Sunday, October 30, 2011

Meadowsweet/ Almindelig Mjødurt

Filipendula ulmaria

The habitat of meadowsweet are damp meadows,ditches, along water streams, moist fallow fields, but it can also grow in relatively dry pastures.  It is native throughout most of Europe and Western Asia. It was introduced and naturalized in North America. Other names: Queen of the Meadow, Lady of the Meadow, Bridewort etc. The Latin ulmaria means elm-like, referring to the roughly serrated leaves, similar to elm leaves. The family name Filipendula comes of filum = thread and pendulus = hanging, referring to the swollen tubers on the roots of Dropwort.  (Filipendula vulgaris, Dropwort is alike Meadowsweet as to the flowers, but it is lower and with yarrowlike leaves).

Meadowsweet flowers in June until early September, and the sweet smelling, creamy-white flowers are gathered in a close top. The whole plant possesses a pleasant taste and flavour. The flowers contain no honey, the visiting insects gather pollen. The flowers get their pleasant scent from etheric oils. The little fruits are smooth and with strongly twisted  nuts. The plant was once used as a taste adjustment in mead, but in later times the name is connected to the sweet scent of the flowers.

Folk Medicine:

In the 1300 the physician Henrik Harpestreng recommended to drink meadowsweet with wine against viper bites and to mix crushed seeds with oil to drip into an aching ear. The juice was put in a cloth to sniff against colds, the crushed roots counteracted eye diseases and were with vinegar put on frosty feet. Leaves and roots were used as a compress on wounds and as a patch on gouts.

The flowers of Meadowsweet were introduced in the Pharmacopoeia in 1772.

In the 1700s a decoct of the root was drunk against fever and used to bathe old wounds. An extract of the plant was on the Faroe Islands used against headache.

Medicinal properties today:
The whole plant is used as a remedy for an acidic stomach. Fresh roots are used in homeopatic preparations. Dried flowers used in potpourri. The plant contains the chemicals used to make aspirin.

Other use

In Sweden meadowsweet was in the old days used to strew on the dance floor, where it sent out its fine aromatic scent, when it was being trampled to pieces. It was also used in other countries as a strewing herb on floors to give the room a pleasant aroma, and to flavour wine, beer, mead and viegar.

Pigs raked out the tubers of  Dropwort and eat them. The tubers were in famine times used as a bread flour.

The flowers of meadowsweet were put into wine as a spice. The young leaves or flowers gave a pleasant wine taste for beer or mead. In spring the leaves were used for salad or spinach and the flowers as an aromatic ingrediense in several dishes, the flower buds were used in pickles. Flowers can be added to stewed fruit and jam, giving them a fine almond flavour. The flowers give a light, sweetly spiced tea.

Tanning and dyeing:
Both species of meadowsweet can be used for tanning. A natural black dye can be obtained from the roots  by using a copper mordant. On the Faroe Islands the plant is used for dyeing cloth. 

History, Literature and Mythology:
White flowers have been found in graves from Bronze Age, and these finds could indicate that honey-based mead or flavoured ale were used. In the 16th century, when it was a custom to strew floors with rushes and herbs, it was a favourite of Queen Elisabeth I. She desired it above all other herbs in her chambers. In Chaucer's The Knight's Tale it is known as Meadwort. It was also known as Bridewort, strewn in churches for festivals and weddings and made into bridal garlands.

In Welsh mythology Gwydion and Math created a woman out of oak blossom, broom and meadowsweet and named her Blodeuwedd (flower face).

V.J.Brøndegaard, Folk og Flora, Dansk Etnobotanik , vol. 3, Rosenkilde og Bagger 1979; Danmarks Fugle og Natur, Felthåndbogen, 2011; Nordeuropas Vilde Planter; Norse Mythology; Anemette Olesen, Danske Klosterurter, 2001, Aschehoug.

photo Fyrkat og Lindenborg Aadal 2011: grethe bachmann

Friday, October 28, 2011

Landscape, Forest, Manor, Marina - Strange Flora, Black Cat and other Things by Vejle Fjord and near Horsens.

Vejle fjord, Fakkegrav, stig bachmann nielsen, Naturplan foto.
The northern side of Vejle fjord is marked by tall clay-slopes and coastal hardwoods. The area is a herregårdslandskab (manor landscape) with the castle of Rosenvold and the manor of Barritskov, with large forests and unbroken fields. Large sections of the hardwood-edge along the coast is listed from aesthetic reasons. Close to the coast at the forest of Staksrode are large slide-terasses where the ground has subsided. In the 1950s a scout camp woke up on a rainy night and discovered that the camp with tents, kitchen and campfire was sinking about three meters.

The tall beeches stand as close to the coast as they possibly can The forests along the fjord are called  "Strandskoven på lerfødder". (The beach wood on clay feet). The old tall beeches lie as toppled trunks in a pretty disorder, the result of huge slides in the slope. The trees are toppling down now and then, when the plastic clay of the banks is sliding down into the fjord. The forest is also one of the most important forests of breeding birds of prey in the Vejle district, and several other rare birds are breeding in the forest. The place by Rosenvold is known as a fine migration place. In Staksrode Skov grows the rare Stor Gøgeurt (Orchis purpurea/Lady Orchid) and other rare orchids.

The Caretaker Project:
 A caretaker project is surveying and gathering knowledge about the endangered and rare breeding birds in Denmark. In the project are 45 bird species, and the project runs from 2008-2013; each species is connected to a voluntary caretaker group. 

Barritskov on the northern side of Vejle fjord is an old farm known from the 1200s. Today it is known for Årstidernes Pakkeri (Seasons' Packing), which distributes vegetables, fruit and meat, packed in wooden boxes at Barritskov. In the old main building the firm works on communication, IT , economy and planning for the three farms connected to the Seasons and for the forests around Barritskov. The idea of the firm is to recreate the close connection between cultivation of the land and the joy by meals filled with quality commodities, health, flavors and presence. The Seasons' Packing is a great succes. They started in 1996 with 100 members, who fetched the food packages themselves. Now they are distributing to the whole country, delivering the package to the customer's door.

Rosenvold castle is a manor on the northern side of Vejle fjord, only with a 10 km distance to Barritskov. In the early Middle Ages it was a borg (= medieval castle) . It was demolished in the late 1300s on the
order of queen Margrethe I. The present building is from 1585, built by Karen Gyldenstierne, a widow after Holger Rosenkrantz. So you see, here you've got the names Gyldenstierne and Rosenkrantz, which Shakespeare used in his "Hamlet"! Rosenvold is actually a manor, but it is called a castle because it had a close royal connection to king Christian IV. Rosenvold is listed in class A. It has its own camping and a small marina.

Herregårdslandskab/Manor Landscape
When you look across a typical Danish landscape you see farms and houses spread near and far, surrounded by small fields, here and there a village with a church tower sticking up, it's a landscape with small lines, but there are landscapes of another type around the manors, where you can look across unbroken fields, where you drive through long avenues of old trees, and where you meet old buildings of cultural importance.  These landscapes are in Denmark often being preserved by listing or via local politics, where new buildings and change of terrain are prevented. A landscape like this is called a herregårdslandskab. The English translation must be a manor landscape
I like the Danish manor landscapes with  those large lines, where the eye can see far and wide. I don't think my photos will show you what the eye can see. Some English movies can. The director Ang Lee shows it in landscapes in "Sense and Sensibility", and there is also a beautiful scenery in the TV-series "Pride and Prejudice", the version with Colin Firth from 1995 is the best. I'm always looking out for a sunhazed wide landscape, it is a rare thing to meet, and my photos do no give justice to them.

Downside Rosenvold castle and the forest is a small marina. It lies desolate at this time of the year, and the boats are all up on land. From the marina and the jetties is a fine view across Vejle fjord and over to the coastal beech wood at Fakkegrav and Staksrode. 

Church Dikes.
Along and upon church dikes is often a special flora with relict plants or feral plants. At a church dike in the village of Hornum was a strange plant I have never seen before. It's called Kermesbær, in English Poke Weed. Generic name Phytolacca, it's native to North America, South America, East Asia and New Zealand. The generic name derives from the Greek word phytos, meaning plant and the Latin word lacca, meaning red dye. The plant is poisonous to mammals, but not to birds. In some places people cook the young leaves of the plant which should remove the dangerous toxins.
From Wikipedia: Since pioneer times, pokeweed has been used as a folk remedy to treat many ailments. (...) Independent researchers are investigating phytolacca's use in treating AIDS and cancer patients. Especially to those who have not been properly trained in its use, pokeweed should be considered dangerous and possibly deadly.  (...) Pokeweed berries yield a red ink or dye, which was once used by aboriginal Americans to decorate their horses. Many letters written home during the American Civil War were written in pokeberry ink; the writing in these surviving letters appears brown. The red juice has also been used to symbolize blood, as in the anti-slavery protest of Benjamin Lay. A rich brown dye can be made by soaking fabrics in fermenting berries in a hollowed-out pumpkin.

My question:
Wikipedia says: aboriginal Americans. Is that correct?  I thought it should be native Americans.


  By the church dike came an affectionate cat up to us. The little black cat with the fine silken fur followed us around until we went out from the church yard again.

Is there someone inside the church ?

Other places by Vejle fjord and the Horsens district:

driving along winding roads
passing smiling landscapes
The farmer is out working today
lovely view from the hill - the day had a certain sunhaze
Sweet Jersey cows give fine cream
view from a church yard across a harvested corn field
and old chestnut tree by the church dike
a black horse in a sunhazed landscape
At Bygholm Aa
villa with a small arbour (to the left)
two lovely bull calves
a village with an old  church
overgrown grave hill
tax with berries on the church yard
A nice country house
colourful stone at the beach
this must really be an old model!
At Bygholm Aa river
Bygholm Aa river
At Bygholm Aa river
pretty cattle
sunhazed landscape
where's the handyman?
lots and lots of lovely apples this year!photo Vejle fjord and Horsens district October 2011: grethe bachmann

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Winter Evenings - Time for Nuts and Candy! Take the Nuts!

Now is the time of nuts. Winter evenings and bowls with candy and nuts on the candle-lit coffee table - what do you like? Candy? Nuts? This is a difficult choice! Take the nuts. ( More nuts than candy anyway!) Nuts are healthy, they are filling, they give you new energy and the important healthy fat. Nuts have lots of positive effects on our health and the ability of our immune defence to protect us against diseases.

Nuts were used as food and oil for centuries as early as 200 years B.C.,  and the Romans used sugar glazed almonds at special occassions.

The walnut tree grows wild in the forests and thickets of the Danish woods, but it is als a common garden tree. Since Denmark is the northernest country of the walnut tree's existence, the fruits are many in some years and almost none in others. The walnut origins from Asia minor, where it still grows wild. From here it has spread to southern Europe and further to the USA. In Asia it has spread via Iran to China - and today China, USA and Turkey are the largest producers of walnuts. Walnut is mostly plant as a fruit-tree, but the wood is very sought-after for furniture and rifle butts. Both Italy, England and France work with a very fast growing walnut. The cultivation-purpose is timber production.

Walnuts remind about a small brain. The colour of the walnut-shell reveals the quality, a light shell is high quality.The taste of the nut is sweet and mild, if not, it is too old. Unfortunately nuts sold in shops are often too old, and their taste is strong and rancid. Put fresh, cracked nuts into the freezer. Durability ab. 8 months. Walnuts are ripe when they fall out of the green capsule. Unripe walnuts are plucked in summer, about 20. July.

walnut tree, photo: grethe bachmann
The garden walnuts can be dried in a boiler room or in a warm cellar, but they can also be eaten fresh. They have like most other nuts a short validity before they go mouldy or rancid because of the high fat content. It is a good idea to keep them in a freezer. Walnuts are proclaimed the healthiest among nuts -  they contain more antioxidants and more of the healthy fat which is good for the heart than other nuts. Eat about 7 walnuts a day in order to obtain the benefits.

Walnuts are especially known from walnut-bread and as a decoration on cakes and in cheese arrangements - and in pies and salads (like Waldorf-Salad -  hello, Basil Fawlty!). But they are also - like most nuts and like almonds - a part of the salt-kitchen, like used in vegetarian dishes, patés or in a sauté with plums and walnuts in Balsamico as an accompaniment for game and roasts.  Walnut produces also a well-tasting and very expensive oil. The green fruits are very popular in spice snaps.

Pickled green walnuts 
1 kilo unripe walnuts
750 gram sugar 4 dl water
½ bottle brown rum
Newly plucked walnuts pricked with a rough needle.  Put into cold water for 12-14 days. Water must be changed each day. The last day boil them under lid until they are tender, drip off and put into a glass. Cook a pickle of sugar and water, pour it over the nuts and stir it daily for a week. Sieve out the pickle and cook it about 15 minutes with a piece of cinnamon or a vanilla pod. Add half a bottle of brown rum and pour the warm pickle over the nuts.

hazelnuts, stig bachmann nielsen naturplan foto
Hazel is common in Denmark along hedges and in the edge of woods, and it grows in many gardens and parks. It's possible to pluck hazelnuts en masse. They taste extremely well. If hazelnuts have to be preserved, they must be ripe when they are plucked, or else their taste is not good and they mould easily. The nuts are ripe, when the shell is nut-brown and fall out of the hulls by themselves. Hazelnuts are rich in folat, which is a B-vitamin, and rich in vitamin E, in calcium, magnesium and potassium. They are very energy-rich and with a high fat-content, more than half is fat and the rest is hydrocarbonate and protein. Hazelnuts were basic
food since Stone Age.

Hazel was introduced by man very early, and the long thin stems were used for fishing-traps, hedges etc. Hazel was a popular winter food since before the time of agriculture; the nuts were found as grave gifts in very early graves, and scientists are of the opinion that the hunter-gather people deliberately did sowe hazel overall where they came. Hazel is cultivated in most of Europe and in countries like China, Australia and USA. Hazelnuts are an ingrediense in Nutella. The biggest problem of nuts bought in shops is that they are often too old and rancid or mould. So it is a good idea to look for the production-date. Most dried nuts come from Turkey. The dried hazelnuts from shops should be kept in the freezer, where they last for a year.

Hazelnuts are good both in cooking and baking. Coarsely chopped or crushed hazelnuts can be stirred into a paté or be a part of a breading of meat or fish. Hazelnuts are a delicious part of a salad. They can be roasted in the oven or in the pan which brings out the fine taste. If the nuts have turned dull and dry they can be saved if they are put into water for a few hours.

Not all nuts are nuts but we call them nuts:
Almonds are rich in vitamin E, folic acid and blood pressure-submerging minerals like magnesium, potassium, calcium, phospor and iron. 28 gram contains as much calcium as 1/4 cup of milch and is one of the best foods of vitamin E in the form of alpha-tocopherol, which is a cancer-preventive antioxidant. Almond is the kernel in green fruits from the almond tree. The tree supposedly origins from Asia, but is cultivated today overall , like in the Mediterraneans, Central Asia and Africa. Almonds are especially used in making marzipan for desserts, cakes and burnt almonds, but it is also a part of the salt kitchen. Almonds have a high fat content of the healthy fats, and their durability is short, so they are best kept in the freezer. Besides common almonds are bitter almonds, which even in small amounts bring out the characteristic almond taste in marzipan and Italian Amaretto liqueur. The bitter almonds contain small amounts of the poisonous substance amygdalin, which chemically is a precursor of prussic acid. It is not dangerous in small amounts.  

Cashew-nuts  are an excellent source of copper and a good source of magnesium, iron, zinc and biotin, which is a water-soluble  B-vitamin, which among other things can regulate the sugar transformation. They come from India, East Africa and South America. A cashew-nut is an "excrescence" under the fruit of the cashew tree. The nuts are always sold without shell, since the shell has a corroding oil, which irritates the skin. Cashew nuts are sold as they are or salted and roasted; they are mostly sold as snacks, but are also a part of many Thai dishes and other Asian dishes.
Pecan nuts are a good source of both vitamin A, vitamin E, folic acid, copper, magnesium, phosphor, potassium, manganese, zinc and B 3. The pecan nut reminds about a large walnut, which family it belongs to. Pecan nuts origin from USA, which has the biggest export of pecan nuts in the world. It is one of the crops, which is connected to the original food of the Native Americans. They are sold dried and roasted and salted and they are used in USA for the famous Pecan Pie and as a filling in cookies and ice cream. They have a fine, mild and special taste, which distinguishes them from other nuts. The pecan nuts can be used like most other nuts. They have got the highest fat content of all nuts, about 80 % ,which make them very nutrient rich. The main part is the healthy fat.

Macadamia nuts are rich in protein, fibres, potassium, magnesium and the healthy fats.They are used in snacks and cakes. They were first discovered in Australia. Hawaii is today the leading producer of the Macadamia-nuts. 

Peanuts are actually a legume and  contain mostly proteins. Peanuts and peanut butter contain furthermore much vitamin E, folat, potassium and zinc. Peanuts origin from South America, and they are the seeds from a tropical leguminous plant. They are used for snacks and cooking and production of oil.
The large Brazil nuts are rich in protein, copper, magnesium,  fibres, vitamin E and niacin, which are important for the energy transformation and the transformation of glucose, amino acids and fat. The Brazil nuts also contain a good part of selenium, which is famous for being an immune-enhancing mineral, which among other things protect against cancer. Two medium size Brazil nuts contain 200 microgram selenium.
Brazil nuts can widely be used like hazelnuts. They contain like all nuts much fat, about 60 %, mostly the healthy fats. They have a sweet taste. Like other nuts they should be kept in the freezer. The Brazil nuts are from a South American tree in the tropical rain forests of Brazil. They have coconut-like fruits with seeds, and they are actually not nuts in spite of their name. The nut is in Brazilian named "chestnut from Para", which is a town by the Amazone river. The Brazil nuts are especially exposed to contain aflatoxines, a poisonous substance, which comes from mould inside the nut.

The Pistachios are rich in minerals, especially potassium and phosphor. They are also a good source of carotenoids which is a strong antioxidant. The pistachio is a small light green nut with a dark red membrane. The pistachios origin from the Middle East ,where they were known since ancient times, and they are today a common snack in the Mediterranean, especially in Turkey and Greece. They taste mild and finely perfumed -  they have a content of 40-45 %  fat, primarily the healthy fats. They are found in two products,  as whole nuts with shell, salty and used as snacks and as the dried kernel without shell. The pistachios are in many ways a part of cakes and desserts. 

Pine nuts are small white fruits from the pines, the tall dark green conifers, which grow overall in southern Europe. They are called pignolia nuts or pinons in Spanish. The seeds are surrounded by an almost black, hard shell, which is difficult to remove - that's why the kilo price is high. They taste both sweet and sharp,  a little of resin. The pine nuts come especially from South Europe and Turkey and they are used in many contexts in salads, pasta, cakes and as snacks etc. They have like other nuts got a high fat content, about 40 % , but this is primarily healthy fat. The oil in the pine nut gets easily rancid, so they should be kept in the freeezer.

Although nuts ar healthy, the roasted and sugar glazed nuts are not!

Source: Anette Eckmann, Køkkendagbogen, 2004 ; VOM Viden om Mad; I Form Magasin 2011, Camilla Plum Mors Mad. 2002.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Mysteries - Agri Church

The Nightmare of a Norwegian Family.

Agri church is an idyllic little church in Mols Bjerge. It looks like the motif of a postcard, and it is difficult to imagine that it might be the home of mysterious and uncanning events. A Norwegian family of four experienced on a late evening in June in 1996 that something terrible happened at the church in Agri.

The family was on a summer holiday in Denmark; they came from Bergen and had been driving through Jutland and paid a short visit to Århus. It was a fine weather and they decided to drive through Mols Bjerge before they went to their destination in Ebeltoft. The family father was an engineer of 53, his wife a psychologist of 51, and their two twin-daughters of 26 were respective school-teacher and technical designer. None of them have forgotten what happened that night, when a short stay by the church in Agri developed into a true nightmare.

"The weather was lovely, and it was such a cosy trip along small, winding roads and with the scent of flowers," the family father told later, "but the girls complained that they were getting "seasick".  We had just arrived to the village Agri, and I drove up to a parking place by the church.  We went out to get some fresh air, before we continued to Ebeltoft. We were tired, but we were looking forward to the next part of the tour, and none of us had been drinking anything stronger than sodawater."

In a few moments something strange happened. It was ten in the evening and it had grown darker, but they were close enough to see two people emerging by the foot of the church tower. They were dressed in dark clothes, like monk robes, and it looked like they were talking to each other in a low voice. A moment later they stopped their talk and went around the corner on the other side of the tower, as if they wanted to hide. At short moment later another person came walking from the other side of the church; he passed the tower closely, and the two other persons jumped out, threwing themselves on him. The Norwegian family was paralysed and watched terrified ,while the newly arrived was beaten with two heavy sticks. While he  was laying quietly on the ground, his two attackers bent over him and removed something he had been carrying. The family could not see what it was, but the daughter Sissel was of the opinion that it was a little bag of some kind.   

Not until then the family discovered that the attack had taken place without a sound - in spite of the quiet evening and in spite of that they stood less than 100 meter from the dramatic scenery. They now saw that the two attackers stood up and left their victim and almost melted together with the darkness on the other side of the church. The family finally came out of their paralysis - and they all run up to the victim on the ground. There was no trace of anything at all  - no victim, no blood, nothing.  "We just run to the car an drove all we could to our hotel in Ebeltoft", the mother said. "we almost did not talk about it, and the next days we kept a nervous eye on newspapers and TV-news, but we never saw or heard anything about a robbery at Agri church. We don't like to talk about it. I think we are all trying to forget it."       

In spite of several attempts no one have succeeded in finding out, if an attack like this has taken place by Agri church .

Source: Lars Thomas , Det mystiske Danmark - en rejseguide til spøgelser, uhyrer og andre mærkværdigheder. Lars Thomas og Aschehoug Dansk Forlag, 2007.

photo Agri, Mols,  2011: grethe bachmann