Crate Christmas tree with lights

Since we’re into the last fortnight before Christmas, Tendrils is taking on a more festive feel this week 🙂 I had some guests over for a holiday lunch yesterday, and the Crate-mas tree caused quite a stir! So did the fact that I have categorised, labelled and re-shelved all of the books in my plant reference library. I think the general consensus was that I have had too much time on my hands… but now I know where everything is!

If you have a few minutes free then here are two lovely festive non-food recipes to try from Simple Things magazine. The first involves tying 100 bay leaves into a bay leaf garland, which is probably only feasible if you’ve grown your own bay tree (or have understanding neighbours who have!). If the thought of making your own bay leaf wreath is just adding to your holiday stress levels, then try taking a nice, relaxing spruce needle bath instead. You could always follow that up with a stiff drink – try douglas fir liqueur if the Christmas tree is already dropping enough needles to drive you crazy 😉

Made to make your mouth water: Sweets in Siena: festive treats from medieval Tuscany

“Sugar, almonds, candied fruit and spices were ingredients as precious as gold and were kept in huge glass jars on dark wooden shelves by these people, who were a mix between alchemist and pharmacist.”

[Looking for an unusual gift for the gardener in your life? Give them one of my books for Christmas, and encourage them to grow something different next year!]

Atlas Obscura have been exploring the the ghost forests of Christmas past – the history of American chestnuts:

“in the late 1800s, with railroads reaching remote mountains places, chestnut season became a boom time for mountain communities, particularly places where poverty was most stark. People would spend their days gathering pounds upon pounds of nuts, and pulling them to the rail station by the wagonload; poor families could pay off their debts entirely in chestnuts.”

When chestnut blight hit, these poor families weren’t the only ones to suffer. Bears, turkeys and pigeons that had depended on the chestnuts started to disappear. Farmers could no longer let their pigs wander the woods to fatten on the chestnuts that fell to the forest floor.

Zester Daily are taking a more positive tack, building on the news that there are blight-resistant chestnut varieties, and encouraging you to keep lyrical traditional alive by taking the time to roast your own chestnuts this holiday. They’ve got easy instructions for roasting chestnuts on an open fire, or in the oven, and some ideas on how to eat them as well.

Alison at The Backyard Larder has been reviewing Around the World in 80 Plants, and interviewing author Stephen Barstow. The book is about leafy perennials that you can grow in a temperate climate. If you’re not familiar with Stephen’s writing then he has contributed three articles to Permaculture Magazine, each on a fascinating topic. Discover Hablitzia, Caucasian Spinach, a cold-tolerant leafy green native to the Nordic countries, and Stephen’s record-breaking Xtreme Salads and learn how to cook Hostas, ‘Oriental Perennial Spinach’.


An unusual gift for gardeners

Meanwhile, BBC Future have been wondering why truffles taste so weird, reporting that at least one set of truffle odour molecules is actually made by bacteria.

And, finally, plan ahead for something to blow the cobwebs away after Christmas – head outside for a few hours and take part in the Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland’s New Year plant hunt. All you need to do is to record which wild (as in, not deliberately planted) plant species are in flower between 1st and 4th January 2016. Click through for the details.

What’s on your reading list for Christmas?