Guest Article

By Agnes Farside

Irish soda bread was and still is very popular in Ireland, dating back to approximately the mid nineteenth century. During that time bicarbonate of soda was brought to the country and replaced the leavening agent yeast, which Irish people were using at the time. Some makers of Irish soda bread will cut a cross across the top of the loaf before baking. There are several meanings as to why this is done, one being that it wards off evil, another, like the hot cross bun, is to symbolize the Christian cross, and yet another is that it only helps to indicate equal portions for cutting.

To me Irish soda bread is similar in taste to a buttermilk biscuit, although it does no resemble it in appearance. Buttermilk, a main ingredient in Irish soda bread, has lactic acid. This lactic acid, when mixed with the baking soda, provides the leavening agent needed to make the bread. You can use either wheat or white flour which when made from the wheat flour, the bread is referred to as “Brown Bread.” The bread can be shaped into round loaves or flattened and cooked on a griddle, which it is then referred to as “Griddle Cake.” You can add just about anything to Irish soda bread, the preference being raisins, but I prefer to use fresh or dried herbs.

There are many recipes for Irish soda bread, but this is the one I prefer.

4 cups of flour

2 tsp salt

2 Tbsp sugar

1 tsp baking soda

4 Tbsp butter

2 cups buttermilk

1 lightly beaten egg

2 Tbsp fresh chopped herbs or 4 Tbsp of dried herbs (your choice – rosemary, thyme, sage, chives, etc.)

Preheat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.

Mix flour, salt, sugar, and baking soda together in a large mixing bowl. If you are using dry herbs, you can add them now.

Add butter and using a pastry cutter, mix with dry ingredients until mixture is coarse. Make a well in the center, add the egg and buttermilk (if using fresh herbs, add them at this time) and mix until dough is stiff. Dust hands with flour, turn dough out on floured surface and slightly knead into a rough, ball.

Shape dough into a round shape and place on lightly greased baking sheet or cast-iron skillet. A serrated knife works the best if wanting to make a cross on the top. This cross should be about one-half inch deep.

Bake for 35 to 45 minutes until golden brown. Tent with aluminum foil if top starts to brown too much.

Irish soda bread is best eaten while warm and it will only last two to three days.

Other items to put in Irish soda bread are: any dried fruit or vegetable such as apricots or sun-dried tomatoes, olives, nuts and caraway seeds.

Author Agnes Farside Resource: http://www.associatedcontent.com/user/110407/agnes_farside.html

Article Source: Use Herbs in Irish Soda Bread
Article From: Organic Gardening Articles

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Herb Gardening Gift Ideas

October 23, 2008

Someone just asked me what my daughter wanted for christmas.  I’ve been trying to push the thought of christmas and present buying to the back of my mind and plan to make a few more gifts this year but I thought it might be useful for any herb lovers/soon to be herbaholics/gardeners to have a few ideas of what is available at the moment for your own wish list or ideas for the gardeners in your life.

1.  If you want to get your seeds organised for the spring then head over to the Garden Seed Organiser, this seed organiser has a pocket for every month of the year and each
pocket can contain between 10-12 packets of seeds. When you have made
your first sowing, just move your remaining seeds to the month when you
intend to make your next sowing. Here’s their detailed description of the product:

“The 12 monthly
pockets marked January through to December allows seed storage in
chronological sowing order in a safe and secure conditions.

The retail value of the seeds alone is
at least £26.78 – we know how much gardeners love value for money.

We
have carefully selected our range of seeds to make sure there is
something to sow for every month of the year. The range includes:
herbs, vegetables, salads and flowers for both cutting and borders. We
are confident that this range with appeal to both the novice and the
seasoned enthusiast”

2.  If you’d like to give an instant herb garden to a friend, Rocket Gardens have a large range available some suitable for larger gardens and some suitable for a windowsill herb garden (they also supply vegetable and other plants).  You choose a product and arrange for the voucher to be sent to you or direct to the recipient of the gift.  They can then send off for the plants when they are ready to receive them, possibly in the spring time.

3.  Plants4Presents can supply plants for cooks eg bay tree, curry plants, kaffir lime, chilli plants and a large range of citrus trees.  You can even buy a pyramid bay tree already decorated for christmas with hand made dried fruit decorations.

4. For a high quality gift with a wow factor there is a large range of foodie and plant presents available at Glut, they have just launched a corporate gift service website too.

5.  Greenfingers also have a large range of christmas gardening products including herb pots, wooden herb wheels, mugs, lights and more.

6.  The Worm That Turned have some cute pocket herb gardens, grow in a bag herbs, wooden trugs to carry your herbal harvest and various herb pots amongst many other unusual and interesting products.

7.  The Recycle Works has a fantastic range of gardening products including a Plug and Grow Horticultural Light for growing plants in your kitchen, garage, greenhouse or shed  – first time I’ve seen one of these.

8.  Top Topiary have an amazing variety of topiary trees including bay, box, citrus, olive including a bonsai olive tree!

9.  Amazon of course have a huge range of gifts; books, herb wheels, herb pots, herb choppers and more.  You might like this Herbal Journal Calendar or this illustrated Herbal Calendar which has notes about gardening, cooking and crafting with herbs on it.

10.  Ebay also have plenty of herb seeds, planters and gifts.

11.  A long lasting unusual gift can be purchased from Bloomingdirect.com who have a range of subscription gifts ranging from a year round salad club to pampering & gifts club.

If you find this useful I can do an update every few weeks as new products become available. Just leave me a comment below.

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Herb gardening jobs for the autumn is the subject of my contribution to the Alternative Kitchen Garden’s podcast in episode 73 where you can listen to me running through a few things to do in your herb garden in autumn.

Here are a few from that episode and a few extra ones, there are more of course:

1.  Remove any annual herbs that are no longer producing usable leaves/seeds, weed the area and dig if necessary and apply a mulch.

2.  Weed areas around established perennial herbs and apply some kind of mulch eg leaf mould.  Cut back any dead leaves/stalks.

3.  If you’d like a supply of fresh herb leaves in the winter, pot up some mint, chives, basil, parsley or french tarragon and bring them indoors or into the greenhouse.

4.  Take cuttings of bay, hyssop, cotton lavender, lavender, thyme, curry plant, box, southernwood, rosemary, sage to create new plants for the spring.  Keep the cuttings in a cool but frost free place through the winter eg a cold frame/greenhouse/cool room in the house.

5.  Take root cuttings of mints and tarragon.

6.  Collect seed heads on a dry day for use in cooking or for sowing next spring eg dill, coriander, caraway.

7.  Plant hardy perennials eg rosemary, sage, southernwood and thyme.

8.  Divide any established herbs that are getting too big.  Herbs that can be divided include lemon balm, yarrow, chives, comfrey, salad burnet, mints, sage, marjoram, oregano. Either replant them in a new position or give them away to friends or family.

9.  Sow seeds that need stratification eg arnica, sweet woodruff, yellow iris, soapwort, sweet cicely, sweet violet, primrose.  Sow in pots and keep covered with glass or keep in the grenhouse or a shady corner of the garden until the spring.

10.  Prune any perennial herbs that have lost their shape or are starting to get woody eg sage, lavender, thyme, rosemary.  Avoid cutting into the woodier parts.  The exception to this is rosemary which recovers better than the other herbs when pruned quite hard.

11. Bring tender herbs indoors/a frost free place or protect with fleece if there is a danger of frost.  Tender herbs include scented pelargoniums, young bay or myrtle trees, pineapple sage, lavender christiana.  French tarragon benefits from a mulch to protect it through the winter.  Silver posie thyme dislikes cold winds so will appreciate a fleece covering during the winter.

Hope you enjoy these tips for ensuring a thriving herb garden.  This is an excerpt from one of the bonus books that will be available together with my herb gardening e-book that is coming out soon.

If you’d like to be on the early-bird discount list, please send an email with the subject heading ‘Herb Gardening ebook’. Thanks.

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