and plant expert, Denise.

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You may or may not know that the rooms at the Hundred House, are named after plants and herbs that we grow onsite with Rose Geranium, Fennel and Dill and Anise being but a few.

Golden Marjoram~ According to English legend, Goblins hate Marjoram and should be sewn in one’s garden to ward them off. It is a very hardy plant and grows quickly with a sunny hue and an uplifting, zesty taste. Works very well in tomato sauces and in salads or casseroles.

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Anise~ Over the years, Anise was thought to be a cure for sleepiness when chewed and used as a very early antiseptic. Has a similar flavour to Star Anise, Fennel and Licorice. The seeds can be ground in a Pestle and Mortar and used in Jams and Compots.

Angelica~ Pagans believed that Angelica would protect against negative energies and and promote healing. Identified by its lovely large, star burst flowers. This ‘herb of Angels’, is actually a member of the Parsley family. Candied Angelica is popularly used to decorate cakes and desserts or to flavour Gin and sweet wines.

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Rose Geranium~With a very sweet, rosy scent with minty overtones; Rose Geranium has been used through the ages as an antidepressant. Excellent when used to infuse jams and preserves and can be used in many cakes and desserts.

Buckler Leaf Sorrel~The name supposedly derived from the French word for ‘sour’, Buckler Leaf Sorrel has a tangy, lemony flavour. It can be used in salads, as a garnish, in soups, or compliments fish excellently. Because of its strong taste, large quantities are not needed.

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