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Welcome !

FoodWrite Ltd. loves helping businesses achieve their market potential and improve their profits !

FoodWrite Ltd. provides consultancy on technologies and markets for the food and beverages industry, and in related industries such as personal care, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, resources, biochemical engineering and nutritional healthcare.  Food and nutrition ingredients, dietary and health supplements, and animal products are all core areas of expertise.

♦ FoodWrite Ltd writes web-content and has increased web-site rankings simply by providing high quality written material to support sales and marketing. It also offers SEO, website development in WordPress, PHP and Magento.

♦ FoodWrite Ltd brings together all the skills needed for creativity, entrepreneurship, innovation and quality of advice in helping businesses develop their strategies for growth.

It covers:-

– technical writing, and both scientific and commercial bid proposals,

– product marketing, 

– consumer consultancy,

– product concepts and development

– provides high quality technology analysis, updates, action plans and reports based on data and scientific literature.  

♦ It also offers technology scouting, identifying partners for collaboration, business and market development, and a B2B strategy for emerging technologies in food science and processing.

♦ It  provides product documentation and specification services coupled with technical market research to the food industry. White papers and marketing materials to support web-sites are a speciality and a number of clients use this service including the copyright more than any.

FoodWrite Ltd. helps a range of companies, from multinational manufacturers and suppliers, venture capital firms to research organisations and to smaller companies.  The consultancy draws upon great technical skills and knowledge coupled with management insight to provide a comprehensive service.

♦ We help customers realise their potential by providing support, expertise, support and advice to encourage best practice and continuous improvement. 

FoodWrite Ltd. started in 2011. Communication with the client is the heart of the service, ensuring we work closely to deliver all your milestones on time. You may be starting a food business or trying to understand the market place for a technology, please be confident that your project is managed professionally. Project proposals are generated ensuring all steps, their costs and timings are clear and transparent. The advice is high quality and tailored to your needs with progress updates provided as required. The knowledge has helped clients develop their intellectual property (IP), or otherwise supported their investment decisions in new markets or technology. 

♦ Checkout the case studies on this web-site.

♦ Give us a call or e-mail and use FoodWrite Ltd‘s experiences to open up new markets, meet the challenges you face and add value to your business.  Telephone consultancy is also available.  Our passion is to provide answers that can be actionable and to work closely with you

Lets transform your business at an affordable cost. If you are interested in other topics to be written about- just let me know !

Contact: 4, Bowens Hill, Coleford. Glocs. GL16 8DH  T: 01594 810704 M: 07714101039

Clients we work with:

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Vegan and Vegetarian Health Products - Herbalift

Citrus antioxidants may prevent chronic diseases caused by obesity

Citrus fruits offer us a great deal – plenty of vitamin C, a sharp distinctive, acidic flavour and even fibre in the pulp. It also appears to offer us plenty of antioxidants that may prevent if not reduce a range of health concerns. According to a recent piece of research exploring the health benefits of popular foods, citrus fruits may lower oxidative stress, minimise liver damage, reduce ischaemic stroke risk, lower blood lipids and glucose levels, maintain or possibly lower blood pressure, and support heart health.

Citrus antioxidants - a colourful way of reducing oxidative stress. Copyright: karandaev / 123RF Stock Photo

Copyright: karandaev / 123RF Stock Photo

It has been known for many years that fruits contain a variety of antioxidants called flavonoids, which are one of the largest group of plant chemicals called phytonutrients, of which there are over 6,000 types. Phytonutrients along with carotenoids are responsible for the sharp vivid colours of fruits and vegetables.


There are several groups of flavonoids, including anthocyanidins, flavanols, flavones, flavanones and isoflavones. Flavanones are especially abundant in citrus fruits , such as hesperidin, eriocitrin, and eriodictyol and have been associated with lowering oxidative stress in vitro and animal models.

A new study from Universidade Estadual Paulista (UNESP) in Brazil revealed that consuming oranges and other citrus fruits could delay or prevent negative effects of obesity in mouse models given a Western-style, high-fat diet. The investigators were presenting the results of their study at the 252nd National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS) in Philadelphia, USA.

Paula S. Ferreira, a graduate student with the research team stated:-
“Our results indicate that in the future we can use citrus flavanones, a class of antioxidants, to prevent or delay chronic diseases caused by obesity in humans.”

In this study, the researchers treated 50 mice with three kinds of flavanones, hesperidin, eriocitrin and eriodictyol. The researchers divided the mice into groups, which were receiving a standard diet, a high-fat diet, a high-fat diet with hesperidin or eriocitrin or eriodictyol.

Obesity causes fat cells to increase in size and these enlarged fat cells produce high levels of reactive oxygen species, which potentially damage the cells in a process referred to as oxidative stress. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) claim now that one-third of adults are obese in the U.S. It’s a known fact that obesity makes people more prone to various diseases related to the heart and liver, and even makes the person insulin restrain, leading to diabetes hence the considerable interest in research to reduce obesity levels generally.


The researchers found that the group of mice receiving a high-fat diet had an 80 percent increase in levels of cell-damage markers known as thiobarbituric acid reactive substances (TBARS) in the blood and a 57 percent increase in the liver compared to mice on a standard diet.

On the other hand, hesperidin, eriocitrin and eriodictyol decreased the TBARS levels in the liver by 50 percent, 57 percent and 64 percent, respectively. Furthermore, eriocytrin and eriodictyol also reduced TBARS levels in the blood by 48 percent and 47 percent, respectively, while hesperidin and eriodictyol  reduced fat accumulation and damage in the liver.

According to a press release, all three kinds of flavanones used in the study caused the mice to lose weight. However, the antioxidants in citrus fruits also made these mice healthier with lower oxidative stress, less liver damage, lower blood lipids and lower blood glucose.

Use Of FT-IR In Food Adulteration

Analytical techniques come and go but Fourier Transform-Infrared (FT-IR) Spectroscopy has been in the toolbox for over 30 years. It may well be because it is straightforward to apply and the technology has become so refined that instruments of measurement are rapid, easy and simple to use with minimum sample preparation. A number of companies have equipment available but I recommend Thermo Fisher Scientific as one great business with the type of equipment ideal for the application I wish to discuss – food adulteration.

FT-IR allows for the qualitative determination of organic compounds as the characteristic vibrational mode of each molecular group causes the appearance of bands in the infrared spectrum at a specific frequency, which is further influenced by the surrounding functional groups. Moreover, FT-IR spectroscopy is an excellent tool for quantitative analysis as the intensities of the bands in the spectrum are proportional to concentration because where Beer’s law is obeyed.

Passing off food as something else has been a common problem for the customer, ever since foodstuffs had a value and a price, were rare or simply not good enough for retail. Certain unscrupulous suppliers of these foods have sought ways to maximise profits by replacing some of their higher-cost food materials and ingredients with other less expensive, lower quality substitutes and passing them off as something else. The objective is usually to obtain more money for them than their actual worth – a clear case of economic fraud.  In fact, as the potential for profiteering rises, techniques for food adulteration become more sophisticated and traditional methods used in detection of adulterants become increasingly time-consuming and expensive.

In some cases, adulteration leads to death ! Adulteration of rapeseed and grapeseed oils in the 1980’s caused 400 deaths and over 20,000 forms of illness due to toxic-oil syndrome (Jimeno, 1982; Posada et al., 1987).  Regulatory agencies, the law and governments have become intimately involved in resolving adulteration issues

Olive oil has been a popular target because the best quality is extremely highly prized and priced. It began with cases in Roman times. In the European Union alone, there have been losses of up to 15 million euros annually. From 1995, FT-IR began to be increasingly applied to winkling out the adulterants in olive oil, especially cheaper vegetable oils (Lai et al., 1995; Marigheto et al., 1998; Kupper et al., 2001; Tay et al., 2002).  Depending on the adulterant oil, the detection limits for olive oil adulteration were as low as 2%, and analysis could be completed in less than 5 min.

Given detection limits, it is thought some suppliers have substituted extra virgin olive oil with nearly 20% hazelnut oil because it is much harder to detect. It appears hazelnut oil has a similar fatty acid/sterol composition, and oxidative stability to olive oil which means substitution is almost too simple (Parcerisa et al., 1998; Contini et al., 1997). In 2002, a technique using FT-IR was employed which was combined with discriminant analysis and partial least-squares analysis to  detect hazelnut oil adulteration of olive oil but only to 25% volume (Ozen and Mauer, 2002). The technique was more successful in detecting sunflower oil adulteration of hazelnut oils.

Mid-infrared spectra have been used to characterize edible oils and fats, because they differentiate in the intensity and the exact frequency at which the maximum absorbance of the bands appears, according to the nature and composition of the sample.

There is an excellent review on the subject by Rodriguez-Saona & Allendorf (2011) on the general applications of technique where adulteration is concerned.

Contini, M.; Cardarelli, M. T.; Santis, D.; Frangipane, M. T.; Anelli, G. (1997) Proposal for the edible use of cold pressed hazelnut oil. I. Evaluation of oxidative stability. Riv. Ital. Sostanze Grasse. 74, pp. 97-104.

Jimeno, S. A. (1982) The Spanish toxic symptoms. Trends Anal. Chem. 1, pp. 4-6

Kupper, L., Heise, H. M., Lampen, P., Davies, A. N., McIntyre, P. (2001) Authentication and quantification of extra-virgin olive oils by attenuated total reflectance infrared spectroscopy using silver halide fiber probes and partial least-squares calibration. Appl. Spectrosc. 55, pp. 563-570

Lai, Y. W.; Kemsley, E. K.; Wilson, R. H. (1995) Quantitative analysis of potential adulterants of extra-virgin olive oil using infrared spectroscopy. Food Chem. 53, pp. 95-98.

Marigheto, N. A., Kemsley, E. K., Defernez, M., Wilson, R. H. (1998) A comparison of mid-infrared and Raman spectroscopies for the authentication of edible oils. J. Am. Oil Chem. Soc. 75, 987-992.

Ozen, B. F., & Mauer, L. J. (2002). Detection of hazelnut oil adulteration using FT-IR spectroscopy. J. Agric. Food Chem., 50(14), pp. 3898-3901

Parcerisa, J., Richardson, D. G., Rafecas, M., Codony, R., Boatella, J. (1998) Fatty acid, tocopherol and sterol content of some hazelnut varieties (Corylus aVellana L.) harvested in Oregon (USA). J. Chromatogr. 805, pp. 259-268.

Posada, M., Castro, M., Kilbourne, E., Diaz-de-Rojas, R., Abaitua, I., Tabuenca, J., Vioque, A. (1987) Toxic-oil syndrome: case reports associated with the ITH oil refinery in Sevilla. Food Chem. Toxicol. 25, pp. 87-90

Rodriguez-Saona, L. E., & Allendorf, M. E. (2011). Use of FTIR for rapid authentication and detection of adulteration of food. Annual Review of Food Science and Technology, 2, pp. 467-483.

Tay, A., Singh, R. K., Krishnan, S. S., Gore, J. P. (2002) Authentication of olive oil adulterated with vegetable oils using Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy. Lebens.-Wiss. Technol. 35, pp. 99-103

Growing Basil With Zest

If you want the best of friends with your summer tomatoes or a Greek salad then look no further than that great herb of the Mediterranean, basil. It is in fact a jungle plant and so conditions suited to these conditions should be ideal but it is easy to grow and simple to maintain. There are dozens of different excitingly-flavoured varieties which simply cannot be bought at the supermarket but can be sown for a crop all year around. Why not try fragrant cinnamon, lime and even liquorice basils just to add an extra twist to a salad.

Basil leaves. Copyright: duskbabe / 123RF Stock Photo

Basil leaves. Copyright: duskbabe / 123RF Stock Photo

Sowing Seeds

Sow the seeds indoors in small pots or trays of compost throughout the year. Water well and place in a warm position, usually a windowsill or greenhouse. This encourages maximum germination.

Seedlings appear in 7 to 14 days. The pots should be moved to a slightly cooler place to avoid undue straggly and leggy growth. Thin out seedlings and use any unwanted  shoots and leaves in cooking.

Some basil varieties do grow outside, but these need to be hardened off so acclimatising the plants to cooler temperatures helps in this process. Remember, frost is a killer of these plants !

Transplant the basil seedlings when they are large enough to handle to their final growing position which is ideally a well-prepared bed in the sunny part of the garden or a large pot. I prefer the greenhouse, under the shade of tomato plants.

Make successional sowings so that a ready supply of leaves are available throughout the year.

Harvest the leaves as and when required and this too is throughout the year. Pinch out growing tips to encourage bushy growth and just prevents the plant growing unruly.

Continued Cultivation

Water in the morning. Basil dislikes wet in the evening because grey mould (Botrytis) can afflict the growing plants.


 Greek’, ‘Sweet’, ‘Genoese’, are all successful cultivars. D.T. Brown (Tel: 00 44 333 003 0869) sell an unusual, small-leaved Greek basil called ‘Aristotle‘ (Height: 60cm/2ft). I also like ‘Red Rubin’ (Height: 60cm/2ft) which is an attractive, deep purple-burgundy coloured type with a spicy, highly aromatic flavour and ideal as a complement to the green varieties.  Finally, ‘Cinnamon(Height: 60cm/2ft) offers a wonderfully fragrant, tagine-scented note with purple stems topped by fresh green leaves. Ideal for pots !


We have also tried D.T. Brown, Suttons and Mr. Fothergills for different barieties

Grow your own plants with our quality flower and vegetable seeds. Buy online from SimplySeed.co.uk

Groves Nurseries and Garden Centre

Growing Gooseberries

Gooseberries – there little green jewels herald the start in most Summer gardens of the fruit bonanza. Coinciding with blackcurrants, they are often picked for use in desserts, especially fools, jellies and preserves. In fact they lend their tartness in savoury gels extremely well.

Gooseberry. Copyright: malleo / 123RF Stock Photo

Gooseberry. Copyright: malleo / 123RF Stock Photo

Planting And Cultivation

Bushes are planted into well dug and manured ground to start off with. The ideal time is Spring generally.

Gooseberries grow well in part shade rather than full sun. Choose a variety resistant to American mildew if you live in a particularly rainy or damp area and beware the dreaded gooseberry sawfly ! It is said to be one of the only fruits to grow well on limestone or  other  alkaline soils.

The bushes can be grown as half-standard against walls, stooled or cordoned as with plums although the bush form is generally preferred and can then be pruned to the classic vase shape. The half-standard and cordons are grown on a single rod to form a taller, more upright tree. Bush types are planted at an overall 120cm spacing whilst cordons are placed at least 60cm apart.

Continued Care

The plants are best pruned and indeed planted in the winter months when other vegetables and fruit remain in their dormancy. Any weak branches are removed and the remainder need to be reduced by a third so that new growth and shape is promoted. A balanced fertiliser is fed to the plant during spring but not too much nitrogen should be given as this encourages the plant to become too woody.


Berries are picked always by hand from June to August when they begin to soften slightly. The green fruit is harvested to prepare pies and jams but the fruit should be allowed to ripen fully to red if they are needed for freezing.


Bullfinches can take the buds in the winter time but all birds will snack on the ripening fruit. It is probably best to keep this fruit in cages or covered extremely well with netting during the summer.

The Gooseberry sawfly is active in late May and June. The tiny caterpillar makes its unwanted presence felt by chomping leaves in a successive manner. It apparently eats its own bodyweight twice in a day, so handpick to remove the pest. Avoid sprays where feasible although drastic measures may be needed to remove it but do not pick fruit for at least a month.


Invicta’ is a very good fruit producer and cropper, a famous standard and resistant to Mildew. The Japanese variety ‘Hinnomaki’ is also extremely hardy and was bred to be resistant to American Mildew.  ‘Whinhams Industry’ also produces good yields and is ideal for heavy soils – it produces red fruit on ripening. Finally, ‘Careless’ is a variety which turns white with ripening and is often used for cooking and jam manufacture because of its pale colour.

Grow your own plants with our quality flower and vegetable seeds. Buy online from SimplySeed.co.uk

Groves Nurseries and Garden Centre

Great Plums !

The taste of plums, a quintessential flavour of summer is second only to apples in our affections. They originally came down the Silk Road with Chinese traders who passed them on to the Romans. The Chinese were cultivating the fruit (Prunus domestica L.)  in their temperate climates and the Romans found them ideally suited to the Northern European conditions they deserved. It is most likely they were greengage plums which are a set of slightly smaller varieties than the plums we see today.

We in Britain have about 300 cultivars. In China, they are treated by their chefs as a complement to savoury dishes but we find them excellent, baked in tarts, coated with honey and served with ice-cream. My grandmother simply stewed them which meant a few burnt mouths but a symbol of early autumn. They are also ideal for storage in Kilner jars but don’t keep for more than 6 months at a time. I think though that they are exceptional eaten fresh, having been plucked fresh from the tree. They also have a wonderful warm array of colour, from yellow to a deep purple/red colour. Most varieties ripen from mid-July through to early October. Unfortunately, most of the varieties never find their way to our shelves because plums are susceptible to damage and do not keep well.

Having recently been to our local nursery to pick up a ‘Victoria’ plum but we were careful to choose the right rootstock because normally the tree is exceptionally tall and shorter types are available. Most plum cultivars are self-fertile and so do not require other trees in the vicinity to produce their fruit but it would appear that the presence of other compatible plum trees helps with overall fruit production.


Plums can be trained into various styles and forms. The French were trying the idea of cordons in the late 1700s. We have tried cordons by fixing the fruit to a south, south-west wall which receives enough sun to keep the tree warm. A fence is an alternative decorative structure. Plum trees can also be free-standing, fan-trained or pyramid-trained against a wall to achieve about a 6m height and spread. These are made smaller than the standard orchard trees which can be up to 12m tall.

Originally, rootstocks did not exist that produced manageable tree heights for the smaller garden. The rootstock called ‘Pixy’, introduced in the mid-70’s helped restrict the extreme vigour of the plum tree. The scion, which is the fruiting cultivar grafted onto the rootstock is then restricted to about 2m which means it can be trained and managed more easily. There are other rootstocks available which allow for training including ‘St Julien A’ that restricts these to about 2.5m.

Plums are best grown as oblique cordons with the stems placed at an angle or as an upright. When planting a new tree or maiden as they are called, ensure the branches coming from the main stem (laterals) are kept to around 15cm and any shoots growing from these (known as sub-laterals) to 3cm.

Plum shoots are thin and whip-like, so pinching back regularly is essential and keeps the tree tidy and uniform. This is not the same as for the care of pears and apples. A main prune is conducted in July or early August, with pinching back occurring well into September.

With the newly planted tree established, pinch back all growth to one bud to restrict growth every three or four weeks.

Care For Plums

Grow plums in a sunny, sheltered spot on fertile, moisture-retentive soil. Prune when the sap is starting to flow which is between April and August and in dry weather. Seal any wounds to avoid the dreaded silverleaf disease.

Plum blossom is produced early in the fruit growing season, from early March to April and very prone to frost. Late flowering cultivars are ideal if frost is an issue or the fruit has to sit in a frost pocket. One good example is ‘Marjorie’s Seedling’. When a frost is likely to occur, cover smaller trees with old net curtains or horticultural fleece when the blossom is out. Greengages are more susceptible to frost and should thrive best against a sunny wall.

Thin the fruitlets in early summer to prevent trees from overcropping and producing lots of small fruit. The branches can snap as they do with apple trees and raise the potential for disease. The best situation is to leave one fruitlet every 5 to 8cm.


There is a large variety of fruit trees available for the gardener and they make very attractive plants for the garden especially in the early spring.

Victoria’ – the most famous and ubiquitous being introduced in 1840 to the UK. It is frost-resistant especially its flowers, self-fertile, an exceptional pollinator and generally a heavy cropper. Really ideal for northern Europe let alone most of the UK. The fruit can be eaten both fresh and cooked, usually being picked in late August. The fruits  are a pale red/purple with heavy yellow. It achieved the Award for Garden Merit from the UK’s Royal Horticultural Society. Should be in everybody’s garden !

Marjorie’s Seedling’– a self-fertile, heavy cropping cooker type. Picked in September or leave the fruit on the tree until November for dessert quality fruit.

Grow your own plants with our quality flower and vegetable seeds. Buy online from SimplySeed.co.uk

Growing Quinces

Quinces (Cydonia oblonga) are attractive, medium-sized bushes, even small trees that blossom like roses in the late winter or early spring months. Their leaves have good autumnal colouring and even though we grow them as ornamental thorn bushes there are some excellent varieties for fruit production. We tend to associate the fruit with the production of membrillo, the Spanish jelly eaten with cheese because the acid cuts the fat in the cheese.


In cultivation, the quince is grown as a half-standard or bush tree, built on a rootstock which is either ‘Quine A’ or ‘Quince C’. The tree flowers from February to May and is reliably self-fertile. It grows ideally in fertile, deep moisture-retentive soils. They are all reliably hardy but a warm and sheltered spot is best for fruit ripening. It is not really a shade plant.

Harvesting Of Fruit

Quince fruits ripen in late October/early November but need to be left on the tree as long as possible to allow the sweetness and flavour to develop fully. Frosts are not necessarily an enemy and I tend to pick the fruit for quince jam after a few simply because the fruit will eventually rot.

The quince fruit is a soft golden, aromatic fruit. All undamaged fruits should be stored in a cool, dark place in shallow trays. No fruit should touch each other to avoid successive rotting by contact, nor should they be wrapped and it’s best not to store with other fruits.

Fruit should ‘mellow’ for six to eight weeks before use where they keep for two to three months. They are unpalatable when raw.

Fruit Varieties

The best varieties are ‘Lusitanica’ (syn. ‘Portugal’) is claimed to have the best-flavoured fruit. It is pear-shaped, 13-18cm long, deep yellow and covered with a soft grey down. The tree is more vigorous than other cultivars, but generally not as hardy as some. There are some other varieties such as ‘Champion’ which produces a good crop of large, pear-shaped rounded fruit which is bright yellow, 10cm in diameter with a delicate flavour. The ‘Vranja’ is a golden, pear-shaped aromatic fruit of 13-18cm long. It has a fine flavour and fortunately begins its fruiting on relatively younger trees than the other. The ‘Meech’s Prolific’ cultivar is also pear-shaped with golden yellow fruits with perhaps the finest flavour of all. The fruit is 13-18cm long and its flowers are large, prolific and provides exceptional growth.

Growing Parsley

Parsley - a great herb for the dining table. Copyright: xeniaii / 123RF Stock Photo

Parsley – a great herb for the dining table. Copyright: xeniaii / 123RF Stock Photo

Parsley is one of the great herbs of cuisine, especially in combination with chervil and tarragon as one of the ‘herbes fines’. It has a great flavour which is often used as a garnish or chopped into sauces, dressings, stuffings and butters. It is the main ingredient in both tabbouleh and salsa verde. The flat leaved variant is much preferred to the curly-leafed type although the latter often finds its way as the main accompaniment to fish.

Sowing Seed

Seed can be sown in open ground throughout the year although it will not send up shoots until March. It was said to be bad luck to sow this herb – a superstition borne out by the need for the herb to disguise the smell of rotting flesh.

Ongoing Cultivation

The plants, once established, need to be kept well watered, especially during the hot, dry season of summer. I don’t tend to fertilise the plant although a boost with a balanced seaweed fertiliser helps every few weeks. The flower heads are removed in late summer although given its annual nature, it is helpful to broadcast the seed from the dried flowers. Lower shoots can be snipped off when they turn yellow.


Single stems and leaves are cut with scissors to be used as fresh. Parsley is said to frozen or dried for use during leaner times in the year.


French parsley: – Dark green, flat leaves with great flavour. Ideal for Italian dishes.

Envy‘ AGM: – Dark green, densely curled leaves.

Gigante Napoletano’: – Large, flat and aromatic leaves.

‘Plain Leaved 2’: – Flat leaves with a strong flavor.

Groves Nurseries and Garden Centre

Grow your own plants with our quality flower and vegetable seeds. Buy online from SimplySeed.co.uk

Growing Chervil

Grow your own plants with our quality flower and vegetable seeds. Buy online from SimplySeed.co.uk

Chervil (Anthriscus cerefolium) is one of the original four traditional French ‘fines herbes’ which along with tarragon, parsley and chives are mixed and blended for haute cuisine. Chervil has a dainty, ferny feel to the leaf possessed of a mild, sweet aniseed flavour. It is regularly added to poultry, especially chicken, to fish and various vegetables to release its delicious bouquet.

Chervil in plant pot. Copyright: tunedin123 / 123RF Stock Photo

Chervil in plant pot. Copyright: tunedin123 / 123RF Stock Photo

Has to be grown as an annual although it has a biannual habit. It is an evergreen which really doesn’t survive our winters. The crop is in the parsley family and prefers a partially wet, slightly shady or sunny spot. Unfortunately, full sun causes it to dry out far too quickly and thus will bolt. It produces a fin white spray of flowers similar to cow parsley. The plant needs to be watered and fed with a nitrogen-rich fertiliser on a periodic and regular basis. It is the leaves that we seek so harvest regularly to encourage fresher leaves to form.

Sowing Seed

Seed is sown in Spring but regular sowings are encourages so that it can be harvested into winter. It is best started in modules before being transplanted to larger pots once the seedlings reach 8 cm. This is 6 to 8 weeks following the sowing when the leaves can then be harvested.

Pot grown sowings probably do best in the United Kingdom although it can be grown as part of a mixed salad. It needs a good depth in open ground because it has a long root tap system.

Continued Growth

The plant can be grown amongst other crops to take advantage of the low light between plants. Water regularly if the plant is grown on the patio or even indoors. It needs to be watered regularly to keep it moist. The container can be moved to a sheltered position so it receives low light levels during winter months.

Greenfly is an issue with open growing. A fatty acid spray, liquid soap and lots of ladybirds will help keep the numbers down.


Treat the leaves as a cut-and-come again crop irrespective of where the plant is growing. The leaves should be snipped away from the main stem using a small pair of scissors. The leaves are not ideal dried given that lose their delicate aroma. Keep the leaves in the refrigerator for up to a week but they lose the aniseed flavour slightly. The leaves probably need to be washed before use although it is possible to lose some of this flavour.

Groves Nurseries and Garden Centre

The Origins Of Welsh Rarebit

Welsh Artisan Celebration Cheese Cakes

Take a trip to any café or restaurant for lunch and it’s likely you will come across Welsh Rarebit. This is the universally recognised toasted cheese dish which has probably no relation to eating furry creatures caught in the cabbage patch. It seems to belong to earlier times such as the 60’s when staples only were available and provided a healthy vegetarian dish full of carbohydrate and protein.

Welsh Rarebit is roughly defined as a piece of toasted bread with melted cheese smothered and dribbled over it. What makes it so special is the mustard and other spices, and beer which also forms part of the unctuous savoury sauce. It needs to be served with pickles, small amounts of vegetables, apple slices or some other condiment such as chilli, paprika or cayenne pepper. The latter is a modern affectation which peps up the dish immeasurably.

We might consider it to be more accurately called Welsh Rabbit although both names have been in use since the mid-eighteenth century but there is little to establish its true origin. The Oxford English Dictionary records Welsh Rarebit or Rabbit back to 1725 but 60 years before, it was called rarebit.

It may be that the English looked down upon the Welsh which is not surprising given the warlike history between the two nations from the Norman Conquest to Edward I’s placing of a number of castles around the coast to keep Wales under control. The reference to Rabbit hints at English condescension because the Welsh were unable to afford such meat and the landlords banned the catching of rabbits. Rabbit was also a favoured food of the Normans and although a number would have escaped over the centuries, they were confined to managed warrens.   It might just be a culinary play on words mind you. The other feature is the use of the word Welsh which was meant by the English to be ‘foreign’.

In the Rhondda Valley and around Ebbw Vale, Welsh Rarebit was a very common dish which provided plenty of protein because cheese, egg and milk were all used. Onion, chive but not garlic were added, beaten into the sauce mix.

The ‘rarebit’ part became common currency in about 1860 but didn’t enter parlance until 1910. To give a measure of the confusion, the lexicographer H.W. Fowler emphatically believed that “Welsh Rabbit is amusing and right. Welsh Rarebit is stupid and wrong” in his 1926 edition “A Dictionary of Modern English Usage”.

It also appears goof enough to be referenced in novels such as Kevin Sampson’s ‘Awaydays’ from 2012:-

“I honestly haven’t really thought about him, except on Tuesday afternoon, sitting in Beatties’ café eating their fine Welsh rarebit, I started dwelling once again on all the hints he’s been dropping.”

The recipe is mainly the following:-

The Sauce

8 oz. grated, strong Cheddar or Caerphilly cheese

1 tbsp butter

2 tsp Worcestershire sauce

1tsp mustard

2 tsp plain flour

4 tbsp beer or milk

Freshly ground pepper (black preferred to white)

Method Of Preparation:

All the dry ingredients save the pepper are mixed together in a saucepan which is then heated. The cheese melts to form the sauce to which is added the milk and beer with continuous stirring. The pan must not be allowed to get too hot or the sauce burns. Additions of liquid need to be carefully monitored so the sauce does not become runny but a paste should be created with regular stirring. Simply add flour and cheese to recover any sauce that is too runny.

Grill a slice of bread on one side only ! Turn the slices over and spread the cheese mixture on the untoasted side. Sprinkle with pepper or chilli and place under a medium grill until the sauce begins to bubble. The lowest heat feasible is advised so the sauce doesn’t burn and evenly coats the toast.

In some instances the hot cheese sauce is served in a chafing dish to be spooned over the toast or for the pieces to be dipped in the sauce ‘a la fondue’.

The Tudor Kitchen written by Terry Breverton in 2015 describes a method of making national variants of the dish known as ‘Irish, Scotch, Welsh Rabbit and English Rabbit’ which had been described by the chef Hannah Glasse in her cookbook of 1747 ‘The Art Of Cookery’.

“To make a Scotch rabbit, toast the bread very nicely on both sides, butter it, cut a slice of cheese about as big as the bread, toast it on both sides, and lay it on the bread.

To make a Welch rabbit, toast the bread on both sides, then toast the cheese on one side, lay it on the toast, and with a hot iron brown the other side. You may rub it over with mustard.

To make an English rabbit, toast the bread brown on both sides, lay it in a plate before the fire, pour a glass of red wine over it, and let it soak the wine up. Then cut some cheese very thin and lay it very thick over the bread, put it in a tin oven before the fire, and it will be toasted and browned presently. Serve it away hot.

Or do it thus. Toast the bread and soak it in the wine, set it before the fire, rub butter over the bottom of a plate, lay the cheese on, pour in two or three spoonfuls of white wine, cover it with another plate, set it over a chafing-dish of hot coals for two or three minutes, then stir it till it is done and well mixed. You may stir in a little mustard; when it is enough lay it on the bread, just brown it with a hot shovel.”

Glasse, Hannah. (ca. 1747) The Art of Cookery made Plain and Easy, …by a Lady (Posthumous edition, L. Wangford, London, c. 1770), p. 146

Sampson, Kevin. (2012) Awaydays. Random House ISBN 1448137608 p. 153

Why We Must get To Know The Saskatoon.

It sounds like we’ve just entered Saskatchewan in Canada when we talk of Saskatoon but it’s the berry we are keen on, not the region. I know it looks like a blueberry and frankly if you were offered one then you would say a saskatoon was a poor substitute when it comes to taste but don’t dismiss it – its flavour works well with other fruits.

Saskatoon berries on a tree. Copyright: vebman / 123RF Stock Photo

Saskatoon berries on a tree. Copyright: vebman / 123RF Stock Photo

Saskatoons are probably the new superfood and should be treated as such. The one big difference between them and blueberries is they don’t need acidic soils for good growth. Given the limey soils of the Forest of Dean, blueberries can only really be grown in large pots otherwise the Saskatoon sounds like a good bet for more open growth in the leafy garden where it grows amongst open heathland.

The fruit comes from the Amelanchier alnifolia but its more common names include alder-leaf shadbush, dwarf shadbush, the Western Juneberry and the Pacific Serviceberry. It used to be called Pigeon Berry but that has fallen largely out of fashion.

The plant is found throughout much of the USA and Canada where it grows at high elevations in places like the Rockies. It grows up to 8 metres and is deciduous. The flowers are white and beckon us over to inspect them more closely. The fruit looks like a large blueberry or a small bullace or damson fruit and is almost as purple in colour.

Soil conditions: prepare the soil by digging in plenty of well-rotted manure or compost. The rootball on planting needs to be thoroughly moist, so stand it in a bucket of water for 30 mins. beforehand and then plant. The plants need to be set slightly deeper in the soil than they would be if still in the pot. Gently firm the roots with the heel of the show. Staking isn’t required unless a howling gale rips through the garden. They are reliable to grow and need a good feed each Spring for the crop to come.

I would grow it as a bush, pruned to form a good shape and make it easy to pick the fruit. In fact, when the bush is first planted, leave it to grow simply to put on as much growth as possible. It’s ripening season is from June to August as we move inland. The best flavour comes just before the fruit becomes overripe and without bruising it.

The main nutritious qualities are richness in polyphenols such as anthocyanins, some minerals including calcium, magnesium and manganese so it could rival birch sap for that latter property.

We have used them in jams and as a fruit sauce but I prefer it in combination with strawberries and raspberries. The taste is slightly bitter due to the polyphenols but that hints at its goodness. Some say it tastes like a cherry with hint of almond and actually works well in granola when the fruit is dried. Use in pies and salad dressings for something slightly different.

The bush is not readily available but we hear that Frank P Matthews will offer some cultivars in the near future from their garden centres. The cultivars are ‘Thiessen’ and ‘Martin’ which ripen first, followed by Smokey, Northline and JB30. Incidentally the leaves look fiery red in the Autumn so it keeps it’s powerful colouring long after the fruit has been eaten.

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