Gin and Tonic Tree, Super Sesame Seeds & Mind Your Back

Taken from Lynne’s weekly column ‘Green Scene’ for the Western Mail. 1st April 2017

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Gin and Tonic Tree

Hot on the heels of their popular dual cropping plants – the Tomtato (tomatoes and potatoes from one plant) and Egg and Chips (Aubergine, or Egg Plant, and potato) the latest innovation from the Thompson & Morgan grafting programme is the fabulous Gin and Tonic Tree

Gin & Tonic with Juniper berries and quinine bark from the same tree may sound impossible (so did the Tomtato® concept!), but UK gardeners can now grow juniper berries and quinine bark on the same plant, thanks to a major breakthrough in grafting technique. The mail order seed and plant specialist has cornered the market for dual-cropping grafted plants in recent years having invested heavily in a grafting development programme at its Suffolk trial grounds.

The Gin & Tonic Tree™ is set to be the first in a series of grow-your-own beverages. Expect to see the Vermouth Vine and Sherry Cherry following in future years.

A limited stock of the Gin & Tonic Tree™ has been made available for the spring despatch season. A further 100,000 plants will be made available this summer for autumn delivery.

Thompson and Morgan recommends growing The Gin & Tonic Tree™ alongside a lemon tree to complete the ingredient list.

I think the only downside is that they didn’t make it available for Mother’s Day!

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Super Sesame Seeds

There is never a shortage of interesting conversations in work. And last week, as my brother tucked into his sesame seed roll, I asked, “Do you know where sesame seeds come from?”

“Sesame Street,” was his reply.

But the gauntlet had been thrown down and turning to his trusty iPhone, he found out.

It turns out, not surprisingly, that sesame seeds come from the sesame fruit. The fruit is a long pod that looks a bit like okra, and grows on the sesame plant, which is native to Asia and East Africa.

Sesame plants are the “oldest oilseed crop known to man,” and are said to have been sought-after crops up to 4,000 years ago in ancient Babylon and Assyria.

The plants have to be dried before the seeds are removed and as they dry, the pods begin to open, revealing the seeds inside. The dried out plants are shaken to release seeds.

The pearly white seeds that adorned my brother’s burger bun, didn’t come straight out of the fruit that way. They have to be hulled from their darker shells first. And not all sesame seeds are white, some seeds will still be dark in colour even after they’re hulled and seeds can also be red, brown, and even black.

The biggest producers of sesame seeds in 2012, according to FAOSTAT data featured on Top 5 Anything, were Myanmar, China, India, Ethiopia and Sudan.

The tiny little seeds are also good for you – they are high in vitamin B1 and dietary fibre, as well as other vitamins and minerals. And sesame oil has the good kind of fat, mono- and polyunsaturated acids (PUFAs), which help lower cholesterol, and is high in vitamin E, magnesium, copper, calcium and iron.

Sesame seeds are probably best when toasted, because the heat brings out their nutty flavour. And much to my brother’s amusement, it seems that black sesame are also used for restoring colour to grey hair. I’ll have to order him some!

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Mind Your Back

I am slightly irritated to report that just one week into my 50’s, I have hurt my back whilst gardening. My own fault, as I lifted something far too heavy and turned awkwardly but it happened so easily I thought it was worth reminding readers to be careful, especially as Easter is coming up. That’s the weekend that many people are back out working in the garden for the first time after a long winter rest.

Few people think of gardening as exercise, yet more than 400,000 gardeners need medical attention every year after injuring themselves lifting, weeding for too long or wrestling with stubborn shrubs.

Mark Bender, physiotherapist to the British Davis Cup tennis team, says: “Most gardening activities are fairly rigorous and gardeners sustain the same injuries as sports people. Pulling up a shrub, for example, can cause a back injury that’s common among front row rugby players.”

He advises, “Keeping fit will also protect the spine. Increased stamina also prevents muscle fatigue and consequential strain on the spine.”

My own worth-his-weight-in-gold chiropractor, Ieaun Thomas, based in Ebbw Vale, told me, “Few people are physically prepared for gardening. I see people with injuries that could be avoided by stretching and warming up. Or by making a few more trips, rather than overloading themselves,” he added, sagely.

Thanks to Ieaun, I’m on the mend and was advised to ‘keep working through it’ – not only by him, but by my brother and my Bank Manager.

Free leaflets on lower back exercises and safe gardening are available from the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy – www.csp.org.uk, or call 020 7306 6620.

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