Ginger it up!

Fresh ginger rootI was in a lovely traditional veg shop the other day and among a very nice display of fresh herbs, was a basket full of ginger root all gnarled and knobbly. And I thought, what an unprepossessing appearance it has for such a versatile and very special plant.

If I stop and think about it, ginger forms part of my diet in lots of different ways. Ginger is definitely one of my favourite herbal teas. If I haven’t got any ginger tea bags, I have been known to crush a fresh piece of ginger, pour boiling water over it and add some honey – delicious. I am also quite partial to ginger beer, the hotter the better, and the very mention of it always makes me think of Enid Blyton and her wonderful children’s books where every picnic included ‘lashings of ginger beer’. 

I bake with it quite often and love a spiced ginger cake and also ginger biscuits. If I am cooking a curry, there will be ginger involved, fresh or powdered, whatever I have to hand. If it’s Christmas, you will be sure to find some crystallised ginger in the house.

It has an utterly unique flavour, spicy, peppery, warming – and it is as much a sensation as a taste and smell.

From 1585, Jamaican ginger was the first oriental spice to be grown in the New World and imported back to Europe, so it has part of our diet for a long time. Today, India, is the largest producer with over 33% of the global production, with China in second place.

Ginger (Zingiber officinale) is a flowering plant in the family Zingiberaceae whose rhizome, ginger root or simply ginger, and this is what we use as a spice. It is a herbaceous perennial which produces clusters of white and pink flower buds that bloom into yellow flowers. It is a reed-like plant with annual leafy stems, about a meter tall. You can grow ginger in this country, even though it is a tropical plant. I personally haven’t tried, but if you have how did you get on? Here is a link with some advice if you fancy having a go.

Zingiber officinaleIt is said to be a good remedy in the early stages of an infection because, as a warming spice, it can ‘promote a fever and hasten healing’. Ginger’s warming effects are also said to relieve rheumatic aches and pains by widening the blood vessels and stimulating circulation. It is interesting that, around the world, we like to use ginger as a soothing, healing medicine and yet there is little or no scientific proof that it actually does any good!

In limited studies, ginger was found to be ‘more effective than a placebo’ for treating nausea caused by seasickness, morning sickness and chemotherapy, but the results were negligible. And yet, look in almost any culture and you will see ginger used to help with nausea, travel sickness and headaches. Perhaps it is nothing more than the fact that its warming spiciness makes us feel better, and at the end of the day, perhaps that’s sometimes all we need!


Just for you

Sharing a cup of coffee with a friend is a regular pastime of mine and something that can often turn a grey day into something bright and sunny.

I think this is a perfect card for a coffee sharing friend (even if you drink tea, not coffee!). The image and papers come from our Janet Kruskamp CD.

The strip down the middle is made using a Signature die – the Lace Edger One. The great thing about using a CD and a die is that all you need to complete the card apart is white cardstock or a card blank (8” square works well for this) and white paper to print the backing design. I must say, I have saved quite a lot recently as I buy fewer embellishments these days. Mind you – if I spot a nice one I buy some anyway and keep them for a special occasion – and ye, that’s how my crafty stash grows and grows!


Vinegar – magic in a bottle!

I was rummaging in the slightly chaotic kitchen cupboard where I keep my vinegars, herbs and spices when I discovered that I had about ten different bottles of vinegar of varying antiquity. There, alongside my favourite balsamic, were also bottles of apple, red wine, white wine, cider, white and malt vinegars, plus a couple of others too tattered to identify. I’d obviously bought different types of vinegar for different recipes over the years and then not used them again. Never being one to waste anything if I can help it, I started Googling vinegar and its uses and, as so often happens with the internet, was amazed at all the fascinating things I discovered!

Did you know you can clean your washing machine with vinegar? No, neither did I! If you pour 450ml of white distilled vinegar into the dispenser and then run a full cycle, without clothes or detergent, it will clean out soap scum and disinfect the washing machine.

White vinegar, either distilled or full strength, is also amazingly useful for removing stains. I found too many to list them all here, but to give you an idea, white vinegar can tackle bloodstains, ink, rust, orange juice, black coffee and beer! 

I think most of us know that vinegar is useful for cleaning windows and you can also buy household cleaners based on vinegar. But why not try making your own?  Simply fill a recycled spray bottle with 2 parts water to I part distilled white vinegar and a couple of drops of washing up liquid for a quick clean solution.

As we seem to be enjoying a bit of an Indian summer, you might still manage the odd BBQ, or lunch outside. To keep flying insects at bay, you can place bowl filled with apple cider vinegar near some food, but away from your guests, and by the end of the day you’ll find lots of uninvited guests floating in the bowl!

Health & beauty
The healthy and beauty benefits of apple cider vinegar seem to be endless! From constipation to corns and from arthritis to warts it seems to be a cure-all. If you look online, or consult a reference book you’ll find lots of suggestions on how to use apple cider vinegar. Here are just a couple I came across: 

  • If you suffer from arthritis, try placing 2 teaspoons of apple cider vinegar and honey in a glass of water, and stir vigorously, then drink. This mixture is said to help relieve pain.
  • If you have warts, put apple cider vinegar on a plaster and wrap over the wart. Replace the plaster each night and, after about a week, the wart will have gone!

Vinegar has been revered throughout the ages – it is mentioned many times in the Bible. The Romans used it, as did Hannibal, and it came to the rescue in all sorts of ways in the Middle Ages, not least as a protection against the germs of the Black Death. So, the next time you put it some malt vinegar on your chips (naughty!) or more healthily some balsamic on your salad remember, there’s a lot more to vinegar than just a nice taste!






Putting on a bit of a show…

July and August are busy times down here in Devon. Of course, the tourism industry is huge in this area – we are blessed with beautiful countryside and a dramatic coastline – but it’s the strong sense of community and tradition in the countryside that also come to the fore at this time of year.

The rural community is still closely aligned with the farming world and country shows, town carnivals and village fetes are all still important (and popular) events on the social calendar.

Growing giant vegetables, showing your best breeding ram or entering your dog in the agility class are all part of the fun,­ although some people take it very seriously indeed! People go to enormous lengths to build carnival floats, groom and polish their ponies and traps and produce flower arrangements of great ingenuity. It is heartening to see such ‘traditional’ ways of life still carrying on so strongly in this technological age.

My partner in crime writing, Julia Wherrell, took the afternoon off to wander around a show local to her up on Dartmoor, the Chagford Show, and took some fun photos to give you a real feel for what goes on. She spent quite a lot of her afternoon in the produce and craft tents and when not in there, she was admiring the prize sheep and cattle, oh, and chickens of course. She says she most definitely did not go near the beer tent(!), but might have swung by the cream teas!

They always say ‘write about what you know’, so if you happen to be a fan of our Swaddlecome Mysteries series, this sort of rural entertainment will be well known to you! 


Tea for two – just for you!


I simply love blue and white china and have it in many places around the house apart from everyday use. I think the willow pattern is a very attractive and traditional design for a teapot and has lovely childhood memories for me too.

This image from the Anna Browne cardmaking pad makes a lovely birthday or everyday card.

the card measures 7 inches square and has layers of cream, light blue and darker blue and interspersed between the layers are some teatime doilies. You can easily buy these ready made or you may have a cutting die that makes doilies – either is fine!

The pearl heart is actually a little buckle and the ribbon has been threaded through – if you don’t have that then just four little self adhesive pearls stuck to the ribbon would be an easy and attractive alternative.