Archive for ‘flowers’

July 3, 2013

Back in Blog… still foraging, still cooking, still gardening…

by Ciaran Burke


Oh how time has flown… it has been quite a while since I last posted a blog on this site. Its not that I have lost interest in gardening,  foraging and cooking, I still vey much have a passion for blooms and food.

Over the last months I have been taking my foraging activities to a new degree and have started a new food business called NjAM Foods. utilizing nature’s bounty I have been busy developing a range of wild flower cordials, ketchups and jams.


This is an exciting venture. I travel around the quiet roads in our locality and harvest flowers from flowering currant, gorse, dandelion and lately elder. I love the idea of using the wild plants to produce a food product which is uniue and delicious and really captures a true taste of the Irish countryside. Apart from the harvesting, there is the cooking, bottling, labelling, marketing and deliveries, it takes quite a bit of work to convert a flower in the hedgerow to a product on the shelf of a shop, but it is a fun new challenge.


So far a number of outlets are stocking NjAM Foods products:

Cafe Rua, Castlebar, Co. Mayo

Dew C Fruit & Veg, Ballaghaderreen, Co. Roscommon

Kate’s Place, Oranmore Town Centre, Orenmore, Co. Galway

Brid Tiernan at the Carrick on Shannon, Longford and Boyle Farmers Markets


Brogans’s Health Food Store in Bioyle.

The products we have made include Beetroot ketchup, Carrot Ketchup and Beer Ketchup. The wild flower cordials include Elderflower, Gorse, Flowering Currant, Danelion and soon it will be time to pick meadowsweet blossoms.

I have also been making jams; gorse flower, elderflower and meadowsweet from the wild flowers. Pina Colada, Rose and Apple are a bit more unusal but we are also making rhubarb and Vvanilla and delicious strawberry jam.

For some of our clients we supply the products labelled specifically for our suppliers as we do for Kate’s Place and our gorse flower jam for Cafe Rua.


We have a website, a Facebook Page and Twitter account too…

Njam Facebook page

Njam on twitter

I have also been busy with our Scoodoos, ancient tree spirits helping to save the planet, and my one tree photogrpahy project

I have also had time to forage for dinner and have been using foraged wild plants to give a wild twist to a couple of indian recipes… next blog will feature Saag Nettle Panir… and it wont be 4 months, promise…

January 18, 2013

Winter beauty smells so good – Winter Flowering Shrubs

by Ciaran Burke


Sweetness and spice… inhale! Ah yes… sniffing the delicious scent of witch hazel flowers is good for the soul. The fuzzy yellow flowers, or orange or red, depending on the cultivar, are borne with delicacy along barren stems as the darkest days start to stretch towards a brighter spring.The sweet spicy scent of Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Arnold Promise’ is one of my favourite fragrances in the garden. The hybrid witch hazels are crosses between two asian species, H. mollis from China and the japanese H. japonica, and there are many fine cultivars from which to choose. We grow the red flowered H. ‘Ruby Glow’, but unfortunately it lacks the rich scent of other cultivars.

Hamamelis x intermedia 'Ruby Glow'

Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Ruby Glow’

Under a large old native hawthorn tree, new shoots of aconitums are emerging from the cold earth, reaching to the light and creating green splashes on a blank canvass of winter soil, blank except for the three young bushes of Sarcococca hookeriana var. humilis. This trio of dwarf evergreen shrubs have tiny flowers without petals, the white blooms borne in the leaf axils and on a calm day their scent journeys through the air, filling the air with sweetness.



The delicate almost translucent flowers of the bush honeysuckle, Lonicera fragrantissima, possess a fragrance similar to their woodbine cousins that scramble through hedgerows in summer. Borne in pairs the pale blooms are coloured only by yellow anther tips of their stamens, but their smell brings a warm glow of summer-like scent to a cold winter’s day.



I checked the naked stems of the winter sweet shrub, hoping in vain to see flower buds, but we will have to wait at least another year for the pleasure of smelling the scent from the pale glassy yellow flowers of Chimonanthus praecox. Young shrubs need time to flower, each january since we planted it a few years ago we hope to see signs that is has at last matured to flowering, but we will have to wait a while longer.



A shorter wait for us will be to enjoy the most magnificent winter scent of Daphne bholua ‘Jacqueline Postil’. The deep pink buds are loosening, the petals starting to unfurl. I checked it yesterday, but I knew long before any close inspection that it was not yet blooming. When in full bloom, it is more likely to smell the plant before you see it, such is the power of its perfume, wafting on calm winter air throughout the garden like no other shrub.



Daphne bholua was introduced to western gardens from the Himalya in 1938, it is a shrub that still remains in comparative obscurity despite having a heavenly scent and one of unmatchable strength in the winter season, perhaps in any season. It has pproved hardy through the two cold winters of recent times, losing its foliage after temperatures of minus 17 Celsius, but recovering well in Spring. A large and quick growing shrub to 2.5 metres or more, evergreen or sometimes deciduous, depending on cultivar and climate, it us unsurpassable in winter beauty and an invaluable asset to any garden where a gardener has a working nose and an appreciation of scent.

June 26, 2012

Nasturtium Oatotto (risotto made from oats) -Recipe

by Ciaran Burke

“Oatotto” – low food miles version of Risotto

Nasturtium Oatotto with strip loin steak

This is a low food mile version of Risotto using nasturtium leaves. We replace the arborio rice which is used for risotto with pinhead oats, this reduces our food miles. We can’t call it risotto if we don’t use rice so we call it Oatotto! This is something we have been experimenting with recently and we love it. Rice cannot be grown in Ireland but oats are. Pinhead oats are not as common as oat flakes but are available from health stores. As with risotto, the possibilities are endless…

Pinhead oats are also called steel cut oats in the United States, they are whole grain oats, the inner kernel of the oat that has been cut into pieces. Apparently they also known as Irish oats, but they are relatively uncommon in Ireland, perhaps they are more widely used in Northern Ireland as they are in Scotland. Pinhead oats have a slightly nuttier flavour than oat flakes, they are high in fibre and contain iron.

Pinhead oats can be used for porridge producing a coarser texture, they do, however, take longer to cook, as much as 35 minutes, making them ideal for “Oatotto”  I think they could be more widely used in cooking…

Nasturtium Oatotto Recipe


  • I cup of pinhead oats
  • 2 cups of chicken stock
  • 1 red onion –finely chopped
  • 1 clove of garlic crushed
  • 20 Nasturtium leaves – chopped
  • ½ cup of finely grated Mature white cheddar cheese
  • Oil for frying

Tropaeolum majus -Nasturtium foliage and flowers (orange)


  1. Saute the onions in oil until soft, then add the garlic and cook for a few minutes more.
  2. Stir in the oats and cook them for a few minutes
  3. Add the chicken stock, do not stir continuously, if you do the oats will turn into a porridge. Instead move them around occasionally to stop them burning.
  4. Continue cooking until the stock in mostly absorbed, 20-30 minutes. They should be soft but with a little bite, al dente!
  5. Then add the nasturtium leaves and cook for a few minutes.
  6. Remove pan from the heat and stir in the cheese.
  7. Serve garnished with a nasturtium flower.

Serve with fresh garden salad or for carnivores, a nice organic striploin steak.

Tropaeolum majus -Nasturtium – flowers and foliage are edible and both have a nice peppery flavour!

June 20, 2012

Rose Petal Cordial – Recipe

by Ciaran Burke

Roses, there is no other plant with so much symbolism attached to it, war of the roses, symbol of love and Shakespeare quotes… Roses in the garden can be a pain, not just the literal ache when a prickle, not a thorn,gets stuck in your flesh. Roses have prickles not thorns, thorns are modified shoots while roses have prickles that arise as modifications from the skin of the stem, the song by Poison “Every Rose Has It’s Thorn” is just botanically inaccurate! Roses are a pain because many of them get diseases such as rust, black spot and powdery mildew and can be really troubled by aphids (green fly).

‘Roseraie de l’Hay’

There are roses that have resistance to diseases and one group called Rugosa hybrids provides us with many cultivars that are robust and disease free, wind resistant and vigorous. Their flowers are often strongly fragrant and  produced in succession throughout the summer. Even when they get aphids they seem to be quite untroubled. Cultivars such as ‘Rosarie de l’Hay’  and  ‘Schneekoppe’ and ‘Blanc Double de Coubert’ are hybrids crossed with wild Rosa rugosa, they combine the ruggedness of the wild species but inherit refinement and beauty expected of a good garden rose. Although less of a pain in terms of care, they can cause literal pain, as there are few other roses have so many prickles along their stems. Ah well every rose has its… prickles.

Their fragrance can drift on the warm summer air, often when I smell roses I think of Turkish Delight. The sweet, a red coloured jelly flavoured with rose petals, that got me thinking…

Rose petals in water

So here we have Rose Petal Cordial, the rich and seductive fragrance of rugosa roses captured in a flavoursome cordial to enjoy at anytime.

Rose Petal Cordial Recipe


  • 12 flowers of a double rugosa rose eg. ‘Rosarie de l’Hay’
  • 2 Litre of water
  • 3 slices of lemon
  • 250g of Fruisana fruit sugar

Pulling away the petals, discard dis-coloured petals


  1. Remove the Rose petals from the flower stalks and put in a glass jar
  2. add the lemon slices and water
  3. Leave to stand for 48 hours in a cool dark place.
  4. Remove the lemons and cook petals and water in a saucepan.
  5. Add sugar as the water heats and continue cooking until boiling
  6. Sieve the liquid into sterilized glass bottles
  7. Allow to cool
  8. Dilute 1:10 cordial to water or according to taste.

We used some cordial to make rose jelly using carageenan seaweed. More on that later…

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June 19, 2012

Elder Flower Champagne -Recipe

by Ciaran Burke

Sparkling Elder Flower Recipe

Elder Flower “Champagne”

Sparkling elder flower has a low alcohol content, it is delicious. It is easy to make and it is the only alcoholic drink that my wife Hanna makes an exception for.


  • 12 elder flower heads
  • 8l water
  • 2 lemon, grate the zest and juice
  • 60ml of cider vinegar
  • 5 x 250g packets of Fruisana fruit sugar or use 1.6 Kg of sugar

Sparkling Elder Flower Recipe


  1. Wash or shake the elder flower heads to remove any bugs that might by crawling on them
  2. Place the flowers in a plastic food bucket, add the vinegar, lemon juice and lemon zest
  3. Add the water a litre at a time stirring in some of the fruit sugar to dissolve.
  4. When all the water has been added, put a lid on the bucket and leave it for two or three days
  5. Strain the liquid through muslin cloth into sterilized bottles. You can use either glass bottles with screw caps or plastic bottles that previously had fizzy water or fizzy drinks.
  6. Leave in a cupboard for a few weeks. Check the bottles regularly and unscrew them slightly every now and again to ensure that there is not too much pressure building up in the bottles, other wise they might explode.

Bottles of sparkling elderflower

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