Monday, 22 December 2014

The Root of All Sorts...

All things sweet come to mind over the next few weeks, yummm…
Coltsfoot rock, blackjacks, jujubes, comfits, zouts, pontefract cake, bootlaces and Yorkshire pennies.  Nostalgic confectionary names to all things liquorice flavored.   

The intense bitter sweet flavor of  liquorice is extracted from the roots of the plant Glycyrrhiza. Its name is derived from Greek meaning Glukos (sweet) and rhiza (root). Through the process of crushing and boiling the root a saponin within called glycyrrhizin is released and a thick black treacle substance is produced.

Glycyrrhiza at the Botanic Garden
In its pure form glycyrrhizin is fifty times sweeter than ordinary sugar. It takes four years for the roots to be mature enough for harvesting, this high demand has left the plant endangered in parts of China where it is commercially sold to sweeten, flavour and colour products such as gingerbread, beer, tea, and tobacco
Medicinally it is highly regarded for the treatment of digestive complaints, coughs and colds, but also to flavour and disguise unpalatable medicines, which is why liquorice is such a love or loathe taste!
Britain had a thriving liquorice trade in the 17th century, monks grew plantations of Glycyrhizza glabra in their monasteries, most famously Pontefract in Yorkshire. They were among the first to mix liquorice with sugar to produce the sweet known as  Pontefract or pomfrey  cake, a hard boiled circular disc of licorice with the traditional trade mark of a castle and owl stamped upon on them.
So between eating the chocolate and nuts during the festivities why not take a journey down memory lane and enjoy a licorice stick, wand or wheel.

Great British Bake Off chef Paul Hollywood recommends a great recipe for this distinct flavour, check it out here.

Have a very, merry Christmas everyone!

Thursday, 4 December 2014

Countdown to Christmas!

The countdown to Christmas has begun! Here at the garden the staff are busy getting into the festive spirit; The tree has arrived in the Conservatory and has been festooned with nature’s harvest. The education team have been cutting, sticking, tying and covering themselves with glitter and glue to produce the stunning decorations! There are Physalis and pine-cone garlands, decorated mini birch wreathes and all manner of delicacies to delight.

The team under glass have also been busy bees – we have attempted our first Christmas wreath! It was created by bending, coaxing and tying in a ring of willow stems, these were then overlaid with clumps of birch twigs giving us a base to which we could attach an array of feathers and berries to jolly it up. We’re very pleased with the result! We finished off our yuletide display with vibrant ruby red Poinsettias and gorgeously sweet scented white cyclamen. The intense colours have been balanced with trailing variegated ivies, ferns and silver-leaved Plectranthus argentatus and structure added with ivy trained onto a frame (we used hanging baskets as the framework)  We do, of course, have to add a little glamour to the display so this year we’ve added some gold birds which can be seen nesting on the ivy balls.

The display and the rest of the garden in all its Christmassy glory will be lit up in style for our Christmas light nights event on Thursday 4th, Friday 5th and Saturday 6th December From 5.00pm, with last entry at 6.30pm. (The site will be closed at 7.30pm) Wander through candlelit walks, enjoy seeing floating lanterns on the ponds and bring your own torch for more fun.
Check the website for more details.
Lili Friend