I haven’t (as yet) made pesto by hand, and one of the things I’d like to do in the short term is to find out which of the leafy greens I grow in the garden can be turned into tasty pestos, and which ones we like. I’m going to do it via trial and error rather than extensive research! I was interested to read a recent article on Food52 about why it might be time to stop using nuts in your pesto, which talks about the environmental issues of nuts in the (American) food chain. It suggests two possible alternatives would be pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds, both of which it would be possible for me to grow in the garden, so that’s food for thought for the future.

Something else we will be doing for the first time this autumn is making our own sloe gin, with sloes that we foraged from the (relatively) local area, and which are awaiting us in the freezer. According to Sipsmith, in how to make the perfect sloe gin, putting them in the freezer was a good start – apparently this means the sloes will have ruptured cleanly and evenly, so that all of their lovely flavour will flow out into the gin without the necessity of tedious pricking!

If you’re on the other side of the world to me, then you’re heading into spring rather than winter. Which means you could make use of an idea that I’ll have to wait to try – growing super microgreens in garden beds. Microgreens brings to mind orderly trays of tiny little leafy vegetables (which they grown on a grand scale at Le Manoir aux Quat’ Saisons, but Milkwood suggests we grow them on a much larger scale. It’s a nice idea for catch cropping – making use of empty ground for a quick crop, before it’s planted up with the main crop that will be using the space.

Even when spring does come back around in the UK, I suspect I won’t be able to try foraging for maple seeds, as apparently you can do in Ontario. Maple Trees: Great Survival Food says that these seeds, called samaras, are edible and contain protein, and are at their best in spring. However, it doesn’t list a species name (or names), so my twitchy internal ethnobotanist would want to do a lot more research before heading out on a foraging expedition.

Did you know that The Unconventional Gardener has its own Facebook page? If you’re a FB user come and say hello!

The Osage Orange isn’t an edible fruit, but as In Defense of Plants explains, that’s because it evolved with a particular dispersal partner in mind. It’s one of the plants we believe relied on a large, extinct animal to disperse its seeds – one of the megafauna. Now that its partner is no longer around, it’s clearly making do on its own. You know what else probably evolved with a megafauna partner? The avocado, which was saved by hungry humans.

Of course, even without the megafauna, seeds are still fascinating things. Earlier this year, National Geographic interviewed Thor Hanson (author of a book called ‘The Triumph of Seeds’) about how little seeds shaped human history in big ways.

Zapping forward from the past, ABC Science has reported that Native Austrialian rice may hold the key to the food future – it “may contain valuable genes that could help buffer the world’s rice crop against the damage wrought by rising global temperatures”. However, research into Australian wild rice species isn’t for the faint of heart – it “grows in inaccessible swamps or on flood plains, with researchers having to contend with large crocodiles”!

If you’re braving the cooler weather to have fun outdoors this weekend, you might consider toasting giant marshmallows, which we had huge amounts of fun with over the summer 🙂

What has been on your reading list this week?