WELL SEASONED

The Blog

Welcome to our award winning blog

 

Here you can find a collection of our thoughts, reports and ramblings together with some fun things we find along the way. We try to update the blog at least once a week and more often during busy periods so make sure you check back regularly..

By The Twig - Well Seasoned, Mar 13 2017 11:00AM

The European hare (Lepus europaeus) is perhaps best known for being “mad” in March. Its mating antics are certainly a bit loopy and worth trying to spot in early spring.

It was previously thought that the "boxing matches" between hares seen in the spring months were bouts between males competing to breed with females. However, they are actually fights between females and males, the former rejecting the advances of the latter early in the mating season. The poorly matched couples are a sure sign that spring has sprung.


Hares live in open countryside and rely on their exceptional pace to outrun predators. They can run for short periods at up to 40 mph, making them our fastest land mammal.


The health of hare populations varies greatly across the country. In some places they are now a rarity. This is particularly the case in the South-West. In Eastern counties, notably Norfolk, they are still thriving.


To go looking for hares, you'll need to be up early or late; dawn and dusk are the best times to spot them as they are very wary of humans. Even if you don't manage to see the animals themselves you should be able to spot signs of them - look for tunnels in long grass leading up to barbed wire or brambles. You'll often find patches of light brown fur caught on the fence or thorns.


Hares are eaten during the game season. They have an intense, often very gamey flavour and the best known way of cooking them is in Jugged Hare, a casserole which includes blood and sometimes bitter chocolate. But they are protected by the Hare Preservation Act which bans the sale of their meat from 1st March to 31st July during the mating season and, given their uncertain conservation status, if you do plan to eat them, you should only source them from reputable butchers or game dealers


"The March Hare will be much the most interesting, and perhaps as this is May it won't be raving mad – at least not so mad as it was in March." – Lewis Carroll, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.


By The Twig - Well Seasoned, Mar 7 2017 09:00AM

The cool, clear waters of the UK provide the perfect growing environment for one of nature's tastiest aquatic treats - the mussel.


This beautiful, blue bivalve can be found growing on most parts of our rocky coastline and harvesting some yourself is one of the most rewarding foraging experiences you can have.


Traditionally, you should only collect mussels in months with the letter ‘r’ in. The rule of thumb (which applies to most shellfish) is actually a shorthand way of saying that it's best to avoid shellfish during the summer months and there is some good science behind the principle. All shellfish tend to accumulate certain toxins that are found in (perfectly natural) algal blooms which tend to be at their peak during the warm weather. If you buy your shellfish from the shops there's no need to worry since all stocks are regularly checked for toxins but it does mean that March, before the warm weather arrives, is a good time to go on the hunt.


Pick the larger mussels – not only will they make for a better meal but they will have had chance to breed, keeping the population healthy. The plumpest specimens will be found below the high water mark on rocky beaches so check a tide table before you visit then get down there with your wellies and a good sized bucket. On the journey home, keep your catch cool with a damp tea towel.


When it comes to cooking, mussels need just a few minutes to steam open so they're the perfect convenience food and a rich reward for all your hard work.


If you look out the window and think it's too cold for a trip to the beach (and let's face it, March often is) then get down to the shops. Either wild or rope grown mussels are fine (three quarters of rope-grown mussels in the UK are now classified as sustainable by the Marine Stewardship Council.) They are excellent value and you'll find them in any good fishmonger during the season.


By The Twig - Well Seasoned, Mar 2 2017 11:00AM

The crisp, clear nights of early spring make March a good month for star gazing. Just make sure you wrap up warm.


Because of our strict planning laws and plenty of remote locations, Britain has some of the best skies for star gazing. Galloway Forest Park in Scotland was the first place in Europe to be given the status of a "Dark Skies Park" by international astronomers and both the Brecon Beacons and Exmoor have now also been awarded International Dark Sky Reserve status. If you can make it to an official Dark Skies Park you'll see up to fifty times more stars. But don't worry if there's not one near you - there will be plenty to see wherever you are.


You will need:


• A dry, clear night, ideally when the moon isn't full

• Warm clothes (lots) including hats and gloves. If in doubt, take an extra layer

• A waterproof blanket or a deckchair

• Torch, ideally with with red filter (to help you keep your night vision)

• Star guide (you can download these for free from astronomy websites)

• A flask of hot chocolate or other warm drink and something to eat

• A compass to find your bearings (if you don't have one, get to your chosen spot before sunset and note West, where the sun goes down)


In a clear spring sky you should be able to easily see constellations including:


• Orion (the Hunter) – look for the three bright stars forming his belt.

• Ursa Major (the Great Bear, also known as the Plough) – look for a group of stars forming a shape like a saucepan.

• Ursa Minor (the Little Bear) – look for a smaller saucepan shape to the North West of Ursa Major.

• Sirius (the Dog Star) – a very bright, single star to the South East of Orion.


If you're lucky you'll also be able to spot the planet Jupiter (named after the Roman King of the Gods), a bright planet to the South East of Ursa Major and North East of Orion, as well as satellites tracking across the sky and maybe even a shooting star.


Did you know…? There are 88 recognised constellations, most of which are named after Greek or Roman gods or mythical creatures. Ancient astronomers believed all stars were stuck to the inside of a giant sphere that surrounded the earth known as the Celestial Sphere.


“Dwell on the beauty of life. Watch the stars, and see yourself running with them." Marcus Aurelius (Roman Emperor, 161-180 AD).


By The Twig - Well Seasoned, Mar 1 2017 11:00AM

St. David is the patron saint of Wales. He was a Welsh bishop and son of the king of Ceredigion (a kingdom forming part of west Wales).


St. David's Day is celebrated on 1st March, the day he died in 589AD, reputedly aged more than 100 years old. The celebrations do not have a particularly defined format but most involve daffodils (the national flower of Wales), that most famous of Welsh vegetables, the leek, and laverbread.

At first glance, a plate of greeny-black gunge isn't that appealing, but bear with us. Laver is the name of a particular seaweed that grows in the littoral zone (that's the beaches) of the UK and around the world. It is widely eaten in Asia and you might have seen it as "nori" on Japanese restaurant menus. The green outer layer of sushi rolls (which you can buy dried in many Asian supermarkets) is also nori.


To make Laverbread (Bara Lafwr in Welsh) the raw laver is boiled then finely minced to create a thick paste. Most commonly the paste is coated in or combined with oats before frying and the usual accompaniments are bacon and cockles to create a hearty breakfast fit for any hardworking coal miner or fisherman.


For some reason the English and Scots rarely go near laver and yet the delicacy is a Welsh national dish. It has a distinct flavour that owes much to its high iodine content. Other foods with lots of iodine include olives and oysters so you can get an idea of the sort of taste your letting yourself in for - flavoursome and pretty unique.


Did you know…? There are no poisonous seaweeds in the British Isles. Some don't taste great but none of them will kill you. If you're not quite ready to forage your own you'll find laverbread in some supermarkets and several online fish retailers sell it as an accompaniment.


"Dydd Gŵyl Dewi Sant Hapus!"

(Happy St. David's Day)


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