Hot or Not, Runner Recipe & Bug Bites

Taken from Lynne’s weekly column ‘Green Scene’ for the Western Mail. 5th August 2017

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Hot or Not?

You may remember that a few months ago, I shared David King’s forecast for the summer.  David predicts the weather without technology hence his website being called www.weatherwithouttechnology.co.uk.  He uses a fascinating mix of nature watching and years and years of experience and recording notes.  He is incredibly accurate.

Back in the spring he predicted a hot, dry June, a mixed bag for July and … sadly, a wet August. 

From his observations of nature he deduces that everything is running some 17 to 20 days head this year.

He says, “The early cuckoo was the first sign, since then there have been many other such signs, including Wimbledon tennis being plagued with flying ants on the 5th.  What is unusual about this is that the usual flying ant day (when they hatch out and plague us) is 19th July – yes truly so – another hidden true fact – therefore even the flying ants are some 14 days ahead of schedule – no real surprise, since much else is ahead too. People look but they do not see, maybe they do not know, but to ‘geeks’ like me, the early appearance of ants is significant and important.”

For August, he predicts the 6th to 11th being a cool period and the 12th to 15th a warm period (possibly very hot).

And, based on his experience and copious note-taking, he also advises, “Observe on which day the first heavy fog occurs, and expect a hard frost on the same day in October.

A fog in August also indicates a severe winter and plenty of snow.  And as August, so next February – meaning the hottest days in August will correlate with the coldest days of February next year.”

I’m reluctant to continue, but at this stage, he is also predicting a long, hard winter.

But never mind – it’s still August, and as Frank, my pet pig, is demonstrating, there is plenty of time for some summer fun yet!

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Runner Recipe

The runner beans are here!  I have already harvested enough for several meals and to give as gifts when visiting friends.  I love the artist, Bill Tidy’s take on runner beans; he told me cheerfully, “Around here they are used as currency!  People take them to the pub and trade with them.”  It’s so true of all home grown veg I think – the perfect bartering product!

Bill’s wife, Rosa is Italian and quite possibly one of the best cooks I have ever met.  And she uses Bill’s ‘left over currency’ to make the most delicious runner bean chutney – it’s a great recipe for using up some of the larger runner beans that you miss amongst the foliage.

You will need:

  • 1 kg Runner Beans (when dry trimmed and sliced)
  • 750g onions (chopped)
  • 500g Demerara sugar
  • 500g soft brown sugar
  • 1 heaped tablespoon cornflour
  • 1tablespoon turmeric
  • 1 heaped tablespoon mustard powder.
  • 1 litre vinegar.

Method:
Cook chopped onions in 700ml of vinegar and cook sliced beans in well salted water until tender. Meanwhile, mix dry ingredients to smooth paste with remaining vinegar, then strain cooked beans, and add to vinegar & onions & cook for 10 minutes.

Add sugar and rest of ingredients and boil for another 15 minutes until mixture thickens.

Bottle in sterilised jars and cover.

Rosa says the chutney is best left to mature for a couple of months, although it seldom gets the chance!

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Bug Bites

I was inundated with responses and replies from my article recommending Avon’s Skin So Soft Dry Oil for repelling insects such as horse flies, midges and mosquitoes.  Someone even told me that when they were filming Brave Heart with Mel Gibson in Scotland, Avon’s oil was used liberally – and effectively.  Thank you for all of your emails and texts, most of them commenting very positively on the effectiveness of the product and some offering other successful alternatives.  I also learned that midges have increased at an alarming rate in Pembrokeshire – though it’ll take more than that to put me off visiting!

Essential oils work well, particularly lemon, eucalyptus, peppermint and lavender.  All effective on their own but also when mixed together.  Add to water, shake well and spray accordingly.  This was considered a great way to deter bugs and flies from animals, especially horses and donkeys.

Apparently taking turmeric, either as capsules or including it in your cooking will deter bug bites too.

And Jonathan Day, PhD, a mosquito expert at the University of Florida, offers the following advice, “Mosquitoes use their vision to find their prey and are more attracted to dark coloured clothing, than light colours.

Carbon dioxide (CO2) is the primary thing mosquitoes (and midges) search for to identify food sources. And when your heart rate is elevated, your body produces more CO2. From exercise to drinking alcohol or eating spicy foods, anything that cranks up your metabolic rate will increase your CO2 production—and make you irresistible to mosquitoes.  Unfortunately, being overweight or pregnant can also up your CO2 output, he adds. Best stock up on the Skin So Soft, then! 

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