How to Grow Watercress at Home

growing watercress

Even if you don’t have a large garden or green fingers, you can still grow some edibles at home. Growing watercress is easy – all you need is a few pots or containers, light and some water.

High in fibre and vitamin C, it’s a great ingredient for salads, sandwiches, soups and garnishes many dishes prettily. Watercress is also a rapid grower and will thrive inside or out.

Growing watercress from roots

You’ll usually find a better root network on a watercress plant from a farm shop rather than a supermarket and this is also a nice way to support your local economy. If that’s not an option, even bagged watercress from the supermarket can be rooted in a jar of water within a week.

Select a couple of stems with a good root network – the more roots that are established, the quicker it will grow. Choose a container with lots of drainage holes – plastic is best as it retains more moisture than terracotta. You can add some gravel and some extra holes to the bottom of the container to improve drainage if you like.

Fill the pot with a good quality growing compost, leaving a few inches clear at the top so the stems can grow up neatly. Tap the compost in firmly and give it a good drink – watercress likes plenty of moisture.

Make some planting holes in the compost a little larger than your rooted stems then plant them in neatly, firming gently around the base. Leave a good 10cm between stems so the plants can spread. Give the pot another good watering.

Leave in a cool, shady spot and water every day – the compost should always be moist. Within about a month your watercress should be strong and healthy. Crop the leaves regularly to avoid producing flowers, or let the buds grow to generate seed.

Growing watercress from seed

You can of course buy a packet of watercress seeds, but if you already have some established plants you can produce your own seed by allowing them to flower.

Again use pots with good drainage facilities and choose an alkaline compost. Soak the soil and plant the seeds about an inch deep. Place the pots in a container of water so the compost can stay wet, and in a bright spot away from direct sunlight. Change the water in the container every day. Seedlings will emerge after about a week and will be ready for pricking out a couple of weeks later.

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Jars for Pickled Beetroot

pickled beetroot jars

As part of our commitment to seasonal eating, Wares of Knutsford is publishing a number of recipes featuring the ingredients of the month. This month includes delicious, colourful beetroot. Having already shown a number of tasty ways to use beetroot, it’s time to go back to classic pickled beetroot.

Great with salads, cold meats and funky cheeses, once you’ve tasted homemade pickled beetroot you’ll never go back to shop bought!

Apart from the recipe ingredients, you’ll need a selection of jars for beetroot pickling – like pickled onions, these will need to be suitable for acidic contents which means vinegar safe lids. The Wares of Knutsford recommendation for pickled beetroot jars is the 480ml size, with heat sealable lids in a variety of colours and pack sizes – 12, 24 and 36.

Spiced pickled beetroot jars

  • 1kg raw beetroot, leaves and stalks trimmed (small and medium sizes are best)
  • 200g caster sugar
  • 300ml white wine vinegar
  • 3 star anise
  • 2 cloves
  • 3 allspice berries
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees. Wrap each beetroot in a piece of aluminium foil and roast on a baking tray for about an hour and a half or until soft enough to insert a skewer easily. Set aside to cool.

Unwrap the beetroot then peel and remove the stalks. Smaller beetroot can be left whole and larger ones can be cut in half. Load the beetroot into sterilised jars.

Add the sugar, vinegar, spices, bay leaves and 200ml of cold water to a saucepan. Bring to the boil then simmer gently, stirring all the time, for two minutes or until the sugar is completely dissolved. Remove from the heat and stir in the balsamic vinegar.

Pour the hot vinegar mixture into the jars to cover the beetroot, seal and allow to cool.

Pickled beetroot jars with shallots

  • 450g raw beetroot, trimmed
  • 2 shallots
  • 175ml red wine vinegar
  • Half a teaspoon mixed peppercorns
  • half a teaspoon sea salt

Prepare the beetroot in the oven as per the previous recipe. Cut the cooked beetroot into thin slices.

Peel the shallots and cut into thin slices, then layer with the beetroot in the jar.

Add the vinegar, peppercorns and salt to a sauce pan, bring to the boil then remove from the heat and pour into the jar, covering the beetroot and shallots. Seal and allow to cool.

These pickles will be ready to eat within a couple of days and can be stored in the refrigerator for up to a month.

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Mason Drinking Jars Perfect for Summer

mason drinking jars

Mason Drinking Jars Range

The Wares of Knutsford Mason jars range has always been excellent for an extremely wide variety of uses, but now features some new additions. These jam jars with handles were inspired by the way people use jars to hold drinks at events such as picnics and BBQs, thanks to the tight fitting lids that help to keep the contents safe. The new Mason drinking jars with handles make the process that much easier, coming in a 450ml size, heavyweight clear glass with a chunky handle. You can buy the jars with a choice of two different coloured lids or without a lid and in four different pack sizes for bulk buying economy.

Mason drinking jars for a picnic

The temperature is rising and summer picnics and BBQs will be starting soon. These jars are a far more elegant and stylish alternative to plastic bottles and cups and seal tightly to avoid any spillages. Add a quaint, Famous Five-esque touch to your outings with this refreshing, summery ginger beer based drink served in Mason drinking jars:

Ginger beer, apple and vanilla punch

  • 1 litre ginger beer
  • 500ml apple juice, chilled
  • 500ml vodka
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Add the ginger beer, apple juice, vodka, vanilla extract and lime together and stir well, then pour into the jam jars with handles. Add a lime wedge, a couple of apple slices and a couple of thin slices of fresh ginger then screw the lid on tightly and keep chilled before serving.

Peach and citrus cooler

This refreshing, non-alcoholic cooler can easily be made more adult by swapping the peach nectar for peach schnapps.

  • Juice of two lemons and two limes
  • 1 lemon and 1 lime, thinly sliced
  • 300ml peach nectar
  • 300ml cloudy lemonade
  • 300ml sparkling water

Add the lemon and lime juices, peach nectar, lemonade and sparkling water to a large jug and stir well to combine. Pour into the jars with some slices of strawberry and a sprig of fresh mint. Seal and try to keep cool before serving.

Tropical fizz

  • 300ml sparkling apple juice
  • 300ml exotic fruit juice
  • 300ml sparkling water

Pour all three drinks, chilled, into a large jug and mix together. Pour into the Mason jars and add some strawberry halves, chopped kiwi fruit and a pineapple ring before sealing. Try to keep cool before serving.

Remember to pack some drinking straws!

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The Health Benefits of Beetroot

health benefits of beetroot

Low profile beetroot is sadly neglected among British vegetables. Not only does it impart its lush purple colour to dishes, but health benefits of beetroot are hard to beat. It’s a very versatile ingredient in the kitchen and eaten roasted, pickled or in soup, is packed with vitamins, minerals and masses of anti-oxidants along with being low in fat.

The history and health benefits of beetroot

The ancient Romans knew how to cultivate vegetables. Many of our most popular vegetables were brought to us by them, including beetroot. Beetroot’s high point commercially came in the 19th century with the discovery that sugar could be made from beets. France, Germany, Poland, Russia and the USA are all now large commercial producers of beetroot but many of the most famous recipes are Eastern European in origin, such as the famous borscht soup.

Along with its earthy, distinctive taste, beetroot nutritional values have seen this previously underrated vegetable become the trend in modern restaurants. Coming from the chard and spinach families, you can eat both the root and leaves of the beet plant, however the bulbous root has a sweet flavour compared to the rather bitter leaves. Famous for its deep purple colouring, white and golden beetroot can also be eaten. Although it can be eaten raw, cooked and pickled beetroot is more common.

All of the beetroot plant holds nutritional value but the greens pack a really healthy punch, with high levels of iron, calcium, vitamin A and vitamin C. The plant is also rich in folic acid, fibre, potassium and manganese.

Using the health benefits of beetroot

Beetroot has a long history of being used in medicinal recipes. Its main function has been to stimulate detoxification of the liver. That deep purple colour is the result of betacyanin, a powerful ingredient alleged to have cancer preventing properties.

With its high fibre content, beetroot is great for keeping you regular and can have a beneficial effect on cholesterol levels. Specifically, beetroot fibre has been shown to raise the body’s levels of antioxidant enzymes and white blood cells, which help to defend the body against infection. Beetroot also contains plenty of the amino acid glutamine, useful for maintaining a healthy intestinal tract.

Some research has shown that foods rich in nitrate, including beetroot, can help to reduce the risk of strokes and heart attacks thanks to an ability to lower blood pressure.

A word of warning: some beetroot eaters may find themselves suffering from the side effect beeturia, which is a harmless condition resulting in red or pink urine and stools!

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British Produce in Season in April

april fruit and veg

It’s a glorious month for British produce, with outdoor rhubarb, asparagus, beetroot, cabbages, new potatoes, spring greens, morel mushrooms and watercress all among the April fruit and veg. It’s hard to argue against the virtues of seasonal eating but some people struggle to know what to do with some of the ingredients on the list that they are unaccustomed to using. Here are some super simple ways to use some of the produce in season in April:

April fruit and veg: rhubarb

There’s so much more to rhubarb than crumble! It’s worth experimenting with both for its sweet, tart taste and also for its excellent health properties – rhubarb is nutrient rich and low calorie, with plenty of fibre, anti-oxidants and vitamins but no cholesterol or saturated fats.

Oats and rhubarb granola

Quantities make one or two servings but you can easily make up a few days’ worth in advance:

  • 25g oats
  • 25g mixed seeds
  • 2 tablespoons runny honey
  • 50g fresh rhubarb, chopped into 1cm pieces
  • 1 tablespoon caster sugar
  • 1 apple, grated
  • Spoonful natural yoghurt

Mix the oats, seeds and honey together in a bowl and spread evenly over a non-stick baking tray. Bake for about ten minutes at 180C, until golden brown. Allow to cool and then break up into small chunks.

Meanwhile, add the rhubarb and caster sugar to a small pan with about a tablespoon of water and cook on a low heat for about ten minutes, until the fruit has softened.

Assemble the granola by adding the oat mixture, rhubarb, grated apple and a dollop of natural yoghurt to a bowl, and tuck in! Delicious and healthy.

April fruit and veg: beetroot

Beetroot, chickpea and feta cheese salad

  • 100g couscous
  • 150g cooked and diced beetroot
  • 200g tinned chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 100g feta cheese, diced
  • 5cm length of cucumber, grated
  • 15g fresh mint leaves, chopped
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

Prepare the couscous by putting it into a large bowl and pouring over 125ml boiling water. Leave the grains to cool and absorb the water. Use a fork to fluff up the couscous.

In another bowl add the beetroot, chickpeas, feta cheese, lime juice and olive oil and mix together, along with the couscous and grated cucumber.

You can make extra quantities of the beetroot, chickpea, feta, lime juice and olive oil mixture and whizz together in a food processor until smooth to make beetroot hummus.

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How to Force Rhubarb

forced rhubarb

Sweet, tart delicious rhubarb is in season now. You can buy it in the shops but rhubarb is relatively easy to grow even for unskilled gardeners. As an added bonus, learn how to force rhubarb to encourage early growth. This is done quite simply by covering the crown of the plant and means fresh produce will be available at a time of year when other fruits are nowhere near ready. The forced rhubarb stalks can be used for cooking at about 20-30cm in length.

Growing forced rhubarb

Forcing rhubarb can be done between November to December to be ready between January to April. It’s a quick and easy project for which you’ll need a rhubarb forcer – you can buy decorative version or simply use a large bucket or bin – and some straw.

Clear the base of a rhubarb crown in the ground so that it is free of weeds, old leaves and any other debris. Place the forcer, bin or bucket over the crown like a hat, making sure there are no holes letting in any light.

If it’s cold out it’s worth packing a layer of straw around the pot for extra insulation.

Your forced rhubarb should be ready within about eight weeks. Only force your rhubarb on alternate years, allowing the crown to grow naturally every other year.

Forced rhubarb curd recipe

  • 600g forced rhubarb stalks, washed and trimmed and chopped into 2cm chunks
  • 4 eggs
  • 200g butter, cubed
  • 4 teaspoons cornflour
  • 175g caster sugar

Blend the rhubarb in a food processor until it is as smooth as you can make it. Pour through a sieve over a jug and push through with a wooden spoon to extract as much juice as possible.

Put 250ml of the juice into a pan with the eggs, butter, cornflour and sugar, cooking over a very gentle heat and whisking until the butter melts. At this point start mixing with a wooden spoon until the curd thickens. Keep the heat low to avoid curdling.

Pass the curd through a sieve to remove any lumps and stir in another 100ml of the juice. If you want the curd to be more pink in colour stir in a splash of grenadine. Allow to chill in the refrigerator and taste – if you prefer a sharper curd, mix in a little more rhubarb juice. Decant into jars and store in the fridge. The curd will keep for up to a week and is delicious with scones, buttery toast, crumpets or even in pastry cases to make little tarts.

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Free British Home Growers Guide

foods in season

The Wares of Knutsford website’s latest offer is a free downloadable British seasonal produce calendar. Customers will receive their calendar via email after following the usual check out process, with no payment or postage costs. The colourful, illustrated calendar features a list of which ingredients are in season in the UK on a monthly basis, to help you choose the best British seasonal produce while shopping and meal planning.

Why choose foods in season?

The first and probably best reason to eat foods in season is because every food has a time of year when it will be at its very best, both in taste and in value. While in season foods can be sourced locally, which makes them fresher and usually cheaper than those sourced from abroad. For the same reason they are more environmentally friendly – less transport, fewer storage facilities required and lower levels of artificial growing methods such as lighting, heating, fertilisers and chemicals are necessary. It’s not only a healthy way to eat but also delicious, as fruits and vegetables in particular taste infinitely better when enjoyed at the peak of ripeness.

How Wares of Knutsford supports eating foods in season

The Wares of Knutsford website has a treasure trove of recipes to help you find ways to use British seasonal produce. For example, April is the best time for outdoor rhubarb, asparagus, beetroot, cabbage, new potatoes, spring greens, morel mushrooms and watercress. You can search our recipes alphabetically by ingredient and follow our blog, which features recipes this month for honied oats and rhubarb granola, beetroot, chickpea and feta cheese salad and beetroot hummus. The recipes are updated regularly and will feature new seasonal offerings every month.

Once you become more aware of the impact of what you are eating upon the world, you may find you want to take further steps to protect your environment. Apart from eating foods in season, you can also buy Soil Association certified organic produce to support environmentally friendly farming. You could reduce the amount of meat you eat, as livestock farming is considered to be a significant factor in climate change. You can buy sustainably sourced fish – more information is available from the Marine Stewardship Council – and stick with tap water over bottled. Make sure you use what you buy carefully to avoid wasting food, and food preparation waste can be composted.

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Medicine Bottle Suppliers

empty medicine bottles

Wares of Knutsford originally became known as sellers of jam jars and other preserving equipment. Since then their range has expanded and they are now as popular as kitchenware, traditional household goods and medicine bottle suppliers.

Uses for empty medicine bottles

The Wares range includes sizes from miniature 5ml bottles up to 1l, in clear, green and traditional amber glass. They are topped by Bakelite screw lids, plastic screw tops and glass dropper tops. Customers have used them for a number of aromatherapy or pharmaceutical products, particularly to house their home made endeavours.

There are various pack sizes of empty medicine bottles available, from three bottles up to bulk buy packs of 36. These are particularly good value when you work out that Wares of Knutsford operates a flat delivery charge for any size of order.

Filling empty medicine bottles

Elderberries are packed with wonderful ingredients that make an excellent winter cough syrup. Elderberry trees grow wild quite often and the fruit ripens in late summer to autumn. Although more traditionally used in wine making, this syrup is easy to make and doesn’t require huge quantities of berries.

Each 250ml of berry juice will take:

5 cloves
2 cinnamon sticks, broken into pieces
5 peppercorns
1 slice fresh ginger
1 star anise
50ml runny honey

Destalk the elderberries – this is easier with a fork than your hands.

Add them to a heavy based saucepan and add enough water to cover all berries. Simmer on a gentle heat for about 15 minutes so that the berries are soft, then mash with a fork or potato masher to release the maximum amount of juice. Simmer for another 10 minutes.

Strain the berry juice through a clean muslin cloth, pushing the remaining pulp down to make sure all the juice is extracted. You may want to strain the juice a second time for a finer consistency.

Add the honey and spices to the juice and return to the saucepan, then simmer for about 15 minutes more. Set aside to cool. Strain out the spices.

Once completely cool, pour the syrup through a funnel into sterilised amber glass bottles – the darker glass will help to preserve the syrup.

The sealed syrup can be kept in a refrigerator for up to three months and take a teaspoon every three hours if you are suffering with a cold or the flu. Alternatively, use as a cordial and dilute with water every day as a preventative measure.

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Types of Spoons

buy spoons

The humble spoon is one of those pieces of kitchen equipment that’s so efficient, so hard working and so reliable that you don’t tend to give it any thought. However discovering the amazing array of different types of spoons and their varied properties could change your view a little.

Buy spoons for cooking

One of the most commonly used types of spoons, seen in every kitchen, is the wooden spoon. It’s cheap, useful for all manner of kitchen tasks and suitable for non-stick surfaces. Nylon and silicone spoons are often used interchangeably while cooking and are equally versatile. They are heat resistant and their larger size often makes them useful for serving. Sets that include a basic spoon, a slotted spoon and a ladle shape are good catch alls for daily kitchen situations. These can also be found in stainless steel, which look very smart but you need to be careful with non-stick surfaces.

If your in the mood to buy spoons then another cooking spoon essential is a set of measuring spoons. A set with at least a quarter of a teaspoon, half a teaspoon, one teaspoon and a tablespoon covers most bases, while these are easy to store and lay hands upon if held together by a clip or ring.

Buy spoons for serving

The basics out of the way, it’s time to go a bit ‘Downton Abbey.’ Serving spoons designed specifically for certain purposes may seem gadgets that just take up room in a drawer, but each is carefully crafted to suit its purpose and can turn everyday meals such as breakfast into rather more elegant affairs.

Usually found in stainless steel, consider for example a honey spoon. These slightly odd looking creatures are actually very clever, with the curves in the handle designed to allow the spoon to rest neatly on the edge of the honey jar or pot, allowing excess honey to drip back inside rather than making a mess on the table. Jam spoons work in a similar way.

Mustard spoons are small, neat spoons for access to tiny jars that also look smart on a table while mayonnaise spoons have a long handle and a flattened edge on one side to be able to scrape around the inside of the jar or pot. Also great for breakfast time, grapefruit spoons are designed to have a serrated edge to make it easy to scrape grapefruit segments out of the peel, and are also helpful for other fruits such as melon.

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Buy Clear Glass Wine Bottles

clear glass wine bottles

Wares of Knutsford’s wide range of bottles includes clear wine bottles in the traditional Bordeaux shape – tall, straight sides with curved shoulders – in the standard 750ml wine bottle size. These are usually used for white or rose wine.

How clear glass wine bottles are filled

Everyone knows that wine is fermented grape juice, but how does it get from the vine into clear wine bottles?

Harvesting grapes

Wine producers decide when the grapes are ready to harvest, as a rule, the riper the grape, the sweeter it is. Wine producers taste the grapes and use technical analysis to decide upon the best moment to gather in their fruit for the kind of wine they produce.

Northern hemisphere grapes are usually harvested from September – November, after which they are graded by quality according to the winemaker’s’ requirements.

Processing the grapes

White wine grapes then go through a destemming and crushing process to maximise the amount of juice released when they reach the pressing stage.

Pressing

The grapes are then pressed to extract the juice, also called ‘must’. A finer juice comes from the most gentle pressing. The must then settles for a while to let any residues sink to the bottom so they can be removed. The must is then ready to be fermented.

Alcoholic fermentation

This is the step that turns grape juice into wine, by converting the sugar content into alcohol. This is achieved through the action of yeast upon the sugar – either naturally derived form the vineyard or by adding cultured yeast. Each process works differently and must be carefully judged to achieve the correct result.

The vessel used for fermentation must also be carefully chosen – usually oak or stainless steel. Some wines, such as Chardonnay, are synonymous with oak barrel fermentation, while grapes with a sharper aroma such as Sauvignon Blanc or Riesling tend to be fermented in stainless steel.

The temperature is another critical factor, with white wines tending towards a cooler fermentation temperature than red.

In theory once all the sugar has become alcohol the fermentation process is complete, leaving a dry wine. If the winemaker is aiming for a sweeter wine the fermentation will be interrupted while some sugar remains, according to the degree of sweetness required. At this stage the dead yeast, called ‘lees’ can be drained off or left to age for a while, again according to taste.

Decanting to coloured or clear glass wine bottles

After a period of maturation, the wine can then be blended before being decanted into coloured or clear glass wine bottles. Traditionally, longer kept red wines are stored in coloured bottles will young drinking lighter wines are stored in clear bottles.

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