Tag Archives: fat hen


I’ve just written 289 words about what is happening to Julia at work. A lot of it comes under the heading of “least said, soonest mended” as I mentioned yesterday but she’s just given up over half her day off to a staff meeting and telephone calls with clients, so I wrote my thoughts on the matter.

Then I decided I’d better not publish them. So I won’t. I’ll just show you some photos from yesterday.


Sugar Skulls and Succulents

I don’t know why we seem to have so many sugar skulls around these days, they just seem to be fashionable, despite having nothing to do with the UK. THey don’t even seem to have anything to do with the USA or Australia, which is where we seem to draw a lot of our cultural references from these days. It’s a mystery. Julia doesn’t even know who brought them to the gardens and left them.


Three LIttle Birds and Origami

What with the Three Little Birdsreference and the origami, we seem to have added Reggae and Japanese Paper Folding to or international  themes.


Inside the Polytunnel

Virtually everything you see here has been scrounged from skips. Only the polytunnel was purchased brand new, as the chance of finding a discarded polytunnel in a skip is small.

It is now set up to allow twelve people to eat and work in here (I use ‘work’ loosely) and still maintain a semblance of social distancing.

Everything in these pictures is edible. Yes, everything. I’m quite fond of apples and grapes, but have to admit the fat hen and sedum aren’t too bad either.

In fact, with fat hen being used as spinach in Mediaeval times and sedum tasting a little like avocado they can be quite pleasant.

I did have a picture of what I think is ground ivy but it may be purple dead nettle or henbit – they are all edible but as it’s important to be accurate when you are foraging.

I’m going to start doing more foraging again as my interest has been rekindled by a few things I’ve seen recently.

Some flowers from the garden. I have now caught up with yesterday…

The one with the failed experiments…

Overwintered runner beans

We planted the beans just before a rather windy cold spell. The overwintered plants, which were a bit soft after a winter at rest, seemed to suffer more than the new plants, though neither of them looked particularly good. As the season drew on the old plants came back to look every bit as good as the new ones.

In terms of yield it’s difficult to say because the group tends to mix the beans and even if we can prevent that we can’t tell what has been harvested unofficially, which has happened several times. You can tell that when you leave with beans on the plants and return next day to empty plants.

Judging by eye I’d say that yield was similar in size and total weight and the only difference between the three-year-old plant and the new one was that we saved pennies on seed and didn’t donate any nitrogen back to the soil when we took the roots out.

The half-manured bed

There was a definite difference in number of fat hen plants and their size – loads more plants and they were round about twice the size on the half that had been fed.

We had several losses due to wind/cold (see above) and couldn’t count the crop properly (also see above).The plant that appeared to do best was on the mid-line between the two treatments, and that was probably because its neighbours had died and left it with more room and light.

The Accidental Permaculture Bed

This was the same bed as the half-manured bed,  but when the fat hen started growing and a crop of self-seeded rocket showed itself we decided to see what happened.

What happened was that the fat hen grew so well that it began to interfere with the beans. This was more noticeable at the manured end, where the plants were thicker and taller.

I cropped it severely once it was established, taking several crops of salad leaves and making two lots of soup. I actually put some in the freezer, which was fortunate, because one weekend someone (I assume someone from the Allotment Group) ripped all the “weeds” out and left me with nothing for a group the following week. We had the frozen fat hen and it tasted just as good.


Fat Hen from the freezer – not something you find in Tesco!

That was demo salads for about fifty, six or eight lunchtime salads for me and soup for around forty – not bad for a weed that grew by accident.

The rocket is still cropping though it’s getting a bit strong now and the beans are also continuing to produce.

We grew the beans on a frame that crossed lower down than normal, producing an “X” shape and allowing the beans to dangle in the open for picking. It worked reasonably well, although it would have been better if I’d managed to cross the canes lower down. Note to self – next year step back and look after getting the first few canes up.

So there’s three that didn’t quite work out for various reasons, though we did learn a few things. Due to the advent of the Allotment Group we have lost a lot of land and may well lose the raised beds too so my experiments and learning might focus on different subjects next year as I retreat to the polytunnel.

Catching up

I just added a recipe for Fat Hen soup on the recipe page. It’s slightly misleading as there’s no hens in it, though I used butter to soften the onions so there’s plenty of fat.

We’re going to taste test it at lunchtime with fresh bread rolls that we’re cooking with the kids. (Fourteen kids of mixed age, half a dozen parents and two kilos of dough – what could possibly go wrong?)

Here’s a picture of the “staff”. We’ve been having trouble with the toaster.  It’s difficult getting staff when you don’t actually pay, even worse when you promise them toast and marmalade and the toast bit doesn’t happen because the toaster will only do one side at a time.


It’s hedgehog rolls today (another misleading recipe title) for the kids and a bread roll for the soup if the parents want to make one. I will be making spares anyway because I need to get back in practice.

I’m slightly worried about the dough. I used a half measure of yeast and put it in the fridge last night. The result is three balls of dough that have risen but not risen quite enough. They aren’t actually refusing to rise but if they were human you’d think they were typical truculent teenagers. Apart from the fact that they are out of bed at 10.25am.

After bread rolls and soup we’ll be making woodland masks and (possibly) toasting marshmallows.

Have a look at @QuercusCommy if you want a progress report on the baking. We also have some pictures of the harvesting that started yesterday, including a shot of the combine cutting between the rows of apple trees in the agroforestry field. I say trees, but you might have to squint a bit as they are only two years old.

I’ll put some pictures up on the farm page to show a bit more of  the field and harvest.

Pizza? What, again?

We have 16 people coming to make pizza tonight, using the outside oven. Personally I can’t understand the need to regress by a century and feed pizza into a space full of ash and flame when we have perfectly good clean controllable electric ovens. Tonight I could be sticking 16 pizzas in and taking 16 pizzas out fifteen minutes later. Instead I’m going to spend the afternoon getting things up to temperature so that I can eventually feed a procession of individual pizzas into the baking equivalent of hell.

On the plus side, they want foraged salad, and I have just found a new stash of fat hen so I’m as happy as a pig in salad.


Fat hen

I just need to make some dressing with chive flower vinegar and the job’s a good ‘un.

In the gardens we’ve been interspersing light gardening with sitting under the cafe awning and drinking water from the fridge. One of the lads on the farm is currently off work after becoming dehydrated on Monday, so you can’t be careful. Despite that I will be ribbing him at great length as it’s a stupid thing to do and because we needed him here with a school party. Self-inflicted – no sympathy.

The outside temperature spiked at 35 degrees C for a few minutes, though by the time I’d collected my camera and taken a couple of outdoor shots it was back to 34, which is still pretty hot by my standards. Even inside it’s holding 31.


In the garden

We’ll be holding a birthday party for the farmer in a minute, though he’s late, as usual. Apart from the fact he’d be late for his own funeral, he fails to grasp that if you tell our group you’ll be here for 2.30, they start getting agitated at 2.31. Looks like we’ll have to make a few excuses.


A plateful of weeds

When you think of salad you probably think of lettuce, or possibly rocket. If you think of chickweed or fat hen you’re in a minority, and you probably don’t need to read this. Fat hen, incidentally, contains twice as much iron as spinach, so eating weeds does have something to offer nutritionally.

In an hour or two I’m going to be taking a party of Rainbows round the garden to see what we can find to eat. We have a good crop of chickweed growing in a newly-composted raised bed and plenty of mallow. There is definitely some fat hen round by the edge and we have plenty of marigold and nasturtium flowers. We also have dead nettle , borage and dandelion so without resorting to anything from the herb garden we can provide a plate of colourful salad, though I will add some chive flowers for the onion flavour.

We have some nice tender nettles coming through, but although they are edible they are not recommended in salads. I will pause for a moment while you think about it…


It seems we need a permission form signing if we want to feed garden weeds to children, though we didn’t need special permission last week. It’s something to look into, and worth remembering that educating overly-cautious adults is also part of our job.

Strangely, when the foraged food is made into jam and spread on warm scones you don’t need special permission. I suppose it’s a case of familiarity seeming safer than the unknown. And sugar being more palatable than salad.)