Tendrils: Germinating seeds in the The Steam Pipe Trunk Distribution Venue

Hello and welcome to Tendrils! I don’t have a heated propagator, and this house doesn’t have an airing cupboard, so my seeds normally have to make to with the ambient temperature of the house. However, I opened the hall closed one morning and discovered it was very warm inside, courtesy of the pipework for the underfloor heating. So I cleared a shelf on the storage unit and moved my propagator, and my pepper seeds, in there. I am now calling it the Steam Pipe Trunk Distribution Venue. It doesn’t have a light, so I have to inspect my pots for signs of growth using a torch. Maybe I could use it for forcing rhubarb….

Speaking of rhubarb, I was having a discussion about its merits on Twitter earlier this month. So far I have one rhubarb plant (Timperley Early), that I bought from the garden centre and which is still in a container. But we have dreams of bountiful rhubarb harvests, and so I have ordered two more plants from Lubera. One is Livingstone, which is an autumn-fruiting variety. The other is Rhubarb Siruparber Canada Red®, which Markus from Lubera was telling me about at the Garden Press Event last month. He says it’s the best possible variety for rhubarb syrup, and rhubarb sauce. I’m betting it will also make a lovely rhubarb chutney, although we’ll have to wait until it has settled in. I really enjoyed making a rhubarb shrub last year, and this recipe for Fermented Rhubarb & Honey Soda looks fun, too.

If you’re up for a spot of seasonal foraging, there are some fun recipes around at the moment, although not all of them are for edible products. We’ve covered dandelions before in Tendrils, but if you’re bothered by these pesky weeks you can try turning them into dandelion shampoo bars, or dandelion flower pasta. If all you’ve got is nettles then you can make stinging nettle chips (crisps, if you’re British!).

If you are foraging, though, make sure you’re following the rules and not foraging in the wrong place. Wild samphire plants have been stolen from a nature reserve in Folkestone, which was almost certainly done by people with a commercial motive, but it is an offence to collect plant material from protected sites such as Sites of Special Scientific Interest. Check with the landowner if in doubt, and always follow sustainable foraging guidelines.

If the wet weather is keeping you indoors, then here’s a couple of recipes to try to make the most of the last of your winter produce: Jerusalem artichoke orzotto with parsley and peanut pesto and Butternut macaroni cheese for any stored squashes that are still hanging around.

BBC Future have been exploring why the British love the taste of tea so much, so much so that Tim Peake’s most important mission was making the perfect cup of tea in space. Hopefully he sussed it out, since he will be returning to the ISS for a second mission at an unspecified date in the next few years.

The current ISS crew has had the excitement of harvesting the Tokyo Bekana Chinese cabbage. They were able to eat some of it, although some had to be returned to Earth. Apparently this is the fifth crop from the Veggie system, which means I’ve lost count somewhere. I remember two lettuce crops and some zinnias…. Veggie will soon be upstaged, however, by the next-generation Advanced Farm Habitat, which is due to launch to the ISS this month.

Earth-bound gardeners will be able to get a taste of space gardening at the Eden Project this summer:

“Embark on an immersive journey around our own solar system, experiencing the incredible environments of each planet, before looking further into the secrets of the Milky Way and other galaxies beyond our own.

Venture into the Biomes to be amazed by extra-terrestrial plant displays and find out what food might grow in space. Discover the history of the Space Race and be inspired by man’s own quest to land and live on Mars.

Before you leave, look out for some mysterious aliens who may have been stranded at Eden for the summer – what will it take for them to survive here on Earth?”

Some of those aliens will be of a more terrestrial nature. The Mediterranean biome is welcoming a group of Australian plants this spring, with the creation of a new area devoted to some of Australia’s extraordinary flora. The first new plants are due to be installed this month.

And I’ll leave you this week with a warm and sunny story of a plant hunter on the trail of ancient treasure in Peru. Daniel Debouck goes looking for wild tomatoes to see where they’re clinging to life in an increasingly urban world. Enjoy the (virtual) sunshine, and I’ll be back with more warming Tendrils next week 🙂